This week’s running – 19th to 25th of December 2016


Curse that Ed Miliband…

I hope everybody had a merry Christmas; mine was anything but and I’ve really struggled to find motivation to write this entry up…

4x 1.2km at 10k pace; 800m at 5k pace

As is quite typical of the P&D and P&L training schedules, paces began edging closer to VO2max. I’ve touched upon this before, and I particularly look forward to the final few weeks of faster pace focus; I don’t know whether it’s the strong training stimulus, form efficiency improvements, or both, but I always feel supercharged afterwards, and this occasion was no different.

I pretty much nailed all of the intervals and paces (well done to Dave for spotting I’d left the below blank!):

  • 1.2km – 4:39
  • 1.2km – 4:37
  • 1.2km – 4:37
  • 1.2km – 4:35
  • 800m – 2:55

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

Little did I know my return to form was short-lived and premature…

Illness, part two

Lis and I travelled to Wales to spend several days leading up to Christmas with her family. Not even having spent 24 hours there, I was felled by flu-like symptoms for the next bout of illness in what has been my most disrupted block of training that I’ve endured in years!

I ached all over and experienced hot and cold flashes, writing off the day’s planned 15 miles. My PB attack at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon was disappearing before my eyes in a splutter of phlegm… I now have my suspicions regarding who I picked the bug up from, though the damage by then was already done.

As I write up this entry, I feel like I’ve been ebbing and flowing through recovery; some days I feel pretty much back to full strength, and then several hours later, I’ll feel shitty all over again.

Cardiff Parkrun

Christmas Eve was one of the rare days where I felt decent enough to at least run 5k. Meeting up with Vince at Cardiff Parkrun, we were greeted by wet, windy and miserable conditions.

Cutting a long story short, 19:14 popped out of the other side for my slowest time at Cardiff in several years. Woo…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

Since 2013, I’ve been found on Christmas morning at a Parkrun somewhere. This year, Newport’s Tredegar House played host to me and some several hundred of the dedicated.

Conditions didn’t improve from Christmas Eve, and coupled with Newport’s cross-country style course meant everybody was caked in the unavoidable mud.

I felt worse compared to Cardiff 24 hours earlier and only managed to get the heat inside to a simmer rather than a boil; 21:17 was all I could muster, for fear of making things go south even more than they already had.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 12th to 18th of December 2016


For all you Trading Places fans out there this season

A return to normality after Telford 10k’s DNF.

9 miles from work

In spite of pulling out of the Telford 10k at halfway, I was pretty much right as rain again some 54 hours later. Depending on whether you’re a glass is half empty, or full, kind of person will determine your view on whether my return to health was badly timed or short enough so as not to be too disruptive to the grand scheme of training for the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in mid-January (fewer than four weeks away by the time you read this).

Fortunately, the P&L schedule only called for 8 miles with some strides thrown in, which was perfectly fine to ease me back in. Effort-wise, the run could have felt easier and wasn’t helped by the near-constant headwind I found myself moving into. All in all, though, it was great to be back at it!

I also broke a new pair of tights in; due to my haste in leaving the office, one of the ankle zips wasn’t positioned as well as it could have been, resulting in some chafage and raw skin exposure… Lesson learned the hard way.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 miles recovery

Irrespective of me wearing high-vis, a head torch and using a zebra crossing, drivers really, really don’t seem to be able to see me.

It was the first time in months since running through Cannon Hill Park in the evening that there was no sign of British Military Fitness in action. Guess with Christmas on the approach and a likely drop in attendance, they opted not to lay sessions on?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

Very much a repeat of Tuesday’s run, except with additional rain and much more wind.

Mentally, I was fried from an all-day meeting at work. The thought of having to run-commute all the way home from Smethwick really didn’t appeal, though I was pleased to get the job done.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

This was only ever meant to be a casual 19:00 minute or so 5k to leave a bit of capacity for Sunday’s prescribed run (14 miles with 3 at half marathon pace). Instead, it turned into an impromptu run in anger, thanks to Steve Dunsby aiming for 18:00 minutes and some gentle persuasion to chase after him from my peers…

The first km was swift, but not breakneck fast like I’ve experienced in the past. Every time I made a move to reduce the gap between Steve and me, he would edge away ever so slightly to put another metre in. 3:34 came out for this opening split.

The pace kept up and I found myself being able to hang on to Steve, though not without the effort beginning to creep upwards. The gravitas of the situation didn’t dawn on me until we began overtaking some recognisably faster runners… 3:39 for some minor slow down due to the climb back to the bandstand, but otherwise consistent.

I knew I couldn’t keep the effort up, what with a lack of 5k and VO2max workouts and recent illness. The awkward middle km of a 5k struck and I found myself moving backwards as those we overtook regained their leads to come past me. Steve continued to creep away and within only a few minutes, he may as well have been in a completely different run to me. I did my best to throw a few surges in to regroup with those ahead of and minimise the pace rot from festering. The third km came in at 3:44.

The wheels finally came off, not helped by the triangle section for further slowdown. At one point, I even saw 4:02 flash up on my Garmin for the km, though it finally settled on 3:54.

With just 1km remaining, I could see the group of runners ahead were also flagging and some interest in finishing strongly was renewed. I was very obviously hanging on to the coat tails of the group, but there was no mistake that I wasn’t part of the ensemble as everybody made their way through the finish.

Whilst I clocked 18:31 for myself (I was a little late stopping), the official results promoted me to 18:29 for my second fastest time at Cannon Hill, and my third fastest 5k of all time. I’m not so sure I could have gone any faster that morning; it’s commonly agreed that a fast 5k is more likely with a fast opening, and then hanging on for dear life as I did. I just need to minimise that middle section, where I’m no longer fresh but also still nowhere near finishing.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

14 miles with 3 at half marathon pace

I dreaded going into this run, especially having thrashed myself over 5k only 24 hours prior.

To give myself the best chance of success, I kept the 3 miles at pace as late as possible into the run so as to allow for as much warm-up in my system. This did the trick; whereas my legs were tight and heavy to begin with, my stride felt loose, long and purposeful by the time I turned around at The Cube for the return.

As anticipated, the opening mile at half marathon pace was a touch off target, though the average between all three splits was pretty much bang on:

  1. 6:32
  2. 6:28
  3. 6:20

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Brass Monkey Half Marathon update

Seeing as I’m two-thirds of the way through the P&L half marathon plan, I figured I would shed some light on how it’s going.

Thankfully and crucially, even with the week of illness, I don’t feel like I’m any worse off. In an ideal world, a fast 10k effort, whether it achieved a PB or not, would have been one heck of a stimulus to my training.

I do feel like the regular lactate threshold and half marathon pace workouts have done some good. Whilst I don’t feel sharp (that’ll come in the next four weeks’ VO2max workouts), I do feel like I could specifically run for longer at a higher intensity than normal, which is exactly as intended and hoped for.

Merry Christmas

I hope everybody has a merry Christmas with maybe a running related gift or three under the tree.

Yes, I will of course be running on JC’s birthday, so I’ll see some of you folks at a nearby Parkrun somewhere…

This week’s running – 22nd to 28th of December 2014

Running? At Christmas???

Merry Christmas everyone!

This week was all about Christmas, obviously!

5k from work

Trying to maintain some semblance of a routine during Christmas week is tough, so I took one of the few opportunities I had to get an easy run in from the office before breaking up for the festive season.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cardiff Christmas Parkrun

If you’re here reading this blog, then you’re probably of the running persuasion. Telling friends and family about my plans to attend Cardiff Parkrun on Christmas Day were met with bemusement and questions along the lines of, “You run most days – why would you also want to run on Christmas Day?” As if it wasn’t obvious enough by now, running is clearly something I enjoy and it’s only natural that I would go out for a run when I’ve got the free time to do so.

Lis and I made it to Cardiff’s event at Bute Park – my second Christmas Day Parkrun after last year’s visit to Brueton Parkrun. After a thorough warm-up, I was ready to go for another 5k PB and the last for 2014. All of a sudden, the empty park was full of happy runners in all manner of festive and not-so-festive wear. I found myself stood next to a chap in a skin-tight Santa suit and my ambition was to stay with this speedy looking Saint Nick.

Partway into the first km, I was running at a blistering pace (for me) and kept with the lead pack. There was a sizeable gap between this group and the one behind, so I tried my best to not drift backwards. That, and I was racing against the guy in the skin-tight Santa suit and I didn’t want to end up in his slipstream for an un-obscured view of his buttocks…

The aggressive opening pace had done its damage by the second km, with a split over 20 seconds slower than the first. Despite my best efforts to stay with a group, I found myself running on my own and the pace continued to nosedive, leading to a third km that was 8 seconds slower than the second.

I was in complete agony. The cold air made rapid breathing difficult but I at least managed to minimise the pace slow-down for a 4:01 fourth km. The leading lady overtook me, so I tried to latch on to her to drag me along. Didn’t quite happen as I hoped for when she kept pulling away, but I was eventually able to match her pace albeit with a constant gap of a few metres between us.

It burns!

A badly paced 5k burns like a mofo…

800m left and I tried kicking like a few weeks ago. Nope – not happening. At 400m to go, my body finally agreed to free up some resources for the beginnings of a kick. With 200m left to go, I closed my eyes and sprinted for the finish.

19:00 was my finish time – my 3rd fastest 5k of all time. I was disappointed I wasn’t more restrained at the beginning; had I have held back by 10 seconds, I would have almost certainly PBd that Christmas morning by a few seconds. Oh well, a valuable lesson was learned in 5k pacing.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

What did you get for Christmas?

As is now customary, I received a few running-related goodies for Christmas.

Nike Pegasus 31

Nike Pegasus 31 – a nice upgrade over the Pegasus 30s

One gift I was very pleased to see was a new pair of Nike Pegasus 31s to replace some ageing Pegasus 30s of mine. Lacing them up, I could immediately feel how plush they were compared to their older brethren.

The Parkrun bible

The Parkrun bible for lovers of 5k

The other present in my stocking was the Parkrun book. An enjoyable read for any Parkrun regular, detailing how the weekly 5k started along with other lesser-known factoids.

10 miles – to Usk and back

The excesses of Christmas were enough to convince me that a fasted 10 mile run was in order. Largely an uneventful run, bar the close-to-freezing temperatures and me in just a t-shirt and shorts; I really wish I had worn gloves!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

After the disappointment of the Christmas Cardiff Parkrun, I fell back on Plan B and that was to try and score a course PB. For over a year, I’ve been wanting to revisit all the venues I’ve visited in the past to get them all under 20 minutes; my Newport course PB stood out as being soft due to terrain but also because I typically reserve PB attempts for the Cardiff event only 8 miles further down the road.

Reaching Tredegar Park, I noticed some runners congregating in a different place than usual but thought nothing more of this. It wasn’t until I was halfway through my warm-up lap and encountered ankle deep mud when I concluded that the organisers possibly had an alternative course planned. Speaking to the run director a few minutes later confirmed this – the winter route utilised only half of the normal circuit, but bulked the distance up by making it 3x laps. He also mentioned that the winter route had the potential to be faster, if I could avoid being boxed in by lapped runners.

I didn’t spot Nigel Foulkes-Nock in the crowds and figured he must have been busy with familial duties or some such. I planted myself firmly at the front of the start line next to a chap with a black Labrador that was going nuts; the runners around the man and beast slowly started edging away, fearing for their ankles… On “3-2-1-Go!” we were off.

My Kiger 2 shoes worked an absolute treat on the trail-come-cross country route. I was able to stay with the lead group for the first 400m or so and then eased into sub-20 pace. The uneven terrain had me working harder than normal, so I knew even-ish pacing would be crucial.

The first corner had us going into the wooded section of the route for the first modification. Running uphill in mud and through trees wasn’t my idea of a faster course! Once out of the woods and on to the flat, I surged a touch to reclaim a few lost seconds.

Going into the second lap, I began to pass some of the runners at the rear of the pack. Back in the woods, I knew which were the best lines to take having run them only minutes prior. At the end of the second lap, congestion from the mid-pack runners became dramatically more noticeable, and required some dodging and weaving to filter through the crowds.

Sub-20 at Newport Parkrun

One more off the sub-20 list

The final lap arrived and I was still right on target. Approaching the small bridge before the woods, I had to surge to make sure I was in the right place to avoid being blocked in by slower runners. My Garmin flaked out and the pace started varying wildly, so I switched up to the stopwatch. I estimated that I had about 1km left to go and about 4 minutes left to make sub-20 happen. I kicked the pace up and started my assault on the stable and flat remaining portion of the course. A sprint finish saw me comfortably cross the line in 19:38 – over 40 seconds faster than the last course PB I set at Newport earlier in the year. Only four more out of the eight different Parkruns I’ve attended now to get down to sub-20 – not fancying my chances of that happening any time soon at Forest of Dean Parkrun!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s the last entry for 2014 from Mark Remy’s the Runner’s Rule Book:

Learn to love “race morning buzz”

That’s the quietly electric aura of anticipation that surrounds you the morning of a race, beginning the instant you wake up and lasting till the gun fires at the starting line. It’s a background hum of energy, a tickle almost. Combined with the silliness of early morning prerace ritual, it’s one of the best feelings you’ll ever encounter.

It really is impossible to do “race morning buzz” justice with mere words. Let’s just say that you’ll know it when you feel it. You’ll wish there was a way to bottle it, so you could have a little bit every day. But there’s not. Which is probably for the best.

Instead, savor it while you can. Drink it in.

Then take a deep breath – and race.