This week’s running – 27th August to 2nd September 2018

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A bit sweaty at Cannon Hill parkrun’s 8th anniversary – photo by Geoff Hughes

Success is a combination of skill, effort and luck. Read on to find out what my cryptic rambling refers to!

5k recovery

09:00 on a bank holiday Monday, so what’s a guy to do? Silly questions deserve silly answers!

It was eye-opening just how many fellow runners I saw out and about at the same time as me. Perhaps it’s entirely normal and it was just me running outside of routine? Or maybe people had deferred their Sunday runs to Monday, instead?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles with 3 at marathon pace-ish

This was a real challenge due to the unsurprising headwind I ran into. Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t draw any more speed from my legs without significantly ramping up the effort.

Also not helping was the pair of Adidas Adios Boost 3 shoes I wore. In terms of value for money, I’d put over 450 hard miles on them from low-key races and faster training sessions. From about 400 miles onwards, significant portions of the outsole rubber began wearing away to reveal the Boost foam and propulsive plastic shank underneath, only adding to that dead feeling that shoes get towards the end of their useful life. I’ve now since retired the Adios Boost 3, though will look to seek out another pair for I’ve been genuinely very impressed by what Adidas have produced; sure, they’re not as flashy, light or gimmicky as some of Nike’s race shoe offerings, but they’ve been dependable and an utter joy to run in.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

This was supposed to be the beginning of a 10 day taper ahead of the upcoming Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon. Luck, as it so happened, had other plans for me…

Lis had spent much of the bank holiday away from home, visiting her family and friends back in south Wales. She only went and brought a cold back with her to coincide with me finishing the above 10 mile run! Any seasoned runner will tell you that the most critical time to pick up bugs is the 24-48 hour window after a hard run or race, so I didn’t like the look of my odds.

Well, it seemed my fate was preordained for mild-cold symptoms did appear within 48 hours. All the tell-tale signs that I was coming down with something were present, for I felt lethargic and slightly feverish, and my lips became very dry.

The real test was how I would fare on an easy paced run-commute (without bag) from the city centre. Whilst the pace was normal, my heart rate elevated and was easily 5-10% higher than normal by way of comparison. A little fitness test I have for myself is how quickly my heart rate stabilises after the Holders Lane climb from Cannon Hill Park; this outing took a significant chunk of time before my heart settled back down.

I returned home with my t-shirt completely sodden in spite of the not unusual conditions or pace, further cementing that something was wrong…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

The literal sweatfest continued on into Saturday’s 8thanniversary of Cannon Hill parkrun.

I declared to Simon that I only wanted an easy run, especially as I had the Wolverhampton 10k the following day planned as one final session before the Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon. Simon and I became those guysagain, where we spent much of our run hovering at around 24 minute 5k pace, engrossed in conversation, whilst those around us were putting in 5k race pace efforts. We eventually made contact with Dave Sansom, one of the original Cannon Hill parkrunners from 8 years ago, pushing him on to meet his sub-24 minute goal for the morning.

I finished completely sodden in sweat, with my 250 Club t-shirt doing a bad job of hiding this fact!

Whilst I’ve historically missed every previous anniversary celebration, it did get me thinking that I’ve spent almost 7 years as a parkrunner, with 180 runs at Cannon Hill.

Here’s to the next 7 years!

And here’s the Strava data for this run.

Wolverhampton 10k 2018

Needless to say, the race at half marathon pace didn’t happen.

I said at the beginning of this post that success is a combination of skill, effort and luck. I’ve got the first two, but I always seem to run short of the third item, especially this year. As my PBs become harder to come by, so too does the frustration increase as more and more setbacks come my way.

Thankfully, I’m more or less healthy again as I write this entry, so I will be making the 2 hour drive to Lake Vyrnwy to stake my half marathon claim. With a baby due very shortly, I’m no stranger to the fact that my priorities will change, and so I fully intend to adopt a laissez faire approach to running and see where I end up. This summer has sucked all the fun out of running and I’m looking forward to just being able to make it up as I go along for a while, enjoying it simply for what it is and not worrying about what it isn’t.

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This week’s running – 28th of August to 3rd of September 2017

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Me and Dave at the Wolverhampton Half Marathon 2017 – photo by Lis Yu

Week 17 of the 22 week plan. Things didn’t quite go according to plan, but lead up to the Wolverhampton Half Marathon, anyway.

5k recovery with Lis

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

The previous day’s 22 miles left me in bits and suffering from DOMS, along with a creaky left hip. Physically, I could not have covered this recovery run much faster.

Lis wanted to get 6 or so miles in as her final long run ahead of her 10k debut at Wolverhampton, so I ended up driving to the outskirts of Cannon Hill Park to join her partway. Expectedly for a sunny bank holiday Monday, the place was heaving with visitors; of course, many of the numbers were made of runners in training for the spate of local races due to hit shortly.

It was not a particularly good run for either of us. My range of motion was limited and Lis went around a minute per mile too fast in the first half of her run, making for a rather unpleasant second half that had to be cut short. The humidity was also pretty jacked up to further rub salt into wounds.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

4 mile run-commute

This was actually closer to 5 miles, but had to be rounded down to due to a brief stop at the Bullring.

My legs still felt battered and the arch of my left foot also cramped up to confirm just how taxed I was from the 22 miles. At least the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees for a distinct chill in the air, so clearly the warm weather acclimation was still inside me – it just needs to stick around until race day!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

Sadly, a planned session of speed the day before this run did not materialise. I was carrying a bit of fatigue that made me feel lethargic all day in the office, and the possibility of pushing myself over the edge suddenly became very real. Opting that less is more, I sacked the session off, rested for a day, and skipped ahead to this here 10 miler.

Autumn had truly arrived with much cooler conditions and even the beginning of leaves changing colour or even starting to fall on to the towpath.

The intention was simply to cover 10 miles at an easy pace (circa-70% of maximum heart rate) with the odd set of strides thrown in every 0.5 miles. There were dozens of runners and cyclists out and about; I give it about 6 weeks before most disappear and only those desperate or dedicated enough remain with lights and headtorches accompanying their workouts.

There was a touch of anxiety towards the end of this run as I neared my normal peel-off point by Lifford Lane. Reportedly, a group of youths had recently been loitering on the towpath, attempting to push passers-by in. Thankfully, they were nowhere to be seen and there were probably too many people about for them to have tried anything, anyway. Sadly, a similar theme was said to emerge at Cannon Hill Park, where a masked group attempted to wrest a cyclist from their bike. I have been running in Birmingham unphased for a good number of years and often believed the worst that could happen was some heckling; now I’m not so sure…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Wolverhampton Half Marathon the following day, I opted to volunteer as a marshal in a bid to stay fresh and to give my planned pace session every chance of success.

Unexpectedly, we were told that the emergency 3-lap course was to be used, due to the disruption from the neighbouring cricket event. Cue ensuing chaos from many of the marshals and runners being unfamiliar with the course; stood by the bridge, I gave as much notice as possible to the latecomers to ease some of the strain.

Cannon Hill is regularly the second largest event in the UK, so converting to the 3-lap course is never going to be easy. The fastest on lap-3 will be overtaking those on lap-2, who in turn will be overtaking those on lap-1. Congestion will be severe and times won’t be fast – the moaners I encountered on Saturday will need to deal with it! Having said that, plenty of people seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and I’ve never before received so many high-fives in all the times I’ve marshalled.

Simon (who was barcode scanning) and I noticed a few pay and display machines had been installed in the main carpark, and reportedly, in the Russell Road carpark, too. At a rate of £2 for up to 4 hours and £3 all day, so ends an era of free parking at Cannon Hill Park and I wonder what the outcome will look like. However, I do believe the Holders Lane carpark will remain free of charge, though I’m not sure for how long. I do think there needs to be a lower tier of £1 for 2 hours, which would cover most people attending parkrun, or for charging to commence only during peak hours, like at Brueton Park.

Will runner numbers drop at Cannon Hill? Probably. For those where attendance is now habitually ingrained, they will continue to attend and will either suck up the cost, car-share, or will simply run to and from the park like I do to get a warm-up and warm-down in. Those who aren’t particularly precious or loyal to Cannon Hill will most likely defect to another nearby event where parking is free – another 10 minutes of driving in a car is nothing. It’s those who are just beginning to run at Cannon Hill who I think will be put-off, which is a shame. Equally, I dread what effect the charges will have on volunteer numbers. It’s hard enough convincing people to come forward, let alone also charging them £2 to not run… There absolutely needs to be some sort of exemption for the last point, which I’m aware is in practice and works well at other events where parking charges are the norm.

Wolverhampton Half Marathon 2017 review

For the full write-up, please click here.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

Just five weeks to go. After a rocky fortnight or so dealing with my nasal infection, I am now hopefully recovered and ready to hit the remaining two weeks of loaded training before the taper begins. I have such beauties as a 20 mile and a 22 mile run still to be covered, along with a smattering of VO2max and threshold work. Oh, and the medium-long mid-week runs continue…

Yesterday’s Wolverhampton Half Marathon as a pace workout went perfectly to plan. The Robin Hood Half Marathon in three weeks will, hopefully, go just as well for another powerful confidence and training boost. Throw in the power of recovery, carbo-loading, motivation and a shared goal of an official sub-3 pace group, and maybe, just maybe, I can pull this off…

This week’s running – 21st to 27th of August 2017

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Why am I doing this again?

Week 16 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Yes, just 6 weeks remain until race day!

5k – aborted 10 miles

After the previous Sunday’s 22 miles that were cut short to 19, I wanted a little bit of redemption and confirmation that it was just a fluke occurrence. Over 48 hours later, I felt a little more with it and concluded I was at least on the mend… Or so I thought!

Setting off from work, everything felt fine as anticipated. 2 miles in, the effort ramped upwards and I began sweating profusely for what should have been an easy pace to hit. Reaching 5k at Brindley Place, I knew the game was up and called it quits before walking through the city centre to commute back home. More recovery needed to shift the bug!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Achoo!

So, my suspicions were proven correct when my symptoms manifested into a full on bout of nasal infection. Runny nose, congestion, sneezing fits, fatigue and headaches – reads like the back of a box of cold medication!

The congestion and snot I could deal with, but it was the fatigue and feeling of being packed out with cotton wool that prevented me from even running at an easy pace. I’ve tried many times over the years to run whilst still viral and I’ve concluded I’m actually better off just waiting it out.

Riverfront parkrun

Originally as part of my marathon plan, I had the Severn Bridge Half Marathon down as a glorified marathon pace session. That all went up in smoke when I missed out on the previous week’s 22 miles, so I opted to skip the race in favour of another bash at 22 miles. Lis and I were in Wales anyway to visit family, so a bit of parkrun tourism was in order.

Also, originally as part of my plan, was a visit to the recently launched Caldicot parkrun. Flat and very straight over 2 laps, it was to be my 21st different location – sod’s law, then, that it was cancelled! Lis wanted to get a parkrun in as some race prep ahead of her own 10k debut, so we swapped Caldicot out with the similarly flat Riverfront parkrun, which I’d already recce’d several months ago.

The effort was always meant to be just under 20 minutes, but with numbers down due to the half marathon the following day, the opportunity to place highly was on offer.

From the line, a group of four shot off and forged a sizable gap ahead of the chase group and me. Their pace was far too tasty, so I hung back with everybody else, seemingly pacing for around 20 minutes. The first km rolled in at 4:03, which I concluded was too slow and felt too easy, especially as my legs felt incredibly fresh after several days without and also confirmed I was pretty much healthy again.

I pressed on alone and surprised myself with how effortless it felt. Conditions were damn near-perfect for swift times, with low wind and marginally cooler temperatures. Before too long, a member of the group ahead came into view and I moved from fifth to fourth with ease. 2km ticked by with 3:53, which was more like it!

Nearing the halfway switchback, I could see second and third place had been concluded with the two now running solo; third place continued to slow and it was almost certain I would podium that morning. Reaching halfway, I was caught off-guard when the marshal asked me to cut out a bridge that formerly made up part of the course (later revealed due to instability!) 3km came in for 3:51.

The time came to strike. A short surge allowed me to overtake, remaining on the throttle until completely clear; I heard his cadence increase momentarily in an attempt to tuck into my slipstream, though it dropped back down again after a few seconds as I pushed on.

Second place continued to drift in and out of sight on the horizon, but with a sizable gap between us, it was tricky to gauge whether I was closing on him or not. 4km remained steady with 3:50.

As the remaining distance ticked by, it remained dicey whether I would catch the guy ahead, or not. He looked back at me a few times and I knew he was hurting, simply based on how fast he’d gone out and how long he spent running alone. With perhaps 400m remaining, I was within touching distance and with 300m to go, I kicked with purpose and dared not look back. Passing by some windows, I could see there was nobody on the edge of my reflection; nonetheless, I continued kicking all the way for the line, just in case he had a little something in reserve for the final drag ahead of the finish.

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Bridesmaid once again…

Turned out I was quite comfortably in second place by some 9 seconds!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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Lis’ fourth different parkrun venue

After obligatory handshakes and congratulations to the third and fourth place guys (the winner had disappeared, finishing some 90 seconds earlier!), I gathered my things and cheered Lis in as she made her way for the finish.

Interestingly, the volunteer co-ordinator for the event stopped us for a chat and asked if we were keen to volunteer on occasion; we had to rain on his parade and break it to him that we weren’t from the area, but did our part regularly at Cannon Hill. I know Riverfront has difficulty gathering volunteers like many events, but I am curious to see if the casual enquiry approach yields much uptake or not.

22 miles – to Little Mill and back

Ill or not, the enormity of 22 miles in rural south Wales seemed far more palatable than it did in Birmingham a week prior. There was something to the route that made it, mentally, more manageable, having run it once before in its entirety a year ago.

Anticipating a warm one, I loaded up with two flasks of Coca-Cola and stowed two gels away into my ultra vest – I didn’t want to take any chances and needed to ensure the run was a success, identifying that there’s little-to-no margin for error left in my plan.

Expectedly, the first couple of miles were slow, what with my impromptu race at Riverfront parkrun only 24 hours earlier. Gradually, the pace came and I found myself quite happily hovering at 8:00 to 8:10 miles for much of the second half – by pure coincidence, there was even a pub I passed at 10.5 miles, called “The Halfway House”!

The effort markedly increased at around 15 or 16 miles, notably due to the sun reaching its midday peak overhead. A cold garden hose would have worked wonders!

The final 2 miles were a very good simulator for the closing stages of my marathon. Whereas miles flew by earlier, I found myself counting down to trees only 100m ahead to get me through the grind. Thankfully, I’d also rationed my supplies well, leaving just a few sips to keep me company when things felt at their worst.

Standing between me and the end was the vicious Saint Andrews Walk Climb Strava segment, coming in at 800m long and peaking with a 14% gradient. Funnily enough, this particular setup mimics the closing 800m of the Yorkshire Marathon, albeit with less intensity – at least I’ll be well prepared!

Upon finishing, I was spent as the accompanying photo at the top of this post will attest to. I poured 3 or 4 pints of water over myself to cool down, whilst necking a further 3 or 4 pints to rehydrate. Intriguingly, my quads were also smashed – something I don’t recall happening a year ago on exactly the same route. My only explanation is the steep descent at 19 miles must have done a number on them, whereas I may have simply negotiated the downhill section better in 2016. That and my legs had probably lost a bit of resilience from being away on holiday and a further unplanned lower mileage week.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

A week of two halves, with the second half being completely unrecognisable from the first!

I have just one 20-21 mile run and a 22 mile run remaining in the plan. I’ve always applied the basic goal within a marathon plan of my five longest runs equating to 100 miles or more; all being well from here on out, I should total some 105 miles.

It’s strangely all becoming very real again, with race day creeping and lurking closer and closer!

This week’s running – 2nd to 8th of January 2017

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Unlucky or cursed, you decide!

Motivation and an appetite for running are probably at a record low…

14 miles

I had a feeling this run would be challenging, down to having missed a couple of long runs in recent weeks due to illness. In my mind, I needed this run to go off without issue and that all the work towards the Brass Monkey Half Marathon would not be in vain.

Sadly, I was right and a challenge is what I got. From about mile 12 onwards, I somehow hit the metaphorical wall, due to either being under-fuelled, or burning through too much energy due to lack of recent endurance training.

To make matters even worse, an Achilles niggle crept back in and made itself known. Thankfully, the pinching sensation subsided once I was fully warmed up.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

When it rains, it pours

Becoming ill once and DNFing a race is unlucky. Becoming ill again shortly afterwards is unfortunate. Then picking up an injury, no matter how minor, is damn unfathomable, but it’s happened.

I took a few more days off from running in the hope that the Achilles niggle would clear itself up, losing yet more training time.

Plenty of gentle massage, occasionally with ibuprofen gel or Deep Heat, was just the ticket. I was still suffering from a lack of motion range, but crucially, any sensations of pinching or bruising had subsided.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

My 2 mile test jog to Cannon Hill Park confirmed I was able to at least jog, pain-free. My 200m set of strides with Simon and Nigel confirmed I was at least able to cover a short distance at speed, pain-free.

I wanted to see what kind of shape my cardiovascular system was in, and it wasn’t pretty. Going out hard over 5k prior to illness, I was somewhere in the region of 18:30 to 18:40 shape on an average Saturday. I ended up running 19:13 with the following splits:

  • 3:48
  • 3:54
  • 3:57
  • 3:56
  • 3:35

I was pretty much finished at the end and could not have gone any faster. A real contrast to when I could pace somebody to a sub-19 with enough capacity to still be able to speak with snatched sentences! Ever the eternal optimist, I did at least run 5k at what felt like PB effort, pain-free…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Brass Monkey 2017 outlook

I’ve made the difficult decision to treat the upcoming Brass Monkey Half Marathon as a swift training run. A real shame because it’s one of the flattest and fastest half marathons I have access to each year.

With everything that’s happened in the last five or so weeks, I’m in no fit state to be chasing sub-85 over 13.1 miles, and would only be setting myself up for an almighty fall if I did chase it. I’ve recast my objective to simply dip under 90 minutes as a marathon target pace run.

I’m obviously disappointed, though have chalked it up as the recreational hazards of running competitively, even if I am just competing with myself. I will have to get used to disappointment from here on out; somebody recently said to me their 10k PB was more than two years old, yet they’re still as motivated as ever to put the graft in.

The hunt for replacement races begins…

 

 

This week’s running – 26th of December 2016 to 1st of January 2017

2017

I was finally on the mend after the misery of being ill! Oh, and welcome to 2017!

The Big Run Commuting Survey

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Being interviewed for Simon Cook’s Big Run Commuting Survey

Many months ago, I completed a survey about my experiences as a run-commuter. In fact, it was so long ago that I’d completely forgotten I participated until I received an email from its organiser, Simon Cook, asking if I would participate in an interview to cover my responses in more depth. Despite not formally belonging to any sort of running group affiliation, I do very much identify myself as a member of the running community and feel duty-bound to help where I can.

During the interview, we deep-dived into questions, such as what equipment I utilise when run-commuting, my choice of route, what I think about, and much, much more. Originally stated to last between one and two hours, Simon and I were discussing my thoughts for more than three hours by the very end! I didn’t think there was possibly so much to review, especially for what I still consider is a niche within running, though I was clearly proven wrong.

I promised Simon I would share the link to his survey for further quantitative data, and here it is: The Big Run Commuting Survey. Please complete it, even if you think your experience of run-commuting is limited – Simon wants to also explore why more people don’t run-commute.

6 miles whilst still ill

I grew more and more conscious that with the Brass Monkey Half Marathon looming ever closer, I had missed a few too many long runs as part of this training cycle due to circumstances beyond my control. On this particular day, it was almost two weeks since my previous distance run of any significance; prior to that run, it was another two weeks since the last one… Missing: aerobic and endurance ability. Reward for its safe return.

Grabbing the bull by the horns, I embarked on the long-delayed 15 mile run that was scheduled.

After two miles or so, I very quickly identified I was still unwell, albeit at least coming to the end of my ailments. The perceived effort of running was far greater than anticipated, and empirical feedback from my Garmin and heart rate monitor confirmed as much. Prior to being hit by the lurgy, I was able to run between 7:30 and 8:00 per mile at distance, in exchange for around 70% of maximum heart rate. On this occasion, I was barely clearing 8:40 per mile and clocking in at 75%+ of maximum heart rate! Needless to say, I cut the run dramatically short and turned around for home after just over 3 miles.

Here’s the Strava data for this rather demoralising run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

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Cheeky drafting assistance – photo by Geoff Hughes

This was the first of three Parkruns over the weekend, thanks to the next day’s New Year Double. It was nice to be back at my home event with the familiarity doing my soul a lot of good. The strategy was to keep the effort and pace at around half marathon levels for some specificity, but also to avoid crocking myself before having completed all three planned runs.

Spending much of the run with Huw Jones and Matthew Lewis, I cheekily took shelter in their slipstream to facilitate the need for ease. We even spotted GB triathlete elite, Jodie Stimpson, as we approached the triangle.

Splits were pretty much bang on to pave the way for a 19:44 finish:

  1. 3:57
  2. 3:58
  3. 4:02
  4. 3:59
  5. 3:48

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

New Year’s Day Double

Brueton Parkrun

This was my third New Year’s Day Double, and second specific pairing of Brueton and Perry Hall events. I was joined by Simon Bull, who I had convinced to come along after successfully talking him into also partaking in a Christmas Day Parkrun a week prior.

The challenge of the New Year’s Day Double isn’t so much being able to run both (pace and effort management), but rather simply being able to stay loose and warm between runs – tricky with the 2017 weather of freezing cold rain… There were plenty of familiar faces as mad as Simon and I, taking on their first of two Parkruns.

The organisers opted to move the start and finish a few hundred metres to facilitate swift getaways for those moving on to a second event afterwards. What this meant for runners was an incredibly slow and congested start, not helped by an inaudible “Go”, and the initially narrow path and several turns thrown at us.

With the slow opening, I had some work (14 seconds or so) ahead of me to jump back on-board the sub-20 train. Within just the first 2km, I was pretty much soaked to the bone and struggling to stay warm with the wind also tearing into me. I still wasn’t fully recovered from the previous day’s 5k, and lack of sleep meant I was pretty much running on fumes.

Even with a kick at the end, I still narrowly missed out on a sub-20 finish to land 20:02. Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Once regrouped with Simon, we hightailed it out of Solihull and made our way over to Perry Hall’s event.

Perry Hall Parkrun

We first had to make two pit stops: one to pick-up my wallet from home, and two to fuel up the car. Thankfully, we were still lucky enough to bag one of the final spaces in the car park before it filled up shortly after our arrival.

With not enough time to get an adequate second warm-up in, the perishing cold rain hit us hard and then the shivering began… A knowing nod, like a badge of honour, was given to those we identified earlier from Brueton Parkrun.

Out on the course, it became obvious very quickly that I wasn’t going to even come close to sub-20. My legs were fooked, my clothes and shoes were heavy from the rain, and the wind picked up to slam into runners.

I ran Perry Hall’s new course for the first time several weeks ago, though I was unsure of whether I preferred it or not. I’ve now concluded I prefer the former two lap configuration with grass over the new three lap course with multiple switchbacks; I find the turnaround points have a tendency to kill pace and momentum and require a certain skill or finesse to navigate efficiently – talents that I lack.

In the end, I finished with 20:45, though was pleasantly surprised to finish in sixth place, and could have finished fifth with just a little more welly at the end.

A well-deserved rest and a hot shower beckoned! Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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

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Curse that Ed Miliband…

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

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

Illness, part two

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

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

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

Cardiff Parkrun

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

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

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Newport Parkrun

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

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

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

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 4th to 10th of January 2016

flu

Time for the seasonal cold to strike!

This week was mostly about recovering from a cold…

5k from work

My throat was still kinda sore, and just in time for the much dreaded return to work. I was still in the early signs of a cold, but I’d been able to dodge them in the past through extensive gargling with warm salt water. My head still felt like it was packed with cotton wool and general fatigue lingered on the periphery, but I decided to run home from the office anyway ala my usual “MTFU” attitude when it comes to running; the pace was definitely slower than normal!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Achoo!

Dear, oh dear. I felt ropier and ropier as the week progressed; not helped by the incredibly busy schedule at work due to various projects starting and nearing completion. With the Brass Monkey Half Marathon less than a fortnight away, caution was the plan of approach and I reluctantly took an enforced running break from Tuesday through to Friday.

Truth be told, the several days of rest did me a world of good. Not only did my body get a chance to recover, but mentally I was able to recharge as well. I also slept incredibly well, with some nights clocking in with over 10 hours’ worth of ZZZs!

Cannon Hill Parkrun

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Time to give my confidence a kick up the arse – photo by Geoff Hughes

My return to running for the week coincided nicely with Cannon Hill Parkrun. I felt much more with it, aided by a lovely cocktail of potions and pills to have me feeling in positive spirits.

History has typically shown the first one or two events at Cannon Hill each New Year draws in vast numbers of runners, new or not – I’m sure it’s the same at other events. Saturday didn’t disappoint with 688 in attendance (second highest attendance), and could have still been higher had there not have been a cross-country fixture that took place later that afternoon.

The warm-up with Nigel felt fantastic. My legs felt incredibly fresh, as one would expect from four days without running, whereas the norm would be only one or even zero rest days and heavy legs. There was a bounce in my step where I couldn’t recall the last time it was experienced. Our 200m effort was equally as good, prompting me to have a good old bash out on the course to see what effect the cold had on me, if anything.

Bizarrely during the run briefing, a large crowd of people suddenly walked off for the start line to leave only more-learned regulars behind. I had to make a beeline for the front to avoid being hemmed in. I’m still scratching my head over what triggered the random mass exodus from the bandstand!

Off the line, I went for it and was surprised to see myself in fifth place, with the Garmin screaming to slow down from the 3:21 per km pace and eventually settled at 3:39 for the split.

I continued to feel strong, but knew it couldn’t possibly last. Several runners came past me to send me down to twelfth place and then eighteenth place. I lacked fellow runners around me to work with, further increasing the effort to maintain pace. 3:46 came out on the other side for my troubles.

I was all aboard the pain train for the third and fourth km. My breathing was laboured and my body refused to go with the effort due to the lactic acid that was in free flow. I pulled all manner of gurns on my face in the hope of externalising the torture. 3:58 and 4:01 were the third and fourth km splits, respectively.

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A one-way ticket on the pain train – photo by Lis Yu

With only a few hundred metres to go, I reached the MAC and was helpfully informed by my Garmin that I’d just ticked past 17:00 minutes by a few seconds. A lady running with a dog, though not with Parkrun, weaved all over the path to cut me up pretty badly. “ON YOUR RIGHT! ON YOUR RIGHT!” I bellowed with only mere steps before I went clattering into her; thankfully, she finally maintained a straight line and a quick evasive sidestep from me prevented an all mighty pile-up. I ratcheted the pace up one notch, though my Garmin confirmed there would be no new PB that morning as I ran past the tearoom; a sub-19 finish was still available to signal one final kick that carried me up that infernal hill, producing 18:58 after being ill for much of the week.

I was in bits at the end and had to kneel down once clear of the finish funnel. A younger runner thanked me for pulling him through to a new PB on much of the course; it was a shame he couldn’t keep up with me where we may have been able to push the pace to another level entirely.

Whilst not a PB, I got the confidence boost I wanted and this run became my tenth sub-19 5k – it’s no longer just a fluke! runbritain rankings enjoyed watching me put myself through hell and has rewarded me with a -1.7 performance handicap, also resulting in a drop from 4.6 to 4.4 on my overall handicap.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Canal half marathon

The weather outside was deceptive on this long run. Whilst the sun shone brilliantly and encouraged me to break out my sunglasses, the temperature was bitterly cold, especially when faced by a headwind.

This was the final long run before next week’s Brass Monkey Half Marathon. Whilst there was little new fitness to be gained from going long, I knew the several days off from running required some attention to get me back on track before things began to feel too alien. In spite of being doped up on all manner of cold remedies, I still had to make liberal use of “snot rockets” to clear myself of all too regular congestion.

There were plenty of runners out on the canal towpaths, with many regular faces including Toby Close and Dave Burton popping up; embarrassingly, I recognised Dave’s Cardiff 10k t-shirt before I realised it was him!

I wanted to slot in two isolated miles at target half marathon pace in a bid to become reacquainted with the effort required. The first mile left me feeling very uneasy, though I’m willing to put that mostly down to the angry headwind that tore into me at the same time. Rather than send my recovery back into a downward spiral, I jettisoned the idea of a second mile at half marathon pace with a view to tackle it again on Tuesday evening’s run.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And here’s the next batch of shorts from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Running rule shorts – 31 to 40

  1. A long-sleeved shirt and shorts will always look better than a short-sleeved shirt with tights.
  2. Owning your own timing chip is like carrying your own pool cue into a bar.
  3. If an injury is bad enough to keep you from running properly, it’s bad enough to keep you from running, period.
  4. You can never have too many safety pins in or on your gym bag.
  5. Increase your mileage no more than 10 percent per week.
  6. For winter runs, a man never regrets opting for wind briefs.
  7. No one sleeps well the night before a race; the night before the night before your race is the important one.
  8. The first runner to crest a hill is the strongest runner of the group.
  9. The last runner to crest a hill is the funniest of the group.
  10. Don’t wear racing flats unless you can back ‘em up.