This week’s running – 29th of June to 5th of July 2015

Who called for a heatwave?

Who called for a heatwave, anyway?

This week was all about taking the heat.

Hot, hot, hot!

We Brits bitch and moan each year when it’s too cold, wet and miserable. When it does eventually warm-up, we then bitch and moan about it being too hot, humid and miserable.

They say it can take up to two weeks to better acclimatise to warmer conditions. Such changes include learning to sweat more to keep us cool and releasing less salt whilst we do so, amongst other adaptations.

4x 800m at 5k pace

Brave or stupid, I guess I was a little of both. I was reluctant to let the weather derail my training plans unless where absolutely necessary.

With 5x 800m reps down on the schedule, I did wonder how my body would fare when faced with a 10+ degree temperature difference compared with previous weeks and little to no time to acclimatise.

1km into the warm-up, I was well and truly warmed-up. Sweat was in free-flow and my heart rate was suitably ramped up due to loss of liquid volume, despite having hydrated all day and necking a pint of diluted Nectar Fuel before heading out the door.

Arriving at Edgbaston Reservoir, there weren’t many out running at the warmest time of the day. There weren’t really many out walking either, clearly having decided it was too warm for much of anything.

I charged into the first rep and came out the other side unscathed, and importantly on target pace.

The second rep was tougher as it gained about 2m in elevation and the final 400m were straight into a 10mph headwind.

Two more reps and I was finished. The effort in the heat left me in tatters, which equated to a fine training effect. Project new 5k PB was coming along nicely!

One further bonus came during the third rep when one guy caught a glimpse of me zooming past; he said to his two friends, “Now that’s stamina!” No coincidence either that the third rep was the fastest of the bunch.

Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

5k from work

Second day of oppressive heat and thankfully, all I had to do was make it home in one piece at whatever pace my body allowed. Oddly despite the heat, this somehow ranked as one of my fastest runs from the office according to Strava, so go figure!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 canal miles

What a difference a day made to the temperature with it dropping by half! The rain was such a welcome and refreshing relief, freshening everything up in the process. The brief rainfall also had the nice side-effect of keeping fair-weather canal users off the towpaths for a frustration-free run.

Feeling good, I decided to run progressively with each subsequent mile clocking in between 5 and 10 seconds faster than the last. If not for the final mile cool-down, this would have made for a nice royal flush.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

6x 800m at 5k pace

Andy Yu's return to the track

Firm, yet forgiving – it was great to be back on the track!

With Cannon Hill Parkrun cancelled and wedding errands that required my attention, I decided to slot in another session to make up for the lack of a fast 5k that morning.

The track beckoned and I couldn’t quite believe that it had been a year since I last set foot on the tartan. I always adore running on the track; the completely predictable nature simply can’t be beat in my book.

The plan was for 5x reps at 3:45/km. Earlier in the week, Dave suggested I attempt to target 6x reps in a bid to boost strength for the final push during a fast 5k. This was a pretty ballsy ask of myself considering I’d always maxed out on 5x reps.

Rocking up at Fox Hollies Leisure Centre, the track was expectedly dead during the height of the afternoon sun. At the desk to pay, the staff ended up giving me a free pass for the day because they couldn’t figure out how to process my request for track access!

There was a bit of headwind on the first bend and on a portion of the home straight. The planned 5x reps were completed without issue, with the slowest of the bunch being the fourth by only a second at 3:01 for 800m /3:46 per km.

I was tired after 5x reps and incredibly warm, but a quick look inwards suggested I could keep going for a sixth rep. Turned out there was nothing to worry about at all and the split clocked in at 2:58 / 3:43 per km for the fastest of the day! And there was probably enough inside me for a seventh to really destroy me if I so wished.

Project new 5k PB made a huge leap and bound, with Wolverhampton Parkrun, Saturday 19th of July earmarked as the big day to test things out.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

8 canal miles

The plan was for 10 miles out to Bournville and back, but that never materialised. Lis and I were due to be in Worcester for 12pm and with the run only starting at 9:30am, I didn’t have long at all.

Almost certainly down to the track session the day before, nothing felt right or wanted to co-operate with me. In the end, I turned around for home to come in at just 8 miles. Sods law, everything loosened up and I was able to open up the throttle a bit after 5 miles! Thankfully, I still have nothing longer than 10k until early October, so out and out endurance isn’t quite so important just yet.

I do have to mention twice bumping into Mary and Helen – two of the core team behind Cannon Hill Parkrun. They were both running with another two ladies, all of them dressed in yellow vests (love it) and on my approach back to Brindley Place, they started shouting something about “Paula Radcliffe”. Warm and slightly out of it, I thought they were comically comparing themselves to the women’s world record holder for the marathon. Browsing Twitter only an hour later, British Athletics retweeted the following photo and I finally twigged what they were on about:

Paula Radcliffe on Birmingham canals

Mary, Helen and co. meeting Paul Radcliffe – photo by Carol Austin

I could not think of two more deserving folks for such a chance-encounter!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And so we’re on to this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Your medal is wearable for a reason

Will you look a little cheesy walking (or limping around town postrace with a – let’s face it – chintzy medal hanging from your neck? Yes. Should that dissuade you from doing so? No way. You’ve earned the right to indulge in a little cheesiness.

So go for it. Loop that thing around your neck. Wear it after the race, wear it out to dinner that night – heck, wear it to work the next morning. Anyone who wants to judge you can do so just as soon as they earn their own medals.

Wythall Hollywood 10k 2013 review

Wythall Hollywood 10k 2013 medal

Not all medals are equal – some hurt a lot more

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

Today’s race was always a bit of an unknown quantity; I was unfamiliar with the course apart from knowing that it undulates and the organisers had never laid on a 10k before. It turned out that today’s 5k and 10k races would be run side by side, which could have gotten messy…

I took it easy-ish at Cannon Hill Parkrun yesterday, choosing to run at 10k race pace. Paula Radcliffe was in the park for an interview and photo shoot with Runners World, ahead of her commentating duties at this weekend’s athletics at Alexander Stadium. It’s not everyday you have a world record holder spectate your Saturday jog around the park!

Andy Yu at Wythall Hollywood 10k 2013

All smiles at the start line

Today, Lis and I arrived at the packed race venue. There was a real community feel about the event, with plenty of locals out to support or participate. There were also plenty of clubs in attendance with too many to name here. I collected my race bib and proceeded to do my 1-mile warm-up. The heat at 08:45 continued to rise, giving me a bad feeling about the race ahead; this was officially the hottest race I had ever competed in by about 10 degrees. Lis and I made our way to the start line where people soon assembled; the organisers made a request that faster runners head to the front (no chip timing) but nobody took them up on the offer. After a welcome speech by a local official, we were released on the sound of the air-horn.

Wythall Hollywood 10k start line

There was a malfunction with the start sign

I found my race pace very quickly, with people all around me zooming off into the distance. Using Marathon Talk’s tide analogy, I knew a few of these folks would come back to me later in the race for me to overtake them. The crowds started to thin out after the first 2k which allowed me to take an optimised racing line; everybody else seemed desperate to hang on to the left-hand kerb of the closed roads, even if that meant running further than the officially measured 10k distance.

Looking steady at the Wythall Hollywood 10k

Target pace was 6:45 per mile

There were several water stations on the course due to the warm conditions. I will never get the hang of grabbing a cup of water from somebody’s hand without crushing it, so not much water for Andy… Thankfully, I planned for this and I had Lis waiting at roughly 4.5k with a frozen bottle of water for me. I was also carrying an Isogel for a burst of sugar in the second half.

The masses at Wythall Hollywood 10k 2013

Clubs well represented at Wythall Hollywood 10k 2013

The course undulated and my hill training continued to do me well tackling the inclines, but I now realise I need to work on my downhill technique. I tend to ease off the pace ever so slightly, believing that the descent will give me a few seconds for free when really it should feel the same as going uphill in terms of effort.

After an annoying out and back hairpin, I approached the spot where Lis was waiting for me with my water. Thankfully, the water had begun to defrost and was now refreshingly ice cold, going down my throat and over my head an absolute treat!

I knew the second lap would be difficult due to lack of runners at my pace. Two older guys I was running with were starting to struggle and I overtook them going into 6k. There was a guy just in front of me listening to music that was always just out of reach. I almost caught up to him at one stage but due to some sloppy marshalling, I had no idea which way I was supposed to go and the gap widened again.

By this stage, the Virtual Partner on my Garmin had reported I was 55 seconds off pace for a 42:00 minute finish, so I reverted to Plan B where I just wanted to PB by any margin. The time to beat was 42:53 so it would be close…

Nearly at the Wythall Hollywood 10k finish

No idea what’s going on with my right hand…

The 8k marker came and went and I’m almost certain there was no 9k marker. I saw Lis and looking at my watch, I was at around 40:xx so I knew I had the chance of a PB, so long as I upped the pace. I could see the finish in the distance, confirming with a marshal to stay to the right. The guy listening to music had crossed the line and the nearest guy behind me was at least 30 seconds away, so I knew all the crowd’s cheers were all for me. Not wanting to disappoint, I kicked with 200m left to go and sprinted as hard as I could, pumping my arms and legs to get me to the finish line.

I crossed the line, stopped my watch and keeled over for a fresh 10k PB of 42:28. The marshal at the finish declared, “We have another one that’s died crossing the line!” The guy in front of me grabbed my hand and pulled me up, congratulating me on a good race; I composed myself and told him he raced really well, too, always just slightly ahead of me. The local official that started the race gave me my medal; other goodies on offer were bananas, malted milk biscuits and water. I found a quiet spot on the ground to call my own and sat down to cool-off, leaving a huge puddle of sweat before Lis found me.

Andy Yu's Wythall Hollywood 10k PB

A new 10k PB of 42:28

It was a pretty enjoyable race with an easier profile compared to the recent Aldridge 10k and Caerphilly 10k. With a cooler day, it could be a potential PB course for some. The only major improvement I would add is the use of chip timing; other local 10k races in the West Midlands of a similar size use it, making for a more accurate and faster results turnaround.

Given the relative ease of getting to the race, I’d dare say I’ll be back again next year!

EDIT – According to the official results, I finished 17th out of 213 10k runners making it into the top 8%.

For those interested, here’s the Garmin Connect data.