This week’s running – 9th to 15th of November 2015

Hurricane Kate

Conditions were biblical out there this week!

After a week’s recovery, this week was back to full steam ahead.

5k from work

A bit blustery out there was Monday! Thankfully, my route from the office back to base meant I only had to contend with a crosswind. I felt suitably recharged from the preceding lighter training week and busted out a pacier commute than normal, though still somewhat slower than the sub-8 average I clocked a few months ago.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 canal miles

I decided it was too risky undertaking a fartlek run on the Hagley Road, despite my preference for it. As I’ve said in passing weeks, motorists just aren’t on the lookout for people on pavements, where I’m fully expected to give way to cars crossing my path. It’s not even a winter-darkness thing anymore because it happens just as frequently to me in the summer, too.

This got me thinking about my own training preferences. I’m much more willing to hammer out intervals than I am to run continuous stretches at effort. It’s the way I’m wired up, where I feel I’m better able to tolerate shorter, sharper workouts if I know the end isn’t too far away; going long and slow is rarely an issue, either. It’s the paces in the middle that I’m all too often out of touch with; the 6:45 to 7:15 minute miles, or somewhere between half marathon and marathon pace.

With the above in mind, I took to the largely disturbance-free canal with the aim of completing 8 miles, with 4 of them in the middle at around marathon pace. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the 7mph headwind on the out leg to make an unfamiliar pace and effort feel even more off-key. The splits were close enough that I didn’t lose sleep over them, and I’m confident they’d have been more precise in the day with calmer conditions.

Something else I wasn’t prepared for was the sight of two other fellow runners in the dark with headtorches and plenty of reflective material to make even a Christmas tree jealous (shock-horror!) I did end up doing the awkward “Whose path is it?” dance with one of them, where I made the first move to one side, only for them to do the same a split second later, followed by another sidestep from me, and then another from them… Oh what fun.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

Eugh. Not pleasant at all due to a lunch that was too light and barely touched the sides on its way down. Even an emergency mid-afternoon banana wasn’t enough to keep the hunger pangs at bay. I am finding myself incredibly ravenous at the moment, so it would seem my upscaled training is finally manifesting in more ways than just additional speed.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles

As somewhat of a continuation from Tuesday, I chose to pound out 10 miles with 3 miles in the second half at marathon pace. I read somewhere ages ago that training your weaknesses offers the biggest return on training investment, so there I was bashing out another 20 or so minutes at around marathon pace. Advocates of such a pace in training claim it gives much of the benefits of a faster tempo pace, but is much easier to recover from and with less injury risk. What’s not to love?

Anywho, it wasn’t the 3 marathon paced miles at all that caused issue, but rather selfish cyclists. Last week, I wrote about Ed Barlow having to fish a cyclist out of the water – the trend of idiotic cyclists continues this week (maybe I should rename this segment “Twat Cyclist Thursday”?) During this particular run for me, I came across three cyclists coming towards me just before the long tunnel between The Vale and Gas Street Basin. One broke away from the others and came past me, whilst the other two were cycling side by side. I could only guess one of the cyclists was attempting to overtake the other, but did not see me approaching them, despite me being covered in high vis and bringing my own lighting to the party.

With only 10m or so remaining and neither one of them willing/knowing to slow down and drop back behind the other, I was left with no choice and no space; I stopped and moved into the middle of the towpath, turning sideways for them to go past on either side of me. I was spitting feathers as they went by, telling them both to “F***ing pick a side”. There was no reply from either of them and I regretted not sticking my arms out to clothesline them both for their idiocy.

It’s cyclists like the two above that give the sensible ones a bad name!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Biblical weather was forecasted for the weekend, so it came as a surprise to see Saturday morning was both dry and free of wind to make for perfect Parkrun conditions; other UK events weren’t so lucky with buddies in Wales looking like drowned rats afterwards.

Attendance numbers were high with Kings Heath Running Club providing their ever-popular pacers (20 minutes through to 40 minutes). I was saddened to see there was no 19 minute pacer; I followed Scott Williams’ lead a year ago to bag a 1 second PB after more than 14 months without (it’s the little things that count). Various folks asked why I wasn’t leading the 19 minute charge myself – having gone sub-19 only once before on the course does not a reliable pacer make!

As a product of experiment and limited time, I chopped my normal 300m warm-up at race pace down to 200m. 200m obviously taxed me a little less than 300m, yet I felt like I’d received the same benefit – this was enough to convince me 200m would suffice from there on.

From the start line, I charged right in at a smidge faster than 3:44/km target pace. The sharper end of the field was unusually dense, which left me with plenty to draft behind and work with; of particular note were a North Walean club runner and a younger lad in black that stuck with me for much of the run.

I thought it was odd that my Garmin remained silent, even well after 1km had been and gone. In my haste whilst leaving home, I’d set my Garmin up incorrectly and had left auto lap on miles, despite pace being set to km for a minor distraction. I knew PB pace was about 6:05 per mile or 3:47 per km, so I just made sure one of these two targets were homed in on.

Things became challenging, as ever, during the middle stretch of the run. Thankfully, the two runners that started out with me were still floating in and out of contact. Whilst we didn’t get any faster, we each pushed what we had to work with to prevent any pace tail-off. I kicked briefly upon exiting the triangle to recover a few valuable seconds lost from what I argue is the slowest point of the course. The two guys did not respond and never came back into contact with me; photos from the final 400m confirm they were at least 10-15 seconds behind me.

All aboard the pain train

All aboard the pain train – photo by Lis Yu

It was an agonising final mile with much of it spent alone. I was always just behind the runners in front of me by a couple of seconds and had nothing spare to fill in the gap. I passed the MAC and took a peek at the elapsed time to see 17:20 on the clock. I’ve done the analysis and know I’m in with a PB opportunity if I have more than 90 seconds available to me – any less and it’s a fool’s errand. I began my final assault, conscious to keep my shoulders relaxed (fail) and my stride long (success). I managed to reach the runners ahead of me and even beat a few of them to the hill. Once on the climb, I knew I was at my limit and had nothing left to call upon with the Garmin data confirming as much for the scraps after 3 miles.

Despite my protestations that I wasn’t able to serve as a 19 minute pacer, it was laughably ironic that I managed to run exactly 19:00 on my Garmin, though this was later rounded down to 18:59 in the official results (woohoo!)

A very positive morning, and enough evidence to convince me to go hell for leather at the lightning fast Cardiff Parkrun course in a couple of weeks for my last chance of a 5k PB in 2015. It’s getting desperate now!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Chasing Perfection

Those of you who subscribe to this blog via email will miss this since it’s an update after I pressed “publish” – sorry!

Channel 4, here in the UK, is pretty good at providing coverage of road racing and triathlon, though does so by featuring it at 7am on Sunday mornings. Guess they must think runners are already up at such an hour!

Lis and I caught the first part of a series (no idea how many episodes there will be) called Chasing Perfection. Hosted by Michael Johnson (we love his voice), it delves into the ever-increasing role of sport science across a number of disciplines, but with a focus on athletics.

Thanks to services like 4OD, we can all stay tucked up in bed at 7am on Sundays and simply stream it online at our own leisure – click here to check the first episode out.

Canal half marathon

The forecasted biblical rain never arrived, but boy did the wind make itself known. I knew the Sunday long run would not be a walk in the park, with 20mph gusts aimed right at me on the out leg towards Bournville.

I purposely held back and kept the pace easy to leave something in the tank for the second half. At times the gusts were so strong, they made me feel like I was towing a tyre behind me.

Fully expecting the second half to be a doddle with plenty of tailwind to send me on my way, I was sorely disappointed and was met with mostly crosswinds and more headwinds. A rare calm stretch allowed for one mile at marathon pace of 6:57.

To add insult to injury on what was already a tricky run, my Garmin refused to upload the data afterwards. Just as much really that it wasn’t a run I’ll cherish and want to recall for years to come.

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

You can always take off clothing

Err on the side of wearing too much.

Well, not too much. You don’t want to start a long run wearing shorts, pants, base layer, technical tee, vest, jackets, glove liners, mittens, and wool hat. Especially if it’s August.

But it’s always easier to remove a layer than it is to add one, particularly if you’re 9 miles from home. So plan for this. Dress just a bit warmer than you think you need to. Then be prepared to deal with clothing you’ve just peeled off en route: “Can I tuck this hat into a waistband? Can I tie this jacket around my waist?” And so on.

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