This week’s running – 26th of June to 9th of July 2017

recovery

Some much needed recovery!

Week 8 and 9 of the 22 week marathon schedule.

I’ve merged two weeks together here, seeing as this past week was actually pretty light on running and heavy on recovery.

5k recovery with Lis

After seemingly weeks of absence, Lis and I resumed couples running, though it wasn’t without its issues…

Lis’ several week break from running meant she was almost starting from scratch again, so it’ll take some work to get her back up to being able to cover our 5k route once more.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work with strides

Whilst I was carrying some fatigue from the Wythall Hollywood 10k, the combination of the punchy race-effort and the cooler conditions made for quite a potent mix to have me feeling pretty good. I casually aimed to keep my heart rate below 70% of maximum, and largely achieved this, bar on a few climbs and the odd set of strides to encourage some leg turnover.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

Oh wow. What a joy it was to run in cooler temperatures with a bag on my back and not feel like I was trudging through a rainforest expedition!

My heart rate was a good 5 to 10 beats lower for the same pace, such is the additional strain the heat and humidity places on our bodies.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles from work

A fortnight ago, I broke away from my usual mould of 9-10 mile runs along the canal towpath from the office. After weeks of rinsing and repeating the same route, the change of scenery and its ever changing elevation made for a nice refresher; so nice, I decided to cover it once more with a view to training more specifically for the Yorkshire Marathon.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon

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

5k recovery run

Kickstarting the week of recovery were these easy paced 5k runs on Sunday and Monday. 60% of maximum heart rate was largely achieved, ensuring the effort was low enough.

Here and here is the Strava data for these runs.

10k recovery

By Tuesday, I knew I was long overdue for a recovery week; in my defence, I’ve not felt like I’ve needed one until this week just gone.

It’s a happy coincidence that running to Cannon Hill Park, covering two laps, and then running home equates to exactly 10k. A few sets of strides stopped the easy pace from feeling too ploddy, also helping me to practice good form with no pressure.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Rest is training

After a very warm and stressful commute for home, I decided to sack off my planned easy run. The sudden upsurge in temperature would have made even an easy pace feel more challenging than normal, so I reasoned I would gain more by not running. I’m grateful it wasn’t a regular training week!

By Friday, the near-three days of no running did the trick and I began to feel fresher once more.

Cannon Hill parkrun

It’d been more than five weeks since I last ran at Cannon Hill and boy was it good to be back at home. Conditions appeared pretty decent, though I sadly was not feeling quite as fresh as I was just 24 hours prior on Friday. I’d suspected for a few weeks that I probably had a sub-19 5k in me if everything went well, so it was time to put some graft in for a morning of benchmarking…

Within the first few hundred metres, I found myself working with Barry Fallon, who’s a pretty close match in ability at the moment. We settled into our place in the crowd with enough breathing space to run unimpeded. Unexpectedly, especially of late, I had a deep focus on the task at hand and tried to ensure I was running smoothly with a good range of motion. Before we knew it, we had a 3:45 opening split on our hands for a small buffer should things have gone pear shaped in the middle, as they can so often do in a 5k.

Barry and I continued together before he slipped off backwards by a few steps or so, though remained inside touching distance. The pace overall had slowed by a few seconds to a more manageable 3:51 for 2k.

I was entirely conscious that large chunks of time could be lost from fading concentration, so I was on the lookout for people to chase down. As luck would have it, I’d inadvertently been caught tailing Scott Williams, who so happened to be pacing a club mate of his. Nearing 3k, he ushered me on into no-man’s land as he slowed to regroup with his follower. As luck would have it, maybe 10 or 15 metres away from me was a chap covering the ground at what looked exactly like my pace, due to the distance between us neither growing nor shrinking. Two short surges allowed me to latch on to him and to take advantage of his slipstream. 3k came in at 3:50, remaining steady.

Looking further ahead of the chap, there was nobody within easy reach to lock on to if my pacer slowed, or if I opted to make a move. As it so happened, he continued to run metronomically and I really had to focus to stay on his tail. My choo-choo train impression reared its ugly head again after a long absence, so I knew I wasn’t slacking off. 4k unbelievably also clocked in at 3:51!

The distance between us repeatedly grew and shrank during the final km. Looking at my Garmin, I knew it would be close for a sub-19 finish. Turning at the Mac, I managed to pull up next to him for the first time in the entire run. Losing the pace by a step or two, he momentarily began drifting backwards. I tried coaxing him back. “Keep going, fella. Not far,” I desperately snatched with what little breath was available. It did the trick, as he regained his momentum and pulled forward ahead of me. I was running on fumes and easily lost a second or two on the sharp turn for the tearoom, and several more on the final climb for the finish. He had just a smidge more strength than me, taking 16th by just a second, and me, 17th.

My lungs were on fire, but I cared not because I’d successfully gone sub-19 for the first time since my injury in January, with 18:56 flashing on my Garmin. I thanked my unwitting pacer, Gareth, and introduced myself. “Yeah. I guessed that was your name from all the people cheering you on.” Sheepishly, I smiled and replied with, “Yeah… I’ve been running here for a few years…”

So often, I’m reliant on everything coming together for a good performance to happen; it was almost like divine intervention that the conditions were favourable, I was rested, and there were always people around me to work with. I’m still over 30 seconds away from my best at Cannon Hill, but I’m still ecstatic by this small, personal victory.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

12 miles – to the Cube and back

With just an easy 12 miles on the schedule to cover, I teamed up with Simon to help him get 14 miles in, which became his longest ever run.

Almost timed to perfection, he ran past my front door just as I was setting out, so there was no need to stop and regroup.

Simon won’t mind me sharing this with you all, because it’s of benefit to everybody. Please, please, please have something to eat before you embark on your longest runs to date. Hell, it may not even be your longest run, but unless you’re well fat adapted, you’re gonna have a pretty shitty time.

Within just 2 to 3 miles (flat/downhill) at what should have been an easily achievable pace for him, his breathing was already quite laboured. I finally got it out of him that he was running on an empty stomach because he didn’t have anything in for breakfast…

Marathon training is hard enough if everything goes well, so there really isn’t any need to knee-cap yourself and make runs more challenging than they need to be. The mental boost and confidence developed from a string of well executed runs can’t be quantified, but it all helps to propel and motivate for the next block of training, and the block after that, and so on.

Despite the big setback, we got him to his 14 miles in one piece. With the lack of energy and new distance, I warned Simon not to take recovery lightly for the next few days, where his body was likely to think of the run as closer to a race in terms of effort.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

So far, so good. I’m pretty content with how things are progressing, and Strava’s crude Fitness & Freshness chart suggests the same.

I’m inching ever closer to some big runs and sessions, so the past week of recovery has been most welcome. The coming week calls for runs of 10 miles with 5 of them at marathon pace, and 19 miles. The former is expected to take place during heavy rain, so at least the canal will be clear and I’ll be reasonably cool!

This week’s running – 6th to 19th of February 2017

andy_yu_returning_from_injury

Now there’s a sight for sore eyes, and a cause of sore legs…

Woohoo! I’m finally back!

Apologies for the lack of an update over the previous week – I’ve rolled that up into this more extensive post.

Injury update and lessons learned

It turns out it’s incredibly difficult to blog about running without actually doing any running… I follow plenty of run-bloggers out on that there interweb and plenty of them have taken time off from blogging whilst on long-term injury or illness. Whilst I’ve endured four consecutive weeks of self-enforced non-running since the Brass Monkey Half Marathon, I’ve not actually enjoyed uninterrupted and unhindered training since early December to give you a clearer view of how little running I’ve actually done. Colds and flus marred much of the final month of 2016, and then my Achilles tear occurred shortly before Christmas to challenge me on a weekly basis before I concluded I needed some extended time off.

So, what are the takeaways from my time on the injury bench?

Running is therapy for me. I have an obsessive and addictive personality, and hobbies are the perfect outlet. But when I wasn’t able to run, all I could focus on was not doing what I love and missing out on the training that drives me so.

Turns out the easiest way for me to switch off from pining for running was to literally do just that and forget about pounding the pavement. The first week or two was difficult initially, but worryingly, not thinking of, or doing, running became the norm after so little time. People say it takes up to three months for good learned behaviours to become habitual, but I was shocked by how little time it took for the familiarity and the want of running to fade away from memory. Physical marathons became Netflix marathons! Is it any wonder that so many people start the journey to healthier lifestyles, but so few are able to make them long-lasting?

Thoughts of eventually returning to running turned to dread at times. How much fitness will I have lost? How long will it take me to return to training normality? Unexpectedly, these fears need not have caused concern and I even surprised myself by confirming I’m actually a process driven runner after all – the goal is to get back to my peak, and to eventually surpass it, but it’s that journey there that’s so critical at the moment. It’s not a means to an end and I’ll come good when ready, and I’m cool with that.

So, without further ado, let’s move on to that first run back from injury…

Cannon Hill Parkrun

My extended stint at volunteering has been enjoyable and even catapulted me into the 25 Club – I’m looking forward to receiving the purple Tribe Sports volunteer t-shirt, but it won’t end there; I still fully intend to volunteer when tapering for races and so on. Making myself useful whilst injured has been my way of giving something back to Parkrun. If you consider yourself a regular Parkrunner, but can’t recall the last time you volunteered, or perhaps you’ve never volunteered, why not reacquaint/introduce yourself and sign up?

Donning my running gear for the first time in a month was a rather odd experience. My shoes felt completely alien to my feet and I had to constantly go through the routine in my mind so that I didn’t forget anything. Clothes? Check. Garmin? Check. Barcode? Check.

Once more, I commuted over to Cannon Hill Park with Liz Dexter, who reminded me repeatedly not to crock myself again by being an idiot. This is where the extended absence from running has proved helpful in my recovery and rehabilitation; the heady heights of peak training were a distant memory and it was now entirely about reintroducing regular running in a controlled and safe manner with no rush.

Sharing my warm-up jog with Nigel Beecroft, my legs felt great and were expectedly fresh with a noticeable bounce to my stride. Each forward step was joyous and my form returned quickly with no deterioration. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge waking up alive on Christmas morning – it’s great to be back!

Casting aside any lofty goals, Nigel, Simon and I agreed to just see what would happen if we aimed for somewhere between 22 and 23 minutes. I cared not that such finish times were some 3 to 4 minutes slower than the norm; the new norm is to simply survive 5k, pain-free.

The three of us ran in close unison, though they both had the edge on me as I regularly brought up the rear of the pack. My legs had plenty of strength and mobility, though it was my cardiovascular system that stopped me from pushing any harder. I’m unsure if it was purely lack of familiarity or actual fitness loss that held me back; probably a bit of Column A and a bit of Column B. But boy, oh boy, to be running again was all that mattered. The simple things in life, eh?

Both Nigel and Simon finished in just under 22 minutes, and me just over. Here’s the Strava data for this run.

A post-run coffee with them both, along with Carl Stainton, rounded off a problem-free return to running.

Out of the blue, I also bumped into Simon Cook, the chap that interviewed me back in December about run-commuting – ironically, something I’ve also not done since mid-December… He was interviewing another run-commuter as part of the research project, with only a few remaining participants left to cover.

5k around the neighbourhood

For the next two weeks, I’ve promised myself to not run any further than 5k and to cover the distance at comfortable paces. Sunday is traditionally most people’s long run allocation, so it was rather odd, though refreshingly welcome, to be completely done and dusted in fewer than 30 minutes!

Expectedly, there was some muscle soreness from the previous day’s 5k, along with being on my feet afterwards for some 6 hours. It’s most noticeable in my quads, hips and lower back from a lack of use.

Encouragingly, my VO2max is still sitting at 60-61 based on feedback from my Garmin.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

 

This week’s running – 24th to 30th of October 2016

recovery

I’m still not quite all there it would seem…

Well that was an unexpected week of just a single run!

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should…

So, after last week’s 5k and 10 miles on consecutive days, my body rebelled and decided it wasn’t quite ready to return to normal training post-marathon. Come Monday, I was incredibly lethargic and felt like I had the early stages of a cold coming on. Tuesday was no better and whilst I’d packed my kit for a run from the office, I decided to listen to the warning signs on show and ducked out. Several days later, my resting heart rate was still elevated at 51bpm from the 45 to 48 I normally see, convincing me to perhaps re-evaluate taking a run on to the end of the week.

10 miles around local parks

Whilst my resting heart still sat relatively high, the rest of me felt ready to chase after 10 miles.

I took a leaf out of Dave Burton’s book of route planning to send me on a tour of several of the local parks to me (Swanshurst, Highbury, Cannon Hill and Kings Heath). Whilst things started off well enough, based on the additional scenery stimulation on offer, I did feel the distance I covered was greatly at odds with how far I actually ran.

Though my cardiovascular system seemed to hold up quite well, my strength and fatigue resilience was completely shot. My left knee creaked whilst my IT bands grew tighter and tighter as the run progressed, requiring an extensive session on the foam roller to iron them out.

Hopefully my running mojo will come back soon?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 17th to 23rd of October 2016

faster_road_racing

My new bible for the next 12 weeks

Big news of the northern variety this week…

A return to Yorkshire x 2

It comes as little surprise that I’ll be returning to the frozen north again in January to tackle that race favourite of mine, the Brass Monkey Half Marathon. Once again, I’ll also have my good friend, Dave Burton, in tow. I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing that he’ll be running his final race in the 45 to 49 age category!

So, what’s the other visit to Yorkshire?

Well, it turns out I’ll be returning to the 26.2 mile distance sooner than anticipated, participating once more in the 2017 Yorkshire Marathon!

“Wait! I thought you said you’d return to marathon running in 2018?” I can hear some of you querying.

Lis felt my best chances of going under 3 hours for the marathon would be a year later in 2017, and not 1.5 to 2 years later in 2018. I’ll have one cycle to get back to regular development, and then it’s all guns blazing for another autumn marathon. Summer training, boo and yay in equal measure…

The timing works incredibly well because Dave will be embarking on his very first marathon just a week after my next 26.2 mile outing. Looking to add some extra value and a different angle to this blog, Dave and I have discussed the possibility of him writing a short guest entry each week, sharing his thoughts on the highs and lows of marathon training as an older runner of a decent standard. Watch this space for developments!

“Today I don’t feel like doing anything. I just wanna lay in my bed…”

I’d even packed my running gear with a view to covering another 5 easy miles from Birmingham city centre on Tuesday, but I really couldn’t be bothered. I wasn’t tired and even felt quite fresh, but the mood to run really wasn’t there. There was no guilt or pressure to run and the evening was even topped off with a great, big, dirty kebab for dinner. I did eventually cover the 5 mile easy run several days later – click here for the data.

The break was necessary and I enjoyed the spontaneity while it lasted, but knew a new half marathon training plan was just on the horizon with an urge to revert to type…

Pfitzinger & Latter – Faster Road Racing: 12 week half marathon training plan

The P&D – Advanced Marathoning 18 week – up to 55 miles plan served me well, so I figured I’d go elbow deep into the P&L – Faster Road Racing equivalent to get me ship-shape for the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in January. By sheer coincidence and dumb luck, it just so happened that the race is exactly 12 weeks away to the day, so the plan will kick-in over the coming week.

The plan can be found here for folks to have a gander at.

I approached the 12 week plan with the same ethos as my marathon plan, trying to make as few changes as possible to allow for maximal training gains. The biggest adjustments saw me shifting training paces slightly, which will allow me to both complete the core sessions and also recover; both important for mental motivation as well as training development. A soft 10k and a PB effort 10k have also been included to keep interest up, along with some movement of long runs to factor in the additional Christmas and New Year Parkruns I so enjoy.

Whilst I’m not expecting a breakout performance of the same manner as the Yorkshire Marathon, I still have hopes that following the P&L plan will reverse some of the slight performance decline I’ve begun encountering over the half marathon during the last 2 years.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I was a touch bleary-eyed due to a 5:50am rise to get me and Dave into the Brass Monkey Half Marathon, but felt fine otherwise thanks to a near-2 week recovery window.

From the line, I went with the flow of faster runners and surprised myself by how much motion range my legs had in them. During that opening km, I even saw 3:27 pace flash up a few times; a suicidal pace I hadn’t seen in almost 2 years since that incredibly painful Christmas Day Cardiff Parkrun… Things eventually settled down for a 3:34 split.

Thankfully, I found a nice little group to latch on to and stuck with them for the entire remainder of the run, producing splits of 3:48, 3:46, 3:49 and 3:37 to leave my lungs searing.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me: “Why am I the only one that looks like I’m enjoying myself?” Carl: “Youth.” Photo by Kerry Allen

Initially, I was somewhat indifferent to the 18:34 result, though some post-analysis revealed it to be my third fastest run at Cannon Hill, and my joint-fourth fastest Parkrun to date. Not bad less than 2 weeks after an eyeballs out marathon with virtually no 5k focus!

10 miles – to Solihull and back

I do rather like 10 mile runs in training; long enough to get some tangible benefits, but short enough that it can be squeezed in when pressed for time and won’t leave you destroyed when covered at an easy to moderate pace.

Much like the fast Parkrun the day prior, I wanted to use this run as a sighter for any post-marathon issues that called for my attention before re-immersing myself back into normality. And much like the Parkrun, there was nothing to worry about, bar some minor stiffness from said Parkrun! I’m still cautious that just because nothing bubbled to the surface doesn’t mean I’m entirely out of the woods just yet, and will tread cautiously during the opening week of the half marathon plan.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s (lack) of running – 10th to 16th of October 2016

great_birmingham_run_2016

The best sight in the world for many this weekend at The Great Birmingham Run 2016

Understandably, there was no pressure to run!

Last week’s update

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted there was no weekly update to cover marathon race week. I’d pretty much summed it up in the race report, but for those curious, these are the runs I completed:

A return to sports massage

Lis strongly suggested I seek out a walk-in sports massage appointment with my time off from work. As luck would have it, the Guildhall Practice was just an 800m walk from home and could squeeze me in that Tuesday afternoon.

Whilst incredibly pricey at £42 for 45 minutes of work and a 15 minute consultation, I would seriously consider returning there, albeit not on a regular basis for cash flow reasons.

My practitioner (Sam) was confident, thorough and, importantly, listened to me. He was very good at reading a person in just a few minutes of dialogue; after his assessment of my posture and feet, he remarked that I had low arches and whether I had appropriate footwear. I quickly commented that I wear neutral shoes to compliment my running style, and very rarely pick up niggles or injury, backed up by taking almost a year between 2011 and 2012 to learn how to become a forefoot striker. “If it’s not broken, then we don’t need to fix it,” was his approach, which was a tick in the right box for me. He told me a story of how one of his clients is a 60 year old, life-long power-lifter that suffered from extreme back pain from a lifetime of training loads. Sam said rather than chop out the power-lifting entirely, he worked with the guy to minimise the pain as much as possible so as to still allow the client to lift, citing that removing the lifting completely would have done no mental good, either. It was genuinely refreshing to see such an approach, versus other practices where I was essentially paying to be told I was doing everything wrong and made to feel incredibly small.

45 minutes on the physio table was enough to remind me of why it had been over 2 years since I last spent time on one! Sam worked on all the problem areas: quads, adductors, IT bands, calves and glutes, whilst skipping over my naturally tight, but not troublesome hamstrings. Expectedly, I was sorer after the massage than post-marathon! The temporary trauma was worthwhile, because I felt near-perfect the day immediately after.

The Guildhall Practice can be found in Kings Heath, on Alcester Road South. Not cheap, but not arseholes either!

4 miles from city centre

This was my first run post-marathon, with the aim of the game to run s-l-o-w!

Dusk was quickly falling, but Cannon Hill Park was positively bustling with runners getting in last minute workouts ahead of the Great Birmingham Run.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

It was a shame I was still firmly in recovery mode, because I’d have otherwise gone out hard at Cannon Hill Parkrun for an artificial boost to my runbritain handicap, what with all the tapering runners around.

Instead, I ran a personal worst 5k with the goal of keeping Nigel Beecroft’s friend, Alex, under control to keep him from wrecking his half marathon the following day. A couple of last minute tips were also thrown in to give Alex the best chance of success on the day.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Great Birmingham Run 2016

My second year of not running my hometown half marathon; I know my limits and left my best back in York last week. Come rain or shine, though, I was ready to get some spectating done on that notorious hill.

Joined by Carl Stainton and his son, Marc, we were there with plenty of time to see the elites come through. As a big fan of Andy Vernon and Chris Thompson, it was a shame not to see the two duking it out on the climb, having decided their fates some 4 miles earlier.

I think I saw everybody I aimed to see, plus many others I wasn’t expecting to. Good to also have so many blog readers recognise me – hope my cheers were of some use to you!

A selection of photos from the day below:

This week’s running – 5th to 11th of September 2016

I will be back soon Message

Back at it after almost a week off

Can you believe it – we’ve made it to week 18 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Just 4 weeks to go before the big day!

Enforced recovery

So, yeah. The house of cards that is my fragile immune system came crashing down before last week’s Kenilworth Half Marathon and resulted in me taking a near week of recovery. I went to see my GP and we concluded I’d picked up a bout of sinusitis or rhinorrhea, and was prescribed with potions to get it shifted.

Having some time off hasn’t been nearly as bad as I feared and gave me an opportunity to temporarily recharge my batteries and get healthy to tackle the final stretch of this marathon campaign. Surprisingly, I didn’t go stir-crazy and simply went about my daily life and barely even thought about running!

Nike Zoom Streak 6 – initial thoughts 

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I love these babies and will be wearing them at the Yorkshire Marathon

After a disappointing few runs with my Adidas Adios Boost 2s (toe rubbed raw, a nail dislodged etc), which I’d planned to use for the Yorkshire Marathon, I decided that time was quickly ticking by and I needed to find another pair of shoes to fill the void. Enter the Nike Zoom Streak 6.

Working alongside marathon elites, Nike went back to the drawing board for their latest iteration of the Zoom Streak line after a lukewarm reception of the 5th edition (Paula Radcliffe actually quite likes them for what it’s worth). The modus operandi was simple on paper: give marathon runners just enough to get them to the finish line and no more. The result is quite simply the best running shoe I’ve ever worn (yes, even better than my long cherished Nike Flyknit Racers).

So, why do I think they’re so great?

The Zoom Streak 6 is one of Nike’s first shoes to roll out with a new Flymesh upper, which has to be seen in person to be believed. It’s incredibly thin, yet features plenty of ventilation to keep feet cool and dry, offsetting the potential for blisters. My size 7.5s weigh less than 180g per shoe, and clearly, majority of the Zoom Streak 6’s diet has come from the stripped down upper. The simpler construction is also reflected in the price – £85 RRP versus the more complex to manufacture Flyknit Racer at £130 RRP. The seamless nature of the upper is a godsend for me after my right foot had been mangled by the Adios Boost 2s.

The outsole of the shoe is an unconventional design where it’s been rounded off on all 4 axis. The shoe can rock back and forth, or left and right without too much difficulty. The benefit here is footstrikes of most runners are catered for; heelstrikers can roll their feet forward, whilst midfoot and forefoot strikers can land with a very smooth motion, eased in by the shoe. I’m a forefoot striker and pronate on my right foot, which has caused traditional shoes to wear away incredibly quickly on the outer edge, whereas my left foot lands almost perfectly – I should now be able to get more even wear out of both shoes before needing to throw them out. Nike has also stuck a piece of rigid plastic that runs from the midfoot to the forefoot (think Adidas’ Torsion system on the Adios Boost line and you’ve got it). The plastic is designed to enhance energy return, resulting in quite a springy ride in the Zoom Streak 6. What’s remarkable is how the plastic plate pulls double duty on runs; when I’m running fast and on my toes, I get an extra bit of bounce to propel each toe-off with a little more force, and when I’m tiring or taking it easy, the plastic stays rigid and helps to roll my feet forward with a little more stability. It’s some black magic that Nike pulled off, or maybe just good science!

What’s also impressive is how versatile they’ve been. I broke them out at this week’s Parkrun, and whilst they were a touch heavier than what I would normally wear for a 5k, they still felt perfectly at home on my feet and it was my return to fitness rather than the shoes that held me back from going any faster. On the below 17 mile long run, the weight-saving was very much welcome during the closing miles, and the plastic plate helped to give a wee bit of support when tired and my form began to grow sloppy, whilst still offering a bit of pop when I was feeling more energetic.

Nike, please don’t tinker any further because you’ve created a masterpiece!

Cannon Hill Parkrun

That first run back from any break is always tough to face because it exposes the extent of how much fitness was lost.

Cannon Hill held its own memorial run for Darren Hale, and like at Perry Hall, there was much orange on show to mark his affiliation with the Cannon Hill Crusaders team.

I’d promised myself I didn’t want to go bananas, but managed to get caught up in the start line frenzy and before I knew it, I had a 3:41 opening km on my hands…

Much steadier running returned for the next 3km, consisting of 3:52, 3:52 and 3:54 – this wasn’t paced by my Garmin, but rather entirely by feel to leave me dumbfounded!

3:43 and a sprint for the line rounded things off for 19:00 from the official timer for a not too shabby morning’s work.

Amazingly, I was also able to reach a new recorded maximum heart rate of 209bpm. It was 2013 when I originally managed to hit 207bpm as part of my saga of a sub-20 5k. I guess the underlying bug I’d caught was still hanging around, and my slightly amped up resting heart rate helped push me to new heights. Unassisted, I don’t think I could bring myself to seek out such a high heart rate due to the world of pain it would involve!

Here’s the Strava data for the run.

17 miles – to Brueton Park and back

I was fully expecting this one to sting a bit after a relatively fast Parkrun the day prior, and a lack of long and medium-long runs over the last 2 weeks.

The weather was pretty much perfect for running, with a nice chill in the air from the breeze, and some sun that came in and out of view overhead. It’s a real damn shame that next week will usher in yet more elevated temperatures – why can’t Autumn just stick around and settle in???

The first few miles were slow and a bit ploddy, never quite feeling right. Once warmed up, the middle was really rather positive and I had to rein the pace in a few times before I got carried away. As anticipated, the last few miles uncovered the lay-off from running and had me working a little harder than I normally would have.

All in all, this was a welcome return to training normality and launches me back into the training schedule to mop up the few remaining weeks.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon 

Whilst in an ideal world, I wouldn’t have gotten sick and I wouldn’t have had the dreadful race I did at the Kenilworth Half Marathon. Thankfully, the prize is just on the horizon and it’s hard to believe race day is just 4 weeks away from now. I’m not race-fit yet, though if pushed, I’m certain I could run a marathon at the moment and beat my 3:34:04 PB from 2014.

The 4 months of training since mid-May has been a slog, and truth be told, I kinda wanted race day to come around sooner. So, I’m actually viewing the last 2 weeks as a blessing, both as much-needed recovery and also to simply kill some time. The next few weeks will be crucial, especially next week’s 22/23 mile run, but also the planned Robin Hood Half Marathon as a marathon pace session (I’ve not decided yet if I’ll cover the full race at pace, or only part of it).

The marathon sure isn’t a distance for anybody that wants instant gratification!

This week’s running – 14th to 20th of March 2016

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Not long to go now until Cardiff – photo by Wales Online

A rarity for me, I’m actually looking forward to the taper!

6k from work

Man was I feeling Sunday’s 16 miles on Monday’s recovery run! The milder temperature at least meant I was able to run in a t-shirt.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 mile canal fartlek

I do feel like these focused fartlek runs are restoring some of the explosive power that deteriorated throughout the winter.

Very much a repeat of last week, this was the final time I ran it in its entirety before bringing the distance down as part of race week’s taper. I could tell it was the third week of a training block due to having to work just a smidge harder to hit similar paces as before.

During the return on the closing two fast stretches, a stocky fella was also out on the towpath completing a fartlek workout of his own. He looked like some sort of rugby back player – big, but he certainly had some speed in him and it took me some effort to match his pace. On my recovery, I complimented him on his speed, which made his eyes light up. I motioned for him to join me on my final blast; he followed suit, though I was able to just about hold him off.

My warm-down was completed incredibly slowly, which surprised me some because it didn’t feel slow at all.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

In my haste, I packed a t-shirt rather than a long-sleeve top for the commute from work. Whilst the sun was indeed out, it was neither particularly warm, nor was I running long enough or fast enough to really work up a sweat. I received a few strange glances from fellow runners that looked like they were dressed more for Arctic expeditions!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles

I was well and truly knackered on Thursday. All the recent training density had caught up to me, but I still decided to go out for 10 miles against my better wisdom.

A tailwind on the out made the first half deceptively more manageable. Two different guys running at around my pace were also 100m or so ahead of me, giving me targets to work towards.

Turning around at halfway, the tailwind very noticeably became a headwind. Darkness also fell; powering on my headtorch did little to prevent the pace perception skew from starting my run in daylight, resulting in a significant step up in effort.

Feeling rather hungry, tired and slighty dazed by the time I returned home, I was well and truly wrecked. Dinner and an early night beckoned!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

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Easy does it – photo by Greg Robinson

Disappointingly, I ducked out of a scheduled attempt at a fast Parkrun because I simply wasn’t feeling quite all there. My body was screaming out for the taper, so I granted it mercy and erred on the side of caution once more; a sub-20 5k was and some half marathon race pace training was all that was on the menu that morning.

I stuck with Nigel early on; not quite recovered from last week, he ushered me to press on with my target pace and I found myself moving through the field. Aggressive wind confirmed what a wise choice it was to save smashing myself over 5k for another day.

With just a mile remaining, I looked ahead and saw Dave only 150m or so in front of me. Moving through to the final km, I’d shut the gap down to just 50m and decided to leave it at that all the way to the finish, crossing the line in 19:52.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

11 miles with Dave

For somebody that claims to rarely train with others, Sunday became my third long run in a row with Dave – this time, covering almost 11 miles entirely with him.

A pretty leisurely pace was maintained as we put rights to the world. A mystery runner wished me well for the World Half Marathon Championships, who I assume is a blog reader (thank you!)

Seriously ready for the taper now…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

JQ to KH

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Back to my old stomping ground of Kings Heath

I delayed this post on purpose to be able to slot this little snippet in – Lis and I are moving to Kings Heath! We’ve spent four years calling the Jewellery Quarter our home, which has been fantastic for me as a runner, with easy access to the canal network, race start lines and the like.

With this move will come a slight tweak to this blog – I will no longer be making my Garmin run data public and will instead publish my Strava data with a privacy exclusion zone enabled. Living in a flat, amongst many other blocks of flats in the Jewellery Quarter, has meant I’ve enjoyed anonymity and security – things I can no longer take for granted. Those of you in my Garmin Connect network will still be able to view my run data.