This week’s running – 7th to 13th of March 2016

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500km and 100 fewer Saturday lie-ins for Nigel – photo by Lis Yu

Second highest mileage week of running for me! Oh, and Nigel joined the Parkrun 100 club!

6k from work

If it weren’t for the low temperatures outside on Monday evening, it would have felt just like a late summer’s evening as I ran home along the canal. I’ve now abandoned wearing my headtorch on the run commutes, but anticipate I’ll still need to wear it on longer training runs until perhaps the end of the month when the clocks move forward by one hour.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 mile canal fartlek

Running through Brindley Place, a couple flagged me down to grab my attention and opened with, “Sorry to stop you, but…” My response? “Sorry, can’t stop!” There were dozens of other people around at 6pm – why did they feel the need to single me out when they could have stopped anybody else that wasn’t literally in a rush?!

It reminds me of the time I was running through Cannon Hill Park on a summer’s evening, and a guy stopped me to ask for the time when there were plenty others he could have asked… Grrr! I’ve also heard stories of runners being stopped under the pretence of a request for aid, only to have stuff like milkshakes and eggs thrown at them as some sort of sick, practical joke. Unless I’m on some sort of warm-down or recovery run, I ain’t stopping!

Anywho… Rant over!

I aimed to really push through the speedier sections of this fartlek run in a bid to replicate last week’s efforts. To help achieve this, I wore a pair of lower heel drop race shoes that were admittedly on their way out.

Based on the recorded splits, I was able to go a touch faster compared to last week during most of the faster portions. My form felt great; tall, fast and flexible. I truly felt like I got the workout I wanted and it’ll be interesting to see what everything translates into once I begin structured intervals again later next month.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

6k from work

This wasn’t good – I was tired, hungry and lethargic. Heavy rain had done its worst to the unpaved sections of the canal towpath, requiring I weave all over the place to avoid deep puddles that spanned the entire width of the route; not great when you’re low on mojo.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles

I think the previous day’s recovery run ended up doing more harm than good; I felt incredibly ropey on Thursday morning and thoughts of sacking off that evening’s 10 mile run began to seep in. Throughout the day, I perked up somewhat but still felt slightly off key by the time I finished up at work and headed for home.

I decided to stick with the programme and went out anyway! There was a very slight tailwind on the out, which was unusual as it’s usually a headwind on the out and a tailwind on the return. The miles ticked by nicely at around 7:45 pace without any distress or sluggishness; my form felt tall and strong, whilst my stride got a boost from my glutes that decided to activate.

On the return, I chucked in two miles at marathon pace. I wasn’t able to hit my target pace of 6:50 per mile, instead hovering just above at around 6:55. What was odd was how easy and natural 6:55 per mile felt – must be the addition of running into a headwind…

It’s rare that I regret a run and this was such an example where going out turned out to be the right choice in the end.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

This was Nigel’s big 100th Parkrun and his targets of a sub-20 5k slotted in nicely with my aim of some half marathon race pace work. Nigel was completely down with going for a new PB, and coupled with how fresh I felt, the stage was set.

Almost in a complete reversal of last week, Nigel and I shot off from the line whilst Dave held back. With a couple of people in tow, we finished the first km in a very speedy 3:40, which was on par with my own sub-19 5k runs! I felt fresh as a daisy, no doubt helped by not going absolutely bananas last week and the 10 hours of sleep from the night before.

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Nigel with his amateur pacemaking team – photo by Lis Yu

As Nigel and I eased off the accelerator on the second lap, this allowed Dave to close in on us and tag on to our pack. With several of us to share the effort with, the edge was taken off the pursuit of a fast 5k. Our second km clocked in at 3:58 to restore some balance to the overall average pace.

On the approach to the triangle, we picked up Ben Frost, the young Sparkhill Harrier that PBd last week. Remarkably, the group actually grew faster as the run progressed – 3:56 and 3:52 were logged for the third and fourth km respectively!

Firmly into the final km, I gave regular time feedback and encouragement to both Nigel and Ben; I was certain both of them would PB by a wide margin unless something unexpected scuppered the run in the remaining few hundred metres. When we reached the final hill, a few barks from me dispelled any thoughts of slacking off and launched everybody into a massive kick for the finish.

Looking at my own finish time of 19:10, I already knew PBs had been achieved; Ben had PBd by around 20 seconds (19:09) down to finishing just ahead of me, and Nigel took some 15 seconds off his own PB from back in September (19:12). Chris Callow also PBd by sticking with us, as did a few others according to the official results. Well done all!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Afterwards, Dave and I both agreed the conditions were spot on for a fast 5k; runbritain confirms as much with its course condition score of just 0.2, with 0.0 representing perfect conditions.

16 canal miles

Looking at a number of my peers in and around my ability, some of them have leapfrogged over me in terms of translating their training into race performances this spring. The only difference between us? They’re training for marathons whereas I’m topping out at just a half marathon. I firmly believe the mileage boost has given them a competitive edge, from 5k through to half marathons of late.

I can’t remember the last time I ran a long run that wasn’t 14 miles; the distance, even with a couple of faster marathon and half marathon paced miles chucked in, has felt quite comfortable from beginning to end. And that has meant that my body has made the necessary adaptations for that to happen; the lack of new stresses has resulted in some slight stagnation, whereas my marathon-bound friends are still enjoying their improvement curves.

So, what’s a guy to do? With fewer than two weeks remaining until the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, I decided to boost this final long run to 16 miles (next week will be 10 or 11 miles, tops). To accomplish this, I mapped out a convenient 16.34 mile route to follow, incorporating the Soho Loop.

Conditions were phenomenal; the best I’ve seen this year, with blue skies, low wind and dry terrain underfoot. Crucially, I remembered to get the Soho Loop stretch out of the way early on to make the closing miles less of a mental battle. Returning from there, I came across Stacey Marston and a few of her fellow Bournville Harriers out on their long runs.

Yesterday, Dave and I had casually discussed our intended start times with an eye on getting our paths to cross, much like last week. Neither of us traditionally trains with others and we found it incredibly refreshing to cover some mileage with each other. Shortly after The Vale, we made contact and stuck together for some 7 miles at a fairly leisurely 7:45 to 8 minute mile pace, interspersed with technical running chat that only the two of us could appreciate.

Once I’d covered 13 miles, Dave had run his 9 out of 11 miles and left me to it and exited the canal for home. The effort shot upwards to simply maintain pace; I definitely found myself gritting my teeth a few times during the remaining 3 miles, but then that’s what I’d set out to do so can’t complain! It’s strange to think I haven’t run this far since my last marathon campaign from two years ago…

The taper will begin with a slight drop in mileage planned for next week, before a sharper taper during race week itself.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

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