This week’s running – 19th March to 1st April 2018

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At the inaugural Great Run Local Edgbaston Reservoir event – photo by Great Run Local

Apologies, folks, for the tardy post. I’ve rolled two weeks into this single entry, with a pending post for my week away in Hong Kong to follow shortly!

5k recovery

Almost as quickly as the snow arrived on Saturday-Sunday, most of it had melted come Monday. Only a few patches of ice remained as I plodded around on my 5k route, making me shake my fist in anger at the situation – if only the snow had arrived two days earlier or later…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles with 2 at marathon pace and 1 at half marathon pace

For those of you that don’t frequently use the Edgbaston tunnel on the canal towpath, you may not know that it’s been out of action for some 2 months whilst work is carried out to widen the towpath – a regular frustration with runners, cyclists and walkers and our mis-matched paces. Sadly, I have some bad news to share – the closure will overrun by another 6 or 7 weeks, due to some issue with galvanized steel being needed. Roll on late May…

Mentally, I wasn’t ready to take another lashing of 3 miles at half marathon pace in the middle of my run-commute for home. Softening it to 2 miles at marathon pace and the final mile at half marathon pace made the whole thing more bearable and achievable; 6:47, 6:44 and 6:22 came out of the other side, agreeing as much.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

It’s joyous running through Cannon Hill Park without the need for a head torch and feeling like you’re going to be robbed by somebody jumping out of every bush…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

11 miles from work

I have a few friends who love trail and fell running and I’m always scratching my head over the amount of kit they’ll wear whilst out on a run. “Sweat kills,” is a statement I’ve oft heard bandied around, along with the need for multiple layers, especially ones that sit close to draw away any moisture.

Whether running easy or running hard, I’ve historically felt warm. Not so of late, where I’ve almost exclusively worn tights and long-sleeve tops since November, outside of racing. For the second time this year, I came to experience why sweat can be so hazardous in cold conditions. Problematically, I’d found myself in a middling effort; not slow enough to cut out sweating entirely and not fast enough to generate significant body warmth to make use of the sweat. Running into the headwind for home made for a particularly unpleasant time!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Kings Heath Running Club took the reins and provided a full roster of volunteers for the morning, including pacers. Wishing to save myself for the big effort the next day, I took advantage of Chris Callow, the 20 minute pacer.

Barring Chris moving off a little too quickly for the first half, the run was largely uneventful and by the numbers. Dave and I ran together for much of it before he burned me off in the remaining few hundred metres.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles inc Great Run Local Edgbaston Reservoir and The Vale

Whether by coincidence or design (a bit of Column A and Column B, me thinks), the new Great Run Local at Edgbaston Reservoir meant a double run, akin to the parkrun New Year’s Day doubles, was possible. As a former proud denizen of the Jewellery Quarter, I could often be found nearby at the reservoir, running laps in the pursuit of speed or bulking out a long run. Consider me pleased to see my former stomping ground play host to an event!

Dave and I were kindly driven to Edgbaston Reservoir to avoid mileage overload. Running from home to the reservoir, participating in their 5k event, running to The Vale, participating in their 5k event, then running back home would very likely see me hit 22 miles; no bad thing if marathon training, but not ideal when my longest run this year has been 15 miles.

Arriving early, we were definitely in the right place judging from the various Great Run Local direction signs there were attached to lampposts and pillars. A single lap of the reservoir served as our token warm-up but left me wanting more; the jogs from home to Cannon Hill parkrun have spoilt me! We soon identified the familiar face of Rob Dowse from BRAT and Cannon Hill parkrun, along with Carl Stainton dashing towards us on the horizon for fear of being late – he was incredibly lucky as we started almost 10 minutes behind schedule.

Assembled on the start line, it wasn’t exactly clear when the run actually started as we all jerked forward at different times. Carl took the lead as anticipated with me in second place. I’d concluded all I wanted was a sub-20 finish, factoring in the parkrun 24 hours prior and another Great Run Local only an hour later.

During our warm-up, Dave and I established that the terrain at Edgbaston Reservoir wasn’t actually as optimal for fast times as we’d nostalgically remembered. On the wooded section of the reservoir with shelter, lots of puddles had formed along with accompanying mud. Throw in plenty of dog walkers and cyclists doing their normal Sunday thing, and some careful timing and line taking was necessary. Not far behind me by some 20m was Vicky, a friend of Rob’s, to keep me on my toes.

Annoyingly, I had the pervading sensation of needing to piss. Due to the delayed start and standing around, my body had cooled down and wanted to shift the excess liquid inside me. Every few hundred metres, I would re-evaluate the situation and scope out a tree or a bush to dive behind and relieve myself! I decided to keep going…

Pace-wise, I continued to hover on the boundary of a 20:00 minute 5k and went through halfway in 9:50. Carl had pulled away for an even bigger lead whereas I was still being chased down, though had increased the gap by perhaps another 10m.

The reservoir grew even busier on the second lap with particularly nimble feet required to get through the crowded and muddy southern-most point.

Throughout all this, I still needed to piss and the temptation to stop persisted. Reaching the third but last corner, I spotted the ideal opportunity but a quick look behind me confirmed my lead wasn’t big enough to pause and piss without losing second place or a sub-20 finish. It’s all motivation, right?

Turning for the penultimate corner and I’d gained another 10m on my pursuers. The straight and paved dam wall prompted me to begin upping my cadence and surge for the finish. Crossing the line, I didn’t bother to check my time and dashed over to a secluded spot to finally relieve myself! When I did eventually check my finish time, curiously I had recorded 19:36 versus the official time of 19:42; I chalked this down to the start line confusion and the timer being prematurely activated.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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Including the top 5 from Edgbaston Reservoir, also tackling The Vale – photo by Great Run Local

Out of the 25 or so runners that partook in the inaugural Edgbaston Reservoir run, only the top 5 (Carl, me, Vicky, Dave and Rob) went on to also tackle The Vale course. We were also joined by Kings Heath Running Club and Run Birmingham member, Ian Mackenzie, as we gallivanted across the Hagley Road towards the university for another dose of 5k.

Unsurprisingly, Carl took the lead with me in pursuit once more. I was joined by Ian, which prompted me to dial down the effort and to just hang back and let him do the leading on the climbs. Whereas the pace felt perfectly serviceable for me, Ian was clearly not as relaxed as I was but continued chatting. I wondered how long he could possibly hold on for… I charged down the ascent on the other side of Mason Way and it became obvious he was nearing his limit.

With a bit of coaxing, Ian regrouped with me. Embarking on the second lap, he continued to keep up with me, both physically and conversationally. Once more, I opened up my stride on the other side of the climb and Ian drifted further and further behind me. Carl was still visible on the horizon, prompting me to begin chipping away at the distance between us.

The third lap was trickier without a companion. The sun also came out to add a few additional points on the exertion scale when it was needed least, but the pace came to me and I did indeed gradually reel Carl in. Whilst I was never going to be a challenge for him, I was able to reclaim some 15 seconds or so to further convince me that I could have, and should have, gone out harder for another sub-20.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

A warm-down with Carl and Dave, both peeling off at various points, rounded off an enjoyable, if tiring, morning.

10k recovery

Due to being away from home on a work trip to Basingstoke later that week, I opted to beef up this recovery run to avoid my mileage quota from dropping too low.

Running through Cannon Hill Park, it was a who’s who of the local running scene! I bumped into Matt Gresty, Dave Broome and Andy Young on my two laps.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Aborted run

That work trip to Basingstoke? It included a team building exercise of an endurance go-karting match towards the end of the day. I was placed into a team of 3, coincidentally including a colleague from my own office, along with a random. The random, whilst being very good and managed to set the second fastest lap of the day, had to bail after only 20 minutes into the 2 hour race. My colleague and I were forced to split the remaining 105 minutes between us, making for a pretty gruelling time. Whilst we did end up winning with a 3 lap lead on our nearest rivals, I was t-boned by a woman failing to stop in time, after I’d stopped in my tracks to avoid a pile-up in front. I was jolted from left to right and back again with no time to anticipate it, thus bruising or even fracturing a rib or two. Needless to say, I was in a lot of pain after the adrenaline of racing had worn off!

The following day, I began my run for home from the office as per usual. The first 2 miles felt perfectly fine, but then the wheels began falling off. Tightness and aches from go-karting bubbled to the surface and I knew I couldn’t complete the distance. My sights moved to perhaps reaching Selly Oak for 10k and then getting a bus for Kings Heath. Making it to 4 miles, I knew the game was up and I called it quits by catching an Uber home! I was very specific to share with the Uber driver that this was an emergency and under normal circumstances, I’d have gone all the way!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Penallta parkrun

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Me and Ben at Penallta parkrun – photo by Lis Yu

Whereas the aches in my arms and legs had disappeared, my ribs were still tender. Every time I sneezed, I felt like I’d taken a blow to the chest! This subsequently caused my lower back to ache as I had to compensate for my left with my right. As such, the week became a low volume one anyway despite my best efforts…

Running resumed with the continued tourism of parkruns of South Wales, this time settling on Penallta parkrun, near Caerphilly – my 26th different event. Our friend, Ben, who’s decided to embark on the alphabet quest by visiting an event for all letters, joined Lis and me. He is aware there’s currently no event that starts with an “X”!

As parkrun grows more popular, new events that spring up become more unconventional, at times even eschewing the need to be held in a park. Whilst the Penallta event does take place in a park, the support facilities and the car park are that of the nearby council building. It was rather odd passing the morning duty security guard to use the building’s toilets; Ben and I reasoned the local council to be a big supporter of the event as a fitness initiative, which is refreshing to see when councils are so often the antagonists of parkrun.

My warm-up with Ben suggested I was capable of running without pain. Conveniently next to the start line is a map of the park, helping to facilitate the new runners briefing. Unsurprisingly for the Easter weekend, there were plenty of visiting tourists. The route takes place entirely within Penallta Park, with two switchback sections. Elevation charts online suggested there would be some significant climbing for the first mile, though our warm-up concluded it was more of a false flat than anything.

Assembled on the start line, I identified a few of the likely big dogs of the morning. Do they look lean and fast? Check. Are they wearing racing flats? Check. On the starter’s orders, they inevitably tore off.

I decided to hang back due to unfamiliarity with the course and its nuances. Going with me were a number of runners that were putting in an early sprint, so I guess some things are universal regardless of the event! As anticipated, the subtle climb was still able to shake the field up slightly to leave me in sixth, tailing the fourth and fifth place guys. I hovered on sub-20 pace, banking on the second half being faster with a downhill finish.

Approaching the first switchback, I surprised myself by being able to enter and exit it faster than the guy in front, allowing me to quickly gain on and surge past him. My next target was a youngster who began fading from an exuberant start. Realising that I would have run out of people to follow if he drifted too far backwards, I gave him a few words of encouragement to hold steady and remain with me.

Exiting the second switchback, I wrongly assumed we were to head straight and were instead sent on a sharp left for a lap of a muddy and wet path around a pond. Swift foot placement was needed to avoid sodden feet! Returning back to Bea’s Hill, I urged my comrade to stay with me, but alas, he’d reached his limit and began haemorrhaging pace. I began cruising for the finish, and would likely skim sub-20 by 10 seconds or so, when I clocked a runner behind me by no more than 30m. He was closing in so before he had any more time to make a bigger dent, I kicked things up a notch for a faster finish than originally anticipated.

I was pleased to see 19:34 flash up, especially as I went through a spate of visiting new events and failing to secure a sub-20 finish by only a few seconds.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Ben returned to be only a number of seconds outside of his PB set on a pancake flat course, so it boded well for his then upcoming half marathon. We’ve agreed to try our hand at Bryn Bach parkrun as our next spot of tourism.

14 miles inc Great Run Local The Vale

Seeing as Lis and I were due to fly out to Hong Kong only 12 hours later, I should have perhaps skipped Great Run Local, given I was still feeling pretty banged up from go-karting and the previous day’s faster than intended Penallta parkrun.

Setting out slightly later than planned, I tried to better time my warm-up run to The Vale to coincide with Dave’s. As luck would have it, I could see him in the distance from Selly Oak onwards, though my attempts to call out his name literally fell on deaf ears; this continued for another mile before Dave finally took notice!

Numbers were very low at The Vale, as one would expect for Easter Sunday. Once we finally got going, it became clear that I couldn’t muster anything more than what could be considered a slow tempo run. My ribs continued to ache and the steep ascents of the course did nothing to help.

21:36 was all I could manage; a time almost 2 minutes slower than my course best under optimal conditions and health.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The warm-down run for home allowed me and Dave to discuss a number of sites and locales in Hong Kong that I needed to consider visiting.

Congratulations

Shout outs to my friends, Ben and Vince, who both managed to PB last Sunday.

Ben, after just two half marathons, went under 2 hours for the first time with 1:50:18. It took me 6 attempts before I finally cracked 2 hours…

Vince, after just 2 marathons, went under 3 hours for 2:59:32 at the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Excellent achievements, gents!

One last thing…

andy_yu_baby

Strong legs already on this one!

So, aside from being busy with work and being away on holiday, something else has taken up a chunk of my time.

Expected mid-October, he/she was very clearly running on the spot during the ultrasound scan to be just like their old man!

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This week’s running – 21st to 27th of September 2015

Another 40 mile week

Time for a rest, I promise!

Hang on to your hats – this week was about moving into uncharted territory for my third 40+ mile week in a row…

5k from work

And so began my third six day running week with no obvious ill-effects (touch wood…) I was very conscious of the recent high training volume (for me – I can hear you 70 mile a week guys sniggering in the back!), so this was as slow as I was able to bear.

A few people have called me up of late on these easy runs from the office, calling them “junk miles”. Yes, they are an easy way to boost my overall training volume and no, they probably aren’t doing an awful lot for me aerobically. But just imagine if every one of the 40 odd miles I ran last week was high quality in nature – I’d be benched and burnt out in no time! Even elites running over 100 miles a week make sure 80% of it is done at low intensity.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

3x 1.5 miles at half marathon pace

There’s a saying to “make hay when the sun is shining”. I should have run that third lap of Edgbaston Reservoir last week when I was feeling pumped and primed! This week, I had a crappy night’s sleep prior to the session and had been functioning on coffee for much of the working day; if I were any less stubborn, I’d have sacked this session off.

Jogging over to the reservoir, there was a hideous wind that I knew would cause me trouble. Once there, an older gent that I often see running recognised me and gave me a wave to at least put me in good spirits, before the masochism I was about to put myself through.

The first lap had me running right into the headwind for 800m or so. Couple that with the uneven terrain underfoot and I could tell the effort was greater than last week to hit 6:35 pace for the 1.5 mile lap. As ever, the tailwind during the final 400m was not felt at all.

The second lap didn’t feel any better, despite being properly warmed up. I was at least marginally faster by a second or two, pace-wise.

I really wasn’t game for a third lap, but I convinced myself to do it – I’d have only been disappointed with myself otherwise. To have a fighting chance of completing the lap, I opted to go anti-clock-wise around the reservoir – the headwind only hit me for the first 400m and there was ever so slightly more descent. Awkwardly, just as I was starting the lap, a fast runner came blasting around the corner and to him, it must have looked like I was challenging him. I hate it when people decide to race me in training, so I felt incredibly guilty that I was inadvertently doing the same to him! Thankfully, he was a smidge faster and exited the reservoir after only 400m. About halfway through the lap, another fast-ish runner appeared before me; unlike before, I was able to reel him in and overtake in all of about 15 seconds to avoid any awkwardness. I was a mess at the end and had to lean over a railing for support, but I did it. All the suffering better be worth it come race day!

Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

5k from work

You can never predict what will happen on a run. Take this example; nothing more than a humble recovery jog from the office.

About a mile into the route, I saw a bunch of teen lads up ahead, shouting and cheering. They appeared to be holding a piece of security tape – the yellow and black kind you see around crime scenes. As I got closer, I was better able to make out their cheers were things along the lines of, “You can do it! You can win!” and “Keep going! You can beat him!” I worked out the security tape was a make-shift finishing line and I glanced over to my right to see a cyclist shoot past me and cross through the tape. The guys went nuts and threw their arms in the air. As I went past, one of them said to me, “Bad luck. Maybe next time.” As I ran further away from them, I could hear them repeating their act for the next lucky winner.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

This incident reminded me (though definitely not to same scale) of the antics of famed French anarchist, Rémi Gaillard, and the time he set up a mock Tour de France finish for unsuspecting cyclists…

Love the guy’s response at 2:20 into the video

10 canal miles

I was filled with both excitement and trepidation going into this run. Even at peak marathon training, I wasn’t able to cover quite this much mileage or run frequency.

To give myself the best chance of completing the 10 miles again, I ensured I was adequately loaded up with carbs from a hearty pasta dinner the night before, and also indulged in a slice of cake from work’s McMillan Cancer coffee morning (we did it on Thursday for some reason).

Once on the canal, anecdotally, there seemed to be more runners than ever before, even when compared to the same time in years past. I even spotted one girl running in this year’s Cardiff 10k race t-shirt; I figured she may have been a student from Wales, or like me, was willing to travel for flat and fast races.

I wasn’t expecting to pull off a progressive, royal flush run, but it happened. I felt tremendous out there and once fully warmed up for the return leg, I noted how I was barely even taking in air on what was my approximate marathon pace of 7:15 to 7:25 per mile. Once again, the long tunnel at mile 9 foiled my otherwise perfectly recorded splits.

It’s such a shame that I’ll only be able to use the canals and Edgbaston Reservoir after work for maybe another two weeks or so before light levels become non-existent.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

This was it. The final hard Parkrun before the Cardiff Half Marathon next week. The goal was to try and break new ground with a course PB of 19:03 or better – maybe even sub-19 on home turf! Low wind and cool temperatures were once again on side to give me the best chance of this.

I arrived at the park with plenty of time for a good, thorough warm-up with Nigel. Returning to the bandstand, the place was heaving with runners due to the seasonal high from the upcoming Great Birmingham Run. I’ve still yet to completely decide if I’ll participate or not – the one avenue for a freebie place was a no-go, unfortunately.

Briefing done, I made a beeline for the front of the start for a quick getaway. On “Go”, I shot off like a bat out of hell with the pace registering as fast as 3:26/km at the first corner! I eased off the gas and settled into target pace of 3:45 for the remainder of the first km. I didn’t feel nearly as fresh as last week and further regretted not being looser with the reins when I had the opportunity. I casted the negativity aside and got back to work.

Jort led the way ahead of me for much of the second km. The plan was to complete this split at 3:48/km, so I was delighted when my Garmin flashed up a 3:49 split.

I knew the third km would be a slower one, so I did what I could to keep it close to 3:55 km pace. Easier said than done because the field splintered off to leave me working alone for large chunks of the course. Much like last week, the young Sparkhill Harrier stopped and pulled out of the run. I convinced him to get back in and give it another bash as I passed; he gave chase and stuck with me for another 200m or so before dropping off again. Based on where I saw Dunsby battling for first place on the opposite side of the path, I knew I was on to something good if I could just hold on for another mile or so.

Safely in and out of the triangle, I was cheered on by all the good folks on the other side. Agony was painted all over my face with only my sunglasses to hide the true horror that my body and mind went through. I was slowing and threw in a few short surges to get the pace back on track for another 3:55 split.

On my way to a new Cannon Hill Parkrun course PB

Geoff has a talent for capturing me looking at my worst – Photo by Geoff Hughes

For the final km, it was a completely solitary affair – I had nobody but myself to count on to pull me through. I began consciously lifting the pace, but my legs were shot with lactic acid. Due to the bias of training volume, I had no zip in my legs at all; I was running on fumes with nothing left in reserve. Reaching the MAC, I dared not look at my Garmin in case it put me off. “Come on, Andy! One last push!” I told myself and gritted my teeth. I charged up the hill with an exaggerated arm swing in an attempt to throw my weight upwards before a blind sprint for the line; “blind” being the key word here because I couldn’t actually make out where the finish line was! I waited for the timer to beep before I stopped my own Garmin.

I screamed a few times to dissipate the pain as I made my way through the finish funnel. I parked myself down and hunched over in a bid to desperately get air back into my system. Finish token no. 25 was mine and reminded me to look at the Garmin. 18:59! I bloody did it! And then I saw the cheeky .82 at the end there… I prayed that my late button press of my Garmin equated to 0.5 seconds to dip into sub-19 territory at Cannon Hill. I shared my good news with a few folks before I had to make my excuses and leave – London was calling and I had to be on a train shortly.

Waiting for the official results to come through was reminiscent of a child impatiently anticipating Christmas morning. When the text message finally came through, I was aghast to see “19:03” as my recorded time. “There has to be a mistake”, I thought. One or two seconds difference, I could accept, but I started at the front of the pack and pressed my Garmin after the official timer had registered me; there was no way I could be as much as four seconds out. Working through the results, nothing ahead of me looked out of place apart from one unknown runner; there was a chance a new runner had miscounted how many laps they had to run and went through the funnel early to push everybody else down. Taking the unknown runner out would have me finish one position higher and with the 18:59 result I possibly had. Looking at people after me, the results got progressively more and more out of sync if people’s Strava logs are anything to go by; people finishing at around the 21 minute mark were as much as 7 to 10 seconds out. To further rub salt in the wounds, runbritain only gave the run a 0.8 difficulty and my performance a -0.4 handicap for no improvement at all.

*Sigh*…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Canal half marathon

Conscious that I’d thrashed my legs the day before with the hard Parkrun and at least 10 miles of walking around London, I chose to let my body dictate the pace of the 13.1 miles I covered on the canal towpaths.

People were in good spirits; plenty of fellow runners greeted me verbally or with a nod, and even cyclists were pleasant enough with one passing me and giving me a thumbs up and some encouragement to “keep it up”.

I bumped into Stacey Marston and some of the Bournville Harriers, also out on their long runs.

With blue skies and the sun overhead as I returned to Brindley Place, people were crawling everywhere and I had to be quick on my feet to scoot in and between those that hadn’t heard or chose to ignore my cries of “coming through”. The Gladiators style obstacle course continued as I passed by the canal boat market and the completely oblivious crowds it attracted…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Final long run completed, I totalled just shy of 43 miles for this week’s training diary. The taper now beckons and the rough plan for next week is as follows:

  • Monday – easy 5k from work
  • Tuesday – easy jog to Edgbaston Reservoir, 1.5 miles at half marathon pace, easy jog home
  • Wednesday – easy jog from work
  • Thursday – 4 miles easy with some strides
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – Newport Parkrun (easy 4km, fast final km)
  • Sunday – Cardiff Half Marathon

Time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Be at peace with your shorts

Running shorts are an outward barometer of modesty.

That’s a polite way of saying, “When it comes to shorts, go as long – or as short – as you like. We won’t judge.”

The length or running shorts isn’t really a fashion thing, the way hemlines or necktie widths are. There have always been short shorts and long baggy shorts and in-between shorts. This is, and always has been, a personal-choice thing.

If you prefer the freedom of movement that short shorts offer, and you have the legs to pull it off, then by all means opt for short shorts. When it comes to side-split comfort, there’s nothing like them.

On the other hand, if you’d rather keep your upper thighs shrouded in mystery – and in nylon/polyester – then, please, go the long-and-loose route. More power to you.

Short shorts do not, by the way, confer any benefits in the speed department. While it’s true that most elite runners wear short shorts (or, if they’re women, skin-tight “butt huggers”), the act of wearing super-short shorts will not, in itself, make you faster.

This week’s running – 7th to 13th of September 2015

ZOMG!

OMG Cat can’t believe it!

This week was about finding and losing my way, literally.

Half marathon focus

After last week’s mis-step at the Cardiff 10k (was I the only person to not PB there???), these last few remaining weeks until the Cardiff Half Marathon are being used in earnest to get into some sort of respectable shape for the race.

To get into 86:XX territory is the dream, and right now, I’m unsure whether it will continue to remain only a dream… 86:59 equates to something like 6:35 per mile with a little buffer in there for going slightly long (13.18 miles is likely). As long as I don’t go bananas in the first couple of miles of the race, I’m reasonably confident I can bring it together with a negative split and strong finish.

I’m being purposely aggressive with training, opting for a bout of functional over-reaching – if I fail then I’ll simply have to wait until next year to come good. I need to sharpen up and damn quick!

Out and back to Edgbaston Reservoir

The day after the Cardiff 10k, I knew I hadn’t given the race my all because of how fresh I felt.

So, off I trotted to Edgbaston Reservoir for one lap at half marathon pace as a tester. I felt great, even whilst running into a headwind that usually pisses me off. I intended to complete 2x laps of the reservoir later in the week at half marathon pace and work my way up to 3x laps (hopefully next week).

Here’s the Garmin data for this run (we can’t really call it a session now, can we?)

10 miles around Peterborough

Lost in Peterborough

It all went Pete Tong at around mile 6…

Work sent me and a few colleagues to Peterborough on a training course, so the running kit naturally came with me. Two of said colleagues also turned out to be Parkrunners (Perry Hall and Walsall Arboretum), albeit infrequent!

The plan was to cover 8 miles in total via a simple long, straight road en route to the city centre from a Travelodge on the A1. The problem with some of Peterborough’s roads is that they lack pavement, and instead have plenty of off-shoot paths for pedestrians/cyclists to use – all well and good if one knows where they’re going… Many turnings later, I reached a critical point on the route and none of the paths looked familiar; I was well and truly lost. I don’t carry a phone when I run and the Back to start function on my Garmin wasn’t loading, so I carried on running in the direction that felt most correct…

I stumbled across a Tesco Express next to a housing estate and decided to pop into there to ask for directions. The guy behind the counter gave me vague instructions for how to get back to the hotel, but then he threw me off completely by saying it was a “fair old jog” to get there. Did he mean “fair old jog” for a non-runner like himself, or a “fair old jog” even for a runner like me? I was reasonably confident I hadn’t gone that far off course!

Following his directions, I trundled off in my own race against time to try and be back at the hotel to meet my colleagues for dinner at 7pm (it was already past 6:30pm by this point). I bumped into some ladies from a local running club, the Bushfield Joggers, who just so happened to be going very close to the hotel and invited me to tag along with them. They had a good laugh at my situation, but were equally as impressed that I was able to keep going beyond my 8 mile target and remain looking fresh. Three of their male club members came storming past; the ladies asked the guys to take me with them and get me back to where I needed to be at a faster pace, so I swapped groups and thanked them profusely for their help.

The blokes also had a good laugh at my expense, but seemed to better appreciate my ability to keep to their pace and continue the conversation. Two of them had run a local half marathon only days prior, one finishing in around 74 minutes, and were treating the run as recovery. We chatted about Parkrun, and the 74 minute runner revealed his 5k PB to be 16:51 – I was certainly in esteemed company.

True to their word, they got me back to the hotel with a couple of minutes to spare so that I could jump in the shower and freshen up before dinner. I ended up covering 10.6 miles that evening in total versus the original 8!

If the lesson has taught me anything, it’s that I should take a phone with me, just in case – DC Rainmaker has confirmed the Back to start function on the Garmin 910XT indeed does not work… Looking back at the map of my run, I frustratingly crossed paths back on to the original route a number of times but was unaware!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

3 mile recovery

After being sat down all day, and then a long-ish drive back to Brum, this 3 mile recovery run was just what the fictitious coach ordered to stretch out the legs.

One thing’s for certain: I can tell a big local race is coming up from the number of people out pounding the pavement that are both red in the face and look like they’re experiencing their own personal hell.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

2x laps of Edgbaston Reservoir

I returned to Edgbaston Reservoir for a pop at this session, consisting of 2x laps at target half marathon pace (6:40 per mile) with 2 minutes’ rest.

Without thinking, I chose to run around the reservoir in a clock-wise fashion, which meant I was hit by a headwind for much of each lap. Pleasingly, each 1.5 mile lap came out pretty much bang on target pace with each feeling pretty similar in terms of required effort, though the second rep used up a couple of additional heart beats.

Roll on 3x laps next week! Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Last week was Cannon Hill’s fifth anniversary. I’ve still never been to a single anniversary run due to them taking place on bank holiday weekends.

Sticking with the theme of not being around, this was my first run at Cannon Hill in almost five weeks! Bar the early days when my attendance was sporadic at best, this is the longest gap I’ve had there.

Andy Yu at Cannon Hill Parkrun

Why does it always rain on me? Photo by Geoff Hughes

Weather-wise, it was soggy and rather miserable with all the marshals and volunteers huddled underneath the bandstand for shelter – a stark contrast to the warm sunshine and blue skies of the previous day.

It was nice to see a few familiar faces, namely Dave and Nigel, who I hadn’t seen in ages.

The plan was to hit it hard to try and reap some training intensity benefit. Somewhat unsure of my own fitness, I decided to punch in 3:53/km into the Garmin as a target, which would have produced a 19:25 finish.

I managed to keep things under control in the first km, though I question whether this was more a lack of ability to dramatically go faster! The first lap of the park felt very alien to the mind and body. Puddles were everywhere and required nimble feet to avoid without going long on the course.

Surprisingly, the second lap of the park produced another decent split only a second or two off target.

I began trailing a runner, rocking those barefoot Vibrams, that seemed to be going at roughly the same pace as me. I used the slight descent after the bandstand to slingshot me ahead into the third km, but it seemed the Vibram runner had some fight in him and came with me, and thus began our mini-duel.

On the approach to the triangle, he started to drift backwards. I urged him to stay with me and he let out a distressed, “How much further have we got?” We had a new runner on the cards that had clearly burnt himself out too soon. I told him there was roughly a mile left and he let out a groan; that was the last I ever saw of him and I now thank you, mystery runner, for keeping my third km on target!

The fourth km was a tough nut to crack and had me running on my own. The guys behind me were ages away, and the next group ahead had at least a ten second lead.

The final km remained a solitary affair, though I came close to the next group a few times before they took off again. Even with a kick at the end, this split still came up as my second slowest of the bunch for a 19:33 finish.

After a tough week of training, the result felt about right. I reckon I could have pushed out a 19:20 or so if I were fresher and less sleep deprived that particular morning.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Canal half marathon

With a lie-in needed, the Great North Run on TV (Stanley Biwott ran a great race!), and a lunch appointment on the agenda, the long run was re-scheduled for much later in the afternoon.

I needed to get some distance in, ahead of the Cardiff Half Marathon due to take place in only three weeks, so I opted to cover my usual route from the Jewellery Quarter on to the canal to Stirchley, and back again, but taking a detour towards the Soho Loop (but avoiding it) and then home.

The weather was almost spot on, with extensive cloud cover and cool temperatures to make the run rather enjoyable. I said a number of weeks ago that I prefer cool temperatures – you can do something to warm yourself up when you’re cold but there’s little to be done once you start heating up.

Unsure of my fitness, I played it slightly safe and kept the pace steady and under control with it hovering around 7:40 to 7:50 per mile.

After half way, boredom struck and I decided to have a bash at counting to 100 to distract myself. I was surprised by how effectively the distraction technique worked and continued it all the way through to the end. This run coupled with everything else this week totalled more than 42 miles – it’s been months since I last hit the 40s!

I’ll repeat this run again in a week’s time, hopefully with a few fast stretches thrown in for good measure.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Before you remove new running shoes from the box, you must smell them

Open the box. Peel back the tissue paper. Behold those pristine shoes. Then lift the box to your face and breathe deeply.

Mm-m-m. Smells like… potential.

And possibly formaldehyde or something. But mostly potential.

This week’s running – 26th of October to 2nd of November 2014

Running in the dark

I wish there was this much moonlight during my runs!

This week was a bit of a pick and mix – read on for more!

Speed work in the dark

Tuesday was my second outing with my new head torch and for the ultimate field test, I returned to Edgbaston Reservoir to complete a speed work session comprising of a 1 mile effort at half marathon pace, and 2x 800m reps at 5k pace.

The head torch held up well, but there was expectedly some movement and bounce. As before, the range of light was more than enough. There was also the additional problem of fallen leaves, making pothole judgment tricky (yes, I did almost fall into one).

The session went well otherwise. The reps all felt manageable without too much discomfort; all I want to do is try and keep things ticking over until the new year when I will become more half marathon focused again.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Recovery run from work

I really do enjoy my runs home from work. It’s easy mileage and after a long day of meetings, it was bliss to stretch out the legs.

The head torch joined me once again and proved most useful when cyclists and fellow runners approached from the distance, with all their reflective accents lighting up like Christmas trees. This was less effective (and slightly freaky) when somebody dressed in mostly white regular clothes caught the light for a spectral and unsettling sight.

Upon reaching Brindley Place, I switched the head light up to strobe mode, which worked a treat to alert others around me.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Hyde Park runaround

Hyde Park runaround

5 miles around Hyde Park

Apart from during my two London Marathons, I had never run in London before. Lis and I were both in the nation’s capital for our birthday outings (Harry Potter Studio Tour and Fortnum and Mason afternoon tea – I’ll let you decide who had what) and staying just a stone’s throw from Hyde Park, I packed my running shoes for a Friday morning run.

Rather than get horribly lost trying to navigate the internal paths of Hyde Park, I simply chose to follow the outer perimeter (roughly 4.5 miles). As it so happened, this route also took me past such sites like the Royal Albert Hall and Marble Arch. There were hundreds of people out and about at only 8am, though as a contrast to almost exactly a year ago in New York’s Central Park, runners did not dominate the landscape, and the crowds were instead a pretty even mix of commuters, dog walkers, cyclists and bipedal pavement pounders.

I enjoyed myself, though I could not shake off the comparisons to Central Park, which just seemed more runner-friendly with an underground tunnel for road traffic, rather than the main road that bisects Hyde Park.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Andy Yu's sprint for the finish at Cannon Hill Parkrun

2km sprint for the finish with bonus race face – photo by Lis Morgan

I really wasn’t sure how to approach Saturday’s Cannon Hill Parkrun. My legs were pretty tired from two days of London sightseeing and shopping, along with the Hyde Park run. Meeting up with Nigel, we decided to stick together and see how things went.

Rather oddly, the numbers were rather high for the time of year. Many regulars were notably absent, but were replaced by new faces, with the new runner briefing much busier than normal.

Once we started running, I simply followed Nigel’s lead and let him dictate the pace. His first three splits were metronomic and clocked in at 4:06/km. A very young Birchfield Harrier managed to stay with us for much of the early portion of the run, both of us remarking that he’d develop into one helluva runner when he became older.

The congestion around the sub-20 minute mark was definitely noticeable, with large groups bunching up on corners and narrow paths. Great if you wanted people to work with as part of a joint pursuit to go under 20 minutes, but less ideal for Nigel and I who were just casually running.

Upon exiting the triangle, a bloke from behind the group (there were maybe 5 of us bunched up) overtook us and bellowed out, “If you’re not overtaking, stay to the left!” It was busy and we were on a narrow path – what did his royal highness want us to do?! He had clearly started too far back if he felt he was continually overtaking people. This riled me up and I decided to show him what overtaking with authority really meant, so I pulled out and kicked the pace up. I overtook the guy and within just a few seconds, I’d managed to put a sizeable gap between us. I carried on with my kick and continued to overtake more runners – the adrenaline was in full flow and I felt fantastic!

On the approach to the MAC, I ran out of runners to reel in with the next two over 100m ahead of me. With just 400m left, I had finally caught up to them and began to overtake. One of the runners was a visiting club runner, so I urged her on with the knowledge that a sub-20 finish was within reach. My kick was in full swing and then the final hill hit me. I had to close my eyes and grit my teeth to reach the top; clearly the 2km sprint had left me shagged and even though the runners ahead of me were within spitting distance, I decided to let them go and crossed the line for a 19:49 finish in 27th.

Cannon Hill Parkrun splits

Not a great lesson in 5k pacing… But oh so much fun

I saw Nigel come through the finish and couldn’t resist letting out a wry smile when the guy that had mouthed-off came in a few places afterwards. All’s well that ends well, eh?

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And no, your eyes do not deceive you because there was no long run this week. My legs were shagged after two days in London along with above said runs, so a day of rest for me. Instead, we’ll skip right to this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book (it was one year ago when I started adding these to blog entries!):

The 7 deadly sins: Running edition

  1. Lust

MANIFESTATION: Dropping over the new Kayanos when the ones you have are perfectly fine

  1. Gluttony

MANIFESTATION: Grabbing more banana halves and bagels from the postrace food table than you could ever hope to eat

  1. Greed

MANIFESTATION: Selling your Boston finisher’s medal on eBay; trying to unload your NYC Marathon entry to some desperate soul for double what you paid for it

  1. Sloth

MANIFESTATION: I think we all know what this one looks like

  1. Wrath

MANIFESTATION: Losing your cool when the guy at the running store says the new Kayanos are sold out in your size, and they aren’t expecting another shipment for 6 weeks

  1. Envy

MANIFESTATION: Coveting thy neighbor’s wife’s half-marathon PR

  1. Pride

MANIFESTATION: Checking your appearance in every storefront window that you run past

This week’s running 20th to 26th of October 2014

This is how I looked

This is how I looked on Monday. Except for the awful bling watch. Don’t have one of those.

This week was about illness and a having new toy to play with.

Struck by illness… For a few hours…

I like to think I’m quite a hardy soul and it’s rare that I pick something up that brings me down completely. Sure, I get pangs of paranoia once I get close to an important race, but that’s only because I’m a competitive person and want to eke out every bit of potential from myself.

After the early start on Sunday for the Great Birmingham Run, I was also up early the next day at 5am to get to a former colleague’s funeral over in Norwich. Despite running the race and fulfilling my filming duties comfortably, sitting as a passenger for almost 4 hours is still not recommended.

To make matters even worse, I then ended up driving said uncomfortable car for almost 4 hours back to Birmingham. When I got out, I somehow went weak at the knees and struggled to walk. Muscles all over my body, not just the ones used for running, were aching. I felt light headed and had a splitting head ache. And most worryingly, I was shivering due to a major chill and couldn’t get warm.

Once back home, I quickly threw myself into a blistering hot shower and whacked the heating to full blast; both of these things helped to bring my temperature up but I still felt cold and weak. Lis had never seen me in such a state and I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had been felled so badly from whatever it was that I had picked up.

Miraculously, I started to perk up later in the evening and was my normal self again by the following morning. I have no idea why my body reacted the way it did – perhaps it was simply a sign that I’d pushed it too hard in such a small space of time?

5k around Edgbaston Reservoir

Black Diamond Spot 90

Let there be light!

I decided to take the plunge into winter training and bought myself a Black Diamond head torch. It’s not particularly fancy or powerful, but does have the following features:

  • 90 lumens
  • Spot, wide, strobe and red modes
  • 3 degrees of tilt

The perfect field trial for the head torch was Edgbaston Reservoir once dusk had kicked in. I originally wanted to run 4x laps but I ended up with a stitch I couldn’t shift – the point where this happened is quite clear from my cadence chart on Garmin Connect (click here).

Anywho, the head torch worked a treat. It offered enough light to brightly illuminate roughly 5m in front of me (and up to 10m reasonably) – more than enough to see any upcoming hazards on the ground. Crucially, the beam of light was also steady, though I suspect this probably has a lot to do with one’s own running style (I tend not to bounce). Comfort-wise, it was stable on my head without being too tight or heavy. I will try it again whilst running at threshold pace and 800m reps, which should be really put it to the test.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Attendance was expectedly light at Cannon Hill, given it was less than a week since the Great Birmingham Run and half term had begun. The weather was cool and crisp; perfect running weather and the first outing in months for my arm warmers since the winter.

I managed to pull off a 19:43 finish without feeling too uncomfortable and had I have really stepped down on the gas, I think I could have finished nearer 19:30. I was rather pleased with the splits, all looking rather steady bar the final km when I kicked things up a notch. Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Jort and Andy at Cannon Hill Parkrun

“You ran 2 minute mile splits during the race???” – photo by Geoff Hughes

Having a bit of a catch-up with Jort, we had a chuckle about his performance at the Great Birmingham Run (screen grab from Ed Barlow). All joking aside, I also learned that over 80% of his 60+ miles a week are run at around 8 minute mile pace. If it’s good enough for Jort, it’s gotta be good enough for the rest of us, right?

11 miles out and back to Stirchley

After a busy week, I was waiting for my long Sunday run with bated breath. Many have asked why I don’t train with others more often. Truth be told, the long Sunday run (and other runs to a lesser degree) is in many ways a great form of therapy for me. It gives me some time to myself on my terms and allows me to review the week that’s just happened, along with the week that’s yet to come. It’s also a chance to review my training and how my body is feeling while at ease; something that’s much harder to get an accurate picture of when you’re blowing hard during 800m reps!

I headed out towards Stirchley along the canal. Bar some short un-tarmac’d sections, the repaving project was more or less complete. Sadly, the sections of towpath immediately underneath tree cover were accumulating dead leaves and mulch at an alarming rate, so much so, the ground below no longer even looked paved!

Expectedly, just like Cannon Hill Parkrun, there were few runners out and about. The Great Birmingham Run was done and dusted and people were either resting up, or had no purpose to run anymore. I did however bump into Sean and Laura from Kings Heath Running Club, and also nearly had a massive pile-up with Iain on his bike when we inadvertently met around a blind turn.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

To make up for the light week of running, here’s a beefier entry than normal from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Imagine the worst

I hate to sound pessimistic. Really, I do. But thinking in terms of worst-case scenarios can make you a happier, healthier runner. This rule holds true across a variety of everyday situations, in decisions large and small. For instance:

 

“I bet I can make it through this intersection before that RV does.”

BEST CASE: You sprint across the road and save a few moments.

WORST CASE: You sprint into the road and die.

FINAL CALL: Wait.

 

“I probably won’t need a hat in the race this weekend.”

BEST CASE: You leave the hat at home, do not in fact need it, and your suitcase is 2 ounces lighter.

WORST CASE: You leave the hat at home, wake up on race day to record-low temperatures, drop out at mile 9 with hypothermia, and find yourself being “warmed up” by a race volunteer who smells like garlic.

FINAL CALL: Pack the hat.

“You know, I usually eat oatmeal before a long run, but those leftover chalupas are looking pretty good.”

BEST CASE: You consume the leftover chalupas and complete your long run as planned.

WORST CASE: You consume the leftover chalupas, begin your long run as planned, and end it 2 miles later, doubled over and feeling as if Satan himself is travelling through your lower intestine with a pitchfork made of fire and dipped in taco sauce.

FINAL CALL: Boil some water because you’re taking the whole grain train to Quaker-town.

The list goes on and on. But you get the idea: prepare for the worst; hope for the best. And stick to oatmeal.

This week’s running – 15th to 21st of September 2014

Andy, Nigel and Dave at Cannon Hill Parkrun

After 6 weeks of waiting/not being around, I finally have my 100 Club t-shirt!

This week was all about working hard and working harder.

2x 2 miles at half marathon pace

This session still puts fear into me, even after several instances of running it with regularity. My problem with it is that compared to 800m reps, I know how the 800m reps should feel and I’m never too far away from the end if it gets a little intense. A 2 mile rep at half marathon pace is a slow burn that grows in intensity the closer I get to the end; something I’m just less familiar with.

I certainly felt the benefit afterwards but as per usual, I didn’t have the oomph in me to push out another rep, leaving me able to run another day.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Recovery run from work

I’m still keeping these up to help with overall weekly volume and they’re still as enjoyable as before. A short run with no pace pressure really does lift my spirits after a long day at the office.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

1x 1 mile, 2x 800m, 1x 1 mile

This is a favourite session of mine, running it again on Thursday. Whilst it is a bit of a “Jack of all trades” approach without any specific focus, it does get me running at half marathon pace (1 mile reps) and 5k pace (800m reps) without the greater intensity of pure half marathon pace sessions or pure 5k pace sessions.

I also bumped into Nigel Beecroft at Edgbaston Reservoir for a brief but pleasant exchange.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Cannon Hill Parkrun – the Dave Burton edition

Dave on his way to victory!

Dave on his way to victory!

Earlier in the week, I proposed to Dave that we run ourselves into the ground at Cannon Hill Parkrun to mark the anniversary of our 19:18 joint PBs from 2013. I had put some good training into my workload, as had Dave, and the effects of the Cardiff 10k should have been absorbed for an almighty smackdown between the two of us.

I was pretty fired up for Cannon Hill Parkrun – PB attempt or no PB attempt. I’d been absent for 5 or 6 weeks due to races, holidays and simply being out of town. I also had my 100 Club t-shirt to collect after first earning it at the end of July. My usual routine of beetroot juice and coffees got the system started.

Due to the Midland Road Relays later that day, a good number of club runners chose not to run, staying away or volunteering instead. The start line was noticeably thin as a result, leaving a sweet spot right in the centre of the front row for Dave and me.

The run started fast at 3:47/km pace for a targeted sub-19 minute finish. I felt comfortable for the first few hundred metres but after the first km, the intensity had caught up to me. I wasn’t as fit as I was back in July and the lack of Parkruns lately made the pace feel dramatically alien. My training workload was also pretty heavy in the days leading up to Saturday, so the odds were well and truly against me. And what of Dave? Well, he was clearly having the run of his life. The gap between us continued to grow and after 2k, I decided to resign from the sub-19 attempt and shouted this out to Dave, who was confidently zooming off into the distance.

At the triangle, I calculated he was roughly 45 seconds ahead and the gap continued to grow as I slipped more and more off pace. I struggled to find groups of people to work with and whilst sometimes you can muscle through this if you’re feeling good, it’s one of the worst things that can hit you mid-race if you’re fading.

On the approach to the MAC, he had over 400m on me and I was certain he would produce a PB, if not a sub-19 finish as well in the process.

Now that's a race face!

Now that’s a race face!

With just 400m left to go, I started working with a girl that had overtaken me but was starting to fade. I urged her to keep going, not realising that she was only mere seconds away from her own PB.

I finally crossed the line in 19:48 – almost a minute behind schedule. I felt like shit and concluded that I could have run a much steadier and less stressful performance if a 19:48 was all I could produce that day. I found Dave and he looked reasonably fresh considering the effort he’d put in. And his time? 18:53! He did it and even managed to shave 3 seconds off from my PB set at the much flatter and faster Cardiff Parkrun! I was over the moon for him where he’d executed his plan to perfection. In less than 14 days, he managed to chop down my 5k and 10k PBs set earlier in the summer and it’s more than likely he’ll also take down my half marathon PB in the next 14 days, too.

Truly legendary stuff is our Dave!

I caught up with that girl I’d urged on in the last 400m. Turns out we’d actually run the last few hundred metres of this year’s London Marathon together! Alex said she’d recognised me from my über geeky Autobots tattoo on my leg and we even managed to piece together that I was the guy she saw kneeling down to propose. It’s funny to think that I’ve now managed to finish two London Marathons with a fellow Cannon Hill Parkrunner on each occasion.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

13 miles of Birmingham canals

Gone are the days when 13 miles during my marathon schedule were considered a short to medium length run.

This was my last chance to get a proper long run in ahead of the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2 weeks (made it into the fastest start pen – woohoo). Distance has taken somewhat of a back-seat during this summer so I’m hoping the addition or more training at higher intensities will see me through.

The weather was gorgeous and exactly what I expect of early autumn – perfection for a long run. Sadly, a headwind persisted in knocking the stuffing out of me almost all the way round the 13 miles for some pretty exhausting stuff on top of an already exhausting week.

The route finished up at Edgbaston Reservoir where like last week, it was pretty busy with people most likely training for the Great Birmingham Run in 4 weeks’ time.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

As ever, here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Having a million things to do is an excuse for running, not an argument against it

There are hundred excuses not to run. Being busy just isn’t one of them. Why? Because taking even 20 or 30 minutes for a run will help you organize your thoughts, clear your head, wake up, and return to your tasks with a clarity and energy you can’t get from coffee or even a nap.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed or overbooked, put the to-do list down and lace up your running shoes. You’ll be glad you did.

This week’s running – 8th to 14th of September 2014

Ultra marathon

This is not what the JW Ultra was like!

This week was all about recovery, more winning and an ultra marathon (OK, 1/3 of an ultra marathon).

Recovery runs

Learning my lesson from the previous sub-40 10k PB back in July, I decided it would not be ideal training to complete a speedwork session on Tuesday. Instead, I opted for a simple 5k out and back via Hagley Road.

The run home from work was much the same, taking it very easy for 5k along the canals.

Click here and here for the Garmin data on the recovery runs.

“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Why yes, yes I do feel lucky!

As many of you know, I had little intention of running this year’s Great Birmingham Run. I originally first ran it in 2010 as my first foray into half marathons and to cut a long story short, it no longer has the same appeal to me. Just simple things like the PB friendliness of the course – it’s all about the finish time potential for me. Paying £34 for the privilege of busting a gut running up Charlotte and St James Road ain’t my cup of tea.

Sometime last week, I saw the Birmingham Mail promote their competition with the prize being a free place in the race. I figured, “Why not?” and what would be the chances of me winning anyway? Well, it so happened that I actually did win, receiving an email on Wednesday with a code for a free entry! No strings attached either, so I don’t need to write about my experience (um, I’ll do that one anyway for free…), wear a silly costume or otherwise. Discussing this with a colleague at work, we reasoned that I was probably one of a very small handful of people to have entered the competition. Most people who would want to run have already paid for their places. The race hasn’t sold out and those that haven’t committed to the training would not be entering anyway.

So, come Sunday 19th, I’ll be toeing up again at the start line on Sand Pits for the fifth time. Even more interesting, I’ll have been out for Iain’s birthday the night before for some alternative carbo-loading…

Exploring the Soho Loop

I’ve heard many things about the nearby Soho Loop, but only just the other day ventured out on to it for the first time. As pleasant as it was (nice and quiet), I can’t see it being incorporated into my normal routes all that often, mainly because of the distance it covers. I suppose if I wanted to cover close to 14 miles, I could pair it up with one loop of the canals up by Spaghetti Junction and Star City, but that’s about it sadly. The OCD inside me likes running rounded numbers like 5k, 10k, 10 miles etc!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

The JW Ultra

The final leg of the JW Ultra

The final leg of the JW Ultra

A couple of months ago, Martin Foster asked me if I fancied participating in a relay team for the JW Ultra – a 30 mile ultra marathon. It sounded like it could be a laugh and landed at a good time to double as race prep for the Cardiff Half Marathon. Each leg of the race was billed as approximately 10 miles to coincide with the pubs doubling as checkpoints.

I like to get pre-race logistics sorted before a race; I hear so many horror stories of people turning up to the wrong race HQ, or at the wrong time and it’s something I could do without. With 13 hours to go before the race was due to start, Martin, Yi and I had finally decided upon a running order and which checkpoints we would be at, with me covering the final leg.

Arriving at the checkpoint in Hockley Heath, Lis and I had some time to kill before Yi was due in. I had budgeted about 70 minutes for my leg with a view to treating it as 10 miles at target half marathon pace. Speaking to a few runners who had completed the first or second leg, company on the canal towpath was sparse at best; not ideal for trying to hit an ambitious race pace.

Yi finally arrived and I took the relay team belt from him and started running, all in one smooth changeover along with a few cheers from the crowd.

I passed a couple of runners with ease that had started before me, both solo ultra marathoners and relay team runners. Then, I ran out of runners to reel in and the pace began to slip and continued to slip all the way to 7:30 miles. At 1:30pm, it was very warm outside with temperatures in the low 20s. I was also somewhat dehydrated going into the race, not wanting to be pissing every 5 minutes without potential facilities nearby.

I was having a horrid time and must have run at least 3 miles without a soul in sight. Eventually, some solo runners came back into view and the chase was back on. The terrain underfoot was generally quite good; firm but bumpy and undulating so maintaining a rhythm was tricky.

Andy Yu at the JW Ultra

Out-kicked by ultra marathon runners – for shame!

I kept tabs on the distance I had covered and with the final canal crossing in sight, I was fairly certain the final leg wouldn’t even hit 9 miles in total (actual distance was around 8.6 miles). Nearing the end, myself and 3 solo runners left the canal and ended up going the wrong way temporarily due to a lack of signs or marshalls to direct us towards the finish. Some runners that had already finished had to steer us back on course for a thrilling 4 person sprint towards the line; embarrassingly, I couldn’t out-kick the 3 guys who had just run the best part of 30 miles! Ultra runners are a completely different breed of crazy and know no limits when it comes to pain at the end of a race!

Results-wise, the team came somewhere in the middle, with my final leg coming up as the 4th fastest out of the 17 teams that participated.

Despite never running a sub-7 minute mile on the course, my heart rate monitor reported a 4.2 training effect benefit (highly improving on the chart), no doubt due to the warm temperature and the dehydration.

Here’s the Garmin data for my leg of the JW Ultra.

Double day – 4x 800m reps and 2 mile recovery run

Having treated the JW Ultra as my long run for the week, I opted to get a few 800m reps under my belt.

The weather was almost perfect for running on Sunday morning; temperatures were cooler compared to those during the JW Ultra and clouds helped to break up the direct sunlight above. Others clearly had the same plan as I did because I had never seen Edgbaston Reservoir so full of runners before. Clearly, half marathon fever has taken hold of the city with just 5 weeks to go before race day.

On the agenda were 4x 800m reps at 3:50/km. I still feel like I peaked a couple of weeks ago and trying to keep pushing to the next level could see things coming undone – it’s all about maintenance right now for me to get me across the Cardiff Half finish line in under 90 minutes.

The marginally slower pace felt just right to get me working hard, but not to point of breaking. The splits were a touch faster than target with headwinds causing some fluctuation.

Two different people gave me positive feedback on my speed during my recoveries to top off a very positive session. I’ll take more of the same please!

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

And to top off things off, I went for an easy 2 mile run for a double day.

As per usual, here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

You’ll find the elusive runner’s high when you stop looking so hard for it

The runner’s high is like an orgasm.

Stop snickering! I’m serious.

The two phenomena are similar in the sense that they’re physiological responses, intensely pleasurable, and – for some- maddeningly elusive. Some folks experience the runner’s high regularly; for others, long or hard runs simply end in sweaty frustration. The act itself is fun, but, you know… anticlimactic.

No matter which climax is eluding, you, the advice is basically the same: Relax. Stop focusing so much on the destination, and start focusing on the journey. Listen to your body. Breathe. Enjoy yourself. You’ll get there.

Now, about those multiple runner’s highs…