Friday, February 17, 2017

Weekly Update: 6-12 February 2017

Last week was different from usual because I participated in two swim meets- Myall Masters on Saturday and Western Metropolitan RSL on Sunday. As a result I did less swimming training. 

A black and white flat lay just for something different and because it looks cool.

This week I completed my standard routine of three runs. It was hard fitting in the Thursday night run because I was already so tired from the week and had swimming training the next morning. I also had the busiest weekend ever so knew there would be no opportunity to catch up on sleep. It was a relatively slow 7km because the weather was still very hot. The usual Tuesday morning run went well because it's always more fun to train with friends.

I went to Tea Gardens on Saturday for swimming so I used the opportunity to visit another Parkrun. It was a 2 hour 45 minute drive each way so I stopped just past half way at Lake Macquarie Parkrun. Being a regular at Parkrun now, having done a total of 46 now and 42 of them being at my home Parkrun, I always find it interesting seeing other locations. Lake Macquarie was a big Parkrun with around 250 participants even on the morning of a heatwave. The course was almost identical to The Ponds which I tried out a couple of weeks ago. Coincidentally I was there for the 4th birthday celebration. If I didn't have to swim later in the day I would have enjoyed some free cake and champagne (turns out my swimming meet didn't go very well so I should have just had the cake and champagne). It was nice how Lake Macquarie Parkrun gave out so many awards and recognised loyal participants, which rarely happens with Parkruns in Sydney. I ran the course in 24 minutes and 54 seconds, with an overall ranking of 42/249 and a gender ranking of 5/115. It was 1 minute and 18 seconds outside my best time but I wasn't going to push it on a day of racing swimming.  

No Tennis
For the second Sunday in a row I had to miss tennis due to a swimming commitment. I've really missed it but I'll be returning this weekend. I might even play on Saturday too. 

It was a massive week of swimming so I have a lot to write about. I missed two training sessions because I raced at swimming meets on both Saturday and Sunday (weekly kms way less than usual). In total I did three training sessions, two carnivals and usual Wednesday night swim club. Wednesday night was one of my best ever swim club nights with all personal bests. I'm happy with one personal best so all of them is very rare. 2:41.37 for 200m freestyle, 38.51 for 50m backstroke (second time under 39 seconds), 42.81 for 50m breaststroke and 14.64 for 25m freestyle (only third time under 15 seconds in endless attempts). I'm most happy with the breaststroke because I rarely have improvement in breaststroke, and there's a history to it which I'll write about later. Overall I've been pleased with my swim club times this year.

On Saturday I attended an out of Sydney Masters Meet at Tea Gardens. It was an almost three hour drive each way. I don't usually travel so much for swimming but it was a meet I particularly wanted to attend. It was an incredibly disappointing swim meet for me. One of my times was acceptable but the other three were terrible. In fact the 50m fly was the worst time I'd done in a number of months. I can make all the excuses I want- I didn't get much sleep, I drove three hours to get there, it was a heatwave day, struggling with anxiety, I'd done a 5km run earlier, I'd trained too hard the day before- and some of them may be valid. However, at the end of the day I still did terrible times and nothing takes that way. I simple don't accept this low standard of performance from myself. To be honest I had a bit of a meltdown after the last event. I was so incredibly upset. I've put everything into training for the last year, I couldn't have tried any more. It's disappointing beyond explanation to not see the results. I feel like such a failure still not being good enough. Also I'm really struggling with the anxiety of racing. I always feel so much pressure for a certain outcome or time in each race. It's only pressure I put on myself but the anxiety is unbearable. I have to address it somehow. My friend was incredibly supportive and I'm so thankful for how nice he was to me when I was really upset. I was in a really bad place and it took awhile to get me out of it. The best part of swimming has been the friends I've made. 

On Sunday I had another swimming carnival, Western Metropolitan RSL Carnival. It was my second year of winning the open 50m championship race. This time last year it was my first 50m freestyle in 12 years so I went into the race with zero expectations. I was lucky to win last year because there was hardly any competition and I was three seconds slower than currently. This year was much more competitive and the race was won by a small margin. Being the current title holder I felt a world of expectation and pressure going into the race and I'd been nervous about it for weeks now. I came away with the outcome I wanted of winning but it wasn't a great time and there were so many aspects of the race I wanted to improve. I need to improve my sprints. My times aren't where I want them to be and I'm better at longer distances. I feel disadvantaged with the open races always being 50m freestyle. I'll work on improving. Here's the trophy.

-After the pain in my upper back a few weeks ago I've returned to the full program of weights. We've worked out the reason for my injury, turns out I was doing one of the weights incorrectly. I've been doing better this week. 
-I'd like to add in a program of 5 push-ups and 20 crunches three times a week (in addition to the weights and the usual bootcamp). 
-At bootcamp we did 6 x 100m sprints with a 300m walk recovering in between. The sprints are such good training so it feels good having fitted that in.
- I still need to improve my diet.
- I'd like to focus on improving my sprint times in swimming. I'll have to work out the best way to do it. 

Weekly Photo
100m sprints. I really like bootcamp lately. It's so nice to be outside in the warm weather, I can chat to my friends more than during swimming training and with increased strength in the last couple of months, the program is no longer incredibly painful for me. 

What did you achieve this week?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Weekly Update: 30 January- 5 February 2017

I'm behind this week so this is last week's update. 

This week was different to usual because I participated in the Sun Run on Saturday and the Cole Classic Ocean Swim on Sunday. I wrote a separate post on the run here and a post about the Cole Classic here.  

Here are the flat lays I took for the Sun Run and Cole Classic. 

During the week I completed only two runs instead of the usual three. I replaced my Thursday night run with a swim because my legs were very sore from Monday's bootcamp. Usually I'd just push through the pain but I didn't want to make it worse because I had the Sun Run only two days later. Therefore, I only ran 14km during the week and both runs didn't feel particularly great. I had to skip the Parkrun because of the Sun Run on Saturday and I have to say I missed the Parkrun so much! It's the first one I haven't attended since October. I'm hoping this week will be better for running. 

No Tennis
I also had to miss tennis on Sunday in order to attend the ocean swim. Unfortunately I won't even be able to go next week due to another swimming commitment but I'll go back to tennis on 19th February. It felt rather sad not going to tennis because it's the one sport which is just for fun and doesn't involve pressure. 

This week I completed five training sessions, did my first ocean swim race and went to the usual Wednesday night swim club racing. That's a total of 16.7km for the week (more than usual) but 14.7km of it was in the pool. I added a swim on Thursday night because I couldn't run and don't like to go a full day without sport. Also I was conscious of missing my usual training on Sunday morning. Looking back I probably didn't need to do the Thursday swim because I still swam on Sunday just in an ocean but at the time I expected it from myself. I find swimming difficult on Thursday nights because I have to be at the pool again by 5.30am on Friday morning and it's too much. I only do it when I have to. I completed one of the long distance swims for the Masters Endurance Program. This was the 45 minute freestyle where I swam 2.75km. 

I was happy with two of my swims on Wednesday night at swim club- 36.65 for 50m butterfly and 1:23.65 for the 100m individual medley. The IM is a personal best by the smallest margin of 0.05 and the fly is the fastest time I've recorded. However I recorded 36.89 at a long course meet last December which converts to being faster than 36.65 short course. It was a good practice for racing both these events at the next masters meet this weekend. 

- After the past couple of weeks of pain in my upper back, which I finally worked out is from weights, I returned to some of these exercises again. I did the easier weights but avoided the standing fly just to be safe. I also reintroduced some push-ups. 
- This week I'd like to stick to a program of 5 push-ups and 20 crunches three times a week (in addition to the usual weekly bootcamp session) as a bonus. I also want to make sure I'm doing weights correctly to avoid potential injury.
- Still need to improve the diet substantially. I resumed making smoothies this week but need to more often. 
- I intend to finally fit in some 100m sprints this week. 

Weekly Photo
Just another picture of a pool. 

What did you achieve this week? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cole Classic: 2km Ocean Swim

Last Sunday I participated in the Cole Classic which is a 2km ocean swim from Shelly Beach to Manly Beach. It's my first ever ocean swim race, with my first time participating in an ocean swim being only two weeks ago (which I wrote about here). There was also a 1km event and a 5km event. I wasn't able to enter the 5km swim without previous ocean experience and the 1km swim was way too short, so that left the 2km distance. The Cole Classic is part of the same event as the Sun Run (which I wrote about here) so it was a busy weekend. 

For once I was relaxed going into the event and had no expectations with regards to time and ranking. When I race swimming in a pool, and to a lesser extent racing running, I get incredibly nervous because I know I'll be very angry at myself if I don't reach my goals. So it was nice for once to have a different mindset. I know swimming 2km in a pool would take me a little over half an hour but there is so much variation in the ocean so I wouldn't even be aware of what is a good ocean swim time. I think the variation could even be up to ten minutes. So in the end I swam the race at a comfortable pace and it certainly didn't feel flat out. One of the hardest aspects is the monotony but I've found the Masters Swimming Endurance Program helped with that because I'm already used to swimming for up to an hour continuously. 

Once again I had the impression that ocean swimming is so different to pool swimming, to the extent it actually feels like another sport. My main problem with ocean swimming is how difficult it is to see where you're going and being a pool swimmer I'm not used to breathing towards the front. I'm sure I covered more than 2km in total distance being too far out from the buoys and markings (probably all part of the skill of ocean swimming). There also weren't as many people in the water at any one time as I expected. After the first five minutes of it being very crowded around me, I couldn't rely on others so much to navigate where I was going. The course was a lot further out from the sand than I expected in deep water. There were some waves which was rougher than the ocean swim I did with Bold and Beautiful. None of this was an issue, it was just different. 

The event was very well organised with participants starting in waves based on age category to minimise crowding in the ocean. There were plenty of lifeguards on the course in case anyone got into trouble. The start location on Shelly Beach was so beautiful. It's a small and calm beach around the corner from Manly. The area is so new to me but now it's one of my favourite beaches. The atmosphere was relaxed and positive at the beach prior to the start . It was an incredibly hot day (almost 40 degrees) which meant the water wasn't too cold for once. 

These were my results which were much better than expected for my first ocean swim race. I'm not a massive fan of ocean swimming so I don't intend to do many of them. However, I'd participate in the Cole Classic again and I'm up for improving my results next year. 

Have you ever done an ocean swim?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sun Run: 7km Run

This morning I participated in the Sun Run which is a 7km run from Dee Why Beach to Manly Beach. It's the first major running event of the year in Sydney, after there not being any since last October/November. I didn't participate in the Sun Run last year because I didn't actually know about it and I only started entering running events in the middle of 2016. So it was good to add another one to the calendar. There is also a 10km event which I'd usually enter instead. However, I thought I'd go with the 7km for something different because I've never selected that distance for an official running event before. I got some amazing sunrise pictures at the start line at Dee Why Beach. 

Originally I had the goal of running the 7km in under 35 minutes because that's less than 5 minutes per kilometre. I'm very comfortable with sub 5 minute kilometres for a 5km run now so wondered whether I could hold the pace for 7km. However, once I learned the course was incredibly difficult and hilly, I quickly adjusted my expectations. The course was incredibly tough, up there in terms of difficulty with the City 2 Surf (but of course only half the distance). If I'd known I would have tried to do some hill runs for training. There was even a huge hill a couple of hundred metres into the run which was mentally tough!

In the end I ran the course in 37 minutes and 40 seconds. Even thought it's slower than my average pace per kilometres for a 10km run, I can't be disappointed given the difficulty of the course. I've been to quite a few running events now and they are all reasonably similar. There would have been less participants than some of the events in the city which helped with the crowds. The course was very scenic and pretty, providing for great photo opportunities. It was an early morning start as I live far away from Manly (4.45am is a brutal wake up time for a Saturday morning!)  I've been to Manly three times in the last ten days when usually I wouldn't even go there once a year. I'd be up for giving it a try again next year.

What did you do this weekend? 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Weekly Update: 23-29 January 2017

This week was a normal week training wise; I'll be busy for most weekends in February for I appreciated the standard week. For further details on what my usual week involves, see my post here

Here is the outfit I wore to bootcamp on Monday...getting some use out of my City 2 Surf shirt. 

This week I completed three runs. It was easier this week because Thursday was a public holiday so I didn't have the difficulty of fitting in the third run on a Thursday night before early swimming training on Friday morning. Because of the extra time I decided to run a 12km instead of the usual 7-8km. It had been ages since I'd completed a long run. I hadn't exceeded 10km since last September's half marathon. There hasn't been the need to and I've been focusing on shorter, faster runs since. It was great to see the improvement in my fitness since last September. 5 minutes and 30 seconds per kilometre for 12kms now feels very comfortable and I could have continued for longer. 

I attended a new Parkrun location this week with my friends. It was such a different experience because it was so huge- 550 runners in total- compared to 150-200 runners at my usual location. It seemed unmanageable for the course and it was so difficult to get a free run. It was like a large running event where you can't actually run for the first couple of minutes because there are too many people in the way. Given the circumstances I was happy with my time of 24 minutes and 38 seconds. It's a minute out from my best time but I was expecting it to be slower and I can never be disappointed with a time under 25 minutes. I was surprised to rank 66/546 overall and 9/252 gender ranking.  Overall it was a positive experience and a course I"d like to run again. 

This week I completed five training sessions and attended usual Wednesday night swim club racing. The total distance covered was 15.7km which is more than usual because of the Bold and Beautiful ocean swim. I felt a potential injury coming on as I've felt pain in my upper back on the right hand side for around a week now. I've experienced this two times before last year and it went away eventually but this time is worse. I've put time into rehab exercises and hot and cold treatment which has helped. I haven't missed any training sessions but took it easier on some days. It's interesting because on Wednesday night I was worried about racing, especially the 400m freestyle, with the injury. As a result I adjusted my expectations and didn't worry about time or pacing. I felt relaxed during the race and focused on a longer stroke. It was the most comfortable 400m freestyle I've ever done. I usually get so nervous before a swimming race so taking the pressure off made the world of difference. I surprised myself with a personal best of 5:50.16. On a similar note I swam a personal best of 38:69 for the 50m backstroke. I've been wanting sub 39 seconds for awhile now so that was a surprise.It was a combination of improved underwater and the no pressure. My back hurt a little during breaststroke but overall it felt better in the pool than out. 

In addition I completed an ocean swim with the Bold and Beautiful squad at Manly this week. See my post about it here.  

Tennis was standard this week and I played four sets at tennis club. I'm going to have to miss the next two weeks of tennis because I have an ocean swim event and a swimming carnival. I am so sad about that! Hopefully I can find some other time to play during those two weeks. 

- I didn't address my areas of improvement this week but I won't be too harsh on myself because of the pain in my upper back. I knew many of the improvements I wanted to make would have made it worse. I wasn't able to do any weights or pushups this week (I'd introduced 5 pushups per day three times a week very recently). I'm wondering if this was the cause of the pain, in addition to general overuse. I'm not sure it would have been from swimming because I don't usually get injuries from swimming and it's a part of training I'm very used to. The strength training is much newer. I'll see how I feel next week as to whether I can address some intended areas of improvement.
- I want to get back into 100m sprints around the athletics track. I haven't done this for ages despite intending to. I should be doing more intense bursts of training and I find sprinting in running less painful than sprinting in the pool. Just five lots of 100m sprints is an efficient use of time. 

Weekly Photo
This is from the Bold and Beautiful ocean swim I did on Thursday. Unfortunately it was cold and overcast but I still got some good pictures. See my post here

What did you achieve this week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bold and Beautiful Ocean Swim

This morning I completed the Bold and Beautiful swim for the first time. The Bold and Beautiful is an informal group meeting at 7am every day (all 365 days of the year!) to swim from Manly to Shelly Beach and back 750m each way. I've never done an ocean swim before, which is surprising since I've done pool swimming for a large part of my life. This year I thought I'll give it a try. Next Sunday I'm participating in the Cole Classic which is a 2km ocean swim race at Dee Why beach. I don't expect to have any problems with it but knowing ocean swimming will be different, I wanted to have a practice first so that was my reason for participating in the Bold and Beautiful swim today. 

Ocean swimming was very different (as I expected it would be) and overall I'm not a fan. I'm sure that's largely because of my background as a pool swimmer and because I've grown up in the west away from any beaches. I found my technique very much suited to a pool and so many of the aspects I've worked on in training such a bilateral breathing, quick starts and turns and efficient technique, were of course not at all relevant or beneficial in the ocean. It was very difficult to see where I was going in the ocean. I tried to work out the best way and breathe to the front on occasion but I just wasn't used to it. The water was also very cold! However, that's not to say it was a negative experience. It was fun to try it and it certainly wasn't a struggle. It was a good practice for next week to give me an indication of what it feels like to be in the ocean. It was a much shorter distance than the Cole Classic will be (given there was a break after 750m) but I'm not concerned about that. While I don't intend to do ocean swimming regularly, I would be up for attending the Bold and Beautiful swim again. I'm not sure when because there are no free mornings in my current routine and I live far away from Manly, but eventually there will be a free day. 

It's fantastic events like the Bold and Beautiful exist. In many ways, the all inclusive nature and the atmosphere reminded me of Parkrun which I wrote about here. Obviously the ability to swim 750m in an ocean is a requirement but the event catered for  range of abilities and participation was encouraged.   

As today is the Australia Day national holiday (no work today and the reason why I had a Thursday morning free), there was a bigger turn out than usual for the Bold and Beautiful swim. The blog (located here) claims there were 750 swimmers in attendance this morning. The group sang the national anthem before the swim. Here's a picture from the Bold and Beautiful site. 

Have you ever done an ocean swim?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Weekly Update: 16-22 January 2017

I'd intended to post again during the week but I was too busy to post anything between the weekly updates. I'll do better this week.

In addition to my standard routine, I had a swimming meet on Saturday. 

Here is a flatlay of the outfit I wore to tennis this week. I'd never thought to pair the leggings and top together even though they now seem made for each other. I like the way the other colours stand out. 

Once again I completed three runs. It was easier this week because I had a working from home day so I didn't have the struggle of fitting in the third run on a Thursday night right before early morning Friday swimming training. I was reasonably happy with my 8km run at an average pace of 5 minutes 24 per kilometre because it was a training run and had a couple of hills each lap of the track. 

I was very happy with my Parkrun time this week of 23 minutes and 49 seconds. It's my third time under 24 minutes and two times in a row. I wasn't planning to go out too hard because I had a swimming meet later in the day but once I got started in the race it just happened. I'm so shocked I'm able to run 23 minute three times now and it's becoming more consistent rather than just a one off. I think because my background is not in running that any success in running shocks me. I'm looking forward to seeing what can become of this. Also this week a few more of my friends came to Parkrun for the first time. It made the event much better and I look forward to more weeks like this. 

This week I completed five training sessions and Wednesday night swim club, in addition to a Masters Swim Meet. I missed my usual Saturday training because of Campbelltown Masters but added another session on Thursday. I reached a total of 14km. I completed three of the long distance swims for the Masters Swimming Australia Endurance Program. It's a year long program which involves 62 long distance swims. This week I finished the 400m backstroke, 400m breaststroke and 400m individual medley. I usually don't like to do so many on the one day because it hurts but I pushed myself. I wanted to make a good start this year because last year I didn't start the Endurance Program until April and it was hard to fit them all in. I was pleased with my time for the 400m individual medley but disappointed with the others; luckily it doesn't matter for the purposes of the program. In addition, I was happy with most of my times for Wednesday night swim club especially the 200m backstroke and 100m breaststroke. For the first time ever I got under three minutes for the 200m backstroke after being extremely close and just missing it the previous time. For the 100m breaststroke I swam a personal best time. That  meant a lot because I've had almost no improvement in breaststroke for almost 6 months and for a period there it seemed to get worse. I've been very frustrated and disappointed for so long; this time really means a lot. 

Saturday this week was different because I raced the first Masters Meet for the year in swimming. I was not looking forward to it. I majorly struggle with the anxiety of racing especially at Masters level and I cannot find any way to feel better about it. It's ridiculous because adult swimming isn't supposed to be like this but I'm always so nervous because of the expectations I place on myself. I learned to race swimming when I was nine years old but it's never become easier anxiety wise. I know if I do a bad time I will be incredibly disappointed and angry at myself for a long time. I had reason to be worried because the meet wasn't particularly successful. I had one good time, one average time and two terrible times. The event I'm happy with was the 50m backstroke where I swam 39.91 seconds. I'd had a goal for ages to swim under 40 seconds long course (I've done it plenty of times short course but always miss long course) so at least I achieved this. The 200m freestyle was about what I expected with 2 minutes and 45.34 seconds. If it was a short course pool I would have been disappointed but for a long course time it's acceptable. I think the conversion would be about three seconds faster so it would be my second best time ever for the event. The last two events were terrible. I had three events too close together and don't ever want to be in that situation again. I know that's a convenient excuse but when I was on the blocks for the races, I was still out of breathe and my arms were burning from the previous race. I want to be easier on myself but I can't get past the disappointment right now. It's hard swimming in a long course pool because all my training and most of my racing has always been short course; I can't believe how much of a difference it makes. Fortunately I won't have to swim long course again until April. 

This week I played tennis for a couple of hours at tennis club. Not much to say this week but it was a lot of fun and I think I played better than the last couple of weeks. 

- I didn't make much progress on my goals from last week yet again. My diet was a little better but not as improved as I'd hoped. I'll try again this week.
- I need to improve at breaststroke. I've been saying that for about six months now ever since I realised it wasn't up to the standard of my other strokes. I had some improvement in the 100m on Wednesday night which was significant but with the terrible time in the 50m at Campbelltown Masters it feels like a number of steps back. Not really sure what can be done here. 

Weekly Photo
This picture is from the Campbelltown Masters Carnival on Saturday. It was such a warm day, I even got surburnt! It was a stressful day for me so I'm glad it's over. 

What did you achieve this week? 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekly Update: 9-15 January 2017

This was another normal week training wise; I'll be busy for the next few weekends so I appreciated the standard routine. For further details on what my usual week involves, see my post here

Here is a flatlay of the outfit I wore to Parkrun on Saturday. The Nike Free Run Flyknit are miracle shoes. I've seen mixed reviews but I love them. More on that later. 

This week I completed three runs. Again it was hard to find the motivation for the Thursday night run because I was tired from my other training and I knew I had to be at the pool at 5.30am the next morning. However, if I didn't do it I knew I'd feel worse and see it as a wasted opportunity. I was satisfied with the run in the end. It was 7km and my average pace was 5 minutes and 17 seconds per kilometre. That's faster than I usually do for a training run. It's good to get some 7km practice in because I'll be running that distance at the Sun Run on the 4th of February. 

After last week's struggle at the Parkrun, I did much better this week back at my home Parkrun location. Despite substantial improvements in my 5km runs over the past couple of months, my self confidence took a knock after last week's experience. It was incredibly hot and humid for the Parkrun, already reaching 32 degrees by 8am. I also ran without any device telling me my pace, which is rare (I wanted to enjoy the run rather than stress about times for once), so I had no idea how fast I was going. Therefore, I didn't expect too much from today's run. It was such a shock when I found out my 5km time was 23 minutes and 38 seconds. I never expected to be under 24 minutes because it's only the second time I've achieved a time like that. My personal best is actually 23 minutes and 36 seconds so if I knew I was only two seconds off my personal best time I would have tried to run a little faster at the end. Regardless, I am very happy. 

In addition to tennis club I played tennis on Saturday this week. The husband and I hired a court so we could hit together. We played a couple of sets of singles and practiced serving. It was really fun and made me realise how much I miss singles. At tennis club, because it's more social tennis, we only play doubles. My game is definitely more suited to singles. I can't fit anything more into my standard week but now I want to incorporate tennis singles somehow, maybe a competition here and there. 

This week I completed five training sessions and went to usual Wednesday night swim club racing. The total kilometres was slightly less than last week with 13.625km. I also completed one of the long distance swims for the Masters Swimming Australia Endurance Program.  It's a year long program which involves 62 long distance swims. This week I finished the 30 minute breaststroke. I was pleased with my race times for Wednesday night swim club especially the 200m freestyle. 2:41.71 is a significant personal best for me. 

Improvements/Progress on Last Week
-Improve my diet. I said that last week (and for many weeks before I was doing these weekly updates). I'll leave it on the list and hope for some progress.
-Leg strength. My calves and hamstrings didn't hurt as much during my faster runs this week. I am very grateful for that. However, it's still an ongoing problem so I still hope to find some exercises to improve leg strength. 
-I didn't have much time for additional bootcamp style activities (but I did regular bootcamp on Monday) but I did some. I completed five pushups before work some mornings in the week. It's about creating the habit. I can't believe I'm capable of doing five "real" pushups now. I've never been great with body strength so it's huge progress. I think I'll be able to do ten soon. I'd like to create a similar habit with daily crunches. 

Weekly Photo
This week's random photo is from my Thursday night run along the river. On another note I love the Nike Free Run Flyknits. My best runs have been in these shoes. I'll make another post on that. 

What did you achieve this week? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Parkrun: My Journey

First Parkrun
My first ever Parkrun was on 7th November 2015 and it took me just over half an hour to complete the 5km course (30 minutes and 50 seconds). I remember the morning well. It was before I bought my car Daisy so I had to take two buses to arrive at the Parkrun location. I got lost and took the wrong bus so, despite leaving early, I started to worry about missing the run. When I did finally arrive I spotted a marshal on the course so asked him where the start line was located. He told me it was 1km back in a completely different direction. The problem was it was already 7.55am so there was no way I could make it to the start line in under five minutes. In fact I wasn't sure if I'd be able to run the entire 5km once the race started so by adding an extra kilometre to even get to the start line, I didn't have much chance. But I was going to try because I didn't want to have to wait another week to run. So I ran as fast as I could and managed to join the run even though I was late. You can see from the picture below which is just in to the start of the run. That's me in the red box trying to make it to the start. 

I eventually joined the run and finished. I ran the whole way which was the ultimate goal. I'd taken up running in July of 2015 but by November I'd made somewhat limited progress because of constant ankle injuries. It had been many years without sport prior to that so my fitness level wasn't great either. I could run 5km on a treadmill but struggled with running outside the gym. After my first Parkrun I felt positive and was determined to come back in future weeks. 

Parkrun 2015
I came back to Parkrun for the next four weeks and eventually got my time down to 27 minutes and 59 seconds. In the moment I was happy and surprised with a sub 28 minute time but looking back I struggled a lot with running then and I can tell from the photo. I didn't know the first thing about running or that it involved skill and technique. I was clueless on running shoes and hadn't heard of Nike Dri Fit or Flykit. I remember going to Kmart the night before for leggings and Trade Secret for the first pair of sports shoes I could find. 

By mid December my ankle injuries returned to the point where I struggled to walk properly. I tried to go back to Parkrun a couple more times when I really shouldn't have. On 19th December 2015 I had to walk part of the course and recorded my worst Parkrun time of 32 minutes and 11 seconds (it's the only time I've walked any of the Parkrun course). On Christmas Day 2015 I had to pull out of the run and failed to even record a time. I was so angry and frustrated especially since I couldn't find a solution to my ongoing ankle injuries. It was another three months before I ran again either at Parkrun or anywhere else. 

Parkrun Early-Mid 2016
In my break from Parkrun I'd resumed swimming after a twelve year break so I came back with much improved fitness and my body was slowly becoming stronger. My first run back was 19th March 2016 and I easily recorded a personal best time of 27 minutes and 48 seconds. In coming weeks, as swimming training increased, I improved my Parkrun time frequently without doing much other running. I was incredibly shocked when I ran sub 27 minutes for the first time on 30th April 2016 and sub 26 minutes for the first time on 14th May 2016. While I appreciate those times are certainly not outstanding, and I'd be extremely disappointed with myself if I did them now, it was a significant improvement at the time. I have never been a runner and my background is in swimming so any progress in running is a surprise. By the middle of the year I'd become a regular at Parkrun. I'd only miss a week if I had a swimming meet on at the same time. I showed up in the most wet and cold conditions throughout winter and that felt like an achievement because I became tougher in those months. 

Introducing Parkrun to Friends and Family
On 11 June 2016 my husband agreed to participate in Parkrun and he's come a total of ten times now. He walks rather than runs the course, which just goes to show Parkrun is for everyone. On 3rd September 2016 and for the two weeks after that my sister came to the Parkrun. She lives in London and was visiting Sydney for a few weeks. She's continued with Parkrun since returning to the UK. 

Parkrun Mid-Late 2016
For the first time I started to believe I may have some potential in running. This was based on the improvements I'd made throughout the year and the fact I'd started participating in other running events so was getting more experience. This was around the time I ran sub 25 minutes for the first time on 16th July 2016. It felt significant and from then on sub 5 minute kilometres became the magical number. It still wasn't easy though, I managed to run sub 25 minutes another five times before October but it hurt a lot on each occasion! I was lucky enough to sneak in a 24 minutes and 59 seconds. It was three long months without a personal best but finally on 29th October I then ran 24 minutes and 27 seconds. 

From mid November to now I noticed some more progress. Finally the mid 24 minute range started to feel comfortable. The lower end was in sight and I allowed myself to dream of whether I may be good enough for a sub 24 minute time. Much to my surprise, as I didn't think it would come so soon, on the Christmas Eve Parkrun 2016 I ran a personal best of 23 minutes and 36 seconds. I have to admit I am proud of that one. It's over 7 minutes off my first ever Parkrun time and it's a time I never would have thought myself capable of prior to a couple of months ago. That's a total of fifteen sub 25 minute runs and nine in a row at the end of the year. Not bad for a goal I never thought achievable. 

Parkrun in 2017
- My main goal for this year is to earn the 50 Parkruns shirt. I've wanted it ever since I started back in 2015. I am getting close, as of today I've completed 42 of the required 50 Parkruns so hopefully I will get it in March or April. 
- Attend a variety of different Parkrun locations. At present I've done my home Parkrun 40 times and two other Parkruns once each. There are a number in Sydney and I'd like to do some out of Sydney runs while travelling for swimming meets. 
- Complete more Parkruns with friends. Last Saturday my friend from swimming came to Parkrun and we ran a course I'd never been to before. It was fun and I look forward to it happening again. 
-Achieve a personal best. Right now it seems impossible to improve on 23 minutes and 36 seconds. But I have a whole year to get there.
- Improve fitness so 24 minutes feels a comfortable pace. 
-Attend as many Parkruns as possible to make progress towards joining the 100 club. This also seems hard right now since I'm up to 42 runs in total but every run counts. 

The benefit of Parkrun is you can make it into whatever you want it to be. It's interesting to look back and see how my goals changed over time. I was initially pleased to run the whole course no matter how long it took but now I'm disappointed every time I exceed 25 minutes for a 5km. For me it's become quite competitive and I expect a lot out of myself. It doesn't have to be that way. I hope that can change this year because I want to enjoy it more rather than having the pressure of a specific time every single week. I entirely credit swimming training for my improvement in Parkrun, I'm very thankful for the benefits of cross training. I certainly don't run a large number of kilometres per week (20km on average, the only exception being the lead up to September's half marathon). I'm very grateful my ankle injuries have improved dramatically and I've been able to run since last March. My body got stronger over time and now can handle running. When I started running my fitness was improving more rapidly than body strength and I took on too much too quickly. I understand a lot more now.

I wanted to share my experience because it shows what can be done with a goal and if you want it enough. Show up no matter what, keep going, accept no excuses and the desired results will come.