ENDURANCE TRAINING IS ALL ABOUT SETTING GOALS:
At this point in time, the value of exercise for health and well-being has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt. Besides, all the great health benefits, the most important benefit is that it 'makes you feel good'. However, even the most avid exercisers often get jaded at some point in time and a feeling of boredom or 'sameness' sets in.
In my personal experience, the best way to avoid this is to set up a medium term goal, create a plan to achieve it, and then stick to it diligently. You will be surprised, by your own capability. Here is my account of setting a goal, and the journey to achieve it.
SETTING THE GOAL:
I have been a regular runner, since the past 15 years, but have been dogged with injuries over the past 5 years, which have prevented me from running the distances I want to run. I ran the 2009 Mumbai half marathon, in 2 hrs 6 min (though, this was without adequate preparation), and then again in 2010, this time in 1 hr 54 min, with reasonable preparation. My injury resurfaced its ugly head mid-way through training for the 2011 run, and I did not participate. So, post-marathon in mid-Jan, I was wallowing in self-pity, and decided that the only way to escape it was to set up some goals, which were difficult to achieve. I set 2 targets, and in typical mid-life crisis style, decided to achieve them before I turned 40, which if you must ask, was in November 2011. The first was to cycle non-stop from Mumbai to Pune, and the second was to run a sub 1hr 45 min half marathon. I am happy to tell you, that the cycle ride was achieved on April 4, and here is an account of the same, for those of who you want to be further bored......
For a few months I was content with that achievement, when it suddenly hit me, that there was one more target to hit. I finally 'woke up' in mid-August, and realized that I was way behind where I ought to be if I needed to do a sub 1:45 before November. At that point in time, I was running 6-8 k on the treadmill, at a speed of 10.7-11 k/h. I consider a speed of 11 km/hr (5 min 30 sec per km) to be my 'comfort z0ne' running pace, which I can sustain for a length of time. Therefore an average speed of 12.1 k/h, for the half marathon, seemed almost to be a fool-hardy dream. I distinctly remember a conversation I had at the Qi gym, one sunday in August, with Cyrus Mehta, a friend of mine who had run 1:40 in the 2010 Delhi half marathon. He convinced me that the weather in Delhi is fantastic in November and the flat course, helps to knock off more than 5 min of one's Mumbai marathon time. Considering I had done a 1:54 in Mumbai, that meant, I could easily run 1:49 in Delhi, and would need to just shave off 4 min more, to achieve my goal. Somewhere, deep down I knew that this was overly simplistic, but that day I decided that my goal would be achieved in the Airtel Delhi half marathon on November 27, and I made Cyrus promise that he would be my pacesetter. To make matters interesting, I promptly went and contracted the flu, which put me off exercise for the next 10 days, and when I finally got around to my first long run (anything over 10 k, by my definition) outdoors, it was on Sep 17- a 12 k on Marine Drive at an average speed of 11.1 k/h. Here is the garmin link for the same.
To be honest, I was quite happy with that run, though it seemed a lifetime away from my intended goal in exactly two months. I set a schedule for myself, which included 3 runs a week (due to my injury, I am not able to run on consecutive days). The first run was on a mon or tues evening, which was a tempo run of 6 k, the second run was interval training on a treadmill, starting with intervals of 400 m and 800 m (totally six in all), and the third was the long run, which I did with Cyrus and Shabbir Eran, on Sat morning. Every Saturday, we increased the long run distance by 2 km, and on Oct 8, I did an 18 k run, at an average of 10.9 k/h. Post-run, I was not sure whether to be happy or dejected. On the one hand, 10.9 k/h (5 min 31 sec/km), seemed a far cry from running 12.1 k/h, but at the same time, I had given it my best effort, as was evident from my heart rate data. My average heart rate for the run was a staggering 177 beats/min - 98% of my age predicted max of 180 beats/min, which is insane. Quite frankly, I would not advise anyone to run beyond 90% for a consistent length of time, and here I was doing it for 1 hour and 39 min ! At best, that showed that I really had given it all, and at worst it showed that I was being pretty silly. However, this did drive home the point of the capability of the human body. In my opinion, most runners training in large groups in Mumbai are grossly underperforming, in spite of putting in a ton of effort, and I believe the missing piece is BELIEF. If you dont think its possible to run faster, you never will ! Here is the garmin account of that run, with the heart rate data.
On Oct 15, I did my first practice half marathon, which is 21.1 km- dont forget that 0.1 km, at the end. It can make all the difference to your calculations, when trying to run a precise time. I did that in 1h 50 min at an average speed of 11.5 k/h, and wasnt feeling 'dead' at the end of it. Thats the first time, that I truly believed that a sub 1:45 time was possible.
By this time, I had shifted my tempo runs outdoors and increased the distance to 8 km- however, I was just about managing to hit 12 k/h, (and was totally pooped by the end of the run) and I had to continue at that pace for 13 more km! The interval training had increased to two sets of 400 m/800m/1600 m, with a rest of 400 m between each interval. I was running these on the treadmill at a speed of 16,15, and 14 k/hour , and the rest period was at 10 k/h. On Nov 5, and 12, I ran two more practice half marathons and finished in 1:48 and 1:47. To an extent, I felt I now had it under control, since almost everyone I spoke to seemed to suggest that it would be possible to shave off at least 2 min in Delhi. One week before the final run, I ran a 16 k at a speed of 12.1 k/h and felt elated, since this is the first time I had completed a long run, at that speed.
D-DAY : November 27, 2011
On the morning of race day, November 27, everything was perfect. I remember having a conversation with my friend Amit Sheth, at the start line. We were praising the perfect weather conditions and the organisation (and the fact that we were amongst the lucky few starting with the elite runners, though we were far from 'elite'), and then came to the conclusion that if we did not achieve our individual goals, we had no one to blame but ourselves. As the starting gun went off, I thought, 'this is it'- this is what the last two months have boiled down to, and as runners often do I started a conversation in my head, which was more reflective. I was very pleased with the journey I had undertaken, and was proud of the fact, that in the last 8 weeks I had not missed a single scheduled run. One part of my brain was saying that today's timing did not matter, as I had given my best, and as has been famously said by Baron De Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, "the most important thing is not winning, but taking part." The other part was telling me that thats the excuse of losers, as echoed by the American sporting culture and the words of the legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi, " winning isnt everything; its the ONLY thing."
By the time this great mental debate was over, I was happy to note that 5 k had gone by, and I was clipping along nicely at 12.2 k/hr, and was feeling pretty good. The only downer was that I had lost both my running companions. A pacesetter is also known as a 'rabbit' in running parlance, and Cyrus took that literally, and ran off like a hare, and the only time I caught glimpses of him, was in portions of the course where he was on the other side of the road (he completed the run in a fantastic time of 1 hour 39 min). Along the way, I met up with a Mumbai runner, Varun Joshi, whose goal was to do a sub 1:45 as well, so we stuck together. The distance flew by pretty comfortably and at the 14 k mark we were cruising at an average speed of 12.3 k/h. It took all my self control to push back the greed and temptation of turning it up a notch, and potentially running much faster or 'blowing up' too early. Luckily I remained sensible and was thrilled to finish in 1:43:50. Here is the garmin account of the run:
The purpose of writing this account is not self-glorification, but to highlight the fact that 'stretch' targets are extremely achiveable, but the key is to hit the milestones along the way. All too often we are caught up in our own excuses, which always seem 'genuine' to us, but at the end of the day, besides illness and injury, there is really no valid excuse, least of all the most commonly used one, "i have no time".
So, whats your goal going to be for the next 6 months? Please share it on this site- mine is to do a 250 km non-stop bike ride.