Resolutions 2014: January Progress Report

At the start of the year, I began a series entitled ‘Resolutions 2014’. This series is designed to help me meet my aims for this year, which by reporting back to you should help prove to be a binding agreement between myself and you, my readers and followers. Failure to make significant progress will be of disappointment to me but this is a year long initiative, and nothing will come overnight. Or over the course of a month.

With that said, thank you to all who read and enjoyed my original post, and thank you fellow WordPressers for following me too. My original post was the most read yet, and I hope you all get a lot out of the rest of this series. So, as we’re now reaching January’s end, here’s how I’ve been getting on this month.

1. SLEEP

As briefly mentioned in my original post, I downloaded an excellent little app called Sleepbot. From New Year’s Day onwards, I have used this as my phone’s tool for tracking my sleep, and setting my alarms. On it I can track my sleep motion and additionally record the noise when I sleep. I tried out the tracker motion and sound recorder once – it picked up hardly anything so everything seems normal with my sleep. However I’m primarily focused on just getting enough sleep in the first place.

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As this chart shows you however, I have continued to find getting enough sleep a bit of a battle. I should clear up here – as my original post, before I edited it, got taken away from what I was trying to project – is that my kids are still currently going to bed late. It’s a phase they’re in, but it’s not so late that I can’t get enough sleep. There are just days when there is housework that is only going to get done in the evening. Me and my wife are working hard to stay on top of it, but ultimately I alone decide when I go to sleep – and sometimes, I’m still falling into the trap of being awake in the early hours.

There have been days when I have got some good sleep, but these have been immediately followed by a large dip. These spikes display exactly why I want to get good, regular sleep. It’s always one step forward, two steps back at the moment, and if I’m to achieve my target of a minimum six hours sleep a night, then the above chart needs to be less zig-zaggy, and a little more even. Oh, and above the dotted line too. But if there is one good thing to take from this at present, it’s that I am less tired day by day. Though my sleep debt currently weighs in at 8.2 hours, those nights of good sleep are serving me well, and I’d be grateful for a few more too.

2. Learn to swim again

This has not been much of a goer either, though not for any reason other than a financial one – I currently/didn’t have gym membership and could not join until I obtained a Passport to Leisure, which would allow me to attend the gym for a lower monthly rate.

I went swimming twice but not for myself – we aim to integrate our daughters back into swimming following a break of a few months. When we last went they felt a little apprehensive at first, but they soon enjoyed splashing about. We don’t want apprehension, we want regularity and fun. But while it costs me £4.20 a time, when I can get gym membership for a monthly fee that would cover that anyway, it’s a no-brainer – we all benefit in some way then. And the financial reality is that right now, it’s biting. There are reasons for that, both justifiable and plain wrong, which mean we have to keep a really tight grip on things. But hopefully things are looking up.

When I have tried to swim, I find currently I struggle as my legs seem to feel heavy, like I’m beginning to submerge before I’ve even got into a motion. I need more than just a few freestyle strokes though, so until I can get down to the pool without the kids, the really long road remains really long.

I’ve already decided I can’t afford to purchase a road bike just yet, so resolution 2.5 is off the table in that regard – I do regard duathlon/triathlon participation as a long way off with running the primary focus this year. But I believe I am able to borrow a bike. I just actually need to ask first.

3. More races

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My new Saucony Grid Adapt shoes!

I haven’t entered any more races since I last updated my itinerary, though they are now starting to approach on the horizon. Just next week in fact, it’s the Liversedge Half Marathon, which I’ve been training hardily for. I’m still down for the Blackpool Beach 10K Run and the Great Birmingham Run, which I was lucky enough to actually win tickets for via the Great Run 12 Days of Christmas competition! I’m still looking at what I can afford though. There’s a big void between those latter two races that might need filling, and there’ll be plenty of races turning my head later in the year that I’ll want a bash at.

I had considered entering the Huddersfield Marathon (or rather, the Half Marathon) but places were nearly sold out  and prior to payday, with very little money left, I could not justify paying a fiver less than the £35 marathon price to enter for half the distance. I felt a worthier investment would be purchase some new trail shoes – which I did (see above) – and this means I can mix up my training and prepare properly for the Beach 10K and other possible trail races.

Whether or not I start smashing personal bests (see ‘Run Faster’ below), the chief reason for this is not just so I can get more and more involved in the running community, or to test myself. Its to experience preparation for race day – getting up, showered, fuelled, stretched, psyched, boom. I did this once in 2012 and once in 2013. I need to get into that zone more and more, so that such preparation becomes second nature, so I feel even more like a runner.

4. Run faster

The Liversedge Half Marathon will be my first chance to try and beat my personal best for the half marathon distance. Admittedly, it’s a long shot, given how hilly the course is, but my training has really stepped up recently, with my return from injury coinciding with the arrival of Jantastic (as detailed in my previous post). With Jantastic now go, I could seek to achieve my target of a minimum four runs a week. My training schedule quotes for six runs per week, with Thursdays being rest days. Being a part of Jantastic has motivated me to stick to schedule, but it also prompted me to consider how fast I go in certain training sessions. This has meant, contrary to this resolution, actually going slower on ‘slow’ and ‘easy’ runs, as is dictated by their description. Consequently, I’ve felt fresher day by day, my joints feel under less strain, and it means I can suitably dictate the pace of my faster and harder sessions accordingly.

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My recent 10K stats (19/01/2014)

Training has been going really well of late, and where I have aimed to prove my speed, things have gone largely well. I measured out a 10K route when I returned from injury, and ran it in 42:38 – a PB over that distance. I measured another one as part of my training two weeks later, which I ran two weeks ago. This went even better. Way better. I didn’t just beat my new PB – I obliterated it. 40:48 was the time on an undulating route, one which after the first 5km I almost gave up – the third steep hill I ran up was almost the undoing of me and I briefly stopped as traffic passed. But I got back into my run and motored on from there. To make such a vast improvement felt awesome. The speed training is currently paying heavy dividends, all currently favourably.

The 10K was the first of numerous records to fall – there was also a new fastest 5K section (the second half of the run went for 19:19), and a new fastest mile – when converted back to mileage, I equalled my 6:09 ‘Magic Mile’ on the 5th mile, and then bested it by a second, lowering it to 6:08. With the six minute mile among a sub plot for my chief aim – the 1:30:00 half marathon – it was thrilling to find I’d got closer to this mark.

I’m getting better at running speedily up hills, and have found I’m maintaining lower than average mile times on uphill climbs. Currently it’s a real grit-your-teeth exercise, but it feels a real thrill at the moment to charge up hills, knowing that I’m beginning to dominate some of them, and this has come largely from incorporating hill sprinting into training, and picking up a pointer on leaning forward slightly into hills, which helps me maintain my cadence and speed.

There was one training run where I misjudged how far I should run in a fourty-minute session, and wound up running my fifth mile on the route for 6:23 – impressive, but not what I had intended on doing that particular day!

With 10Ks seemingly on the menu going into March and up until May, I will likely adjust to a sub-40 minute 10K training plan to keep up with the training post-Liversedge and to keep up with my aim of breaking a few PB’s while I’m in my prime. I know I’m really close to a sub-40 minute 10K now and it requires a flat, fast course in order to get the job done. There’s a good few years of me at this level and while the number one aspect of my running will continue to be for my personal health and for my enjoyment, there’s nothing wrong with healthily testing myself. And I know I am capable of it, with the right application.

To summarise, I still need to sleep more, get that gym membership sorted, ask about borrowing that bike, and to win the lottery. Or at least find some financial fortune. But at least my training is going well, and I’ve still got my speed. Next Sunday is a day I’m really looking forward to – my first race since the epic Great North Run in 2013. It’ll be a far cry from the swathing crowds of the North East, but I’m sure it’ll have a charm of its own and I still fly solo, and it’ll be good to be amongst other runners once again.

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