This week’s running – 30th of May to 5th of June 2016

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Arrow Valley Parkrun wants you to return their finish tokens – photo by Lis Yu

Week 4 of the 22 week marathon schedule.

8 miles with 4 at marathon pace

What a difference a week makes! After Sunday’s 13 mile long run leaving me pretty fatigued, I wasn’t sure how productive this session would be in terms of hitting marathon pace. Turns out I need not have worried at all.

Weather conditions continued to be dire with drizzly rain and strong winds, though this helped clear the canal towpaths dramatically. Somebody passing in a Ford Fiesta recognised me and tooted their horn to give me a thumb’s up – if it was you, please let me know!

After a 2 mile warm-up to Bournville Station, I was welcomed into the first marathon paced mile with a face full of headwind. Effort-wise, I felt much more at ease with the 6:47 target compared to last week and at times even had to rein myself in for fear of drifting off to a faster pace. The splits came out as follows:

  1. 6:45
  2. 6:44
  3. 6:44
  4. 6:44

Heart rate data was pegged at 165bpm average for the marathon paced miles to be about where I anticipated it to be.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5k recovery

Whilst this was meant to be a 5 mile recovery run from the city centre as per usual, I only went and left my run clothes at home, though somehow still managed to take my running shoes with me to the office…

So, I had to return home first and change before I could get going. I wanted to explore a neat 5k loop I’d plotted out that could be useful for bulking out longer runs without scratching around for additional distance.

Since switching to the superior Polar heart rate monitor strap, I’ve found myself using it on every run to try and gain a better understanding of what my ticker is doing and trying to tell me. The objective was to try and keep my average heart rate at or below 60% (125bpm-ish) of maximum (around 205/206bpm), which I just managed by the skin of my teeth. I have no problem maintaining a steady pace, but maintaining a steady effort by heart rate is a skill that needs further development.

I did go off-course ever so slightly on Yardly Wood Road; my mind was elsewhere and instead of making a left turn as intended, I carried on straight before correcting my path.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

Thankfully, lightning did not strike twice and I remembered to take some run apparel with me to work! For a complete contrast to Wednesday’s chilly and drizzly conditions, Thursday featured blue skies and reasonable warmth.

Besides covering 10 miles, the secondary objective was to keep my heart rate at or below 70% of maximum. In the end, I averaged 71% for the entire run, so just missed it by the skin of my teeth and would have succeeded were it not for that pesky climb up Cartland Road.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Gadgets and gizmos galore

Who doesn’t like purchasing some new kit?

Whilst there was nothing wrong with my Garmin 910XT, it was showing its age on the outside and in. The exterior had signs of wear and tear after three years of very regular use all over the world, and the inside was lacking in some of the whiz-bang features that newer GPS watches of the last few years now boast as standard.

The Fenix 3 won my attention, chiefly because of its casual good looks but also because of the plethora of data that can be collected. The only fly in the ointment was the dodgy reputation it had for GPS accuracy; failing at its primary task was a big no-no and purchasing it came with the potential for serious buyer’s remorse if not for a good returns policy from Amazon et al.

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A big watch and girly wrists can be compatible!

Upon first unboxing the Fenix 3, the damn thing is huge! I’m used to wearing big watches having owned the 910XT, which nobody would ever call small; the Fenix 3 on my wrist was in a complete league of its own, but at least the display was easy to read as consequence!

I would have to wait until Saturday to test out its accuracy…

The other bit of new kit I purchased was to help me through the dog days of summer whilst training for an autumn marathon. Whilst my Camelbak had served me reasonably well on two prior marathon campaigns, it wasn’t without its faults. The fit was only so-so with only a chest strap to lock it down, and said chest strap also shredded running tops to pieces.

Whilst Camelbaks used to be the defacto go-to for ultra running events, a new kid on the block took its throne: enter the ultra vest (otherwise confusingly known as race vests).

For my needs, I just need to be able to carry two smaller bottles of fluid with a gel or two to keep my thirst at bay whilst on my longest marathon training runs. It will also be utilised on my medium-long runs from the office (topping out at 14 miles), where I’m having to carry a phone, some keys, a wallet along with some liquid refreshment.

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The Salomon S-Lab Sense Set – un-catchy name aside, it’s had good reviews

The ultra vest I’ve settled on is the Salomon S-Lab Sense Set. It’s Salomon’s most minimal design and the mesh back also makes it the most breathable in their range. Ultra running guru, Ian Corless, gave it top marks in his review, which helped cement in my mind that I’d made the right choice. Initial thoughts to come once I’ve test it out.

Arrow Valley Parkrun

With Cannon Hill Parkrun cancelled due to another event taking place in the park, the gang and I headed south to Arrow Valley Parkrun. Only Simon had been there once before and that was run on a modified course due to a nearby funfair causing disruption. For Dave, who had only ever run at Cannon Hill previously, it was his first stint at Parkrun tourism.

Lis, Dave and I arrived with plenty of time for a warm-up lap of the route before meeting up with the others. It was immediately obvious that Arrow Valley Country Park’s paths are in better shape than Cannon Hill’s, with nary a pothole in sight to fall into. People have previously told me that Arrow Valley’s course is flat; whilst it certainly is fast, it’s by no means flat when compared to the likes of Cardiff Parkrun because it features a climb that appears in the middle of each of the two laps, accompanied by a few undulations here and there. Unlike Cannon Hill’s final hill that gives nothing back in return, Arrow Valley’s course at least provides opportunities to reclaim time after each rise with a few descents.

Assembled on the start line, there were many other familiar faces from Cannon Hill in attendance; others went to Perry Hall or Brueton to get their weekly 5k fix.

From the line, the pace was rather reserved and I found myself with the lead group for the first mile or so. I felt positively great; it was like my lungs were supercharged from all the marathon pace work I’ve embarked on of late. Huw Jones and Matthew Lewis pulled away and I decided to regroup and draft behind Jort.

Nearing the end of the first lap, Huw and Matthew went off-course due to some sloppy marshalling – the marshal made no attempt to shout out to them and call them back, either! Before too long, they realised their error and rejoined the run about 10 seconds behind me.

Entering the second lap, I decided to kick things up a notch and began chasing down people ahead of me.

I started lapping some of the back runners and, surprisingly, they were all very vocal with their cheers to power me on. I’ve only ever seen this happen at very small events and even then, there’s no guarantee.

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Lovely terrain for fast times at Arrow Valley Parkrun – photo by Lis Yu

Turning for the penultimate corner, I shifted into another gear and began a breakaway from my pursuer before laying on a sprint for the finish.

Once across the line and with my finish token in hand, I had to collapse on the grass from the effort. To my surprise, I’d made it on to the podium with third place to my name! Now clearly, I should have really been either fifth or sixth had Huw and Matthew not been sent off-course.

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All that’s missing is the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack – photo by Lis Yu

The gang all agreed that Arrow Valley made for a most enjoyable venue and the change of scenery was most welcome to shake things up.

And the recorded distance on the Fenix 3? Exactly 5.00km or 3.11 miles! More detailed thoughts of the Fenix 3 to come once I’ve had a bit more time with it.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

16 miles – to Brindley Place and back

I thought I’d lucked out when I looked outside the window to see overcast skies to accompany me on my 16 mile run. The weather forecast continued to confirm the temperature would rise and the sun would appear, though the question of “when” loomed.

The first half was rather pleasant. Like on Thursday’s 10 mile run, I wanted to keep the pace and my heart rate stable, though this was easier said than done. Whilst the pace was pretty steady, the mercury shooting up did the same to my heart rate, courtesy of what’s known as cardiac drift.

During the second half, I trailed behind a guy wearing a long-sleeve top and ran alongside him for a while when he wanted a quick chat to break up the monotony. He explained that he’d love to not have to wear a long-sleeve top in the summer, but his skin was particularly fair so his clothing choice was in the name of self-preservation.

I survived to write this blog entry, but I suspect 16 miles is my limit for a run without taking any fluids on-board; I can’t wait to test out my Salomon ultra vest!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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