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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

This week’s running – 15th to 20th of February 2016

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Relatively speaking!

Not a particularly exciting week, I’m afraid, and it’s one day shorter than normal due to heading out to Germany with work…

5k from work

The combination of a hard Parkrun and the 14 miles over the previous 48 hours had left me rather stiff, particularly in my hips. Lots of heavy lifting at work did nothing to help with my upper body mobility, either, to leave me creaking all over on this recovery run home.

Here’s the Garmin data.

4 canal miles

This particular week was always scheduled as some cut-back time, hence this much shorter than normal canal run. Not wanting to be completely devoid of speed, I threw in a number of strides that lasted no more than 10 seconds.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

Yuck. It rained for most of the day and just before I was due to head home, the heavens opened up for a heavy downpour. With several dry days prior, the 1.5 mile unpaved stretch was actually rather pleasant to cover; all that firm, dry ground was completely undone in a matter of hours.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

The Sports Gene: What makes the perfect athlete

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Disappointing and I personally found this quite difficult to read

I had high hopes for this book and sadly, it missed the mark. I was expecting a bit more of the science behind what makes a great athlete, though it only dabbles and is instead mostly made up of anecdotal stories. Some may prefer it that way, but I wanted something more technical with perhaps just a few anecdotes to support the theories.

It does explore the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, along with the notions of nature versus nurture. The conclusion was somewhat inconclusive, apart from the somewhat obvious statement that a talented athlete in the right environment will thrive.

A so-so 3/5 from me…

Cannon Hill Parkrun

With me off to Germany on Sunday for a couple of days, I wanted to prioritise one last long-ish run before I headed out, so to allow for that, I opted to volunteer at Cannon Hill. I’m just nine more volunteer slots away from a new purple t-shirt, though I’ve promised myself I won’t go out of my way beyond the five or so occasions each year; by my calculations, I’ll probably pick-up my 250 t-shirt at around the same time…

Walking over to the bandstand with Steve Dunsby, we joked that I would end up marshalling the complex junction over the bridge. Well, you’ll never guess where I ended up…

The first lap was easy as pie, with runners only needing to turn left back towards the bandstand.

The second lap was when things began to get tricky! Rob Foster led the way on his bike with Will Richardson in tow. Problem was the runners in second, third and fourth were a good minute or so behind; the second place chap at the time had no idea where he was supposed to be going, and clearly didn’t see the cones laid out on the ground. He took my instructions of “keep right” a little too literally and began heading into the car park at one stage, before we called him back; he then began to head into the wooded section, needing to be called back once more to finally be put back on course!

It doesn’t end there… As Rob Foster led Will Richardson back towards the MAC, there were runners covering the entire width of the path and needed reminding to keep right to allow Will and others to come through. Most obeyed my instructions of “keep right”, but a few were on another planet and ignored my pleas until more runners came through on the other side. “OK! We get it!” one runner retorted to me in an annoyed manner; he may well “get it”, but many of those behind him sure didn’t! We’re just volunteers doing our part and could do without the agro *sigh*.

10 canal miles

With the cutback week still in flow, I knew I only wanted to cover 10 miles or so with some sections at marathon pace to stop the run becoming too ploddy.

Mistake number 1: I was overdressed. I wore a long-sleeve compression top, not realising it was actually 11 degrees outdoors. The faster paced marathon miles weren’t all that comfortable whilst I overheated…

Mistake number 2: Brindley Place on a Saturday afternoon, even in drizzly conditions, is heaving. Thankfully, I was either warming up or cooling down as I ran through, so not mission critical at all that I had an unimpeded path.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

I plan to get a few easy paced runs in whilst I’m in Düsseldorf next week – let’s hope I don’t do a Peterborough and turn a 6 mile run into a 10 mile one by getting lost!

This week’s running – 18th to 24th of January 2016

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“Pray for mojo” indeed

Recovery of my running mojo was the name of the game, this week.

5k from work

My first run of the week fell on Wednesday, partially because I simply couldn’t face any runs earlier in the week, but also because work got the better of me. As I write this blog entry, I count my lucky stars that I was able to get the Brass Monkey out of the way before this my day job wreaked havoc on me! This simple 5k run from the office was kept incredibly easy to compensate for the utter bedlam.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 canal miles

“Why is that man exercising in the cold,” the young boy asked his mother as I ran past… I questioned it myself for the briefest of moments before falling back in line with the planned 8 miles.

Much like the day prior, I covered the distance entirely by feel with no heroics on show. The tactic was very much necessary, considering I had foolishly under-fuelled at lunch to leave me incredibly ravenous throughout the run.

As I arrived back home, I noticed the measured distance on my Garmin was a few hundred metres further than usual on a route I knew like the back of my hand. Studying the GPS track, it’s incredibly dirty with the Garmin struggling particularly through Brindley Place and a number of straight stretches on the canal. Incredibly odd, because these are areas the Garmin has handled without even breaking a sweat in the past, and worryingly, has been a growing issue of the past few weeks. I hope my Garmin isn’t on its way out after three years, because I can’t afford a replacement!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

The busy workweek finally caught up to me, leaving lethargy and sleep deprivation in its wake. I reached Cannon Hill with no enthusiasm and decided early on I would only aim to duck under 20 minutes as an arbitrary target. This coincided with Nigel’s outlook to build himself back to regular sub-20 performances in time for his 100th run in a few short weeks – the deal was struck!

There was a massive attendance, driven partially by yet more newcomers to the world of Parkrun, but mostly down to King’s Heath Running Club filling the volunteer roster, and drawing out more of its membership base to run. Pacers were also provided, which have historically proven very popular.

Now, I’m gonna have a bit of a moan. Yesterday, I witnessed a large mass of a few hundred runners departing for the start line before the run briefing had even finished – the second time since the New Year. I know Cannon Hill is a busy run (frequently second largest in the UK after Bushy Park) and we want to get ourselves in a good position in the start grid, but how about we show some common courtesy and let the run director finish what they have to say without rudely wandering off? I like to start near the very front, but I still stay until the run director ushers runners away, and simply jog a bit quicker to reach my preferred start position.

Once running, Nigel and I kept the 20 minute pacer in our sights. My Garmin indicated we had a buffer of 10 seconds or so to hit sub-20, whereas the pacer was probably closer to 19:35 or so.

Bar a slightly fast second km, I kept the pace pretty steady as I worked with Nigel to tick off the splits. If ever he drifted backwards by a few strides, I eased off the throttle to allow us to regroup and did my best to imperceptibly get back on pace without putting too much strain on him.

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David and Nigel in hot pursuit – photo by Geoff Hughes

We picked up David Brayne in the final km, who had slipped back towards us from the official 20 minute pacer. Approaching the final hill, David and Nigel both continued to drift from the prescribed pace, so a few words of encouragement were in order. David protested that he was at his limit – a place I knew all too well – a few Alistair Brownlee style barks that giving up wasn’t acceptable was all it took to light a fire underneath him to send him charging up the hill for the finish, with Nigel in tow!

I got my guys back in with just a few seconds to spare, and Nigel ran his fastest 5k since early October. Whilst I clocked my own finishing time of 19:45, the official result gave me 19:50 to leave me scratching my head. Dave, of the Burton variety (who ran a superb 19:23), was confident the timer had missed a button press somewhere amongst the group of runners before me, leaving everybody with a time that was one place out of sync – the runner immediately above me in the results has a time much closer to the one I recorded myself.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

11 canal miles

We all occasionally have runs where nothing seems to go right, and this was one such example.

I underestimated how warm it would be outside; thinking a t-shirt, some shorts and gloves would suffice. Wrong! I easily could have done without the gloves, and I would have been far more comfortable in a vest – such was the problem of going from near zero degrees to a temperature in the low teens over just a matter of days.

I also underestimated how under-recovered I was, too. The intention was to cover 13 or so miles, but the fatigue I still carried cut that plan short.

Finally, I foolishly left too little time between breakfast and heading out through the door. My guts were in knots as I suffered through stitch after stitch for an incredibly unpleasant ride.

There were some highlights at least. I bumped into Alex Mold twice and a chap I didn’t recognise congratulated me on my Brass Monkey PB.

Hopefully next week’s long run will be kinder to me!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Time for another batch of Mark Remy’s running rule shorts from The Runner’s Rule Book:

Running rule shorts – 51 to 60

  1. If you care even a little bit about being called a jogger versus a runner… you’re a runner.
  2. Women who race in full makeup are never fast.
  3. Women who race in full makeup don’t care that they’re not fast.
  4. The best time of day to run is the time you’re most likely to actually do it.
  5. Whenever possible, choose a primary care physician who is also a runner.
  6. You can’t go wrong with Fig Newtons.
  7. Shop for running shoes late in the day, not in the morning. (Your feet swell as the day progresses.)
  8. A sock makes better TP than a leaf does.
  9. If the shorts have a liner, underwear is redundant.
  10. If you can’t live without it, don’t leave it in a gear-check bag.

 

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

flu

Time for the seasonal cold to strike!

This week was mostly about recovering from a cold…

5k from work

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

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Achoo!

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

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

Cannon Hill Parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Canal half marathon

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

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

Running rule shorts – 31 to 40

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