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

london_eye_andy_yu

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

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 – 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

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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?

This week’s running – 17th to 23rd of July 2017

bon_jovi_livin_on_a_prayer

Can you ever not think of Bon Jovi when referring to being halfway?

Week 11 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Yep. Scarily, I’m halfway there…

5k recovery

Surprisingly, the lack of anything from the previous day’s 19 miles rolled over into this particular week. My legs continued to feel resilient and energy levels remained reasonably high, though I was conscious to keep the effort incredibly easy, with an average pace of 9:50 per mile at cira-60% of maximum heart rate.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Garmin 935 thoughts

garmin_935

It’s actually smaller on my wrist than the image implies…

After a little over a week with the Garmin 935, I thought I’d share a few musings about it.

GPS distance accuracy is in line with what my former Fenix 3 produced, but with far cleaner results in previous fringe situations and locations, such as Brindley Place and its artificial canyons. As a result, even the stable lap pace measurement has benefitted by becoming even more reliable and with less fluctuation.

Comfort-wise, it’s like night and day comparing it to the Fenix 3. At almost half the weight, the overall design is much sleeker and crucially offers a better fit, even on my slender wrists. This is critical for the next major feature to work…

Up until taking delivery of the 935, my only experience with optical heart rate monitoring was via Fitbit’s Charge HR. That Fitbit experience was and still remains poor, with my heart rate, and therefore resting heart rate, regularly being over or under-estimated. Community feedback on Garmin’s efforts has also been a mixed bag, and after my two efforts at Cannon Hill parkrun being under-reported, I feared the worst. Some fine-tuning of the position on my arm (further away from my wrist) and going one notch tighter on the strap, I need not have worried because the tracking was pretty much spot on, and aside from parkrun, efforts tracked well across a variety of paces.

All in all, I’m thrilled with it. True, it doesn’t do much dramatically different to what I had before via similar or alternative means (optical versus chest strap heart rate; on-board training load versus Strava’s Fitness & Freshness algorithm), but what it does do has been further refined. Everything feels more polished than the Fenix 3, such is the two years of learnings Garmin has been able to apply to the 935 and Fenix 5 line.

12 miles from work

After the previous week’s dreadful 11 miles from the office, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to tack on another mile… I switched this run up with the originally planned 10 miles with 6 at marathon pace, due to cooler conditions later in the week being more conducive to work at effort.

The first half confirmed my predictions that I would feel dreadful, with nothing falling into place at all. My stride felt heavy with no snap and my energy levels flagged; I couldn’t understand how this could be, especially as I had purposely gone out of my way to ensure I had enough calories on-board.

Thankfully, I perked up around halfway to at least make the second half tolerable. The planned 14 miles after work is going to be miserable, isn’t it?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

Whilst the temperature dropped some, the humidity was jacked right up to make this an incredibly unpleasant experience, even at an easy pace. I could tell within minutes of starting that the air was muggy as sweat clinged to my skin, not doing what it should have.

Like Monday, I wanted to keep this effort easy, slowing to a 10:15 per mile average, also keeping my heart rate in check at circa-60% of maximum.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles with 6 at marathon pace

Wind. My natural nemesis. I knew I was in for a rough ride when I saw the water in the canal being blown along and leaves of trees overhead being whipped up.

I had to adjust the beginning of the route slightly, starting from the Jewellery Quarter rather than the office, to give me enough time on the canal towpath whilst bypassing Brindley Place early enough for it not to be a distraction.

Jumping into marathon pace after only 2 miles of warm-up and straight into headwind was a big ask, and one that failed somewhat. My opening split at pace was a way off the mark 7:12, when I needed it to be 6:50 or faster. Split 2 was getting closer at 6:58, but it wasn’t until split 3 where I’d cracked it with 6:46, with all remaining coming in at 6:47 to 6:42.

In spite of running into the wind, my heart rate seemed quite well-behaved, staying at around 80% of maximum; I’m reasonably confident that on a calmer day, I’d have been closer to 75%, for a general downtick in required effort for marathon pace. The shoes I wore didn’t help (Pegasus 34), feeling more like boats on my feet rather than tempo workout tools.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With a big run instore for Sunday, I opted to keep this effort dialled down. I found myself running with Ed Barlow, something I hadn’t done since 2014 when I was busting a gut just to stay with him at under 20 minutes. On this occasion, we were jovially catching up whilst maintaining that same 2014 pace!

I commented above that the 935 failed to effectively track my heart rate during this 5k effort at around threshold pace. What I suspect happened was a combination of the 935 not getting a good heart rate lock as the run started (it’s not like I can stall things) and the explosive start causing my body to divert blood flow to the areas that needed it most – if there’s not enough blood to track, a lower than expected heart rate is reported, which is exactly what I found happening. For parkrun, this is not an issue where I can always revert to the chest strap; 5k isn’t far enough for the strap to irritate, albeit the vigorous motion of my upper body can still cause it to slip.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

20 miles with Darryll

andy_and_darryll_20_miles

20 miles done!

“Do the same as you’ve always done. Always get what you’ve always got.” Whilst this year’s marathon training plan is largely the same as last year’s, I’ve been conscious to adapt and exploit a few tweaks and modifications in the quest for marginal gains that hopefully add up to over 3 minutes’ worth of improvements.

One such improvement has been to train more frequently with others, namely using races as training runs. Whilst not a race, it just so happened that Darryll Thomas and I were due to cover 20 miles over the same weekend. We’re both close enough in ability and with similar enough end-goals that it was complementary to team-up and share the effort.

Conditions were perfect for a long run in the summer with cool temperatures and overcast skies, almost autumnal in ways. We couldn’t believe our luck and geared up accordingly. Entirely unfamiliar with the route or surrounding areas of Bromsgrove that Darryll guided me on, the terrain was not unlike running on south Welsh country lanes around where my in-laws live.

Conversation flowed whilst we put the world to rights; the first half felt rather effortless as we regularly commented on how easy and casual the run felt. And then the sun came out…

Both of us were caught off-guard with the sun from halfway onwards. Little shade meant we both felt the effort ratchet upwards slowly, with a few undulations stinging far more than they should have. Positively, the two of us held on to the pace; had it have been our respective solo runs, we may have been convinced to back it off in the last couple of miles.

Upon finishing, aside from being incredibly thirsty, the two of us agreed sharing the effort undoubtedly took the edge off the 20 miles, but also will have reduced the amount of recovery needed. And whilst we‘re on recovery, Darryll checked me in as a guest to the gym he’s a member of to take advantage of some of the facilities on offer. A Jacuzzi, steam room and a dip in the pool all had a part to play – there was no soreness or tightness as I typed this out, so there’s something to be said for his recovery routine.

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Fastest shoes in the world? Quite possibly!

Oh, and there was something that had been delivered for Darryll to further get the recovery endorphins flowing – the newly released Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes from the Breaking2 challenge! We both tried them on and the sensation is unlike any shoe I’ve ever experienced before, and I’ve tried a lot of running shoes over the years. It feels like springs have been embedded into the midsole and the carbon fibre plate almost encourages the foot to roll and propel forward, saving the wearer some valuable energy and effort with each stride and foot strike. Just from wearing them for a minute or so, I could quickly see there was some black magic contained inside Nike’s latest marvel.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

1 mile for a 60 mile week

Sometime during last year’s marathon campaign, there was one week mapped out that was all set to become my first ever to feature 60 miles. For reasons I don’t exactly recall, though likely due to sacking off the jog back home from Cannon Hill parkrun, a 60 mile week failed to materialise, settling on 56 or 57 miles instead.

After totting up this week’s mileage, I had to laugh when I saw 59.00 miles; I was conflicted as to whether to ignore it and wait for it to happen organically sometime in August, or to just head out and jog a mile because I may miss the opportunity again? Well, I ended up heading back outside for one single easy mile, before being alerted by various folks on Strava that a further 3 miles would have equated to a 100km week. I did not go back out for a third time that day.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

For the second week on the trot, I once again feel like the training is taking shape and adaptations are happening. Aerobically, I’m feeling stronger than I’ve felt all year. Fitness can’t be rushed and it’ll hit when it’s good and ready, and often with no announcement.

The next two weeks will see some disruption due to racing and being away. The race is the flat and fast Magor 10k, which broke me so badly last year that I blacked out after crossing the finish line from heat exhaustion. I’ve no intention of racing that hard again if it’s warm, so will instead treat it as a fast threshold session; anything between 39:15 and 39:30 will be satisfactory in my book.

The other disruption is a one week getaway to Crete that Lis and I have planned. Temperatures will likely be in the high 20s to low 30s with no cloud cover, so there won’t be much running outdoors, bar a few easy efforts. I do have a VO2max workout in the plan, so will head to the hotel gym to accomplish that. Joy of joys, I also have a 15 mile run to welcome me back to the UK on the same day as we land…

This week’s running – 10th to 16th of July 2017

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Longest run since the last marathon!

Week 10 of the 22 week marathon schedule.

10 miles with 5 at marathon pace

Give with one hand. Take away with the other. The temperature dropped back down to an ideal training range, but with it came the rain.

Once I’d warmed up to marathon pace, I found it largely achievable, though not without additional effort. Heavier clothes from being wet and lack of traction on block paved sections of the canal towpath meant I was working to a few beats higher than I would have expected.

Strangely, my legs really felt it on this outing, where they were a bit lifeless in spite of the reduced volume of last week. My heart and lungs, whilst certainly working, coped much better by comparison.

Here’s the Strava data for the bulk of the run and the warm-down.

5 mile run-commute

An impromptu extended meeting meant I didn’t actually hit the ground running until much later in the evening. I was thankful this was just a casual recovery paced run with no expectations other than to turn my legs over.

I have begun catching up on podcasts whilst I cover these run-commutes. Recently, I stumbled upon The Runner’s World Show, from the producers of the US Runner’s World magazine. It is glossy and rather American, but don’t let that put you off – you can’t judge a book by its cover. Episodes vary in length from 30 minutes to an hour, typically, and cover a range of topics from training to interviews with professionals and regular runners like you or me.

Expectedly, many of the angles carry a US-bias, whether it be race reports or products referred to, but one episode really stood out and was the right length to accompany me on this run-commute. “Running in China” had one of the hosts share his experience of a week-long stay, representing the podcast and magazine on tour. It was really quite fascinating, highlighting the differences and the similarities between the US and Chinese running movements, possibly even paving the way for future episodes comparing other nations’ running habits (any podcast producers reading this, please consider this).

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles from work

Well, that was harder than expected! Both Dave and I had the same scheduled run to cover, albeit separately, and both of us struggled. For me, I ballsed up fuelling; time flew by at the office, and before I knew it, it was too late to eat and properly digest a banana in time for the run.

I had no energy and my legs did not want to respond. Choppy gusts of wind frequently slammed into me to also ensure I had a mare of a time.

If 11 miles after work felt this dreadful, what will the 14 miles in a few weeks feel like, especially as I took the day off a year ago to complete it, but am not so privileged this year? Me thinks I’ll need to carry a gel and some liquid, along with having a more substantial lunch to avoid derailing it…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

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The hill never gets easier! Photo by Kerry Allen

With the longest run since last October’s marathon planned for Sunday, I opted to scale back parkrun to threshold pace. I normally don’t feel too bad on training runs following parkrun, where the faster leg turnover and form efficiency seems to carry over, and the post-run coffee with the gang helps to jumpstart recovery.

I also had a new toy to play with in the form of the Garmin 935. Watch this space as I test it out and incorporate it into my routine.

Almost right on cue, the heavens opened up shortly after starting, blurring the lines between where sweat started and rain ended…

True to my word, I ran to a steady, threshold pace with a faster finish for the following splits:

  1. 3:57
  2. 3:58
  3. 3:57
  4. 3:53
  5. 3:43

Given how wet it was, I opted not to run home from the park, but naturally the rain ended once we were all finished…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

19 miles – to Soho Loop and back

Sometimes you just can’t predict how a run will turn out – Thursday’s 11 miles hammered this one home. Not wanting to end up with another demoralising run, I ensured I was well fuelled with a hearty pasta dinner and some pudding to boot. Coming along with me was my ultra vest, loaded up with the same two-flask combo from several weeks ago of flat Coca-Cola and electrolyted water.

I kept the first half easy-to-steady, also mimicking the 18 mile run from several weeks ago. Humidity was jacked up, though at least it was overcast (give with one hand, take away with the other again, right?) I bulked up the mileage at the beginning of the run, rather than run right past my home with another 2 miles to go until clocking the prescribed 19.

At halfway, I consciously picked up the pace with the aim of running progressively for home. I felt great and even had to rein the pace in on occasion, no doubt due to the slightly different and fresher muscle and tendon groups being utilised, along with fuelling doing the trick.

I saw Simon covering the same 14 mile route I assisted him with last week. Thankfully, he’d taken my recommendation of having breakfast beforehand and looked dramatically better for it!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

Today’s 19 miles is probably the joint-best run I’ve had of this marathon campaign and will hopefully pave the way for the 20 to 22 mile runs yet to come. Typing this up, I don’t even feel like I ran 19 miles today, highlighting the performance and recovery benefits of the prep beforehand. I’m definitely going to stash some gels at the office, just in case from now on!