Resolutions 2014: March Progress Report

A quarter of the year in already? Crikey. Well, here we are again for the success-or-failure measure that is my 2014 Resolutions. In January and February I continued to make positive strides in my running, while making little or no progress in my non-running resolutions, sleep, and swimming. Those of you who’ve followed this series will likely join me in disappointment at those non-running goals that I seem to be falling short on, as I will go on to detail. But I have had success in my main event this month, the Epilepsy Action Bradford 10K, which I already went through in some detail. Here I break down my mile-by-mile (note: not kilometre-by-kilometre) splits for that race, as well as detailing what my plans for speed goals are next, as well as the races I’ve now earmarked as potential dates for my diary. Here comes the Progress Report!

1. SLEEP

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The defining aspects of this month’s look into sleep are twofold, and not entirely of my own undoing. Although I have gone on some stretches with less than the targeted six hour sleep, I have seen an increase in early (8:00am) starts at work, which means earlier wake up times and a struggle to get to bed without doing the required things – preparing meals/clothes for work, ensuring clean high chairs for the kids and bin bags taken out. Hygiene stuff, basically. The kids bedtime remains at a reasonable time, ie. not at 11:00pm or later, the routine is relatively settled. I’m not getting to bed particularly any later on average – just on some nights there’s a little more to do. Often on these early starts. Eventually I’ll get the hang of it. I swear. But more markedly, there’s been the issue of the kids health. For the first three weekends in March, we had incidents of one or the other being sick in the early hours. And at first, as always seem to be, on a Sunday.  You know, when you can’t see a doctor, but it’s not serious enough to toil over to A&E for. Still, when they’re waking up at 3:00am and vomiting every five minutes it’s difficult to get any pattern of unbroken sleep when you’ve got to react quickly to grab a towel to stop them getting it all over the bed. This pattern even included the day I raced in Bradford. And typically, mid-week, everything is fine, and when they’re not vomming all over the shop, they’re running around care free. I love ‘em, the little mites. But its important they stay healthy, and helping them when they can’t help themselves is something I would sacrifice sleep for again and again.

Things are settling back down now, and as you read this, I’m now in slightly sunny Ingoldmells for four nights. Where I’ll either catch up on sleep, or get up early and go running instead and lose out. Or if I’m luckily, I’ll strike a balance. How am I feeling day to day though? Generally, OK. Some days I feel a little more tired than others, but compared to where I was, I’m largely done with four hour sleeps  and sub-five hour sleeps, which is definitely a step in the right direction. Still chasing the elusive six hours on a consistent basis, though. Tsk. The last week or so has been a little more positive – ironically I’ve not run at all and all of a sudden, my sleep is slightly on the up. I’d perhaps like my longer accumulations of sleep to not be broken up into two or three naps, as has been the case if I’ve fallen asleep while helping the twins to sleep. But I shan’t complain about progress, however slight.

2. Learn to swim again

No swimming at all this month. Cripes, this goal is failing badly. That said, as mentioned above, it has been ravaged with the kids being ill, and with an initial lack of money to put to one side. Still, it’s disappointing from me and I’m sick of coming back to this feature having not made any real progress. I’m trying to spur myself into action now, though pledging my commitment to learn again in a work ‘wellbeing’ initiative, and ordering a swimming cap. If this doesn’t get me taking it seriously, then overall it’s going to end up a damp squib. And a false one at that.

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My swimming shorts. Not seeing much action.

There is good news on two fronts, however – my performance at work last year was deemed good enough to ensure for the first time in two years, I will feel financially free again. Cautiously, of course, because I really don’t want to be looking down the barrel of an overdraft ever again. But this means I should hopefully have a little bit of extra cash to afford gym membership. After some quick investigating, it turns out it shouldn’t cost me as much as I originally thought it would. So all things considered, now would appear to be the right time to take up gym membership, now I can afford it and that we’re now moving into April with no sign of progress from me. It would be of huge benefit to my family, my kids, myself, and my running if I got going in the right direction.

The second is that I picked up a magazine, ‘Get Into Triathlon’. It’s available now from most newsagents and supermarkets. I’ve not had chance to read much of it, but here’s two things I’ve read already with piqued my attention.

1.       ‘If you’ve not swam since your school days, you’ll need professional help’.

Crumbs. As if this sport wasn’t expensive enough already.

2.       That a road bike with added tri gears is cheaper than buying a full on tri bike with gears.

A sound bit of advice for those of us with limited funds. After all, if I do get round to competing in triathlon events, the last thing on my mind will be how quick I can go, it’ll be to get round the course in one piece. And the cycling part is obviously the biggest barrier to entry, given some bikes are worth more than my current bank balance. I certainly don’t want to leave myself struggling to pay my bills, my groceries, or leave my family adrift, especially when right now, it’s a pipe dream. But if I can work away in my career as much as I’m keen to work on my swimming and cycling, why can’t it be real?

Triathlon is definitely a long-term goal, while running will always keep me satisfied. While I continue to pursue running over quicker times and longer distances, I should keep my feet on the ground with regard to the other disciplines here. Research, learn, and practice. Research, learn and practice. Enjoy it at leisure, rather than for the sake of competition. I’ve got to learn to swim consistent lengths before I even consider pulling on a wetsuit. So let’s get this gym membership sorted, and then I can stop with the excuses. And eventually, I’ll make room to borrow a bike so I can get properly accustomed to cycling again, which I should really just put out of my mind until I can actually commit to it. And until my house is tidy enough.

3. Run more

Well well well. Does anyone remember me saying I wouldn’t consider the Huddersfield Half Marathon on account of its steep entry fee? Well, how fortune and the kindness of a good friend smiles upon me. For without naming names, she has very kindly transferred her place to me, with good grace from the organisers to allow me to step in with ease you don’t always see at races. I always thought transferring was a no-no but I guess I was wrong. I’m very grateful for this opportunity, even though it’s just two weeks before the Blackpool Beach 10K, when I should be thinking of tapering! But my fitness levels are good and this will offer me a chance to improve on my new half marathon PB, although it’s another very hilly course!

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I’ve also got my eye on another couple of races later in the year. First off, the Halifax (Half) Marathon, organised by the same team organising the Huddersfield and Wakefield Marathons. This is on Sunday 30th August, and until my recent relative prosperity, would not have considered shelling out £30 to enter the Half option of the full race. But given my knowledge of the area it would represent a good place to go for broke in aiming to beat my new PB of 1:26:45, should it still stand at this point. The second race is the Stainland Trail 10K, on Sunday September 21st. By this time, I’ll be a 30-year old (eek), and undeniably trying to dip my toes into new challenges. Trail races are one such method to explore this, and I’m keen to give my limbs a break from the road once in a while. Stainland isn’t too far away and some of my friends and colleagues are a part of the local athletics club there, the Stainland Lions.

Following the Bradford 10K, I next ran three days later, doing a 6.8 mile burst home from work the long way round.  I did it in 45 minutes and got further than intended.  I truly felt like I’d bust a gut even though I ran slower than at the Bradford race. But I felt absolutely fine afterwards. I got stretched off and everything felt good. Then the following day, my right knee felt sore. Not unbearably sore, but niggly. The sort of thing I’m used to feeling from time to time. It was enough for me to take a Nurofen and strap on the patella band in the office. That eased it up. Since then, it’s not felt too bad. I’ve been giving it the RICE treatment, yet everything I’ve planned to go running since (every day), I’ve felt something the day before to discourage me from attempting anything the following day. I did do a 7+ mile run to work on the Sunday of that week, after much umming and ahhing as to whether or not to risk it. In the end, that was my last action of the month. My knees began feeling sore again and so I spent the last week of March RICEing my knees when possible and doing strength exercises whenever I could. I wanted to be in condition to make the most of my four mornings of running on the sand. As much as the pressure is now off having broken the 40 minute barrier for 10K, I really want to make the most of this time at the beach, given there’s no sand or coastline in West Yorkshire. And all in all, it may yet serve as a warning to perhaps rest up for a bit once the Blackpool race is run.

4. Run faster

My performance in the Epilepsy Action Bradford 10K means that the last of my remaining original speed goals – to do 10,000 metres in under 40 minutes – has now been smashed as well, having completed the race in a time of 37:15. Sadly I didn’t realise that MapMyRun won’t let you view your splits in one unit if you recorded it in other – something I liked about Nike+ Running before GPS issues got me rather too impatient with it. I foolishly went and left my app recording my race in imperial units. Miles. And so when it came to analysing, I could not view my splits in terms of metrics, and I’ve decided working out what they were per kilometre is a relatively Herculean task I have little time for.

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Mile by mile splits from the 2014 Bradford 10K

What I do know is that I was running at 3:50 per km during that race. My mile by mile splits, however, are relatively pleasing. I clocked under or bang on the 6:00 mile each mile for the first four miles, clocking the first mile for 5:32 – not far off the 5:23 at Liversedge – and 5:50 for the second. Bang on 6:00 for the third and a couple of seconds quicker for the fourth. I don’t even remember going that fast, aside from when I hit the two short descents in the race like a rocket. My pace tailed off slightly towards the end of the race, but even so, clocking the last mile for 6:10 was great and if I hadn’t developed that sense of having the sub-40 in the bag, I might have pushed a little harder for those extra few seconds off. All in all though, the biggest thing to take from this is that I was consistently maintaining this pace throughout this distance. The trick now would be to attempt to translate that to my half marathon running.

I’m not sure how much quicker I’ll get on 10K races, and I guess holding my fastest pace at around the six minutes or less mark is the way to go, rather than pushing for 5:30s and 5:20s. Given this, my one realistic speed goal for the year is to now aim for a sub-1:25:00 half marathon. To take any time off my current PB would be great, but to do this would represent a 1:46 swing downwards from my current PB in order to do it. Do I think I can do it? I’m certainly driven to. I believe with the right course, and the right weather conditions, I can beat what I did in Liversedge and more to the point, push myself to my very limits. I realise there’s going to be a plateau at some point, and my ambitions are to step up in distance and discipline, in which case it will be less about the time and more about completing the challenge. These distances suit me, for sure, and I’m learning all the time about my strengths and weaknesses. Therefore I think I will be putting myself into the Halifax Half to see if I can get any nearer, and then I’ll see whether or not I’ll aim to run the Great Birmingham Run at such a pace.

So to summarise: Keep working on sleep. Keep the kids illness-free. Relax, I’m fast! And for goodness sake, get in the pool!

Thanks for reading everyone, let’s see how April goes eh?

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