Monday, February 27, 2012

The Buddy System (Couch to 5k: W4D1)

Well, my first week 4 run was scheduled for 2pm today. It is now 3pm and I am sitting here writing which means 1 of 2 things. I either: a) chickened out or b) survived! Hmmmmmm.......

Coincidentally, I have a cousin in Newfoundland that is following the same running plan. We are around the same age and both total non-runners. We also both happen to be starting week 4 today. Since she is an hour and a half ahead of me, when I woke up this morning I already had a text message from her filled with "wooohoooo's" and "!!!!!!!'s" She had done it! Cuz, you were my inspiration today! You convinced me I could do it too!

One of my friends and I have been discussing running together ever since I embarked on this little challenge. Even though I am a big believer in having exercise buddies to keep you on track, I have been hesitant to do it for a couple of reasons. First, she is an established runner that can probably run 5K in her sleep. I was somewhat concerned about dragging her down. Second, I was afraid I would push myself a little too hard to try to keep up to her and end up dying en route (at least I would have had a buddy to call 911!!)

Since today's routine was a little more challenging, I decided I was ready for a buddy. We arranged to meet at a pond that was somewhat halfway between our houses. I walked there, which amounted to almost double the usual warm-up time, but considering what was on the agenda for today, I thought that might be helpful.

The plan for the day is this: 5 minute warm up walk, run 3 minutes/walk 90 seconds, run 5 minutes/walk 2.5 minutes, run 3 minutes/walk 90 seconds, run 5 minutes/walk home. As you know if you've been reading this blog, those 5 minute intervals have been terrifying me since I first started the plan. Today is also the first day where the running intervals are longer than the walks. The plan is slowly beginning to wean you off the walking, pushing you to run for longer stretches at a time with shorter recovery periods. Last week's plan amounted to 9 minutes of running each day. This week, a whopping 16!!!

Oddly enough, the 3 minute run which was my nemesis last week was an absolute BREEZE today. After a short 90 second recovery walk, the dreaded 5 minute interval began. I have to say, it was nice to have someone to run with here - it made the 5 minutes go by a little quicker and a little less painfully than I expected. She also has one of those fancy Garmin running watches that tracks your pace and the mileage of your runs. This is a very handy feature to have in a running buddy. If you are going to get yourself a running buddy, choose one with the cool gadgets, if possible. During the first 2 running intervals our pace varied between 6:50 and 7:20 mins/km - which felt a lot faster than I was running last week, but is the pace that I am aiming for when I run my 5 K in May.

The last 2 running intervals were more challenging, but I am proud to say I survived them both. (My knee might tell a different story.....) Our pace slowed to between 7:30 and 7:50 mins/km, which I suspect is about what I was running last week. If you had asked me even a week ago if I thought I could run for 5 minutes without stopping, the answer would have most definitely been "Are you CRAZY?!?!" But I did it! Whoever designed this program is really brilliant. Each week is structured in such a way that you are challenged by it, but at the end of the week your body is ready for more. I really can't believe how it is all working out so far.

So thanks to my 2 running buddies for their part in helping me survive today - my cousin for making me believe that I could do it, and my friend for keeping me company while I did.


J :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Run, Walk, Repeat??? (Couch to 5k: W3D3)

Thursday Evening:

In anticipation of the "mother of all storms" that is supposed to arrive sometime tonight, I decided to bump up Friday's run to today. It is a beautiful, sunny day so I might as well take advantage. The run schedule today is a repeat of day 1 and day 2. The burning question on everyone's mind (ok, maybe just mine....) is: will the dreaded 3 minute run be a little easier today??? Followed closely by the question: will I need to repeat week 3 before I can "graduate" to week 4????

All in all, I thought today was the best run of the week. The 3 minute runs were by no means easy, but they did seem to pass a little less painfully than they had on the 2 previous runs. My knee also co-operated, for the most part, which made the run more pleasant overall. I have a bit of a busy weekend coming up, but my plan is to squeeze in one more "week 3" run and then make the decision about next week.

To be continued.......

Sunday Afternoon:

Made it out for my Week 3, Day 3 (Part Deux) run this afternoon. Weather was considerably colder today than it was all of last week, but the sun was shining so it was all good. Since I have been running this trail for the past 5 or 6 runs, I am getting pretty good at knowing where I should be on the trail at the end of each running interval. Today it seemed that I was further along on the trail than usual, so I am guessing my pace is increasing a little. Small victory #1!

During the first "long run", the little voice in the back of my head was saying "You are nowhere NEAR ready for week 4! Better do week 3 again!!!" I have to say, I was totally agreeing with it. I got a wicked cramp in my side about 1 minute in, making the first 3 minutes a little difficult to complete. By the time the second 3 minute run came around, however, I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to pay any attention to that little voice in the back of my head. Small Victory # 2!!

I decided instead of running for 3 minutes, I would run as long as I could and see where I ended up. I made it to 4:17. Not quite the 5 minutes I will need for next week, but I have decided to throw caution to the wind, put on my big girl tech-running panties and jump right into week 4 tomorrow. Go big or go home, right? Small victory #3!

Week 4 Day 1 is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Weather looks to be about +7 and partly sunny, which I think I can work with. Can't wait!!!

J :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Not To Wear (Couch to 5K: W3D2)

I think it's safe to say that I am starting to form a running habit. There must be something in the way that this program was designed that it sucks you in and keeps you motivated to move forward. It felt like a VERY long 48 hours from my last run to this one...I almost ran yesterday just for fun!

Today's program was a repeat of Monday's. I was hoping that I'd find the 3 minute run intervals at least SLIGHTLY easier than they were on Monday. It was beautiful and sunny (again!) this morning and I was in a bit of a quandary about what to wear. The temperature seemed similar to what it was on Monday when I overheated and had to remove my windbreaker, so I made the (wrong) decision to leave my windbreaker at home today. I did warm up eventually, but the first 10 minutes were mighty chilly.

As the dreaded first 3 minute running interval approached, I reminded myself to try to adjust my pace a little to see if that made the interval a little easier. I noticed on Monday that I started the 3 minute segment with a burst of energy and then had to drastically slow my pace down to make it through the full 3 minutes. Since I am now a little more familiar with the running trail, I made a mental note of a point up ahead on the trail and told myself not to check the stopwatch until I reached that point. (Which turned out to be 2:05 on the first interval, 2:13 on the second). The first "long" run seemed to be a little easier than I remembered on Monday, but the second one was a little more challenging. My knee was in a mood again, so I really had to slow my pace down to make it a little happier.

At some point during the first running interval, my worst fear was finally realized. Up ahead on the trail, I saw someone I knew! Do I keep my head up and nod as I ran past or avoid eye contact and hope she didn't recognize me? I this point I was hoping that I looked more like this:

Even though my brain was telling me it was more likely that I looked like this:

All my worrying ended up being for nothing, however, because by the time I passed her, she was bent over picking up dog crap. NO matter how "Homer Simpson-y" I looked, at least I wasn't doing THAT!

But I digress.....

I had planned to add an extra 90s run/90s walk and 3 min run/3 min walk interval at the end of today's run because, to me, this week's program seems kind of short. My knee let me know, shortly into the 90 second run, that this was a bad idea. I finished with a 5 minute cool down walk, as usual, and was quite glad to be home. At this point, I'm thinking I may end up needing to repeat this week before I am ready to progress to the week 4 schedule (there are two 5-minute intervals in there! GASP!) We'll see how I feel on Friday!

In spite of today's difficulties (or, perhaps, because of them) I am looking forward to it!

J :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feelin' HOT HOT HOT! (Couch to 5K: W3D1)

Happy Family Day! And what a lovely Family Day it is - sunny skies and above zero temperatures make it a perfect day for outdoor activities. My first activity of the day? My first week 3 run!

I felt pretty good on Friday after the last week 2 run session. I had hoped to squeeze in an extra run over the weekend, but it just didn't happen. The week 3 run schedule looked a little scary at first glance: a brisk 5 minute warm-up walk followed a 90 second run and a 90 second walk then a 3 minute run and a 3 minute walk, repeating that pattern twice. The 90 second run segments that had looked intimidating a week ago suddenly looked like a "walk in the park" since I was going to have to DOUBLE them today. Yikes!

The first 3 minute interval was tough, but I didn't look at the stop watch until about the 2:15 mark - about 45 seconds longer than my longest run interval thus far. Not too shabby. The second run interval, however, nearly killed me. I started clock watching at about 1:26 and couldn't wait for the segment to be over. I did it though, so I guess there's a small victory to be found here. I tacked on a couple of extra 90 second run intervals since I wasn't quite home yet, so I managed to find a little strength at the end which I'm guessing is a good sign. Hopefully this pattern will get a little easier as the week goes on.

On another note, the weather outside this morning was truly spectacular. The air was cool and crisp, but for the first time I actually overheated in the middle of the run. I had to take off my windbreaker so I could cool down a little. Pretty wild stuff for February 20th!!!

Run # 2 is scheduled for Wednesday and I'm hoping to kick those 3 minute intervals square in the ASS! I have to say I am impressed with my progress so far - I may not be breaking any world speed records, but I'm plugging along at my own pace and completing each run as outlined. That definitely counts for something!

Until we run again,

J :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Sound Of Music (Couch to 5K - W2D2)

The first part of my day kinda sucked. I was working on a particularly difficult project (on a tight deadline) and my technology picked today, of all days, to become less than co-operative. I finally got it all sorted out, but was feeling pretty frazzled by the time all was said and done. The old me would have probably spent the remainder of afternoon mindlessly surfing the net, shopping or eating chocolate to calm my frazzled nerves. But today I thought the best way to clear my head would be to go for a run! It was a proud moment.

I decided that today would be the first time that I would run with my iPod. Up until this point, I wasn't sure that I could co-ordinate the iPod (complete with dangling headphone cords), my BlackBerry/stop watch and running without falling into a ditch or tripping over my feet. Today I felt ready - bring on the tunes!!

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!! I have long suspected it, but these little portable music gadgets might be the best invention of all time. I wonder if Mr. Jobs himself was a runner and he created the iPod for the sole purpose of entertaining him while he trained? With the help of my music, the running intervals seemed to fly by without me watching the clock. In fact, I actually ran longer than necessary on a few occasions. It's safe to say that the iPod will be accompanying me on all training runs from here on in.

Now I need to come up with a few running playlists. Today, I had the iPod set to shuffle on a random playlist. This worked out well most of the time, but a few times some less than "inspiring" songs popped up. Patsy, I love ya, but "Crazy" is more of a "grab a bottle of wine and a straw " song than a "Get Pumped" song. But that may just be me......

All you runners out there - what songs do YOU have on your running playlists? What keeps you going when you feel like you've hit the proverbial "Runner's Wall"?

So, all in all, a successful run today. Many thanks go out to Stevie J., my iPod and to Mother Nature as well for being so incredibly co-operative with the February weather. I'm looking forward to nailing the last run of the week on Friday and getting started on week 3 (which looks a little intimidating at the moment....but today I'm feeling like I can handle anything!)

J :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feeling the Burn! (Couch to 5K - W2D1)

WOW! I made it to week 2! After a less than stellar Day 3 run on Friday, I decided to squeeze in one more week 1 run on Sunday before the run intervals increased in week 2. The trail where I usually run was snow covered (I had to take a detour) and it was beyond freezing, but I still had a great run and was feeling pretty positive about week 2.

The week 2 routine is a 5 minute warm-up walk followed by 90 seconds of running and 2 minutes of walking, alternating for 20 minutes. With the run intervals only increasing by 30 seconds, I was thinking (hoping!) it was going to be a piece of cake and I couldn't wait to get started!

Seeing how it was so gorgeous outside today, I decided to run in the afternoon instead of waiting until the evening when the girls were at cheerleading. The snow had melted from my usual running trail and the sun was blazing - perfect running conditions!

I sailed through the first running interval with little difficulty, but by the time the second one rolled around, I was watching the stop watch in eager anticipation of the walking portion. When the last running interval finally arrived, I was definitely ready for the run to be over. (So much for a "piece of cake"!) My left knee was somewhat grouchy, leaving me a bit gimpy for the final run , but I did it! Week 2, Day 1 COMPLETE!

The most interesting thing about my experience so far is that I am finding myself looking forward to the run days. Who'd have thunk it? They say it takes 3 weeks to form a habit, but here I am in Week 2 eagerly anticipating the days when I will run....wondering how I will improve compared to my last run....thinking of new trails I can try that might be more enjoyable. The whole thing is BIZARRE!!!! Who am I and what has become of the real Jenn???

It's a mystery to me......

Until we meet again on Wednesday!

J :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Note to Self: KLEENEX! (Couch to 5K, W1D3)

BRRRR!!!!! It's pretty freakin' cold out there this morning! I decided to get my run in early since I think it is supposed to snow later this afternoon. I've gotta say, running in the cold and wind is really NO FUN! And really, it's not even that cold out there at the moment considering it is the middle of February. I don't know what I will do/wear, when/if the weather gets really cold! UGH!

The run today was difficult. I had expected it to be the easiest day of the week since it is my third time (well, really, fourth time) with this run/walk schedule. For some reason, I found this day to be the toughest. I found myself really looking at the stop watch, waiting for the run interval to be over - something I hadn't done since the very first run almost 2 weeks ago in the blizzard. I'm guessing the wind had a lot to do with it. I found a somewhat sheltered trail that runs through the middle of my neighbourhood and decided to run there to try to cut down on the wind chill factor. (Of course, I was terrified I was going to pass someone I know - I really need to get over that!) The wind was fine when running in one direction, but when I turned around to head back.....well.....not so much fun. I also learned a really valuable lesson about running in the cold - bring KLEENEX! Nuff said!!!

The good news is, the knee still seems to be holding up OK. I can't tell you how happy I am about this! On another note, I was really surprised at how many birds I saw out there during my run. I have to say, if I could fly...well, first of all I wouldn't be learning to run. Secondly, I wouldn't be "wintering" in Mississauga, no matter how mild it has been to this point.

I think I'm going to try to squeeze in an extra run over the weekend using the week 1 schedule. The pace doesn't increase drastically for next week, but since I didn't feel so great out there today I want to make sure I'm ready.

One week down, eight to go!

J :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Think I Can! I Think I Can! (Couch to 5K: Day 2)

Well, after getting sidelined with an illness (damn cold!) following last week's run, I hopped back on the running bandwagon on Monday and repeated day 1 of the C25K program. I have to admit, it was a lot more pleasant running without the blizzard-like conditions we had last week. I drove to the same location I had run the previous week and definitely found it much more enjoyable with the sun still up and no big, fat, fluffy snowflakes flying around. I was impressed that my left knee didn't make its' presence known until about 16 minutes into the run, instead of 45 seconds in like it did last week. All in all, I felt pretty good on Monday evening with no residual knee pain or soreness! YAY!

I had scheduled run # 2 for this afternoon and I decided to walk to nearby "Osprey Pond" for more of a scenic running route. A friend of mine runs there quite often, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The pond is about a 7 minute walk north from my place, so I got a slightly longer warm up, which I am sure is not a bad thing. The trail is a 2 km loop around Osprey Pond (aka Osprey Storm Water Drainage Reservoir), but is quite pretty compared to running around the track at the local high school. (It was also pretty deserted, which is a bonus. I still feel somewhat self-conscious running with people around). Much to my surprise, the trail had some HILLS which seemed to appear only during the running intervals. To experienced runners, these hills are probably more like speed bumps. To me, they felt kinda like Mount Everest.

I was worried about the effect the hills would have on my tricky left knee, but today I barely noticed my knee at all. I felt the odd twinge here and there, but nothing compared to the pain I felt during the very first run last week. This makes me very hopeful that as I build muscle and strength in my legs, the knee will not be a factor. Maybe I can turn myself into a runner after all!!!!

"I Think I Can!"

Looking at the calendar, it seems I will be able to complete the 9 week C25K program by April 6th. This leaves me 4 extra weeks to prepare (or to repeat weeks from the program if I am not quite ready to advance) for the Mississauga Marathon 5K run, so I've decided to set that race as my "goal race". I can honestly say I am excited and really looking forward to it! (GASP!)

Run #3 is scheduled for Friday. Checking the Weather Network, it seems we may have some snow in the forecast, but the temperatures are still supposed to be above zero. I'm not sure what will happen to my training schedule if we suddenly find ourselves with some REAL February weather on our hands, complete with windchill factors! I'm definitely more of a "fair weather" gal, so hopefully it won't throw me off track!

"Ready to Run"

J :)