Thursday, June 19, 2008

Saved by technology


(first published May 2006)

The other day a friend asked how my training was going and I beamed a little as I let him know that my sessions had been very strong and that I've been working on my pace to try to get a little faster. I'm a pretty steady just below 12 minute per mile kind of guy and it's something I want to improve on this year. Things were going great, or so I thought, until I was out for an 'easy' session the other morning. I could see in the distance a couple approaching me, but well before our paths crossed, my course took me down a side-road. I was feeling strong and sure that my 'easy' pace was a little faster than last year's, that was until the couple that I had seen in the distance trotted up behind and then right on past me. Oh they were quite polite, saying 'good morning' and giving me the 'runner's wave', but as I watched them pull farther away, all the while maintaining a conversation with each other, I began to question how fast this new pace of mine really was. The answer was in the mail.

A few days earlier, I had purchased a GPS device on e-Bay. I'm a technology freak, and the idea of being able to upload your training sessions and see them on a map really tickled my fancy. The unit arrived on the afternoon of the same day I had my pride handed back to me by that running couple. I spent the night with it on my wrist pressing buttons and finding out all about what it could do for me; the following morning I would put it to the test.

I normally get out of bed at 5:30 on the mornings that I run, but this morning, I was up at 5:00, perhaps because of the excitement surrounding my new gizmo, but most likely because I had eaten pizza the night before and it was playing havoc with my stomach. Dressed and ready to go, I started my warm-up walk while the GPS unit acquired the signals it needed from the sky. After a few minutes, I pressed the start button and off I went. I finished about a minute earlier than I normally do for this particular course and I then proceeded my cool down walk back to my house. Once inside, and still sweating profusely, I attached the device to my computer, uploaded the data and started the analysis. It showed me the route I ran, the elevation gain and decline over my course, and a whole bunch of other info that I would not normally know (or care) about. But the one bit of info that I was most interested in was the pace of the run, I had to know if I was getting faster, or if my mind was playing tricks on me.

I'm happy to say that all is well with me. The unit reported that I maintained a 10:57 per mile pace, about a minute per mile better than I usually do. I was impressed with myself. While these numbers would hardly catch the attention of the serious, performance runners, this little GPS unit turned out to be all I needed to ensure myself that my approach to this running season was on track.

Now if I could only get this thing to take dictation.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

From dreamers to doers


I've often said, when referring to our Running Club, we're the most out-of-shape bunch of fit people you'd ever want to hang out with. Such a statement no longer has any semblance of truth. This group is a finely-tuned fitness machine.

Until now, our racing goals have always been the same from the fastest to the not-so-fastest runners in our Club:


Every race we've entered to this point has been a first-timer at that particular distance; regardless of the outcome, it would always be a personal best for everyone. But, as the days go by, we're getting closer to a return trip to the 10-mile road race that up until a couple of weeks ago, was the greatest running accomplishment for all of us. And with most of us having done this race before, our usual goal of simply finishing is no longer an acceptable challenge.

At a recent Club meeting, I asked members to write down their personal goals for the 10-miler and hand them back to me to be read aloud. Most, if not all of the members who had done this race before, wrote down a specific time goal - a symbolic move from dreamers to doers if there ever was one. But symbolic gestures don't deliver results - effort does, and each member has upped the ante, so to speak, since training began last week with record-paced runs and intense interval sessions that leave no doubt that each person's goal for this year's race is indeed attainable.

And as I head to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia this weekend to participate in the World Heritage Site 5-K for the second time, I too have a stated time goal in mind; that for me represents a monumental shift in my running philosophy. I still believe first and foremost that all of us should enjoy every foot-strike and celebrate every finish line regardless of pace, but at the same time, there's nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, even if it is with one's own self.

My advice to the Club:

Respect the distance.
Train smart.
Go for it, gang.