There’s more than one way to get high on speed

It’s been an interesting time for me as a runner since the last update; athletic superstars have won gold, I’ve been on holiday, I’ve conquered a PB and more.

Olympics

The Olympics have been and gone and with it, several athletes have been catapulted into stardom. Mo Farrah has become Britain’s poster boy as runner extraordinaire by winning gold in both the 10,000m and 5,000m along with becoming a new father to twin baby girls and also winning the Aviva Grand Prix 2 mile race. He’ll shortly be facing off against Haile Gebrselassie at the Great North Run. To say that he’s become busy is an understatement. Mo’s races were tremendous to watch, almost like Shakespearian drama unfolding before your very eyes with a so-so beginning, a developed middle and a tense finale. Compare this to Usain Bolt’s victories in the 100m and 200m which were over as soon as they started and it’s easy to see why Mo’s wins were so highly regarded because he could have lost it all after a tense 27 or 12 minutes.

Jess Eniss has also earned Olympiad stardom after several failed efforts over the last few years. Making it look so effortless, Jess has hopefully inspired a new generation of female athletes to give sport a go, even if only recreationally.

I absolutely loved the Olympics and it took over my life for two weeks. I didn’t think I would take to it quite as much as I did, but for the first time in my life, I felt like the trials I had been through gave me a link with the athletes that only those that put themselves through training week in, week out could possibly understand.

Holiday running

Earlier in the month, Lis and I went away on holiday to Spain, namely her old stomping ground of Malgrat de Mar and Barcelona. For the first time ever in my life, I took my running shoes away with me with the intent of conquering some miles and soaking in a bit of the location each morning before the masses came out to play. Each day, I would rise at 7:30am and would be ready to run within 10 minutes along the beach of Malgrat de Mar.

On the first day, the heat was fatigue inducing and even in the morning, the temperature was around 25-26 degrees, requiring that I carry water. Whether foolish or not, I was running each morning on an empty stomach with only a few calories from my isotonic tablets in the water for sustenance. I would run along the promenade by the beach and then double back on myself to complete about 2.5 miles, which felt more like 10 miles on heavy legs, already tired from a full day of sightseeing only 24 hours earlier. As each day passed, the running became surprisingly easier with mile splits taking longer than 10 minutes to complete on day 1 and the same splits taking less than 9 minutes on the final day. One observation was that Spanish runners did not carry any water with them, either being used to the temperature or simply not running far enough to need to carry any liquids. I loved being active whilst on holiday and did not want to allow any fitness to drop, or at least to slow it down if it was inevitable.

Take a look at the run data courtesy of Nike+ by clicking here.

Whilst in Barcelona, we also visited the site of the Olympic stadium and also the nearby Olympic museum. With the aid of a tour bus discount book, entry for Lis and I only came to 4,50€ which was phenomenal for such an enjoyable museum. My only gripe is that the exhibits need some minor updating in light of London 2012 having just finished only days earlier!

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Ever since the Silverstone half marathon earlier in the year, I have been conscious of constantly changing weather conditions and ironically, it was actually too warm and bright that day and I have been looking for a decent pair of sports oriented sunglasses to keep the sun out of my eyes and stay put on my head. I’ve looked at everything from budget pairs to super high end and the problem is once you’ve looked at the high end, nothing else quite suffices so if you can’t beat them, join them. Oakley are widely regarded as the leaders of sporting eyewear and I managed to find a pair of their Bottle Rocket lines of sunglasses with a half-rim design to aid airflow. They’re polarised to improve clarity and reduce glare and the only missing feature is a hydrophobic coating to prevent fogging and water from clinging to the lenses. Sadly, this would have driven the price right up, so here’s a tip for you cheapskates not looking to use anti fog spray or similar: washing up liquid. Buff a good coating of it on to the lenses, inside and out and it’ll help drive away moisture and make water droplets bead up. You will of course have to redo this after each session but it’s free since we all have washing up liquid in the home.

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New 5k PB

Only those that chase after PBs will be able to appreciate where I’m coming from here. I’ve been attending the Cannon Hill Park 5k Parkrun each week since Easter in a bid to improve my half marathon time by treating it as serious speedwork. The weekly race ritual is also good practice for bigger races and gives you a chance to experiment with tactics, clothing and so on in a free yet competitive environment. It’s a true community and it’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to a running club whilst remaining casual enough for it to fit with my schedule and lifestyle.

I keep telling myself that I’m not a 5k runner and I’m only doing it to improve my half marathon times but considering I only run two half marathons a year, I can’t help but feel that I may actually be more suited to 5k and 10k races.

In the 16 weeks that I’ve participated, half of them have generated PBs, though the margins have become noticeably smaller with training efforts needing to go up exponentially in return. I’ve been finding my 5k times have plateaued at about 23:30 based on my current training and this may come as a surprise to some but that’s exactly how the body works because if you only ever do the same training, you’ll only ever get the same finish times.

Having said all that, something miraculous happened and it’s something that hasn’t occurred for months…

I woke up on Saturday, tired from a work party the night before, drinking far too much Coca-cola and not carbo loading like I should for a morning of physical exertion. Nonetheless, I was committed to run and do my best and followed my usual fuel strategy of some Nutella and peanut butter on toast. I made a batch of Nectar Fuel in isotonic format, packing that 500 calorie punch that I love so much and sipped this in preparation for the race. Sadly, my body doesn’t seem to want to work in conjunction with me and nearing the start line, I needed the toilet for a #2! None of the toilets at Cannon Hill Park open until 9am and that’s when the race starts!

Elsa wasn’t able to make it so it was just me as a lone runner on Saturday, so no mid race high 5s for me. I decided to do my usual warm up plus some short sprint repeats to prime the heart and lungs for some serious running ahead. I continued to sip my Nectar Fuel and had consumed half by the time the briefing had finished, so carbs shouldn’t have been an issue.

The race started but something different happened this week and I managed to find a group I could settle down with for pacing and followed them diligently for much of the course. I also left my watch on average pace rather than time elapsed so I knew as long as my pace did not drop below 7:25 per mile, I would be able to PB and would only switch over to time elapsed during the closing stages. Surprisingly, I was ahead of time and by quite a margin, averaging 7:15 per mile. The field of runners closed up, leaving only a girl and I by the final 500m and knowing I had time to spare, I decided not to go all out during the 100m, sprinting only during the final 50m, picking off 2 or 3 runners to finish 82nd out of a field of 255+ runners.

And my finish time? 22:35! Almost a minute faster than my former PB, which I had worked so hard to achieve! How this happened is a bit of a mystery to me; contributing factors possibly being the training I completed in the Spanish 34 degree heat, the Nike Flyknit Racers doing their part, the Nectar Fuel before the race or even the sprint repeats I did as a warm up. Or it may simply be a combination of all these things along with the sun and moon aligning in the universe at the same time. Personally, I think the biggest impact was having a good group of runners to pace with and I’m confident that if I had a personal pacer each week to pull me along, I’d PB more often, though I think this current PB will remain for even longer than the last one now.

The race data can be seen here on Nike+

Cardiff 10k

I’m looking forward to the Cardiff 10k because it’s an unfamiliar distance for me race-wise. It’s a great combination of speed and endurance, so requires some thoughtful consideration over how to use both of these elements. Too fast and you can rob yourself in the second half and too slow and you’ll never make the time up again in the second half. I’m aiming to beat my previous Nike+ 10k PB which I generated as part of my first canal run of 12 miles, so I know I must be able to break 50 minutes, needing only consistent 8 minute miles. Elsa will also be running, so I hope the event is good to both of us, seeing as it’s uncharted territory. My only concern is fuelling up and it appears the event only provides water at the half way mark, so I’m tempted to simply take my own and fuel up on the go.

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