This week’s running – 29th of December 2014 to 4th of January 2015

Happy 2015 everybody!

Another big week along with plenty of other highlights!

This week was all about the New Year, a lifetime achievement and big mileage. Muchos long post ahead so drinks and snacks are recommended!

10 miles – to Usk and back

I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but Christmas knocked the stuffing out of me. I was knackered come 28th of December and had to abandon the Sunday long run for some recovery. It’s not all bad, though, because throwing the 10 mile run into Monday allowed for a boost to this week’s total mileage.

The day’s break did a world of good because I felt fresh and rested. The splits for this run were far faster and comfortable than I ever would have anticipated, where typical long run pace would be anywhere between 8:30 and 8:00 per mile.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10k fartlek along Hagley Road

Outside of Parkrun, doses of speed this Christmas and New Year season have been in short supply. A fartlek sesh was just what the imaginary coach ordered to dust off the cobwebs and sluggishness from all the festive food.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Edgbaston Reservoir recovery

The ice and frost, as lethal as it could be, looked gorgeous on New Year’s Eve morning; the beautiful view from my living room window was positively begging me to head out for a run. With daylight on my hands (oh what a novelty!), I headed over to Edgbaston Reservoir for a slow lap.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

New Year’s Day Brueton Parkrun

Christmas and the New Year are glorious times for Parkrunners because it means additional events! I volunteered on New Years Day in 2014 but was determined to do the legendary double run at both Brueton Park (9am) and Cannon Hill Park (10:30am). Similar double run opportunities presented themselves all over the UK.

I didn’t give myself enough time to get to Brueton Park (woke up late, lack of parking spaces) and arrived about 30 – 45 seconds after the run had started – d’oh! I slotted myself in just before the first turnaround and estimated I was short on distance by maybe 200m. I decided that if I finished in dramatically less time than what I would normally be capable of, then I would not scan the result against my name; if the finish time was around the norm for me, or slower, then I would accept it.

There were a fair few running clubs present and it wasn’t too long before I spotted Mike Green and Barbara Partridge from Kings Heath RC. Khalid from Birchfield Harriers was also sighted.

Without a warm-up, I was working hard to keep to a sub-20 pace; this would either serve as an effective warm-up for Cannon Hill Parkrun an hour later, or leave me feeling completely shagged! A howling headwind on the straight towards the east of the park was added to keep things interesting…

Two laps of the course later, I was on the final few hundred metres for the finish. I could hear somebody right on my tail from his heavy breathing; sensing him on my shoulder, I kicked with about 300m to go. My Garmin had 18:45 on its display, so I guessed I would finish just under 20 minutes. I was distracted and with about 50m to go before the finish, the guy behind me kicked and pipped me to the line by a few seconds. He told me he’d finished in 19:51, so I knew I was definitely in the right place. It was then onwards to Cannon Hill!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

New Year’s Day Cannon Hill Parkrun

Whilst I was the last to arrive at Brueton Parkrun, I was officially the first at Cannon Hill Parkrun! I had plenty of time to get my warm-up done and I wasn’t feeling too bad at all; Brueton Parkrun definitely loosened everything up, including my cardiovascular system. I had reasonable belief that I could go under 19:30 without too much difficulty, so that became my target.

There was a good turnout with a fair number also chasing after the New Year’s Day double like me. It was nice to catch-up with a few regulars about how their Christmases and New Year celebrations had gone.

Once actually in the run, I found myself in and amongst a nicely sized pack at around my pace.

The first lap of the park whizzed by in a blur. My breathing was nice and steady and the pace felt perfectly manageable. Then the second lap hit and my legs became saturated with lactic acid, leaving my quads heavy and my calf muscles tight. Each step felt like a tremendous effort so I did what I could to minimise the pace rot, and that was to close the gap between the guy in front and me.

A few short surges here and there and I was still bang on target pace. The final mile hit and I largely ran it alone with nobody for immediate company. A few overtakes later and I finished in 19:25 for my third fastest 5k at Cannon Hill. Had I have been fresher on the start line, Ed Barlow and I reckoned that my Cannon Hill course PB could have fallen. Rather oddly, I’d never actually finished in 19:2X at Cannon Hill before.

Oh, and a quick shout-out to blog readers, Simon and Johanne, who I bumped into whilst leaving the park. Always good to meet readers – do come on over and say “Hi”!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

In other Parkrun news, Adidas has bowed out as the t-shirt sponsor, to be replaced by Tribesports. The signs were all there before the announcement: huge delays on the club t-shirts, Adidas no longer appearing on the Parkrun website, and only a one-line mention of them in the recent Parkrun book. As a marketing guy, I can only comment on this being one helluva opportunity for Tribesports. Had any of us heard of them before their involvement with Parkrun (they’re also the kit supplier for Jantastic)? And how much would it cost them otherwise in traditional advertising to reach their core audience? Finally, volunteers will be recognised for their efforts with a unique t-shirt for those who have given their time on 25 occasions or more. Hopefully this will ease some of the problems that events have convincing people to come forward.

Perry Hall Parkrun

Actually running to win!

Actually running to win at Perry Hall Parkrun – photo by Adam Wilkins

I had originally planned to be at Cannon Hill, but decided to continue the momentum of going under 20 minutes at various events, so headed north to Perry Hall Parkrun. I was only 8 seconds off a sub-20 finish at the inaugural event and figured some prior experience of the course could only help with my endeavour.

On the drag up Walsall Road, I was following a car with their satnav on and when they made the left turn towards the park, I was certain it was somebody heading to Perry Hall Parkrun. But who was it? Reaching the car park, we were the only two cars there and it was none other than Darren Hale who stepped out of the other vehicle. My chances of finishing first disappeared right there! Walking and talking with Darren, it turned out he was tapering and had volunteered to be the timer for the morning. My interest was piqued, and then Darren hit me with the final blow that the local XC league was on that afternoon, meaning there wouldn’t be many fast club runners in attendance! Result! Regular readers will know that Nigel Beecroft and I have been eyeing up opportunities for high finish positions at Perry Hall as of late, so it was time to make it happen.

At the meeting point, there were plenty of volunteers but I was the only runner present. We all joked that if I remained as the only runner, I could simply wear a high-viz vest and serve as my own tail runner! Thankfully after my warm-up lap, more runners appeared. On the start line, there was no tussle to get to the front for a nice change from the norm at other events. On “Go”, I went for it.

I opened up a gap of a few metres between me and the two guys on my tail. Glancing over my shoulder periodically, the gap continued to grow and I decided I was reasonably safe to concentrate on my own run. Never having led a race before, it was an odd sensation indeed!

One of the major benefits of Perry Hall Park is the wide view of the rest of the field it affords. I was able to see exactly where the second and third place guys were in relation to me, along with everyone else coming through.

The grass sections of the course did their usual best to sap the speed from my legs.

Entering the second lap, Darren gave me feedback on how I was doing and he estimated I had a 15 second lead. Perfect news! I still wanted my sub-20 finish as well, so I ploughed on.

The pace slipped a little, having nobody to work with; I made use of whatever landmarks there were in the distance to try and reel in, though this proved futile. The wind was howling and my legs were shagged from the Parkrun double on New Years Day. But I still had the lead and that was the primary objective.

Looking over my shoulder, I realised the gap between the second place guy and me had increased again to approximately 30 seconds. With a km left to go, I did what I could to put my foot down. Before too long, I could see the finish area and ramped up the pace again for a final kick for the line.

First place finish for Andy Yu at Perry Hall Parkrun

Woohoo! First place finish!

It took a moment for the first place finish to sink in, but boy did it feel good! I’d never won a race (I know Parkrun isn’t a race – work with me here!) before and it’s unlikely I ever would again. I waited for the second and third place guys to come back in to shake their hands. Darren broke the news that I had missed my sub-20 target and didn’t even set a new course PB for myself; oh well, can’t have it all!

I stopped to chat with Perry Hall regular, Andy Wadsworth. Humorously, we both recalled a moment from Cannon Hill Parkrun when a marshal said, “Well done Andy”, to which we both replied, “Thanks”, neither one of us entirely sure who it was actually meant for. Doing our bit for the community, we did our warm-down lap of the park and collected up the cones and markers to help the organisation team out.

A brilliant morning at an intimate Parkrun. If you ever fancy a change of scenery from Cannon Hill, do head over there and help boost their numbers.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Don’t talk to me about Dryathlon

Time for a bit of a moan.

Some of you may have heard about Cancer Research’s initiative to get people to stop drinking during the month of January. Dry Januarys are nothing new, but what I’m annoyed about is how people seem to now need sponsorship to stop drinking. What ever happened to good old-fashioned will power and when did not drinking become such a hardship?

Simply take the money you’ve saved from not drinking and give it to a worthy charity of your choice, without any need for a song or a dance.

12 canal miles

Rounding off a bumper week was the final proper long run before the Brass Monkey Half Marathon on the 18th of this month.

I decided to head on to the canals now that they had finally reopened after several weeks of closure. It was a bright morning with gorgeous blue skies and importantly, little to no wind making the low temperature rather bearable. I chose to run fasted again with only a strong coffee to power me through.

There were plenty of runners out on the towpaths, either resuming their weekly long run schedules or embarking on their New Year fitness regimes. In contrast, there were only 3 cyclists sighted during the 100 or so minutes whilst I was out there.

On my Garmin, I was fed up of seeing the erratic and jumpy pace feedback so I had swapped out “immediate pace” for “lap pace”. This seemed to do the trick, where lap pace was much smoother, with only minor erratic changes at the beginning of each lap whilst it settled down.

At mile 9, I slowly caught up to a guy on the horizon. As I went to overtake him, he chose to speed up and maintained the small gap between us. I decided to hang back a little and see how this would play out over the next 200m or so. He started to fall back again and I was finally able to overtake; this was short lived because he upped his pace again to get back in front of me! I fell back in line behind him once more. He faded again when we entered Brindley Place and I took the opportunity to get ahead and end the faux race shenanigans.

The remaining 2 miles of the long run really took it out of me. I was starving and started to get dizzy, but wanted to maintain the pace so I soldiered on, chalking the experience up as character building for the closing stages of race day when the going would get tough.

47 mile week!

Wowza. Bit of a jump from 40 to 47 miles…

Including this long run, I logged 47.6 miles this week – my biggest ever by 7 miles! Time to dial things back a touch, me thinks…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s the weekly dose from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Double knot before the gun

Of all the forehead-slappingly preventable snafus encountered during a race, the untied shoelace has to be at the top of the list. This one has bedevilled elites as well as amateurs, and there is absolutely no excuse for it.

Do yourself a favour and take a few extra seconds to double knot your laces after your warmup.

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