2017 – Year in review

2017

It’s that time of the year again where I look backwards to be able to go forwards. Let’s review what went down in 2017.

2017’s targets and PBs

Ho-hum… I did originally set these targets whilst not realising the true extent of my Achilles injury from the end of 2016, so some of them are quite laughable!

  • 5k: sub-18:00: FAIL!
  • 10k: sub-38:00: FAIL!
  • 10 mile: sub-64:00: FAIL!
  • Half marathon: sub-83:30: FAIL!
  • Marathon: sub-3:00: FAIL!

The closest any of the above came to succeeding was, of course, the marathon goal. I opted to put all of my eggs into one basket, with the view that the other distances would receive undivided attention again afterwards.

Now let’s have a look at 2018’s goals:

  • 5k: sub-18:15
  • 10k: sub-38:15
  • 10 mile: sub:64:00
  • Half marathon: sub-83:30

I’ve purposely softened the 5k and 10k goals, now firm in the knowledge that it will take a lot of work to get back to my 5k best and to run 30 seconds faster than my 10k best.

The 10 mile and half marathon goals remain the same as 2017’s. I would like to put some serious graft into the 13.1 mile distance again, so I’m hoping I can hit the goal by the time the Spring is over.

A softer goal is becoming a member of the 250 parkrun club, of which there are just over 2,100 members in the entire world! I should get there by the end of February.

Mileage matters

My Achilles injury basically wrote off January, February and most of March; even so, I was still able to almost draw even with 2015’s total of 1,612 for 1,594. By my estimations, I reckon I would have broken 2,000 miles if fit and healthy.

Pleasingly, thanks to the marathon training, I broke 60 miles in a single week for the first time and also covered 210 miles in one month – both taking place in July.

Highs of 2017

Once again, the top of this list could only be the mighty Yorkshire Marathon! Sure, I missed my sub-3 goal by just 35 seconds, but the experience from the race will remain with me forever as one of my proudest achievements and happiest memories. For the full write-up, please click here.

2017 was also the year I found joy in simply running for the fun of it. Any of you that have been benched by injury for a prolonged period of time will know what I’m talking about here when you first return to running! I came to acknowledge that solely chasing after times couldn’t go on forever and I’m now firmly in the territory where year-on-year improvement is no longer guaranteed. All I can do is keep training to the best of my available resources and ability, and hope that everything comes good on race days. This newfound serenity handily coincided with developing a taste for parkrun tourism for variety and visiting 9 new courses over the year; compare that with 13 over the course of 2011 through to 2016!

I tried my hand at coaching in 2017, getting Dave Burton across the start and finish lines of his debut marathon. Taking responsibility for somebody else’s training is not to be taken lightly, so I was incredibly pleased when Dave pulled it off with minimal trauma and having looked like he enjoyed the experience.

Lows of 2017

Thankfully, there are few I can think of!

Nursing an injury was obviously something I could have done without, where it looks to have cost me in top-end speed but not endurance.

Falling over on a run for the first time was embarrassing, but will also hopefully be the final time!

Make 2018 a good one!

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This week’s running – 25th to 31st December 2017

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Our first ever Cannon Hill Christmas Day parkrun

So, who got a visit from the jolly fat man, and who became a jolly fat man from overindulgence? Put me down for one of each!

Cannon Hill Christmas Day parkrun

This was my fourth year of visiting a parkrun on Christmas Day, and my first at Cannon Hill in all the years I’ve called the venue my home event (there was one way back in 2010). There was a great vibe in the air, expectedly, with many familiar faces making appearances. Simon, Nigel and Dave joined me, with Lis opting to volunteer to help the event get underway.

With Christmas Day falling on a Monday, that meant the pace was firmly to be easy and of recovery in nature. Dave shot off like a rocket, whereas Simon and Nigel held back with me; topics of discussion included Nigel’s and my love of brining turkeys, and Nigel possibly being in the doghouse for nipping off to parkrun (he was actually OK)!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles with 2 at half marathon pace

Lis and I alternate which of our respective families we spend Christmas Day with. In 2017, we had my parents with us, so we spent Boxing Day and a few additional days with Lis’ folks.

I had intended to visit the University of Birmingham one final time for 2017 before heading to Wales, but it never happened, so I made do with a 10 mile out and back route to Usk with some pace work thrown in.

The route’s largely flat, with a couple of steep climbs thrown in here and there for good measure. Needless to say, I opted to cover half marathon pace on the flat and out of the way of the strong gusts of wind that blew!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Illness strikes again!

Ever since 2012 when I began running with some serious intent behind the training, I’ve picked up a cold or the flu leading up to, or during, the Christmas break. It’s really as simple as it appears; I have more time on my hands, so I do a bit more training than usual to also suppress my immune system; couple that with socialising with all and sundry and I pick up all manner of bugs.

At the time of writing this post up, I look to have sidestepped any colds and flus that have done the rounds this season (touch wood). But! I did unfortunately pick up a bout of food poisoning (dodgy peanut butter) to have my stomach doing cartwheels and leave me being unable to efficiently take on much nutrition from food.

Rogiet parkrun

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Me and Ben at Rogiet parkrun – photo by Lis Yu

For those wondering, it’s pronounced Rog-it and not Ro-jiet as I originally thought!

Rogiet parkrun emerged from the ashes of the former Caldicot parkrun, which you may recall me missing out on numerous times due to cancellations aplenty over the summer. With the Gloucester New Year’s Eve 10 Mile race the following day, I wanted to finally get myself over to this event but absolutely had to hold back and take it easy. Lis and I invited our friend Ben to come and join us, taking in his third different venue since his parkrun debut in October, whereas this became my 23rd.

The Rogiet event couldn’t be any more different from its original Caldicot format! Caldicot formerly took place on a largely flat and straight service road, but unfortunately had to be cancelled due to safety concerns from cars finding their way on to the course. The new event takes place inside Rogiet Countryside Park and is entirely off-road for a much slower paced run.

As promised, Ben and I kept the pace easy and conversational. By holding back early on, we were able to move our way through the field with relative ease as others ahead of us tired and dropped back. The course was a pretty confusing affair, with a couple of switchbacks, a crossroad, and all over multiple laps! Also, the mudbath that was promised delivered; if I were a regular at the event, I could be convinced to buy a cheap pair of cross-country spikes to gain some much needed traction!

In spite of my finishing time of 27:55, I still ended up finishing in 23rd, and Ben achieved his highest finishing position to date with a time of 27:54. Taking first place in 20:35 was a celebrity – CJ from Eggheads. If I’d not had the race the following day, I reckon I could have given him a run for his money for a decent battle out there.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Gloucester New Year’s Eve 10 Mile 2017 review

For the full write-up, please click here.

Gloucester New Year’s Eve 10 Mile 2017 review

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Peak tan line exposure! Photo by Lis Yu

How would poor race preparation, Christmas, strong winds, and food poisoning affect this race? Read on to find out…

Pre-race

Peaking for a race is actually much harder than it sounds, requiring an ability to know when to push, when to back off, and when to hold steady; if in doubt, it’s almost always better to be under-cooked than over-cooked when reaching a start line.

Back on the 10th of December, I was ready to tackle the Sneyd Christmas Pudding 10 Mile, but snow put paid to that and many other races in the wider region. Hanging on to that hard-found fitness was a trial, especially as the snow became ice and subsequently wrote-off much of the following week’s opportunities to train.

I needed a 10 mile race at effort, both as a sighter for the upcoming Brass Monkey Half Marathon and also for its potent training effect. Speaking with Darryll Thomas, we identified the Gloucester New Year’s Eve 10 Mile as a potential replacement race; closer to the Brass Monkey than ideal, but I figured the training would fully soak in over the course of the fortnight in between.

Having already finished work for 2017, I found an abundance of time to stretch myself in training and to adequately recover. I felt fit once more and maybe, just maybe, I’d done enough to offset any damage? Of course not! Christmas landed and even though I don’t drink, the calorie-fest of the festive period took its toll. I felt fat and some of my running kit felt slightly more snug than usual as further confirmation. I even picked up some food poisoning, making it difficult to absorb nutrients from anything I ate – at least I had plenty of calories stored in my new muffin top!

With such a challenged build-up, it was only the thought of the training effect that got me up on race morning to drive the 60 miles for the event. Lis came with me and we soon met up with Darryll Thomas, who was similarly not in the mood due to having already peaked a few weeks prior – only the need to complete his full set of distance PBs for the year kept his enthusiasm simmering.

A shorter than preferable warm-up jog from the race HQ to the start line was more of a token gesture than anything to get either of us into gear. We even ran out of time to get a set of strides in due to one final toilet visit. Nothing went to plan at all!

On the starter’s orders, off we went into the Gloucester countryside…

The race

A fast performance that morning would be hard to come by with ferocious winds howling in the background. Nonetheless, runners were deterred not and everybody charged off at their target paces, including Darryll and me. The effort got the better of me after a mile at 6:24, convincing me to back off to sub-marathon pace.

As Darryll pulled away into the distance, I settled in with a couple of guys that I would spend much of the remainder of the race with. It was fascinating to see such a regionally diverse crowd in the race, with club runners from all four corners surrounding Gloucester in good representation; I saw plenty of BRAT from Birmingham, Les Croupier and San Domenico from Cardiff, and so on.

Miles 2 to 4 came in at 6:31, 6:48 and 6:57, with some rot setting in due to the strength of the wind, the undulations and the big climb up to halfway. Wearing the Nike Vaporfly 4% seemed to make little difference, and in hindsight I should have wore the Nike Zoom Streak 6 instead for some nimbleness underfoot.

As the race progressed, the mile markers grew more and more out of sync with my Garmin. I wasn’t alone on this, as other people’s Garmins also fired off late on each occasion.

Marshals and water stations were plentiful on the course, with the latter appearing on four occasions, thanks to the two lap configuration. It was even bottled water, too, which is a rarity for smaller events of such a nature.

Reaching halfway, it was time to take on a gel. I was incredibly anxious, as my stomach had been unsettled by food poisoning and I didn’t want a guest appearance from the gingerbread man (Marathon Talk gag). I cautiously sipped and nursed it for the remainder of mile 5, which was easier said than done as I was largely charging downhill… Mile 5 was back on form for 6:37.

Somewhere beyond halfway, I was caught by Huw Jones from BRAT. I knew Huw would be running that morning and I’d anticipated staying with him, due to our similar current levels of ability, but I started too fast and he started off by holding back. It turned out he was covering the race at marathon pace, but still provided a solid target for me to chase in the second half to stop me from slacking off. Huw opened up the distance between us before I was able to keep the gap stable at some 20m; shortly thereafter, Matt Gresty, another familiar BRAT member that I was hoping to see that morning, joined me briefly. Both Huw and Matt’s more conservative starts meant they had the power in reserve to drive on, whereas I struggled to reel either of them in. Note to self: don’t burn the first mile like it’s a 5k!

I remained steady, as much as could be done on the windy course; much of the second half splits resembled the first pass, or turned out to be marginally faster. Miles 6 to 8 came in at 6:53, 6:52 and 6:29.

Heading into the penultimate mile, I teamed up with a Forest of Dean runner I’d run much of the race with to chase down Huw Jones. Everybody’s pace lifted a touch and it took the rest of the mile before we finally caught and overtook Huw (mile 9 came in at 6:38).

With just a mile remaining, I wanted to see if I could catch Matt Gresty, who had also kicked on. I gasped for air like a fish out of water, hoping that one of the right turns would eventually be the finish line. More and more spectators lined the course, including Lis, so I knew the end was nigh. Remember the out of sync mile markers from before? They came back for vengeance with all of that cumulatively missing distance being corrected in that final mile, making an already long-feeling split feel even longer! I kicked for the line, even registering 4:08 pace at one stage!

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

I registered 66:42 to be over 2 minutes slower than the last time I ran 10 miles in 2015 on the Sneyd course. Thankfully, I’d made peace with the pace way back in mile 2, so I appreciated the sub-marathon pace work. Darryll had finished minutes earlier but missed his PB by just 17 seconds, falling prey to the distance correction of the final mile. Reviewing the list of results, there were very few PBs attained, which is hardly surprising given the conditions and timing of the race.

Does this race stand up to the repeat entry test? Tough question… Whereas it was cheap enough to enter the race, it did require a 60 mile drive to get to the venue. The route felt preferable to that of Sneyd, with far fewer cars to contend with and more marshals and facilities on course.

There was one additional positive that made the race worthwhile, because afterwards Lis and I ended up at the nearby Gloucester Quays outlet shopping centre, which happened to feature a Nike factory store. Remember a few weeks ago when I bemoaned Nike for having made too many changes to my beloved Pegasus line of shoes? Well, it just so happened that the factory store had ample supply of the Pegasus 32 at reduced prices! Needless to say I stocked up and without a marathon to tackle in 2018, they should last even longer!

This week’s running – 18th to 24th December 2017

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Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!

Merry Christmas, folks! Hope you’re having a good one wherever and whatever you’re doing!

5k recovery

Having completed the fastest 15 mile run of recent times, I knew to take it easy on this 5k recovery run. Also having broken up for Christmas several days prior, both my body and mind felt fresh and I probably could have handled a faster pace if needed.

I sought to get at least a week of over-reaching in, so I respected the easy-hard notion that had to be observed.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

6 x 1km at half marathon pace

What a palaver this day turned out to be!

Normally, I would’ve phoned ahead to check if the Fox Hollies track was in use. Normally, it’s always been available when I’ve wanted to use it, so I didn’t bother to check on this occasion. You can already guess what happened next…

Cutting a long story short, I left the leisure centre disappointed and considered jogging the 5k back for home. I didn’t want to squander the day and further lose out on intensity, so I stuck my thinking cap on and reviewed my options. The nearest track was at the University of Birmingham, though I was under the impression it wasn’t officially open to the public, though a few peers had managed to sneak in via some side entrances. Concluding I had nothing further to lose, I hopped in an Uber and asked to be dropped off in the track’s vicinity. Trying not to look suspicious as I walked into the shrubbery and sidestepped some temporary fencing designed to keep people out, I felt like an explorer that had uncovered a lost city! There were some gardeners tending to the surrounding greenery to keep me company, and not one of them seemed perturbed of my presence, so the session was finally good to go!

Setting foot on the 400m synthetic track, it was immediately obvious how responsive it was from the energy returned with each step, making for an incredibly pleasnt experience.

And the session itself? It felt utterly satisfying to cover each 1km rep. My form was tall and smooth, and my glutes were once again on side to help me glide effortlessly as the intervals counted down. Half marathon pace was a breeze to hit!

Here and here is the Strava data for this session. I’d accidentally triggered a new lap on my Garmin with my butterfingers, so I had to break the session into two.

6 mile recovery

After several weeks of firmly needing long-sleeves, gloves and tights, it made for a pleasant change to be out running in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts! For insurance, I wore a pair of gloves but they came off after just a mile from how warm the conditions were!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

3 x 1 mile at half marathon pace

Sharing my tale of potential trespass with Dave, he also wanted in and thus marked my second visit to the University of Birmingham’s utterly brilliant 400m track. I continued to feel fresh in spite of the higher than normal run volume and intensity – such is the power of ample recovery and sleep.

3 x 1 mile was quite enough for the two of us, making for an especially potent session for Dave – my target half marathon pace is nearer to his 5k pace!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

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This was actually pretty comfortable! Photo by Pete Hickman

This day marked six years of parkrunning, comprising of 239 runs and 29 stints at volunteering. Who’d have thought that very first Christmas Eve parkrun of 2011 would stick quite like it has?

I could feel the week’s amped up training in my legs with the freshness of several days prior distinctly missing. My warm-up confirmed as much, with each step and breath feeling a little more laboured than I would have liked.

Starting more conservatively, I was able to tuck into several groups and work my way through the field. I surprised myself by being able to surge ahead whenever I felt groups slowed, once again agreeing with a theory of mine and Dave’s where listless warm-ups correlate against strong main performances, and vice-versa.

I was pleased as punch to sneak under 19 minutes for 18:58 – this year’s second fastest 5k after an 18:56 back from back in July. Also boding well ahead of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon was a new VO2max reading of 67, though this quickly dropped back down to 65 only 24 hours later…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – beyond The Vale and back

There’s a first time for everything. I’m typically a solitary runner that prefers running alone out of convenience, though I fully acknowledge running with others taking the edge off almost any effort.

Shortly after joining the canal towpath, I bumped into Dave and we were then also shortly joined by Paul Shackleton. After Dave left me and Paul, he was then soon replaced by bumping into Toby Close! A few miles later and I was left alone again as I wanted to get some more distance in.

The solo return leg was a real slog whilst running into 16mph headwinds, also not helped by me wanting to stick to sub-8 minute mile pace. Finishing on plan was pretty damn joyous, especially after climbing Fordhouse Lane back to Kings Heath!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 11th to 17th December 2017

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A post-Sandwell Valley parkrun McDonald’s breakfast is now becoming a tradition…

It’s snow joke when training is disrupted! I’ll grab my coat…

5k recovery

The title’s a bit disingenuous because it suggests I had something to recover from! Snow hitting the Midlands hard meant I’d barely even stretched out my legs the previous day.

At least the snow was still pretty fresh, making for a rather enjoyable crunch with each step!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10k from work

Temperatures plummeted once more, glazing the snow over into hazardous ice. As I ran through Brindley Place, an older gentleman stopped in disbelief to ask, “You’re running on this?” I questioned myself, too, as I had to carefully choose where to plant each foot.

Whereas I’d planned to cover the 9 miles from the office for home, I was mentally and physically exhausted by about 5 miles and opted to call it quits at Selly Oak for just 10k. Having to be alert 100% of the time took its toll, and my left bum cheek and Achilles throbbed from the unusual gait I’d adopted. Thankfully, there was a no.11 bus waiting at the stop, which bizarrely had no passengers on-board apart from me and didn’t stop once for the entire journey back to Kings Heath! I felt a bit like Harry Potter on the Knight Bus; all that was missing was a shrunken head, sounding like Lenny Henry…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Sandwell Valley parkrun-ish

Saturday was rather unusual because virtually all parkruns in the West and East Midlands were called off due to lingering ice. One of the few exceptions was Sandwell Valley, where two brilliant volunteers went above and beyond the call of duty, taking it upon themselves to hack up majority of the ice on the course! Car fully loaded with Simon, Nigel, Dave and me, we added to the rabble made up of many familiar parkrun-deprived faces from the region.

An alternative course was utilised, avoiding the worst of the ice that remained and instead sent runners around the lake for two laps.

Wearing trail shoes on this occasion, I had a bit more grip underfoot to help me nail a sub-20 finish; it should have happened back in November, if not for the long course. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sustain the effort, due to a lack of volume and intensity for almost two weeks from tapering and snow. It’s quite remarkable how quickly sharpness can be lost! Rubbing salt into wounds, I also found myself largely running alone to increase the pace versus effort discrepancy.

Frequently checking my Garmin, I could see something didn’t add up as I was partway through the second lap of the lake. Time and distance were way out if we were only to cover two laps, so perhaps the finish had been moved back to its default location? As I neared the turning point to either run another lap or head for the finish, I noticed a runner ahead of me doubling back on to the course after attempting a third lap.

With a little over a km remaining, I was well and truly blown and I wondered how I could possibly hang on at such an effort? It seemed my prayer had been answered, for on the horizon was the finish line, much earlier than anticipated!

I crossed the line, clocking 16:10 and 4km precisely. Many others around me also acknowledged the course was dramatically short and concluded we should have been sent around the lake for a third lap…

Dave and I both reasoned that a simple calculation to add 25% to each finisher’s recorded time would do the trick, but the organisers decided against this, which I’ve since come to agree with. Whereas it wouldn’t make much different to the vast majority of runners, anybody that likes to thrash the first half of 5km would have received a big boost if 25% was added to their time, not reflecting any fade they would perhaps see in the second half. Me, I’m just glad the run has been added to my total, getting me that bit closer to that 250 club.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

The ice had largely receded by Sunday in all but the most secluded of patches. With an A-race half marathon due in mid-January, I needed some distance in my legs to avoid potentially embarrassing myself! I felt like I’d gone back in time by almost a month, losing much of the recent gains I’d worked hard to attain.

In spite of running what felt like a pretty intense 4km only 24 hours prior, my slumbering legs had somehow been awoken. They felt fresh and snappy, and I was pleased to see my glutes also firing correctly for that extra bit of oomph.

Shortly after Bournville train station on the canal towpath was a fallen tree that had likely come down due to carrying extra load from the snow. It was just slightly too high to vault over, so I opted to stop and cautiously climb over it and avoid catastrophe.

Much of the towpath was perfectly fine for running, but a few spots were almost entirely covered in treacherous sheet ice, making for pretty hairy conditions! There was perhaps just a foot’s width of clear path, which was largely fine as me and oncoming walkers stopped to give way for each other; this approach was all well and good until I encountered somebody with a massive golf umbrella, completely oblivious to those heading towards her…

Even with the stop-start nature of the route, I was surprised to see how much pep I had to my pace from how fresh my legs were. Another 15 miler or two of a similar nature would go down an absolute treat ahead of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 4th November to 10th December 2017

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Overdressed? No chance! Photo by Lis Yu

So, muggins here only went and fell over whilst running… But not in the snow!

9 miles with 2 at marathon pace

With a 10 mile race scheduled for the end of the week (obviously, didn’t happen!), I reduced the number of runs for a mini-taper, whilst maximising the potency of the times I did run. Sadly, Mother Nature had other plans for me…

Originally, this session should have been at half marathon pace; with the wind howling towards me, the best I could manage was marathon pace without pushing too hard ahead of the upcoming race that wasn’t to be.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

Remember last week’s initial thoughts on the Nike Vomero 12? As I ran home from the office, I concluded after 3 miles or so that the shoes were definitely around ½ a size too big, which was frustrating as I’m normally a UK 7.5 in all Nike shoes; it’s only this pair and a recent other that appear to have been sized with different lasts.

As comfortable as the Vomero 12 were, I grew increasingly aware that I felt disconnected from my feet, due to the sizing. Then, with just a mile to go until I reached home, horror struck – I tripped going over a low kerb due to the oversized shoes!

Everything went into slow motion, but my flailing hands weren’t enough to regain balance. I hit the deck with a thud, and my left knee, wrists and chin took the brunt of the fall. I lay there for perhaps 10 to 15 seconds as I tried to work out whether anything was broken… My thoughts quickly moved to whether anybody had seen my moment of embarrassment; this was the first time I’d fallen in over seven years of running! Dusting myself off, I’d torn a hole in my tights and badly scraped my knee underneath. I’d also torn two holes in my practically new gloves, whilst also taking chunks out of my wrists and knuckles on both hands. Luckily, whilst my chin had also come into contact with the floor, you’d never know, as there was no visible damage. Oh well, skin will regrow and things can be replaced – there’s no detectable injury and my running gait has not been affected at all.

And the shoes? I boxed them straight up as I got home and sent them packing!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cancelled Cannon Hill parkrun

Much of the UK received a dusting of snow overnight on Friday, causing many a parkrun and race director to cancel or postpone events. Cannon Hill parkrun and the Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run were called off, leaving me with a very low volume week and little to show for it.

A few others and me caught up over coffee, with the topic of discussion revolving around the rather poor organisation of the fairly recent Birmingham International Marathon and Great Birmingham Run. Their return having been announced (£58 for the marathon!), I asked my cohorts of the morning if anybody would consider running the marathon again. There was only one possible taker, and only if he didn’t get a club place for the 2018 London Marathon. The overriding feedback was there are plenty of better organised and cheaper marathons around the UK, increasingly with the autumn options now rivalling the spring.

Here and here is the Strava data for the runs to and from Cannon Hill Park.

6 miles in the snow

With Sunday’s race postponed until January, I wasn’t prepared to be defeated and go without a run, so I covered up as much skin as possible to head out. Rounding out my ensemble was a hat (I never wear hats!) and a neck gaiter, along with my Oakleys with special contrast enhancing lenses popped in.

Only having covered a mile, I came across my first casualty of the snow. A nurse who was heading home from a night shift had gotten her Citroen C1 stuck as she tried to climb a shallow hill. She slowed too much exiting a roundabout and then lacked the oomph to get back up to speed, without traction and fighting gravity. I tried giving her car a push whilst she drove, but it wasn’t happening, so I offered to drive instead. She made the mistake of trying to drive in first gear, throwing down too much power; I shifted into second and gently applied some throttle, which managed to slowly move the car on to a patch with more traction available. Good deed number 1, done!

Some 2 miles later, I encountered another car attempting to climb the hill on Salisbury Road near Cannon Hill Park, and getting in the way of traffic trying to descend the hill. Three guys and me worked together to push and steer the car to get it on its way, though the worst of the hill was yet to hit him…

My third and final car that needed help was found on Holders Lane, where the snow had been churned up just enough to greatly reduce traction, even on the flat. All the car needed was a few nudges from me to get going.

Full of the warm and fuzzies, and not having fallen once, I called it a morning – quite enough excitement for one day!

Here’s the vague Strava data for this run. My Garmin wasn’t playing ball, either from the low temperature, or due to knocking the start-stop button when pushing cars, so I’ve had to approximate the distance and pace.

This week’s running – 27th November to 3rd December 2017

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Wowza! Who turned off the heating???

5k recovery

Whilst I still loathe running in the heat, I now seem to have lost my ability to endure the cold. Most of my runs in the second half of November have seen me wearing tights, which is no bad thing as I need to keep my calves warm to prevent any regression of my Achilles injury anyway.

Running at a gentle recovery pace, having as little exposed skin as possible was certainly welcome!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 x 1km at half marathon pace

Originally in the P&L Faster Road Racing book, this session was down as 6 x 1km; fearing for my weakened Achilles from the cold, I softened the session to just 4 x 1km reps at target half marathon pace. And do you know what? I don’t think it needed softening at all!

The effort felt completely manageable at all times, in spite of running into the wind, and I could have comfortably completed the original default session as depicted in the book. There was actually enough canal towpath to complete one more 1km rep, but I decided against tempting fate. I’ll either return to the default 6 x 1km configuration, or will switch to 4 x 1 mile reps – both sessions will have me running at pace for a similar amount of time, with the former being the easier format of the two with more frequent recoveries.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

AKA the Nike Vomero 12 initial thoughts run! What better than a slow paced plod home from the city centre to test a new pair of shoes?

I’ve been a fan of Nike’s venerable Pegasus shoes for quite a few years, starting with the 28, and 2015’s 32 being my favourite iteration. Praised for being the Jack-of-all-trades running shoe, it really did cover most bases for me, from recovery runs all the way up to slower-paced tempo runs (only just). Sadly, Nike has been on a trajectory for some time to get the Pegasus feeling faster and faster, namely by firming up the feel underfoot from version 33 onwards. Version 34, after some 200 miles, has left me unimpressed; the firmness, especially in the cold, is not particularly comfortable to run in apart from at faster paces.

So, what’s a guy to do? I like the fit of Nike shoes and I get a nice 20% discount courtesy of Lis’ education establishment association, so I’ve tried my hand (foot?) at their cushioned shoe – the Vomero 12.

Initial impressions are positive. It’s a physically chunkier and heavier shoe than the Pegasus, but the cushioning underfoot is plush with a touch of responsiveness still present. These days, I’m very firmly a runner with specific objectives for each run of the week. Recovery run? I won’t be running fast, so cushioning is needed and welcome. Threshold run? I’ll stick a pair of tempo or race shoes on. The Pegasus’ Jack-of-all-trades approach no longer gels with my training workflow. Rumour has it that version 35 will feature Nike’s miracle ZoomX foam, borrowed from the Vaporfly 4% shoes; I may be persuaded to return to the Pegasus if so, but otherwise it’s now the end of what has been a beautiful partnership.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

Brrrrr! The first 10-15 minutes were bracing, to say the least!

Running from the office for home in Kings Heath almost always means I’m running into the wind, which is incredibly challenging when it’s bitingly cold. In a bid to stay warm, and somewhat counter intuitively, I ran faster than I normally would to generate more heat; as I ran faster into the wind, the wind-chill had a greater impact and took increasingly more body heat away from me! You can see the dilemma I faced…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

All the work at lactate threshold pace seems to be paying off, as I felt particularly energetic going into this run. Conditions weren’t quite as dry or positive as a week prior, but sometimes you can only play with the hand you’re dealt. A pleasant catch-up jog with new father, Barry Fallon, extended my warm-up to become longer than the main parkrun event itself…

I went off in a much more controlled manner to almost constantly be gaining and overtaking people, almost through to the very end. Out of ten, I’d have said I spent most of the run sitting at around eight, thanks to almost always having people around me.

Annoyingly, I’d left just a little too much work to do at the end, finishing exactly on 19:00, though I was able to at least push somebody else on to a new PB and their first ever sub-19 performance.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

14 miles – beyond The Vale and back

This was part 2 of my Nike Vomero 12 trial, taking me on my recovery loop around Kings Heath, and Billsley, and about 0.5 miles beyond The Vale and back. 14 miles is actually the furthest I’ve run since the Yorkshire Marathon in one sitting.

Things started off well enough, but started to go south after halfway. I found the Vomero 12 quite heavy, where they’re a good 20-30g heavier per shoe compared to the Pegasus 34. I may not have noticed the weight difference if I was fresh, but because I’d been on my feet almost all of Saturday night, the additional mass was obvious.

Further clouding my initial impressions of the Vomero 12 was the arch of my left foot cramping up after 9 miles. To be fair, my foot may have cramped up anyway in spite of whichever pair of shoes I wore that morning. What’s certain is I need to spend more time with the Vomero 12; Nike is currently offering a very generous 60-day money back guarantee with no questions asked, so I’ll make a decision to keep or return them in once I hit 50 miles or so.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.