This week’s running – 27th August to 2nd September 2018

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A bit sweaty at Cannon Hill parkrun’s 8th anniversary – photo by Geoff Hughes

Success is a combination of skill, effort and luck. Read on to find out what my cryptic rambling refers to!

5k recovery

09:00 on a bank holiday Monday, so what’s a guy to do? Silly questions deserve silly answers!

It was eye-opening just how many fellow runners I saw out and about at the same time as me. Perhaps it’s entirely normal and it was just me running outside of routine? Or maybe people had deferred their Sunday runs to Monday, instead?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles with 3 at marathon pace-ish

This was a real challenge due to the unsurprising headwind I ran into. Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t draw any more speed from my legs without significantly ramping up the effort.

Also not helping was the pair of Adidas Adios Boost 3 shoes I wore. In terms of value for money, I’d put over 450 hard miles on them from low-key races and faster training sessions. From about 400 miles onwards, significant portions of the outsole rubber began wearing away to reveal the Boost foam and propulsive plastic shank underneath, only adding to that dead feeling that shoes get towards the end of their useful life. I’ve now since retired the Adios Boost 3, though will look to seek out another pair for I’ve been genuinely very impressed by what Adidas have produced; sure, they’re not as flashy, light or gimmicky as some of Nike’s race shoe offerings, but they’ve been dependable and an utter joy to run in.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

This was supposed to be the beginning of a 10 day taper ahead of the upcoming Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon. Luck, as it so happened, had other plans for me…

Lis had spent much of the bank holiday away from home, visiting her family and friends back in south Wales. She only went and brought a cold back with her to coincide with me finishing the above 10 mile run! Any seasoned runner will tell you that the most critical time to pick up bugs is the 24-48 hour window after a hard run or race, so I didn’t like the look of my odds.

Well, it seemed my fate was preordained for mild-cold symptoms did appear within 48 hours. All the tell-tale signs that I was coming down with something were present, for I felt lethargic and slightly feverish, and my lips became very dry.

The real test was how I would fare on an easy paced run-commute (without bag) from the city centre. Whilst the pace was normal, my heart rate elevated and was easily 5-10% higher than normal by way of comparison. A little fitness test I have for myself is how quickly my heart rate stabilises after the Holders Lane climb from Cannon Hill Park; this outing took a significant chunk of time before my heart settled back down.

I returned home with my t-shirt completely sodden in spite of the not unusual conditions or pace, further cementing that something was wrong…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

The literal sweatfest continued on into Saturday’s 8thanniversary of Cannon Hill parkrun.

I declared to Simon that I only wanted an easy run, especially as I had the Wolverhampton 10k the following day planned as one final session before the Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon. Simon and I became those guysagain, where we spent much of our run hovering at around 24 minute 5k pace, engrossed in conversation, whilst those around us were putting in 5k race pace efforts. We eventually made contact with Dave Sansom, one of the original Cannon Hill parkrunners from 8 years ago, pushing him on to meet his sub-24 minute goal for the morning.

I finished completely sodden in sweat, with my 250 Club t-shirt doing a bad job of hiding this fact!

Whilst I’ve historically missed every previous anniversary celebration, it did get me thinking that I’ve spent almost 7 years as a parkrunner, with 180 runs at Cannon Hill.

Here’s to the next 7 years!

And here’s the Strava data for this run.

Wolverhampton 10k 2018

Needless to say, the race at half marathon pace didn’t happen.

I said at the beginning of this post that success is a combination of skill, effort and luck. I’ve got the first two, but I always seem to run short of the third item, especially this year. As my PBs become harder to come by, so too does the frustration increase as more and more setbacks come my way.

Thankfully, I’m more or less healthy again as I write this entry, so I will be making the 2 hour drive to Lake Vyrnwy to stake my half marathon claim. With a baby due very shortly, I’m no stranger to the fact that my priorities will change, and so I fully intend to adopt a laissez faire approach to running and see where I end up. This summer has sucked all the fun out of running and I’m looking forward to just being able to make it up as I go along for a while, enjoying it simply for what it is and not worrying about what it isn’t.

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This week’s running – 13th to 26th August 2018

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Updated and all’s right with the world again!

And we’re now all up to date!

5k recovery

Boy, oh boy. I really could have passed on this recovery run for a rest day instead, but I was dead set on getting back into a rhythm for some consistency in the three weeks ahead of the Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

This was horrendous, where a poor choice of clothing (t-shirt instead of vest) and the combined humidity made for an incredibly difficult post-work run.

Upon returning home, all of my kit was completely sodden in sweat and I was wiped out for the rest of the evening.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

Learning my lesson from the previous day’s suffer-fest in the humidity, I purposely put the brakes on to keep the pace and effort in check. Even then at such a pace, the humidity was still unbearable and made for a challenging time.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles from work

And just like that, the humidity disappeared, allowing for 8 out of 11 of these miles to come in at 8:00 or faster.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Running Stories podcast

I very recently became a podcast interviewee!

A number of months ago, I volunteered to participate in a running podcast project. Orchestrated by Tom Charles, he wanted to speak to and record the accounts of a variety of runners and why they decided to take up the sport-come-hobby.

The angle for me was, unsurprisingly, this blog. In all there was well over an hour of recorded material, though this was distilled and edited down to just under 20 minutes. We all have little ticks and cues that we’re largely unconscious of in day-to-day speech and interactions with others, though these become glaringly obvious when captured for playback. Tom performed some black magic on the recording; upon my first listen of the finished episode, I had none of that, “Is that me? It doesn’t sound like me?” that so commonly plagues us when we hear ourselves recorded.

Without further ado, here are the links to the episode and others in the series on iTunes and Spotify. The podcast should also appear in the search function for those that prefer dedicated podcast clients like Overcast etc.

Cannon Hill parkrun

It’d been four weeks since the last time I ran at Cannon Hill, purposely going out of my way to avoid the off-road course.

I was in no mood for anything fast, so keeping the pace down to under 20 minutes was more than sufficient for that morning. Keeping the pace controlled at the start allowed me to continually reel people in for almost the entire duration, making for a pretty comfortable effort even in humid conditions.

With nobody in a rush afterwards, I partook in one of the longest post-run coffees I’d experienced in a very long time – one of the things I’d missed whilst busy visiting other parkruns.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

Cooler conditions made all the difference, making this long run feel spectacular.

I settled into pace early on, which is often an indicator of how recovered I am, or not. Beyond halfway, I was able to steadily push the pace on whilst continuing to feel comfortable.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5k recovery

The cooler temperatures stuck around, helping to make this recovery run stay very easy.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles fartlek

*Sigh*

The temperature decided to yo-yo upwards after several days of cooler climes. I wanted a more structured run with some focused effort at pace, though the warm and humid conditions would have taken far too much out of me, so a fartlek run was swapped in.

Bridges and tunnels marked the beginning and end of fast sections, allowing for some stretches at effort to come at decent lengths.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

I felt the effort of the previous day’s fartlek run, forcing me to really drop the anchor and keep my heart rate below 70% of maximum on this run-commute from the city centre.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles from work

Lis and I signed up to a series of NCT (National Childbirth Trust) classes, requiring I scheduled some time off from work to be able to get my planned runs in before the course.

Running along the canals on a work day afternoon was rather peaceful, with most still clocked in. I did however bump into long-time running buddy, Ed Barlow, who like me frequents the canal towpaths for their convenience.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5k recovery

Proving what a small world it is we live in, Lis and I met a couple on our first NCT class who belonged to Kings Heath Running Club, and were also Cannon Hill parkrun regulars. Another lady on the course, due to give birth at the beginning of October, is still running regularly!

Sadly, there was no way to get a parkrun in before Saturday’s all-day class, so I had to make do with an easy recovery run around the neighbourhood.

I will promise you all now that this blog will not devolve into a parenting blog, though I will write about how I will balance running and being a parent once the little’un comes along. I’ll be the first declare that I switch off when the Marathon Talk podcast presenters open each episode with what their kids have been up to – they could at least try and link it up with running, though very rarely is!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Great Run Local Edgbaston

It’d been absolutely ages since I last ran at a Great Run Local event, made even more difficult with The Vale on summer hiatus due to its student organisers returning home for the break. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s room for both Great Run Local and parkrun to co-exist, and I’m grateful for both, especially as I needed a faster 5k fix after going without the day before.

Almost timed to perfection to coincide with the bank holiday weekend, the heavens opened up for a damp start to proceedings. Lis kindly dropped me off at Edgbaston Reservoir so that I was able to avoid public transport or the monstrous mileage required to run there and back. A warm-up lap of the reservoir was enough to get me into the groove and was just enough to keep the cooler temperature at bay. Dave Carruthers of Cannon Hill parkrun regular attendance also appeared to give me a familiar face to speak to; the two of us were referred to in the organisers’ briefing as fine running specimens (not word-for-word accurate), so there was pressure that morning!

Unsurprisingly, it was Dave and I straight off the line. I had the smallest of leads with Dave just nipping at my heels, confirmed by the sound of his footstrike. The pace wasn’t really coming to me with having to lead into the wind on the rough terrain underfoot. About a km in, the sound of Dave drifted further and further away until I was completely alone.

As the rain persisted, my t-shirt grew heavier and heavier to add to the effort. Passing through halfway, the timer gave me some feedback; I had 09:45 on the clock, so only had to keep the effort consistent or better to guarantee a sub-20 finish.

Somewhere around the third km, the pervading feeling of needing to piss haunted me again like it did back at the inaugural event in April! The cooler temperatures and standing around before the start had worked their magic once more… This was at least motivation to get things wrapped up as quickly as possible!

I began to encounter lapped runners with a km remaining, giving me something to chase down. Dave was at least 20 seconds away, so I would safely finish in first place, though it was still dicey whether I would slip under 20 minutes or not. Glancing at my Garmin, the timer ticked over into 19:00 territory and I knew I had to get a move on – easier said than done on the reservoir path’s broken surface!

Sprinting for the finish, the organisers cheered me in and then all quickly rushed around me to register my wristband. Here’s where the Great Run Local timing system comes across as a complete mystery, for I registered 19:42 on my own Garmin, the timer officially clocked me at 19:45 (confirmed by the results), and the official text message had me at 19:50?!

The run for home from Edgbaston Reservoir was a solitary affair. I encountered very few people on the canal towpath, and only one other runner. A hot shower upon reaching home was never more welcome!

Here and here’s the Strava data for these runs.

This week’s running – 23rd July to 12th August 2018

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Tourism at Finsbury parkrun with Ian Saunders

Yikes! Almost a month since my last proper post… It’s simply been a case of some weeks with not very much happening and other weeks with too much!

Without further ado, let’s start from the top – the week leading up to the Magor 10k and finishing on the London Summer 10k. A post covering the 13thto the 26thof August to follow shortly…

5k recovery

The preceding weekend had wiped me out, though I still somehow managed to feel really positive on this recovery run. My heart rate came in low to suggest I was not overly worked nor in need of any major recovery…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Enforced recovery

Ha! I spoke too soon, didn’t I? The following day, I felt rough like I had developed the early signs of a cold. My heart rate was elevated and I couldn’t stop snivelling; I also seemed more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature.

Deciding that the then upcoming Magor 10k at the weekend was the priority, I took four whole days off from running – something practically unheard of for me apart from when injured, ill or recovering after a marathon. In fact, it probably was just after the 2017 Yorkshire Marathon when I last took a similar amount of time off from running.

The break did the trick, and just in a nick of time. Truth be told, the several days off from running were quite welcome from the effort of running in the warmth!

Magor 10k 2018 review

Click here for the full write-up on the 2018 Magor 10k.

5k recovery

This was so long ago, I can’t remember if there was anything of note!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles with 3 at marathon pace-ish

This was incredibly challenging and did little to boost my morale. Not only was I running constantly into strong winds, but my Garmin also decided to flake out on me, suffering greatly from GPS interference from almost every tunnel I went through, whether short or long.

I should have just made this a fartlek session!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 mile run-commute

This run was a little shorter than normal because my beloved run-commute bag needed picking up from a tailor, who replaced a worn zip for me. Very much a case of make-do-and-mend – the replacement zip and labour came to £22, whereas an entirely new bag would have set me back at least £60! And before anybody asks, I couldn’t get it replaced as a warranty job because the bag itself is almost three years old…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

I could tell within minutes of starting that this would be a run of attrition. The humidity was really something and, for me, the least favourable weather condition. It’s just doubly-draining to run in humidity, where I’m losing sweat from trying to cool down, but not actually cooling down at all due to the sweat having nowhere to evaporate to!

I was wiped out upon finishing and quite glad that I didn’t have a looming marathon to train for.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The parkrun Running Challenges Google Chrome extension

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Running Challenges extension – available for Google Chrome and Firefox browsers

Fairly recently, a parkrun Running Challenges extension for the popular Google Chrome web browser (and even more recently, Firefox) was launched.

I realise that the above heading may make little to no sense for many, so allow me to elaborate.

What’s an extension?

An add-on, of sorts. They provide additional functionality not natively available in the Google Chrome browser.

What are the “Running Challenges”?

In parkrun parlance, there are some phrases and terms that frequently crop up from time to time. Terms such as Groundhog Day (two identical times, achieved consecutively), Stopwatch Bingo (every second, from :00 to :59 achieved), Regionnaire (all events in a region visited), so on and so forth. These are unofficial challenges that make parkrun even more fun than usual – kinda like sprinkles on ice-cream.

These challenges existed long before the existence of the extension, but what the extension does is handily do all the tallying and cross-referencing for you! For example, I had no idea I had :01 in the Stopwatch Bingo challenge elusively preventing me from completing the challenge!

The extension also provides fascinating statistics, such as furthest event visited from your home event, closest event yet to be visited, and more.

I’ve since been poring over the additional detail afforded. If you do choose to install, be prepared to waste a lot of time – you have been warned!

Coventry parkrun

With Cannon Hill parkrun temporarily utilising their alternative trail course on Holders Lane, I opted to take the opportunity to head away for a spot of tourism. I’ve nothing against trail courses, and actually quite enjoy them from time to time, though I had little desire to venture on to this route based on local feedback from various friends. With the above said Running Challenges extension in place, it was brought to my attention that Coventry parkrun was the nearest event that I’d yet to visit; the deal was done, for I had originally eyed up Cannock Chase parkrun.

Situated in Coventry’s War Memorial Park, it took me some 40 minutes to drive there from Kings Heath, even on a quiet Saturday morning. Parking was plentiful and free, courtesy of the neighbouring Park & Ride site that borders the southernmost section of the route.

Size-wise, the park felt pretty vast and you’d have little idea you were in Coventry, based on the lack of visible surroundings. The start and meeting area are situated next to the War Memorial monument, which aren’t difficult to miss.

Embarking on my warm-up, I could feel the undulations that a number of my peers had warned me about from their own racing experiences within the park. I was pretty tired from my spate of summer training and racing, and there were noticeable gusts of wind that struck – trying to stay under 20 minutes was the goal for the morning. The toilets at the café weren’t open before 09:00, and the additional toilets that were open beforehand couldn’t be found…

The War Memorial monument casts an impressive presence over the pre-run briefing. Looking around me, the crowd in attendance was as diverse as Cannon Hill’s, with a similar total number. There are few neighbouring events that take place on exclusively paved paths, so Coventry parkrun largely suffers from the same situation Cannon Hill parkrun finds itself in. Kenilworth Running Club fielded much of the volunteers for that morning, also taking the opportunity to promote their upcoming half marathon.

The start line funnel felt very similar to Cannon Hill, where I slotted myself in on the second row to allow those that knew the route to lead the way.

The start was frantic, with a horde of Kenilworth runners charging off. I chose to hang back and cruise at sub-20 pace to see who would drift into contact with me, hoping to use them for drafting assistance on that blustery, sunny and humid morning. As luck would have it, a Coventry Triathlete running a steady pace came into view, allowing me to lazily drop into place within his slipstream.

The two lap course takes in more than the southern half of the park, entirely on undulating paved paths. On tired legs, I found this deceptively challenging and upon reviewing the elevation profile after the fact, very little of the course takes place on truly flat ground.

Out volunteering was an older gent, who had racked up 200 volunteer stints at the event to much applause. Marshalling around 2/3 of the way into the lap, he wore a large comedy foam hand to receive many high-fives from passing runners. I laid one on him and thanked him, though quickly realised that the foam hand had probably never been washed… Yuck! Thankfully, I later found out that it only debuted that morning and had never been seen before.

Entering the second lap, the wind and humidity were getting to me and other runners. The Coventry Triathlete backed off the pace and I had to fend for myself. When it wasn’t windy, the course climbed and when the course descended, the wind struck! The second time around, I was able to better capitalise on the long downhill stretch to put me back in touch with two runners further ahead in the field that I’d wanted to latch on to. Pace-wise, I was doing fine and would comfortably finish in fewer than 20 minutes.

With around 800m remaining, I opted to speed up and finish strong and overtook several flagging runners. With around 200m remaining, I kicked once more, only to narrowly avoid calamity when another finishing runner drifted into my path whilst chasing a better racing line; I warned him of my presence, to which he was incredibly apologetic and drew side-by-side with me. With just 100m to go, he verbally challenged me to a sprint; I accepted and the duel was on! Whilst I had the initial lead, he was better placed to take advantage of the rapidly approach narrow funnel and had a little more in reserve as he hadn’t kicked from 200m out, beating me to the line by less than a second.

We finished in 19:42 and 19:43, respectively, and he was definitely the better runner with an 18:32 course best to his name. Adding to that, I measured the course long by almost 70m to officially be the longest parkrun I’d ever participated in to make that 18:32 even more impressive.

Speaking with Sam and a few of the locals afterwards, they agreed that the course is more challenging than it first appears, though commented that a reverse version of the course was utilised in the event’s earlier days, which was perceived to be slightly easier.

It was nice to have visited, and I’m sure I would probably visit again if I lived closer.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

Sadly, it’s been so long since completing this run that I don’t remember anything from it, apart from the warmth and humidity!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Another break from running

I had a week away from work to take care of some DIY projects around the home, followed by several days in London with Lis.

Due to the aches from said DIY projects, I had no appetite to head out even for easy runs. In total, I abstained from running for a whole five days, beating the previous fortnight’s four!

Finsbury parkrun

With four days in London, including a Saturday, I had my pick of the litter in terms of events to visit. There are some handy write-ups online of people that have attained Regionnaire status (Lon-Done), helping me to narrow down my choices.

Having already visited Bushy and Fulham Palace parkruns in 2015, the logical choices were events closest to our King’s Cross-based hotel: Highbury Fields, Mile End and Finsbury. Highbury Fields was the closest by around 800m and has the reasonably unique honour of featuring 5x laps. Mile End was the furthest away, again by only a negligible difference, and featured a section on canal towpath. Finsbury parkrun was the closest to what a traditional parkrun would be considered, i.e. taking place within a park. I settled on Finsbury parkrun, which was also a doddle to get to by Tube, being only a single station away on the Victoria Line from King’s Cross. I invited my fellow 2017 Yorkshire Marathoner buddy, Ian Saunders, along for the jaunt for a catch-up, to which he accepted.

Arriving at the park, very vague memories of a former visit to the Fleadh Festival in the early 00s came back to me. My embarrassing music fascination – The Corrs – headlined the event and also played some unreleased songs from their then upcoming album, so I couldn’t resist…

The contrast between then and the now was very much like night and day – the park was largely unrecognisable without the thousands in attendance and all the stages and facilities erected. A friendly local on a bike behind me stopped to ask if I was a parkrun tourist. Stood there in my 250 Club t-shirt (its debut outing), we got talking and she very kindly pointed out the start and meeting point, along with a brief description of the course. Before parting ways, I asked her if it was that obvious I was a tourist that morning. She laughed and explained her reasoning to me: it was only 08:20 and I was very early (she actually had an errand to run before running) and she didn’t recognise me, aided by the fact that there are very few 250 Club member regulars at Finsbury parkrun. London gets a bad reputation for being cold and uncaring, but I’ve found all of my London parkrun encounters to be the complete opposite!

Warm-up completed, my assessment was similar to that of Coventry parkrun: undulations and plenty of them!

Before long, Ian appeared. It was great to see him again after the Yorkshire Marathon, where he’s only gone from strength to strength to smash the 3 hour barrier with a near sub-2:50 finish at Edinburgh, and a 1:20 at the London Big Half. If you want to really know somebody, you run a marathon with them and see how they conduct themselves – Ian was the perfect race companion that day in October 2017 and, needless to say, we’ve kept in contact since.

He was nursing an Achilles injury, brought on by a challenge to cover at least 5km every day for a year. I had the London Summer 10k the following day, so only wanted an easy run to reacquaint myself with running after five days without.

Interestingly, like the time I visited Bushy parkrun, Finsbury parkrun assembles everybody in the start funnel and then begins their pre-run briefing. Finsbury parkrun has the unusual feature of a closed to traffic road inside the park, much like you’d find in New York’s Central Park, enabling runners to not be in anybody’s way.

Ian and I were those annoying guys, chatting away at 4:50 per km pace and taking it easy whilst those around us were huffing and puffing in their own challenges. Even with a warm-up under my belt, the undulating course took some getting accustomed to. Paths frequently narrowed and widened, though it mattered not as neither of us chased a time on the two lap course. It was a beautiful morning for running in London, if a touch humid. A vest would have been preferable to the 250 Club t-shirt.

Facilities on our tour of Finsbury Park were impressive, with a 400m athletics track and small accompanying stadium also on view.

Towards the end of lap 1 was a ghastly climb before the course flattened out on its way into the second lap. Continuing with our discussion, I noticed one chap who had largely remained with us since the start and assumed he was using us for pacing, due to remaining fairly stable.

Nearing the finish, Ian had suitably loosened up and decided to kick for the remaining few hundred metres whilst I continued to sit steady. We finished in 23:20 and 24:07, in positions 94 and 112 out of 332, respectively. As you can see, not a huge turnout for a London event, of which they are plentiful. Impressively, a youngster ran 15:55 on the undulating course that very morning to leave both Ian and I wincing in awe.

We stuck around for a coffee afterwards in the café, though there were few who did the same. I was curious to get Ian’s take on his 2:50 marathon and 1:20 half marathon, and whether he had the desire to take them even further. The response was much like my own, where the additional work required does not always measure up against the outcome and we both ultimately concluded may not be worth it.

Travelling back on the Tube, we both bid each other farewell until the next time a race brought us back together.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

London Summer 10k 2018 review

For the full write-up of this race, please click here.

London Summer 10k 2018 review

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Big bling from the Big Smoke

My only race to date in London that isn’t the London Marathon! And like both London Marathons, this was anything but easy…

Pre-race

Lis and I were due to be in London for a couple of days and her suggestion was that I look up a race. London, much like New York, seems to have no shortage of races at most weekends; I counted at least 3x events within central London, and a total of 4x if I was willing to travel within the M25 for when I was in town. Originally, I declined and instead wanted to re-focus on September’s Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon, but after feeling like there was some unfinished business after the Magor 10k, my mind was changed and I duly entered the London Summer 10k.

The race wasn’t cheap – coming in at £20. A similar event outside of London would likely cost £12 to £15. Taking place exclusively within Regent’s Park, it’s not like there were any road closures to drive the cost up, though I guess there were probably planning fees involved that went to the park, and some of the proceeds going to charity, so I mustn’t grumble too much.

Race prep wasn’t great. I hadn’t run for five whole days, with just Finsbury parkrun the day before to reawaken my legs. Why so long between runs? I was busy decorating the nursery for mine and Lis’ new arrival due in October. I simply had no energy or appetite for running after spending Monday to Wednesday on various home improvements; throw in three days of London sightseeing from Thursday to Saturday, along with a late night on the latter, and I was tired before I’d even raced a step!

Race morning was not kind to me, either. With all the showers that had struck in the days prior, London had become incredibly humid. Throw in some persistent gusts of wind for further salt rubbed into wounds. Warming up, I knew I was probably going to be in for a tough time, given how sweaty my t-shirt was after only 15 to 16 minutes of low intensity jogging. Covering a portion of the 3x lap course, the ground underfoot was very well maintained as one would assume for a royal park; the paths did undulate slightly more than I’d hoped for, though not enough to be a major concern before the main event.

Looking around at my fellow participants, I tried to identify those who I would likely be competing against. There were just a few who looked swift and a top 10, maybe even a top 5, finish position looked likely. Earlier that morning, I said to Lis in passing that I wouldn’t recognise anybody at the race – well, I spoke too soon… A club runner in blue and white caught my eye and I paused to consider why he looked familiar. My lightbulb moment arrived – I recognised him as the Royal Sutton Coldfield club runner from the Walsall Arboretum parkrun I attended back in June. From memory, he had good 5k and 10k PBs to his name. Speaking with Mark, and like me, he was in London for the weekend with his girlfriend (and Aldridge club runner), and both of them were due to race, though an administrative error meant only he would actually be running. We both admitted we weren’t particularly keen that morning, but had both paid up so it would be a waste not to.

Stood on the start line, there was reluctance from everybody to come forward. The race director asked if any of us had covered the route before, paying particular attention to both Mark and I. We both declared ourselves as first-timers, though it transpired that one of the sharper looking runners stood behind us had in fact run 36 minutes on the course before. I ushered him to move forward and not be shy, for the risk of everybody else following somebody unfamiliar with the route was rather high!

The race

Off the line, I probably got a little carried away along with my peers. Not helping were the several hundred metres of flat that gently sloped downwards towards the first turning. I felt pretty reasonable, though quickly found myself in no-man’s land and fifth place. Helpfully, Mark was pretty tall and his Sutton Coldfield club colours were a nice contrast to the grey and green surroundings of the park, so I was always able to spot him as he edged away into the distance. I was on PB pace, though it soon became apparent that the wind had further picked up since my warm-up, and the race was not going to come to me without a fight. 1km came in at 3:47.

Early into the second km, two runners from behind overtook me to then sit steady some 50m ahead – why they couldn’t sit steady closer in front of me, I didn’t know! The second km gently undulated upwards and I became quite exposed to the harsh gusts of wind that blew. There was some respite, for there was a brief stretch of around 200m where the wind was not felt at all – lucky me, because that equated to around 600m out of 10,000m for the entire race… 2km came in at 4:00.

The last time I was in Regent’s Park, I was probably only six or seven years of age, based on a photo of me, sat on one of the benches overlooking the neighbouring London Zoo. During 3km, I ended up running past said bench, with the giraffe exhibit on my right for one of the more exciting sightings within a race. This stretch was quite cluttered with visitors to the park; a 10:30 start meant the park was suitably teeming, and much like parkrun, the organisers stressed that race participants did not have right-of-way on the paths. I ended up going off-course on to grass a few times, simply because it was easier than bellowing a warning, only for it to fall on deaf ears… 3km came in at 3:57 and almost brought me back to the start point for the end of the first lap.

Lis had set up camp on one of the benches close to the start line, affording good views of the race. Being a three lap course, this also meant I passed the water station twice – most welcome on such a humid morning. Passing a volunteer, I successfully received a cup from her to much cheering, which I can only assume stemmed from the six guys before me each fumbling the pass. The refreshment from the water did the trick and got me back up to speed to see 4km coming in for 3:53.

Nearing halfway, one of the pair that overtook me earlier began drifting backwards. I took my foot off the gas to draft in his slipstream for a few moments of recovery from the wind that seemed to near-constantly seek me out in the vast park. I sensed him slowing further and my Garmin confirmed as much; I regained the lead and told him to take a break in my slipstream in the hope that he would listen and stick it out with me. Before long, he’d dropped right off to leave me on my own once more. 5km came in at 4:09 and halfway for 19:49. Even if I was to finish in under 40 minutes, I knew I had some work cut out ahead of me…

I began encountering lapped runners on the course, making for a welcome distraction from the monotony of largely running alone; combine this with the brief spell in the park without wind and I was in bliss. Sadly, the pace rot continued and 4:06 marked the growing difficulty of a sub-40 finish.

The humidity was hellish and had grown to be my most despised weather condition of the summer. Returning to the start point for the end of lap two and the beginning of lap three, I seriously considered dropping out. Continuing at such a pace was not going to cool me down any faster and motivation had receded to an all-time low. I almost came a cropper at the water station, where the first cup was crushed when the volunteer’s hand and mine were too firm and collided. Thankfully, I was able to quickly grab another cup from the second volunteer. I dread not think about how the final lap would have gone without those precious few sips! My pace perked up a touch for 3:58 for 7km.

On tired legs and with little appetite to keep pushing, what I really could have done without was the wind continuing to slam into me. Earlier that morning, I had hoped that my Nike Vaporfly 4% would give me that little something that I needed, or at least make up for any shortfall. Sadly, even with the well-maintained paths of a royal park, I still wasn’t able to tap into the shoes’ sweet spot and I did wonder whether a lower profile shoe would have produced a different outcome that morning? 8km was my slowest split of the race for 4:17.

More and more lapped runners appeared on the course. I was thankful that my race would at least be over with in fewer than 9 minutes, whereas everybody else had more than a lap remaining. Nearing the beginning of the wind-free stretch, I saw the runner that had a prior 36 minute run to his name on his way to the final km; judging from our relative positions, he would comfortably finish in fewer than 37 minutes. I managed to capitalise on the momentary lack of wind for a 4:10 9th km.

With just a single km remaining, I was around 25 seconds shy of a sub-40 finish, and that was assuming that the course finished precisely on 10km. Nonetheless, I opted to go for broke and kicked on with what was left in the tank. My lack of recovery and the humidity of the morning saw my heart rate continue to climb into the high 190s, with my maximum at around 202bpm. Like before, the path was cluttered with fellow runners and park users, forcing me to think nimbly and choose my line and position wisely for fear of being blocked in. Strangely, I could hear footsteps with a quick cadence coming up behind me. There was nobody within striking distance of me for practically the entire race – had I slowed that much to allow them to sneak up on me? Reaching the final corner, the volunteer encouraged me to kick on and to try and beat the other guy to the line. Looking over my shoulder as I turned, I could see somebody in jogging bottoms closing in on me incredibly quickly. How was he running at such a pace in jogging bottoms in such warmth and humidity?! I kicked as hard as I could for the line, besting him by just a few seconds, only to realise he wasn’t in the race at all as he had no bib, detouring away from the finish to leave the park. Why he wanted to race me, I’ve no idea!

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

As disappointingly expected, I only managed 40:17 for sixth place out of some 200 participants. I quickly got over it and runbritain was even kind enough to calculate the race as having a 2.4 course condition score, which is quite high when 1.0 is considered as average conditions.

I was in agony from the effort and pulled myself out of the finish funnel so as not to get in the way of others, though this was unnecessary as the next guy along was almost a minute behind me. Catching up with Mark, he shared many of my own thoughts and we both concluded the race was not worth the effort that morning. This is no slight on the race itself – just that we were unable to capitalise on the event in any meaningful way. As numerous people have said since, I will at least have taken the training effect away with me as consolation.

Lis and I high-tailed it out of there to be back in time to check out of our hotel, marking the end of an exhausting trip to the Big Smoke.

 

 

 

 

Magor 10k 2018 review

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All aboard the pain train! Photo by Robert Gale

Between this and its sister-race – The Gwent Race for Wildlife – this course is now my most frequented race.

For previous races, please click the following:

Pre-race

I had reasonable confidence of a PB opportunity going into this event. Only in 2017 did I fail to bag a PB, due to focusing my efforts on marathon training and acknowledging I’d lost too much top-end speed from injury earlier in the year.

If there’s one thing runners will remember from 2018, it will be the weather. We’ll all look back in years to come and ask ourselves whether the snow or the sun robbed us! Going into this race, there was yet another elemental foe I was concerned about it for it wasn’t the sun, but rather the wind… Checking the forecast with great interest in the days beforehand, I watched aghast as the wind speed increased from a challenging 12mph to an all-bets-are-off 19mph! Given how flat the course is, facing a stiff headwind for much of the first half of the race would be akin to slotting in a climb or two, nullifying the otherwise perfect profile.

In the days leading up to race day – a Saturday – I felt like I’d picked up the beginnings of something. I felt drained with no get-up-and-go to me, so I took the decision to sharply taper with no running at all for four whole days. The unscheduled break did me a world of good, for I felt pretty reasonable once again come race morning.

Staring outside the window, all I could see were grey skies, swaying trees and rain to literally put a dampener on things. Over breakfast, I mulled over my race approach of pigheadedly going out at PB pace and hoping for the best, or going out conservatively into the windy first half and trying to claw back some of the damage in the second half with tailwind? The decision was yet to be determined and I decided to wait and consult with Darryll Thomas, who I’d cajoled into attending, for his outlook on conditions.

With Lis and my mother-in-law in tow, we headed over to race HQ, which was once again a church and hence the Saturday race. The weather did not improve, for when Darryll and I went for our warm-up, we were almost brought to a standstill at times from the gusts we faced… I reasoned aiming for under 39 minutes would give me enough wriggle room to either ramp things up or dial things back, covering any eventualities.

Assembling for the start, and almost by divine intervention, the poor conditions eased off dramatically for a break in the wind and rain. On the starter’s orders, we were off into the south Wales countryside.

The race

In those crucial few opening seconds, I opted to be pig-headed and went for it, seeing 3:24 per km flash up on my Garmin from time to time! After a few hundred metres, I scaled things back to PB pace and slotted myself into a small group of similarly paced guys. Just a few metres ahead of me was Darryll, doing the same. The effort was undeniably fast, though still felt just about in control, paving the way for an opening split of 3:46.

A few guys from behind crept past me and I was left with just another chap. Thankfully for me, he had just a touch more strength at his disposal, so I was able to take shelter in his slipstream and allowed him to dictate the pace into the wind. The next group ahead included Darryll, though they were just a little too far from reach to reel in quickly without doing damage to ourselves. My companion agreed with me that we should have taken the opportunity to go with them when the gap was much, much smaller.

Being the no-nonsense kind of race that it is, the only real novelty of the course is its flatness. As such, there wasn’t really much of anything to report on for 2km to 4km, other than the splits coming in at 3:50, 3:53 and 3:54.

Reaching the return at Redwick Village, we felt the full force of the wind and boy was it ghastly! It was at least brief with a water station to take the sting out of a tricky km, coming in at 3:51 and halfway clocking in at 19:15. Hallelujah, for I was still in business! Another 19:15 and a modest PB was all mine!

With a tailwind for some assistance – and you never fully receive back what was taken away by a headwind – the pace began escalating once more. Also helping to pull me along was the guy I spent much of the first half with, though he continued to just marginally creep away and eventually ended up with the remnants of Darryll’s small group before it broke apart. Speaking of Darryll, he found solace behind one of the (tall) guys that scooted past me from much earlier in the race. 6km and 7km were almost identical for 3:47 and 3:48.

I could easily identify the effort was right up there to be 9/10. The sun had come out overhead to further add more stress to the mix. Prior to race day, I was going to have my father-in-law kindly be on standby with a few bottles of water at around 7km for Darryll and me. Based on that morning’s forecast, it was to remain wet and windy, so his services were not needed. The guest appearance from the sun was both welcome and unwanted in equal measure. I was kicking myself for turning down the offered assistance, for some water would have most definitely made the remainder of the race more tolerable.

Approaching the out and back section, I saw second and third place exit just as I entered, with first place having already cleared through. I gave Darryll some encouragement to keep pushing, estimating him to be some 15 seconds ahead of me. Rounding the cone, I prayed that it was in the correct place and not overly wrong in either direction. One iteration of the race in its Race for Wildlife guise back in 2015 was short by almost 200m; I left empty handed that day, despite the certainty that I still would have recorded a PB over an accurate distance. Inevitably, the switchback cost me by a few seconds, due to the turning and the direction change back into the wind. I gave Tony Cover, a Strava buddy and a participant I drafted behind for much of the 2017 race, a high-five to break up some of the monotony. 8km and 9km came in at 3:54 and 3:53, so that break in momentum really did cost me some 10 seconds or so.

With just a km remaining, some mental arithmetic reminded me that I was still just in contention of a PB if I could ramp up the pace, and if the distance was not overly long. 2017 clocked in at almost 70m too long, most likely due to the switchback cone being placed too far out.

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Will or won’t I PB? Photo by Robert Gale

Alone, I began reeling in those ahead, including Darryll who had slipped from the pace ever so slightly. Anguish was written all over my face as the effort skyrocketed. I willed the right-hand turn to appear for it meant only some 300m remained. Lis and my mother-in-law appeared for some encouragement, shortly before my Garmin beeped with almost 50m remaining. Acknowledging that my finishing kick isn’t quite what it used to be, I thrusted my arms forward and threw my legs behind me as far as they would go for the finish line. It was nerve-wracking stuff!

Post-race

Upon finishing, I let out a few exasperated cries in a bid to ease the momentary suffering. I shook the hand of the guy I drafted behind, who had finished some 10-15 seconds ahead of me. And my own finishing time? 38:35 for a very modest 5 second PB on the DK10K from early May under far more clement conditions. Were the distance closer to 10km on the nose, I’d have likely had 38:15 to 38:20 to my name; Darryll was just 5 seconds shy of a PB, so I mustn’t complain. What I can complain about is the 38:45 I ran in the 2016 race; without such oppressive heat, who knows what I could have run back then…

A warm-up jog with spectators clapping and cheering both Darryll and me on wrapped up a satisfactory morning. I still greatly dislike the 10k distance, where it’s just too far to go out hard and hang on like it’s a 5k, but not going out hard enough also means you can’t approach it like a half marathon that can be eased into.

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

This week’s running – 16th to 22nd July 2018

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6th at Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun – Photo by Sarah Layton

An unusually low mileage week, after several in the high 40s to low 50s.

5k recovery

Slightly cooler temperatures made this 5k recovery feel like a breeze. Everything just clicked when it needed to.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

6x 800m at 5k pace

The recent focus on 400m intervals helped propel me to better attack this 800m session. Strong headwind slammed into me on the warm-up, signalling a challenging time ahead. But, in an unexpected double-edged sword kind of way, the wind may have actually allowed for the session to be completed in its entirety. I opted to not fight the gusts for at least the first rep, recognising that my legs normally take a little time to find themselves. The end result? A pretty satisfying set:

  1. 3:05
  2. 3:01
  3. 2:57
  4. 2:57
  5. 2:55
  6. 2:53

Without the wind, I reckon I’d have taken another 3-5 seconds off each rep.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

The slightly cooler temperature remained, making running with a bag on my back slightly more forgiving than it had been of late. Having said that, I was still shattered upon finishing and opted to take the following day as unplanned rest.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun

I had a visit to Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun (my 28th different event) in my sights for a while, and this seemed like the perfect day for it on paper. I wanted a swift blast a week before the Magor 10k, with the low winds meaning a fast time would not be a fool’s errand. In a previous guise, Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun had a somewhat dubious reputation for being blisteringly fast, even with several switchbacks in play; it was concluded to measure a bit short and often produced runbritain SSS course condition scores with negative figures. This was remedied by altering the course to become almost 2x full laps of the path surrounding the racecourse.

I make it a habit of arriving nice and early to any parkrun I’m attending, whether it’s my home event or one further afield. There’s nothing quite like a relaxed, care-free build-up to 09:00; I despair whenever I volunteer as a marshal and see people racing from a carpark to the start line at 08:59… So early was I, the course markers hadn’t even been laid out yet! I didn’t feel particularly sharp, mainly due to heat and prolonged fatigue from what has been a torturous spring-summer. My warm-up confirmed the morning was likely to be a tough one…

Unsurprisingly for a younger event that’s barely a year-old, there were only around 200 participants in attendance. Oddly, it’s also one of the few events I’ve been to where a large contingent of runners chose to wait next to the start line rather than listen in on the run briefing. With just 200 people, it wasn’t a crowded event and there was ample room on the start line for anybody that wanted to seed themselves higher to do so.

I was caught off-guard by how fast the start was, with my Garmin registering in the 3:20s a few times during the opening couple hundred metres! There were people ahead of me that were definitely not going to finish anywhere near me, giving me a temporary crisis of confidence!

Before too long, the field thinned out and I found myself in the unenviable place of no-man’s land. The next chap behind me was around 20 seconds away, whereas some 10 to 15 seconds ahead of me was a pair of teenage boys. I willed them to split apart and drift back towards me, but no joy.

I continued on my own and began to take note of the varying terrain. Whilst most of the course is well-paved, there were some sections that were made up of broken path akin to that of Edgbaston Reservoir (a few hundred metres around the start area) and a short section of wood chips around 1km in. All of this added to my thoughts of the course not being as fast as billed, with Walsall Arboretum still ranking at the top in terms of being fast and locally accessible.

As I neared the end of the first lap, my prayer had been answered and one of the youngsters in front of me broke off and began drifting back to me quickly. Once we made contact, I gave him some encouragement to stay with me – partly for some company, but also because I like to lend a helping hand where I can. He drew shoulder to shoulder with me, but his breathing was all over the shop; I told him we were going to run an even pace so that he could steady his breathing. Amazingly, the distance between us and the other teenage lad in front remained perfectly static with no growth or shrinkage. Pace-wise, we were right on target to dip under 19 minutes if we could keep things ticking along.

With 1km remaining, the effort bubbled upwards. I continued to give my sidekick plenty of encouragement to stay on target; he occasionally slipped from the pace, but I always got him to draw level with me again. Once we reached 17 minutes on the clock, I started to give him time updates and suggested he begin wrapping things up if he was close to a PB. At around 200m remaining, he pulled ahead by a couple of strides to reach the grassy straight first out of  the two of us. I continued to holler time updates until he crossed the line, with me 5 or so seconds behind.

He was wrecked, but had enough breath to ask me what I registered. I showed him my Garmin, with 18:55 displayed, and suggested he had 18:50 or so to his name. He fist-pumped the air and let out a big, “Yeeees!” I asked him what his previous best was, which turned out to be 19:13 for a huge chunk taken off that morning. Next to us was the event’s PB bell; he seemed unsure of whether to ring it or not, to which I urged he definitely should as he’d earned it. He heartily rang the bell and thanked me before collapsing on the grass for a breather.

I stuck around to talk to a few of the locals before wandering off to complete another lap of the course for a warm-down. Worryingly, I felt the same rush of nausea that I experienced a week prior after finishing Cannon Hill parkrun. I’ve chalked it down to good old fashioned heat exhaustion and, thankfully, I remained on the right side of the effort line to avoid an embarrassing situation!

All in all, Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun was bitter-sweet. It wasn’t nearly as fast as I’d hoped for, but helping a fellow runner break new PB ground stopped the morning becoming a waste.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles – to Solihull and back

I could feel my body waving a white flag from all the hard racing and training it’d been through. As such, I didn’t feel another 15 mile slog would be the most sensible of options, and instead opted for just 10 miles to Solihull and back.

It’d been months since I last covered the route – the last time, I was almost knocked down by inattentive driver! Working in my favour was the cloud cover overhead, taking the edge off the warmth. Working against me was the undulating route that I’d forgotten all about…

Also not helping was my fixation with hitting 7:30 miles. They felt reasonably effortless in the first half, which was net downhill and had a slight tailwind. The return, with its net uphill and headwind, was much more challenging on tired legs!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 2nd to 15th July 2018

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In attendance for Alex’s 100th parkrun – photo by Lisa Conner

Gah. Another two weeks rolled into one.

5k recovery

The oppressive heat took its toll, even in the early evening. My average heart rate came out at 135bpm, compared to 130bpm for the same pace back in May.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

6x 400m at 5k pace

This particular week was slightly experimental because I wanted to rediscover what my body’s threshold is for tapering.

The previous week’s 10x 400m session went down a treat, in spite of leaving me feeling quite nauseous upon finishing. Chopping the rep count down to 6x would inject just the right amount of intensity without overdoing things.

As per the previous week, the first two reps were a write-off where my legs were just getting into their stride:

  1. 1:27
  2. 1:27
  3. 1:21
  4. 1:22
  5. 1:22
  6. 1:22

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5 miles run-commute

I took a day off from running on Wednesday due to work team-building activities. Whilst I declined the go-karting element, I happily partook in the steak dinner afterwards! Some of you will remember the injury I received from go-karting back in March, resulting in me abandoning a run at 4 miles to catch an Uber for home. With the Wythall Hollywood 10k just days away on the horizon at the time, I didn’t want to risk anything, though I did look longingly at the go-kart circuit as I’d have easily been a contender for first place that afternoon with my power to weight ratio advantage – the fastest guy of the day was still a stone heavier than me!

With the above factored in, I shifted my week to run-commute on Thursday instead. I’ve written before about how challenging running with a bag on your back in elevated summer temperatures is. I become more easily dehydrated as my back continues to leach out sweat as my body desperately tries to cool itself down, to no avail. In the winter, the bag is a welcome addition as it’s an extra layer to fight off the cold!

The conclusion so far was one day off from running did nothing to harm my form, as my glutes were still active.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

2 mile shakeout

Whilst I had ambitions of running easy Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the final day never materialised as I was that damn tired that I treated myself to a lie-in.

Running on Friday felt really weird. I can probably count on a single hand how often I’ve done it and I suspect many may be in a similar position, especially if they’re parkrun fiends like me.

Temperatures continued to soar and take their toll on me. Whilst I originally set out for 5km, 2 miles was quite enough for me to keep my legs turning over and to stop my glutes from slumbering.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Wythall Hollywood 10k 2018 review

Please click here for the full write-up.

5k recovery

Much like the last couple of Mondays following heat-compromised races, my body felt pretty good from the capped efforts of the races beforehand. My form also felt on point from the prolonged exposure of faster running only a day prior.

So, what conclusion did I reach regarding tapering? My body loves running and taking more than a day off from it is counter-productive due to a temporary loss of finesse; I’m sure we’ve all had the Bambi on ice feeling after a longer than intended layoff, no? Running an easy 5km or so on the Friday before a race seems to keep everything ticking over and in check for me.

I’m still unlikely to cover a parkrun at an easy pace the day before an important race, though I will now consider it before a tune-up event.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10x 400m at 5k pace

The temperature dropped slightly, making this session feel a tad easier than it had in the past.

With 60 seconds rest in between, they turned out to be a pretty satisfactory bunch of splits:

  1. 1:26
  2. 1:27
  3. 1:24
  4. 1:26
  5. 1:25
  6. 1:25
  7. 1:25
  8. 1:25
  9. 1:24
  10. 1:22

I enjoy these 400m sessions far more than their 800m counterpart, though I’m getting a niggling feeling that I need to return to 800m to re-bridge the gap between speed and my strength of endurance. Few things in running happen in isolation…

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5 mile run-commute

Also known as Andy’s quest for a new stick of Body Glide…

Sod’s law would of course dictate that I somehow lose a brand new stick of Body Glide before it had even really had any use? The stuff’s not cheap either at £12 a stick on the high street! I’d searched high and low at home and at work with no joy. However, I keep stumbling upon the empty stick that I threw away – I wouldn’t have minded if I’d have lost that one whilst it was on its way out! Naturally, after having bought a replacement, I’m going to stumble upon the missing offender, aren’t I? At least they don’t have an expiry date…

My form continued to feel super-charged from the 400m session, even at what was only recovery pace as I ran for home with a bag on my back.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

The humidity got the better of me as I battled my way from the office for home along the canal towpaths. It’s so energy zapping! My breathing and heart rate were largely fine, though each step felt like a real struggle. The climb on Fordhouse Lane nearly finished me off!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Normality ensued at Cannon Hill as the whole gang came together to celebrate Alex’s 100th run – even Nigel, who’s been nursing an Achilles injury.

After Thursday’s medium-long run, I was dog-tired. The warm-up jog to Cannon Hill Park triggered a -6.0 condition score on my Garmin; for reference, I’m normally a -5.0 if things are bad…

Whilst I didn’t intend to end up racing, the red mist was too powerful to decline. After 1km on my own, I ended up tailing Dave, as he was wont to do to me once upon a time. I stuck to him like glue in spite of his best efforts to lose me.

We remained in sequence until making contact with Andy Young, who prompted me to take the lead and overtake a large group of runners ahead of us. I took his challenge on and surged clear of him and Dave, gaining what felt close to 10 seconds in the process. Little did I know that Dave had anticipated when I might make a move; by his own admission, 3km would have been the ideal point to secure victory, owing to his endurance deficiency over longer distances.

He caught me with perhaps only 300m remaining. I had no response on that particular morning, already elbow deep into a 50+ mile week with a race every fortnight behind me since early May… I had just enough inside me to sneak back in for 18:59, when just a 19:30 would have been satisfactory.

Next week will see me touristing to the fast Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun, where the previous route had the dubious honour of regularly netting a negative SSS course condition score on runbritain…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

I get a huge kick out of long runs; there’s something masochistic about a training run that lasts for hours, especially when conditions are less than ideal. There’s a real sense of satisfaction derived upon completion that I don’t seem to receive from other staple runs in my week.

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McGuyvering the hell out of staying cool on the run!

Anticipating a warm one, I tried a new hydration trick that came to me like Thomas Edison imagining the light bulb. I part-filled my runner’s bottle the night before and threw it in the freezer to set. Just before heading out the door, I filled the remaining empty space with cold water and added an electrolyte tablet. And voila, I had a makeshift hydration tool that kept my hands cool for the first 30 minutes or so whilst the ice melted, turning into cold electrolyte liquid for the remainder of my run. Starting off cool is one thing and hanging onto being cool is another thing entirely. Try it for yourself!

Heading out a few hours earlier than usual, I was surprised to see so many who also had the same idea. Passing through a tunnel, I could hear somebody closing in on me very quickly; were they running an interval session (unlikely on a Sunday), or were they trying to catch-up to me? To my surprise and delight, it was Ashley Fawke – fellow Cannon Hill Crusader – out on his long run. We chatted for a little over a mile, where you can clearly see his pace nosediving, via Strava. Whilst only brief, it’s always fascinating to speak to a significantly faster runner than me, where Ashley confirmed my own thoughts on several topics.

Once through halfway, I still felt good from the ample shade and lower temperatures, and decided to progress the pace. It’s a strange day when you can run up a hill faster than you can run down it; I inadvertently ran a PB on the Fordhouse Lane climb segment!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.