This week’s running – 31st of March to 6th of April

This sums me up perfectly

Yep, that’s me exactly!

This week was all about running somewhere new and being in the thick of the taper.

Jantastic – mission complete 

Three months later and the Jantastic challenge is finally over. Well done to everybody that participated and a real hero’s cheer for Dave who achieved 100%. Only a few hundred runners managed to achieve 100% out of the tens of thousands that participated. Shame he was late to the party when it came to joining Team Cannon Hill Parkrun – 100%’s worth of points and none of them were of recognised because he wasn’t there from the beginning!

January was a shaky month for me where I’d caught the mother of all colds and foolishly played one of my jokers too soon (it grants you immunity for half a week’s runs), giving me grace for one missed run but completely wrecking the following week where I didn’t run a single step.

February was a perfect month, with 100% of my prescribed runs and distance logged to perfection.

March wasn’t bad with just 10 seconds between me and my predicted max effort target of 19:30 over 5k. I did let myself down with mileage that was a little too ambitious at the end of the month (I forgot it was taper time), losing out on 5 miles.

In total, I scored 91.5%. I should have been nearer 95% if I’d have played my joker properly but looking on the bright side, it definitely made my running more consistent over the three months. My training normally goes like clockwork anyway, but knowing that there’s a score to be had and several people following your progress, it keeps you on the straight and narrow.

Will I do it again next year? You betcha!

Brighton runaround

Before Monday, I had never visited Brighton before despite all the positive things I had heard about the place. Due to a meeting near the south coast, I opted to stay overnight in Brighton and get a taster of what it had to offer.

After driving non-stop for 3 hours, there was nothing better than lacing up for a run to stretch my legs. The sun was out and positively begging me to set foot on Brighton’s seafront for a run. Conscious that I’d covered 10 tough miles at marathon pace the day befor, all I wanted was a 5k-recovery run at a very easy pace. I took my Garmin with me but paid no attention to it at all and instead relied on pacing by feel.

I chose to head left of the pier towards Brighton Marina. It was so nice to be able to run in a straight line on well-maintained paths without having to stop for traffic or other obstacles. Early on into my run, I saw a guy in the distance wearing a red t-shirt not dissimilar to the ones you see at Parkrun. As I got closer, I realised it was indeed a Parkrun 50 t-shirt, but rather an old-school one from Nike and not Adidas. Nike was the original sportswear sponsor before Adidas took up the mantle, and from various reports, the Adidas t-shirts are actually superior. Anyway, I was wearing my Marathon Talk t-shirt (black t-shirt in the sun – big mistake) and he noticed the 26.2 emblazoned on my chest and we both gave each other a knowing nod in regards to our chosen running kit for the day. Yes, I am sad like that.

I felt fantastic on the run and incredibly free without the pressure of pace or distance etc. Here’s the Garmin data.

The following morning, I decided to head out again but this time, covering the western side of the seafront from the pier. There was a distinct chill in the air at 7:15am and this was despite the sun coming out to play. There were already plenty of runners and dog walkers out on the seafront doing their thing; it all kind of reminded me of New York and Central Park where if you’ve got a location and scenery that’s so pleasant, why wouldn’t you? I’d not run that early in the morning for almost six months and it caught me off-guard. I was still half asleep, slightly dehydrated and hungry but the novelty of running on pancake flat ground on the south coast kept my spirits high. The pacing of the run was similar to the previous afternoon where I warmed-up gently for the first mile, ran steadily for the second and brought it all home for the third. I even estimated the distance perfectly to finish right outside my hotel.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience to run in Brighton. I’m going to miss the well-kept paths to run on, especially when I return to Hagley Road… Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Thursday hill work

This wasn’t really a session, more a part of the tapering process to try and stay sharp. I was talking to a French colleague of mine recently who has run the Paris and New York Marathons in the past and when I asked how he typically tapered, he told me he didn’t run a single step in the two weeks before either race. “THIS IS MADNESS!”, I thought, followed by Gerard Butler bellowing, “THIS. IS. SPARTA!!!”, whilst kicking me into a bottomless pit. Ahem… Anyway, I’ll talk more about tapering later on in this entry.

Conscious that I didn’t run any fast efforts in Brighton, I wanted to get some hill reps under my feet. I normally do six reps but I cut things right down to just three; enough to get my legs turning over and my lungs working hard, but not enough to leave me fatigued. I did wonder about the smog but in the end, I zipped up my man-suit and just got on with it.

After a decent one mile warm-up, I charged up and down the hill at faster than 5k pace for what felt like some good speed. I did find the pacing a little awkward on such short reps of only 0.18 miles (the length of the hill); only one or two seconds too fast or slow and it ended up showing wildly different times for pace per mile. Perhaps switching to kilometres will help with accuracy.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Ed and I were speaking earlier in the week about how to tackle the final Parkrun before our respective London Marathons. I was originally thinking to run it as a tempo run of around 6:45 per mile but Ed had raced a 10k last year the week before his sub-3 hour Manchester Marathon which left him feeling sharp and confident for the following week. With that alone, my mind had been made up to try and run a swift 5k, so something between 19:4X and 19:5X.

The warm-up had me feeling rubbish as usual and my triple espresso didn’t help things either.

The first mile was more or less on target pace but as always, the second mile/4th km rot had made its mark and I my pace dropped. I decided to knock things back a touch, knowing that I couldn’t make up 25 seconds; the aim of having a run with a faster leg turnover had been achieved so I need not batter myself senseless during this taper period.

Dave had run a strong 19:24 and Nigel ran a PB of 19:35 despite visiting a beer festival the evening before – well done gents!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 miles with 3 at marathon pace

The plan for this run was to head out for a few miles with 3 or so miles at marathon pace. I originally wanted to run towards Bournville via the canals but Iain’s mud bath experience from earlier in the week put me off, so it would be the northern canal loop again.

Despite the sky being grey, it was a balmy 14 degrees outside and there was a definite humidity in the air. The first mile had me sweating like a pig but I managed to settle into approx 8:20 pace without much trouble. After 4 miles, I launched into marathon pace and also strong headwinds. The relative warmth had caught me off-guard and thankfully, I had an Isogel to sink which perked me up for the final mile at marathon pace; the instant sugar hit made my pace spike and I had to rein myself back into running 7:50 per mile. Once 3 miles had been completed, I dropped my pace back to warm-down but found my body wanting to constantly drift back into marathon pace – not a bad sign at all.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Taper twitches and race week plans

I don’t know about the rest of you with spring marathons that have just been or coming up but I’ve finally reached that stage of the taper that I loathe the most. I’m full of nervous energy at the moment and I can’t stop thinking about next week. Almost everything I’m doing at the moment has a direct or indirect link to next week’s race.

Aaaaand breathe in. Breathe out.

This happened last year before the London Marathon and has typically happened each and every time before a major A-half marathon. It doesn’t seem to happen to me before 5k and 10k races, mainly because I race them so frequently and the losses are easier to bear.

I’ve brought my mileage right down where I only covered 10 miles last week at marathon pace with Dave and covered 10 miles this week, with 3 at marathon pace. Intensity is still present where I’m still doing sessions but with less volume. My energy levels are high and unlike last year, I’m watching what I eat during this taper period to ensure I don’t put on weight. And speaking of weight, I’ve surpassed my race-weight goal of 9st 5lbs and am now rocking in at 9st 4lbs! I guess my body repairing the trauma of marathon training and my reduced calorie intake have worked hand in hand to bring my weight down where I was steadily weighing in at 9st 7lbs before. Theories out there suggest that for every pound of weight that you can shed, you’re then potentially between two and five seconds faster per mile thanks to an improved power to weight ratio. Of course, you can drop too much weight at the cost of muscle loss. In terms of BMI, I’m still half a point out of being in the dead centre of normal for my height and weight category.

I know I feel less than stellar right now but I accept it’s for the best and it’ll all soon be over in less than seven days.

I am planning to get next week’s update out on Friday, followed by an entry all about my 2014 London Marathon out on the Monday after.

Training-wise for race week, I’m going to knock volume and intensity down even further with the following:

  •       Tuesday – 3x hill reps at 5k pace
  •       Thursday – 3 miles easy
  •       Saturday – 1 mile easy

I have also booked Friday off from work to make the trip down to London to visit the expo and collect my race number. The running gods clearly see potential in me, otherwise they wouldn’t have put me back into this year’s race. All I need them to do is also put me into a starting pen that’s between 3 and 5 and I’m good. I want to soak up the atmosphere at the expo and I would like to add a detailed section about it in my race report. I’m also hoping I might spot Martin Yelling and Tom Williams there so will of course be wearing my Marathon Talk t-shirt.

On Saturday, Lis and I will be making our way down to London to check into our hotel (the Ibis at Blackfriars) to be later joined for dinner by our respective parents. I’m hoping I get a decent night’s sleep in the hotel unlike last year. People say the night before doesn’t matter so much as long as you’ve had a good few days’ worth of sleep. I call bullshit on this because I know if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep before a race and it makes a world of difference to me.

Race day itself will consist of an early start of maybe 06:30, breakfast, and then wandering over to Waterloo station for my train to Blackheath. Conveniently, Waterloo is only 10 minutes away by foot. I also plan to try and get a little bit of easy running in to warm-up on race morning; I know most guides say it’s not necessary but I know I personally take a long time to warm-up properly and a cold start doesn’t do me any good at all. The rest is up to my training and the running gods upstairs to look after me.

Goal-wise, I have the following:

  •       C-goal – to simply PB
  •       B-goal – to run sub-3:30
  •       A-goal – to run sub-3:25
  •       A*-goal – to run sub-3:20

The C-goal should be achievable under most circumstances. Last year’s finish time saw me back home with 3:52:31; in other words, if I run at my long run training pace from this year for the whole 26.2 miles, I should PB.

My B-goal is actually last year’s A-goal, which is to run sub-3:30. In hindsight, I would have been lucky to have achieved this last year; not impossible but it would have required everything to be right such as the weather, the starting pen and so on. I ran my long runs far too slow last year and the jump from training pace to race pace was just a little too much to sustain. If I run a steady race at 8 minutes per mile, I can do this.

My A-goal has the potential to happen if I run well and conditions are ideal. There’s 10 seconds difference per mile between this and the B-goal of 3:30 and realistically, I think I’m somewhere between the two, erring more towards this one.

And simply because miracles can happen on race day and I may have totally underestimated my fitness, sub-3:20 has been thrown into the mix. Pacing calculators are saying I can do 3:14 (somewhat generous) based on my recent 1:32 Silverstone half marathon. If we use the more conservative formula of doubling your half marathon and then adding 10%, I end up with a figure of 3:22 so not wild at all. I didn’t run Silverstone flat out and due to the windy conditions, I probably lost out on a minute or so.

You can of course follow my progress on race day by visiting the London Marathon website and typing in my name (Andy Yu) and my race number (8316). Each of my 5k splits (and half marathon I think) will be shown live so you can see whether I’m on, ahead or behind target.

Best of luck to everybody running a spring marathon. We’ve put in all the hard work and now’s the time to reap the rewards.

To close, here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Use your head when you stash your keys

If you’re like me, the vast majority of your runs begin and end at home or at the office. Every so often, though, you will drive somewhere to race or meet friends for a run. You will strip down to shorts, shirt and shoes. You will lock your car. And then you will stare at the tangle of keys, fobs, frequent-shopper cards, bottle openers, rabbits’ feet, Mini Mag-lites, and other assorted tchotchkes in your hand and wonder what the heck you should do with them.

You’ll be tempted to place them atop one of your tires. Don’t. That’s the first place a thief will look. (If you’re this person, you also “hide” your wallet in your shoe at the beach. Am I right?)

There are any number of more creative – and less thief-friendly alternatives.

One is to remove just your car key, then stow it In the pocket of your shorts or jacket, or in a special shoelace pouch designed for that purpose.

Another method, which I’ve heard of but never witnessed, involves placing your keys atop the tire of somebody else’s car. Which I guess would work well, unless that driver leaves before you do. Yet, another method is to drive a jalopy in such poor shape that no one in high right mind would ever want to steal it.

Personally, I encounter this situation whenever I meet friends for a run at the nearby Parkway. Usually, I lock up the car and take my keys with me – just for the first few minutes of the run, at which point I tuck them into the crook of a tree branch just off the path. Hasn’t failed me yet.

(Hint for car thieves in eastern Pennsylvania: It’s the tallish tree next to another tallish tree. With leaves.)

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