Cardiff Parkrun – the place where magic happens
This week was mostly about recovery and goals.
Rest and recovery
I think it was Mike that highlighted to me that I’d been hitting the speedwork pretty hard as of late and he was absolutely right. Coupled with regular racing in the form of Parkruns and Sunday 10ks, my body was screaming for an opportunity to just relax.
Trying not to become one of these “Do as I say, not as I do” people when it comes to training advice, I did nothing from Monday through to Wednesday; no running, no weights, nothing. By Thursday when I was ready for an easy 5k recovery jog, I could tell my body was on the right track again because it continually wanted to go faster; I purposely kept the strides short and lazy to keep the speed in check. I felt fresh at the end of the run – a feeling that I’ve not felt since the week off after the London Marathon.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
Blowing to win at Cardiff Parkrun – photo by NiallS
Under most circumstances, I would have taken it easy on Saturday’s Parkrun, almost wherever in the UK I ended up. But it was Cardiff, which changes things entirely. Lis and I were in Wales for Ben and Kate’s wedding; getting hitched at 12:30 gave me plenty of time to get to Cardiff and back for a sneaky bit of Parkrun tourism. And because it was Cardiff Parkrun, it would have been incredibly rude not to attack it hard. The last few times I’ve run at Blackweir Park, I was either tapering for a race the next day or had a monstrous marathon long run planned. Not this time – I was a free agent and didn’t want to waste the opportunity for a PB attempt, maybe even a sub-19 minute finish if the running gods deemed me worthy.
Saturday morning, I woke up feeling pretty shitty. My body was still screaming for a lie-in of some sort so confidence was pretty low. My pre-race breakfast of toast, an energy drink, a coffee and 2x beetroot juice shots didn’t do much to inspire me either.
I was on the road before 8am to give me plenty of time to get to Cardiff for a decent warm-up without any rush. Sometimes the tiny little things on race morning can make all the difference between hitting and missing goals. I arrived at the nearby Tesco and bumped into Gerwyn and Daniel. Explaining my plans for that morning, both were supportive of my endeavour and urged me on to go for it. Not wanting to disappoint, the pressure was indeed on…
The warm-up had me feeling awful. My legs were heavy, like I was running through treacle. There was no get up and go at all and I was seriously in doubt about the torture I was planning to put myself through with the very likely outcome that I would fail. Oh well, there’s only one way to find out whether you’re capable or not and that’s to have a bash. One strong espresso shot later and I was ready-ish to roll.
In a bid to try to better direct and herd runners into the right place in the start pen, marshals had drawn various boxes on the path in chalk; the first few metres were reserved for sub-18 runners, followed by sub-20, sub-22 and so on. A nice idea in principle, but for people chasing after PBs like me, this was largely ignored. On the run director’s shout of “Go”, the stampede began.
Charging off at sub-19 minute pace, I felt dreadful. Everything felt tight and I struggled to get into a rhythm early on. Bizarrely, there was plenty of room up front whereas normally, it’s a case of major heel clipping and pointy elbows. Daniel caught up to me very quickly but began to fall back once we hit 800m. I managed to find a nicely paced group to run with, consisting of a chap in a green compression vest in front and a White Rock Runner behind me.
At around 2k, the White Rock Runner decided to make a move to try and overtake, starting the first of 3 mini-battles out on the course for me. We continued to trade blows for another 500m or so before the sharpest turn on the route gave me the upper hand of the inside lane; within a few seconds, I created a rough 3-4m gap to keep him off my back.
The green vest guy ahead of me was still running at a consistent pace, so I stuck with him until 3k when my pace started to drop. I tried throwing a few small surges in to stay with him but he slowly crept away to leave me running solo. Not long afterwards, one guy came out of nowhere from behind to overtake me to lead; this was enough to spur me on to duke it out with him for another few hundred metres before I began to lose pace again.
4k was a death march for me and also signalled the return of my choo-choo train impression – always a good sign that I’m working hard. The lactic acid burn in my legs was more intense than my recent 19:08 PB. Looking at my Garmin, it said I was 10 seconds off target pace; I can normally put in a decent final km/mile performance so I knew it would be close for a PB but probably off for a sub-19 finish. The “800m to go” sign appeared and I began to drop my stride length to get my cadence up. As I passed the marshal at the “400m to go” sign, he shouted out, “The last 400m, you can still catch them!” He was absolutely right; I could still catch the three runners ahead if I put in an almighty kick. 200m left to go and I managed to find an extra gear to shift into and gritted my teeth. Before I knew it, I had caught up to the guy that had overtaken me and we crossed the finish line for a quick 1-2.
PB and sub-19 at Cardiff Parkrun!
Thankfully, the finish tokens were available just a few steps later so I was able to duck out of the queue and lean next to a tree to gather my thoughts and breath. In the hullabaloo of finishing, I had completely forgotten to check my Garmin. Clear as crystal, a big-fat 18:56 flashed up on the screen. No freaking way! I bloody did it! A PB and I had moved into a new league as Nigel Beecroft put in his tweet to me.
Gerwyn and Daniel caught up with me afterwards and shared in my good news. I had to cut the debrief short due to needing to hightail it back to get ready for Ben and Kate’s wedding, but not before a celebratory McDonalds breakfast to undo all the good work I’d put in that morning.
I later found out I also came second in my age category of 30-34, which is plain bonkers. There wasn’t a local race the next day and 544 total runners is quite typical for Cardiff Parkrun. Third or fourth is the best I could hope to get at Cannon Hill for comparison with a similarly attended Parkrun.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
I am absolutely chuffed to bits with the new PB. It’s taken some hard graft to get here and I’m glad it’s paid off. Having achieved the 5k summer goal, I’ve decided to revise it to become sub-18:30. I believe there’s more in the tank to give because I was nowhere near optimal race condition at Cardiff Parkrun. I felt much stronger going into my 19:08 PB at Wolverhampton Parkrun, which was much closer to a max effort. I’m looking forward to the day Dave’s back in tip-top 5k shape for the mother of all showdowns.
I can now revise my training to be slightly more biased towards a sub-40 10k and sub-90 minute half marathon. I am still annoyed that the jump in 5k ability is not translating upwards as quickly as I would like. I’m hoping the beautifully flat Magor Marsh in two weeks will at least grant me a fresh 10k PB for a confidence boost.
10 miles out and back to Usk
What a wedding. I’ve not seriously drunk for a good while (since Ben’s stag-do come to think of it) so several Stellas and tequilas hit me quite hard. I was a little hungover upon getting up but my resolve to get out for a long Sunday run was still strong.
I decided to head out towards Usk via the back roads rather than tackle the usual Llanhennock hills route, which simply would have destroyed me. I opted for no breakfast apart from an energy gel given the copious amounts of food I’d eaten at the previous day’s festivities.
Not having run more than 6 miles for the last few weeks, completion was of greater importance than pace. Hills are almost impossible to escape in Wales and a few lengthy rises were enough to sober me up. All in all, a good morning’s work that exposed a need to start going long again.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
It’s time for your weekly dose from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book (refers back to last week’s entry):
There will also always be someone faster than you
So don’t go getting cocky.