This week’s running – 29th of February to 6th of March 2016


Three weeks to go!

Training got serious once more with the World Half Marathon Championships only weeks away…

6k from work

The previous week’s long Sunday run really did a number on me; my abs, neck and lower back all had a dull ache to them from the pursuit of strong tall form.

Running home, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I counted no fewer than ten others including myself out in the dark and cold on a Monday! Me thinks the realisation that people have entered races and have done sod all training has finally sunk in.

There was just enough light out that I didn’t bother to switch my headtorch on at all – roll on the spring!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 mile canal fartlek

I’ve fought against the use of measuring times and splits whilst out on a fartlek run, believing that it went against the ethos of what fartlek is all about: speed play that’s free from formal structure.

Identifying a severe lack of VO2 max development, I reluctantly began clocking different segments to gain better visibility of how fast I was actually running. All in all, a very good session that had me working hard in the right places. One of the splits saw me race a cyclist; he was furiously dinging his bell from behind me just as I entered a fast stretch around Selly Oak, so I pressed on to stay ahead of him to account for the dramatic upshift in pace.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

Owning an older Garmin 910XT, I don’t get to enjoy the benefit of pre-cached GPS satellite data that’s available to newer models. Instead, I periodically switch mine on and simply leave it on a windowsill at home to achieve lock-on, whether I actually need it for a run or not – that way, its cached satellite data is never too out of date.

In my haste to get to work on Wednesday, I did need said Garmin but left it on the windowsill…

As silly as it sounds, I’m one of these “if it ain’t on Garmin/Strava, it didn’t happen” types. I love poring over data! I decided to give the Strava app on my phone a go whilst I ran home from the office; with more than enough run commutes to benchmark the app against, I was curious to see how it would fare across the different metrics.

To give the Strava app the best chance of succeeding, I carried my phone in my hand and disabled it from going to sleep – it was on constantly and tracking, just as my Garmin would have been doing if it were on my wrist.

Getting the app to start recording was simple enough, though despite it already achieving satellite lock-on ahead of time, the screen remained still with only elapsed time moving to show any sign of life; I had already run for 30 seconds and covered around 100m, but no pace info showed until nearer 2 minutes… Once pace data finally appeared, it was incredibly smooth and given how steadily I ran, it almost fooled me into thinking it had locked up completely if not for the elapsed time that remained in constant motion.

The first mile marker notification appeared at pretty much the right point on the route, though bizarrely, the app itself was still only showing 0.9 miles in terms of distance… The second mile ticked by and there was no notification at all, only for it to randomly return once I hit the third mile!

Recorded distance-wise, I was pretty impressed. The actual distance of the route sits somewhere between 3.84 and 3.86 miles based on the many occasions I’ve covered it. Whilst the Strava app (and the website) annoyingly only shows distance in X.X format, I watched the distance tick over to 3.8 miles with a further 100m to approximately run for home – this would have brought me to 3.86 miles or so to be pretty much in-line with my benchmark data.

Getting the app to stop was difficult – my phone was not responding to my finger presses, either due to how wet the screen was, or how cold my fingers were. I had to manually kill the app to get it to stop. Thankfully, I clocked the elapsed time and created a manual entry on both Garmin Connect and Strava’s main site, discarding the recorded activity after scrutinising it (the recorded track was actually no better or worse than my Garmin).

So, in a nutshell, the Strava app made for an OK-ish back-up during this easy recovery run and for casual use. It seemed pretty accurate in regards to distance, but the pace data stalling at the start and the app’s overall responsiveness left me questioning its reliability, especially for longer and more critical runs. If my Garmin broke the day before a race, I would dash out immediately and buy a replacement, it’s that simple.

10 canal miles

Every once in a while, we all experience a run where nothing goes well. For this run, I wanted to cover a 2 – 3 miles at marathon pace in the second half. But that never happened…

Even wearing a long-sleeve top, I felt like I had a constant chill out there, and that’s coming from a guy that prefers running in the cold! I was also hungry and tired, so this run of attrition really wasn’t welcome; the pace was kept hovering at around 8 minutes per mile because I simply couldn’t sustain anything faster.

Once back at home, I knew I was shot from the headache I’d picked up. After a shower, dinner and a few emails, I hopped straight into bed and expected to feel dreadful the next morning. As luck would have it, I woke feeling not too bad at all – just one of those bad runs, I guess!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

With the World Half Marathon Championships only three weeks away, I wanted to make a focused effort towards race pace training. Parkrun was the perfect outlet for this, where my target half marathon pace (sub-84) dovetailed nicely with sub-20 5k pace.

Off the line, I watched both Dave and Nigel shoot off into the distance as I held back. Before too long, they had more than 200m on me and I decided to leave them both to it and would assist if I ever made contact with them again.

It was great to run with no screeching pace monkey on my shoulder; I was able give encouragement to those around me with no fear of blowing up for a break from the norm!

3km in, I reached the triangle and I could see both Dave and Nigel were within reach.

By 4km, I joined their gang and brought a couple of guys of my own to the party that had stuck with me.


Helping out the next generation of Parkrunner – photo by George Mardall

Reaching the MAC, a young Sparkhill Harrier runner began drifting back towards us; I urged him to latch on to the group and to stay with us until the end. Reaching the final hill, he was still with us, so Dave and I continued to give encouragement, and ran the kid all the way into the finish for what turned out to be a 10 second PB for him.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

Afterwards, a visiting runner stopped to have a chat with me, citing that he’d stumbled on this very blog for info on Cannon Hill Parkrun. Proving what a small world it is we live in, Kevin mentioned he was a member of Cardiff’s Les Croupier club and even knew my buddy, Vince Nazareth. I was curious as to why Kevin was in town; he revealed he’s a bit of a serial Parkrun tourist and checking out his profile highlights no fewer than 109 different events (out of 251 runs) he’s run at, including the two US events in Florida and San Francisco!

14 canal miles

Being Mother’s Day, I had a table booked for my dear Mum at a Thai buffet. I was positively salivating at the thought of an all-I-could-eat protein fest, but had to earn it first with my staple long Sunday 14 mile run.

In a bit of a daze, I completely forgot to run out towards the Soho Loop to get that out of the way, rather than cover it on the return. At the end of a long run when you’re nearly home, the last thing you want to do is go on a near 2 mile diversion, but oh well!

A couple of miles in, I crossed paths with Iain and we both connected with a perfectly executed high-five.

The wind on the out was certainly noticeable, but I stayed in positive spirits that I would enjoy a tailwind on the return.

Leaving the canal at Bournville train station, I began my 2 mile turnaround to head back towards my departure point for a further 7 miles. The wind followed me and never relented – I know I should stop being surprised, but I’m still amazed how a headwind can remain a headwind even when I’ve spun 180 degrees!

Back at Bournville station, I noticed Dave running through and tagged along with him for the stretch until University station, taking the edge off the solo effort up to that point for both of us. He aborted his progression run and judging by his laboured breathing into the headwind, it was definitely for the best. Hilariously, Strava’s Flyby functionality indicated he was only mere minutes behind me for much of the first half of my run!

All in all, not a bad long run and yes, I did indeed gorge myself over lunch.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.


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