A baseline and a stretch

Sub 60 10k
A PR! Or...
A PR! Or…

It was supposed to be an easy run. That’s runnerspeak for conversation pace, or kind of slow.  As in taking it easy.

We began that way, running a 12-minute mile to start. We sped up as we ran, and actually I started to tire out. We walked in a couple of places near the end.

With all of that, I still ended up running a PR!

Well, sort of.

I’ve only completed a handful of runs at 10k (6.2 miles) or longer. The first time was November 2013. I didn’t run that distance again until this year.

RunKeeper has my data since 2011. It  knows the truth – my 2013 run was faster. Garmin only has data since February 2016, so today’s run is the fastest it knows.

That said, today’s run was still a milestone. It serves as a great baseline for my training program. My goal is to run 10k in less than an hour. With 10-weeks left to train, I’m aiming to cut a solid 8 minutes off my current 10k pace. It feels doable, although a stretch. And that’s the reason I chose this goal in the first place.

My training runs have all gone according to plan, so I’ll trust the process and keep on keeping on.

7, 8, 9…

Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

In 2014, I began a running plan via my RunKeeper app. It’s a fat burning plan, and alternates intervals with steady runs to increase your fitness level. The app features several such plans for goals like run a 5k (3.1 miles), run a 5k in less than 30 minutes, and so on. Although I don’t enter races, I run 5ks and a rare 10k (6.2 miles), as part of a regular exercise regimen.

While perusing the plans back then, I noticed a 7-mile training run included to build endurance for a 5k. At that point I was a consistent 4-mile runner and 7 miles seemed daunting. It was a little too far outside my comfort zone, and after all, I was just a casual runner. The goal and the fear intrigued me, though. I filed it in the back of my mind to target later and stuck to the simpler fat burning plan.

Fast forward to 2016. One day, more or less due to happenstance than planning, I ran 7 miles! And then I did it again on purpose which was actually harder to do! After 7, the new uncomfortable, too-far-out-there goal I secretly filed away was 10. One day, I’ll run 10 miles. (I have zero or less than zero interest in training for a half or whole marathon, by the way, so don’t get any ideas). Anywho, 10 gives me the same jitters 7 did a couple of years ago, and I had no plans to hit it soon.

Sanya Richards-Ross

This weekend, I signed up for a new training plan via RunKeeper. Based on my current fitness and mental readiness for challenge, I selected a sub 60min 10k. This means running just over 6.2 miles in under an hour. It’s definitely doable, but unlike past running ventures, it will take actual training, rather than casual effort.

Before signing up, I skimmed the plan and noticed an 8-mile run in the mix. I felt the familiar tension, but brushed it off because of the two 7s under my belt. I locked in the plan and completed my first run (4 miles) on Sunday.

But today, while looking at the run calendar to confirm date of said 8-mile run, I blinked, observing there was much more in the offing. This 16-week plan starts off comfortably, but quickly ramps up to regular long runs – something I’ve never done with any consistency. There are two 7-milers on tap, and after a few weeks, not one but two 8-milers, two 9-milers, and shock of all shocks, yes a 10-miler.

I said it was time for a challenge. Wow. Here it is.

Setbacks and setups

Zaimu Challenge

A wise person once said,

A setback is just a setup for a comeback.

Now, I didn’t really have a setback, and I’m not looking to come back from (or to) anything. But I heard this phrase in my head as I got myself in gear late this evening.

Today was sort of a bust as far as productivity goes. Because of my work schedule, my Mondays are usually pretty streamlined and predictable. But because I didn’t set myself up for success last night, I paid for it in lost opportunities.

I’m up later than I’d like to be, but I am syncing my Garmin to be ready for my run tomorrow. After that, I’ll mix my endurance formula and lay out my running gear. There are a couple more things I need to do to get my projects ready to hit full stride first thing, and then it’s off to sleep for early rising (4:45am).

 

One step. 10k.

Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

Today I began a 10k training program.

I started on Day 3, as I’d already completed the equivalent of the first two days on my regular regimen. I ran my standard distance – 4 miles – so it was an easy entry.

IMG_8426My distance running has been primarily self-taught/self-guided until now. I’ve been comfortable, and now that I’m fully settled into my new life, I’m ready to break boundaries.

I want to prove to myself that I can set and accomplish goals with consistency and commitment. These ingredients are sometimes lacking in my creative endeavors, and the combination of structure, challenge and discipline will reap benefits in the weeks and months to come.

Today’s run was to be conversation pace, defined on this plan as 11:15-11:30 minutes per mile. I nailed it at 11:20 average pace, but it was interesting to note that my conversation pace was more like concentration pace. Because I usually go much slower at the beginning and much faster at the end, I constantly checked my pace to make sure I was on target. I made mid-course adjustments the whole run to make sure I remained on track. I had to remain focused to keep pace.

The plan is a sub 60 10k. That means my goal is to run just over six miles in just under an hour. This is a doable stretch for me. Although I’m confident I can be successful, I know it will take more effort than I’ve given in the past. Normally I run just for fun. Now I’m running for excellence. I don’t plan to enter an actual race, but I do plan to run faster, and longer and increase my overall fitness.

Today I took a step, and won. My next run is set for Tuesday…

In progress

Running Buddha, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge
Ajee’ Wilson

Today I ran another 4 miler. I don’t generally run two days in a row, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I had to get it in.

I had modest goals – namely maintaining yesterday’s performance with the addition of a slightly faster warm up mile.

To my surprise and delight, I crushed it.

I pushed the warm up mile and was progressively faster on all miles thereafter. I even dropped my average pace by 30 seconds.  That’s pretty shocking, and in truth, I hit my target. As in, what I expected to be doing after a couple of weeks of effort.

Next steps? Keeping this up long term, and not just as a quick trick a couple of days here and there. I’m still taking breathers on mile four, so I’ll also plan to build endurance for speedier runs.

I’m excited to see my mind and body work together to create an outcome. This is one of the things I most appreciate about running. It shows me I can visualize and enact things in the real world.

Now to apply this to projects in progress…

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Read about Ajee’ at the 2014 Penn Relays here.

Beyond the usual

Running Buddha, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

My usual run is four miles at a steady pace.

Sometimes I do a faster three, or a slower five or six, but on a typical day, it’s four – two out and back. I strive for negative splits, each mile faster than the last. But I haven’t focused on overall pace in ages.

In the past couple of months, I’ve added some interval training. So some days I do my steady four and others it’s sprint work, or longer faster bouts, with periods of low intensity to recover. I selected a fat burning plan, rather than one for speed building. That said, it’s reasonable to expect speed gains when you put your newly optimized lungs and legs to the test.

Monica Hargrove being badass.

I haven’t done that.

On my four-milers, I take it easy on purpose. I warm up the first mile, and lock into a comfortable stride for the next three.

But last night I reflected on that.

I’m stronger and more flexible than I’ve been in years. Yet here I am, still doing these slowish/easy runs. I can go faster like I used to. I think I’ll try…

This morning I arrived at the greenway in the same state of mind. Walking toward the start I thought, Every run can’t be conversation pace. And off I went. I wasn’t after a tempo run, but I was going for a push.

My first mile was faster than usual, but still within range for my warm up pace. I locked into a zone and began to kick things up a notch.

Mile two, faster.  In fact, nearly 40 seconds faster than my usual pace for mile two.

Mile three is where I usually slow things down. Typically, I have to concentrate to maintain my pace. If I don’t run negative splits, it’s usually because of the mile three bust. But I kept pushing, and when I heard the Garmin chirp, I’d dropped another 30 seconds. I’d run a minute faster than my usual mile three pace.

By mile four, I decided to take breathers. I pushed the pace but stopped the clock when I needed to rest. That said, I dropped another 50 seconds from the previous split, still a minute faster than my usual pace for mile four.

I felt great! For one, I accomplished what I set out to do. And two, a strong workout feels great when you’re up to it.

Now I’ve got my work cut out for me… I have a new target pace for non-stop runs. Because every run can’t be conversation pace.

Keep on keepin’ on

Running Buddha, Zaimu Challenge

Today I woke up on time, then promptly fell asleep.

I strive to wiggle out of bed around 4:45, but this morning’s rain gave me permission to push that back. Since I couldn’t run as I intended, I slept instead.

Despite the extra sleep and snuggling with my boo, I was still sleepy throughout the day. I blame the rain and subsequent clouds. I perked up later on when the sun won out.

Allyson Felix

Reminding myself of yesterday’s victories, I scheduled and scored some today by eating a frog early and then making my way through some easier, yet still dreaded, tasks.

I also planned my approach to an ongoing project so I can stop making excuses and gain momentum. There are still a couple of things left to do before calling it a day, but I can claim today’s W already.

What are you doing today to ensure tomorrow’s success?

Good morning, blue bird

Zaimu Challenge

This morning Blue and I hit the greenway for a run date. Today’s plan was 4 miles or 40 minutes, whichever came second.

At the two-mile turn around, we were greeted with a surprise: an indigo bunting! These cute birds usually hang out farther up the trail. In fact, I can’t recall ever seeing one on this stretch. There he was, bouncing and flying alongside, making us laugh.

No videos or pictures today; we only have the memories of the moment.

It was a cheerful start to a long day.

Indigo Stretch

Zaimu Challenge

My running trail is an enchanted forest. Trees and grasses in various stages of bloom flank the whole path. Today I experienced the first honeysuckle this season. Nose candy.

Micro climates and mini ecosystems pulse in the enchanted forest. A chorus of birds on this stretch. A pond of frogs and cicadas on the next. More birds with new songs here. A deer crossing there. A snack bar for bunnies and so on. You experience this all within the first 1.5 miles of the trail. If you’re open to the sounds, scents and scenery, you’re never bored along the way.

indigo bunting
Indigo Bunting by Dan Vickers

Months I spent running that stretch, turning around at 2 miles and heading back in. But there’s a stretch farther in the distance. I make it there often now, but what a treat the first time I tried a five-miler…

Somewhere around the 2.25-2.5 mile turnaround, you spot them. About the size of sparrows, they boast a magnetic, electric blue. Their chirps are loud and persistent from atop the nearby trees, yet sometimes they bounce and fly along side you as you run. Cheering you on.

If you’re not sure you’ll make it to 2.5, these blues are worth the stretch. For the longest time I simply called them my electric birds. Google tells me they might be indigo buntings.

Blue and I went for a run date this morning – the first in months. We ran an easy conversation pace, and blissfully far enough to say hello to the indigos on the back stretch.

Good morning, sunshine.