Monday, August 29, 2011

The tools that make it fun

A friend asked if I had saw any of the exercise tracking apps for my new BlackBerry smartphone and always one to tinker around with a new toy I decided to have a look around. It was then that I found Endomondo ( Endomondo uses the internal GPS of the BlackBerry to keep tabs on your route and hence distance travelled. Once it knows the type of exercise you do and the distance it can calculate the amount of calories burned, it is by no means hugely accurate, but it does help. It also tracks on a whole lot of stuff like total calories burned, fastest mile, 3 miles, 5 miles, etc, total distance travelled, etc. They also have monthly competitions to track total calories burned, or distance cycled or whatever, for that month. Its not that I ever think I might win but it is fun to track, daily, where my position is in the stats, did I go up or down. It really appeals to my geeky side, but more importantly it motivates me to keep on going and helps me keep track of how my friends, even those very far away, are doing, and vice versa. Endomondo will also allow tracking in real time, the person viewing the website can also send 'pep talks', assuming you have headphones plugged in, very handy for stuff like, 'you're doing well', 'did you fall asleep' or 'can you grab some milk on your way home'. It is all good fun and adds just a wee bit of motivation. Sometimes the GPS in the BlackBerry can be very inaccurate, moreso when the device is doing other stuff, it doesn' happen often, but when it does it can lead to interesting results, see here -, just for the record, I did not decide to go for a stroll across Southfield freeway one lunchtime, or run around like a crazed idiot.

My next, even geekier toy, came after one of my early discussion with my mentor, buddy & fellow runner, Stu, a Garmin Forerunner 405 - I ended up buying a rather fetching green refurbished unit on eBay, although it does come with a 1 year warranty from Garmin, so that was good enough for me. It has a number of nice features, built in GPS, etc. The watch does way more than I use it for, but I will grow into it over time. One feature I have started using is Virtual Partner. Basically you put in the pace you want and it will show you how you are doing with respect to that pace, ie amount ahead and behind in time & distance. It is kinda cool when you are shooting for a particular time.

If there is one thing that sometimes can be a pain is staellite acquisition time, ie the time it takes get a good position, there is a nice screen that shows satellite status and GPS accuracy, if it isn't homing in, I can switch off & on the GPS and it gets better. When going out running  I tend to switch on the GPS when I leave the house and by the time I get to where I start running it is all ready to rock and roll. Garmin is a GPS company so I'll trust them, it does seem more accurate than the BlackBerry.

Here is my profile on Endomondo -

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How My Running Began...

So I completed my first 10km race. I would never have thought, even a couple of months ago, that I would ever decide to run in a 10km, let alone finish it, but I guess I did. It all started as you know, with a high cholesterol phone call from the doctor. I started out on the exercise bike and walking regularly but I knew I needed something else to get my heart rate up. Let's face it, exercise bikes are all very well, but it is very boring sitting watching the numbers fly by. The next logical thing to do would be to take my walking to the next step and try running.

On May 28th 2011 I decided to go for my first run, (, and it almost bloody killed me. It was a round trip of just over two miles, straight up Welch Rd, to Oakley Park and then back down. In my defence, running at the side of this road is very nasty, there is a helluva camber, the surface sucks and the cars fly by. I manage a whopping two minutes of solid running before I had to take my first break. If you look at the workout, you can see that this is pretty much the pattern I stick with until a few minutes before returning, when I am just walking. I arrived back at the house, demoralised, knowing that I was a wreck.

I decide the following Saturday that I'm going to try again, this time at Hiram Sims Park. There is a nice little route around the pond there and it measures out at 0.54 miles per circuit. I really wanted to see how long I could run for without stopping, hoping for one mile but not expecting a whole lot. This time I managed a whole five minutes without stopping, it was progress and progress was all I was looking for. It was at this point that I decided that running, while holding a phone and water is incredibly annoying so I had to come up with a solution. You can see the run here -

The following Friday night I rolled my ankle which buggered me up, I didn't really rest it for long enough and it still bothers me a little. It was around this time that we found out that my friend Stu was coming back for a visit, we hung out and talked about his progress and what I wanted to do. Since that night Stu has been very supportive and helpful, passing on advice and general encouragement. On August 1st he floated the idea of me doing a 5km or 10km, I think I had signed up for the Farmington Hills Run For The Hills race, within a day or so, the rest is history.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some background

So why am I doing this? Basically as a friend of mine said, 'hey, you start one, and I will too', so here it is.

The story so far. Born is Scotland, went to university, got married, went to the US, three kids and one divorce later and I'm facing forty five and a cholesterol level that would make most people cringe. I used to be fairly active a few years ago. I used to played badminton with a friend once or twice a week. I then went to playing squash in a group of four once a week for an hour or so. After that I went to playing five-a-side football (soccer), once a week. On moving to the US, that all went by the wayside. I eventually started playing disc golf a couple of times a week and then moved onto regular golf on a league, but lately, not a lot of exercise, really.

One day I get invited in by my doctor for my annual physical, etc, this involves the obligatory 'you need to lose weight and get more exercise' warning. I get a call at work a couple of days later to say that my triglycerides are 503 so whatever I'm doing, I need to stop and whatever I'm not doing, I need to start. Big wake up call time, time to start doing something about it, so here I am, let's go...

But first I'll give a couple of numbers as I guess people tend to do so. I'm 5'9", as of 22nd May 2011, I weighed in at 226lbs (16st 2lbs), my cholesterol (tri-glycerides was 507). Too heavy and too high...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Run For The Hills, Farmington Hills, MI; 20th August 2011

Run For The Hills

So here goes; the story of the day.

Pick up of race stuff was the previous evening between 4 and 8pm. Traffic was a bitch up Grand River due to road works, but got there in plenty time. I walked up to the desk and they didn't have my info. I had filled it out online and they had no record, but no big deal, I filled out the forms and they gave me the stuff anyway, I was #185 and kinda committed now.

I was a wee bit nervous on the morning of the race, just not wanting to make an arse of myself and a wee bit concerned that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I got up around 6:30, planning on leaving the house around 7:15. Drank some water, eat a banana and waited. Myself and Bren got on the road as planned and we were heading down. They wanted everyone there an hour beforehand, so we milled about and I grabbed a free banana at about T-30mins. Bren attached my number and I surveyed the competition, a whole lot of fit people and I was sure I had made a mistake. Miss Farmington Hills sang the national anthem and then we headed to the starting line. I gradually moved further and further down the field as it was separated into projected mile pace, so I was very near the back at due to my >10min miles.

Cotton t-shirt, kinda crappy, now donated
The race started with shotgun blast and we were off, and damn was it congested. So much so, that I spent the first 3/4 mile actually trying to get away from people and find a space I could run in without getting boxed in. This was when I first looked at my watch and realized that I was in danger of committing the cardinal sin of starting too fast, I slowed a little but I only got my pace down to 9:19, after planning on 10:15, I was concerned, but feeling good. When the 5km route split off I was thinking that my fellow 10k'ers looked kinda hard core and a whole lot fresher than I did, again I wondered what the hell I was thinking when I decided to do this bloody thing.

About 2/3 of the way through the 2nd mile, we see the 10km leaders coming out of a subdivision that we are entering and, bloody hell, they are sprinting, but c'est la vie, I know I'm old, fat and out of shape, so no surprises there. Mile 2 finishes a little slower at 9:40, but still quite a bit faster than I would normally expect.

Mile 3 was spent running around a good sized sub division on the way out, we passed some people running in, putting me about 1.25miles ahead of them, which buoyed my spirits a little. It was at this point I saw the first person starting to walk, at least I wasn't going to be that guy, but I still felt ok. Mile 3 came in, rather inexplicably, at 9:25. Generally, when I run, my pace gradually slows over time, so this is quite the departure from the norm.

We finally saw the water station at about 3.2 miles, way too long in my opinion. I had toyed with taking my water belt with my but dismissed it. Took on some fluid, poured some over my back and kept on going. My previous record for duration running is a solid 35mins, but I still felt fresh and my pace kept up. Running with others around you I guess, makes a huge difference. Mile 4 was a long slog up a gradual incline, which took its' toll and hence my slowest mile of the day at 10:03, still better than my projected pace though.

The next mile was a complete opposite, down a gradual decline, through a nice, exclusive sub division, not too much to say really apart from, running downhill was not as big a break as I anticipated. My legs were starting to hurt but I was determined to run for longer than 35mins, which I did, I kept asking myself to run to the next corner, or the next big tree, or another minute, just to keep on going. The next water station came which involved me, again, liberally dousing myself and drinking what I could, although not too much. I slowed as some friendly people were holding a hose on fine mist and hence the pace drop around 45mins. Still determined and knowing that the end was nearing I put in a, not too shabby (for me anyway), 9:48.

Mile 5 and I'm struggling even though we are on a gradual downhill pretty much all the way to the finish line, I had hoped to feel better because the end is so close, but I don't. I finally decided to take a short break at 55mins, but the thought of having people pass me is too much, sot I start running again after only about 20-30secs. Getting close to the end and it is all downhill, until the last 1/4mile which is dead flat. I decide that I have to try and finish strong, but my legs are killing me, but the end is right there and I just keep on going. Mile 6 goes by at 9:28, I cross the line at 59:08.

I survived.

Results for the 10km -

Here are the age graded results, what ever that means -

This is how it looked from my watches point of view -