This week’s running – 31st of August to 6th of September 2015

Cardiff 10k 2015

Start of the 2015 Cardiff 10k – photo by Cardiff 10k

(A little later than usual – sorry!)

This week was all about gearing up for the Cardiff 10k.

10k fartlek

With a few weeks of quality and endurance missing from my training diary, I was fully expecting this fartlek session to sting like a mofo. And the first two stretches of speed most certainly did. But then once I’d warmed up into the session, I unusually felt like somebody had pressed a button to free up a whole bunch of resources for me. I was on fire and feeling fantastic! My form felt strong and the recoveries were spot on almost every time.

With the way I was the previous week after a two week lay-off, I was almost entirely convinced to treat the Cardiff 10k as a fast training run; this gave me the confidence to approach the race with all guns blazing.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

Two out of the ordinary remarks about this staple run from the office. The first was a group of three out on a fartlek run; they would catch me with each burst of speed, and then they would stop right in my path! I threw in a couple of minutes of faster pace and finally broke free of them. This was only supposed to be an easy recovery run…

The other oddity about this run was the speed of it, with Strava recognising it as my fastest from work by some 50 seconds. I hoped the upward momentum would continue through to Sunday’s race.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 canal miles

Royal flush! Whilst the first half of this run didn’t feel all that great, I was able to fully warm up for the return leg to make it progressive.

Unexpectedly, I felt rather fresh at the end of the run, even with the climb on Newhall Hill to contend with. This left me in good spirits regarding Sunday’s race.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Newport Parkrun (not!)

It’s incredibly rare that I back-off from a Parkrun if I’ve decided to attend one. A couple of recent late nights had taken their toll on me and I was in serious need of a lie-in come Saturday morning, so my Newport Parkrun appearance was cancelled. Had I have gone along, I would have taken the first 4km easy and then blasted the final km to prep myself for the Cardiff 10k 24 hours later. In hindsight, I do now wonder whether I should have gone to Newport Parkrun afterall…

Cardiff 10k

For the full write-up of the 2015 race, please click here.

Not many more of these entries left from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book (these have been going for nearly two years!):

Call them running shoes

They aren’t sneakers or tennis shoes or kicks or trainers (sorry, Brits). They are running shoes. So call them that.

Cardiff 10k 2015 review

For the 2012, 2013 and 2014 races, please click the following:

Can you find Andy at the Cardiff 10k 2015

Can you see me yet? Photo by Wales Online

This was my last chance in 2015 at another 10k PB. Read on to find out what happened in the Welsh capital…


After last year’s course change due to the NATO conference, I purposely waited until the route was formally announced before committing myself. I was worried that somebody in the organising committee had taken a shine to last year’s course due to lower road closure costs, but somebody saw sense and restored what I like to call the “classic” course.

The next hurdle to overcome was that of fitness, or lack of. Going into the Magor Marsh 10k at the end of July, I carried over a lot of sharpness that I picked up en route to a 5k PB attempt (the 5k PB never materialised). I was in top form and as many of us know, holding on to new found fitness can be tricky. My honeymoon brought my training log crashing to the ground, along with some weight gain – a new 10k PB was going to be one tough cookie for sure.

A few positive training runs over the last couple of days convinced me I should still brave a 10k PB attempt, especially if Vince Nazareth was also targeting a time under 39 minutes.

I didn’t sleep particularly well the night before, waking up at 4am due to a strange dream involving a serial-killer posing as a Sainsbury’s security guard and a multi-storey car park (don’t ask).

Conditions looked incredible on race morning, with cool temperatures and very little wind. Regular readers will know I’ve had a few races scuppered over the spring and summer due to challenging elements, courtesy of Mother Nature. Sadly, things started to hot up very quickly due to brilliantly blue skies with nary a cloud in sight.

My warm-ups felt spot on; the 1 mile jog helped to loosen things up and the 300m effort at 10k pace gave me the confidence that my legs had the speed for the morning’s exertions. I did unfortunately lose one of the nose grips from my sunglasses for a 5 minute pre-race distraction.

Can you find Andy at the Cardiff 10k 2015

I have no idea what I was pointing at – Photo by Wales Online

I bid Lis and Yvonne farewell and headed over to the start pens. Cardiff 10k’s start pens have been chaotic for me in the past, so I like to stake out a spot nice and early. I bumped into the ever-affable Daniel Luffman who was targeting something around 40:XX. I also spotted the San Domenico runner, Chris, who I worked alongside at the Magor Marsh 10k for our very rewarding PBs. A short while later, Vince and his son, Dylan, joined us in the fray as we were ushered to move forward. When I looked around at everybody beside us, everyone was lean and sinewy with a hungry look in their eyes – the air was serious and there were no costumed runners in sight!

We waited patiently for the hooter. One guy kept reaching to the sky in a desperate attempt to gain some GPS signal, eventually achieving lock-on with only seconds to spare. The hooter blew and “Go-time” was upon us.

The race

Vince and I had discussed working together towards the common goal of a sub-39 finish. I stuck with him like glue to follow his line and run in his slipstream. Lis’ mum, Yvonne, appeared to my left but Lis was nowhere to be seen.

The first corner seemed to catch a few people off guard, and the number of times I was cut up and almost tripped was ridiculous – look ahead and you can see what’s coming up, folks!

By 1k, I was still on Vince’s tail but I was definitely working hard to keep on pace. I wasn’t seeing any benefit from drafting at all to convince me to let Vince go and possibly salvage my race. I watched him tearing off into the distance, increasing the gap between us with each step. Randomly on my left as I approached the castle, I heard a “Go Andy!” from the crowd and thought it must have been Vince’s wife, Heather, if the cheer was indeed intended for me.

Firmly past Cardiff Castle, Chris from San Domenico caught up to me and said, “I must be going too fast if I’ve caught up to you.” My reply: “Nope! I’m going too slow!” We agreed to work together, much like in the Magor Marsh 10k, except even 3:55 kilometres were feeling a little too tasty here and I continued to struggle even in Chris’ slipstream. I was able to stay with him up to 4k before I had to let him go as well. The lack of intensity the last couple of weeks meant nothing felt familiar at all and my PB attempt became a fight to simply finish in under 40 minutes.

Going through halfway, I spotted Daniel Luffman again just ahead of me by perhaps no more than 20m. If he was able to maintain the lead on me, there was a possibility of him hitting 39:XX territory. A few ugly kilometre splits starting with 4:XX littered this part of the race…

I continued to keep Dan in my sights until 7k when I made myself known to him, pushing him on to stay in front of me. I heard a spectating mother say to her daughter that that part of the race would be one of the most difficult for runners due to fatigue; she wasn’t kidding! At 8k, I tried convincing myself to press on but it just wasn’t happening; my legs felt like somebody else’s and did not want to co-operate at all. Dan began drifting backwards, so I did my best to drag him along with me, gesturing for him to follow.

Cardiff 10k 2015

Dead impressed by the large fella behind me running a sub-40 10k! Photo by Lis Yu

With just 1k left to go, my Garmin reported I was averaging 3:59 kilometres – a little too close for comfort if a sub-40 finish was what I wanted. Finally, the old Central Governor decided to free up some resources for me to begin my push for the finish. I reached the top of Museum Avenue and with just over 400m remaining, I knew I had a sub-40 finish in the bag so long as the distance was accurate (highly likely – great race reputation) and I kicked with everything I had left. I heard Lis and Yvonne cheer for me, followed shortly by Vince’s wife, Heather, who I caught in the corner of my eye. The finish line grew in size with each forward step and each pumped arm. I went through the finish and my fingers were crossed, hoping I had done enough to go sub-40…


I had to kneel down and catch my breath, but recovery was swift and in a minute or two, I was back to my normal self – clearly I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough. To my left was a guy lying on his back, who had most definitely pushed himself to his limits.

Upon checking my Garmin, 39:48 was all I was able to muster – a positive given the lack of recent training intensity. The Garmin also reported I ran exactly 10km (I said this race was accurate)! Here’s the Garmin data for this race.

Cardiff 10k 2015

A perfectly executed PB race for Vince – photo by Lis Yu

I collected my medal and caught up with Chris from San Domenico. He pulled off a 39:22, so had I have been able to stick with him, I reckon I’d have bagged a cheeky PB by a couple of seconds with a big kick at the end. I made my way over to Vince and Dan who were both beaming from their PB performances. Vince earned himself a fantastic 38:42 and Dan got his sub-40 thanks to a 39:53 finish. I finally got to meet Heather, too, after multiple conversations with her on social media over the past year.

So, not the race outcome I had in mind. Rather eerily, it’s exactly the 10k finish I would be predicted to achieve upon entering last week’s 19:11 Cardiff Parkrun into the McMillan Running Calculator… Disappointingly, this also ends the three year PB streak I had going at the Cardiff 10k. Oh well, nothing lasts forever in athletics, apart from Paula Radcliffe’s marathon world record seemingly.

I have just a few short weeks remaining until the Cardiff Half Marathon at the beginning of October. It’s now time to completely shift my focus to make the most of that opportunity.

This week’s running – 24th to 30th of August 2015

Andy Yu at Cardiff Parkrun

The fastest running I’d done in weeks – photo by NiallS

Back in the saddle after a near two week honeymoon lay-off.

10 canal miles

Jet lagged and under trained, but with fewer than six weeks remaining until the Cardiff Half Marathon, I needed to get this particular long run in to kick-start the return to serious graft.

I had hoped that two weeks in Thailand’s tropical climate would have prompted some adaptations to make running once back at home feel easier. Nope. None of that. I returned to a warm and humid weekend to make the ten miles feel less than stellar. The additional 6lbs of luggage I was carrying didn’t help either!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

First day back at the office and what better way to mark my return than the staple 5k run back home? Colleagues were amazed that I was even willing to entertain this run so soon after returning back to the UK, but once I explained how important the Cardiff 10k and Half Marathon were to me, they quickly understood why I was so keen to get back into some semblance of a training routine.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

2x 1600m at 10k pace

I was probably a little premature, jumping back into sessions, but I guess the only way to find out whether I was ready or not was to just get on with it.

I wasn’t ready at all and the effort to reach the paces was completely off kilter from what I was expecting. I sacked the session off after just 2x reps and turned for home with my tail between my legs. This was enough to convince me to side-step my attentions from the looming Cardiff 10k to the Cardiff Half Marathon; I was pretty satisfied with my recent 10k PB of 39:16 whereas my half marathon PB needs a bit of work to get it into 96 minute territory.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Cardiff Parkrun

Ah, Cardiff Parkrun. My home away from home.

After my botched 2x 1600m session, I knew I had to scale my expectations back on this one to better manage potential disappointment. I felt like I was capable of a 19:15 5k and any extra would be a bonus.

Whilst I was away in Thailand, Vince and his family were holidaying in Portugal and we traded various training stories. He was fortunate enough to enjoy flat morning interval sessions in much cooler temperatures compared to my 30 degree runs. He was feeling primed to “go for it” and eke out a new 5k PB, whilst his son and I planned to stick together.

Somewhat foolishly, I decided to follow Vince for the first mile or so before he crept away on his quest for a PB. Joined by his son, Dylan, we unfortunately let too much time slip through during the middle km meaning fast times were completely out.

Vince went on to claim his 18:31 PB, whilst Dylan finished with 19:08 and I trailed in with 19:11. Here’s the Garmin data.

I was reasonably happy with my performance, but damn was the effort stressful. I was still 15 to 20 seconds shy of where I would normally be on Cardiff’s ultra fast course to further convince me to cast aside any ambitions for the Cardiff 10k.

Andy Yu and Vince Nazareth at Cardiff Parkrun

Competitors turned friends – photo by NiallS

We had a good old natter afterwards and it was funny to think just a year ago, Vince was an anonymous rival of mine during a 5k PB attempt. The above photo, fantastically and candidly captured by NiallS, sums up perfectly why Parkrun has been such a positive influence on my running these last four years.

11 miles – to Usk and back

I somehow didn’t get the memo that the Severn Bridge Half Marathon was on to wonder why my long run was so devoid of fellow runners, yet so accompanied by so many cyclists.

My legs were stiff and lacked any bounce due to the hard Parkrun only 24 hours prior. Thankfully, speed was not the intended outcome but rather the development of endurance, which I’d been sorely missing out on over the summer due to focus on shorter distances.

Nothing particularly noteworthy on this run, bar the 800m hill at the end with a 5% gradient. Strava tells me I recently lost top dog on that segment a few weeks ago; part of me thinks it might be worth a focused effort solely on the climb to reclaim glory…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Right. Time again for the normal entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Becoming a human metronome is fun

Running on a track can be deathly monotonous. But there’s a payoff, too, if you’re patient enough to discover it. That payoff? Becoming a human metronome.

By that I mean learning to sense your own pace, to the point where you can run scary-precise splits for quarter-mile after quarter-mile, without even looking at your watch.

It doesn’t come easy. And, depending on how often you’re able to run on a track and how disciplined you are, it might not come at all. But for those who are willing to put in the time and work at it, developing this talent can be pretty satisfying.

It works, of course, by paying close attention to your watch – at first – on every 200- or 400-meter repeat. Gradually you’ll notice that your times are grouping closer and closer to a single mean. Soon you’ll discover that you’re nailing this time, or something very close to it, without using your watch at all.

This means that you’re getting a better feel for pace and meting out effort and all that stuff. Which is good.

Me, I just think it’s cool.

This week’s running – 2nd to 8th of September

Running didn't go well this at the start of the week

The week didn’t start well at all…

Tuesday was my normally scheduled speedwork session at Cannon Hill Park. After an extended warm-up, I went into the first 800m rep and everything felt normal. Going into the second rep, I felt faster but I also felt flat at the same time like I didn’t have the mojo to continue. I called it quits after that and went for my warm-down. I can only put the odd sensation down to two things; one is that I was still recovering from my hard long run on Sunday. The second reason is that due to the strong breeze, I had cooled down too much after my warm-up stretches. Anyway, here’s the Garmin data for the interval session of shame.

After Tuesday’s shocker I decided to do a cut down session on Thursday, being mindful that I should be tapering slightly for the Cardiff 10k on Sunday. I headed out to Edgbaston Reservoir for 2 laps to make 5k. I felt good and covered the distance at a decent pace for a mid-week run. Here’s the data for the run.

The wheels started to come off on Friday morning when I woke up with a sore throat, realising that I had seriously overcooked it. I wasn’t bunged up but I wasn’t taking any chances so I popped into Boots on the way to work and picked up some Lockets and some Day Nurse capsules.

Andy and Nigel at Newport Parkrun

Andy and Nigel at Tredegar Park, Newport Parkrun

I had been looking forward to Saturday’s Parkrun for a while because I had arranged to meet Nigel from Lliswerry Runners at Newport Parkrun. Nigel and I have been exchanging a number of emails over the last few months ever since he got in touch with me via this very blog about the Caerphilly 10k route. Nigel is also the man responsible for a segment on Marathon Talk previously where Martin and Tom discussed the various types of PB out there.

Morgan joined me on Saturday morning and came along for Newport Parkrun despite having completed the crazy 7 mile Llanhennock Hill route the day before. We had an easy 1 mile warm-up before rejoining the masses at the start line. I wasn’t looking to go all out, treating it as a 10k race pace run for the Cardiff 10k. I do enjoy the Newport route, but I rarely run it because I like to use Cardiff Parkrun as measurement of my ability. I felt steady and fresh for the entire run, finishing in 20:33; I’m more than confident that I can nail sub-20 at Newport if I needed to. The time and pace I ran at confirmed to me that I would be OK at the Cardiff 10k the next day. Morgan finished in a very commendable 24:30ish time and still looked pretty fresh, so he could most likely do 24:00 minutes if he pushed it. My Garmin data for Newport Parkrun can be found here.

We caught up with Nigel after the run and went for a coffee at the Tredegar House café. Here, he introduced me to some of the Newport Parkrun team where Morgan and I were able to spectate how the results are processed and uploaded, along with the sorting of the finish tokens. It was all fascinating stuff and I now have even more respect for the efforts that the Parkrun organisers put in each week to give us all a free and timed 5k run. We had a great chat with Nigel, discussing injuries and various races we had participated in and had coming up. He’ll be at the Cardiff Half Marathon next month so hopefully I can arrange to meet up with him before or after in some way.

Sunday finally came and rather than bore you with an abridged version of my Cardiff 10k report, I’ll send you to the full fat edition instead. It was a great race and one that I know I’ll look back on fondly for years to come.

Cardiff 10k 2013 review

For the 2012, 2014 and 2015 races, please click the following:

Cardiff 10k PB of 40:39

Chip timing rounded me up to 40:39 – booooo!

This year’s Cardiff 10k was too good to simply chuck into another week of running post, so it gets its own deserved entry.

My first experience of the Cardiff 10k was last year in 2012 when Elsa and I ran it in glorious sunshine. At that point, I had never raced a 10k before and it actually shaped up to be a very enjoyable distance to compete in, with the pros of 5ks and half marathons and none of the cons.

Dom and I signed up for the event a while ago and whilst it’s a tad pricey compared to some other 10k races, you do get a decent technical t-shirt and one of the best medals out there. It’s also virtually pancake flat, so it’s perfect for PB junkies like me.

Unfortunately, there is some woe to this tale – I did actually race with a cold! In almost an identical manner to last year, I went and did a hard, long run only a week before the Cardiff 10k and became a touch overtrained, which opened me up to a sore throat on Friday and became a cold on Saturday.


Breakfast consisted of two slices of toast with honey along with a bottle of Nectar Fuel. I also had two beetroot juice shots at 8:15am to maximise the 2 hour delay and the research suggesting two shots being the optimal quantity.

Lis and I left Tredunnock in dreadful weather conditions with black clouds and rain lashing down. Thankfully, this cleared up en route to Cardiff and posed no problem at all for the race.

Andy and Dom at the Cardiff 10k

Dom and Andy, running to win at the Cardiff 10k

I had arranged to meet up with Dom at the runners’ village and also for some breakfast after the race. I hadn’t seen Dom since the Bath Half Marathon, though he did see me run past during the London Marathon at around mile 23. We quickly found him near the luggage storage tent before he and I went for a 1 mile warm-up run. It was great to see Dom again after so long, and the conversational pace of our breathing kept the warm-up easy. Not wanting to fall prey to the long portaloo queues like I did last year, we opted to pee against a nearby secluded tree…

Making our way to the startline, we entered in via the back of the pen and realised we’d possibly left it too late. We were greeted by a guy in a Sonic the hedgehog costume, so this gives you an idea of what sort of crowd we had to fight through. Several minutes later, we made it to an area towards the right of the start pen that was maybe 10m from the front runners. Due to my cold, I was incredibly thirsty and had neglected to grab one of the many free bottles of water being handed out. I figured I could make it to the halfway water stop at the more relaxed 10k pace before performance would suffer. The countdown to start began and the race actually kicked-off on time, taking us no more than 20 or so seconds to cross the start line from where we were.

Dom and I didn’t have a plan to stay together; if it happened organically then great. We got separated after only a few hundred metres, so I knuckled down into my race pace of 6:40 per mile. I almost slammed right into one lady that had decided to start right up front despite running at what was maybe 10 minutes per mile. As a contrast, there were also plenty of people shooting off far too quickly; I knew I’d see them again sooner rather than later.

I settled into my stride, feeling relaxed and comfortable. It was somewhat mad to think that only a few months ago, 6:40 per mile was my 5k pace and here I was putting myself on the line to run that pace for a 10k race!

Andy Yu at 1k in the Cardiff 10k

Andy Yu at 1k during the Cardiff 10k

The first potential bottle neck corner came and went without any issue. As always, I tried to run as clean a line as possible and I had a good feeling I was early enough in the pack that I wouldn’t have to weave in and out too much (in the end, I only ran 6.23 miles). Despite losing Dom early on in the start line scramble, I noticed he was just 5 – 10m ahead of me and running pretty much at the same pace as I was. I noticed Lis, Yvonne and Morgan to the right of the road and gave them a wave. I did also hear Lis’ uncle Rob on my left which confused me somewhat as to why he wasn’t with everybody else.

I love the Cardiff 10k course because of how flat and fast it is. There are two long stretches of road to really allow runners to build and maintain momentum and not too many twists and turns for slowdown. At 2k, I entered the road leading us out to the River Taff and was still maintaining a 1 – 2 second lead on my target pace with everything feeling smooth and natural. Castle Street presented a great opportunity to simply get your head down and start picking off runners in the distance. I passed plenty of folks that were already blowing hard after only 2 – 3k and knew they’d significantly slow down by the 5k mark having overcooked it so early on.

Andy Yu at th Cardiff 10k

Andy Yu running through Llandaff Fields, Cardiff 10k

Due to my cold, I had been steadily taking Day Nurse capsules since Friday. They are my cold medication of choice but they do increase your thirst as a side-effect of the mucus drying properties. Thankfully, I’d reached Cathedral Road and the water station was just a few metres away for some instant relief. Cardiff 10k hands out bottles of water which are a god-send, rather than trying to neck water out of a small cup whilst running at speed. Desperate for some water, I started drinking too quickly and started choking when it went down the wrong hole! Regaining my composure, I poured the rest of the water over my head and chucked the bottle away. Just before 6k, I had my Isogel for a sugar hit now that the pace had become tougher to maintain.

A guy in black that I had been having mini battles with for the last 2k had caught up to me again and rather than continue to duke it out, I suggested to him that we work together. He duly agreed and we introduced ourselves, expressing that we both wanted something around 41 minutes. We silently ran together and the pace started to speed up, only subtly, but still noticeable in these later stages of the race. Dom was still ahead by exactly the same distance as before and I noticed a guy in white hanging off his shoulder. I was tempted to shout out to him but opted not to disturb his metronomic pacing, achieved without the aid of GPS or even a simple stopwatch. By 7k, the subtle but sudden boost in pace proved too much for me and I told the guy in black to go on ahead; he zoomed off like a thief in the night. I probably could have hung on in there for a bit longer but I still had another 3k to run and it was too soon to begin a kick.

I was now back on Duke Street, leading us back towards Cardiff Castle. A group of cheerleaders looked a bit down as I ran past, so I shouted out “thanks cheerleaders”, which they responded wildly to. I always try and thank marshals and volunteers out on races or Parkruns because they’ve given up their time to help us runners in some way and they probably don’t get much in the way of appreciation.

After Cardiff Castle, I entered Bute Park for the closing stage of the race. This is also the section where there’s arguably the most potential to lose time on due to a number of corners in quick succession to bring the pace down. The guy in black that I ran with for a short while was now walking on the side of the path having overcooked it – I was so glad I decided not to stick with him in the end! The guy that was drafting behind Dom had also dropped off the pace and had been left behind.

With a mile left to go, I finally let Dom know that I was now just behind him. I told him that this was now the time to push it and “give the crowd something to cheer about” and we began our final march towards the finish. I was seriously blowing by this stage, trying to get as much oxygen into my lungs as possible. My Garmin showed we were about 25 seconds ahead of target pace so we were making great progress. I remembered the long straight path in Bute Park taking forever last year and it was no different this time. The turning back towards King Edward VII Avenue finally came and we upped the pace again.

The last 200m of the Cardiff 10k

Impressive photography from Lis to capture both Dom and I in the same frame

The finish was just ahead, maybe 500 – 600m away but it seemed like a mirage in the distance that never appeared to get any closer. I was kicking but my legs were saturated with lactic acid and my lungs couldn’t give me much more. I was now simply trying to reel in a few of the runners ahead of me for a boost. Lis and co were on the right of the road so I gave them a quick wave and I mustered up what little resources I had left for one final push. My arms were pumping and my legs pushed as hard as possible, allowing me to overtake two runners with Dom just ahead of me before we finally crossed the finish line.

Andy and Dom post-race at the Cardiff 10k

Fresh as daisies after the Cardiff 10k

I stopped my Garmin but didn’t care for the time, knowing it was a PB of some description and hurled myself over to the right of the finish area away from the runners coming through. I had to get down on all fours to remain steady and felt like throwing up; if this was Cannon Hill Parkrun, I would have collapsed into a fetal position for recovery. Once my breathing steadied out, I got up to find Dom to share the time with him. I’d managed to PB as anticipated but was surprised by how much of a margin it was for a 40:38 finish! My last 10k race PB was 42:28, admittedly on a hilly course and very warm day, so I was confident I could at least break sub-42 minutes. We guesstimated Dom’s finish was 40:33 or so, given the lead he had on me during the final straight but later found out his chip time reading was 40:38 and mine had also been rounded up to 40:39.

Cardiff 10k 2013 medal

The Cardiff 10k 2013 medal, bigger bling than 2012!

The medals that were given out are gorgeous; easily one of the best I’ve ever been given and possibly edges out last year’s.

It’s easy to tell I’ve run hard because the pressure in my ears goes crazy, causing me to go deaf temporarily. We joked that I must have gone supersonic!

After breakfast, we had a wander around St Davids 2 where Dom and I had a good chance to catch-up about all things running related, focusing particularly on the marathon distance before parting ways. We’ll both be back in Cardiff again in a few short weeks for the Cardiff Half Marathon where we get to do it all over again! It was great to see Dom again and it’s incredible how much he’s grown in strength as a runner this year alone. His internal pacing clock is incredible and really has to be seen to be believed – I could have synced my Garmin against him for accuracy! Take a look at his take on the Cardiff 10k here.

The Cardiff 10k is a fantastic race and has firmly cemented itself on my race calendar forever more. It’s a great course that’s conducive to PBs and also perfectly scheduled to serve as a tune-up race before most autumn half marathons. It has that big city race appeal with plenty of fellow runners to pace with but none of the disadvantages, so long as the organisers keep an eye on how many participants they allow in.

Now we get to the fun part for the data junkies (Dave!)… My Garmin data is most interesting where it shows I hit a peak heart rate of 204bpm during the closing stages, with my historical high recorded at 206bpm a few months ago. This translated into a training effect rating of 5.0/5.0, which Garmin highlights as “overreaching”; the highest I’ve previously achieved is 4.3! My pacing was decent with only a blip in mile 5. My cold looks to have not affected me at all with Dave correctly pointing out that my 40:39 10k PB is equivalent to a 19:34 5k, which is pretty much bang on for what I’m capable of right now so I pretty much hit my maximum 10k potential!

I’m going to take it easy this week and give myself 3 good days of just stretching and strength work to recover properly. I can’t remember the last time I took 3 days off from running!

This week’s running – 26th of August to 1st of September

Half marathon goal is 95 minutes or better

With the bank holiday weekend, my training schedule was thrown into bedlam and as creatures of habit, we runners need routine.

Bank holiday Monday became my long run day where I decided to reccy the Great Birmingham Run route. Like a fool, I didn’t fuel up properly before the run and I only took an energy gel out with me to consume whilst on the route. The run was tough, with the warm late morning sun beating down on me, causing further dehydration. The comedy hill in Edgbaston was worse than I remembered and did its best to kick my arse and hand it back to me. I was destroyed when I finished and promised myself I’d be better prepared for the next long run. Here’s the Garmin data.

I like to try and leave a day in between runs during the week, so Wednesday became my speedwork session. I decided to do this session in Kings Heath Park where the terrain is flatter and of better quality. I wanted to do 4 x 800m reps at 3:50/km with 90 second recoveries and punched this into my Garmin. Annoyingly, each rep ended next to a bench that had been occupied by some chavvy lads. Surprisingly, they didn’t hurl any abuse at me and actually gave me some positive feedback about my speed at the end of my 4th rep. Reps 1 – 3 were perfect but sadly, the 4th rep was over 3 seconds slower so I knew it was time to call it quits. I’m really enjoying these quality sessions at the moment; now that Mike’s back from his holiday and Dave is literally back up to speed, I have some speedwork buddies again. The session data can be found here.

Beet It beetroot juice shots

I didn’t want to blow myself to pieces with my usual Thursday 6 mile run so I took an extra rest day. Instead, I went nutrition shopping and found Holland and Barrett selling the Beet It beetroot juice shots with a buy one, get one half price offer. They’re normally £2 each so you can see why I decided to stock up…

Saturday arrived and it was of course Parkrun day at Cannon Hill. I wasn’t aiming for anything special, just some consistency so something around 19:45 would have suited me fine. The run started off well and I was on my target pace. Bizarrely, my Garmin beeped to indicate we’d hit the first mile and I knew we were at least 0.1 miles away from the first mile marker. My virtual pacer shot up to say I went from 1 second ahead to saying over 30 seconds ahead of target pace, so I knew something was up. I carried on at a pace that I would call comfortably hard, so around 8/10 in terms of difficulty. With 400m left to go, Dave scared the hell out of me and zoomed past looking very strong and going for a sub-20 minute attempt. I crossed the line in 20:03, feeling really fresh and it turned out Dave had earned himself a shiny new 19:57 5k PB! I’m pleased as punch he’s hit sub-20 minutes, which is a real achievement for any runner. As for what happened to my Garmin? I believe it hadn’t achieved full lock-on before I started running because both the route of my warm-up and Parkrun were all over the bleeding shop, which you can see here and here.

Nike Pegasus 30 - my new long run shoe

My Nike Pegasus 30s finally arrived and I love the fit and feel. They look a little retro but the cushioning is so nice to have after regularly running in two pairs of Lunarglide 3s that have gone past their use by dates.

Today, I went out on another Great Birmingham Run reccy, this time with even more emphasis on covering the route in as much accuracy as possible where health and safety allow. I also wore my Pegasus 30s to break them in. Learning from Monday’s mistake, I had a better breakfast and took a Powerade and an Isogel out with me on the course. It was much cooler today but with enough sun to still heat things up when not running in the shade. I was chicked twice on the Pershore Road by two girls that had phenomenal speed; I later realised they were being followed by their coach on a bike so I didn’t feel quite so bad. I tried to find the Selly Park detour but had to approximate this as best I could. I threw some faster miles in during the middle and these felt amazing, feeling smooth and strong and will hopefully be able to recreate this feeling in Cardiff next month. The Edgbaston hill is still unwelcome but the simplified jaunt through Edgbaston immediately afterwards allowed for a moment of recovery. Personally, I’m pleased with these two minor changes to the course which should allow for a slightly faster finish for folks. Take a look at the map below to see what’s been changed:

Great Birmingham Run 2013 route

The reccy run was good; I finished it faster in training today than I had actually raced it last year! Here’s the Garmin data for the run. Oh, and the highlight of the run? Some random guy in a blue Nissan Micra that shouted out “You can do it, mate! Keep going!” whilst frantically punching the air.

The Cardiff 10k race pack

Finally, my race pack for next week’s Cardiff 10k arrived. The black technical t-shirt looks really good, though I still have last year’s blue t-shirt that’s been unused with tags still attached… Dom will also be running and it’ll be good to catch-up, not having seen him since the Bath Half.

The road to recovery and future races

It’s Thursday after the London Marathon and my legs are feeling loads better today, with only mild hamstring tightness and bruised feet as remnants of Sunday’s race.

Yesterday, I went with Lis on a training run around the Cannon Hill Parkrun course.  She did remarkably well, maintaining good mid-foot strike form and even finished with a kick.  I’m proud that she’s finally gone outdoors to run and she found the experience to be positive, mentioning the ability to go faster and the fresh air as major advantages of running outside.  This is all in preparation for her Race for Live event coming up in May at Walsall Arboretum.  Of course, this will require a bit of Parkrun tourism from me the day before to reccy the course.

I love racing and having a target to work towards is what keeps me going.  I always enter more races immediately after completing one, and it’s been difficult not to press the “Enter now” button to enter a marathon for next year.

Lis and I made a deal over dinner the other night where I promised I would not enter another marathon until I can hit a sub-1:30 half marathon.  This would be getting into the realms of good club runner territory and for context, would equate to a 19:26 5k, a 40:22 10k or a 3:09:22 marathon.  The irony of this is that hitting a sub-1:30 half marathon target would also mean a good shot at a male good for age marathon, requiring a time better than 3:10:00.  A good for age time means a near guaranteed entry into the London Marathon and many other highly sought after races around the world, which is obviously better than waiting for that fateful day in late September when you find out whether you’re in or out.

Whilst we’re on the topic of good for age places, Suz West, the lady I finished the London Marathon with, was only 29 seconds away from a female good for age time of 3:50:00.  I feel slightly guilty because I may or may not have been the cause of her missing this target; if she had never run with me, would she have beaten 3:50?  As you can see, the women’s good for age criteria is much more generous than the men’s.  With the correct training, I’d hazard a guess that most sub-23 minute female Parkrunners would be able to meet that time on a less congested marathon course, which means a good for age place for at least the next two years.

Anywho, for some racing instant gratification, I decided to enter two 10k races last night: the Wythall & Hollywood 10k and the Cardiff 10k.

The Wythall & Hollywood race is a very small scale, local event and I’m not expecting more than 200 runners.  This is the first year where they’ve organised a 10k, which is simply 2x laps of the 5k course that’s now in its 4th year.  The roads are completely closed off and looking at last year’s 5k results, I should place in the top 20 runners, with a good number finishing at around my 5k average.

The Cardiff 10k is a favourite of mine, after running it last year.  The course is pretty much flat and takes in parts of the Cardiff Half Marathon and Cardiff Parkrun.  Due to a poorly planned toilet visit, I found myself too far towards the back and had to fight my way through to get a good spot.  I was never knowingly overtaken and with a good starting position, I should be able to hit my target of a sub-42 minute 10k by September.

The remainder of my spring and summer will be mostly dedicated to gaining speed.  I know I have endurance but looking at the way my body is composed right now, I look like I’m built for 10k and half marathons.  I lack more serious muscle to really drive in 5k and I personally think I’m slightly too bulky to efficiently run marathons.

Finally, I’m saddened by Dave going on a temporary hiatus from Parkrun.  We both agree that we’re so closely matched right now that we’re capable of a lot more together than on our own; our half marathons are further evidence of this.  Hopefully he’ll keep his legs ticking over during his break for our next, eagerly awaited, smackdown.