This week’s running – 23rd July to 12th August 2018

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Tourism at Finsbury parkrun with Ian Saunders

Yikes! Almost a month since my last proper post… It’s simply been a case of some weeks with not very much happening and other weeks with too much!

Without further ado, let’s start from the top – the week leading up to the Magor 10k and finishing on the London Summer 10k. A post covering the 13thto the 26thof August to follow shortly…

5k recovery

The preceding weekend had wiped me out, though I still somehow managed to feel really positive on this recovery run. My heart rate came in low to suggest I was not overly worked nor in need of any major recovery…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Enforced recovery

Ha! I spoke too soon, didn’t I? The following day, I felt rough like I had developed the early signs of a cold. My heart rate was elevated and I couldn’t stop snivelling; I also seemed more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature.

Deciding that the then upcoming Magor 10k at the weekend was the priority, I took four whole days off from running – something practically unheard of for me apart from when injured, ill or recovering after a marathon. In fact, it probably was just after the 2017 Yorkshire Marathon when I last took a similar amount of time off from running.

The break did the trick, and just in a nick of time. Truth be told, the several days off from running were quite welcome from the effort of running in the warmth!

Magor 10k 2018 review

Click here for the full write-up on the 2018 Magor 10k.

5k recovery

This was so long ago, I can’t remember if there was anything of note!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles with 3 at marathon pace-ish

This was incredibly challenging and did little to boost my morale. Not only was I running constantly into strong winds, but my Garmin also decided to flake out on me, suffering greatly from GPS interference from almost every tunnel I went through, whether short or long.

I should have just made this a fartlek session!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 mile run-commute

This run was a little shorter than normal because my beloved run-commute bag needed picking up from a tailor, who replaced a worn zip for me. Very much a case of make-do-and-mend – the replacement zip and labour came to £22, whereas an entirely new bag would have set me back at least £60! And before anybody asks, I couldn’t get it replaced as a warranty job because the bag itself is almost three years old…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

I could tell within minutes of starting that this would be a run of attrition. The humidity was really something and, for me, the least favourable weather condition. It’s just doubly-draining to run in humidity, where I’m losing sweat from trying to cool down, but not actually cooling down at all due to the sweat having nowhere to evaporate to!

I was wiped out upon finishing and quite glad that I didn’t have a looming marathon to train for.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The parkrun Running Challenges Google Chrome extension

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Running Challenges extension – available for Google Chrome and Firefox browsers

Fairly recently, a parkrun Running Challenges extension for the popular Google Chrome web browser (and even more recently, Firefox) was launched.

I realise that the above heading may make little to no sense for many, so allow me to elaborate.

What’s an extension?

An add-on, of sorts. They provide additional functionality not natively available in the Google Chrome browser.

What are the “Running Challenges”?

In parkrun parlance, there are some phrases and terms that frequently crop up from time to time. Terms such as Groundhog Day (two identical times, achieved consecutively), Stopwatch Bingo (every second, from :00 to :59 achieved), Regionnaire (all events in a region visited), so on and so forth. These are unofficial challenges that make parkrun even more fun than usual – kinda like sprinkles on ice-cream.

These challenges existed long before the existence of the extension, but what the extension does is handily do all the tallying and cross-referencing for you! For example, I had no idea I had :01 in the Stopwatch Bingo challenge elusively preventing me from completing the challenge!

The extension also provides fascinating statistics, such as furthest event visited from your home event, closest event yet to be visited, and more.

I’ve since been poring over the additional detail afforded. If you do choose to install, be prepared to waste a lot of time – you have been warned!

Coventry parkrun

With Cannon Hill parkrun temporarily utilising their alternative trail course on Holders Lane, I opted to take the opportunity to head away for a spot of tourism. I’ve nothing against trail courses, and actually quite enjoy them from time to time, though I had little desire to venture on to this route based on local feedback from various friends. With the above said Running Challenges extension in place, it was brought to my attention that Coventry parkrun was the nearest event that I’d yet to visit; the deal was done, for I had originally eyed up Cannock Chase parkrun.

Situated in Coventry’s War Memorial Park, it took me some 40 minutes to drive there from Kings Heath, even on a quiet Saturday morning. Parking was plentiful and free, courtesy of the neighbouring Park & Ride site that borders the southernmost section of the route.

Size-wise, the park felt pretty vast and you’d have little idea you were in Coventry, based on the lack of visible surroundings. The start and meeting area are situated next to the War Memorial monument, which aren’t difficult to miss.

Embarking on my warm-up, I could feel the undulations that a number of my peers had warned me about from their own racing experiences within the park. I was pretty tired from my spate of summer training and racing, and there were noticeable gusts of wind that struck – trying to stay under 20 minutes was the goal for the morning. The toilets at the café weren’t open before 09:00, and the additional toilets that were open beforehand couldn’t be found…

The War Memorial monument casts an impressive presence over the pre-run briefing. Looking around me, the crowd in attendance was as diverse as Cannon Hill’s, with a similar total number. There are few neighbouring events that take place on exclusively paved paths, so Coventry parkrun largely suffers from the same situation Cannon Hill parkrun finds itself in. Kenilworth Running Club fielded much of the volunteers for that morning, also taking the opportunity to promote their upcoming half marathon.

The start line funnel felt very similar to Cannon Hill, where I slotted myself in on the second row to allow those that knew the route to lead the way.

The start was frantic, with a horde of Kenilworth runners charging off. I chose to hang back and cruise at sub-20 pace to see who would drift into contact with me, hoping to use them for drafting assistance on that blustery, sunny and humid morning. As luck would have it, a Coventry Triathlete running a steady pace came into view, allowing me to lazily drop into place within his slipstream.

The two lap course takes in more than the southern half of the park, entirely on undulating paved paths. On tired legs, I found this deceptively challenging and upon reviewing the elevation profile after the fact, very little of the course takes place on truly flat ground.

Out volunteering was an older gent, who had racked up 200 volunteer stints at the event to much applause. Marshalling around 2/3 of the way into the lap, he wore a large comedy foam hand to receive many high-fives from passing runners. I laid one on him and thanked him, though quickly realised that the foam hand had probably never been washed… Yuck! Thankfully, I later found out that it only debuted that morning and had never been seen before.

Entering the second lap, the wind and humidity were getting to me and other runners. The Coventry Triathlete backed off the pace and I had to fend for myself. When it wasn’t windy, the course climbed and when the course descended, the wind struck! The second time around, I was able to better capitalise on the long downhill stretch to put me back in touch with two runners further ahead in the field that I’d wanted to latch on to. Pace-wise, I was doing fine and would comfortably finish in fewer than 20 minutes.

With around 800m remaining, I opted to speed up and finish strong and overtook several flagging runners. With around 200m remaining, I kicked once more, only to narrowly avoid calamity when another finishing runner drifted into my path whilst chasing a better racing line; I warned him of my presence, to which he was incredibly apologetic and drew side-by-side with me. With just 100m to go, he verbally challenged me to a sprint; I accepted and the duel was on! Whilst I had the initial lead, he was better placed to take advantage of the rapidly approach narrow funnel and had a little more in reserve as he hadn’t kicked from 200m out, beating me to the line by less than a second.

We finished in 19:42 and 19:43, respectively, and he was definitely the better runner with an 18:32 course best to his name. Adding to that, I measured the course long by almost 70m to officially be the longest parkrun I’d ever participated in to make that 18:32 even more impressive.

Speaking with Sam and a few of the locals afterwards, they agreed that the course is more challenging than it first appears, though commented that a reverse version of the course was utilised in the event’s earlier days, which was perceived to be slightly easier.

It was nice to have visited, and I’m sure I would probably visit again if I lived closer.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to Brindley Place and back

Sadly, it’s been so long since completing this run that I don’t remember anything from it, apart from the warmth and humidity!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Another break from running

I had a week away from work to take care of some DIY projects around the home, followed by several days in London with Lis.

Due to the aches from said DIY projects, I had no appetite to head out even for easy runs. In total, I abstained from running for a whole five days, beating the previous fortnight’s four!

Finsbury parkrun

With four days in London, including a Saturday, I had my pick of the litter in terms of events to visit. There are some handy write-ups online of people that have attained Regionnaire status (Lon-Done), helping me to narrow down my choices.

Having already visited Bushy and Fulham Palace parkruns in 2015, the logical choices were events closest to our King’s Cross-based hotel: Highbury Fields, Mile End and Finsbury. Highbury Fields was the closest by around 800m and has the reasonably unique honour of featuring 5x laps. Mile End was the furthest away, again by only a negligible difference, and featured a section on canal towpath. Finsbury parkrun was the closest to what a traditional parkrun would be considered, i.e. taking place within a park. I settled on Finsbury parkrun, which was also a doddle to get to by Tube, being only a single station away on the Victoria Line from King’s Cross. I invited my fellow 2017 Yorkshire Marathoner buddy, Ian Saunders, along for the jaunt for a catch-up, to which he accepted.

Arriving at the park, very vague memories of a former visit to the Fleadh Festival in the early 00s came back to me. My embarrassing music fascination – The Corrs – headlined the event and also played some unreleased songs from their then upcoming album, so I couldn’t resist…

The contrast between then and the now was very much like night and day – the park was largely unrecognisable without the thousands in attendance and all the stages and facilities erected. A friendly local on a bike behind me stopped to ask if I was a parkrun tourist. Stood there in my 250 Club t-shirt (its debut outing), we got talking and she very kindly pointed out the start and meeting point, along with a brief description of the course. Before parting ways, I asked her if it was that obvious I was a tourist that morning. She laughed and explained her reasoning to me: it was only 08:20 and I was very early (she actually had an errand to run before running) and she didn’t recognise me, aided by the fact that there are very few 250 Club member regulars at Finsbury parkrun. London gets a bad reputation for being cold and uncaring, but I’ve found all of my London parkrun encounters to be the complete opposite!

Warm-up completed, my assessment was similar to that of Coventry parkrun: undulations and plenty of them!

Before long, Ian appeared. It was great to see him again after the Yorkshire Marathon, where he’s only gone from strength to strength to smash the 3 hour barrier with a near sub-2:50 finish at Edinburgh, and a 1:20 at the London Big Half. If you want to really know somebody, you run a marathon with them and see how they conduct themselves – Ian was the perfect race companion that day in October 2017 and, needless to say, we’ve kept in contact since.

He was nursing an Achilles injury, brought on by a challenge to cover at least 5km every day for a year. I had the London Summer 10k the following day, so only wanted an easy run to reacquaint myself with running after five days without.

Interestingly, like the time I visited Bushy parkrun, Finsbury parkrun assembles everybody in the start funnel and then begins their pre-run briefing. Finsbury parkrun has the unusual feature of a closed to traffic road inside the park, much like you’d find in New York’s Central Park, enabling runners to not be in anybody’s way.

Ian and I were those annoying guys, chatting away at 4:50 per km pace and taking it easy whilst those around us were huffing and puffing in their own challenges. Even with a warm-up under my belt, the undulating course took some getting accustomed to. Paths frequently narrowed and widened, though it mattered not as neither of us chased a time on the two lap course. It was a beautiful morning for running in London, if a touch humid. A vest would have been preferable to the 250 Club t-shirt.

Facilities on our tour of Finsbury Park were impressive, with a 400m athletics track and small accompanying stadium also on view.

Towards the end of lap 1 was a ghastly climb before the course flattened out on its way into the second lap. Continuing with our discussion, I noticed one chap who had largely remained with us since the start and assumed he was using us for pacing, due to remaining fairly stable.

Nearing the finish, Ian had suitably loosened up and decided to kick for the remaining few hundred metres whilst I continued to sit steady. We finished in 23:20 and 24:07, in positions 94 and 112 out of 332, respectively. As you can see, not a huge turnout for a London event, of which they are plentiful. Impressively, a youngster ran 15:55 on the undulating course that very morning to leave both Ian and I wincing in awe.

We stuck around for a coffee afterwards in the café, though there were few who did the same. I was curious to get Ian’s take on his 2:50 marathon and 1:20 half marathon, and whether he had the desire to take them even further. The response was much like my own, where the additional work required does not always measure up against the outcome and we both ultimately concluded may not be worth it.

Travelling back on the Tube, we both bid each other farewell until the next time a race brought us back together.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

London Summer 10k 2018 review

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

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