Running is hard, hard is good – Part 1: 0 to 10k

Chris Brooker
March 22, 2016

I’ve never been a runner.

I’ve been a regular at the gym for years (some years more than others), lifting weights or doing crossfit but running was never really one of those things that interested me. I enjoyed shorter more intense forms of exercise.

After spending most of my time and ultimately moving to Houston in the summer of 2015, I needed a way to exercise. I didn’t belong to a gym and I was moving every month making picking one difficult. As the weather in Houston is amazing, and you just want to be outside, I decided to start running.

Starting to run is a humbling experience. You think you’re in shape, you can lift, you can do WODs without dying but running for 10 mins is something else. I know that you’re using different energy delivery systems and muscle types but it’s crazy.

200lbs squat, photo taken on the way up.

My first run was in Toronto and I managed 2 miles in 25 mins at a 12:11 min/mile pace. Only 13 of those minutes were jogging, the rest were walking.

May 25, 2015 – First run


I wanted to get better at this so I kept at it, averaging around 1-3 runs a week. I then started reading lots about running and looking at different training programs. I started sort of following a beginner 5k program with intervals and long runs, etc. I also set a goal of being able to run a full 5k without stopping. No walking, no pausing to catch my breath.

July 2, 2015


2 months in, getting closer. I have no real heart rate monitoring, so as a beginner it’s really hard to judge if you can push more or not, you don’t know yourself well enough. I can guess now that I know better I was in Z4/Z5 the whole time.

July 5th, I finally did it!

Goal Accomplished: 5k without stopping.
Total runs: 15
Time: 6 weeks


I jogged 5k in around 32 mins! This was a big accomplishment for me, it took 15 runs and 6 weeks to get there. I wasn’t terribly dedicated to a routine, I was traveling a lot, and it’s really humid in Houston in the summer but hitting this for me was amazing. I reached my goal, so I set the next one; Run a 5k in less than 30 mins. Sounds easy, right? It’s only 2 minutes faster.

July 22, 2015 – I almost did it. 30:15 with some walking however, my overall pace was down to 9:41/min. Whereas my fastest pace in the July 5th 5k was 9:42/min.

There were a few other runs where I got close but missed it by a few seconds.

August 31, 2015

Goal Accomplished: 5k under 30mins.
Total runs: 36
Time: 15 weeks


Then on August 31st, I did it! Boom! 28:54 @ 9:03/mile pace. This was one of the first times I ran with a running group and I think trying to keep up really motivated me to keep pushing and not slow down or walk. You can see from this chart that my pace is really unsteady. Up then down, up, down. Again, I didn’t have any sophisticated monitoring like Heart Rate or SPM (Steps per Minute), I just ran and hoped for the best. I was running with my phone in an arm band using the app RunKeeper, so I couldn’t really see my time, my pace or any stats related to my performance until I was done.

Something that completely blew my mind was after the run I was talking to one of the organizers and he asked me how I did, I told him and asked how long it took him. His answer, 20 mins. Damn, I just did it under 30 mins for the first time and he did it in 20 mins, no sweat.

Memorial Park running look in Houston, Tx where I did all my running between August and Mid September. Including a few runs with different evening running groups.

It’s at this point that I get hooked and really start to get serious.

The first order of business is to step up my tracking game. Getting frustrated with the phone as a tracker, I start researching running watches. Being a tech guy I ended up getting the Garmin Fenix 3 with HRM-Run chest strap. This thing is absolutely bonkers and can tell you pretty much everything about your run. Time, Distance, Pace, Hear Rate, Running cadence, SPM, vertical oscillation, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, and much more. Do I use all these numbers? at first, not really. I didn’t know how my form affects any of these. The most useful info during this time was accurate real-time HR. I could tell exactly how much effort I was putting in and how much I had to give.


Here’s my first run with this watch:

Just another level of data to look over. This is just a snippet, I cropped out a bunch.
Sept 6-2015 Run

After seeing this I realized a 2 things. 1) that training effort of 5.0 means I’m totally over doing it. 2) I need to have a strategy if I’m going to improve. Just running as hard as I can until I stop isn’t very effective.


I decide to use my new tool and start on the Garmin 5k Level II HR training plan. It’s 12 weeks long and has 3 runs a week with 1 cross training day. The program is based on building Z2 endurance and pushing Z4 speed with Long Runs, Easy runs and Intervals.

The first run was 20 mins in Z2. OMG if felt SO Slow! It was so hard to keep my HR in the Z2. I couldn’t even run the 20 mins, I couldn’t control my HR. I kept having to walk to get it down, then speed up again. It felt so frustrating as I was so accustomed to running faster, it felt like a huge step backwards.

5k-Day1-Chart 5k-Day1-Stats

The comment I left on this workout “Workout 1 of series. Barely a workout- Had to keep heart rate between 111 and 134”.

Regardless, I stuck with it and tried to followed the program as closely as possible.

I start that program on September 8th, 2015, over the next 2-3 months (Sept, Oct, Nov), my running got faster, my runs got longer and more importantly everything started getting much more consistent.

I also started to learn a lot more about my body. You hear many people talk about Z2 being where you can run and carry on a conversation. I never really got that, as I found out the reason was I couldn’t run slow enough to stay in Z2. I now totally get it. I can tell right away when I’m reaching the end of Z2 and about to hit Z3. People tell you to listen to your body but I found I could hear it much better when I had the numbers to open my eyes. Now that I’ve learned to listen the numbers are less important.

November 20th, 2015

Total runs: 80
Time: ~25 weeks

Here’s a run from near the end of the program;

  • Run in Z2, easy, 5 minutes.
  • Run in Z4, threshold, 30 minutes.
  • Run in Z2, easy, 5 minutes.


Much more consistent pace and with all this training I could keep my HR in Z4 and not push through Z5 to peek HR like I would before.

First ever race

Feeling confident with my progress and in my running I wanted to experience a real official race. Even though I still hadn’t broken the 5k in less than 25 min goal, I was certain I could easily do a 5k. I signed up for a 10k. I’ve hit this distance a few times on long Z2 runs and was confident I could finish, I just wasn’t so confident on how quickly I could do it. I didn’t just want to finish, I wanted to post at least a reasonable time.

I entered the “Run Houston! Sugarland” race on December 5th, 2015 in the 10k group with the goal of finishing in under 1 hour.





How did I do? I finished! and….. under an hour! The official time was: 56:30

Which puts me around the middle of the pack 97/169 men and 145/415 overall for the 10k. Not bad for a first ever race.

You can see from these charts that I speed up considerably as the run goes on. With everything I read leading up to the race the biggest mistake newbies make is going out too hard at the beginning and having nothing left to finish the race. I purposely started slow at a 9-10 min/mile pace. At the 5k point I sped up to high 8s low 9s. 2k out I was averaging an 8:30 pace, in the last km I was in the high 7s. I didn’t really pay too much attention to my HR after the first 5k you can see it climbing and climbing as I push faster.

Time in Heart Rate Zones
Z5: 11:08
Z4: 37:13
Z3: 7:47
Z2: 0:14

Solid upper end effort, I assume this is what to expect out of a shorter race.

10k-Sugarland-Chart 10k-Sugarland-Stats

In Part 2 I’ll talk about my second 10k and some set backs that hit me along the way.

ready for the 2010 hot tech guys calendar

Chris Brooker
December 22, 2009

Maybe give me a few weeks to get “fully ready”

See Slow Carb – 20lbs in 4 weeks? I did lose a bit of muscle though. Shouldn’t be too hard to bulk back up.

Dinner last night – Slow Carb – 20lbs in 4 weeks?

Chris Brooker
November 24, 2009


Recently, I’ve started on a slow-carb, high protein, fat reduction experiment. During the summer it seems that I managed to put on a few pounds. With the eating out, drinking often and generally not really taking care of myself like I have in the past.

I’ve decided to do a little experiment to see if I can more rapidly drop that bit of fluff to bring back a more defined physic.

This experiment is not for the faint of heart and definitely not for someone who cares how food tastes. In this experiment food is not really to be enjoyed, it’s just something you need to do.

If anyone is interested in the meals or the results (pending) let me know and I’ll post the meals I’ve been eating.

So far it’s been 1.5 weeks and I can tell you, lentils suck and beans grow on you.

Here’s last night’s dinner (at 10pm) to get the idea. This is probably the tastiest meal so far.

Baby Spinach, with Black beans, Pinto beans and a Round Eye Steak.

I’m also taking 500gm of Niacin (the flushing is insane) and 200mcg of Chromium.

Let’s see how it goes.

Been a while, thoughts on life.

Chris Brooker
November 3, 2009

Cog in the machine

Hey All,

Yes, It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. It’s not because I’ve been sitting in the house and not doing anything. In fact, I’m busy most nights.

The truth is, I just didn’t feel like it.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I want from life. What things I want to accomplish, what goals I want to complete. What adventures I want to have. Not an easy task.

Here are some things I started to help get my mind in a more receptive mode to hear itself.

– Stopped entirely reading the news. (I used to spend hours everyday reading hundreds of RSS feeds, which added no real value to my life.)(Also no Daily Show or the Colbert Report)

Stopped Blogging/Producing content with no vision. (Hence the lack of updates and videos)

Decided to sell my condo. (When I think about it, the place I’d like to most live right now (in this city) is right downtown. Will be moving as soon as my condo sells.)

Signed up for Aikido at the Japanese Canadian Culture Centre (JCCC) (Something I’ve always wanted to do.)

Stopped checking email (with the exception of checking work email at 11am and 4pm) Stopped receiving email on my phone entirely.)

Bought a notebook (paper) – If anyone knows me they know I rail against the use of paper. Getting back to basics has helped me focus. There are no unproductive distractions when it’s just you and paper.

– Try to only watch 1 hour of TV a day (my typical method of procrastination, with Hulu and a Media Centre PC there is never nothing to watch.)

– Everyday write down a list of Accomplishments and a List of Things to Accomplish the next day. (I do this for work too)

– Attend a Zen Buddhist Retreat (I’m not a religious person, but I feel it would be a great new experience to spent a few days in silence in a foreign environment, perhaps the change of perspective will be illuminating. If anything it will be a chance to try something new.)

That’s about it for now. Let me know what you do to keep life interesting and moving forward. Do you have a grand vision? Are you working towards it?

First tennis of the year!

Chris Brooker
May 26, 2009

Saturday May 23, 2009 I finally got to play tennis!

My friend Elieth, who you’ll see int he video, txt’ed me out of the blue an wanted to know if I was up for tennis. I jumped at the chance as I always seem to have a hard time finding a tennis partner.

This is my first ever attempt at editing video which is probably why it took me so long to get this footage up. I learned a lot but mostly I learned that;

a) video huge
b) my computers cry under the pressure of encoding
c) my internet cries under the weight when uploading the videos
d) video is time consuming, but worth it.

Here is my first edited video since high school (VHS editing deck). Enjoy.

The song is Go-Getter Greg by Ludo

VBlog – Back to the gym – Day 2

Chris Brooker
May 20, 2009

Retraining begins. The damage.

Chris Brooker
May 20, 2009

I was ill for about 1.5 months and ordered by the doctor to not do any excersise until I was completely better. Guess what? I’m better!!

Now I start the journey to get back into shape.

Chris Feb 2009 vs May 2009

There might not look like a big difference in these pictures but there is.

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