This week’s running – 3rd to 9th of March

What's that strange bright thing in the sky?

Hello sunshine, my old friend!

This week was all about going hard and going long.

Massage Monday

The Silverstone Half Marathon had left a tiny bit of DOMs in my legs, particularly my quads, so I asked Damian to focus there during my sports massage session at the college. Curious to see how the regular stretching and massage has affected my flexibility (along with the race the day before), we measured the range of motion in my hamstrings and were left in shock – over 150 degrees of flexibility versus just 130 degrees one week earlier! Now, granted this only brings me into average for flexibility but it’s a huge step up from where I was with 112 – 119 degrees only a couple of weeks ago.

Damian also provided me with a theraband to help stretch my hamstrings further – perfect for when I’m on the couch watching TV.

Jewellery Quarter hill reps

On the way to the Silverstone Half Marathon, Dave and I were discussing the pros and cons of doing intervals on a treadmill. The one major con that affects me is the variance of treadmills that are supposedly ‘calibrated’. I try and stick to three treadmills at my gym and personally, I feel that’s still one too many but what can you do if it’s busy and there’s only one treadmill free?

I wanted some new speedwork stimuli and given the slightly brighter evenings we’re now encountering, I figured I would give some hill reps a bash here in the Jewellery Quarter. The hill I have previously run up and down is a touch short in my opinion at just shy of 400m. It starts off flat and then turns into an incline, so it’s not an out and out hill but it does at least allow for a lead up to attack it hard. I decided to forgo pacing assistance from my Garmin, running each rep on feel alone. As you can see from the recorded Garmin data below, the splits are remarkably close in pace from just a gut feeling!

Take a look at the Garmin data here.

6 miles along Hagley Road

I don’t know what happened to me on Thursday but it was another one of those runs where nothing seemed to click. I never really settled into the pace and the headwinds followed in both directions (how is that supposed to work?) to really drain me of resources. I still managed to get a few miles in at marathon pace, so not a complete write-off but enough to leave me licking my wounds.

Here’s the Garmin data.

Cannon Hill Parkrun and the Jantastic target

This is the first year where I’ve participated in the Jantastic challenge, designed by the guys at Marathon Talk as a way to help motivate runners, and to keep them motivated through some of the toughest training months of the calendar. January was relatively easy where runners simply entered how many runs they thought could be committed to per week. February upped the ante slightly by having runners commit to one specific distance for a long run per week. March is without a doubt the toughest of the bunch, requiring runners predict a finish time for one all out effort over a distance of their choice. The reason why this particular target troubles so many is because it is based on an honest self-assessment of ability, rather than an idealised goal target. Run slower than your target and you’re penalised; run too fast and you’re penalised. My particular target over 5k is a finish of 19:30; realistic but I knew it would hurt!

Dave and I had decided before Cannon Hill Parkrun that we would try and hit our identical targets in the form of a race between the two of us. A lot can change in 24 hours, where we were both feeling pretty damn good on Friday but both felt like shit come Saturday morning due to late nights (me), pizza and booze (Dave). I still wanted to have a stab at 19:30 and went out accordingly…

Mile 1 flew by superbly, with a split just slightly faster than target race pace. This is normally how I run my best 5k times and everything was shaping up nicely. I continued to chase runners down but at some point in mile 2, I found myself running on my own for several minutes and this was enough to allow the pacing rot to set in; the chasing group behind me were too far back to drop down to and the group in front of me were just out of reach and would have made me blow if I attempted to close the gap. Mile 3 was even more of a shocker in terms of pace and the distance I had put between Dave and me had been completely eroded away. To his credit, Dave did make his presence known to give me a chance to latch on to him and sprint the remaining 400m to the finish; I was spent and had nothing left in the tank and let him go off into the distance. The girl just in front of me was slowing ever so slightly as we attacked the hill and I managed to reel her in, crossing the line with her for the same finish time of 19:40.

Despite the less than stellar performance, I was quite pleased with the outcome and if I was in better condition that morning, I’m sure I would have hit 19:30.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

21 miles of north Birmingham canals

Judging by me currently typing this blog entry up whilst wearing shorts, a vest and flip-flops, I think it’s safe to say we’re firmly in spring now and winter is but a distant memory behind us. I only had 15 miles scheduled for today but given how pleasant the weather was outside, I wanted to tackle 21 miles under warmer conditions as an opportunity to acclimatise to a potentially warm race day in London. Last year, the UK had a dumping of snow just 4 weeks before race day leaving no chance to prepare. Race day was a warm 15 degrees with no cloud cover, leaving myself and many others to wilt in the sun. Not this year!

I loaded my CamelBak up with a litre of Nectar fuel – 250ml more than usual to account for the additional mile and warm climate. I also wore my vest for the first time outdoors in a non-race environment; a real contrast to the tights and long sleeve shirts I’ve been wearing as of late on my long runs!

It took a few miles for me to settle into long run pace but once there, I was quite happily just knocking the miles back one by one. Early on into my run, three older women on bikes decided to overtake me, which was fine. Shortly ahead, I caught up to them as they were dicking about through the canal gates and then up one of the lock inclines! If you’re going to overtake me, then you’d better bloody well do it and not hinder me any further! I think they quickly realised that they needed to let a bit of distance develop between their group and me; I never did see them again for the rest of my run.

The sun was slowly taking its toll on me, especially as I was running from 10am through to 1pm where it was at its highest in the sky. There was also a slight headwind on the portion of the canal beside Star City, making me work ever so slightly harder to maintain the same target pace. During the first lap, this was not a problem but I prayed it would subside by the time I came through on my second and third laps.

At around mile 16, everything suddenly became a lot tougher. It was hotting up all around me and there was no hiding from the sun apart from when I ran under bridges or through tunnels. Carrying the additional liquid in my CamelBak had obviously weighed me down more than usual and I was starting to regret not carrying any additional energy gels. Whilst I was regularly sipping away at the Nectar Fuel, I was also conscious that I didn’t want to over-do it and run out with several miles left to go. Mile 19 nearly broke me, mentally, and it’s not surprising that it was also my slowest mile split after warming up.

I had miscalculated the distance slightly, originally thinking that  3 laps of the canals would bring me home with 21 miles under my legs. The actual distance was more like 20 miles, so I decided to run through Brindley Place towards the Soho Loop and back to top everything off. My brain finally decided  to let me open up the throttle in the final mile for my fastest split of the day (though not dramatically so). I’d done it, in the sun and heat but now I was almost a mile from home so I began my very slow walk back to the flat.

This particular long run definitely felt tougher than my most recent 20 miler, with or without the finish at Edgbaston Reservoir. Mind you, if marathon training was easy then every Tom, Dick and Harry would be doing it and that’s definitely not the case.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

It’s time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Acknowledge fellow runners in public, but be cool about it

This assumes, of course, that you can identify fellow runners in the first place.

How can you spot a fellow runner out of context? Lots of ways. Tan lines, for starters. Telltale wristwear. (A Timex Ironman, funky Nike watch, or chunky GPS unit is a strong clue.) Sporty sunglasses. Race tees or technical shirts. Beat-up running shoes. (They’ve outlived their usefulness for actual running, you know, but are great for wearing out and about.) A copy of Runner’s World or Running Times tucked under an arm. And above all: a certain lean, gaunt look in the face – even if the person in question is not otherwise particularly lean or gaunt. (You know “the look” when you see it.)

Acceptable forms of acknowledgement include the following:

  • Brief eye contact and subtle nod

… Actually, that’s about it. We runners are a dignified, understated bunch. If we weren’t, we’d be golfers.

Under extraordinary circumstances – e.g., if the fellow runner is wearing the t-shirt of a race that you have run – you may verbalize this fact. This is especially true at airports, for reasons that have never been made clear.

Otherwise, the nod is plenty.

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