This week’s running – 25th to 31st of August 2014

Farewell summer

Farewell summer

This week was all about getting back into the groove.

3x 800m reps

I returned to Edgbaston Reservoir for a session and in hindsight, I should have eased myself back in gently.

The target pace was 3:40/km and it was clear after the first rep that it would be a struggle. The second and third rep became progressively slower and that’s when I knocked the session on the head. I think had I have been more conservative and dialled the pace back to 3:50/km, I’m confident I could have completed the session. Oh well, lesson learned the hard way.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Recovery run from work

Despite committing myself to this extra run in the middle of the week, this was only the second time I was able to do it!

Learning from last time, I left the majority of my stuff at work and only the essentials came home with me on the slow plod.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

2x 2 miles at target half marathon pace

The ambition was to run 3x 2 miles at target half marathon pace of 6:45/mile. Not easy at all. The last time I did this at Edgbaston Reservoir, I had to stop after 2x reps because I was spent.

With a day off from work to take care of various wedding related errands, I zipped over to Fox Hollies leisure centre to use their track. I figured the more predictable surface would allow for steadier pacing.

Launching into the first rep, a headwind continued to hit me on each of the 8 laps to make up a mile (OK, I know this is only 1600m and not 1609m). I was working hard but it wasn’t impossible. Dave had said to me again the previous evening that I should be able to complete 3x 2 miles with ease, highlighting that I had strung 6 miles together at a faster pace during my 10k PB. Races and solo sessions are very different beasts and finding the mental strength to keep going was a challenge.

My Garmin was flaking out ever so slightly, so I had to intervene with a manual lap button press – this obviously made accurate pacing that little bit trickier.

The second rep felt easier initially but once the recovery had worn off, things started to go pear shaped. I managed to hang on to the pace had to intervene again with the lap button. The pace was also a smidge too fast but I suppose 10 seconds difference over 2 miles is within race tolerance.

There was nothing left inside me for another 2 mile rep; possibly a 1 mile rep so perhaps I’ll modify the workout for next time.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

What I’m reading at the moment

I recently finished the Brownlee Brothers’ autobiography, Swim, Bike, Run whilst on holiday and a thoroughly enjoyable read it was. There’s a lot of discussion about their training and tactics, along with their rivalry with each other. Even as somebody that has little interest in swimming and cycling, I found it fascinating how the three disciplines stitch together to form triathlon.

Definitely worth your time.

I’m now working my way through Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. As much as I enjoy reading about the elites, I always love getting stuck into the words of the everyman runner, being one myself. More comments to come in due course.

Forest of Dean Parkrun

Forest of Dean Parkrun

So, who is this “Dean” that the forest belongs to?

Looking back at previous posts, it was back in January that I originally mentioned that I would like to sample Forest of Dean Parkrun. Various people familiar with the area had warned me of potential hazards, namely bears, boars and the locals!

Ed Barlow had also warned me not to chase after times, due to the unpredictable nature of the terrain. I also guessed that a reliable GPS signal would be hard to come by, so I threw any time targets out the window with a view to running purely on feel.

Lis and I got to the venue super early. I needed the loo and I believe one of the criteria for potential Parkrun courses is a nearby set of toilets – in this case, the leisure centre across the road. All well and good except the leisure centre was all locked up! Three other runners appeared and it seemed all four of us were visiting runners without much of a clue about how things worked. Somebody with a key eventually turned up but then it was apparent that there was no cubicle in the men’s’ toilets! Queuing up for the disabled toilet meant I had no time left for a warm-up…

At the start, I caught up with a few of the visiting runners I’d spoken to earlier. A regular came over to explain the course to us and he commented that he could always spot a new runner at Forest of Dean Parkrun due to their white socks. Apparently, it could get incredibly muddy out there.

Looking around me on the start line, I really got a feel for the size of the field. Forest of Dean Parkrun has a record attendance of just 139, so roughly 4 times smaller than Cannon Hill. The small field did worry me slightly; I had committed the course to memory but I still felt I needed somebody to follow, just in case. The run director called all the noobs forward to better explain the course, the directional signs and the terrain. On “Go”, we began dashing off into deepest, darkest Forest of Dean…

Without a warm-up beforehand, I was incredibly conscious not to go nuts early on. The field quickly dispersed and I found myself chasing a young club runner and somebody else. I wore my trail shoes for extra grip but I still had to keep my wits about me with the regularly changing terrain underfoot. Taking the most efficient line was difficult without a clearly defined route.

Once I’d overtaken the young club runner, I had to pick things up to keep the runners ahead of me in sight. I was full of adrenaline and it was at this point when I realised that I hadn’t taken my espresso shot. No caffeine, no beetroot juice and no warm-up – just great.

Spectators get pretty decent value for money. Lis and her parents had spotted me four times by moving only 20m or so away from the start line.

The forest offered amazing shelter from the elements and there was something very primitive about the venue. Because the Forest of Dean is a working forest, the organisers occasionally need to alter the course to accommodate things like fallen trees for an ever-evolving course.

My legs started to get a hammering from the terrain; muscles that rarely get used during my road runs were working overtime to keep me stable and upright.

As I suspected early on, my Garmin wasn’t able to keep up with me due to the tree canopies up above.

Andy Yu at Forest of Dean Parkrun

Forest of Dean Parkrun – mad as a box of frogs

With a rough 1km left to go, I had two chasing runners on my tail to pile on the pressure. Shortly afterwards, two marshals pointed out there were just 400m left to go; I had no idea how far this was in the context of the forest so I just kept going. I had almost forgotten that there was a final bend before the finish line, so I went slightly wide and was pleased to hold off the two guys chasing me all the way to the end.

I felt pretty rough after the line. I was very dehydrated and the lack of a warm-up had taken its toll on me. 21:29 was my official finish time and my Garmin had tracked me for 4.8km, chopping off 200m somewhere. In the grand scheme of things, this was a fair time in comparison to somewhere like Newport Parkrun, which is off-road but much flatter and more stable. Despite the poor preparation beforehand, I had a great time at Forest of Dean and would like to return for another crack. It’s not for everybody but for people looking for a different Parkrun experience, it certainly delivers.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 miles out and back to Usk

There’s a bit of a running gag (pun not intended) that I only seem to drink when I’m in Wales. Visiting Cardiff to see some old friends, I indulged in a few beers and as an incredibly infrequent drinker, the booze made itself known to me during this morning’s long run. I made sure to hydrate appropriately beforehand but due to a sudden influx of sunshine and warm temperatures, my body was sweating like a pig.

I did an out and back route to the town of Usk for 10 miles in total. Plenty of cyclists out and about, but very few runners. One thing about running in rural Wales is the obligatory acknowledgement of other runners on the roads; kinda like an unwritten code.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

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

Know the difference between pain and discomfort

A young Alan Webb, the prodigy who in 1999 broke Jim Ryun’s high school mile record, once said of the tough training that lay ahead of him: “There will be a lot of suffering and discomfort. Let it hurt. Let it carry me to faster times.”

Running is all about discomfort – seeking it, feeling it, managing it, overcoming it. And while pain inevitably and occasionally enters the picture (usually as you crest a long hill or kick to the finish line), it should never linger.

Only you can feel this distinction. Just try your best to recognize it and react accordingly: If what you’re feeling is affecting your normal running form, or causing your genuine distress or fear for your well-being, then for goodness’ sake, stop running and seek help.

Short of that? Hey, suck it up.

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