This week’s running – 20th to 26th of April 2015

The UK went marathon mad

Suddenly, every member of the general public’s a marathon expert despite not knowing it’s 26.2 miles long…

The UK had a bout of marathon mania this week.

Core strength

I seem to do this every year where I neglect my core in the colder months, only to begin focusing on it again in the spring and summer. There is most probably a positive correlation here between me having a strong core and my performance.

As somebody that sits for most of the week in front of a computer at a desk, I have a tendency to hunch forward; this slouching is further depicted in a number of photos from my last few races where I simply lack the core strength to be able to support my own upper body whilst fatigued.

There’s nothing special or fancy about what I’m doing at the moment; simply 2x sets of 10 sit-ups and 2x sets of 10 sit-ups with some rotation. There’s likely some correct terminology out there, so apologies for butchering the description up…

I’ve been doing these workouts for a couple of weeks now and already, I have noticed a positive impact whilst I run. The most obvious benefit is I can feel myself running taller, with my chest held high. An additional perk of this is that running tall seems to have re-activated my glutes. I have a horrible habit of relying on my quads for power whilst I run, rather than the glutes where the majority of the power of each stride comes from. On my last few runs, I feel like I’ve been able to run at a faster pace with a little less effort and part of it must be down to this.

Long may the core workouts continue!

3x 1600m at 10k pace

These 1600m reps could be the other reason why I’ve felt stronger lately.

This was the second occurrence of this session and from about halfway through the first rep, I could feel there was an improvement on last week. Previously, I was busting a gut to simply stay on pace but I found myself having to dial the speed down a touch to stay on target. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a walk in the park; where last week’s session left me feeling trashed for at least 36 hours afterwards, I felt pretty reasonable in comparison.

I’m also going to try a different approach this spring/summer. I traditionally keep the number of reps static, but will increase the pace or decrease the recovery as improvements materialise. This year, I want to increase the reps whilst keeping the pace static (to a certain point). This should provide that endurance boost that I’m seeking.

So, why did I only do 3x reps if I was feeling so good? I always take a bottle of water when I run intervals where I’m sweating like a pig from the increased intensity. Some thieving scumbag had other plans, where they’d found my hidden bottle of water between my first and second 1600m rep, leaving me pretty damn parched going into the third rep. A new hiding place is needed for next week, me thinks…

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

5k from work

More of a plod than anything else. I didn’t see any other runners, but I did spot plenty of geese stood to the side of the towpath watching me, almost like a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. It’s surely only a matter of days or weeks before all the goslings hatch and the parents become hyper-aggressive…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 miles with 2 at near half marathon pace

This was a continuation of last week where I boosted the mid-week 6 mile run to 8, but now with added near half marathon pace goodness. Why near half marathon pace? I couldn’t quite make it to my target of 6:35 per mile, instead hovering around 6:45 per mile. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I suspect it involved the heavy tree-lined canal towpath also interfering with my Garmin, where the lap pace seemed out of whack and refused to budge.

Despite the pace shenanigans at play, I was pleased with the run where it showed progress in the right direction. Onwards and upwards!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Looking surprisingly decent!

Looking surprisingly decent – photo by Geoff Hughes

Continuing the theme of shaking things up in my quest for improvement, I opted to jog the 5k distance from my home all the way to Cannon Hill Park. Yes, some thought this was mad and could not even contemplate covering the race distance as warm-up before the actual main event. General rule of thumb out there is the shorter the distance, the more critical the warm-up becomes.

I usually always feel shitty during the warm-up before a Parkrun, where I’m stiff, lethargic and clumsy. This extended warm-up was no different. Lis was also running, so I sent my kit bag with her in the car to meet me there. Once I was at the park and after a few minutes of recovery, I actually started to loosen up and felt pretty good. By the time we were ready to walk to the start line, I was positively raring to go.

In a complete reversal of roles, I ended up trailing behind Nigel for the first 3k or so. This wasn’t planned, but certainly for the opening splits, I found myself struggling to turn my legs over at a faster rate, where the pace naturally settled at around 3:57/km or so. There was no discomfort at all and it’s no coincidence that this is also my 10k pace I’ve been working hard to acclimatise to.

Entering and exiting the triangle, I sensed Nigel slipping from the pace and went ahead to latch on to a small group of three guys or so. I stayed with the group until the final 400m before going on my own for the finish, which clocked in at 19:37.

Did the warm-up help at all? Yes and no. Yes, because I felt superb on the start line from a cardio vascular perspective. No, because superficially, it had little to no bearing on my finish time. That being said, I have upped the ante in training so I wasn’t nearly as fresh as I could have been. I’m going to give the extended warm-up another few tries, especially when I’m more 5k focused to really gauge whether it works or not.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

Oh and one final note – Cannon Hill is trialling a new course next week. Several weeks ago, I was speaking with one of the run directors, Mary, and she expressed some displeasure with the current start line. Concerns include the flow of people into the start line, along with a number of runners with dogs and pushchairs not starting within the funnel and instead choosing to join from the side. One solution suggested was to move the start line over to the bridge, next to the entry to the out and back portion of the route, which is simple enough to instigate; what’s trickier is the team wants to also continue using the finish area at the top of the hill, which would require some shortening of the route elsewhere to accommodate this. I won’t be at Cannon Hill next week, so you readers will have to let me know what the final changes end up being.

10 canal miles

Due to the morning being devoted to watching the London Marathon, I ended up covering my long run much later in the day whilst the sun was shining and all the fair-weather amblers had over-run the canal towpath.

Despite the numerous obstructions, it was a fantastic run. The pace was progressive and felt comfortable, even with the heavier training load and angry headwind blasting away at me. I also intentionally focused on my form again to run tall and from the glutes.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Time to dial things back a touch next week, me thinks!

London Marathon 2015

As mentioned above, I spent all of this morning watching the BBC’s London Marathon coverage. It was most certainly odd not being part of it, where for the past two years, all I’ve ever known on race day was to steel myself physically and mentally to run 26.2 miles through the Big Smoke, rather than to sit with my feet up on the sofa.

Twas a most enjoyable race to watch, with the elite female and male races producing nail-biting finales. Paula’s run must have also been truly motivational for the club runners that came into contact with her throughout the course. Equally as nail-biting as the elites was watching the progress of various friends via the online tracker with the final results coming in below:

  • Phil Cook – 2:34:45
  • Ed Barlow – 2:52:53
  • Nick Bensley – 2:57:25
  • Peter Ingason – 3:33:24
  • Suz West – 3:38:14
  • Nigel Foulkes-Nock – 3:54:42
  • Selena Wong – 4:12:44
  • Sean Whan – 4:32:12

Congrats to all and I hope the recovery process is swift and problem-free!

Right. Enough gassing and over to the latest entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Pee if you must

If this were a rule book for humans at large, one of the first rules would have to be: When You’ve Gotta Go, You’ve Gotta Go. This goes double for tightly wound, highly hydrated, slightly nervous humans who are standing around (i.e., runners waiting for a race to start). If you simply can’t hold it any longer, do your best to locate a porta potty. Failing that, find a stand of trees or bushes as far from the action as reasonably possible. Failing that – if, for instance, you’re stuck in the middle of a packed corral at the start of a large marathon and you’re about to bust – well, pop a squat or take a knee, and do what you’ve gotta do. Be as discreet as possible, apologize to those around you, then stand up, and return your focus to the race.

And before your next race, hydrate just a little bit less.


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