This week’s running – 22nd to 28th of September 2014

Somebody call for a half marathon?

Somebody call for a half marathon?

This week was about partial recovery and near-final half marathon preparations.

Rest and recovery

Those more experienced than me recommend an easier week after every three weeks of harder graft. I’ve not really had a light week in almost 5 weeks, so I chose to take it easy on Monday through Wednesday. Last week’s appalling Parkrun performance, whilst partially down to lack of 5k focus, was also likely down to a lack of feeling fresh. Now is not the time for me to be doing more because it’s almost taper time for the big autumn A-race: the Cardiff Half Marathon.

Cardiff Half Marathon

And since we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the Cardiff Half Marathon.

This year, I will be running/racing it with Dave (of the Burton variety). We’re both hoping to go under 90 minutes, with all signs currently pointing to “yes”. The more fascinating question is “by how much?” Both Dave and I have come a long way since the Great Birmingham Run of 2012, where he had never run that sort of distance before and I had yet to dip under 2 hours for 13.1 miles. I remember a number of years ago reading the training plan and experience of a sub-90 minute half marathon runner, thinking that was borderline elite; it’s now funny to think I’m only a matter of days from having a bash at it myself.

We’ve both made it into the white start pen; the fastest and smallest of them all. Those with good memory will recall my farcical mix-up last year when the organisers had turfed me into one of the slowest pens and required I obtain a correctly coloured wristband to be promoted.

All my half marathon training has been geared towards a rough 6:45 per mile pace, which equates to an 88:30 finish. This has been in line with my 5k and 10k PBs, however, I have lost a little top-end speed in recent weeks so I think 6:50 per mile, at least for the first half will prove to be a safer bet. This is also taking into account the potential that I will end up running long – last year saw me run 13.22 miles, so 180ish metres extra. Considering I can cover 400m in 90 seconds at the end of a 5k, I could have reclaimed those 70 seconds last year for a sub-90 minute finish had I have run a cleaner line. Now you can see why I obsess so much about running the shortest, legal distance in a race!

Dave is a completely different kettle of fish right now, re-writing his own history book of what’s possible. He PBd again on Saturday at Cannon Hill Parkrun with 18:47; punching that time into the McMillan Running Calculator returns a potential sub-87 minute half marathon!

Racing weight

Last week at Cannon Hill Parkrun, I bumped into Jort for the first time in months for a brief catch-up. He remarked that I looked trimmer compared to the last time he saw me. As anybody knows, when you see yourself in the mirror every day, it’s hard to see small changes in a short space of time. Had I actually lost weight? I remember a funny segment on the Marathon Talk podcast where Tom Williams was discussing how he knew when he was nearing race season, and it all hinged on how regularly people told him how awful and gaunt he looked.

This week, the scale did not lie because my weight hovered around 9st 3ish for a few days and has finally stabilised at 9st 1.5 – this is the lowest weight I have been at as an adult! I haven’t done anything special diet-wise apart from a small shift to 1 or 2 meat-free meals a week. My training volume has, however, increased. My weekly volume as of late has been incredibly close to my heaviest weeks during marathon season. Compare this to the peak of my 5k and 10k ability during the summer, when I was at my fastest but also not really shifting any weight.

Why all the fuss about weight? Like sports cars, the less weight I’m carrying means the higher my power to weight ratio. This is all assuming that I haven’t lost any muscle mass, and thankfully, I don’t think I have.

2x 2 miles at target half marathon pace

Thursday saw the last time I would run this session in full before the Cardiff Half Marathon. I was expecting a hurt fest and certainly got one in the second rep, but rather oddly, the first rep felt easier than ever (probably down to the recovery days beforehand).

I was pleased as punch at the split times, with only a second’s difference between the laps. Despite the struggle with a mile to go during the second rep, I remained aerobic throughout the entire session and crucially, the pace remained very stable throughout.

I’m looking to run a single 2 mile lap next week as a finishing touch ahead of race day, with 2x 800m reps at 5k pace later in the week to sharpen things up.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

Due to schedule conflicts, I had to miss the Kings Heath Running Club takeover of Cannon Hill Parkrun back at home. So, I popped over to one of my Parkrun homes away from home at Tredegar House, Newport.

Nigel Foulkes-Nock and I had been speaking earlier in the week and he was in the mood for a stab at a new PB, one under 21 minutes. I wanted to run at my target half marathon pace, so the two married up perfectly for me to serve as his personal pacemaker.

We anticipated that we would lose time on a few of the twists, turns and the forested section that we had to run through twice. Nigel also likes to run a constant negative split with each successive split faster than that before it. Marathon Talk recently discussed the importance of transparency between a pacemaker and their chaser as to how the pacing would work; I promised I would never let him drift more than 5m behind and would slow down to let him close the gap, which just helps to keep the task psychologically manageable.

I almost lost Nigel a few times out on the course but managed to bring him back. With just 1km left to go, we were down on target by 18 seconds and I fed this back to him along with some encouragement. I picked the pace up to get us out of the forest ASAP and on to the home straight. Only 600m remained and I continued to feedback time status to Nigel, also urging him to begin kicking.

I asked Lis beforehand to capture the final sprint for the line using the iPhone 6’s new super slow-motion camera and this was the result (great song choice, no?):

Nigel Foulkes-Nock and Andy Yu at Newport Parkrun

I knew Nigel would do it with quite some margin once we passed the 200m point. And quite some margin it was for a 20:40 PB – 22 seconds faster than his former best! He looked rather fresh at the end and I think there was possibly some more in the tank to give. This should pave the way for a stellar half marathon performance from him next week in the Welsh Capital.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

11 miles to Usk and back 

I wanted one last long run before next week’s Cardiff Half Marathon. Granted I won’t get any fitter between now and next Sunday, I can of course lose fitness and I can’t shake the niggling feeling that I’ve not done quite enough distance work this summer.

Conditions were spot on for a long run and the route offered a good balance of long, flat straights and a few testing inclines and descents. Only criticism was the temperature – a touch too warm for this time of year.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

As ever, here’s this week’s entry from The Runner’s Rule Book by Mark Remy:

Be cool when you meet an elite

Among most sports, road racing is uniquely egalitarian. You get to run the same clock. You cross the same finish line, albeit minutes or hours later.

This has been noted, and celebrated, many times by many authors.

What hasn’t been explored, in any satisfactory way, is how you should behave when you encounter one of these elite runners. Here’s what is OK, and what is not.

Acceptable behaviour

  • Smiling and or waving at the athlete
  • Telling him or her that you are a “big fan”
  • Congratulating him or her on a recent performance
  • Wishing him or her luck on an upcoming performance
  • Asking for a photo an/or an autograph, if the time and place are appropriate (i.e., not while the athlete is dining or worshiping or sleeping or bathing or racing)

 Unacceptable behaviour

  • Offering the athlete training advice
  • Asking the athlete how much he or she earns
  • Becoming so anxious that you vomit on the athlete
  • Asking him or her to sign any part of your body typically covered by beachwear
  • Kissing
  • Requesting a lock of hair
  • Trying to bum 20 bucks

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