This week’s running – 21st to 27th of September 2015

Another 40 mile week

Time for a rest, I promise!

Hang on to your hats – this week was about moving into uncharted territory for my third 40+ mile week in a row…

5k from work

And so began my third six day running week with no obvious ill-effects (touch wood…) I was very conscious of the recent high training volume (for me – I can hear you 70 mile a week guys sniggering in the back!), so this was as slow as I was able to bear.

A few people have called me up of late on these easy runs from the office, calling them “junk miles”. Yes, they are an easy way to boost my overall training volume and no, they probably aren’t doing an awful lot for me aerobically. But just imagine if every one of the 40 odd miles I ran last week was high quality in nature – I’d be benched and burnt out in no time! Even elites running over 100 miles a week make sure 80% of it is done at low intensity.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

3x 1.5 miles at half marathon pace

There’s a saying to “make hay when the sun is shining”. I should have run that third lap of Edgbaston Reservoir last week when I was feeling pumped and primed! This week, I had a crappy night’s sleep prior to the session and had been functioning on coffee for much of the working day; if I were any less stubborn, I’d have sacked this session off.

Jogging over to the reservoir, there was a hideous wind that I knew would cause me trouble. Once there, an older gent that I often see running recognised me and gave me a wave to at least put me in good spirits, before the masochism I was about to put myself through.

The first lap had me running right into the headwind for 800m or so. Couple that with the uneven terrain underfoot and I could tell the effort was greater than last week to hit 6:35 pace for the 1.5 mile lap. As ever, the tailwind during the final 400m was not felt at all.

The second lap didn’t feel any better, despite being properly warmed up. I was at least marginally faster by a second or two, pace-wise.

I really wasn’t game for a third lap, but I convinced myself to do it – I’d have only been disappointed with myself otherwise. To have a fighting chance of completing the lap, I opted to go anti-clock-wise around the reservoir – the headwind only hit me for the first 400m and there was ever so slightly more descent. Awkwardly, just as I was starting the lap, a fast runner came blasting around the corner and to him, it must have looked like I was challenging him. I hate it when people decide to race me in training, so I felt incredibly guilty that I was inadvertently doing the same to him! Thankfully, he was a smidge faster and exited the reservoir after only 400m. About halfway through the lap, another fast-ish runner appeared before me; unlike before, I was able to reel him in and overtake in all of about 15 seconds to avoid any awkwardness. I was a mess at the end and had to lean over a railing for support, but I did it. All the suffering better be worth it come race day!

Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

5k from work

You can never predict what will happen on a run. Take this example; nothing more than a humble recovery jog from the office.

About a mile into the route, I saw a bunch of teen lads up ahead, shouting and cheering. They appeared to be holding a piece of security tape – the yellow and black kind you see around crime scenes. As I got closer, I was better able to make out their cheers were things along the lines of, “You can do it! You can win!” and “Keep going! You can beat him!” I worked out the security tape was a make-shift finishing line and I glanced over to my right to see a cyclist shoot past me and cross through the tape. The guys went nuts and threw their arms in the air. As I went past, one of them said to me, “Bad luck. Maybe next time.” As I ran further away from them, I could hear them repeating their act for the next lucky winner.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

This incident reminded me (though definitely not to same scale) of the antics of famed French anarchist, Rémi Gaillard, and the time he set up a mock Tour de France finish for unsuspecting cyclists…

Love the guy’s response at 2:20 into the video

10 canal miles

I was filled with both excitement and trepidation going into this run. Even at peak marathon training, I wasn’t able to cover quite this much mileage or run frequency.

To give myself the best chance of completing the 10 miles again, I ensured I was adequately loaded up with carbs from a hearty pasta dinner the night before, and also indulged in a slice of cake from work’s McMillan Cancer coffee morning (we did it on Thursday for some reason).

Once on the canal, anecdotally, there seemed to be more runners than ever before, even when compared to the same time in years past. I even spotted one girl running in this year’s Cardiff 10k race t-shirt; I figured she may have been a student from Wales, or like me, was willing to travel for flat and fast races.

I wasn’t expecting to pull off a progressive, royal flush run, but it happened. I felt tremendous out there and once fully warmed up for the return leg, I noted how I was barely even taking in air on what was my approximate marathon pace of 7:15 to 7:25 per mile. Once again, the long tunnel at mile 9 foiled my otherwise perfectly recorded splits.

It’s such a shame that I’ll only be able to use the canals and Edgbaston Reservoir after work for maybe another two weeks or so before light levels become non-existent.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

This was it. The final hard Parkrun before the Cardiff Half Marathon next week. The goal was to try and break new ground with a course PB of 19:03 or better – maybe even sub-19 on home turf! Low wind and cool temperatures were once again on side to give me the best chance of this.

I arrived at the park with plenty of time for a good, thorough warm-up with Nigel. Returning to the bandstand, the place was heaving with runners due to the seasonal high from the upcoming Great Birmingham Run. I’ve still yet to completely decide if I’ll participate or not – the one avenue for a freebie place was a no-go, unfortunately.

Briefing done, I made a beeline for the front of the start for a quick getaway. On “Go”, I shot off like a bat out of hell with the pace registering as fast as 3:26/km at the first corner! I eased off the gas and settled into target pace of 3:45 for the remainder of the first km. I didn’t feel nearly as fresh as last week and further regretted not being looser with the reins when I had the opportunity. I casted the negativity aside and got back to work.

Jort led the way ahead of me for much of the second km. The plan was to complete this split at 3:48/km, so I was delighted when my Garmin flashed up a 3:49 split.

I knew the third km would be a slower one, so I did what I could to keep it close to 3:55 km pace. Easier said than done because the field splintered off to leave me working alone for large chunks of the course. Much like last week, the young Sparkhill Harrier stopped and pulled out of the run. I convinced him to get back in and give it another bash as I passed; he gave chase and stuck with me for another 200m or so before dropping off again. Based on where I saw Dunsby battling for first place on the opposite side of the path, I knew I was on to something good if I could just hold on for another mile or so.

Safely in and out of the triangle, I was cheered on by all the good folks on the other side. Agony was painted all over my face with only my sunglasses to hide the true horror that my body and mind went through. I was slowing and threw in a few short surges to get the pace back on track for another 3:55 split.

On my way to a new Cannon Hill Parkrun course PB

Geoff has a talent for capturing me looking at my worst – Photo by Geoff Hughes

For the final km, it was a completely solitary affair – I had nobody but myself to count on to pull me through. I began consciously lifting the pace, but my legs were shot with lactic acid. Due to the bias of training volume, I had no zip in my legs at all; I was running on fumes with nothing left in reserve. Reaching the MAC, I dared not look at my Garmin in case it put me off. “Come on, Andy! One last push!” I told myself and gritted my teeth. I charged up the hill with an exaggerated arm swing in an attempt to throw my weight upwards before a blind sprint for the line; “blind” being the key word here because I couldn’t actually make out where the finish line was! I waited for the timer to beep before I stopped my own Garmin.

I screamed a few times to dissipate the pain as I made my way through the finish funnel. I parked myself down and hunched over in a bid to desperately get air back into my system. Finish token no. 25 was mine and reminded me to look at the Garmin. 18:59! I bloody did it! And then I saw the cheeky .82 at the end there… I prayed that my late button press of my Garmin equated to 0.5 seconds to dip into sub-19 territory at Cannon Hill. I shared my good news with a few folks before I had to make my excuses and leave – London was calling and I had to be on a train shortly.

Waiting for the official results to come through was reminiscent of a child impatiently anticipating Christmas morning. When the text message finally came through, I was aghast to see “19:03” as my recorded time. “There has to be a mistake”, I thought. One or two seconds difference, I could accept, but I started at the front of the pack and pressed my Garmin after the official timer had registered me; there was no way I could be as much as four seconds out. Working through the results, nothing ahead of me looked out of place apart from one unknown runner; there was a chance a new runner had miscounted how many laps they had to run and went through the funnel early to push everybody else down. Taking the unknown runner out would have me finish one position higher and with the 18:59 result I possibly had. Looking at people after me, the results got progressively more and more out of sync if people’s Strava logs are anything to go by; people finishing at around the 21 minute mark were as much as 7 to 10 seconds out. To further rub salt in the wounds, runbritain only gave the run a 0.8 difficulty and my performance a -0.4 handicap for no improvement at all.


Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Canal half marathon

Conscious that I’d thrashed my legs the day before with the hard Parkrun and at least 10 miles of walking around London, I chose to let my body dictate the pace of the 13.1 miles I covered on the canal towpaths.

People were in good spirits; plenty of fellow runners greeted me verbally or with a nod, and even cyclists were pleasant enough with one passing me and giving me a thumbs up and some encouragement to “keep it up”.

I bumped into Stacey Marston and some of the Bournville Harriers, also out on their long runs.

With blue skies and the sun overhead as I returned to Brindley Place, people were crawling everywhere and I had to be quick on my feet to scoot in and between those that hadn’t heard or chose to ignore my cries of “coming through”. The Gladiators style obstacle course continued as I passed by the canal boat market and the completely oblivious crowds it attracted…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Final long run completed, I totalled just shy of 43 miles for this week’s training diary. The taper now beckons and the rough plan for next week is as follows:

  • Monday – easy 5k from work
  • Tuesday – easy jog to Edgbaston Reservoir, 1.5 miles at half marathon pace, easy jog home
  • Wednesday – easy jog from work
  • Thursday – 4 miles easy with some strides
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – Newport Parkrun (easy 4km, fast final km)
  • Sunday – Cardiff Half Marathon

Time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Be at peace with your shorts

Running shorts are an outward barometer of modesty.

That’s a polite way of saying, “When it comes to shorts, go as long – or as short – as you like. We won’t judge.”

The length or running shorts isn’t really a fashion thing, the way hemlines or necktie widths are. There have always been short shorts and long baggy shorts and in-between shorts. This is, and always has been, a personal-choice thing.

If you prefer the freedom of movement that short shorts offer, and you have the legs to pull it off, then by all means opt for short shorts. When it comes to side-split comfort, there’s nothing like them.

On the other hand, if you’d rather keep your upper thighs shrouded in mystery – and in nylon/polyester – then, please, go the long-and-loose route. More power to you.

Short shorts do not, by the way, confer any benefits in the speed department. While it’s true that most elite runners wear short shorts (or, if they’re women, skin-tight “butt huggers”), the act of wearing super-short shorts will not, in itself, make you faster.

6 thoughts on “This week’s running – 21st to 27th of September 2015

  1. Do these people who have been calling your 5k’s from work “junk miles” run?? I can’t ever imagine any miles being junk miles, no matter what intensity!

  2. Andy

    Just to verify your account of timing issues at Parkrun – I clocked 21:03 but was recorded as a time of 21:07. Gutted for you that your sub 19 wasn’t recorded in the Parkrun records, although at least it gives you something to aim for now you know you can do it 🙂

    • Thanks Paul! Even Steve Dunsby who finished first was 2 seconds out – not entirely sure what happened. I’ll defo have to give it another bash in the future when the conditions are just right.

  3. I’m always loathe to say anything that might be deemed critical of the parkrun volunteers so please take this in the manner it is intended (reassurance that there does seem to have been an issue of sorts) but my time appears to have been around 7 seconds out. I didn’t stop my watch as I was literally incapable but I glanced at it and thought I must have imagined it when I got my time back. Someone has measured the route on Strava though and that has me at 24:52 which is closer to what I saw on my watch when I finished than the 24:59 in the official results. These things happen and there’s always next time 🙂

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