This week’s running – 7th to 13th of October

Andy Yu's rainy week

This week was all about recovery and rain

Sports massage

After Sunday’s Cardiff Half Marathon and after a suggestion from Iain, I decided to pay a visit to the trusty UCB Sports Therapy Clinic. Because they’re all trainees in their second or third year of study, the sessions are just £5 each and not based on time at all.

I was tended to by Kirsty and Kieran which meant I had the most intense sports massage ever; they worked on each side of me independently and thus didn’t suffer from fatigue. They said they were rather impressed by my pain tolerance telling that they regularly see blokes twice my size screaming like girls when they’re worked on. The massage itself was brilliant and really helped to loosen me up. Whilst my foam roller does a great job of being easily accessible after a run, it’s no substitute for a real sports massage which concentrates on all the key trigger points.

One thing that did petrify me was when Kirsty revealed to me that she was getting over a cold. My immune system was probably at its weakest after the half marathon and her cold became a real risk for me at that moment in time. Unclean!

Thursday recovery run

My first run after the half marathon was on Thursday in the freezing cold and rain. I actually had to break out my running tights and compression shirt to cope! The run was just a simple 3 miles at an easy pace, helping to work some of the kinks out after a few days of sedentary.

Having two A race half marathons over 2 weeks is actually quite awkward to work your life around. If they were only 1 week apart, I could simply kick my feet up and do some short but sharp work later in the week before race day. With 2 weeks, I have to recover and then resume training temporarily only to taper again next week!

The Garmin data for the run can be found here.

Failed 19:10 Parkrun attempt

Historically, I’ve usually been able to squeeze out a Parkrun PB on the Saturday immediately after a race.

Sadly, this was not the case at Cannon Hill (maybe it’s because I’m in the 30-34 age category now?). I wanted to eke out a 19:10 PB; a whole 8 seconds faster than mine and Dave’s showdown several weeks ago and despite being at my race prime only a week earlier, I was not in great 5k shape that day. The shorter days have not facilitated much speedwork and I think the benefit of my summer of speed has now tailed off in exchange for endurance.

My old colleague, Martin, came along to Parkrun on my advice as part of training for his first half marathon at the Great Birmingham Run. Like many people that will be toeing the startline in a week’s time, Martin has only trained alone and has never run with another person, let alone several thousand others. His training seemed to have gone well and he was hoping for a sub-2 hour finish like many half marathon virgins. We went for a 1 mile warm-up and I talked him through the course and how Parkrun works in general. Martin was excited and looking forward to a shorter, sharper effort – it was a shame that the weather wasn’t on our side for his inaugural Parkrun!

At the start, I took off like a bat out of hell with 19:10 in my sights. The first mile was run exactly on target with Dave not far back in tow. Going into mile 2, I slowed dramatically and growled at Dave to do some pacing work – I clearly wasn’t in a good place! Mile 2 was 20 seconds behind target pace and I didn’t have much hope in a second wind come-back for mile 3. I’d caught up to Jonny Costello, another Parkrun regular that I see quite often. We had a chat and he told me to go for it, impressed that my times had tumbled by so much recently. I replied that it wasn’t happening that day and we continued to run together right up to the finish.

Dave had clocked a very commendable 19:40 whilst I finished in 19:57, which I didn’t think I fully deserved. My run was an absolute shocker with mile almost 40 seconds slower than mile 1 for a huge positive split.

We caught up with Jonny and I was quite honoured that he said he’d been following my Parkrun career with some interest. He said he’d let out a huge “YEEEES” when he found out I’d finally broken the sub-20 minute barrier after several weeks of close-calls (20:03, 20:02, 20:07, 20:00…), which was quite touching.

Martin came back home with an impressive 23:50 – this was almost 2 minutes faster than my very first Parkrun back in 2011. This was a very good sign for his sub-2 hour half marathon, indicating a potential finish time of something in the 1 hour 50 territory.

Take a look at my Garmin data for the run here.

Sunday long run in the rain

Andy Yu's Camelbak

My long run training partner

I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t entirely sure how to play out these two weeks between my half marathons. Discussing my plans with Dave, he agreed and felt 9-10 miles today would be just right to re-enforce the endurance training in my legs.

Sadly, mother nature’s plans were wildly different to mine, unleashing several days’ worth of rain in one go. The south Birmingham canals were a no-go zone due to how churned up the mud would be, making a 10 mile run incredibly tiring. The north Birmingham canals tend to be in much better shape, even in the rain so I ventured out for the 9 mile loop.

I took my new Camelbak hydration pack out with me too, loaded with 1 litre of Nectar Fuel. I bought one for marathon training where a few of my longest runs earlier this year proved very difficult towards the end due to dehydration and low energy levels.

The run itself was actually quite refreshing despite the difficult conditions. I ran with a Sandwell Valley club runner for a short while, both of us joking that we were both nuts for running in such heavy rain. He asked if I was a club runner (I’m honoured I can pass off as one) and when I said I was “unattached”, he recognised the Parkrun lingo and asked if I did any of the local events, telling me he occasionally ran at Cannon Hill, Brueton Park and Walsall Arboretum.

The Camelbak performed well. The weight was definitely noticeable but because I was consuming the contents as the run progressed, there was a steady rate of effort required to carry the pack. It’ll be an interesting experiment to see if my legs gain additional strength when I complete long runs without the Camelbak on my shoulders.

Whilst my clothes were absolutely sodden, my shoes and feet actually managed to remain quite dry for most of the run. Irony of ironies, my feet only started to get wet from puddles once I left the canals and ran back home on the roads!

My Garmin data for the run can be found here.

Goal setting and goal achievement

I figured this would be a good time in the running calendar to consolidate my goals, both in terms of setting them and what I’ve achieved.

This post is partly inspired by an old Marathon Talk episode (it may have been 17 or 18) where Tom and Martin discussed the importance of setting realistic goals that would be achievable with some work and effort. They also mentioned the need to clearly define the differences between the goals, especially if they lead into a bigger, final result.

Back in July, I set myself the following time goals/milestones:

  • 5k in sub-19:30 minutes
  • 10k in sub-40 minutes
  • Half marathon in sub-90 minutes
  • Marathon in sub-3:30 hours

5k in sub-19:30 minutes

The only goal I can tick off my list is a 5k in sub-19:30, which I’ve achieved by running 19:18 and 19:23 at Cannon Hill Parkrun and Cardiff Parkrun respectively.

Hitting sub-20 was an incredible struggle where my fitness didn’t seem to improve. I had maxed out my training available to me and neglected speedwork where Parkrun became my only weekly dose of faster running.

Once I hit sub-20, everything else seemed to fall into place and my 5k times tumbled several times over the summer.

My new 5k goal is to hit sub-19 minutes by the end of the year. Saturday’s Parkrun has now left me in doubt over whether this is possible or not. My friend Kevin has just proven that marathon training hasn’t robbed his speed, posting a massive 5k PB of 17:49, a whole 39 seconds faster than his last 5k PB. Here’s hoping the long runs will filter down for me as well before the year is out!

10k in sub-40 minutes

This is a bit of an odd goal for me. I really enjoy racing the 10k distance, but it’s kind of a stepping stone between the 5k and half marathon.

In the space of 5 months, I managed to shave off almost 3 minutes from my 10k PB. I’m confident it’ll happen organically without too much attention, so long as my 5k times continue to drop and I maintain some semblance of a long Sunday run (22 mile marathon training runs, woohoo!).

Half marathon in sub-90 minutes

The half marathon is another strange one for me. After trying for several years to dip under 2 hours, everything seemed to just fall into place once it finally happened a year ago.

After my recent PB of 1:31:09 in Cardiff, I have an inkling that I’m capable of dipping under 90 minutes and will have a go at that during the Great Birmingham Run. I’m still suspicious of the 13.22 miles I ran, so I probably lost at least 40 seconds with the extra distance. The congestion at the start also cost me 10 seconds, so there’s almost a minute that I can reclaim right there. My only concern is heartbreak hill at mile 11; I know that’ll cost me time so I’ll have to be as strict as possible with my pacing and will need to take advantage of every downhill opportunity.

Marathon in sub-3:30

My marathon PB of 3:52:31 sits horribly out of line with the rest of my performances. As my first attempt, the London Marathon was a huge learning curve and many other contributing factors affected my overall time. Fatigue, the wrong starting pen etc etc all played their part in a race that did not go according to plan.

Pacing calculators are telling me that based on the above half marathon PB, I have the capacity to achieve a time just under 3 hours and 12 minutes. That assumes I’m as well trained and go for it as hard as I did over 13.1 miles.

I’ll be aiming for a time in the region of 3 hours and 20 minutes. What this means is that I’ll train for that particular time to give me some buffer if things start to go awry. That’s a race pace of roughly 7:40 per mile, which means I’ll be doing long training runs at around 8:30 – 9 minute mile pace. To become tuned into race pace, I’ll also be scheduling in km repeats at race pace periodically as well as throwing in a few miles at race pace during long runs.

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