This week’s running – 25th of September to 1st of October 2017

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Running and sight-seeing? At the same time? Madness!

Week 21 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Some running in that there London town and we’re almost there…

5k easy

Due to the increased warmth of the Robin Hood Half Marathon, my Garmin suggested a lengthier recovery window than a year ago. Heeding its advice, I delayed Tuesday’s run with a sprinkling of marathon pace and rotated in an easy 5k.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

7 miles with 2 at marathon pace

Faster workouts are fraught with danger as one gets closer to race day, so I purposely softened the marathon paced miles by slotting an 800m recovery between them. I wasn’t going to get any fitter and simply needed to not lose touch with how marathon pace should feel.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Traditionally, I’ve always set out to run hard at the final parkrun the week before a big race. Along with the VO2max benefits, blowing off some cobwebs from tapering is rarely a bad thing. Little did I know how badly my 5k pace had deteriorated!

Kings Heath Running Club took over the volunteer duties for the morning and kindly provided pacers, including a 19 minute one. Whilst I was initially able to keep up, the pacer drifted away after 2km and my lack of 5k intensity reared its ugly head. My breathing was still perfectly adequate, but I simply could not coerce more from myself to shift into higher gears, eventually finishing in 19:20 without too much discomfort.

Whilst I would have liked one last fast parkrun ahead of race day, I’m totally on-board that my training has seen me trade in speed for (hopefully) out and out endurance…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Oh, and don’t forget the parking charges for Cannon Hill Park kick-in from the 6th of October onwards. £2 for the first four hours or £3 for the entire day.

14 mile London runaround

Lis and I found ourselves in London, making for a fantastic scenery change from the norm to keep me company on my final long-ish run. Despite London being somewhere I’ve visited many times over the years, this was actually only my fourth run in the capital, with two of the prior occasions being the London Marathon!

Starting and ending on Brick Lane, the route I plotted could be considered quite lazy, straddling both sides of the Thames for much of the duration. Run firmly at an easy pace for the first half and then working up to a typical long run pace for the second half, the entire duration was very much a stop-start affair for any photo opportunities that presented themselves (and there were many).

I adore running in cities when it’s quiet because you see a totally different side from what most other people would. Little details became more apparent and I often felt like I’d stumbled upon a well-kept secret.

It was also positive to see so many different types of people out running on a Sunday morning. All genders, sizes, ages, colours and creeds were covered; as a sport, running is incredibly inclusive because it requires so little to get started, and I felt like London had cracked it.

Oh, and for those wondering, the infamous Yu lack of direction sense did strike occasionally (especially around Monument), though I was able to course correct and only added an extra mile on!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

A lengthy marathon training plan can be a double-edged sword. One particular benefit is it affords plenty of time for adaptations to take place with no particular rush, resulting in reduced injury risk. My Garmin 935 now frequently suggests to me that I’m peaking and little more can or should be done. One particular pitfall of such a long schedule is it takes its toll, mentally… I’ll be in serious need of a few weeks off afterwards!

I’m ready to give the race my best shot. Why? Because I’ve made it into the Yorkshire Marathon race pack…

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This week’s running – 18th to 24th of September 2017

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Week 20 of the 22 week marathon schedule. And now I taper!

No taper blues this year!

12 months ago, I found myself feeling incredibly agitated as I began tapering, but not so this time. My body has been craving the chance for some recovery to shift fatigue, so I opted to play this particular week quite casual. Volume was knocked right down to circa-50% of a busy week and intensity was used sparingly, ignoring the half marathon on Sunday.

Crucially, the fatigue is shifting. I need to be careful not to use up too much new-found free time just because it’s available…

3 x 800m at 5k to 10k-ish pace

Sticking firmly to the cause of not overdoing it, I knocked this session down from the original 5 x reps to just 3 x. The wind was howling and due to the short nature of the intervals on the canal towpath, finding a stable and reproducible pace was difficult, hence ending up somewhere between 5k and 10k pace:

  1. 3:05
  2. 2:55
  3. 3:03

I got the desired effect of some faster running, helping with efficiency and to keep me from getting too sluggish as I recover.

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5k easy

I said this week was low volume!

In truth, this run was more of necessity than of yearning – I could have very easily skipped out! I knew I needed to keep my legs turning over, so an easy trot it was.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Robin Hood Half Marathon the following day and needing to be somewhere sharpish after parkrun, Lis and I opted to volunteer as marshals for the morning. We were paired with the lovely Ginette, who absolutely adored the concept of parkrun.

Robin Hood Half Marathon 2017 review

For the full write-up of how this marathon dress rehearsal went, please click here.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

By the time you read this, I’ll be able to legitimately say race day is just next week… I’m filled with mixed parts excitement and dread; excitement in that I’ll be able to put the 22 weeks of training to the test, and dread because I know whatever result comes out of the other side, it’s going to hurt…

Speaking with Dave Burton recently, he made an interesting observation where, in reality, the goal is not the training, but rather the race itself. Arguably, being consistent and surviving such a long training schedule (over 5 months!) is a major achievement and is not to be overlooked. So many things can go wrong on race day – just look at the elites – and luck plays a bigger part than you would believe across 26.2 miles.

The training is now done and many of us will be setting foot on the biggest running challenge of our lives in a few short weeks, whether it be our first marathon, or a moon-shot time goal. Let’s not forget to congratulate ourselves on what we’ve accomplished so far!

This week’s running – 4th to 10th of September 2017

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So, so, so tired…

Week 19 of the 22 week marathon plan. All long runs completed and now we taper to ditch this fatigue that’s been plaguing me…

5k recovery with Lis

I really appreciated covering this 5k with Lis as it prevented me from pushing over from recovery pace to easy pace. Normally, it wouldn’t matter so much, but I’m carrying so much fatigue at the moment; I just needed to survive one more week and then I can embrace the taper with open arms!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 x 1.2km at 10k pace

Rather than suffer through another storm like the previous week, I opted to delay this session by one day for slightly more favourable conditions. I say “slightly more favourable”; as I turned right at Gas Street Basin, I was met with a face full of 13mph headwind…

Not helping the adverse conditions was my Garmin 935 behaving differently than expected. Historically, my Garmins have over-ruled any auto lap behaviour when intervals are in action. In other words, in spite of having 1km auto laps enabled, all of my former Garmins have beeped at 1.2km intervals, which just makes more sense. I was caught off-guard when it beeped at 1km; thinking that I’d finished, I paused for the recovery, but noticed the clock was still ticking and I had another 200m to cover! This happened a second time before I figured out I had to temporarily disable auto laps, which makes no sense at all – hopefully Garmin will fix it in a later update.

Anywho, splits here:

  1. 4:39
  2. 4:44
  3. 4:34
  4. 4:36

The original session called for 5 x 1.2km, but given I was feeling quite nauseous after the fourth, I opted to call it quits and sidestep delaying recovery.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

Losing a day from the postponed session, I had no choice but to cover this 10 mile run at somewhere between recovery and easy pace. Even if my mind was willing (which it wasn’t), my legs did not want to go much faster anyway!

I welcomed the easy pace for 90 minutes, allowing my mind to daydream. Without prompting, I found myself running through how race day at the Yorkshire Marathon would look like if everything went perfectly. I visualised crossing the line with the clock on 2:59:XX and then high-fiving everybody in the vicinity to celebrate. Without realising it, the pace of my run actually escalated by a good chunk when I was spacing out! I’ve heard of many sports psychologists training the elites with similar visualisation techniques; after experiencing a few minutes of it myself, I’m coming around to thinking there’s some value to practicing some visualisation during my taper.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Caldicot parkrun

Sadly, it looks like I’ll probably never run at Caldicot parkrun. Only having started recently, and having missed a couple of opportunities already due to this and that, the event is now cancelled indefinitely. Taking place on a long, flat stretch of what appears to be a service road, a recent incident involving some cars that somehow found themselves on the course has caused the suspension. Refusing to listen to marshals’ instructions to either turnaround or pause temporarily, the drivers ploughed through the live course and narrowly missed a few runners that had to dive onto verges or into bushes!

Part of me is confused that this wasn’t picked up in the risk assessments and course planning stages. I’m well aware of the work involved in setting up a new event, so it’s a real shame to see one fall by the wayside so soon after starting. I’ve no doubt the course location would not have been allowed if cars were ever identified as a risk.

With our first choice event out of commission and me in need of sleep and a lie-in, Lis and I opted not to attend any parkrun event; we couldn’t remember the last time I skipped parkrun outright!

22 miles – to Little Mill and back

With how tired I’ve felt, my enthusiasm for this second 22 mile run of the schedule waned. There was no appetite or excitement; only the knowledge of the sharp taper coming into action shortly helped perk me up somewhat.

The opening half was slow by necessity if I was to complete the entirety of 22 miles and still be standing! Fatigue was in the driving seat and would not allow me to go any faster; I wasn’t complaining, as the opening miles felt almost too easy and allowed me to coast through.

Warmed up by halfway, I consciously pushed the pace upwards and was pleased to see it develop. Unhelpfully, my right IT band decided to tighten up at around 14 miles, followed by my glutes for much of the remaining distance.

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Final long run in the bag! Photo by Lis Yu

Whilst the first half was a cruise, the closing miles were very much of attrition. Time slowed and my bag of coping mechanisms was called upon, such as counting to 100 and chopping down goals to more manageable chunks. Mile 22 was an anxious one. I reworked my route to avoid the monstrous St Andrew’s Walk Climb segment on Strava; the unfamiliarity caused time to slow even more!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon 2017

Well, that’s it now for the long runs and I will not run any further than 13.1 miles until race day. I had a goal of hitting at least 100 miles spread across my five longest runs. So, how did I do?

  • 22 miles
  • 22 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 19 miles

I make that 103 miles, so mission accomplished.

In a bid to bring some much-needed instant gratification to my life, I’m going to rotate weeks one and two of my three week taper. Week one is a loose 25 – 30% mileage reduction, whereas week two is circa 50%. Flip the two around and I can enjoy a much lighter week in the run up to Robin Hood Half Marathon (marathon pace). Feeling as tired as I am, believe you me when I say I won’t be tempted to do any more than is necessary!

This week’s running – 4th to 10th of September 2017

maranoia

Who the hell sneezed?!

Week 18 of the 22 week marathon plan. Penultimate long run by marathon standards!

5k recovery

Incredibly, the previous day’s half marathon at marathon pace barely even touched the sides. I felt right as rain on this recovery run with no stiffness or soreness, so all very positive!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 x 1km at 10k pace

Somebody upstairs didn’t like me. The minute I stepped outside, it began drizzling. As my warm-up progressed, so too did the rain from above; before I’d even completed 5k, I was soaked to the core! 400m from home, the rain stopped…

Having heard all the hooha about runners and cyclists being attacked on the canal towpaths and inside parks, I was particularly nervous as I approached one bridge during the peak of the evening’s downpour. Taking shelter were three hooded characters, also enjoying a few tinnies and smokes. I was in the middle of a rep, so going pretty fast; they’d clocked me approaching and to my surprise, moved well aside to give me space and also began cheering me on! Hearing “Yer smashin’ it, kid,” I was too dumbfounded and too oxygen deprived to respond with anything but a thumbs-up and a “thanks”. Whilst we need to be careful out there, I think we’ll also agree that the adage of not judging books by their covers also holds true.

The reps came out pretty well, what with water physically sloshing about in my shoes and tunnel interference affecting the second effort.

  1. 3:53
  2. 4:11
  3. 3:51
  4. 3:48
  5. 3:50

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

The arch of my left foot tightened up unexpectedly on this slow run-commute. Going through the motions, I realised that I neglected to adjust my lacing after returning from Crete. I had originally loosened the support section around my mid-foot to factor in swelling from the warm Greek climes, but without tightening it back up again once returning home, I’ve basically been running in shoes that have basically had little to no support!

Some stretching, massage and lacing corrections seem to have done the trick and all is right with the world and my foot once more.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

I originally intended for this to be 12 miles, but opted to dial it back a notch due to feeling pretty lethargic all day at the office. I doubted 2 miles would make much of a difference to the medium-long run in the grand scheme of things, so being recovered enough to take on the remainder of the week’s runs was the priority.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Despite taking delivery of my Nike Vaporfly 4% several weeks ago, I’d not actually taken a single step outdoors in them. I fully intend to wear them at the Yorkshire Marathon, but also need to break them in; the Robin Hood Half Marathon will also be covered in them, but 13.1 miles cold is also too risky, so Cannon Hill parkrun became their debut.

I was warned beforehand that they have a tendency to encourage the wearer to speed up, regardless of whether the wearer has the cardiovascular credentials to back up the pace… With the following splits, I think we can agree that I didn’t heed said warning!

  1. 3:39
  2. 3:49
  3. 3:58
  4. 3:57
  5. 3:46

Had I have held back by perhaps another 10 seconds in the opening km, I’m fairly confident I could have probably covered the third and fourth km in similar 3:49s for a rough 18:50 finish. I eventually ended up with 19:09, which is my second fastest 5k of the year. I know where my attention needs to return to once I’m recovered post-marathon…

The propulsive sensation from the Vaporfly 4% have to be experienced to be believed. Sadly, this run proved pretty inconclusive, other than confirming to me that they’re not suited to tight twists and turns at 5k pace; the additional midsole height makes cornering in them difficult when I’m at my own limit of pace control. I’m sure some will use them as a race shoe across all distances and paces, but for me, I’ll stick to something much lower to the ground for 5k and 10k distances.

Here’s the Strava data or this run.

20 miles – to Edgbaston Reservoir and back

How refreshing it was to cover 20 miles in overcast and cool conditions! If only the wind would sod off, too!

I overdid it on the coffee this morning, starting this run feeling a wee bit jittery from a bit too much caffeine. With the cool temperatures, I was able to delay taking any liquids on (Coca-Cola) until after 10 miles and didn’t require my caffeinated gel. Phew!

There were many, many runners out (only recognised Liz Dexter and her gang) and about and I barely went a few hundred metres between encountering somebody else pounding the pavement or towpath. I even witnessed my female equivalent, wearing pretty much the exact same getup and covering a similar distance and pace as me, judging from the two occasions we crossed paths from opposing directions.

Nearing home, I felt pretty decent still and considered extending the distance to 21 miles. I saw sense and stuck to the script, ending the run at 20 miles and feeling comfortable without much required recovery.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

“Maranoia” is a very real condition and I think many of you training for an autumn race will be going through similar feelings. Everything’s seemingly out to get us! Problem is, the truth actually isn’t too far from this. Peak fatigue will be landing right about now, with injury and illness becoming very real prospects. Now is the time to be doing just enough to be ready, and not more; arriving at the start line slightly underdone is better than arriving overcooked or not arriving at all. Also, whilst I haven’t quite hit Howard Hughes levels of hygiene OCD, I am finding myself washing my hands far more thoroughly and frequently than normal – prevention is better than cure, after all!

This week’s running – 28th of August to 3rd of September 2017

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Me and Dave at the Wolverhampton Half Marathon 2017 – photo by Lis Yu

Week 17 of the 22 week plan. Things didn’t quite go according to plan, but lead up to the Wolverhampton Half Marathon, anyway.

5k recovery with Lis

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

The previous day’s 22 miles left me in bits and suffering from DOMS, along with a creaky left hip. Physically, I could not have covered this recovery run much faster.

Lis wanted to get 6 or so miles in as her final long run ahead of her 10k debut at Wolverhampton, so I ended up driving to the outskirts of Cannon Hill Park to join her partway. Expectedly for a sunny bank holiday Monday, the place was heaving with visitors; of course, many of the numbers were made of runners in training for the spate of local races due to hit shortly.

It was not a particularly good run for either of us. My range of motion was limited and Lis went around a minute per mile too fast in the first half of her run, making for a rather unpleasant second half that had to be cut short. The humidity was also pretty jacked up to further rub salt into wounds.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 mile run-commute

This was actually closer to 5 miles, but had to be rounded down to due to a brief stop at the Bullring.

My legs still felt battered and the arch of my left foot also cramped up to confirm just how taxed I was from the 22 miles. At least the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees for a distinct chill in the air, so clearly the warm weather acclimation was still inside me – it just needs to stick around until race day!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

Sadly, a planned session of speed the day before this run did not materialise. I was carrying a bit of fatigue that made me feel lethargic all day in the office, and the possibility of pushing myself over the edge suddenly became very real. Opting that less is more, I sacked the session off, rested for a day, and skipped ahead to this here 10 miler.

Autumn had truly arrived with much cooler conditions and even the beginning of leaves changing colour or even starting to fall on to the towpath.

The intention was simply to cover 10 miles at an easy pace (circa-70% of maximum heart rate) with the odd set of strides thrown in every 0.5 miles. There were dozens of runners and cyclists out and about; I give it about 6 weeks before most disappear and only those desperate or dedicated enough remain with lights and headtorches accompanying their workouts.

There was a touch of anxiety towards the end of this run as I neared my normal peel-off point by Lifford Lane. Reportedly, a group of youths had recently been loitering on the towpath, attempting to push passers-by in. Thankfully, they were nowhere to be seen and there were probably too many people about for them to have tried anything, anyway. Sadly, a similar theme was said to emerge at Cannon Hill Park, where a masked group attempted to wrest a cyclist from their bike. I have been running in Birmingham unphased for a good number of years and often believed the worst that could happen was some heckling; now I’m not so sure…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Wolverhampton Half Marathon the following day, I opted to volunteer as a marshal in a bid to stay fresh and to give my planned pace session every chance of success.

Unexpectedly, we were told that the emergency 3-lap course was to be used, due to the disruption from the neighbouring cricket event. Cue ensuing chaos from many of the marshals and runners being unfamiliar with the course; stood by the bridge, I gave as much notice as possible to the latecomers to ease some of the strain.

Cannon Hill is regularly the second largest event in the UK, so converting to the 3-lap course is never going to be easy. The fastest on lap-3 will be overtaking those on lap-2, who in turn will be overtaking those on lap-1. Congestion will be severe and times won’t be fast – the moaners I encountered on Saturday will need to deal with it! Having said that, plenty of people seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and I’ve never before received so many high-fives in all the times I’ve marshalled.

Simon (who was barcode scanning) and I noticed a few pay and display machines had been installed in the main carpark, and reportedly, in the Russell Road carpark, too. At a rate of £2 for up to 4 hours and £3 all day, so ends an era of free parking at Cannon Hill Park and I wonder what the outcome will look like. However, I do believe the Holders Lane carpark will remain free of charge, though I’m not sure for how long. I do think there needs to be a lower tier of £1 for 2 hours, which would cover most people attending parkrun, or for charging to commence only during peak hours, like at Brueton Park.

Will runner numbers drop at Cannon Hill? Probably. For those where attendance is now habitually ingrained, they will continue to attend and will either suck up the cost, car-share, or will simply run to and from the park like I do to get a warm-up and warm-down in. Those who aren’t particularly precious or loyal to Cannon Hill will most likely defect to another nearby event where parking is free – another 10 minutes of driving in a car is nothing. It’s those who are just beginning to run at Cannon Hill who I think will be put-off, which is a shame. Equally, I dread what effect the charges will have on volunteer numbers. It’s hard enough convincing people to come forward, let alone also charging them £2 to not run… There absolutely needs to be some sort of exemption for the last point, which I’m aware is in practice and works well at other events where parking charges are the norm.

Wolverhampton Half Marathon 2017 review

For the full write-up, please click here.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

Just five weeks to go. After a rocky fortnight or so dealing with my nasal infection, I am now hopefully recovered and ready to hit the remaining two weeks of loaded training before the taper begins. I have such beauties as a 20 mile and a 22 mile run still to be covered, along with a smattering of VO2max and threshold work. Oh, and the medium-long mid-week runs continue…

Yesterday’s Wolverhampton Half Marathon as a pace workout went perfectly to plan. The Robin Hood Half Marathon in three weeks will, hopefully, go just as well for another powerful confidence and training boost. Throw in the power of recovery, carbo-loading, motivation and a shared goal of an official sub-3 pace group, and maybe, just maybe, I can pull this off…

This week’s running – 21st to 27th of August 2017

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Why am I doing this again?

Week 16 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Yes, just 6 weeks remain until race day!

5k – aborted 10 miles

After the previous Sunday’s 22 miles that were cut short to 19, I wanted a little bit of redemption and confirmation that it was just a fluke occurrence. Over 48 hours later, I felt a little more with it and concluded I was at least on the mend… Or so I thought!

Setting off from work, everything felt fine as anticipated. 2 miles in, the effort ramped upwards and I began sweating profusely for what should have been an easy pace to hit. Reaching 5k at Brindley Place, I knew the game was up and called it quits before walking through the city centre to commute back home. More recovery needed to shift the bug!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Achoo!

So, my suspicions were proven correct when my symptoms manifested into a full on bout of nasal infection. Runny nose, congestion, sneezing fits, fatigue and headaches – reads like the back of a box of cold medication!

The congestion and snot I could deal with, but it was the fatigue and feeling of being packed out with cotton wool that prevented me from even running at an easy pace. I’ve tried many times over the years to run whilst still viral and I’ve concluded I’m actually better off just waiting it out.

Riverfront parkrun

Originally as part of my marathon plan, I had the Severn Bridge Half Marathon down as a glorified marathon pace session. That all went up in smoke when I missed out on the previous week’s 22 miles, so I opted to skip the race in favour of another bash at 22 miles. Lis and I were in Wales anyway to visit family, so a bit of parkrun tourism was in order.

Also, originally as part of my plan, was a visit to the recently launched Caldicot parkrun. Flat and very straight over 2 laps, it was to be my 21st different location – sod’s law, then, that it was cancelled! Lis wanted to get a parkrun in as some race prep ahead of her own 10k debut, so we swapped Caldicot out with the similarly flat Riverfront parkrun, which I’d already recce’d several months ago.

The effort was always meant to be just under 20 minutes, but with numbers down due to the half marathon the following day, the opportunity to place highly was on offer.

From the line, a group of four shot off and forged a sizable gap ahead of the chase group and me. Their pace was far too tasty, so I hung back with everybody else, seemingly pacing for around 20 minutes. The first km rolled in at 4:03, which I concluded was too slow and felt too easy, especially as my legs felt incredibly fresh after several days without and also confirmed I was pretty much healthy again.

I pressed on alone and surprised myself with how effortless it felt. Conditions were damn near-perfect for swift times, with low wind and marginally cooler temperatures. Before too long, a member of the group ahead came into view and I moved from fifth to fourth with ease. 2km ticked by with 3:53, which was more like it!

Nearing the halfway switchback, I could see second and third place had been concluded with the two now running solo; third place continued to slow and it was almost certain I would podium that morning. Reaching halfway, I was caught off-guard when the marshal asked me to cut out a bridge that formerly made up part of the course (later revealed due to instability!) 3km came in for 3:51.

The time came to strike. A short surge allowed me to overtake, remaining on the throttle until completely clear; I heard his cadence increase momentarily in an attempt to tuck into my slipstream, though it dropped back down again after a few seconds as I pushed on.

Second place continued to drift in and out of sight on the horizon, but with a sizable gap between us, it was tricky to gauge whether I was closing on him or not. 4km remained steady with 3:50.

As the remaining distance ticked by, it remained dicey whether I would catch the guy ahead, or not. He looked back at me a few times and I knew he was hurting, simply based on how fast he’d gone out and how long he spent running alone. With perhaps 400m remaining, I was within touching distance and with 300m to go, I kicked with purpose and dared not look back. Passing by some windows, I could see there was nobody on the edge of my reflection; nonetheless, I continued kicking all the way for the line, just in case he had a little something in reserve for the final drag ahead of the finish.

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Bridesmaid once again…

Turned out I was quite comfortably in second place by some 9 seconds!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

lis_riverfront_parkrun

Lis’ fourth different parkrun venue

After obligatory handshakes and congratulations to the third and fourth place guys (the winner had disappeared, finishing some 90 seconds earlier!), I gathered my things and cheered Lis in as she made her way for the finish.

Interestingly, the volunteer co-ordinator for the event stopped us for a chat and asked if we were keen to volunteer on occasion; we had to rain on his parade and break it to him that we weren’t from the area, but did our part regularly at Cannon Hill. I know Riverfront has difficulty gathering volunteers like many events, but I am curious to see if the casual enquiry approach yields much uptake or not.

22 miles – to Little Mill and back

Ill or not, the enormity of 22 miles in rural south Wales seemed far more palatable than it did in Birmingham a week prior. There was something to the route that made it, mentally, more manageable, having run it once before in its entirety a year ago.

Anticipating a warm one, I loaded up with two flasks of Coca-Cola and stowed two gels away into my ultra vest – I didn’t want to take any chances and needed to ensure the run was a success, identifying that there’s little-to-no margin for error left in my plan.

Expectedly, the first couple of miles were slow, what with my impromptu race at Riverfront parkrun only 24 hours earlier. Gradually, the pace came and I found myself quite happily hovering at 8:00 to 8:10 miles for much of the second half – by pure coincidence, there was even a pub I passed at 10.5 miles, called “The Halfway House”!

The effort markedly increased at around 15 or 16 miles, notably due to the sun reaching its midday peak overhead. A cold garden hose would have worked wonders!

The final 2 miles were a very good simulator for the closing stages of my marathon. Whereas miles flew by earlier, I found myself counting down to trees only 100m ahead to get me through the grind. Thankfully, I’d also rationed my supplies well, leaving just a few sips to keep me company when things felt at their worst.

Standing between me and the end was the vicious Saint Andrews Walk Climb Strava segment, coming in at 800m long and peaking with a 14% gradient. Funnily enough, this particular setup mimics the closing 800m of the Yorkshire Marathon, albeit with less intensity – at least I’ll be well prepared!

Upon finishing, I was spent as the accompanying photo at the top of this post will attest to. I poured 3 or 4 pints of water over myself to cool down, whilst necking a further 3 or 4 pints to rehydrate. Intriguingly, my quads were also smashed – something I don’t recall happening a year ago on exactly the same route. My only explanation is the steep descent at 19 miles must have done a number on them, whereas I may have simply negotiated the downhill section better in 2016. That and my legs had probably lost a bit of resilience from being away on holiday and a further unplanned lower mileage week.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

A week of two halves, with the second half being completely unrecognisable from the first!

I have just one 20-21 mile run and a 22 mile run remaining in the plan. I’ve always applied the basic goal within a marathon plan of my five longest runs equating to 100 miles or more; all being well from here on out, I should total some 105 miles.

It’s strangely all becoming very real again, with race day creeping and lurking closer and closer!

This week’s running – 14th to 20th of August 2017

illness

Week 15 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Suppose feeling bleh had to happen eventually…

Searching for for 4% improvement

nike_vaporfly_4_percent

Some of you may remember that I waxed lyrical after trying on the Nike Vaporfly 4% for just a minute or so a number of weeks ago. Well, the itch needed scratching and I was fortunate enough to land a pair of them whilst taking advantage of my Vitality 50% discount for a very hefty saving. If only the tale was as simple as that and ended there…

On the day I was due to receive them, I received an email to alert me of my order being cancelled due to mis-forecasted stock levels! Suddenly, my want of the coveted Breaking2 shoes for my own Breaking3 project became a need. After a lot of palaver with Sweatshop and Vitality, I was able to track down a pair (0.5 size smaller, but , luckily, a better fit) and reactivate my discount, so all’s good with the world again. Marginal gains – making sure things I can control are maneuvered in my favour!

5 mile run-commute

There were a helluva lot of people out running on Monday evening. It must be peak training season ahead of autumn races!

This was another test of the prior week’s heat training in Greece and I appeared to pass – even running with a bag on my back, I was considerably less sweaty than on similar run-commutes.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles with 5 at marathon pace

I felt ropey all day, but gave myself a stern inwards talking to that the planned 11 miles with 7 at marathon pace were needed. I had everything prepared – the route, nutrition before and during, and the right gear. Setting foot on the canal towpath, the wind was howling in the wrong direction towards me and I knew I’d be exerting more effort than necessary to achieve marathon pace, or so I thought!

The pace felt quite manageable, even into the wind. My heart rate also corresponded well to the effort in spite of the conditions and mild feelings of carrying some sort of low level bug. Having a reasonably fast run-commuter to chase down and Richard Keep of Bournville Harriers on his bike to cheer me on also helped to take the edge off things. Ultimately, I opted to call it quits at 5 miles of pace work, wishing to prioritise the planned 22 mile long run for later in the week.

Jogging past the Red Lion pub in Kings Heath, a large group were huddled and drinking underneath a beer garden umbrella. One lady, upon seeing me running in the rain, shouted out, “Look at him! I’m having this for him!” I encounter a lot of idiots when I run, so it’s always a pleasant surprise when I don’t.

Here’s the Strava data for the warm-up, 5 miles at pace, and warm-down.

Cannon Hill parkrun

andy_yu_adam_gemili

Darryll, Adam, Matt, and me

Cannon Hill has had a few special guests over the years, with Adam Gemili being the latest, albeit as just a volunteer ahead of the following day’s Birmingham Grand Prix at the Alexander Stadium. Did we give him the bad juju? He false started and had never false started before meeting us lot…

I still didn’t feel right come Saturday morning, concluding that I’d come down with something similar to what afflicted me before and during last year’s Kenilworth Half Marathon, although some two weeks earlier this time around.

Starting off with Darryll Thomas, we stuck together for the first 2km before I ushered him on to creep away. I found myself unable to go much faster, but did become an impromptu pacer to help get Harry Fowler across the line with a cira-10 second PB.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

19 miles – aborted 22 miles

Oh, dear… I’ve never had to abandon a long run and cut it short in quite such a dramatic fashion before!

The plan was to cover the first of two 22 mile runs before race day. Whilst I’d not felt right all week, I did at least wake feeling more like myself and figured I’d still be good to go, though keeping the pace scaled back and conservative in the name of self-preservation.

Route-wise, I headed out along the canal towpath to my once-upon-a-time stomping ground of Edgbaston Reservoir. Not having set foot on the 1.5 mile loop for a year or so, I was caught off-guard by how low the water level had become. I did spot a family attempting to pet a pair of very large swans, clearly never having watched Hot Fuzz…

The wheels began coming off sometime around 14 miles. Up until then, the effort aligned reasonably well against the more conservative 8:30 per mile pace… From then onwards, I struggled to be able to call upon more from myself, where it felt like my heart rate simply wasn’t prepared to go beyond 80% of maximum.

I continued plugging away with the feelings of wanting it all to end growing stronger with each step. Somewhere around 17 miles, I picked up a debilitating stitch that I couldn’t shake, which of course also contributed to rising effort levels.

I reached 19 miles and a sudden shooting pain along my lower ribcage convinced me the game was up and it was time to stop. I was put out of my misery at long last, but I had a new problem – the 2 to 3 mile walk home from Bournville train station on Mary Vale Road…

Not being too despondent, I made the most of a shitty hand of cards that I’d been dealt. Effort-wise and time on my feet, the 19 miles won’t be too incomparable from a faster-paced 20 or 21 mile run. I have opted to cancel next week’s Severn Bridge Half Marathon, which I would have covered at marathon pace, in favour of another 20 or 21 mile run – hopefully illness free. I do have the Wolverhampton Half Marathon in early September, and the Robin Hood Half Marathon a fortnight after that for plenty more marathon pace work ahead of race day, but I can ill-afford any more poor 20+ mile runs.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

Cause or effect? It’d been a particularly stressful week, so I do wonder whether I could have sidestepped the low level bug (likely a nasal infection) if my cortisol levels were lower? Or was I always destined to come down with something, given last year’s similar timeframe?