This week’s running – 16th to 22nd of November 2015


Curse you, Barney!

This week was mostly about Storm Barney battering the nation.

5k from work

I was positively full of beans on the Monday run-commute from the office. There was a nice, natural pick-up in pace that was unexpected, but certainly welcome. Oh, and my ninja friend was out on the towpaths again, dressed head to toe in black, but at least on this occasion, he was running with the torch on his phone enabled…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 mile canal fartlek


Even the Fort Shopping Park sign was no match for Barney!

A few people I know were able to get their Tuesday runs out of the way before Storm Barney hit to have me green with envy. I wasn’t looking forward to the forecasted 40 – 70mph winds, no sir-ee.

Walking back home from work, I was almost blown over a number of times to convince me that a fartlek run, where set pace was not of consequence, would be appropriate for the evening. Fighting against the wind would ensure I’d at least get the desired hard workout!

There were a surprising number of people out on the canal towpath in spite of the strong winds. I was further taken aback by how many of them were runners, convincing me I’d made the right move not to sack the run off for a night indoors instead.

That first effort into the wind was like running through treacle whilst wearing a parachute. Regardless of how quickly I pumped my arms, or how fast I made my cadence, progress was hard to come by. I was conscious not to overdo fighting the wind for fear of leaving nothing in the tank to make it back home. I soon warmed up and the task became more bearable, thanks to some strategic bursts of speed when the wind temporarily retreated.

I always lull myself into a false sense of security regarding tailwinds. A headwind on the out always means a tailwind on the return, right? Wrong! The truth, whilst not stranger than fiction, was certainly harsher. The tailwind only materialised on a few occasions, with a strong crosswind filling the void the rest of the time. There were a few hairy moments, especially on the exposed bridge at Selly Oak, when I was almost pushed into the water…

Once back at home, I stuck two fingers up at Barney to celebrate my completed fartlek – not even the purple dinosaur elements could stop me!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

I felt sluggish after the previous evening’s fartlek run, so kept the pace low and slow. Secondarily dictating the slower pace was me forgetting to pack my headtorch… I’ve truly been spoilt by how much power the Petzl headtorch pushes out; by comparison, the iPhone torch was only bright enough to illuminate my feet and maybe 1m of the ground ahead.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles

I’m loving the increased mileage I’m cranking out, with 8 of the last 11 weeks (the remainder were taper or recovery weeks) sitting around the 43 mile mark. I’m seriously getting twitchy if I don’t hit at least 40 miles.

This particular 10 miler is one I most likely would have binned were it not for my pursuit for mileage consistency. I still felt somewhat beat up from Tuesday’s fartlek run; in my mind, I’d already decided to cover the first 5 miles at just under 8 minute pace to keep things in check, before pressing on with 3 miles at the slower end of marathon pace (7:10 or so), with 2 miles at the end to cool down.

Getting home from work took much longer than anticipated and then once I reached my street, it started raining to further dampen the mood. My Garmin also decided to get in on the conspiracy to make this run not happen. Normally, I leave it on a windowsill to achieve satellite lock on; used daily and not travelling very far, the Garmin’s cache of satellite data is usually always relevant, with lock on achieved within minutes at most. After two failed attempts and two reboots, a signal still wasn’t found and I was running out of time to get 10 miles completed for the evening. I didn’t fancy waiting outside for the Garmin to find a signal, but alas, it had to be done – I feel naked without run data! Within just a couple of seconds of stepping outside, the Garmin finally locked in on some satellites to have me rolling my eyes.

Thankfully, after the delayed start, the run was entirely without incident. It was also nice after Tuesday’s lack of lighting to be reunited with my headtorch and actually be able to see my surroundings! The 3 miles at marathon pace were really positive. My form felt efficient and the pace was smooth and relaxed.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

There was a sharp intake of breath on Saturday morning to welcome in the coldest Parkrun I’d experienced for months. An easy jog with Nigel Beecroft and Paul Shackleton soon took care of the warm-up and a 200m sprint at race pace helped to keep the warmth around. I paired my vest with gloves and arm warmers; Jort, also wearing a vest through error, quipped, “Real men don’t wear arm warmers!”

I really wasn’t sure of my game plan for the run, but I did think to have a bash at bringing my runbritain handicap down further; the cold and windy conditions were more than likely to have the run’s difficulty higher than normal for a slight boost to any decent performance.

Off the line, I went out reasonably hard but certainly didn’t feel as fresh as I’d hoped. I eased off the gas, allowing the pace to hover around 3:44, and settled into a decent-sized pack. I’ve no idea what’s happened of late, but Cannon Hill seems to be attracting a strong field of runners at the sharper end again; there was some backlash from a number of faster runners when the course was modified last year to feature a hill at the end, slowing down one of the faster and better attended courses in the West Midlands. I estimated I was somewhere in the low 30s on Saturday, position-wise, whereas I’d have been in the high teens a year ago whilst at a lower ability.

Entering the second lap, I made a move to take shelter from the wind and surged to draft behind one bloke that was just slightly ahead. He had a lengthy stride, which made staying in his slipstream somewhat tricky; I didn’t want to get too close to potentially trip him up, but also had to stay within a certain range to actually receive any benefit. I couldn’t actually see the ground properly and trusted in his steps, though nearly came a cropper when he quickly jumped to avoid a stray tree branch, only for me to go clattering into it!

I continued to tail the guy into the third km and took up front-running duties when I sensed his pace slipping. We’d picked up a few stragglers along the way to make the entry into the triangle rather crowded; this proved to be incredibly motivating to break away from the group on the exit for the fourth km.


Brrr – photo by Geoff Hughes

Once into the final km, I could hear a couple of runners right on my tail to keep me on my toes. Whilst I had plenty of strength throughout the run, I did feel like I had a certain oomph missing from the final split, almost like there was a distinct lack of finishing power. I’ve always felt a strength of mine was the ability to produce a big kick at the end. I crossed the line for 19:05 and 27th place; over 19 minutes but I was fairly confident I’d done enough to make a small dent to my runbritain handicap if the results were anything to go by.

Here’s the Garmin data for this Parkrun.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 22.16.52

Moving in the right direction again!

And my hunch was correct! 4.8 down from 4.9!

Canal half marathon

Due to the need to be somewhere at 11:30am, I headed out for 13.1 miles a touch earlier than usual and boy did I feel that temperature drop. The long-sleeve top and gloves keeping me company were most welcome!

Freezing temperatures aside, it was a beautiful winter’s morning. Plenty of other runners, walkers and cyclists must have thought so too, because it wasn’t ever long before I encountered another soul out there.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with me at the moment, but the most comfortable stretch of this long run were the 3 miles I covered at marathon pace. I never really felt at home during the first 6 miles, nor the final 4, both run at a lower effort.

I did bump into Carl out there, though couldn’t stop to chat due to above said time constraints. Had we have stopped, I’m not sure how long we’d have lasted before we got moving again due to the biting cold!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

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

Judge not the runner in the cotton t-shirt

Back in the day, according to ancient cave paintings, runners wore cotton shirts. Strange, but true.

Fast-forward a few decades, and today we have “technical” shirts, designed to wick moisture away from the skin, keeping you drier and more comfortable. Technical shirts have the added benefit of looking cool, like something astronauts might wear while relaxing, after hours, with a freeze-dried gin and tonic.

Yes, everyone loves tech shirts.

Still, you will encounter the occasional oddball old-timer who runs in cotton (usually cotton race T-shirts, though even those are becoming rare). Treat him with the respect he deserves – for two reasons, at least:

  1. Chances are good that he has been running a lot longer than you have, and even if he’s not faster than you today, he probably was at some point.
  2. Deriding another runner based on what the runner is wearing is just lame. Such an attitude says a lot more about the derider than it does about the one being derided. And what it says isn’t pretty.

Besides, someday – if you’re very lucky – you might be an oddball old-timer yourself. And how will you feel if someone sneers at you and your old, outdated tech shirts?



2 thoughts on “This week’s running – 16th to 22nd of November 2015

  1. Well toughed out in the wind. I dodged it on Tuesday but it came back to bite my arse big time on Sat. Tough though it is at the time, windy sessions can only be good in the long run. Wind in the bank, if you will.

    PS what do you reckon to that World HM Champs at Cardiff in March?

    • Cheers Charlie. I’m glad I did it, especially for the mental boost I received. I’ll be at the World Half Champs – entered it when registration first opened and paid full price 😦 Had I have waited, I’d have received a nice £10 discount for also having run the Cardiff Half.

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