This week’s running – 26th February to 4th March 2018

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Oops! Wrong Beast from the East!

Gah. The Beast from the East left a trail of destruction and calamity in its wake.

Duisburg 5k tempo

It was that time of the year again where work saw me in Germany to exhibit at a retail technology trade show. A ghastly 06:05 Sunday flight from Birmingham to Amsterdam Schipol to Dusseldorf meant I was knackered before I’d even done any work. Whilst on the flight, I was amazed by the number of 400m tracks I could see from the air and reasoned that, like the US, most schools likely have their own on site.

A fun German running fact for you: the founder of Adidas is the brother of Puma’s founder.

At this point in the week (Monday), I had little to no doubt that I would be toeing up on the startline of the Newport Half Marathon; I wanted an easy taper and this 5k tempo around the streets of Duisburg was my only planned dose of speed in the lead up to the race.

Early signs of the Beast from the East struck Duisburg, leaving me wondering what I was doing in sub-zero temperatures. Leaving the hotel, I had the choice of going left or right on my planned loop; I chose badly and went left, straight into the headwind, which persisted for much of the loop… Each time I passed the same guy on the main street, I could see him looking at me in despair! One of the few things that made finishing more bearable was the thought of the hot power shower in my room and the breakfast buffet waiting for me.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

Damn. The cold temperatures and biting wind followed me home from Germany…

Running on Pershore Road, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of anything. On almost any given day, I can expect to be hit by winds from the south; turning east towards Cannon Hill Park – ah, that’s where the wind was hiding!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Snowy 10k – to Cannon Hill Park and back

Shattered from my several days in Germany and then straight back into the office, I opted to take Friday off in a bid to freshen up ahead of Sunday’s Newport Half Marathon. Except the dreaded Beast from the East had other plans and dumped a whole load of snow across the nation. This was enough to cancel not only my target race, but also the Bath Half Marathon and the Warwick Half Marathon. The only races to survive were the Cambridge Half Marathon and the Big Half in London. I was kicking myself because I’d seriously considered the Big Half, and even had a Good For Age place that I’d chosen not to take up. Rubbing salt into my open wound, the Big Half also turned out to be one helluva fast race; my buddy, Ian Saunders, who kept me company for much of the 2017 Yorkshire Marathon, went on to run a blistering breakout performance of 80:39 (congrats!)

Full of energy from a light week, I headed out in the snow to Cannon Hill Park for 10k. The worst of the snow had not dropped just yet, so it was rather odd to see long stretches in the park with no snow at all, and then long stretches, several inches deep. Conditions only worsened as Friday rolled into Saturday…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

8 miles inc Freedom Cannon Hill parkrun

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The two Andy Ys at Cannon Hill Park – photo by Andy Young

With no race for me to attend on Sunday, I was on the lookout for at least a parkrun to visit. No such luck, either, as it was a complete cancellation blanket for the West Midlands. Rather than waste the morning, I still made my way to Cannon Hill Park in the hope that a few die-hards would also be looking to cover a freedom run on the course.

Getting to the park was challenging, as the snow on the pavements had been churned up quite badly. Once I was in the park, things got easier but I still felt like my shoes were at their limit on occasion; they’re just trail race shoes, so feature a lot less traction than something more purpose-built. Completing one lap of the park and with few other souls about, I was about to wrap things up and head for home when I bumped into the other Andy Y – Andy Young! We had the same idea and got right to it.

We discussed the cancellations of the region, both unequivocally agreeing that it was the right thing to do. Whereas we’d both ran in several of the snowed-out Cannon Hill events of 2013, the parkrun landscape was very different back then; anybody who ran in the snow was likely better able to handle themselves and probably had appropriate kit, whereas nowadays, the field is so varied and diverse that a much more holistic view to safety needs considering.

Upon finishing, I declared myself ready to head back for home, whereas Andy Young opted to get another 5k in to work up to half marathon distance for the morning!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 snowy-slushy miles – to The Vale and back

Eugh. Now that was hard work! The Beast from the East finally departed our shores and temperatures began returning to normal, meaning I had snow and slush to contend with.

I wore my trail shoes again, but anybody that owns trail shoes will know how jarring they can be for running on the road and pavement. And that was a regular occurrence, as I found myself moving from pavement to snow to slush and back again… Slush turned out to be the most difficult terrain to run through, as it absorbed my energy and soaked my shoes for added weight.

I’m hopeful majority of the remaining snow will have cleared by the middle of next week, returning conditions to normal for March. Unsure of when the postponed Newport Half Marathon will be rescheduled for, I duly entered the Coventry Half Marathon for 18th of March in a desperate bid to try and capture and benchmark some of this newfound fitness. Let this be a lesson for everybody that when you’re feeling good on race day, capitalise on it as you never know what might step in your way!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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This week’s running – 22nd to 28th of February 2016

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A map for my time in Duisburg. Just in case!

This week saw me running in Germany, and trying to get back into some sort of a routine once I returned.

Duisburg runaround

Whether on business or leisure, it’s no surprise that I take my running shoes with me almost everywhere; I’ve covered some distance on three different continents.

Not wanting a repeat of my work trip to Peterborough last autumn, I made sure I was better prepared to avoid becoming lost whilst in Germany. Firstly, I only had enough time each morning to cover about 5k at a leisurely recovery pace, so that prevented me from wandering off too far from the hotel. Secondly, I plotted routes that utilised laps around the hotel. And thirdly, I printed off a map!

The routes were simple, thanks largely to the layout of Duisburg with its easy to navigate roads. Aside from Parkrun, it’s rare that I run before 9am, and my body reluctantly went with me on the early starts, ignoring pace in the process. The late nights, copious amounts of German food and beer also did little to help each morning as I laced up… Weather and temperature-wise, there was no difference compared with the UK; a t-shirt and a pair of shorts sufficed, though did attract some strange looks from locals.

I enjoyed my plods in Duisburg and found the part I stayed in to be pretty conducive to running, unlike the time I tried running in Manchester city centre, where everywhere conspired to derail me.

Here and here is the Garmin data from the two runs.

10 canal miles

With all of last week and half of this week dramatically scaled back, I desperately wanted to restore some normality. With only four weeks until the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, that leaves me with only three training weeks and one taper week to get ship-shape. That and Germany left me 3lbs heavier than normal…

Thursday was my usual ten miles along the Birmingham canal network. I couldn’t bring myself to slot in several miles at marathon pace, and instead settled on nine steady miles at 7:30 pace after an initial one mile warm-up. It was refreshing to not have to battle with any gusts of wind out there for a change!

Thick cloud cover meant there were some GPS issues out on the run. Lock-on was easily achieved, but I could tell distance tracking was off, based on my normal checkpoints arriving early or late relative to what was recorded. Strava, which does some slight pace and distance smoothing, is never normally too far out from Garmin Connect, but it was absolutely useless on this run where it wildly over-estimated how fast mile 1 and 3 were compared to reality.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

After two weeks without a fast 5k, my mind was itching to get back out there. If only my body was so willing!

I decided to have another bash at running a slightly slower opening split of 3:45/km (success) in a bid to try and even out the middle section from sagging too much. Well, easier said than done; I ended up running large stretches alone and even when Dave went past me at about halfway, I didn’t have the necessary oomph to go with him. He went on to run a very tidy 18:54, claiming his stake on last week’s results blip of being issued somebody else’s 18:57 result. I dragged my arse back in with 19:10 on the Garmin, though seem to have been promoted to 19:07 through yet another results blip.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

I know exactly what happened with this performance. I was still dog tired from Germany and the fastest bit of running I’d done up to that point was a bit of marathon paced running almost 10 days prior. I’m sorely lacking in VO2 max development, so will address that with some focused pace work during next Tuesday’s fartlek session, even if it goes against the free-form ethos of what a fartlek run should be.

14 canal miles

Whilst my short runs are getting slower, my long runs are getting faster. Specificity reigns supreme!

I knew I wanted to get the majority of this run in at around sub-7:30 miles, with a sprinkling of marathon pace for two miles or so. Mission accomplished, with the sub-7:30s coming in a little closer to 7:20s, though the marathon paced miles were much tougher than they should have been due to fairly strong headwinds that hit on the return leg.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.