This week’s running – 10th to 16th of February

Rain, rain go away!

Another wet week in Blighty…

This has been the most relaxing week ever for me. I start a new job on Monday 17th of February and I finished my previous job on the 7th, so I’ve had the entire week to myself to simply chill out, train, gorge on food and read a few running related books. Oh, throw a few sports massages in there too for good measure!

This is a pretty long entry, so grab yourself a coffee, a biscuit, and enjoy.

No pain, no gain

“No pain. No pain. No pain.” Does anybody remember that scene from Rocky where the titular character is receiving karate chops to his core as part of his training montage? Just me then…

The last couple of longs runs I’ve been on have triggered some pain on the inside of my right thigh, just above the knee area. It first occurred when I resumed training after that bad cold last month forced me to take a week off. The pain is never debilitating and I simply run through it in the knowledge that it only lasts for a mile or so before rearing its ugly head again maybe 5 or 6 miles later. I decided to get this checked out as well as scheduling in a sports massage at the nearby college.

Their diagnosis was that I have tight hamstrings and adductors, where there’s a noticeable difference in terms of flexibility and range of motion of my right leg compared to my left. Two students massaged these areas to relieve some tension; it’s never a pleasant experience but a necessary evil in my book to becoming a stronger runner.

Because the problem diagnosis stage took so long, I didn’t get the depth of massage that I was after so I booked myself in for another session later in the week.

No track Tuesday

The heavens opened up on Tuesday and we had everything from rain, snow, and sunshine. Given my complete inexperience of the running track, I opted not to head to Birmingham Uni’s oval for my speedwork session for fear of doing some serious damage to myself if I slipped and also during the recovery periods where I would become too cold and stiff from standing around, even just for 90 seconds.

Instead, I paid a visit to that favourite establishment of mine that is the gym. As expected of an early Tuesday afternoon, it was almost completely dead in there with just a few souls milling around. The planned session was to be 8x 800m reps at threshold pace, so somewhere around 6:45 per mile equivalent. After an easy warm-up, I decided to alter my session back to my trustworthy 5x 800 reps at faster than 5k pace. You hear all the time (especially on Marathon Talk) that runners far too often drift into this middle level of difficulty for everything, where the easy runs are run too hard, causing the scheduled hard runs to become slower due to fatigue; keep the hard runs hard and the easy runs easy is the accepted wisdom. So with that thought, I punched in the necessary numbers to get me running at faster than 5k pace and away I went.

The oddest sensation hit me during that first rep where everything felt almost too easy. I checked the metrics on my Garmin and I had indeed run the first rep at faster than 5k pace; 6:10 per mile to be precise. Maybe the second rep would feel harder? Nope, the second rep felt decent too at 6:12 pace. The third rep felt fine too at 6:09. It wasn’t until someway towards the end of the fifth rep where I started to feel the fatigue starting to hit me, but the intensity was way down on what I was typically used to from the session. I probably could have pushed on to run 8x reps at that kind of pace before boiling over.

So what exactly had happened to me? The only reasoning I could come to as to why the session felt so manageable was because I was well rested and well nourished going into the run. The previous run was just 10 miles with Dave at marathon pace, not hard enough to take it out of me. I had two days of decent sleep, waking up when I wanted to rather than when the alarm clock dictated. I was also beginning to carbo load slightly ahead of the upcoming Bramley 20 race on the Sunday. The combination was just what my body needed!

Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

A day with Mo Farah

Mo Farah's autobiography

After receiving Mo Farah’s autobiography for my birthday from Dan, and meeting the big man himself, I finally got round to finishing the book on my week off.

Ghost written by T. J. Andrews, the book covers Mo’s early life in his homeland of S0malia right through to winning the gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m at Moscow 2013. I don’t know how much input Mo had in the ghost writing of his autobiography, but I must say a sterling job has been done here; the tone, the choice of words and the delivery reads just like how Mo Farah would speak if he were telling you these excerpts from his life personally to you. I also felt the density of coverage to the various topics discussed was spot-on, where plenty of attention was given to Mo’s training and racing, and less about the areas of Mo’s life that are possibly less interesting to fans of Mo and fans of running in general. And let’s face it, most people that will read this autobiography will fall into those two camps and I doubt anybody would complain that there were too many pages devoted to running!

Mo Farah’s story is quite a contrast to Paula Radcliffe’s autobiography that I read last year. Paula, as talented as she is, simply isn’t a very interesting person to read about. She moaned an awful lot in her book about how she should have won a lot of races, and how nothing ever seemed to go her way. Compare this to Mo, where he did lose a lot of races before he started to win, but he did something about it. He changed his training, choosing to live with Kenyan runners for a period of time to observe and learn how they became the best. In fact, he is credited as the first Brit to head out to train in the Rift Valley with the Kenyans where others have only gone out to train at altitude. He changed coaches several times until he found an arrangement that worked for him. And also, he’s just less injury prone or at least he and his ghost writer chose not to dwell too much on his injuries.

I was incredibly satisfied with Mo’s autobiography bar two things: the abrupt ending and the exclusion of his 2014 London Marathon. Mo admits several times in the book that the career of a professional athlete is incredibly short and an awful lot of content is covered in the 350+ pages. However, I do think we still have a lot to see from Mo, especially in road racing. The Emperor, Haile Gebrselassie, conquered the track and then conquered the roads with a career spanning at least 20 years. The choice to publish Mo’s autobiography so soon was a mistake in my opinion, at the cost of his Great North Run performance against Haile and Kenenisa Bekele. There is one photo included of the three-way showdown in South Shields and that’s all that is mentioned of that fantastic race. Everybody also wants to see Mo do well at the marathon and his current coach, Alberto Salazar is the man to get him there as a contender. Perhaps the autobiography will be revisited in the future with an updated run including these two events and more?

Anywho, a fantastic read for anybody keen to learn more of the great man himself.

6 miles with Oli

My old school friend, Oli, was back in town with a similar week off to me and expressed some interest in getting a run in. I had 6 miles planned at around marathon pace so this would be perfect.

The weather had really perked up, with blue skies and just a bit of wind to accompany us. The route I had planned out was two modified runs of the Parkrun route, cutting out the beginning and an ending that would not include the new hill!

I had arrived quite early and embarked on a short warm-up lap around the lake. We set off once Oli had arrived, only to be greeted by a detour due to flooding near the small duck pond, though the rest of the park was in tip-top shape.

Our first mile was a touch slow, though we quickly picked up the pace to meet our target. This did eventually take its toll on Oli where the gap between us grew larger and larger; he proposed that he went on to run the long lap next and I would run the short lap and rendezvous later at the Mac. With the permission to go, it was like somebody had lit a fire underneath me and my pace started to climb. Looking at my splits, I would have royal flushed too if it wasn’t for a pesky head wind at one stage where it felt like I was running straight into a wall.

It was nice to be running at and above marathon pace, after weeks of slower efforts.

Afterwards, we warmed-down with a coffee and discussed the ins and outs of triathlon amongst other things.

Take a look at the Garmin data here.

Running like a girl

Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

Whilst at the new library in Birmingham on Monday, I had a scan of their sports section and found a few new additions to their catalogue. Along with the Runner’s World Guide to Racing, I also picked up Alexandra Heminsley’s Running Like a Girl.

Several weeks ago, Marathon Talk interviewed Alex and this piqued my interest in her book, sounding like a good read. Alex documents her entry into running and the many problems and oddities, undoubtedly similar to many women (and men) that decide to get into the sport.

Whilst it’s nice to read about the exploits of the professional athletes out there, it’s also equally as rewarding sometimes to read about those at the opposite end of the spectrum and Alex’s tales have been quite humbling. Whilst I am a sub-4 hour marathon runner (and hopefully sub-3:30 soon), it’s remarkable to read about people that are sometimes out on the course for 5 or more hours.

Definitely worth your time and don’t let the title put off you blokes out there, unless you plan to read it on the train…

Sports massage #2

You can tell I’ve had a week off by how long this latest update is, can’t you?

I popped back to the sports therapy college for another round of massage now that they’ve diagnosed my tight hamstrings and adductors. My physio student working on me for the evening was a girl named Cat; I always love to learn more about the students that I’m paired with and Cat’s interesting fact is she’s into Olympic weight lifting! She had an upcoming lifting competition and told me all about the ins and outs of her hobby. What I respected most was that she acknowledged that it weight lifting is clearly a male dominated arena, but did not allow this to put her off, instead utilising her male company to help her train harder and more effectively.

She got straight to work on my adductors, stretching them out and working out any kinks in them. I invited Cat to really lay into me, which I’m sure she really relished! She did the same with my hamstrings and I can still feel the bruising 48 hours later whilst I type this out on the sofa!

Cat also taught me a couple of stretches that should help iron out my adductors for the future. Remember folks, if ever you’re ever asked by a physiotherapist about whether you stretch or not, the best answer you can give is “yes, but I could always stretch some more”!

Cardiff Parkrun

In a bizarre turn of events, two of my three favourite Parkruns have had to be cancelled this weekend. Cannon Hill was called off due to a lack of management team available and Newport Parkrun was cancelled due to fallen trees from the recent storms. So, it was off to Cardiff I went with Philip in tow.

The rain was absolutely lashing down at 8:30am in the morning but eased up on the approach to Cardiff, clearing up entirely by the time we got to Bute Park. Cardiff Parkrun were celebrating their 6th anniversary and one regular was also the first to join the 250 club. I had a bit of a catch-up with Daniel Luffman who’s been consistently running sub-20 ever since he first broke through the time barrier sometime last year. I first got to know Daniel because our abilities happened to pit us against each other each time I ran in Cardiff; Daniel really helped to push me on during my earliest Cardiff Parkruns and we even found ourselves bumping into each other at a number of local Welsh races. Funnily enough, his targets for the year are identical to mine, hoping to score a sub-19 5k, a sub-40 10k and a sub-90 half marathon.

Due to the Bramley 20 race tomorrow, I tactically chose to rein myself in and only run at threshold pace. Without a warm-up mile, going into the run with a cold start wasn’t pleasant. The run itself was nothing special and to be perfectly honest, I ran it mainly to go towards earning my 100 club t-shirt now that I’m pretty close (83 runs completed). I pretty much nailed the pacing, as you can see from how smooth the pacing graph is. Speeding up towards the end, one noob decided to not run through the finish line and stopped dead right in front of me as I was coming back in. Inevitably, I crashed right into him, the next guy along smacking into me and the next guy smacking into him. The plonker then took his barcode out to try and get it scanned by the finish line marshal and started walking the wrong way back towards the runners now crossing the finish line! How could one guy get it so, so wrong?

I helped myself to some post-run nutrition in the shape of some very nice “6” shaped shortbread cookies that somebody had kindly baked, whilst having a debrief with Daniel who had just dipped under 20 minutes with 19:54. The heavens then opened up for a torrential downpour that soaked everyone and everything. I truly felt sorry for the runners still out on the course, but even more so for the marshals and volunteers that would have to wait until the last runner had finished. To these people that lay on a free timed 5k for us each week, I tip my imaginary hat to you!

Take a look at the Garmin data here.

Bramley 20

For the full write-up of my Bramley 20 experience, please head over here.

Here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Never leave a man behind…

Unless he insists he’s okay with it.

Even on group runs of just three or four people, sometimes one runner will fall off the pace and drift behind. This may happen even if no one is particularly “pushing the pace” and even if the straggler doesn’t have a habit of telling knock-knock jokes (though this might increase his odds of being dropped).

This leaves the lead group with several choices.

A. Continue at their faster pace and leave the straggler to his own devices.

B. Slow down until the straggler until the straggler catches up, and then either:

1. Maintain this slower pace for the duration of the run.

OR

2. Resume the previous,  and see if the straggler can hold on.

C. Send a delegate back to assess the situation and give the straggler a chance to say “You guys go ahead.”

D. Wait for a volunteer or volunteers to offer to join the straggler and finish the run with him, in effect splitting the group run into two (smaller group) runs.

Option A should never be realistically considered. Leaving someone behind without at least acknowledging the situation just ain’t right – even if he does have a horrible sense of humour.

Option B1 is nice, provided the new pace isn’t painfully slow and the remainder of the run isn’t too long; it is necessary if the straggler is the only one in the group who knows the way back.

B2 is acceptable if you know the straggler is a strong runner who likely just experienced a bad stretch and might consider a slower pace patronizing.

Options C and D are equally courteous and most likely to please the greatest number of people.

One corollary to this rule: it’s fine to ask once or twice if a straggler is okay or wants you to slow down for him. Asking three or more times, however, is more likely to annoy than to help. Take the straggler at his word and run accordingly.

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