This week’s running – 22nd to 28th January 2018

andy_yu_cardiff_parkrun

Cardiff parkrun, one of the fastest courses in the UK – photo by John Ross

One helluva training week that had me feeling like I was at least close to my 2016 best.

5k recovery

I don’t know whether it’s the additional oxygen flowing through me, but I always feel like I’m more perceptive of little details when I’m running easy. Case in point was how many people there were out and about on this particular Monday evening. Not just fellow runners, but also people simply out for a walk. I can normally count on one hand the number of folks I see on a Monday evening recovery run, but there were easily 30+ souls spotted. Checking afterwards, there didn’t appear to be anything going on in the neighbourhood to prompt so many to be out and about to make for another unsolved mystery…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work with fartlek

I have a confession to make – I think I’m in love with fartlek! The unstructured nature shouldn’t work with my Type 1 personality that craves symmetry and perfection, but I’ve really come to embrace the unpredictable.

Driven mainly by how strong the headwind can be as I run along the canal towpath to south Birmingham, fartlek stops me from writing speed off simply because I can’t accurately or reliably hit certain paces or splits. When the wind dies down, or I find some brief shelter, it’s an opportunity to rev my legs up. Upon finishing, I felt a real sense of accomplishment to offset the feeling of nausea that struck at the end!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

On Tuesday’s 9 miles from the office, I was surprised to see the St James Road tunnel closure was not in force yet. I’d even gone out of my way to go around the closure in anticipation, but a chat with a cyclist that came from that direction confirmed it was still open. Heading back on to the canal towpath two days later, you can already guess what happened next…

Yep. The sodding tunnel was closed several days earlier than announced! I had to climb the stairs by Fiveways train station to re-route towards The Vale, though this did mean I had to cross far fewer roads than Tuesday’s detour reccy. At least this is only until March and the payoff will be a much wider path through the tunnel, meaning runners, walkers and cyclists can co-exist in harmony like never before!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cardiff parkrun

Feeling in good shape post-Brass Monkey Half Marathon, and seeing as I was in Wales for the weekend anyway, I opted to return to Cardiff parkrun – my second most visited event after Cannon Hill. I have incredibly fond memories of Cardiff, where it provided me with my first ever sub-20 and sub-19 performances, along with some great battles with locals, Daniel Luffman and Vince Nazareth. I was thrilled to finally return to my home away from home!

A lot can change in 24 hours… The weather on Friday was pretty damn ideal for running, however it turned wet and blustery come Saturday. Whereas I also felt pretty energetic on Friday, I woke feeling less than stellar on Saturday. My heart rate was elevated and 2 miles as a warm-up confirmed I was a little worse for wear. A performance to test myself with wasn’t going to come easily, was it?

The start is always fast at Cardiff, so I was conscious not to get dragged along with something I couldn’t sustain, which has painfully happened in past outings. In hindsight, I should have pushed a little harder because I very quickly ended up in no-man’s land after just 800m… Just what I didn’t need that morning! The group I wanted to be with was just outside of reach, whereas I couldn’t sense anybody immediately behind for me to even drop back to. All was not lost for my form felt swift and benefitted from the recent regular strides I’ve injected into even the slowest and ploddyest of runs. Also of major help were the Nike Zoom Streak LT3 – my 5k and 10k weapon of choice. They’re my most minimal shoes with just 4mm heel to toe offset to really maximise the spring-loaded effect of my calves. Reserving them for only my shortest and fastest efforts, I find simply lacing them up gives me a mental boost in preparation for battle. 1km came in for 3:50.

Unusually, I didn’t pay much attention to pace despite setting my sights on a sub-19 finish. I knew I had to average 3:48 to 3:50 per km, but I simply went with the flow and concentrated on catching the group ahead of me, featuring Daniel Luffman and Carys Hughes – 1st female regular. Still running alone into the wind, I somehow managed 3:43 for 2k!

Thinking that it couldn’t possibly last going into 3k, I lost almost 15 seconds for 3:57 as I entered the critical “float” stage of the 5k. Up ahead, everybody else slowed also and I reclaimed a few metres from them. Behind me, I could hear somebody coming up fast and it turned out to be the second fastest woman of the morning. I took advantage of the brief tow to finally connect me to Dan and Carys’ group that I’d chased for so long. Positions chopped and changed, but Carys and I eventually took to the front of the pack as we watched the former second place woman creep away for the lead.

With just 1km left to go, Carys began slipping from the pace. I urged her to stick with me; a few well-executed surges from her and she was back in the game to chase down first place once more. The familiar 800m sign appeared and everybody began kicking. The 400m sign appeared and Carys surged once more to draw level with the other woman, throwing in another kick at 200m to pull away and eventually take the win. It was one helluva kick because I gave it everything I had and only managed to pull in some 6 seconds later!

I was pleased as punch to finish in 18:49 for my fastest 5k in over a year. If my resting heart rate was lower going in, I believe I could have taken another 10 seconds, but hey-ho. Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Post-run, I met with my old buddy and former-rival, Vince Nazareth, for a couple of hours of sharing stories and glories from the past year. Since turning 55, he’s been sweeping up all the local age group prizes and has set his sights on a sub-3 hour goal at the Manchester Marathon. I’ve every confidence he’ll do it, as he’s been consistently a few steps ahead of me since we stopped being rivals a few years ago. Good luck, Vince!

15 miles – to Monkswood and back

A week prior, I was running in snow and sleet. A week later and I was like a frankfurter, boiling in my own skin from being overdressed. 3 miles in, I had to stash my gloves in a bush for later retrieval!

Adding to the uncomfortable conditions was the 17mph headwind I ran into for both the out and return legs…

Yet, in spite of everything that should have worked against me, 11 of the miles came in under 8 minutes and 7 of them were faster than 7:45. Everything just clicked into place for some good old flow state.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Advertisements

This week’s running – 25th of April to 1st of May 2016

andy_yu_cardiff_parkrun

Think all of Cardiff could hear my cries of anguish! Photo by Paul Stillman

Finally! Back to 4x runs for the week!

Training to race, or racing to train?

In a bid to get myself out of this training funk, I’ve entered a couple of 10k races to try and refocus:

  • DK10k
  • Aldridge 10k
  • Wythall & Hollywood 10k
  • Magor Marsh 10k

All are spaced sufficiently apart from each other so should allow for adequate training, recovery and some taper. Recalling my end of 2015 review, I’m now thinking my target of a sub-39:00 10k looks a wee bit soft; I guess we’ll see in just a few days when I run the DK10k…

5x 800m at 5k pace

The weather really wasn’t making things any easier for this session, what with chilly temperatures, sleet and wind to contend with. Thankfully, I’d invited Simon to join me, which kept us both accountable.

Adding to the growing list of things to derail the session was technology failure. My Garmin was consistently reporting its GPS signal was 50m out and required a hard reboot to get it to play nicely. Simon’s interval function on his Garmin also failed to record early splits properly.

I kept the 2:00 minutes recovery from the past several weeks with a view to extending the total rep count to 6x, whilst Simon had 5x in mind. I’d warned Simon not to go at my pace of circa 3:41 to 3:43 per km and instead to shoot for around 4:00 per km to best facilitate his ambitions of a sub-20 5k.

The first 2 reps were easy as pie and we barely felt them. Simon maintained a rough 15 second tail on me, though started each new rep at the same time as me to have his recoveries more like 1:45 versus my 2:00 minutes.

The next 3 reps began to sting and take their toll. The tarmac was slick from the wet conditions and my Adidas Boosts weren’t coping so well due to being near-retirement age. My form began to change at roughly halfway into each remaining interval and I had to consciously pick my cadence up to get back on pace. Simon did well and continued to maintain the rough 15 second gap behind me. The final rep slowed towards the end to avoid head on crashes with some of Kings Heath Running Club who were rapidly approaching!

Whilst I could have eked out one final rep for 6x, the sleet returned and Simon had completed his lot, so I decided to fight another day.

Splits came out as follows:

  1. 3:03
  2. 2:57
  3. 2:58
  4. 2:58
  5. 3:00

All within tolerance of each other despite the conditions and I’m sure they’d have been a smidgeon faster in the dry.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10k – Cannon Hill Park and back

The crazy weather did its best to convince me to stay indoors, preying on my diminished running mojo, but I wasn’t having any of it! As I laced up to head outside, I heard a massive thunderclap and did wonder what I was letting myself in for. Stepping through the door and just 30 seconds later, I was soaked to the bone; running into the rain was actually quite painful at times, such was the intensity of the rainfall. I did receive a few puzzled looks from bystanders on Kings Heath high street as I ran past…

Once in Cannon Hill Park (after getting momentarily lost on Holders Lane), I wanted to chuck one mile in at around marathon pace to see how the effort felt after weeks of neglect. It wasn’t too bad at all, even with wind and wet conditions to contend with.

I closed down the run with another blast up the almighty Cartland Road to earn myself a new Strava segment PB. Spying the leaderboard showed Andy Young has the top spot with a time almost a minute faster for the half mile long stretch!

Definitely felt better for getting some mid-week distance out there, even in such grim weather.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cardiff Parkrun

With being in Lis’ motherland for the bank holiday weekend, it would have simply been rude to not visit Cardiff Parkrun for a stab at bringing my one week old 5k PB down even further.

The odds were already against me from the Friday beforehand. Minor sleep deprivation and a drive that should have only taken 1.5 hours took over 2.5 hours meant I was already pretty damn tired before I’d even taken one step in Bute Park…

Numbers at Cardiff were a touch down due the local summer series kicking-off the day before and a 10 mile race taking place the next day. Conditions were decent, though a noticeable headwind on the return leg during my warm-up indicated a new 5k PB wouldn’t just serve itself to me on a silver platter without some graft.

The start was fast as it always is at Cardiff. Very clear groups sprang up around me and I consciously went with one of the faster pairings. The first km came up as 3:35.

I began to feel the mounting effort of the task at hand by the second km. I took shelter behind a taller chap in a hat and hung on, hoping he would pull me along. My breathing remained reasonably steady, though I knew it wouldn’t last. This split clocked in at 3:42.

By 3km, the chap in the hat began to slow a touch. A hipster-looking runner went past me and this was enough to convince me to latch on to him for a tow through the awkward middle stage. Numbers around me were definitely down and I wasn’t able to stick with the hipster for long whilst running into the headwind, leaving me in the dreaded no-man’s land. I knew I had to make it through this section as quickly as possible to be in with a chance. My pace began deteriorating and I ended the split with 3:53 on the Garmin.

Due to slowing down, a small group formed around me, along with the chap in the hat returning to me – I should have just stuck with him for a much steadier run in hindsight… I hoped somebody would take the lead and move in front to give me a break, but I ended up taking charge. The wind continued to take its toll and contributed to the slowest split of the morning for 3:56.

Passing by the final km marker, I pressed on to recover as much damage as possible. I broke away from the group and chased down two guys ahead. With just 800m remaining, a glance at my Garmin flashed 15:47 on its face; I knew I could cover 800m in less than 3 minutes, so it was still worth a punt to see what would come out on the other side. I somehow missed the 400m marker, so delayed my kick until the 200m marker came into view. I was red-lining and prayed to Steve Prefontaine up above that I’d done enough to sneak under 18:30…

It wasn’t to be. 18:35 was all I could muster, but I’m confident a calmer day would have been just the ticket. I’ll be back in Cardiff again in a few short weeks, so hopefully the weather will be more forgiving!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles – to Usk and back

The pace was kept easy due to the previous day’s effort, but also with the DK10k quickly creeping up.

Little drama apart from rural drivers not quite realising how vulnerable pedestrians are on country lanes with no pavement. I always run facing the traffic on rural roads to buy myself a bit of extra wiggle room should the situation become hairy. The exception to this is on a right-facing bend where I can’t see oncoming traffic and they can’t see me, so I’ll switch over to run with the traffic where they should then have clear visibility of me from behind. The number of drivers that were signalling for me to get over on to the other side of the road on the bend! In all the years I’ve covered the route to Usk, I’ve never had an issue and this was the very first time I encountered such a problem.

Nearing the end of the run, I did debate with myself internally to have a crack at bringing down the Strava segment course record near the farm, though the prevailing headwind convinced me otherwise.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 25th to 31st of January 2016

Speed limit 40

Back on the 40 mile week!

This week was about a 5k PB attempt and trying to get back to 40+ miles.

5k from work

Man, oh man. I’ve not had anything even remotely resembling a normal week since I picked up that cold at the beginning of January, so I was determined to get back on it and kicked things off with this simple 5k from the office.

The warmer climes from the weekend continued to roll over into the week; even in just a t-shirt and shorts, I was working up a sweat!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 mile canal fartlek

Normality was still in full flow, though forecasted strong winds were on course to derail me.

Running straight into the headwind on the out leg was horrendous at times, and probably slowed my peak paces on this fartlek run down by maybe 10 seconds or so. The return leg was much more pleasant with a tailwind for support.

During the closing stages as I ran through a tunnel, I began to hear footsteps of a runner on my tail. Rather awkwardly, I found myself repeatedly overtaking the runner, and then slowing down for him to overtake me, due to the nature of the fartlek run. On the final surge, I ran past, apologised and explained I wasn’t racing him in a haphazard manner; he smiled and forgave me as I went off into the distance.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

The fartlek run must have had a positive influence on me; I felt like I was flying as I ran home to produce a nice royal flush. I still spotted a fair few New Year’s Resolution folks out there, though there can’t be many of them left, surely!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles

It was good to return to this weekly staple run. A nasty headwind smacked me about on the out, forcing me to slot in two miles at marathon pace into the return leg to stand some chance of hitting the right speeds. I’ll be honest: the marathon pace miles weren’t great and I could feel my right calf and Achilles tendon tightening up in the process. I reached the conclusion that it’s all down to my knackered shoes. Both pairs are nearing 500 miles, and whilst I’m not a heavy runner and have half decent technique, I still find my non-racing shoes breaking down at around the 400 mile mark.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cardiff Parkrun

Ah! My home Parkrun away from my home Parkrun! I had a PB attempt on the cards with the knowledge that the training boost from the Brass Monkey Half Marathon would have soaked in almost two weeks later. A quick message to my buddy, Vince Nazareth, for pacing assistance and the stage was set.

Aside from the wind, the weather was actually pretty damn pleasant with blue skies and cool temperatures. I soon bumped into another Cardiff Parkrun regular, Daniel Luffman, who joined me on my warm-up jog. I felt completely out of sorts due to a lack of sleep for the days prior. I also still had an eye on my right Achilles; extensive massage and heel dips/raises successfully loosened it up, but I continued to pray it would stay silent for the run.

Only minutes before everybody was due to set off, Vince finally appeared. My target was somewhere around 3:40 to 3:42 per km for an 18:30ish 5k, with around 10 to 15 seconds of wiggle room built in should the pace likely slip in the middle splits.

Off the line, I took things much steadier than usual and allowed Vince to lead the way. There were a few gusts of wind that hit, though nothing to cause too much concern. A gap of 2 or 3m developed between the two of us and despite my best efforts to try and shut it down, I wasn’t able to turn my legs over any faster; they were heavy and leaden with no pop in them at all. I reached the 1km marker with a 3:42 split feeling reasonably relaxed and hoped there was more to give.

The course became more exposed and the gusts of wind became more of a hindrance. I still wasn’t able to close in on the space in front of me, and as the field thinned out, I struggled to find runners to draft behind. The incredibly heavy rain from the night before caused one particular corner to flood, so I observed the line runners ahead of me took to best determine the shallowest route. I really shouldn’t have bothered; the Nike Flyknit Racers I wore did nothing to keep the water out as I ran through to leave my feet soaked and freezing cold! The second km came in at 3:44 to still be within tolerance.

Ah. The awkward middle stretch. The only significant turn on the course appeared for a brief moment of slow down. Everyone around me also slowed to further distort my own perception of pace. Vince was still ahead by roughly the same distance as before, so I knew I simply had to keep this split under 4 minutes to still be in contention for a new PB. Towards the end of the third km, a lone dog was wondering around at the point where there’s two-way runner traffic for maximum hazard potential. A marshal whistled for the dog to come to her and the owner finally made herself known, remarking “Oh. He’s alright where he is. Don’t worry!” I managed to scoot around the dog, though that pinch point on the course would have only become busier! 3:57 was clocked for the third km.

My breathing once again resembled that of a steam locomotive; Vince later commented on how unusual it was to hear me exhaling with two short, sharp puffs and then inhale with one longer drag. I have no idea if this is efficient or not, though it works for me and only rears its ugly head when I’m really worked. The fourth km was largely forgettable, coming in at 3:55 when it really should have been more like 3:50…

andy_yu_cardiff_parkrun.jpg

Andy and Vince at Cardiff Parkrun – photo by Paul Stillman

A small group of us runners formed to tackle the final km together. We had closed in on a runner in red that faded pretty badly; I snatched a few words to encourage him to stay with us as we passed him. The places in the group chopped and changed; for the first time in the entire run, I found myself running side by side with Vince as we approached the 400m marker. My cadence lifted as I clocked one member of the group attempting to kick on. I ushered for Vince to go with me, though I sensed he was close to his limit. I prayed for the 200m marker to make itself known and once it came into view, the chap who tried to break away only moments earlier put in one final kick for the finish with me in tow. He created a gap of 2m or so, though I managed to close it down to almost zero as I sprinted for the line.

I let out a strained growl as I made my way through the finish funnel. Staring at my Garmin, I couldn’t compute what the recorded time was actually trying to tell me. I finally realised I had an 18:44 PB to my name for a 5 second PB; slim pickings, for sure, but most welcome nonetheless.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

A debrief over coffee with Vince, Lis and Yvonne rounded off a great morning in Cardiff. With some focussed 5k graft, I’m sure 18:30 will come to me later this year, though my next 5k PB attempt in the Welsh capital will have to wait until I get the World Half Marathon Championships out of the way first.

14 miles – Llanhennock, Caerleon and back

Along with trying to get this particular week back to some normality with six days of training, I also wanted to get the mileage back into the 40s after several weeks of just 20s and 30s.

Unsure of how flooded my regular flat route into Usk would be, I opted to go back towards the Llanhennock hills, through to Caerleon and back for around 14 miles.

nike_pegasus_32

Nike Pegasus 32s – like fluffy clouds on my fleet

This run also pulled double duty by also breaking in a new pair of Nike Pegasus 32s. I love the Nike Pegasus as an affordable and reliable neutral training shoe, owning several pairs over the years. This latest iteration claimed to be several grams lighter than its most recent predecessor, whilst also being more breathable. Crucially, Nike chose not to play about with the outsole or midsole for a very familiar feel to the pair replaced.

I kept the pace incredibly easy, not wanting to smash myself two days on the trot. Bar the opening slow uphill mile, none came in any slower than 8:50 or faster than 8:04 (extreme descent) for a largely steady paced run.

Completed, I welcomed a return to 43 miles for the week and hopefully more steady training for coming weeks with only a multi-day trip to Germany with work for disruption.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here are the next 10 shorts from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Running rule shorts – 61 to 70

  1. If you can’t race without it, don’t put it in your checked luggage.
  2. At a fluids station, always try and make eye contact with the person whose cup you want.
  3. Shin discomfort while running is okay; while walking, not okay. See a doc in that case.
  4. You lose fitness faster than you gain it.
  5. If you never have a “bad” day, you’re probably doing something wrong; if you never had a “good” day, you’re definitely doing something wrong.
  6. If you’re going easy, really go easy; if you’re going hard, really go hard.
  7. The faster you run uphill, the steeper it seems.
  8. Running any given route in the rain makes you feel 50 percent more hard-core covering the same route on a sunny day.
  9. The more often you check your watch, the longer the run will drag on.
  10. Every rule of thumb has an exception – except for this one.

 

 

This week’s running – 28th of September to 4th of October 2015

Cardiff Half Marathon route

Time to put the training to good use at the Cardiff Half Marathon!

This week was all about final race prep for the Cardiff Half Marathon.

5k from work

I was certainly ready for the taper by Monday. Three heavy training weeks had taken their toll on me and I needed to feel perky again. With tired legs and a headwind slamming straight into me, this particular recovery run had me averaging 10:15 miles for possibly my slowest ever time from the office.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

1.5 miles at half marathon pace

This was the final hard run ahead of the Cardiff Half Marathon. I wasn’t going to get any fitter come Sunday, but I wanted my body to feel familiar with what race pace felt like, so hence this sharpener.

Much like on previous occasions, I completely misjudged which direction the wind was blowing; by running anti-clockwise around the reservoir, I ended up maximising my exposure to the headwind to make race pace feel much harder than it should have. I was reasonably confident that had I have completed a second lap, it would have felt easier once fully warmed up.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Rest day

Rather than cover another 5k from the office on Wednesday, I opted for an evening of rest with some foam rolling to straighten out any kinks in my legs (far fewer than when I foam rolled on Monday!)

4 miles with strides

I went out to cover 4 miles along the canals with a handful of fast stretches to let my stride out, and as expected, I felt a bit sluggish there. My coordination was off after only one full rest day – the curse of the taper!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Like the Wind magazine

Like the Wind

If anybody has a spare issue 1 for sale, let me know!

A guilty pleasure of mine is magazines. Being a guy that’s always had hobbies and interests, magazines have provided me reading material where books have so often tried and failed to get me reading. I have stacks and stacks of running magazines: Runner’s World, Running Fitness, Men’s Running, Running Times, Competitor. You name it and I’ve probably had a subscription to it at some point. Due to poor and repeated content, I cancelled them all apart from Running Times, which I now subscribe to digitally at £13 a year for 6 issues.

Last year some time, I remember hearing some hub-bub about a new kid on the block called Like the Wind. Published independently and overseen by running enthusiast and blogger, Simon Freeman (and his wife), it promised to be different from the rest. Rather than churn out the same material that many of the other running related magazines do, Like the Wind is a “collection of running stories”. I finally got my hands on two issues (purchased from the poshest newsagent I’d ever been to in London, with a further three issues purchased in Bath a week later) and I was immediately struck by how personal the magazine’s content felt. Each story read like it was the individual’s own column or blog, though possibly to never be repeated. The other thing that caught my eye was the overall look and feel of the magazine – the design was simply sublime. It’s the sort of thing that you would proudly have on a coffee table at home.

At £9 an issue, it ain’t cheap. But then it does only come out once every three months, so at £3 a month it’s more palatable with the promise of fresh content compared to the yearly churn that some of the more regular titles go through.

Newport Parkrun

Over the last couple of years, I’ve experimented with running a Parkrun the day before races. I’m still yet to fully commit to the camp of do run, or the camp of don’t run; the only conclusion I seem to have reached is that if I feel like running, then I shouldn’t fight the urge.

Lis and I woke up to a chilly morning – perfect running weather for somebody that relishes the cold! The management team of Swansea Bay Parkrun were in attendance, with their inaugural event due to take place in late October (24th to be precise, but they pleaded for people to not flock to the first run, so you didn’t see that date here…)

The order of the day was to simply cover 5k at a relaxed pace of somewhere between 7:30 and 7:45 per mile. It felt entirely at odds to be running 5k at such a restrained pace with people blowing up all around me (they had pacers provided). I finally let go of the reins in the closing straight for a 200m burn-up and a finishing time of 23:05.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

A brush with greatness

Cardiff Half Marathon faq panel

Susan Wightman, Jess Coulson, Mike McLeod, Steve Jones and Geoff Wightman

My birthday usually coincides with the Cardiff Half Marathon, which means no rock & roll style antics for me. My saving grace for something to do came from the Cardiff Half Marathon organisers: they laid on a seminar of sorts with a panel of familiar, and not so familiar, guests:

  • Steve Jones – British marathon record holder and former world record holder
  • Mike McLeod – 10,000m silver medalist of the 1984 Olympics
  • Geoff Wightman – MD of runbritain
  • Susan Wightman – Team GB marathon runner in the 1988 Olympics
  • Jess Coulson – U20 3000m England Athletics champion
  • Dewi Griffiths – Reigning Welsh Cardiff Half Marathon champion

It was an informal talk with maybe 30 people in the room (and free food!), chaired by the Cardiff Half Marathon race director, Steve Brace. One stand out moment came from an audience member:  Steve worked through the crowd to get people to share their PBs, with times from 2:15 all the way down to 1:24, when one guy pipes up and shares he has a 66 minute PB with hopes to get under 65 minutes the following day. Geoff Wightman took immediate interest as a selection committee member for the 2016 World Half Marathon Championships, but was disappointed to learn the mystery audience member had no such aspirations.

Cardiff Half Marathon 2015 review

For the full report on my 2015 Cardiff Half Marathon, please click here.

Time for another one of Mark Remy’s entries from The Runner’s Rule Book:

Save the race shirt for postrace

Wearing the official race shirt during the race is like wearing a U2 t-shirt to a U2 concert.

Not cool. Don’t do it.

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…

Pre-race

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…

Post-race

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 – 18th to 24th of May 2015

5k PB attempt

It’s been too long since the last 5k PB

Another week, another PB attempt!

5k from work

Surprisingly, there was almost no reaction from my body at all on Monday after the race. I felt lively with no detectable fatigue at all, despite being unable to push any harder during the race.

Normally, I would have taken Monday off as a day of pure recovery. Faster Road Racing reminded me that even with the mini-tapers, my average weekly volume was still down given I hadn’t covered 5k at Parkrun and I was approximately 3 miles down on Sunday due to racing. Their suggestion is to bulk up the volume by extending warm-ups and warm-downs, and tacking on a few extra miles here and there where possible, which led to this 5k recovery run.

Even during the run along the canal towpath, things felt right as rain from my body with the average pace logged as one of my faster recovery runs.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

3x 1600m at 10k pace

Due to how fresh I still felt on Tuesday, I decided to plough on with this session as originally planned despite advice from blog-reader Carl to take things easy given I wanted to try and break new ground at Cardiff Parkrun later in the week. Had I have felt trashed then I most certainly would have dialled things back.

So, more of the same was ordered. The promotion to 4x reps last week was tangible progression; reassurance on top of racing that training was coming good.

The wind had really picked up and was awkwardly blowing in a direction that was difficult to hide from, whether on an out or return rep. The first two reps were fine, but fatigue struck on the third from fighting against the gusts. My form deteriorated quite significantly during the final 400m of the rep and prompted me to call it quits.

I wasn’t quite as fresh as I thought I was, but still felt a damn sight better immediately afterwards compared to previous weeks.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

5k from work

Wednesday saw another easy recovery run from the office. No further geese and gosling sightings along the canal towpath, so all was good!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cardiff Parkrun

It burns like a bad curry

Going for a 5k PB burns like a bad curry – photo by Paul Stillman

With a 5k PB attempt lined up for Cardiff Parkrun, I opted to do no running of any sort on Thursday and Friday in a bid to get myself feeling as fresh as possible.

One further change I made was switching my normal dose of a strong espresso before the run with a few Pro Plus pills. Reading up on caffeine consumption, there are many that recommended the pill form for convenience but also dosage consistency. 3 – 6mg per kilo of body weight (57kg for me) is the general consensus for a boost, which would have worked out as anywhere between 3x and 7x pills for the desired effect! I decided to go with the lower end of the scale of 4x to test things out. With the pep pills and a shot of beetroot juice in my system, I’m thankful there wasn’t any dope testing!

The target pace punched into my Garmin was 3:44 per km, which would equate to an 18:40 5k; gutsy, given I have not trained at that pace in recent times.

Vince Nazareth was also fired up for a PB attempt after last week’s 10k PB that wasn’t a PB after the race organisers officially declared the course short.

I went off hard from the line; I have to to even be in contention for a PB nowadays to offset the eventual slow-down in the middle. I stuck with the faster guys and was pulled through for a 3:35 opening km. I looked around me and there was no sign of Vince, who was utilising his tactic of hanging back.

Unusually, the second km also came up fast and only a smidge under target pace. I prepared myself for the eventual slow-down to come! Vince passed me somewhere between 2km and 3km as he always does and opened up 10 second gap. He looked strong and was clearly on to a breakthrough this season.

Passing by the 3km marker, I was close to my limit but was surprised to see a 3:54 split appear on my Garmin. “Not bad at all”, I thought to myself but reasoned that the eventual slow-down or blow-out couldn’t have been much further away.

I ran out of people to work with. A few guys had dramatically fallen off the pace to end up behind me, and a few folks managed to find second wind to storm by. The lead girl was part of the surging group and despite my best efforts to try and latch on, my body wasn’t having any of it to result in a 4:01 split.

I brought up the stopwatch on my Garmin. “15:30” was displayed, leaving just over 3 minutes to cover 900m; not impossible but also not very likely. Nonetheless, I figured I could tough out 3 additional minutes of suffering, so continued marching on. I reeled a few guys in ahead of me to reach the “400m to go” marker. I ignored the Garmin feedback and decided that whatever would be, would be. I kicked on and gained a few more places once I reached the 200m marker. Go-time! I gave it everything I had left and was even challenged by somebody for the line, but managed to find a little extra va-va-voom to get there first.

I grabbed my token and exited the funnel sharpish. Dripping in sweat from head to toe, I sat down on a log and checked the time on my Garmin. “18:57” it teased; sub-19 as should be for me at Cardiff but not enough for a new PB. Scanned and registered, I re-joined Vince who had finally beaten his years old 5k PB for 18:38.

Digesting the run data, I’m not sure I could have done much more to go faster. Even if I had been able to bring the rogue 4th km down to 3:55, that still would have only allowed me to equal my existing PB of 18:51. I’ve done next to no running faster than 10k pace, so some familiarisation at that pace will do me some good before the next PB attempt.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

I decided to sack off this week’s long run for bank holiday Monday, so straight over to the entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Races are all about energy management

I don’t know who was the first to say this, but truer words were never spoken.

The only thing worse than running out of energy a mile from the finish line is finishing the race with energy left over.