August 05, 2008

Curious George: See rocket run! Run, rocket, run! I've given myself seven weeks to train for a 5K.

First, some background: I'm out of shape. Weight and BMI wise, I'm good; but my weekly softball games (the only real regular exercise I get) leave me more exhausted and sore than they should. Long story short: I've decided to start running. There's a local 5K coming up Sept 20, so I started the 7-week plan yesterday. I wanted to determine a starting point for my quest, so I mapped out a 5K route and ran it. I made it to just under the 2K point when I first dropped from a jog to a walk. For the rest of the adventure I was walking/jogging about 50/50 and finished in a pathetic 37 minutes. This left me humbled and full of questions: 1. Is my goal of a 25 minute 5K by September 20 too lofty? 2. When and what should I eat before and after training to avoid the cramps and regurgitation? 3. When running on rural sideroads, is it better to stick to the road surface or run on the looser sandy gravel of the shoulders?

  • (1) Might be. If you run 3-4 days a week, you could make it happen, but if you push yourself too hard, you risk injury. I know whereof I speak here. Focus right now on just finishing the 5k. Speed will take care of itself. Couple of points on speed: if you wait until you're exhausted to walk, you've waited too long. No shame in dropping to a walk every few minutes or so, walk for a minute or two, and then pick it back up. You'll be amazed the difference it makes. You'll also be surprised what slowing down does to your overall time. (2) I generally eat at least 1/2 an hour before a run, just to give time to settle. Maybe 45 minutes to an hour just to be safe. Eat carbs, because that's what you're burning while you run, but don't stress too much about it. I've done a lot of runs on donuts and coffee. I avoid heavy foods if I can, because I hate that weighted feeling in my gut. If you're regurging, you're probably training too hard. (3) Preference, I think. I'd rather run on the road. I think the difference in hardness of surfaces is mostly bullshit and impact is more a question of form. I know runners who'll run all day on asphalt but avoid concrete because it's "harder," which I find hilarious. Main thing is you have a stable and *level* surface. If you run on the road, try to stick to the crown of the road if you can, or you risk injury (again, I know whereof I speak). You might checkout Couch to 5k, which requires only one more week than your seven, so you could probably step it up a little, pick a week that looks skip-overable or start at week 2. I highly recommend this plan, and if you check AskMe, you'll find about a kajillion references there too.
  • Thanks, mct. I've seen Couch to 5K, and will check it out again. It's hard to tell at what point I'm 'exhausted'. For my first run, I dropped to a walk whenever my heart rate monitor got to 160 (90% of max), and of course I felt pretty exhausted by then. I'll reset the upper limit to 85%, which I think is the preferred cap to the cardio zone anyway. The regurg was a fruit & protein smoothie I downed about 20 minutes before my run. In hindsight another 15 minutes wait wouldn't have hurt.
  • Just make sure you film it, dude. I wanna see the race. ;)
  • One thing I did that really helps me? I got the Nike+iPod sport kit. Cool thing about that is I can see graphs of my runs, figure out exactly when and how hard I hit the wall. (You should see the 20-mile mark from my marathon -- looks like the Grand Canyon.) I know you're sort of anti-Apple products generally, but Garmin may have a similar pedometer that gives you good visual data.
  • Nah...the only thing about Apple that i'm anti- is the hype. The Nike+ kit looks pretty cool, and will work with the shoes I picked up at lunch today. (The Running Room's analysis said I had a slight pronation in my gait...who knew?). I don't have an iPod, but now have an excuse to get one.
  • Be sure to get the Nano - the other iPod models don't work with Nike+. (Or didn't, last I checked.)
  • It's looking like they'll move it to the Touch too, but that hasn't happened yet. If you don't want to buy an iPod, Nike also makes a wristband that works with it.
  • P.S. Nike+ is super awesome!
  • Mct's advice is sound. If you can find some grass or a softer path to run some of your sessions on at the start, that will help, as you will decrease your chances of getting shin splints. Eating before and after is pretty much up to what you can tolerate. For example, if I am eating an actual meal, i need to eat at least 2 and a half hours before doing hard training. Other people can manage an hour or less. Interval training is your friend.
  • I have no advice to offer, other than a good luck! and a stick with it!
  • Rocket - allow me to derail - have you considered cycling instead of running? Cramps and regurgitation sounds like you are like me, and for some reason just not suited to running. I hate it: it exhausts me, it hurts, and my calves cramp up. But put me on a bicycle and I can go for hours and feel great while doing it. If it's hot where you are (it's 104 F here) cycling is good because you have a constant breeze to cool you whenever you are moving. Also, if you are a little flabby at the edges (like me) this is not so much of an impediment to cycling (except going up hills). Plus the joy of more motion than running. Plus hot chicks in spandex.
  • I'm not sure if the link will work, because Nike's website is kind of a mess, but maybe this link will show you the Nike+ sportband I mentioned earlier that keeps you from having to buy the Nano.
  • Again, this isn't a running tip, but I got a nano for Mr. meredithea at a really good price on It was refurbished, or something like that, but it looked brand new and works perfectly. Also, if you use the google checkout you get a discount -- and then they send you coupons. You can also get a refurbed Nano for the same price at the apple website (without the discount or future coupons) if you're not into using
  • For those who are fascinated by this tale, you can follow along with my Couch to 5K training regimen on my blog.
  • Ha! You have a blog! I'm in week 2 of this Couch -> 5K thing myself.
  • I finished the race Saturday in 28:22. Couch to 5K rocks!
  • Congrats, dude, that's awesome.
  • Way to live up to the name, rocket!
  • Thanks. I ran a faster pace than I planned to, mostly due to the influence of the other runners, but never felt exhausted until the last 400m or so, which is probably close to ideal for a race situation. Plus, it was fun.
  • Excellent! Well done!
  • Congrats, rocket! Great job!
  • All this running, and you couldn't even stop by even for a simple hello? Kids, these days.
  • I try to avoid the bad neighbourhoods.
  • That's not a rocket, it's a shooting star!
  • Well done! I think I'm in week 4 of couch to 5k now, and I agree it's very good. No problems with my ankles or knees, no shin splints, so far so good..
  • I'm on week 1500 of my couch to couch, and that's coming along nicely.