Isolation, dirt roads, cold head winds, undulations, reluctance. I needed to jog 10 kms three times. The first was tough but satisfying: 6:12 mins/km. The second had twice the elevation gains of my hilly route back home: 6:25. The third was marvellous, involving an inexplicable desire to run faster towards the end: 6:05
Over 2016’s 1,500 kilometers, I’ve hankered to “improve” at the mechanical task of jogging. I’m so slow that I struggle to overtake walkers (a slight exaggeration). In January and February, my 10-kilometer pace was between 6:12 and 6:22 mins/km, depending on route hilliness and traffic. By mid-year it had improved to 6:05 to 6:15 mins/km. That’s an improvement of about 7 secs/km or 2%. In October, for a brief fast week, I fantasized about a week in which I’d beat 6 mins/km on all four of my routes. I’ve done 6:00 on three of the four routes, but randomly, almost as flukes – might I not be able to try harder for one week and prove to myself I’m not a sub-six-minuter?
Well, it’s not to be. With the end of this Big Year approaching, my motivation dims. I’m enjoying running quite fast but with a sense of control, not as much puffing as was the case in January. Let me be satisfied with steadiness.
90% drafted. The last 10% is tricky but I can see how to do it. Back from birding in Tasmania in a couple of days. Push it!
Seth Godin discusses the naysayer and its opposite. Does signing up for a silly Big Year make one a yeasayer? By itself, probably not, but we’re all entitled to caress our egos.
Practising listening to rock music albums, surely that’s not needed! I’ve ears, I listen, done, right? Well, with just over a month to go until New Year’s Day, my practising reveals problems. Listening – deep enough listening – aint easy while writing and I’m not a headphones-on-train kind of person and I hate being antisocial at home. What do I listen to? I subscribe to Kindle versions of Uncut and Q magazines, but although they’re terrific, I have the sense they’d lead me to old-person music that isn’t fresh enough. But I can’t spend hours trawling the Internet for cutting-edge indie music. Those two problems are not the only ones. How do I keep track of the complex mix of stuff I might listen to, how do I choose between this or that, how do I record my aim of listening to each album three times, how do I record that I’ve actually done so, etc., etc., etc.?
Confusion abounds. And this is meant to be the “oh so easy, on the sidelines” Big Year, ranking well behind writing and cycling! The answer right now? Keep practising. (Image modified from Mink Mingle’s photo on Unsplash)
Jogged down an empty dirt road, farms on both sides, 3 kms, to the main road heading towards Mount Field National Park, went 2 kms on this flat stretch, watching for cars. Turned around to reverse and of course that involved 3 kms uphill, something that normally fills me with terror. I coped good, as they say, just slogging up slowly. I do believe this big year is improving me. And the overall pace of 6:20 wasn’t unsatisfactory.
My Jogging Big Year was a scary decision but the structure of the target readily suggested itself. In mid-2015 I was jogging 2, maybe 3 times a week, some 6 or 7 kms. So, I said, let’s aim for greater kilometers more often. Practising over the final months of the year firmed up the goal 0f 10 kms 4 times a week, which translated to an annual goal of 1,700 kms. 10 kms meant about an hour of foot pounding, which seemed fine to me. I had a pretty firm idea of what my “stretch goal” should be, just because I was already a steady jogger.
It’s not so easy for the 2017 Cycling Big Year. After quizzing cycling friends, I reasoned that I could probably start the year at 15 kms/hour, and by the end of year hit 25 kms/hour, so let’s assume on average 20 kms/hour. Romantically wishing to eventually become “one with the bike,” and feeling grandiose, I made an arbitrary decision to cycle each and every day. No break days. How long did I wish to cycle? I knew cycling wouldn’t be as heavy work (at least on my routes and with my aspirations) as jogging, so a daily regime of one hour seemed sensible. And wouldn’t it be fun to do an hour extra on two days of each week? I could do the math: 45 weeks (allowing for birding, hiking, etc.) x 9 hours/week x 20 kms/hour = 8,100, so let’s call the year’s “stretch target” 8,000 kms. This had one pleasing aspect to it: if I asked others what I might aspire to, they all talked lower, sensible targets around 5,000 kilometers, and, hey, sensible was not how I felt.
Of course my problem is that I’m a cycling klutz as I approach January 1. I’ll improve a little but right now, needing to be cautious crossing roads, etc., at best I get to 15 kms/hour and whenever “proper” cyclists stream past me, I despair of dramatically increasing speed. Also, even though my legs should contain some strength from running, already they’re sore! Will I even be able to put in nine hours a week? Is 8,000 kilometers just plain ridiculous? I keep reminding myself this is a far less important Big Year than my writing one, so why butcher myself idiotically?
Geeks enjoy numerical fine-tuning like this. I enjoy it. I tell myself to keep practising and analysing and hypothesizing. I have until New Year’s Eve to settle what I do the next day and from then on.
(Image modified from photo by Alejandro Lopez on Unsplash)
Tired after a day of travel and city walking, didn’t want to jog, but had to. I set off late afternoon and found myself under the impressive Tasman Bridge in Hobart. The alternative didn’t impress, so up I climbed. My slowest 10-km time for the year, partly due to stopping on the narrow footway, next to pouring traffic, numerous times to make way for bikes. The wind! Exhilarating!