Much running this week in Wales
This week was all about one big, gut-busting effort.
Lis and I were due to be in Wales at the end of the week, which meant a visit to Cardiff Parkrun. And a visit to Cardiff Parkrun usually means a PB attempt that shouldn’t be squandered. I was inspired by Nigel’s guts and glory run last week at Cannon Hill Parkrun; equally inspiring was that it happened off the back of a week-long taper of no running for him. I’d only ever lightly tapered going into a 5k and this would be an interesting experiment to see just how far fresh legs would get me. I’m not doing any specific 5k training at the moment, but hopefully the above on an ultra-fast and flat course would come together for the perfect storm.
So yes, the week was light indeed with only a single 5k run from work on Tuesday.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
Running: An inspiration
Last week, I posted a competition to win my promo copy of Running: An inspiration – a hardback coffee table book of inspirational images and quotes.
“You’ve got to be in it to win it” as the saying goes. Only two people entered the competition and thankfully, both sent in the correct answer. Flipping a coin, our lucky winner was Darryll Thomas – the book will be winging its way to you shortly, so enjoy!
I made sure I was at Bute Park with plenty of time to allow for a good warm-up with minimal stress. Basically, I was trying to recreate that Saturday in July. The mile jog felt truly awful. I was lethargic and my running gait felt entirely at odds – had I tapered too much and forgotten how to run??? The 400m at 5k pace wasn’t even at target 5k pace either… Things did not bode well at all. Thankfully, the strides managed to get the system closer to performing.
I was genuinely nervous before the run. This was a feeling that has been sorely missed from many of my Parkruns and it was welcomed back with open arms. Anything that made the event feel like more of a race was a positive in my book.
Vince showed up before too long, tempted by my proposal of a sub-19 attempt. He’d been my lucky charm on three previous occasions, resulting in three different PBs. Could this become four for four?
We positioned ourselves on the second row of the start line. I felt very self-conscious running in a vest and shorts on such a cold morning when everybody else was in long sleeve tops and tights; I could only identify one other runner running in such skimpy clothing. Oh well, the extra ventilation would come in handy whilst working hard.
On “Go”, I went like the clappers. I don’t know what possessed me but the instinct to race took over and I went out hard with the fast guys up front. A regular that had recently run 18:35 was running alongside me, making me think, “You’re insane! There’s no way you can sustain this pace!” I felt almost invincible and took it all in my stride. Clearly, the freshness from the taper was working. I’d run through 1k in 3:39 – 9 seconds ahead of schedule but I’d already committed to running a fast opening split to make way for some slowdown in the middle “float” section of the course.
There were a few icy patches that resulted in some slowdown for me. I was wearing my ultra lightweight Nike Flyknit Racers that were on the edge of being too minimal for such conditions; literally treading carefully was the order of the morning. My toes were freezing due to how well ventilated the Flyknit Racers were!
I fortunately found myself in a pretty stable group to work alongside, with Vince just behind me. When the group started to creep away, I covered each move with a small surge of my own to stay in contact; I didn’t want to end up running alone, which just wouldn’t have been helpful whilst going for a time. I was still feeling sharp; working hard, but still remarkably fresh and light.
After the sharp turn for home, the path became frosty again due to how exposed it had been overnight. It was a beautiful winter’s morning but not conducive to my plans! The group started splintering due to the ice on the ground – some people simply had bigger balls to run through it more quickly than others. Including Vince. He overtook me at pretty much the exact same spot as our last Cardiff Parkrun face-off during the summer.
Once through the ice, I had about a mile left to go and was on the return path to see all the other runners that were still coming through. Free from frost, I picked the pace up slightly to close the gap between a White Rock Runner in front and me. Vince was still ahead by 5m or so and leading the group. The lead girl overtook me and not wanting to be left behind, I threw in a short injection of pace to stay behind her for some drafting assistance. I was breathing hard; choo-choo train impression hard. This too was welcomed because it was happening at precisely the right point on the course when I expected things to feel at their worst.
4k came and went. I just had to make it to 4.2k before beginning my penultimate attack on the course. During the week leading up to this Parkrun, I did some research into effective 5k strategies and almost all recommended a fast opening mile, a slower middle “float” mile of coasting, and then a fast final mile. What these strategies also recommended was lifting the pace with 800m to go and then kicking at 400m to go. I’ve historically left it too late to kick, often finishing on a crazy sprint where I run out of path to fully take advantage of the speed. Everybody else in the group must have had the same plans as me because once the 800m sign appeared, we all started winding the pace up for a penultimate charge. The lead girl couldn’t stay with us and was dropped within just a few metres. My Garmin reported a 5 second deficit on target – something I knew I could recover in the final burn-up.
400m left to go on the course. Arms were in full swing and my teeth were gritted. My cadence picked up and my stride lengthened. “The end isn’t far”, I kept thinking to myself. I got within arm’s length of the White Rock Runner, but my kick was no match for his where he zipped away almost effortlessly. Vince was still leading the pack and looked strong; I had a feeling his PB would fall that morning. At 200m to go, the sign was like a red rag to a bull and everybody kicked once more. I was near my limit but managed to find a little something left to go with everybody. At 100m, the hammer dropped and the group went for it. I had to close my eyes and only opened them periodically to check that I was still running in a straight line. I had nothing left in reserve for a big final sprint, but that’s what I’d planned for and executed – all of my resources had been effectively used to leave me with an empty tank only metres away from the finish line.
I crossed the line, grabbed my finish token and quickly ducked out of the funnel to dry-heave. My stomach was in knots and no matter how hard I tried to bring something up, nothing came out. My head was thumping away, clearly dehydrated from the minimal amounts of liquid I’d taken on-board beforehand, and sweated away despite the borderline freezing temperatures. I’d neglected to check my Garmin during the final 400m so had no clue how far or close I was from the goal. 18:51 flashed on the screen for a tidy 5 second PB and in less than optimal conditions. A small fist pump into the air and I made my way back into the funnel to get things scanned.
Catching up with Vince afterwards, he clocked a very nice 18:45 finish for himself that was only 3 seconds off a PB. He too had neglected to check his Garmin and we both agreed that he could have found an extra 3 seconds somewhere had he have known how close he was. All things considered, we didn’t let this dampen the mood because it was his fastest 5k in 21 months to net him a first place age group finish, and also an age grading of over 80%! We both pencilled in Cardiff Parkrun’s Christmas Day event for another eyeballs out attack on the course – gotta earn that turkey dinner, right? Let’s see if I can keep this tradition going of a new PB each time I run with Vince…
Despite the unfinished business in marathon-land, part of me is pleased to not have that pressure moving into 2015, allowing for a crack at shorter distance PBs like this more often.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
10 miles – to Usk and back
After my body played ball at Cardiff, I decided I wouldn’t be a cruel task-master and let it have some breakfast ahead of the 10 mile route to Usk and back.
No dramatics at all during the simple, slow plod. Glutes and quads were a little tight and will have been foam rolled by the time you’re reading this.
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
And without further ado, here’s the weekly entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:
Take prerace dreams in stride
You’re running – or trying to – and it feels like you’re chest deep in molasses. You want to run normally but you can’t, no matter how hard you try. In fact, the harder you try, the harder it becomes. Your muscles just don’t respond. Your joints feel petrified, and your limbs only work against you.
Every inch of every step is a struggle, and it’s exhausting.
Sound familiar? It sure does to me. I often have a dream like this in the weeks leading up to a race – or even when no race is planned at all. Most runners seem to. The culprit may be plain-vanilla anxiety, or something called REM paralysis, wherein your muscles actually do feel immobilized temporarily.
Either way, it’s nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s normal. Ditto for dreams where you’re a mile from the starting line when you hear the gun go off, or where you’re frantically searching for your racing shoes moments before the start, and so on.
Do your best to shrug off such dreams, chalking them up to normal mental preparation for a big event.
Oh, and that dream where your mother is chasing you through an amusement park on horseback? Sorry. You’re on your own with that one.