It was just me and the clock… And I won!
This week was all about learning to hurt again and beating my best.
4x 800m reps at Edgbaston Reservoir
I was pretty fired up for Tuesday’s session. I’d had a very good race at the Two Castles 10k only two days prior and I wanted to put my body to the test with some sharp efforts.
After the usual 1.5 mile warm-up lap around the reservoir, I noticed a nasty headwind that had picked up somewhat. Likely to be a problem on the outwards rep but then also likely to give me a little boost on the return rep, or so I hoped.
Launching into the first 800m rep, the headwind attacked me aggressively. I fought against it to try and hit my target pace of 3:47/km and whilst this was successful, this left me absolutely shagged for the remaining 400m or so, which explains the huge chasm in time between my first and third rep. The not so smooth terrain also meant my Flyknit Racers just weren’t cutting the mustard when it came to traction – my Kiger trail shoes would have been a much wiser choice.
The second rep was very much a repeat of the first, but this time being hit by another headwind in the remaining 400m.
Things finally went my way in the final two reps when the wind died down and I ploughed on through to the end. A fellow runner noticed my laboured breathing afterwards and asked how many laps of the reservoir I’d done; when I told him I was only running 800m reps, you could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t quite get why distances of only 800m would leave me looking so wrecked.
I definitely noticed my legs didn’t feel nearly as fresh as they could have, clearly suffering from some residual fatigue from Sunday’s 10k race.
Here’s the Garmin data for this session.
Worcester City Half Marathon
Spectators will get to see runners 5 times at the Worcester City Half Marathon!
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail, the old adage goes. If I’m going to try and go for a sub-90 minute finish in October’s Cardiff Half Marathon, then I need to get some good quality long run training in place and also accurately benchmark where my half marathon ability is. Running at speed for long durations is difficult on your own or even as a pair, so Dave and I have chosen to enter the Worcester City Half Marathon for the very purpose of treating it as a training run. Come to think of it, it’s far enough out from the Cardiff Half that I could even try and go for a PB; whether I succeed or fail, there will be ample time to recover and continue training again. I’m also thinking I will need to begin doing 6x mile reps at half marathon pace to help get the body used to the pace in practice.
The race itself will be an interesting experience for two reasons. The first reason is the course is around 2.6 miles, which equates to roughly 5 laps (great value for spectators!). I’m not a fan of running laps where I find the experience mind numbing. The second reason is the race has a capacity of just 750 runners. Assuming the usual 20% drop out rate, that’s approximately 600 or so runners that are likely to compete and that’s assuming the event sells out. It also takes place on the 17th of August, so dead in the middle of the summer holiday season and one day before Lis and I go away on holiday. With all the plans of Dave and me running a half marathon with other runners, it may still end up being just the two of us for long stretches!
10k along Hagley Road
I’m normally not keen on the Thursday 6 miler after work. I’m tired, hungry and there’s way too much traffic about. One of those things I can rectify and I now eat a second banana before lacing up. The tiredness and traffic, less I can do about those things.
Last week’s stellar run may have been a fluke but no, lightning struck twice and I ended up having another cracking bash on Broad Street and Hagley Road. Temperatures were in the low 20s with no cloud cover; the sun was either hitting me directly from the front or the back so at least I’ll have an even tan.
I wore my heart rate monitor for some additional data – lo and behold, I averaged 151bpm (normally low 170s) average for the entire run to confirm that my body indeed found it easy at my typical Thursday run pace. This had convinced me to go and smack out a hard and fast Parkrun on Saturday.
And finally, let us spare a moment for my dearly departed MK1 orange Flyknit Racers, which died on this run. I’ve had them for almost 2 years and in that time, many a PB was conquered in them, from 5k all the way to the marathon. I’m amazed they lasted as long as they did with 350+ hard miles put through them; it’s typical for racing flats to crap out somewhere between 200 and 300 miles. My MK2 red Flyknit Racers are showing similar signs of wear and tear by comparison after only 250+ miles, so Nike definitely cut a few corners in the second generation production.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
I feel the need for speed at Wolverhampton Parkrun – photo by Lucy Cambridge
Wanting to capitalise on my conditioning, I sought to have a bash at my long-standing 5k PB of 19:18. But where, oh where to run? Cannon Hill now accurately matches its namesake with the addition of a short, sharp hill at the very end. Cardiff is too far to travel for just one day (and I’m in Wales next week anyway). Doing some research on local events, Wolverhampton Parkrun looked almost perfect on paper. It’s flat, fast and consists of 3x identical laps around the main perimeter of West Park. Also, I think I perform better when I have limited knowledge of a course; I can all too often psych myself out if I haven’t hit a certain split by point X on familiar territory such as Cannon Hill. Only downsides I could see were lower attendance numbers of runners in the 19:00 to 20:00 minute range than either Cannon Hill or Cardiff, and there’s a strong likelihood that I’d be lapping some of the slower runners after a couple of rounds of the park.
3x laps of West Park make up Wolverhampton Parkrun
Due to the unfamiliar journey and event location, Lis and I set off much earlier than normal to get there in good time to also allow for a decent warm-up. Each lap of West Park is pretty much a mile, so it made for a good reccy session to scope out the terrain beforehand. What I did learn was that the portion of the course nearest to the start and finish is actually on a slight incline, similar to the approach to the Cannon Hill tearooms; not dramatic by any means but not what you want to hit three times at speed! The rest of the course is actually very flat and the terrain underfoot is tarmac for a very fast and grippy run. Upon finishing my warm-up the run director spotted me and knew I was coming, so welcomed me personally – a very friendly event indeed! A few 50m strides at speed and I was all set for a stab at a new 5k PB.
Oddly, the bandstand at West Park is cordoned off so it wasn’t used as the meeting/focal point but everybody gathered around there anyway for the briefing. There was a really nice size and atmosphere to the event – not too big and not too small. We were ushered over to the nearby startline, which makes Cannon Hill’s walk seem comically long! After a bit of banter, we were released into what became one of the fastest starts I’ve ever encountered.
Running with the chase group
The course has two wide corners at the start and finish for minimal slow-down, which didn’t help the breakneck pace I was running at. Glancing at my Garmin, it reported that I was roughly 8-9 seconds ahead of the 3:50/km target pace – what my speedwork sessions have been focusing on! I kept with the lead pack for maybe 400m before easing off the gas to fall back to the chasing group. This group began to split up once we approached the 2k marker, so I was running in no-man’s land again, *sigh*.
Between 2k and 3k, two guys overtook me with some speed; I tried to hang on to them but I couldn’t match their pace, clearly having overdone it so early on. I began to lap slower runners and thankfully, none of them got in my way to help me maintain a smooth and efficient line (generally keep left at Wolverhampton).
Somewhere around 3k, I did pass two different guys who were unrelated to the event, running barefoot! I’d have congratulated them on a good effort but I had to save every available breath for my PB attempt. I tried steadying my breathing and that seemed to buy me some time until 4k.
Final push towards the finish!
Going into 4k, another runner from behind managed to pass me by, but he quickly opened up a 5 second gap to leave me in no-man’s land again. Increasingly, more lapped runners began to appear before me, so I used those furthest away to reel in – anything to help dull the pain of the fire in my lungs and the lactic acid in my legs. I spied the lake in the corner of my eye and I knew the finish wasn’t far. The incline and my choo-choo train impression also returned to make the remaining few hundred meters a misery. Entering the final corner, I kicked with what was left in the tank, arms pumping as hard they could to take advantage of the long, flat straight towards the finish funnel. Thankfully, the guy in front of me had maintained his 5 second lead and there was nobody behind me for ages, so the run director on timing duty would get an accurate button press for me. In the blink of an eye, I’d crossed the line for the most intense run I’ve completed in a long while.
A well deserved collapse finish for a new 19:08 5k PB at Wolverhampton Parkrun
I collected my token and had to exit the funnel to collapse on the grass. My legs were like jelly and my breathing was going as fast as I had just run. Looking at my Garmin, I’d successfully clocked a 19:08 finish – an almighty 10 seconds faster than what I’d run with Dave last summer on home turf. Lis came over and broke some additional news to me – I had also won the Parkrunner of the month award over at Cannon Hill! Sod’s law I wasn’t around the one time I actually needed to be there and to make matters worse, I wouldn’t be back at Cannon Hill for another two weeks until my 100th run (there will be cake). Oh well – at least I had a shiny-new PB against my name!
I really enjoyed my brief time at Wolverhampton Parkrun. West Park is a very pleasant and well-kept venue and dare I say it, in better maintained shape than Cannon Hill Park. The tarmac was smooth and even, without a pothole in sight. There weren’t any aggressive locals, purposely walking their dogs to make a statement against Parkrun. There’s also plenty of free parking immediately around the entire park perimeter and also along the many surrounding streets. For out and out speed, it still doesn’t match Cardiff Parkrun, which really is conducive to fast times with its even flatter, out and back course. I’ll definitely be back again later in the summer for another bash at a 5k PB, possibly with Dave in tow for another showdown.
Here’s the Garmin data for Wolverhampton Parkrun.
EDIT – Oh yeah, this morning when I was sorting out my gear from yesterday, I spotted the secret to my 19:08 PB – I had unknowingly worn two left socks during the run!
10 miles out and back to Bournville
During the summer, I typically try and cover 10 miles or so as a Sunday long run to keep some semblance of endurance in me; it also makes life easier when I’m trying to build up mileage for half marathon season in the autumn.
Today’s long run took me out to Bournville and back via the canals. I wasn’t so sure about the condition of the towpaths due to recent rain showers, but Iain assured me that they were in good shape – and he wasn’t kidding. The warmer climate has done a wondrous job of drying up the mud, leaving behind a nice dirt track that’s firm underfoot but won’t destroy joints like concrete pavements will.
Despite the late England vs Italy World Cup match last night (I didn’t watch it), there were plenty of runners, cyclists and walkers out and about at 9:30am. By contrast, the geese with their goslings were notably absent bar one family that was positively tame towards me passing by.
I took it quite easy on this run, mindful that I’d absolutely thrashed myself silly during yesterday’s PB outing. I’m a firm believer of hitting the quality sessions hard (speedwork and Parkruns) and therefore running the longer distance runs between easy and steady pace. During 2011, I was always drifting into that awkward middle pace – my fast runs were never fast enough and my distance runs were always too hard. My body was a mess with a dodgy left knee that I couldn’t run on without a knee support, near-chronic IT band syndrome that only expensive sports massage could resolve, and a weak immune system that meant I was riddled with constant colds. For me, it’s no longer simply about training harder but training smarter and asking myself, “What is this run actually doing to make me a stronger runner”?
One thing that did make me chuckle was my return to home. I was at the bottom of Newhall Hill when an older gent in casual clothes saw me dash past him. “Bloody hell!” he cried and he then attempted to keep up with me! After about 10m, I turned to him and said, “You don’t even want to try and keep up with me!” whilst a huge grin spread across my face. He stopped to laugh and then left me to it.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
And now it’s time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:
Be careful where and whom you ask for lube
It’s a simple question: “Do you have any body lubricant?” And asked in a speciality running store or at a race expo, it’ll get you a simple yes or no answer.
Asked in other contexts, however – a drugstore, a supermarket, a singles retreat – it could yield anything from a raised eyebrow to a very unwelcome invitation.