This week’s running – 16th to 22nd of September

Training was back on full intensity this week.

Tuesday hill session

I always scratched my head a little when people would say that “summer is for speed”. Why the summer? What stops somebody developing speed in the winter?

A sudden cold and wet spell hit the country earlier this week and this hammered home to me just why the summer is geared towards speedwork. The warmer climate allows muscles to work more effectively. The longer days allow for faster sessions to be done in relative safety. The lack of rain means you can attack the speedwork at full pelt without fear of slipping.

Tuesday’s poor weather made it difficult for effective speedwork at either Cannon Hill or Kings Heath Park. I decided to familirise myself with a hill session on Charlotte Road, the one portion of the Great Birmingham Run that most people seem to struggle with. I charged up and down the hill 3 times; in isolation, the hill is actually quite tame but tack it on after 10 hard miles and it becomes a beast. Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

The session was good and it should have been timed just right for periodisation to take place just before the Cardiff Half Marathon, which conveniently leads me on to…

Cardiff Half Marathon

Cardiff is home to some cracking running events, such as Cardiff Parkrun and the Cardiff 10k. The half marathon does not fall into this category.

I last ran it in 2011 and the organisation was shambolic. Reports from the 2012 event suggested it had improved somewhat, so I decided to add it to my autumn race calendar.

I received my race pack on Thursday and despite registering with a conservative estimated time of 1:32:59, they’ve seen fit to put me in the second slowest holding pen assigned to 2:10 runners or faster. For reference, these are how the pens are organised:

  • White – sub-1:30
  • Orange – sub-1:45
  • Green – sub-2:10
  • Yellow – 2:10 or slower

I should at least be in the orange group and even then I’m going to be much faster than majority of the people within that wave. Looking online, it seems it’s far from an isolated case and there are plenty of people that have been assigned the wrong wave colour, the most comical being a sub-1:30 runner that’s received a yellow bib! I still fail to understand how such a cock-up could have happened.

Speaking to the organisers, they have quietly acknowledged that something has gone wrong. They’ve taken my details along with many other people’s and will come up with a solution by the middle of next week, which doesn’t leave much time before the big day. What I’m puzzled by is how they feel they have a choice of solutions – surely the only remedy is to reissue correctly coloured bibs to affected runners? If they tell me to simply start in the pen I feel I belong in, then it makes a mockery of the entire system and turns it into a free for all.

I’m going to get my PB but never again will I bother with the Cardiff Half Marathon – I don’t need the aggravation.

EDIT – Word from the grapevine suggests that the organisers will be issuing coloured wristbands for those affected. I’m genuinely surprised by this idea because it appears to be a good robust solution with few opportunities for further error.

Thursday 6 miles

As is customary for my Thursdays, I ventured out for 6 miles at a steady pace. Pissed off by the incompetence of the Cardiff Half Marathon, I headed out towards the canals after several weeks’ absence.

The run did the trick to help calm me down and reminded me of how peaceful the canals can be, away from traffic and the hustle and bustle. The Garmin data can be found here.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

19:18 PBs for Dave and me

Boom! 19:18 5k PB

Dave and I had a bit of banter going throughout the week leading up to Parkrunday. Dave has shown some incredible strength recently, chopping down his 5k PB almost week after week. We felt that our abilities were pretty evenly matched again so we penciled in Smackdown and Showdown Saturday on the schedule.

For whatever reason, I decided to break in my new Volt Flyknit Racers during our face-off; not my wisest decision but one that didn’t seem to improve or hamper my performance.

Lis was in tow, not to shout words of encouragement but rather words of abuse! We need new forms of stimulus, both physical and mental to squeeze the most out of us.

We toed the start line and on “go”, we took off. I had punched 6:14 pace into my Garmin, which roughly equated to a 19:20 5k; a PB for both of us. I played the role of pacemaker and got us around the first mile in 6:05, which happened to be my fastest ever recorded mile.

I continued to lead until 1.5 miles when my pacing fell off and Dave had to temporarily take over. I surged to regain the lead and found second wind from somewhere to reclaim some lost time, so much so that I started barking orders to the others around us that were clearly starting to slip from the pace.

Going into mile 3, we continued our campaign and chased runners down. Parkrun regular Neil Muir was in the group ahead of us and slowly, the gap between us began to shrink. My breathing became very laboured, doing my best impression of a steam locomotive. Exiting the final corner, Dave began to surge away with me in pursuit. With 200m left to go, Lis began hurling abuse at us which spurred me on to chase and counter attack with a surge of my own.

The finish was now in sight and we were both neck and neck; Dave had the inside lane and a longer stride advantage to just pip me crossing the finish line with less than a second between us. I was the Mo Farah to his Kenenisa Bekele and the Johnny Brownlee to his Javier Gomez, but I’m happy that I was beaten by the better runner. I’ve worked out that I need to create a larger gap during the race to disrupt Dave, rather than relying on a sprint finish.

We both officially achieved 19:18 PBs in the mother of all smackdown finishes. As Dave correctly pointed out, the PB translates to just shy of a sub-40 minute 10k and a sub-90 minute half marathon; two very realistic and attainable times that were completely out of our reach this time last year.

The low budget Mo Farah and Galen Rupp are back! Take a look at the Garmin data here.

Great Birmingham Run reccy

Looking to get my last long run in before I begin tapering for the Cardiff Half Marathon, I tackled the Great Birmingham Run route today in all its glory. I knew it would be warmer today, but I had no idea that the sun would come out quite as intensely as it did.

I finally managed to include the Selly Park triangle addition to the route, noting that the hill was a doddle so early on. The Charlotte Road hill was a different matter where dehydration and low energy had hit me hard, helping to give the hill its notoriety.

Next week will see me cap my long run off at 10 miles. Here’s the Garmin data from today’s run.

Closing thoughts

Bringing us firmly back to reality, Dave highlighted last night that some day the improvements will end regardless of the stimulus the body receives. He’s absolutely right, using his example that everybody would be an Olympic athlete otherwise. Until that day comes, I’m enjoying the ride and feel I’ve still got a lot more to give.


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