This week’s running – 15th to 21st of June 2015

There's no place like home

There’s no place like home! Damn, was it good to be back in Birmingham!

This week was all about a change of focus.

5k from work

The very act of me wanting to run this 5k from the office the day after the Two Castles Run shows I didn’t go all out at the race. Unexpectedly, I felt pretty darn good and despite keeping things under control, Strava indicated it was the fastest recovery run from the office yet.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Knowing when to fold

I’m not sure if I overtly said this in a previous entry, but I decided to duck out of the Caerphilly 10k. A shame really because I was one of the few there at the inaugural race a couple of years ago and I’d participated in every iteration up to this year. I left the entry open for as long as possible on this one and had not committed anything, so dropping out was simple enough.

All the 10k racing of late had left me somewhat weary and I concluded a change of focus and stimulus was needed: enter 5k PB training.

The last couple of 5k PB attempts I’ve embarked on at Cardiff have been decent enough with only two out of five not under 19 minutes (19:00 and 19:12 respectively) and one a mere two seconds shy of a PB (18:52). The original 18:51 PB from back in December 2014 and these recent PB attempts were achieved with no focused 5k training; imagine what I’d be capable of with a good block of training under my belt? Which dovetails nicely into the next item…

5x 800m at 5k pace

This session filled me with dread. I’ve rarely ever completed all 5x reps and have sometimes even had to call it quits at 3x on occasion, which probably means the target pace was too ambitious (3:37/km at one stage in 2014!)

I decided 3:45/km would serve as a good benchmark for adjustment, and also conveniently equated to a 18:45 5k. In all, the session was almost perfect. I completed all 5x reps and all were close enough on target; the slightly uneven terrain and tree coverage of Edgbaston Reservoir always produces some slightly inaccurate results. Crucially, I could have pushed out another rep if I was forced to so I’m happy I pitched it just right. I will keep this session identical for next week before I decide to recalibrate it or not.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

5k from work

Geese were all over the bleeding canal towpath during my recovery run from the office. And yes, I was hissed at by a number of them…

Apart from that, I felt positively charged from the previous day’s session despite the high levels of humidity and an onslaught of hayfever symptoms. Strava even commented that this humble 5k recovery run is trending upwards by becoming faster.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 canal miles

I made two changes to this now weekly staple run: I had a more substantial lunch and I donned my low heel-drop trail shoes. Being under-fuelled has wrecked the last couple of mid-week runs and the freshly gravelled towpaths have made traction that much harder to come by.

I won’t lie – the out portion of the run once again felt like I was running through treacle with the effort feeling substantially more significant than it should have. The plan was to run a minimum of 2 miles (maximum of 3) within the total distance at sub-7 minute mile pace; I managed to get 2 covered without a hitch but had to sack off hopes for 3 due to the tunnel congested with cyclists.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Wow. Believe it or not, up until Saturday, the last time I ran at Cannon Hill was 6 weeks ago! In that time, I’ve either been out of town, or racing, or both to explain my lax attendance. This particular outing was only my second on the new course, so it was interesting to see how it would stack up compared to the first foray. I actually had to ask if the course consisted of 2x short laps or 3x… Oh dear!

Much like the forecasted weather from last week, it was rather drab outdoors with drizzle to dampen everything except my mood; I was in high spirits because I was home. It was great to catch-up with folks like Dunsby, Nigel, Simon, Jonny et al. Carl even managed to make a guest appearance!

My warm-up felt horrendous, so nothing new at all; the usual 300m effort with Nigel, however, felt spot-on to boost confidence levels.

Being away from the course for such a long stretch of time meant I was like a tightly wound spring. I positioned myself poorly on the previous outing to end-up in and amongst some serious congestion for the first 800m or so before the field settled down. I didn’t want the same to happen again, so I made a beeline for the start as soon as we were instructed to do so; I could hear Simon behind me remark, “Andy’s keen, isn’t he?” Damn straight I was keen! I found myself on the second row and ushered Carl over for a prime spot.

Due to congestion on the previous outing, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate just how fast the new start is. “Holy $h1t!” I thought as I was pulled through by the swift crowd; I glanced behind momentarily and a sizable gap formed to prompt me to hang on to the coat tails of the group I was trailing. “Make sure you’re not left behind.” I kept telling myself.

Passing the tennis courts, my Garmin indicated I was 23 seconds ahead of the target 3:48/km pace. 23 seconds! This quickly dropped back down to 12 seconds or so once I cleared 1km. I came into contact with Ed who confirmed he was going at roughly 3:40/km, so I did my best to latch on to him as he slowly drifted away into the horizon.

Remarkably for me, 2km still came in faster than target pace despite the lively opening split. I knew I was on to something here, and my Garmin confirmed such thoughts by alerting me of my 12 second lead that was still in place.

I was rapidly running out of runners to work alongside, which was ominous as I entered the arguably slowest part of the course. I definitely needed a touch of recovery anyway, but wanted to minimise the potential to ease off too much. As if by divine intervention, a Bournville Harrier crept up behind me on the approach towards the triangle. He was only a smidge faster than me and became the perfect target to tow me back into the game with a 3:58 3rd km split. Entering and exiting the triangle, I had the well wishes of several comrades who could clearly see I was enduring the suffer-fest.

As I passed through 4km, my Garmin flashed a 3:53/km split at me and crucially, I was only 5 seconds behind on the 19:00 5k target. “Come on, Andy! A fast final km and you’ve got this!” I teased myself with. A chap in orange came past and tucked himself in just in front of me; he proved to be a fantastic target to chase down and we stuck with each other, both sensing that the next immediate groups were either too far ahead or behind.

I had to let out a few whimpers to soothe the fire burning away. My chest felt like it was being squeezed by a vice, but I continued to remind myself that there were only a few hundred metres that remained between me and a shiny new course PB, if I could keep on top of things. My companion and I both made it to the base of the final hill; a cheer from Suz prompted me to produce a kick that Strava ranks as my best yet on the course! I recently read somewhere that one should throw a few fast strides in once over the crest of a hill, or whilst going around corners, to get back on pace and that I did; the strides morphed into one final sprint for the line, cheered on by the good folks manning the finish funnel.

I crossed the line and it was all finally over. I placed my face in my hands and screamed a few times – everything inside me was in flames! Checking my Garmin, I was elated to learn I had clocked 19:03 (rounded up to 19:04 officially – boo!) for a new course PB at Cannon Hill. Woohoo! Stumbling through the funnel, I was greeted by Ben along with the 30th position token – I had just run my fastest ever time at Cannon Hill yet finished in a position that was more akin to past 19:30 performances. It really was a loaded field, as you’ll see from the results where the Birchfield Harriers cleaned up to take the top 6 positions.

A warm-down lap with Carl book-ended a stellar morning. The conditions, whilst a little damp yet cool, were spot-on; there was next to no wind to make for a refreshing change from the norm of late.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

13 miles of Brum

I needed a long run. Too many races of late had knocked long runs on the back burner for maximal disruption to my training. Also disrupting my training was a late night out and a lax morning lie-in, so this long run didn’t happen until Sunday evening – at least it was much cooler and quieter out there!

I had already covered 26.6 miles for the week and only needed 13.4 miles to reach a grand total of 40. With this in mind, I set out with a route that covered Selly Oak, Bournville, Cotteridge, Stirchley, Cannon Hill Park and back to the Jewellery Quarter that would have stacked up to at least 13 miles.

Once out there, a westerly wind somehow managed to follow me for much of the route, bar the stretch from Stirchley to Cannon Hill Park via Pershore Road. The second half was nice and steady at 7:45/mile; the approx lower end of my marathon pace.

I was knackered from the uphill climbs that I covered to return to the Jewellery Quarter, so decided not to chase after the remaining 400m or so to bring the week’s grand total to 40 miles.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Next weekend will see even more disruption due to my impending stag-do (dum-dum-dum!), so I’ll complete my long run on Thursday. It’ll probably just be a simple out and back to Bournville train station via the canals for 11 miles.

Time for the slot from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Please, no pushups on the finish line

First of all: If you have energy enough to pump out pushups the moment you finish a race, you haven’t raced hard enough. You shouldn’t be showboating; you should be kicking yourself and vowing to do better next time.

Second, and from a more pragmatic point of view: Doing pushups at the finish line – or, worse, on the finish line – puts you at real risk for being stepped on… “accidentally.”

And there’s not a jury or a race director in the land who would side with you in a situation like that.

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