This week’s running – 5th to 11th of January 2015

Struck down by cold

Not again… The one thing runners fear before a race!

This week was about being ill and trying to recover…

Achoo!

Almost as if decided by fate, I became ill on the first day back at work. For the last 3 years, I have always managed to pick up a cold either during the Christmas-New Year break, or upon returning to the office. You see, my body functions best on a routine and has a certain rhythm that it likes to go at; disrupting it has some consequences. Of course, my crazily high mileage of last week could have also had some part to play in catching a cold.

Good news is I’m pretty much back to full strength with only some minor congestion as a sign that I was ill at all. And not a moment too soon, which brings us nicely to the next item…

Brass Monkey Half Marathon

A couple of months ago, I made sure I was up stupidly early to make sure I got a place in the Brass Monkey Half Marathon – one of the UK’s flattest half marathons.

The plan is to finish with a very modest PB of only a minute or so. I feel like I’m in better long distance shape than I was at the Cardiff Half last autumn, which I felt I held back in ever so slightly. Aerobic training has been my bread and butter this winter period, with less focus on quality sessions. I’m aiming to get to mile 10 at an average pace of 6:40 per mile; anything left in the tank will be left out there in the final 5k.

Of course, there’s always something in the background conspiring against me and this time, it’s the weather. It’s crazy windy out there up north with the long range forecast reporting a 13mph easterly wind.

Tune in again this time next week for the usual race report.

Jantastic 2015

Jantastic has started and I already know I’m not going to score 100%. I’ve only logged 4 out of 5 runs this week and I’m going to have to play a joker next week to compensate for the race week taper. Normal service should resume soon.

Look me up and add me as a rival if you’d like.

Great Birmingham 10k

Great Birmingham 10k elevation

Not the flattest or the fastest 10k for these parts…

Shortly after last October’s Great Birmingham Run, the organisers announced they would be laying on a 10k race, unimaginatively called the Great Birmingham 10k. The route has just been announced and, like its unimaginative name, does little to inspire. In fact, the eagle-eyed amongst you will even see how remarkably similar the course is to the Great Birmingham Run, sharing much with its older sibling including the exhausting hill towards the end. Discussing the course with Ed, he was the voice of reason and highlighted that there would be few other original route options, starting and finishing in Birmingham City Centre.

great_birmingham_10k_course

Or the most original of courses…

But anyway… At a cost of £25 to enter, it’s neither cheap nor a guaranteed PB for many. At least with the Cardiff 10k at £25, you get a swift course where you stand some chance of a crack at a PB, along with a warm fuzzy feeling about a proportion of the entry fee going to charity (Kidney Wales). I will most likely give this race a miss, unless I have a sudden change of heart nearer to race day due to peer pressure or some such…

Faster Road Racing – 5k to Half Marathon

Faster Road Racing - 5k to half marathon

From 50% of the team that brought you Advanced Marathoning

During my first marathon training phase, I discovered a handy little book called Advanced Marathoning by Pfitzinger and Douglas. Affectionately referred to as “P&D”, it has developed almost a cult-like following over the years; such is the respect of its schedules and advice contained within.

At the tail-end of 2013, the Marathon Talk podcast released a pretty hefty interview with Pete Pfitzinger, where it was revealed he was also working on a new book with a focus on distances below 26.2 miles. Over a year later, that book has finally seen the light of day, and my copy recently landed as a little belated Christmas present to myself.

10k along Hagley Road

I finally felt fit again to venture out for a run on Thursday. Nothing too strenuous; I only wanted to test the legs and lungs out and need not have worried – everything felt fantastic and simply clicked into place.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Judging by how ferocious the winds were lashing against my window the night before, I was pretty sure conditions would be far from ideal at Cannon Hill. Newport Parkrun had to cancel their event due to a massive tree branch that had come down right on the course!

I had a rather nice catch-up with Suz West and Fergal Bloomer upon arriving at the bandstand. Fergal was thrilled to hear about my first place finish at Perry Hall Parkrun and confessed to me that he’d often had dreams of leading a race, only to go the wrong way at a crucial turn.

The warm-up lap of the park confirmed the winds were out in full force that morning; my target of a 19:25ish finish was quickly going up in smoke.

There were plenty of new faces at the new runner briefing – lots of New Year’s Resolution chasers no doubt. Simon joked about them being late to the party, having missed the New Year’s Day run and last week’s normal event.

Toeing up at the start line, I could tell how busy it was from all the new faces up at the front. There was a cross-country meet later that afternoon, so imagine how many more runners there could have been with a true-blue full attendance.

I quickly found myself drafting behind Andy Young for the first lap. I figured he must have been taking things easier than normal since he’s usually much faster. I wasn’t complaining since he was shielding me from the onslaught of the wind. The pace for 19:25 felt perfectly fine, with hardly any stress at all.

Going into the second lap, I decided to break out on my own and in retrospect, this was when I lost my opportunity to set a new course PB at Cannon Hill. The wind hit me hard and I tried my best to move ahead into the slipstream of the guy ahead of me, wasting energy in the process. Andy Young came gliding past me, making it look effortless; I needed a moment for recovery and knew I’d blown it.

The rest of the run was pretty much by the numbers, bar the closing stage. In the last 800m, I found myself next to a younger runner and we were both slipping from the pace for a fast finish. I told him we needed to work together to catch the guy in front. He surged for a few seconds and got us halfway there; I picked up the rest of the task and led both of us to the final 400m. Our target still had some fight inside him and continued to lift the pace, with me in pursuit. The final hill hit me but must have hit him harder because he slowed dramatically at the top, allowing me to pip him to the finish by a second or two.

My Garmin threw 19:25 back at me, so right on target and without feeling too uncomfortable. Oddly, the official results bumped me up by two seconds for 19:23. Simon also mentioned a quirk to me where his original finish of 100 had become 101 in the results, so clearly some manual adjustment here or there had occurred.

All in all, rather happy with the performance and it bodes well ahead of next week’s race.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 miles of Birmingham canals

Another Sunday, another long run.

The sun was shining with blue skies aplenty. The only fly in the ointment were the lashing winds that continued to strike.

The plan was 10 miles at my typical long run pace, but with miles 6-8 at target half marathon pace of 6:40 per mile. Sadly, by the time I’d reached halfway, the winds had knocked it out of me somewhat and not wanting to overcook things, I opted only to cover mile 6 at 6:40 pace. In hindsight, I probably could have eked out the planned 2 miles, but would have risked making recovery that bit tougher.

Bumped into Alex and Iain a few times out there too, for some friendly faces and high-fives.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

There aren’t too many of these entries left from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book, so enjoy them while they last!

Write off the first mile

The first mile or so of any large race is pandemonium, as folks ride a surge of pent-up adrenaline and try to run half a step in front of everyone else.

You’ll see a lot of frantic people jockeying for position during those first few minutes. Ignore them. Be cool. Run your own race. The people sprinting, weaving, and darting around you are wasting tons of energy, and you’ll likely pass them later. Probably sooner than you think.

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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 – 13th to 19th of January

Andy Yu's been taken down by a cold

The cold continued to take me down with it…

Illness strikes

My cold from the previous weekend was worse than ever and left me struggling. My nose was constantly blocked, my head fuzzy and I was frustrated. The last time I suffered from a cold this badly was several years ago when I was (over) training for an autumn half marathon. I don’t think I’m overtraining as part of the marathon schedule I have designed for myself, rather it’s my immune system deciding to flee rather than fight as a response to a particularly busy Christmas and New Year, not helped by throwing myself right back into training immediately after.

The second week of Jantastic was almost a complete write-off; not a great start to a running initiative all about consistency!

All said and done, this week of recovery and down time has had some positive impact where the pressure of getting out to run was completely absent. I decided not to take another step until I was at least feeling recovered so there were no thoughts of guilt passing through my mind. I’ve not had a complete week off from running in years; not whilst I’ve been on holiday or even after last year’s London Marathon where I was back on my feet after only three days. This impromptu week off from running has been most refreshing and has renewed my vigour to continue with my marathon schedule.

Volunteering at Parkrun

As part of my week of no running, I volunteered as a marshal at Cannon Hill Parkrun. I’ve always said if I was ever unable to run then I would volunteer at Parkrun, for example last year when I sustained some weird foot injury in February. I can’t sleep-in much anymore these days anyway, so what else am I going to do with myself on a Saturday morning?

If you’ve never volunteered at your local Parkrun event before, then I highly recommend you take the opportunity to do so. Viewing the event from the eyes of somebody not participating can really be an eye-opener, especially if you’re a mid-pack runner or beyond. There is some real running talent to be seen at every Parkrun and to be able to witness these speedy guys and gals in action is something to be marvelled at. If you care about the annual points table, volunteering also allows you to achieve 100 points for that particular week which has now helped me to get into the top 10 at Cannon Hill (maintaining this will be much harder).

Sadly, volunteering does come with its own downfalls as well. On Saturday, I had my ear chewed off by some disgruntled dog walker out on a mission to have a moan. I love dogs and I fully believe that the park is there for everybody to use. She was having none of this, though, citing that she had been pushed (bumped, more like) before and her dog had also been kicked (unintentionally, I’m sure). I’m sorry but if you choose to go against a gauntlet of several hundred runners then what do you expect to happen? We as Parkrunners use the park for no more than an hour one day of the week; she was probably retired and could walk her dog at any time each and every day, but purposely chooses to do so each Saturday when Parkrun is on. It’s like intentionally driving during rush-hour traffic and then getting upset at all the congestion. When she asked who she could complain to, I told her the run directors could be found at the bandstand; her reply was “I’m not walking all the way there!” and stormed off in a huff. She can’t have been that annoyed and I guess she was just looking to antagonise somebody that morning.

Make that 10 miles, no, 14 miles, no 18 miles!

Sunday was the first time that week where I felt at least close to my normal self. My sinuses were in much better shape and my legs felt positively fresh and ready to go.

The initial plan was to head out and back via the southern canals towards Bournville station, which is just over 10 miles in total. I would then play it by ear as to how I was feeling, having the option to continue down the canal towards Redditch and then turnaround and head home for over 14 miles. The third option was to tack on a visit to Edgbaston Reservoir for two laps, bringing the total to the schedule prescribed 18 miles.

Nutrition-wise, I decided to load up with 750ml of Nectar Fuel and an energy gel; better to have it if I decided to literally go the distance.

I laced up my Nike Kiger trail shoes and took those first few steps, which were a rather odd sensation after not having run for a week. But I felt great; I was out doing what I enjoy and there was no pressure to perform on said run. My Garmin had been set to 8:55 minutes per mile, which I knew was easily achievable whatever the distance would end up being.

There were plenty of fellow runners out and about, taking advantage of the pleasant weather and no doubt fulfilling their New Year’s resolution campaigns. I was trailing behind two other runners for maybe 10 minutes or so before I decided to over-take; one of them jokingly said he wasn’t intending to keep up with me and would let me go.

The condition of the canal towpath varied from decent to outright poor. Mud was thick at its worst but the bigger issue for me were the puddles to contend with. Some were almost as wide as the path, requiring nimble feet to navigate around or longer jumps to avoid entirely. Sadly, my feet did get quite wet and there are few things that can sour a long run more than wet feet.

I reached Bournville station and still felt great, so I ploughed on with my aim to complete 14 miles. The stretch of canal from Cotteridge onwards was a complete mud bath, with a family foolishly trying to take their kid’s pushchair on the less than stable surface.

The return leg of the journey was less pleasant. Mile 8 felt incredibly tough from my recollection where my right knee began to ache; this was most likely an IT band issue where I’ve been neglecting use of my foam roller for several weeks, on top of a week’s worth of sedentary. The exaggerated motion of puddle dodging was also likely taking its toll.

But just like in any long distance race, this bad patch disappeared entirely several miles later. By the time I returned to Brindley Place with 14 miles under my feet, I opted to really sink my teeth in and went ahead with the full 18 miles scheduled for that day.

Venturing out towards the Soho Loop, I exited the canal via a route that Dave had once taken me. Back on street level, I couldn’t actually remember how to get back to Edgbaston Reservoir! I ended up running back towards Spring Hill and taking the long but familiar route to Edgbaston Reservoir, which had the unplanned benefit of bulking up the total distance to only require one lap around the water.

Like with the canal, there were plenty of fellow runners at the reservoir. I started to reach my limit with each step requiring immensely more effort than before. My Nectar Fuel had now run empty and my breathing was becoming laboured. Couple this together with an attempt to run a sub-8 minute mile, making for not a whole lot of fun. Hearing my Garmin beep once I’d reached 18 miles was absolute bliss and I felt like I had really achieved something that day. Only problem now was I did not want to run back home, so I ended up calling Lis to pick me up in the car…

Returning to the flat, I wasn’t as ravenous as I usually am after a long run where in the past, I’ve disgustingly started gorging myself due to hunger. My week’s abstinence from running probably doubled up as a carbo loading session, ensuring I was fully energised to go long. My legs did tighten up later in the day for a funny walk of sorts, though this should remedy itself with some rest and hopefully won’t turn into the dreaded Tuesday legs…

Pacing wise, I’m incredibly pleased with the run where I felt I got it just right. There were a few small blips in the form of miles slower than 9 minutes and miles faster than 8:30, but these can be forgiven in the grand scheme of things. Like my most recent 17 mile long run, this 18 miler is over a minute faster per mile than this time last year so I’m in the right place, training-wise. The upcoming Bramley 20 will really help me to hone race pace and should act as a big confidence booster, or as a whack from the reality hammer that my time target of 3:25 to 3:30 is a fool’s errand.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

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

Learn to use the farmer’s blow

Farmer’s blow

A process by which one clears a nostril of mucus by pinching shut the opposing nostril and exhaling forcefully .

Mastering the farmer’s blow is a must for any runner. A good farmer’s blow is a wonder to behold, satisfying, efficient, and brilliant in its simplicity. A bad farmer’s blow will leave you with a real mess on your hands. Literally.

Here’s how to do it right.

  1. Breathe in through your mouth, like you’re gasping.
  2. Lay a forefinger against one nostril and compress firmly.
  3. Purse your lips.
  4. Cock your hand slightly in the direction of the open nostril and exhale forcefully through your nose.
  5. Repeat with opposite nostril, if needed.

Farmers blow

This week’s running – 6th to 12th of January

Speedwork a-no-go

Just when I thought I was making progress towards reclaiming some speed, Christmas and the New Year had to get in the way. Add a cold for good measure and all that hard work came undone in the space of just two weeks.

I popped into my gym for the first time since before the Christmas break and it was heaving. There were plenty of folks there on New Year’s resolution missions and extra staff on hand to help people become acquainted with the equipment, and to help sign up any passers-by. I still question why people feel the need to commit to a new fitness regime in the New Year? The statistics are there to prove that most people give up by February because they’ve gone at it too hard, too soon, and burnt themselves out before the regime has had a chance to become a habit. Anyway, that’s my moan about people that join gyms in January.

After lacing up, I found the treadmill I typically use was free and jumped on board for my 1 mile warm-up.

Setting the system up at my normal 16kmph speed, I dived right into the first rep. My Garmin left me unsettled by reporting a slower pace than usual; what should have been at or very close to 6 minutes per mile was showing as 6:15 per mile. Had I punched the wrong speed in? Perhaps my footpod was playing up (it was a replacement after I lost the previous one…)? No, the speed on the treadmill display was definitely 16kmph and the footpod had the same calibration factor as the previous one. The only thing left was that the treadmill itself was either inaccurate or had been recalibrated over the Christmas and New Year down time, meaning all my previous indoor runs were no longer accurate.

Accuracy aside, even the slower pace was taking its toll on me and I found it difficult to sustain. My form was there but I didn’t have the speed endurance that day to keep up with the pace. I ended up throwing the towel in after 3 reps, which whilst not a complete set should still leave me with some benefit from the session.

I felt defeated and deflated, and had to walk home in the mother of all rain storms. Woe is me.

Reviewing the run data, I can only conclude that the cold did have an effect on me because my heart rate peaked at 206bpm; my historic maximum (my usual treadmill rep sessions have peaked at around 193bpm). I’ve not been able to get my heart rate to top out at 206bpm since the early summer, so it was a nice confirmation that I still have the capacity but rarely push myself to such heady heights.

Here’s the Garmin data.

6 Hagley Road miles

Looking back at my training for the 2013 London Marathon, there was one area I neglected to focus on and that was race pace training where all of my runs were either dramatically slower than race pace, or significantly faster. Once bitten twice shy – I will be incorporating far more race pace training into my schedule this year.

Thursday has always proven to be a tough training day for me, where it’s nearly the end of a tiring week. I wanted to really give marathon pace a go and shake up the Thursday run.

Setting my Garmin to 8 minutes per mile pace, I headed out to find I had lost satellite lock-on and had to stand around for 5 minutes in the cold before I could start running!

Despite the weariness, 8 minute mile pace felt rather good and this continued to speed up throughout the run for a royal flush (woohoo!). Fingers crossed next week’s Thursday will be equally as positive.

Here’s the Garmin data.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

There were some rumblings on Thursday and Friday about the course condition of Cannon Hill ahead of Saturday’s Parkrun. The park has a tendency to flood during periods of heavy rain and this includes parts of the course, notably the stretch by the lake after the Mac and also a portion towards the triangle. Thankfully, most of the flood waters had dispersed in time for our Saturday jog so normal service would resume.

Attendance seemed good; busy but not crowded. It was only afterwards that I found out Cannon Hill had smashed its previous attendance PB of 434 (achieved thanks to a Parkrun ambassador weekend) with an impressive new record of 481. Must be all the New Year’s resolution folks! Back in the summer, I asked Mary Ross and Helen what they though the upper attendance limit would be and they replied with “around 500”. This figure is based on additional runners around the 20 to 25 minute mark, which is already crowded especially entering the triangle portion of the course. Helen and Mary reckoned 600 could be possible if the additional runners were mostly slower than 25 minutes. Other UK events also achieved new attendance records, including Cardiff with 596 – I can only imagine how insane the startline must have been!

I spotted Nigel who had returned from his break in France. Neither of us were in the mood to chase after a PB, so we agreed to run the course as a tempo run at around 6:45 minutes per mile. I’ve more or less given up all hope that I’m able to achieve 5k PBs at this stage of the year, so I’m better off using Parkrun as an opportunity to simply run hard and try and gain some benefit towards my upcoming half and full marathons.

6:45 minutes per mile was about 8/10 in terms of difficulty; brief conversations were possible but required intent to do so. I rarely get to run at such a pace, missing out on lactate threshold development almost entirely. In the end, we managed to pace it fairly evenly with only a 10 second drop in the second mile, which is a much smaller drop than at almost all other times.

Here’s the Garmin data.

Long run a-no-go

At some stage on Saturday, my cold evolved into the bigger and badder version of itself, making me cough and flaring up my sinuses. I didn’t feel any better come Sunday so I reluctantly cancelled my scheduled 18 miler for a forced recovery day. Thankfully, I have purposely built in additional long runs where I stick with a new mileage distance for two weeks before upping the distance. Sadly, I’ve also had to use a joker in Jantastic already, so I’m not off to a great start.

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

Look before you expel

The human body is an amazing machine. An amazing, disgusting machine. Particularly when you’re running hard, various parts of your amazing body will produce vile substances that must be expelled from various orifices via various processes.

Most runners understand this instinctively, if not through hard experience. Most runners, therefore, are fairly forgiving if they happen to get hit with said substances. (During a run, that is. It is not okay to spit on a fellow runner in, say, the porta potty line or at a dinner party.)

All that said, please make a good-faith effort to ensure the area immediately around you – experts call this Loogie Radius – is reasonably clear of others before you spit, blow, or hawk.

Cardiff 10k 2013 review

For the 2012, 2014 and 2015 races, please click the following:

Cardiff 10k PB of 40:39

Chip timing rounded me up to 40:39 – booooo!

This year’s Cardiff 10k was too good to simply chuck into another week of running post, so it gets its own deserved entry.

My first experience of the Cardiff 10k was last year in 2012 when Elsa and I ran it in glorious sunshine. At that point, I had never raced a 10k before and it actually shaped up to be a very enjoyable distance to compete in, with the pros of 5ks and half marathons and none of the cons.

Dom and I signed up for the event a while ago and whilst it’s a tad pricey compared to some other 10k races, you do get a decent technical t-shirt and one of the best medals out there. It’s also virtually pancake flat, so it’s perfect for PB junkies like me.

Unfortunately, there is some woe to this tale – I did actually race with a cold! In almost an identical manner to last year, I went and did a hard, long run only a week before the Cardiff 10k and became a touch overtrained, which opened me up to a sore throat on Friday and became a cold on Saturday.

Anyway…

Breakfast consisted of two slices of toast with honey along with a bottle of Nectar Fuel. I also had two beetroot juice shots at 8:15am to maximise the 2 hour delay and the research suggesting two shots being the optimal quantity.

Lis and I left Tredunnock in dreadful weather conditions with black clouds and rain lashing down. Thankfully, this cleared up en route to Cardiff and posed no problem at all for the race.

Andy and Dom at the Cardiff 10k

Dom and Andy, running to win at the Cardiff 10k

I had arranged to meet up with Dom at the runners’ village and also for some breakfast after the race. I hadn’t seen Dom since the Bath Half Marathon, though he did see me run past during the London Marathon at around mile 23. We quickly found him near the luggage storage tent before he and I went for a 1 mile warm-up run. It was great to see Dom again after so long, and the conversational pace of our breathing kept the warm-up easy. Not wanting to fall prey to the long portaloo queues like I did last year, we opted to pee against a nearby secluded tree…

Making our way to the startline, we entered in via the back of the pen and realised we’d possibly left it too late. We were greeted by a guy in a Sonic the hedgehog costume, so this gives you an idea of what sort of crowd we had to fight through. Several minutes later, we made it to an area towards the right of the start pen that was maybe 10m from the front runners. Due to my cold, I was incredibly thirsty and had neglected to grab one of the many free bottles of water being handed out. I figured I could make it to the halfway water stop at the more relaxed 10k pace before performance would suffer. The countdown to start began and the race actually kicked-off on time, taking us no more than 20 or so seconds to cross the start line from where we were.

Dom and I didn’t have a plan to stay together; if it happened organically then great. We got separated after only a few hundred metres, so I knuckled down into my race pace of 6:40 per mile. I almost slammed right into one lady that had decided to start right up front despite running at what was maybe 10 minutes per mile. As a contrast, there were also plenty of people shooting off far too quickly; I knew I’d see them again sooner rather than later.

I settled into my stride, feeling relaxed and comfortable. It was somewhat mad to think that only a few months ago, 6:40 per mile was my 5k pace and here I was putting myself on the line to run that pace for a 10k race!

Andy Yu at 1k in the Cardiff 10k

Andy Yu at 1k during the Cardiff 10k

The first potential bottle neck corner came and went without any issue. As always, I tried to run as clean a line as possible and I had a good feeling I was early enough in the pack that I wouldn’t have to weave in and out too much (in the end, I only ran 6.23 miles). Despite losing Dom early on in the start line scramble, I noticed he was just 5 – 10m ahead of me and running pretty much at the same pace as I was. I noticed Lis, Yvonne and Morgan to the right of the road and gave them a wave. I did also hear Lis’ uncle Rob on my left which confused me somewhat as to why he wasn’t with everybody else.

I love the Cardiff 10k course because of how flat and fast it is. There are two long stretches of road to really allow runners to build and maintain momentum and not too many twists and turns for slowdown. At 2k, I entered the road leading us out to the River Taff and was still maintaining a 1 – 2 second lead on my target pace with everything feeling smooth and natural. Castle Street presented a great opportunity to simply get your head down and start picking off runners in the distance. I passed plenty of folks that were already blowing hard after only 2 – 3k and knew they’d significantly slow down by the 5k mark having overcooked it so early on.

Andy Yu at th Cardiff 10k

Andy Yu running through Llandaff Fields, Cardiff 10k

Due to my cold, I had been steadily taking Day Nurse capsules since Friday. They are my cold medication of choice but they do increase your thirst as a side-effect of the mucus drying properties. Thankfully, I’d reached Cathedral Road and the water station was just a few metres away for some instant relief. Cardiff 10k hands out bottles of water which are a god-send, rather than trying to neck water out of a small cup whilst running at speed. Desperate for some water, I started drinking too quickly and started choking when it went down the wrong hole! Regaining my composure, I poured the rest of the water over my head and chucked the bottle away. Just before 6k, I had my Isogel for a sugar hit now that the pace had become tougher to maintain.

A guy in black that I had been having mini battles with for the last 2k had caught up to me again and rather than continue to duke it out, I suggested to him that we work together. He duly agreed and we introduced ourselves, expressing that we both wanted something around 41 minutes. We silently ran together and the pace started to speed up, only subtly, but still noticeable in these later stages of the race. Dom was still ahead by exactly the same distance as before and I noticed a guy in white hanging off his shoulder. I was tempted to shout out to him but opted not to disturb his metronomic pacing, achieved without the aid of GPS or even a simple stopwatch. By 7k, the subtle but sudden boost in pace proved too much for me and I told the guy in black to go on ahead; he zoomed off like a thief in the night. I probably could have hung on in there for a bit longer but I still had another 3k to run and it was too soon to begin a kick.

I was now back on Duke Street, leading us back towards Cardiff Castle. A group of cheerleaders looked a bit down as I ran past, so I shouted out “thanks cheerleaders”, which they responded wildly to. I always try and thank marshals and volunteers out on races or Parkruns because they’ve given up their time to help us runners in some way and they probably don’t get much in the way of appreciation.

After Cardiff Castle, I entered Bute Park for the closing stage of the race. This is also the section where there’s arguably the most potential to lose time on due to a number of corners in quick succession to bring the pace down. The guy in black that I ran with for a short while was now walking on the side of the path having overcooked it – I was so glad I decided not to stick with him in the end! The guy that was drafting behind Dom had also dropped off the pace and had been left behind.

With a mile left to go, I finally let Dom know that I was now just behind him. I told him that this was now the time to push it and “give the crowd something to cheer about” and we began our final march towards the finish. I was seriously blowing by this stage, trying to get as much oxygen into my lungs as possible. My Garmin showed we were about 25 seconds ahead of target pace so we were making great progress. I remembered the long straight path in Bute Park taking forever last year and it was no different this time. The turning back towards King Edward VII Avenue finally came and we upped the pace again.

The last 200m of the Cardiff 10k

Impressive photography from Lis to capture both Dom and I in the same frame

The finish was just ahead, maybe 500 – 600m away but it seemed like a mirage in the distance that never appeared to get any closer. I was kicking but my legs were saturated with lactic acid and my lungs couldn’t give me much more. I was now simply trying to reel in a few of the runners ahead of me for a boost. Lis and co were on the right of the road so I gave them a quick wave and I mustered up what little resources I had left for one final push. My arms were pumping and my legs pushed as hard as possible, allowing me to overtake two runners with Dom just ahead of me before we finally crossed the finish line.

Andy and Dom post-race at the Cardiff 10k

Fresh as daisies after the Cardiff 10k

I stopped my Garmin but didn’t care for the time, knowing it was a PB of some description and hurled myself over to the right of the finish area away from the runners coming through. I had to get down on all fours to remain steady and felt like throwing up; if this was Cannon Hill Parkrun, I would have collapsed into a fetal position for recovery. Once my breathing steadied out, I got up to find Dom to share the time with him. I’d managed to PB as anticipated but was surprised by how much of a margin it was for a 40:38 finish! My last 10k race PB was 42:28, admittedly on a hilly course and very warm day, so I was confident I could at least break sub-42 minutes. We guesstimated Dom’s finish was 40:33 or so, given the lead he had on me during the final straight but later found out his chip time reading was 40:38 and mine had also been rounded up to 40:39.

Cardiff 10k 2013 medal

The Cardiff 10k 2013 medal, bigger bling than 2012!

The medals that were given out are gorgeous; easily one of the best I’ve ever been given and possibly edges out last year’s.

It’s easy to tell I’ve run hard because the pressure in my ears goes crazy, causing me to go deaf temporarily. We joked that I must have gone supersonic!

After breakfast, we had a wander around St Davids 2 where Dom and I had a good chance to catch-up about all things running related, focusing particularly on the marathon distance before parting ways. We’ll both be back in Cardiff again in a few short weeks for the Cardiff Half Marathon where we get to do it all over again! It was great to see Dom again and it’s incredible how much he’s grown in strength as a runner this year alone. His internal pacing clock is incredible and really has to be seen to be believed – I could have synced my Garmin against him for accuracy! Take a look at his take on the Cardiff 10k here.

The Cardiff 10k is a fantastic race and has firmly cemented itself on my race calendar forever more. It’s a great course that’s conducive to PBs and also perfectly scheduled to serve as a tune-up race before most autumn half marathons. It has that big city race appeal with plenty of fellow runners to pace with but none of the disadvantages, so long as the organisers keep an eye on how many participants they allow in.

Now we get to the fun part for the data junkies (Dave!)… My Garmin data is most interesting where it shows I hit a peak heart rate of 204bpm during the closing stages, with my historical high recorded at 206bpm a few months ago. This translated into a training effect rating of 5.0/5.0, which Garmin highlights as “overreaching”; the highest I’ve previously achieved is 4.3! My pacing was decent with only a blip in mile 5. My cold looks to have not affected me at all with Dave correctly pointing out that my 40:39 10k PB is equivalent to a 19:34 5k, which is pretty much bang on for what I’m capable of right now so I pretty much hit my maximum 10k potential!

I’m going to take it easy this week and give myself 3 good days of just stretching and strength work to recover properly. I can’t remember the last time I took 3 days off from running!