This week’s running – 6th to 12th of July 2015

Not much in common between Hollywood USA and Hollywood UK

Not much in common between Hollywood in the USA and Hollywood in the UK

This week was all about gearing up for the Wythall Hollywood 10k.

5k from work

It’s not often I praise a headwind for being present, but it was most certainly welcome given how humid it was outdoors.

Any of you ever see strange things when out for a run? I ran past a guy sat on a bench wearing a Venetian style mask with a baseball bat in his hands – I kid you not!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5x 800m at 5k pace

After Saturday’s stellar track session, I was well and truly fired up for this. Problem was a raging headwind would hit me on the final 400m of each out rep, with little to no benefit on the return rep…

Even without the force of nature against me, it was noticeable how much more effort was required to run 800m at Edgbaston Reservoir versus the track; the former always made me feel much closer to my limit than the latter.

Pretty happy with the splits, but I do feel they could have been more precise.

I have one more 5x 800m session planned for next week and then it’s go-time at Wolverhampton Parkrun!

Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

5k from work

The 5x 800m sesh really did a number on me and as such, this recovery run was purposely slower than normal. Thankfully the 17mph gusts of wind were behind me, too!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

7 miles – Hagley Road

I really didn’t fancy heading onto the canal towpath. I was warm, lethargic and figured the droves of fair-weather folks would only annoy me further. Instead, I opted to head out to Bearwood and back via Broad Street and Hagley Road.

The last time I recall running this route was waaay back in April sometime. I purposely kept the out portion easy and I saw little point in pushing the pace until I began to perk up.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Channelling my inner The Fonz

Channelling my inner-Fonz – photo by Geoff Hughes

With a race the day afterwards, I wanted to stay fairly conservative and decided upon the first 4k at sub-20 pace and then would ramp things up in the final km if I felt good.

It had been almost three weeks since the last time I had run at Cannon Hill, and only my third outing on the revised course. It really was good to catch-up with various folks – I think it was April since I last saw Jeremy for instance. Humorously, both Simon and Dunsby were wearing vests after ridiculing me for most of the year for seemingly only wearing vests come rain or shine.

Lis and I also learned that around 80 or so folks didn’t get the memo that there was no Parkrun at Cannon Hill last week and turned up anyway. Jeremy could be forgiven because he hadn’t attended in months, but there were apparently regulars who were present only the week prior who mistakenly showed up!

Also, Lis and I had plenty of folks asking if we had gotten married yet. As of today when this entry goes live (Sunday 12th of July), there are exactly four weeks to go, so there you have it, chaps and chapesses!

I opted not to run 300m at 5k pace, deciding that the first 4k of the run would ease me in.

Once in the run, I stuck with Nigel and Alex for much of the first half. The lack of 300m warm-up hit me and it took at least 2k for me to get comfortable with the 3:59/km pace. Once warmed-up, I started encouraging folks around me including a kid that always seems to go out hard at faster than sub-20 pace, but fades dramatically in the middle.

Exiting the triangle, I began ramping the pace up and surged pretty much to the end. I surprised myself with a 19:28 and then started to worry about the Wythall Hollywood 10k the following day. Oops… Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

Orlando Corea, Andy Yu and Steven Dunsby at Cannon Hill Parkrun

Only time I’ll ever find myself running alongside these two speedsters! Photo by Geoff Hughes

Post-run, Dunsby introduced me to the Orlando Corea. Over the years, I’ve seen his name in various results but had no idea who he actually was. And Cannon Hill Parkrun is kinda like that, where I recognise so many people by face but have no clue what their names are unless I’ve found myself next to them in the results etc.

Unfortunately, there were no results to be had due to a timing failure and instead, everybody was issued a 59:59 finish by default. Gutting for anybody that put themselves on the line to run a PB that morning. Hope there are no technical failures at Wolverhampton Parkrun next week when I go for a 5k PB attempt… *Gulp*

Wythall Hollywood 10k

For the full write-up, please click here.

Onwards to this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book that I’m sure many of us can relate to:

Race photos never look good

Ridiculously photogenic guy meme

(Unless you’re the guy from the ridiculously photogenic guy meme from a few years ago!)

And I mean never.

Bradd Pitt could show up at the start of a marathon completely rested, tanned, toned, massaged, hydrated, and professionally styled, and by the time the race photographer snapped him at mile 13, he would… well, he would probably look pretty good. He is Brad Pitt, after all.

But the photos of Brad Pitt, when he finally saw them, would look horrible. In the photos, Brad would look like a badly dehydrated Quasimodo having a seizure. This is the magic of race photography. If the folks who sold race photos were smart, they’d charge people not to send prints of their pics.

That said, should you order some of these race photos anyway? Absolutely. And the bigger, the better.

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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.

This week’s running – 22nd to 28th of June 2015

Feeling under the weather

Hang in there, bud – know how you’re feeling!

This week was unconventional, so it’s pretty short as a result.

You’d better not turn into a cold…

Seemingly out of nowhere, I picked up a sore throat and a bout of lethargy on Monday that forced me to call it a night at 8:30pm! I prayed and prayed it wouldn’t become a full-blown cold and with some luck, I was largely over it come Wednesday.

Dodged a bullet there, and it was most likely my body’s response to the fast 5k, the late night, poor food and half marathon distance training run from the weekend just before.

5x 800m at 5k pace

I delayed this session until I felt like I had a fighting chance of completing it. Once actually out there at Edgbaston Reservoir, it became obvious that conditions were much more challenging than the week prior, with obstacles like head wind on the out reps and high levels of humidity for disruption.

I fell just shy of nailing the 3:45/km pace last week by just the odd second or two on most reps; I knew I’d have made progress if I were to at least equal what came before. The end result wasn’t too bad at all and by comparison, looked to have just beaten last week’s splits by just a smidge in terms of accuracy. I’m hoping the next session will see me hit the target with pinpoint precision!

Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

5k from work

Geese proved to be my antagonist again as I ran home from the office. Iain and I had reasoned that geese preferred the Smethwick stretch of towpath due to fewer passers-by; the repaved towpath out towards Bournville has no doubt boosted the number of users, especially during peak gosling season.

Geese had taken up the entire width of the towpath, requiring quick steps to navigate through. Just as I neared the end of avian congregation, a gosling unexpectedly moved into my path and started chirping away, alerting an overly-aggressive parent to start hissing at me for intruding.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Fit for purpose

This 5k and the 800m rep session and were the only two runs I completed for a total week’s mileage of under 10 miles – not even a third of my normal quota. I think I can be forgiven because it was my stag weekend (expertly organised by Iain). We had great fun shooting the hell out of each other with paintballs, shooting the hell out of clay pigeons with shotguns, and driving the hell out of dirt tracks with dune buggies.

Trying desperately to shoe-horn a mention of the day into this running-focused blog, I just want to take a moment to talk about being fit for purpose. 48 hours later on Monday, my legs were still aching in strange places from the numerous games of paintball; I’m not talking about the impact from the paintballs themselves, but rather muscle aches. With a decent running-base behind me, I was expecting to be able to bear the brunt of the games but I’ve been left with sore quads and knees. I think if I were more of a trail runner and practised more lateral movement (most likely the cause of my knee woes), I’d be aching a lot less right now.

Remember kids, fitness doesn’t necessarily transfer between sports!

Flexiseq Sport

Flexiseq Sport

Will Flexiseq Sport pass the Yellow Runner test?

I was telling Iain recently about how I occasionally receive products to try out and review, and one such example is Flexiseq Sport – a non-medicated pain relief gel.

I’ve tried all manner of gels and creams over the years, especially when I was suffering from near-chronic knee pain due to dodgy running technique. Volterol gel proved to be the most beneficial based on previous experience, though that meant not using it at the same time as other NSAID products like ibuprofen or paracetamol for fear of overdosing. With Flexiseq, one can at least use it along with controlled doses of ibuprofen and paracetamol due to different active ingredients. Another of its billed talents is the ability to replenish the lubricating layer over joints. I was more sceptical of this claim, though was willing to give it a try in the name of sport science.

So, did it actually work? I first trialled it a number of weeks ago after a 5x 800m session on tight and aching calves, and the gel did make a noticeable difference within an hour after application. Like Deep Freeze gel, it also had a slight cooling property to it and was largely odourless. I used it sparingly over the last couple of weeks and I believed it to work as described, coming in quite handy on my sore quads over the last few days!

There’s got to be a catch, right? Well, the fly in this ointment (pun intended) is the eye-watering cost of £19.99 per tube! Granted, it’s a 100g tube so there’s plenty in there, but a comparable 100g tube of Volterol is only £12.99 from Boots and £11.80 from an online only pharmacy. You would have to be incredibly concerned about using medicated gels, or allergic to them, to consider paying an extra £7 for Flexiseq. This is a real shame because it’s always good to have an alternative choice out in the market, but I fear the market won’t tolerate such a high price especially if the benefits aren’t immediately obvious on a crowded pharmacy shelf.

Enough rambling – it’s time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Scoot through the chute

Don’t clog up the finish line chute if you can help it. Keep moving as best you can. If you’re wearing a timing chip that must be snipped off, follow the same rule that you do with aid station tables: Pass the first one and the second and third ones. Everyone else will clump around them. Keep moving, and approach a volunteer snipper a bit farther down the line.

This week’s running – 6th to 12th of April 2015

This is not the Ronnie Barker 10k

No! Not the Ronnie Barker 10k!

This week was all about final prep for the Ronnie Bowker 10k.

Bank holidays = more running

I don’t know about the rest of you but boy did I need those four days away from the office over Easter.

Conscious that I had my first 10k race of 2015 at the end of the week, I opted to cover 5k of super-easy running at Cannon Hill Park to make up for some lost volume from the small taper. I convinced Lis to tag along, though she went off and did the latest week of her Couch to 5k programme.

The park was heaving thanks to the gloriously good weather on Monday. I’m glad I had nothing with a set pace scheduled because I’d have been fuming at the people casually drifting all over the paths without any regard for others.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

1x 1600m, 2x 800m, 1x 1600m

After dipping my toes back into intervals again last week, I decided to cover this particular session once more as a sharpener before Sunday’s race. I knew I wouldn’t be in PB shape over 10k due to lack of specificity, so this jack of all trades session would cover the bases and leave me better prepared for more focused 5k and 10k focused training blocks.

April is an unpredictable beast, climate-wise. Only the previous week was I freezing my arse off, yet this session saw me donning a vest for the first time in 2015 outside of racing. The good weather brought everybody out of hibernation with dog walkers and fellow runners in droves.

The first 1600m effort was again at 3:58/km; my approximate 10k pace. I did question how I’d been able to run at a faster pace at six times the total distance for my previous sub-40 10ks.

Suitably warmed-up, the 2x 800m reps came next. My legs wanted to go even faster on the second rep, forcing me to hold things back to be able to complete the session.

The final 1600m effort went from feeling too easy after the 800m at 5k pace, to hellish all in the space of about two minutes. I had to lean against a barrier to regain some composure ahead of the 2 mile jog back home to cool down.

In all, I was very pleased with the paces and precision of the splits. Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

5k from work

The rise in temperature (and hay fever symptoms) along with the fatigue from the previous day’s session hit me hard during the 5k from the office. Others were clearly taking advantage of the pleasant weather and it made a change from being the only one out there on the canal towpath as was so frequent during the winter.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

2 miles easy

Without realising it, this run became my sixth consecutive day of running (for the second time). With that in mind, I quickly cut the plan down from the scheduled 10k to just 2 miles in an attempt to feel fresh ahead of Sunday’s race.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I try to make sure I volunteer a couple of times each year at Cannon Hill and there’re few opportunities better than the day before a race. As somebody who runs at the event most weeks, I feel it’s important that I at least contribute something back periodically. Yeah, the whole arrangement can appear to be a bit twee at times, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels bad when it’s the same faces, week-in and week-out, that make the event happen.

I was plonked to marshal right by the MAC, a high traffic part of the course. Given how windy and wet it was that morning, I had very few casual park-goers to warn of the stampeding runners that went through the area.

It was incredible to witness the first place lad dash past with over a minute on the person behind. What was even more remarkable was the same lad continued to do a speedy workout afterwards whilst many Parkrunners had still yet to complete their initial 5k!

Also worthy of note was Elsa’s return to Cannon Hill along with Lis’ official debut at the venue. I look forward to seeing them both participating on a much more regular basis!

Ronnie Bowker 10k

For the full breakdown of how the Ronnie Bowker 10k went, please click here.

And here’s the part you’ve all been waiting – this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Stay on course

Race courses are measured on the tangents – that is, assuming the shortest line around corners and bends. This means that the best, fastest possible way for you to take a turn involves “running” or “cutting” the tangent: You start near center of the road then aim to hit the corner right on the corner before swinging back out. (If you ever want to see this done beautifully and at greater speeds, watch a multilap, or “criterium,” bike race.)

What this does, or otherwise leave the course itself to shave a few seconds off your time, or avoid the rest of us suckers who are actually bothering to follow the rules.

Yes, that is cheating. And yes, it does matter.

This week’s running – 30th of March to 5th of April 2015

Happy Easter

Or as I like to call it, “Zombie Jesus Day”…

Happy Easter everyone! This week saw me firmly back on the road to 10k town.

Canal 10k

With the lighter evenings, a whole wealth of options and opportunities has come to life that simply weren’t safe or even possible in the winter.

I opted to take advantage of the canal for a bit of a blast. The elements also opted to have a blast and sent some head winds my way. The first couple of miles didn’t feel great; I was hungry and dehydrated due to not fuelling up properly before leaving work.

Having said the above, I still managed to keep the pace largely even. Also even and steady was my heart rate, disregarding the minor cardiac drift towards the end.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

I always run home from the office based on how I feel with no pace target in mind, so imagine my surprise to see how swift this dash was when I had finished; Strava even reported this as a PB on this particular stretch!

Here’s the Garmin data.

1x 1600m, 2x 800m, 1x 1600m

This is the one I had been waiting all winter for – the chance to get back on to the interval train again! Having well defined rep distances to run at specific paces does the OCD-esque part of my mind some good.

Very conscious that I needed to ease myself back in (nothing really further than 400m during my fartlek runs), I chose to run the jack of all trades sesh that is 1x 1600m, 2x 800m and 1x 1600m. The 1600m efforts would be at my 10k pace (3:59/km) and the 800m efforts at my 5k pace (3:50/km). Each was followed by a 90 second recovery.

It felt great to be going at speed over a measured distance again. The 1600 effort after 2x 800s felt positively pedestrian. Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

The way of the runner

The Way of the Runner by Adharanand Finn

After months in pre-order, it finally arrived!

A few of you may be familiar with Adharanand Finn’s previous work, Running with the Kenyans. I recall listening to an episode of Marathon Talk a number of years ago when the author spoke briefly about his new project focused on elite-level running in Japan. Well, that project finally came to fruition and The Way of the Runner was launched, with my copy landing recently.

I’m a couple of chapters in and so far, so good. I’m a huge fan of Japanese pop culture and this book combines two passions of mine. Watch this space to find out how I get on with it.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

I went to Cannon Hill with little expectation; the last couple of weeks have seen me doubt my own ability due to less than stellar performances.

Relatively speaking, attendance was low given it was Easter weekend. This also didn’t bode well for me in terms of people around my pace to work with towards the finish line. As I said, all bets were off.

A special congrats goes out to Paul Harris – Cannon Hill regular and regular reader of this blog – he received the Parkrunner of the month award.

On the start line, I had a brief catch-up with Alex, once again congratulating her for the recent sub-90 half marathon at Reading. I asked if she would use her sub-90 finish to enter next year’s London Marathon via a championship place, and she wasn’t sure!

On “Go”, we all charged off.

Not having a solid goal or target in mind, I set off at 3:50/km pace, which would have roughly equated to a 19:10 or so. Lately, I’d been charging off at slightly faster than target pace and inevitably faded beyond the point of redemption. The pace felt perfectly manageable with no pressure from that screeching monkey on my shoulder to perform.

I was totally wrong about not having people to work with towards an end goal. Jonny and Alex were just ahead of me and proved to be good pacers to follow and reel in. Heading out towards the triangle, I was nipping at Alex’s heels and did what I could to convince her to stay ahead of me. Sadly, she wasn’t able to keep to the pace and I charged ahead.

My next target in front was a very talented, young Birchfield Harrier girl. She’s regularly finished in first gender place at Cannon Hill and I suddenly thought I was doing dramatically better than originally envisaged. Over the course of the next 400m or so, I caught up to her and successfully managed to overtake. She was having a mare of a time with her breathing, so clearly an off-day for her.

Andy Yu at Cannon Hill Parkrun

Fire! I’ll take you to burn!

With roughly 1km left to go, I had my eyes on two guys up ahead and with only 400m left of the course, I surged past them. Everything inside me was screaming and the tailwind that was present during my warm-up was non-existent when I needed it most. Tackling the final hill, I upped my cadence because I could hear somebody on my shoulder; in a flash of blue, one of the guys I had overtaken during the final 400m came storming past me and created a sizable 10m gap.

Kicking for the finish, I clocked in with my typical 19:20. I was somewhat disappointed by this, only because I had what felt like a really positive run with no distress; something around 10 seconds faster would have set me right up for the Easter weekend.

Here’s the Garmin data for this Parkrun.

I helped some of the ladies out afterwards with token sorting. A number of them had shared with me that it’s a very satisfying volunteer task that’s tangible and hands on. The ladies also told me how regularly tokens are lost due to people not returning them for scanning. There is a system for replacing the lost tokens with replacements (and the replacements with spares), but we encountered a problem where we ran out of a spares for number 438 – clearly a very popular number for some reason or another! Cardiff Parkrun forces everybody into the finish funnel that ends next to the barcode scanners; I would dare say Cardiff loses very few, if any tokens due to their arrangement.

10 canal miles

Easter Sunday was long run day, and whilst most others were having a lie-in, I was out pounding the canal towpath whilst it was still quiet.

What started out as a typical 10 miler quickly turned into a royal flush. A few have asked me what a “royal flush” is; it’s a term that came from the Marathon Talk podcast, referring to each subsequent mile or km being faster than the last for the entire run.

Like earlier in the week, I also donned my heart rate monitor and it was nice to see a low and steady heart rate in action. Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And without further ado, here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Don’t rattle, jingle, or jangle

As a courtesy to the runners around you – and as a measure of self-preservation – make an effort to secure the stuff in your pockets or waist pack. This means everything from keys and loose change to Sport Beans and pills. This is especially true during a long run or race; nobody wants to run next to someone who sounds like a giant box of Tic Tacs.

If you do all of this and still hear a rattling or jangling sound when you run, see a physician.

Exception: I once ran with a heart attack survivor who produced a chik-chik-chik sound with each step. The noise, he explained, was a tiny bottle of nitroglycerin tablets in his pocket. In the event of another heart attack, his instructions were to swallow the nitro. Folks like this have earned the right to rattle when they run.

This week’s running – 26th of October to 2nd of November 2014

Running in the dark

I wish there was this much moonlight during my runs!

This week was a bit of a pick and mix – read on for more!

Speed work in the dark

Tuesday was my second outing with my new head torch and for the ultimate field test, I returned to Edgbaston Reservoir to complete a speed work session comprising of a 1 mile effort at half marathon pace, and 2x 800m reps at 5k pace.

The head torch held up well, but there was expectedly some movement and bounce. As before, the range of light was more than enough. There was also the additional problem of fallen leaves, making pothole judgment tricky (yes, I did almost fall into one).

The session went well otherwise. The reps all felt manageable without too much discomfort; all I want to do is try and keep things ticking over until the new year when I will become more half marathon focused again.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Recovery run from work

I really do enjoy my runs home from work. It’s easy mileage and after a long day of meetings, it was bliss to stretch out the legs.

The head torch joined me once again and proved most useful when cyclists and fellow runners approached from the distance, with all their reflective accents lighting up like Christmas trees. This was less effective (and slightly freaky) when somebody dressed in mostly white regular clothes caught the light for a spectral and unsettling sight.

Upon reaching Brindley Place, I switched the head light up to strobe mode, which worked a treat to alert others around me.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Hyde Park runaround

Hyde Park runaround

5 miles around Hyde Park

Apart from during my two London Marathons, I had never run in London before. Lis and I were both in the nation’s capital for our birthday outings (Harry Potter Studio Tour and Fortnum and Mason afternoon tea – I’ll let you decide who had what) and staying just a stone’s throw from Hyde Park, I packed my running shoes for a Friday morning run.

Rather than get horribly lost trying to navigate the internal paths of Hyde Park, I simply chose to follow the outer perimeter (roughly 4.5 miles). As it so happened, this route also took me past such sites like the Royal Albert Hall and Marble Arch. There were hundreds of people out and about at only 8am, though as a contrast to almost exactly a year ago in New York’s Central Park, runners did not dominate the landscape, and the crowds were instead a pretty even mix of commuters, dog walkers, cyclists and bipedal pavement pounders.

I enjoyed myself, though I could not shake off the comparisons to Central Park, which just seemed more runner-friendly with an underground tunnel for road traffic, rather than the main road that bisects Hyde Park.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Andy Yu's sprint for the finish at Cannon Hill Parkrun

2km sprint for the finish with bonus race face – photo by Lis Morgan

I really wasn’t sure how to approach Saturday’s Cannon Hill Parkrun. My legs were pretty tired from two days of London sightseeing and shopping, along with the Hyde Park run. Meeting up with Nigel, we decided to stick together and see how things went.

Rather oddly, the numbers were rather high for the time of year. Many regulars were notably absent, but were replaced by new faces, with the new runner briefing much busier than normal.

Once we started running, I simply followed Nigel’s lead and let him dictate the pace. His first three splits were metronomic and clocked in at 4:06/km. A very young Birchfield Harrier managed to stay with us for much of the early portion of the run, both of us remarking that he’d develop into one helluva runner when he became older.

The congestion around the sub-20 minute mark was definitely noticeable, with large groups bunching up on corners and narrow paths. Great if you wanted people to work with as part of a joint pursuit to go under 20 minutes, but less ideal for Nigel and I who were just casually running.

Upon exiting the triangle, a bloke from behind the group (there were maybe 5 of us bunched up) overtook us and bellowed out, “If you’re not overtaking, stay to the left!” It was busy and we were on a narrow path – what did his royal highness want us to do?! He had clearly started too far back if he felt he was continually overtaking people. This riled me up and I decided to show him what overtaking with authority really meant, so I pulled out and kicked the pace up. I overtook the guy and within just a few seconds, I’d managed to put a sizeable gap between us. I carried on with my kick and continued to overtake more runners – the adrenaline was in full flow and I felt fantastic!

On the approach to the MAC, I ran out of runners to reel in with the next two over 100m ahead of me. With just 400m left, I had finally caught up to them and began to overtake. One of the runners was a visiting club runner, so I urged her on with the knowledge that a sub-20 finish was within reach. My kick was in full swing and then the final hill hit me. I had to close my eyes and grit my teeth to reach the top; clearly the 2km sprint had left me shagged and even though the runners ahead of me were within spitting distance, I decided to let them go and crossed the line for a 19:49 finish in 27th.

Cannon Hill Parkrun splits

Not a great lesson in 5k pacing… But oh so much fun

I saw Nigel come through the finish and couldn’t resist letting out a wry smile when the guy that had mouthed-off came in a few places afterwards. All’s well that ends well, eh?

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

And no, your eyes do not deceive you because there was no long run this week. My legs were shagged after two days in London along with above said runs, so a day of rest for me. Instead, we’ll skip right to this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book (it was one year ago when I started adding these to blog entries!):

The 7 deadly sins: Running edition

  1. Lust

MANIFESTATION: Dropping over the new Kayanos when the ones you have are perfectly fine

  1. Gluttony

MANIFESTATION: Grabbing more banana halves and bagels from the postrace food table than you could ever hope to eat

  1. Greed

MANIFESTATION: Selling your Boston finisher’s medal on eBay; trying to unload your NYC Marathon entry to some desperate soul for double what you paid for it

  1. Sloth

MANIFESTATION: I think we all know what this one looks like

  1. Wrath

MANIFESTATION: Losing your cool when the guy at the running store says the new Kayanos are sold out in your size, and they aren’t expecting another shipment for 6 weeks

  1. Envy

MANIFESTATION: Coveting thy neighbor’s wife’s half-marathon PR

  1. Pride

MANIFESTATION: Checking your appearance in every storefront window that you run past

This week’s running – 29th of September to 5th of October 2014

Andy Yu at the 2014 Cardiff Half Marathon

Andy Yu at the 2014 Cardiff Half Marathon

This week was all about the taper for the Cardiff Half Marathon.

2 miles at target half marathon pace

Training regularly at Edgbaston Reservoir serves as a constant reminder of the time of year that we’re in. Thanks to the sign at the entrance, drivers are warned of the gates locking at dusk where at the height of summer, 9:45pm was the cut off. Now, it’s 7:15pm and continues to drop at an ever increasing rate.

I wanted to get one last target half marathon paced session in but without over-doing it. A single 2 mile lap of the reservoir would be all it took to remind the body of what the pace should have felt like. Due to poor timing on my part, I wasn’t as fuelled going into this as I would have liked. My stomach was rumbling and I really should have necked some energy drink or something before heading out. Hey-ho. The wind outside was also picking up, an ominous sign that the weather reports have all been picking up on. Getting down to it, the 2 mile effort felt fine and the pace finally came quite naturally to me.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session (can one single effort really be called a session?).

2x 800m at 5k pace

I have been conscious to keep some faster paced efforts in my training for a larger overall range. Like on Tuesday, I didn’t want to go absolutely bananas during the taper and felt 2x 800m reps would suffice to keep the body ticking over until Sunday’s race.

Once again, the reservoir was heaving with runners, all in training for their own local half marathon in a little more than two weeks’ time.

My two 800m reps felt fantastic. My cadence was high and I never felt like I was too stressed – a good sign that half marathon pace would feel manageable on Sunday.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Taper time

Historically, I’ve never quite gotten the taper right before big races. Taper too much and I’ve felt sluggish come race day along with my legs forgetting how to run fast. Taper too little and I’m knackered come race day.

For this year’s Cardiff Half Marathon, I seemed to have gotten things just right – the Goldilocks approach to tapering! I took Friday off because it was my birthday, although others believe I took it off to better prepare myself for the race (and they’re probably right). I was positively charged and raring to go and the same held true on Saturday as well.

A couple of short, race pace sessions really was all I needed.

Cardiff Half Marathon 2014

For my full report on my 2014 Cardiff Half Marathon, please click here.

Where to now?

I love racing and that’s the primary driver behind why I train. To stay motivated, I always start booking up my next block of races to give me something to work towards.

So, what are the next targets to strive towards?

For 5k, I already said I wanted to hit 18:30 or better earlier in the summer. I was possibly a little hasty in my decision and am now back-peddling it to sub-18:45. With dramatically less daylight than before, it will increasingly become difficult for me to get speedwork completed without the aid of either a floodlit track or a treadmill. I really don’t want to sign back up to a gym because I can’t tell whether the treadmills have been calibrated accurately or not (probably not). This goal may have to go on the back-burner until next spring/summer, sadly.

The above 5k goal of 18:45 or better translates into a sub-39 minute 10k – a nice round target to lock on to. My worry about this goal is I usually use other 10k races to get myself race-fit and unfortunately, there’s a distinct lack of 10k races in the winter. This target may also have to wait until the summer or even early autumn to come to fruition.

Conveniently, an 18:45 5k also equates to a comfortable sub-87 minute half marathon. This I would like to try and aim for with a spring race, though I feel a lack of faster paced stuff could make this one tricky as well. Sub-88 minutes is realistically attainable and I would be disappointed in myself if I couldn’t achieve that. Dave and I are looking at a potential spring half marathon to tackle, so watch this space.

Of course, there is one more factor to consider and that’s the lack of a spring marathon for me. For the last two years, I’ve thrashed my body during the cold winter months to get it fighting fit for two London Marathons; without the need for monstrous mileage, a little more quality should creep through. I’ve kinda proven to myself that a dramatic increase in mileage does not automatically lead to faster performances in all distances.

Time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Warn before passing

As a runner, you will pass other runners. This will happen no matter how slow you happen to be because there will always be someone slower than you are. As a courtesy, you should first alert them to your presence.

The proper distance from which to issue this warning is 12 to 25 feet, depending on your speed relative to the runner being passed. The greater your speed, the earlier you’ll want to issue the warning. The idea is for the passer to give the passee’s brain enough time to process the warning before the actual passing occurs.

The warning can take any number of forms: a cough, a shuffling of your feet, a verbal heads-up such as “Heads up!” Sometimes something as simple and subtle as a loud sniff can work. Other times – for instance, in a relatively loud, crowded park – you might want to ramp things up with a polite “Excuse me!” or “Passing on your left!” It’s a judgment call.

Note: Handheld air horns are not an acceptable form of warning. Even if they are hilarious.