This week’s running – 28th of November to 4th of December 2016

cold

Running tights have finally been rotated back into regular wear!

Wowza! Who turned off the heating?!

6x 1km with 2 minutes recovery

The P&L half marathon plan I’ve been following saw its first major adaptation as I swapped in this session from a 10k plan.

For the first time this season, it was cold enough outside to replace my shorts with tights and add gloves to the mix. The gloves really weren’t up to the job, and by the end of the run, I’d lost all feeling in my fingers with them looking red and a tad angry…

As cold as it was, I really do enjoy running when it’s chilly as somebody that generates a lot of heat exercising; during the latter reps, it was possible to see the steam rising away from me! I’m sure the low temperature had a positive role to play in how positive the session was, where target pace of 3:48 to 3:50 per km was met with actual splits of 3:56, 3:52, 3:51, 3:49, 3:52 and 3:49. Post-session, I was also greeted by a newly recorded VO2max high of 63 for my second boost in just 2 weeks. Whether it’s the latent benefit of the marathon training, the shift in focus to LT pace and tempo runs, or both, it’s nice to see some evidence of improvement.

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

4 miles recovery

I normally cover this run from New Street Station, but with all the increased foot flow of the German Market and Christmas shoppers, waiting for a cubicle to free up has made changing into my gear rather time consuming. Instead, I decided to head over to John Lewis on the other side of the station for a much swifter and pleasant experience (and a slightly shorter run home).

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

With cool temperatures in full swing, I opted to invest in yet another pair of running tights. In the process of becoming leaner throughout 2016, I also appear to have lost the ability to withstand the cold!

My legs were pretty much shot and still recovering from Tuesday’s interval session. Nothing I did convinced them to go much faster; thankfully, I can treat them to a bit of a taper next week ahead of the Telford 10k.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Perry Hall Parkrun

Cannon Hill was cancelled due to a scheduled Santa Run taking place instead, so the gang and I made our way over to Perry Hall’s event.

In play was their new route – the first course adaptation since the event’s debut in autumn 2014. Whereas the old course featured 2x laps of an hourglass-shaped route, this new iteration became 3x laps of varying distance and configuration to keep people on their toes. The major driver behind the change was to remove the stretch of grass that runners had to cover twice; not a problem in the summer but a turn-off for many in the wetter months. Feedback from those that had run the new course shared their positivity of it with me, citing an uptick in speed and dry feet as the biggest takeaways.

Simon, Nigel and I arrived to the news that there were multiple cross-country fixtures taking place later that day; this coupled with the Cannon Hill devout being split between Perry Hall, Arrow Valley and Brueton events meant the anticipated attendance boost never materialised. The last time this happened, I got lucky and bagged a first place finish at Perry Hall!

Toeing the start line, I tried identifying those faster than me, but could only see fellow-Cannon Hill regular, Nathan Warren. Shaun Hemmings was nowhere to be seen, but was later found barcode scanning. There were also a few visiting runners from out of town that looked like they could handle themselves.

The start was fast as anticipated, and the pace kept up for the first few hundred metres. Nathan broke away as expected and I found myself in the chase group of four. Very quickly, two guys fell away to leave me battling it out with another fella for second place. Whilst I felt spritely, I had much less warm-up than normal to keep the effort controlled. I reasoned the other guy would have crept away if he was able to, but the two of us remained locked in combat for the remainder of the first lap.

Heading into the second lap, I managed to close some ground on him by surging downhill, and then uphill, to put me in position to overtake and kick on. The Perry Hall course, new or old, is very exposed and I regretted making my move into the headwind… Several hundred metres later, I eased off to begin drafting behind my pursuer on the long switchback feature of the lap. The cone marking the turnaround point and narrow path required either slowing considerably to get around it, or maintaining speed but going wide. I chose the former and injected a surge upon exit to break away from my opponent. A glance backwards indicated I had a gap that he would have had to work hard at to shut down, prompting me to kick again to really hammer it home. I was too busy focusing on him and almost made a wrong turn as I approached the third lap!

The third and final lap featured a shorter switchback at about halfway. Nathan returned from the turnaround point into the park and I estimated there was perhaps a minute’s difference between the two of us, so second place was mine to defend with no other goal in sight. I took the turn incredibly wide; I’m still none the wiser which approach is better. Re-entering the park, I guesstimated my lead had grown to 10 to 15 seconds to convince me I was pretty safe; I always had a big finishing kick available to me if I ran into trouble in the closing stages. I steadily covered the remainder of the course for the finish, with no need to do much more for a pretty stable second place finish.

Unbeknownst to me, I finished in 19:11 to be over a minute faster than when I came first in 2015, and also took over 35 seconds off my previous course best set earlier this year. How much of this difference is down to the rejigged course versus my fitness improvements, I do not know – a bit of both I suspect.

I’m torn about whether I’m a fan of the new course or not. The removal of the grass perceptively makes the route feel faster, though this is potentially cancelled out by how well one can navigate around switchback points. I’m confident the course change will yield attendance growth for Perry Hall, especially to newcomers and non-runners where the previous cross-country feel was a little less welcoming than fully paved paths of nearby neighbours, Cannon Hill and Walsall Arboretum.

I’ll next be back at Perry Hall for the second of two New Year’s Day Parkruns, the first taking place at Brueton Park.

Here’s the Strava data for the run.

12 miles – to Solihull and back

It was only several days ago that Lis and I were talking about the fabled runner’s high, and how I rarely experienced one these days. Imagine my surprise for it to strike during this fairly staple run!

I knew I was feeling good early on by how quickly the pace escalated during my warm-up miles. Mile 3 clocked in at under 8 minutes and felt almost effortless. My stride was purposeful and my glutes appeared to be firing correctly to both contribute to the positivity.

Even when the terrain dipped or climbed, my legs ate up the distance and cursory glances at my heart rate on the Garmin concurred that I was barely stressed. I even bagged a new PB on the Brook Lane climb segment on Strava, despite not intentionally seeking it out. Must be the combination of cool temperatures and all the recent training graft finally coming good and coalescing? Roll on Telford 10k next week!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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