Friday, May 9, 2014

Rain and running ruts

Ah, Melbourne in the seasons other than summer. There's a fair amount of rainy days, and so how often you get out on the bike or on a run becomes a bit more limited. Sometimes there's only an hour or so of good weather for outdoor activities - if it's not raining all day! Also... I'm bored of running. Again. I've switched back to using the Nike+ GPS sportswatch and the Nike+ website as their badges are cute, but that doesn't seem to have been enough to get my out of my little running rut. I need to start running to get the badges! Aside from parkrun, I don't really run at all these days!

So doing the Great Train Race (Puffing Billy) on Sunday was a bit more painful than I would have liked but I did enjoy it. Well, aside from my left hip.

It was the hills that killed me (specifically, the second one). While the total amount of climbing was almost twice as much at the SMH Half Marathon, the hills in that course were generally short and steep or a bit longer and less steep. Whereas at the Great Train Race, we had three proper climbs:
  • the first hill was 1.3km into the run, 1.4km long and 62m high (average grade of 4%)
  • the longest hill kicked in at the 5km mark - it was 2km long and 107m high (average grade of 5%) 
  • the last significant climb started at the 8.9km mark and was both the shortest in distance and the shortest in heigh. Except that being "only" 600m long and "only" 48m high resulted in the average grade to be 8%.
I had completed a recon ride of the course and while it meant that I knew exactly where I was located at any particular time in the run, it had not prepared me for how much hill climbing was involved. Part of the problem is that I don't have any hills nearby to train on! Also, I think semi-regular visits to the gym when I was preparing for the half marathon meant I had stronger legs (and I lived near Coogee, where running to Bondi and back meant quite a bit of stairs and short climbs). That's why I could do the half-marathon at 5:30 min/km but struggled at over 6:00 min/km with the Great Train Race. Anyway, it was a beautiful course and a lot of fun - despite this, I'm about 100% sure that the event hasn't inspired me to keep up the running. I'm really not keen on it at all. I think I could manage a couple of 5km runs during the week, along with parkrun, but nothing longer at the moment - it just doesn't interest me right now! 

So what does interest me? Well, I still like cycling, although I'm now finding I'm a little "stuck" between two levels. Although that whole discussion doesn't really help me out with my running rut.

I have always loved the idea of being good at pull-ups.

In case it's not clear, I'm not any good at them. I did do them regularly on the assisted pull-up/chin-up/dip machine in the gym (back when I had a gym membership), but I used a lot of counter-weight! I spent some time this week figuring out how I could get back on my "Let's complete pull-ups!" bandwagon without a gym membership. First, I scoured the internet and decided that this progression would work - no gym equipment required and the website's run by a female. Girl power, etc.

Now my upper body strength is not completely lacking, so I think I can skip the sandbag rows of the first step as I need to source appropriate weighted objects to lift. So onto Step Two: reverse pushups. I scouted out local playgrounds that were suitable for progressing to completing pull-ups this week via Playground Finder and Melbourne Playgrounds (the only fitness stations in the area that I know of are just under 5km away, and running 10km to work on pull-ups seemed like a lot further than I would have liked), and visited a few on my way back from my bike rides. Ideally I wanted a location just under 2.5km away - that way I'd get a 5km run and the pull-up work and it shouldn't take me more than 45 minutes altogether. I think I found the ideal spot - it's probably my 6th- or 7th-closest playground, but still less than 1.5km away. Playgrounds are not in short supply in the City of Whitehorse, but playgrounds for my purposes are.

Look! A low bar with enough clearance to get under! And they're not in the shot, but the structure just behind on the left is a set of monkey bars that I could eventually do pull-ups on!

Coincidentally, Wendy from parkrun is also working on being able to do a pull-up. From our chat the other weekend it sounds like we're at the same level - the reverse push-up. Although I also suck at proper push-ups. A bit like the pull-ups, I can do them in an assisted form (the kneeling style). My wrists pose a bit of a problem with push-ups, and I have overdone my wrists in the past, so I'm now using an app to moderate my attempts to build my push-up strength. I've just started using this Push Ups app, so we'll see how it all goes.

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