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

Running? At Christmas???

Merry Christmas everyone!

This week was all about Christmas, obviously!

5k from work

Trying to maintain some semblance of a routine during Christmas week is tough, so I took one of the few opportunities I had to get an easy run in from the office before breaking up for the festive season.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cardiff Christmas Parkrun

If you’re here reading this blog, then you’re probably of the running persuasion. Telling friends and family about my plans to attend Cardiff Parkrun on Christmas Day were met with bemusement and questions along the lines of, “You run most days – why would you also want to run on Christmas Day?” As if it wasn’t obvious enough by now, running is clearly something I enjoy and it’s only natural that I would go out for a run when I’ve got the free time to do so.

Lis and I made it to Cardiff’s event at Bute Park – my second Christmas Day Parkrun after last year’s visit to Brueton Parkrun. After a thorough warm-up, I was ready to go for another 5k PB and the last for 2014. All of a sudden, the empty park was full of happy runners in all manner of festive and not-so-festive wear. I found myself stood next to a chap in a skin-tight Santa suit and my ambition was to stay with this speedy looking Saint Nick.

Partway into the first km, I was running at a blistering pace (for me) and kept with the lead pack. There was a sizeable gap between this group and the one behind, so I tried my best to not drift backwards. That, and I was racing against the guy in the skin-tight Santa suit and I didn’t want to end up in his slipstream for an un-obscured view of his buttocks…

The aggressive opening pace had done its damage by the second km, with a split over 20 seconds slower than the first. Despite my best efforts to stay with a group, I found myself running on my own and the pace continued to nosedive, leading to a third km that was 8 seconds slower than the second.

I was in complete agony. The cold air made rapid breathing difficult but I at least managed to minimise the pace slow-down for a 4:01 fourth km. The leading lady overtook me, so I tried to latch on to her to drag me along. Didn’t quite happen as I hoped for when she kept pulling away, but I was eventually able to match her pace albeit with a constant gap of a few metres between us.

It burns!

A badly paced 5k burns like a mofo…

800m left and I tried kicking like a few weeks ago. Nope – not happening. At 400m to go, my body finally agreed to free up some resources for the beginnings of a kick. With 200m left to go, I closed my eyes and sprinted for the finish.

19:00 was my finish time – my 3rd fastest 5k of all time. I was disappointed I wasn’t more restrained at the beginning; had I have held back by 10 seconds, I would have almost certainly PBd that Christmas morning by a few seconds. Oh well, a valuable lesson was learned in 5k pacing.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

What did you get for Christmas?

As is now customary, I received a few running-related goodies for Christmas.

Nike Pegasus 31

Nike Pegasus 31 – a nice upgrade over the Pegasus 30s

One gift I was very pleased to see was a new pair of Nike Pegasus 31s to replace some ageing Pegasus 30s of mine. Lacing them up, I could immediately feel how plush they were compared to their older brethren.

The Parkrun bible

The Parkrun bible for lovers of 5k

The other present in my stocking was the Parkrun book. An enjoyable read for any Parkrun regular, detailing how the weekly 5k started along with other lesser-known factoids.

10 miles – to Usk and back

The excesses of Christmas were enough to convince me that a fasted 10 mile run was in order. Largely an uneventful run, bar the close-to-freezing temperatures and me in just a t-shirt and shorts; I really wish I had worn gloves!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

After the disappointment of the Christmas Cardiff Parkrun, I fell back on Plan B and that was to try and score a course PB. For over a year, I’ve been wanting to revisit all the venues I’ve visited in the past to get them all under 20 minutes; my Newport course PB stood out as being soft due to terrain but also because I typically reserve PB attempts for the Cardiff event only 8 miles further down the road.

Reaching Tredegar Park, I noticed some runners congregating in a different place than usual but thought nothing more of this. It wasn’t until I was halfway through my warm-up lap and encountered ankle deep mud when I concluded that the organisers possibly had an alternative course planned. Speaking to the run director a few minutes later confirmed this – the winter route utilised only half of the normal circuit, but bulked the distance up by making it 3x laps. He also mentioned that the winter route had the potential to be faster, if I could avoid being boxed in by lapped runners.

I didn’t spot Nigel Foulkes-Nock in the crowds and figured he must have been busy with familial duties or some such. I planted myself firmly at the front of the start line next to a chap with a black Labrador that was going nuts; the runners around the man and beast slowly started edging away, fearing for their ankles… On “3-2-1-Go!” we were off.

My Kiger 2 shoes worked an absolute treat on the trail-come-cross country route. I was able to stay with the lead group for the first 400m or so and then eased into sub-20 pace. The uneven terrain had me working harder than normal, so I knew even-ish pacing would be crucial.

The first corner had us going into the wooded section of the route for the first modification. Running uphill in mud and through trees wasn’t my idea of a faster course! Once out of the woods and on to the flat, I surged a touch to reclaim a few lost seconds.

Going into the second lap, I began to pass some of the runners at the rear of the pack. Back in the woods, I knew which were the best lines to take having run them only minutes prior. At the end of the second lap, congestion from the mid-pack runners became dramatically more noticeable, and required some dodging and weaving to filter through the crowds.

Sub-20 at Newport Parkrun

One more off the sub-20 list

The final lap arrived and I was still right on target. Approaching the small bridge before the woods, I had to surge to make sure I was in the right place to avoid being blocked in by slower runners. My Garmin flaked out and the pace started varying wildly, so I switched up to the stopwatch. I estimated that I had about 1km left to go and about 4 minutes left to make sub-20 happen. I kicked the pace up and started my assault on the stable and flat remaining portion of the course. A sprint finish saw me comfortably cross the line in 19:38 – over 40 seconds faster than the last course PB I set at Newport earlier in the year. Only four more out of the eight different Parkruns I’ve attended now to get down to sub-20 – not fancying my chances of that happening any time soon at Forest of Dean Parkrun!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s the last entry for 2014 from Mark Remy’s the Runner’s Rule Book:

Learn to love “race morning buzz”

That’s the quietly electric aura of anticipation that surrounds you the morning of a race, beginning the instant you wake up and lasting till the gun fires at the starting line. It’s a background hum of energy, a tickle almost. Combined with the silliness of early morning prerace ritual, it’s one of the best feelings you’ll ever encounter.

It really is impossible to do “race morning buzz” justice with mere words. Let’s just say that you’ll know it when you feel it. You’ll wish there was a way to bottle it, so you could have a little bit every day. But there’s not. Which is probably for the best.

Instead, savor it while you can. Drink it in.

Then take a deep breath – and race.

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