This week’s running – 7th to 20th May 2018

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Vests at the ready!

Due to tapering the previous week, there wasn’t much going on, so I’ve rolled a fortnight into one post.

9 miles with 1 at marathon pace and 1 at half marathon pace

This was much harder than it should have been and the paces didn’t come as naturally as I wanted. There was a rather strong headwind blowing as high pressure and low pressure competed across the UK weather system. Rather than pile on fatigue, I was satisfied with a 6:47 marathon paced mile and a 6:21 half marathon paced mile.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

6 miles easy with strides

Lis and I had a midwife appoint scheduled in, so I took the afternoon off and got this run out of the way before the good weather brought everybody back out to Cannon Hill Park.

Much like Tuesday’s run with miles at pace, the easy effort here didn’t feel as free flowing as it should have. I reassured myself that there’s always a feeling of sluggishness with any taper of more than a few days and that this was perfectly normal – I hoped!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Shakespeare Half Marathon the following day, I of course did my part and volunteered at Cannon Hill parkrun.

As ever, I was positioned at my favourite section, moving between the 1km, 2.5km and 4.2km points on the course. Teamed up with me were Stuart and Ethan. Stuart was also running the Shakespeare Half Marathon (I did bump into him) and Ethan was one of the current crop of Duke of Edinburgh Award participants.

Marshalling was entirely without incident, so rather than talk about Cannon Hill parkrun on this occasion, I want to direct your attention to the recently released independent parkrun podcast: Free Weekly Timed. Hosted by Vassos Alexander and Louise Ayling, each episode lasts some 29 minutes to coincide with the current average parkrun finishing time (in the UK?). I’ve very quickly grown to adore the show and wish the run time was longer – everybody needs to get slower to bring the average finish time down to make this happen! For those that remember the now defunct parkrun Show, Free Weekly Timed is far more accessible without having to wade through wall-to-wall in-jokes and nomenclature, which I would dare say is down to the 29 minute runtime.

Another new show I’d like to recommend is the Runners World UK podcast. A bit less personality, due to the association with a magazine, but the content has been varied and worthwhile so far after only a few episodes. Whether this show can go the distance (pun intended) is undecided, especially as the US version ended abruptly after 67 episodes to then transition into a more general fitness podcast.

Shakespeare Half Marathon 2018 review

For the full report of the 2018 Shakespeare Half Marathon, please click here.

5k recovery

And boy was recovery needed!

It was probably the Yorkshire Marathon that last busted me this badly in pursuit of a PB. A very gentle pace this was.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

I’m very much of the school of thought that tapering into a race means you should also taper out of the other side, too. I’m frequently amazed and horrified in equal measure at people that dive straight back into full-on training after big races; track sessions, tempo runs, fast parkruns – you know what I’m talking about.

I think I pitched the effort correctly on this occasion because Strava tells me this was the slowest occurrence of this route!

Here’s there Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

Fortunately for me, the forecasted warm spell was delayed by a couple of days; I’m not sure I would have been ready for a warm medium-long run from the office. Also fortuitous was a rare tailwind!

Whereas Brindley Place was quite populated, the remainder of my run was fairly tranquil with few other souls about. This is likely down to the still closed section between The Vale and Islington Middleway, where most can’t be bothered to work out the detour. The closure is supposed to be lifted this week; I wait patiently for confirmation…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Conscious that I was still recovering, suffering from sleep deprivation, and conditions were warm, I opted to keep things pretty calm and relaxed with a sub-20 finish. It’s still very bizarre that a sub-20 parkrun is now my half marathon pace; I think it’ll take a while to get over that one, especially as it took me an entire summer in 2013 to get below 20 minutes over 5k!

Starting off conservatively allowed me to reel people in over the duration of the run. Plenty were breathing heavily within the first km and can’t have fared well for the remaining 4k. Looking at the results, there were people massively ahead of me at the 1km marker, who ended up finishing almost a minute after my 19:46!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

15 miles – to The Vale and back

Wowza. This was officially my warmest long run of the year, though I’m expecting warmer runs to come as the summer rolls into town. Whereas I had hydrated well beforehand, I ended up having to stop at around 4 miles within Kings Heath Park for a toilet break. Damn body. This run will teach it to be so casual about hydration! I took a bottle of water with electrolytes for the second half of the run, which paid dividends.

Anticipating a tough run, I purposely held back in the first half to maximise success and minimise distress. Everything seemed to tick along quite nicely until I picked up a stitch at around 10-11 miles, likely caused by not leaving enough time between breakfast and heading out. Physically prodding the affected area, it was tender to the touch and nearly stopped me in my tracks a few times. Thankfully, I was able to run through the discomfort for it to finally dispel as I left the canal towpath; it would have been a long walk for home like that failed 19 miles from last summer, otherwise!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

This week’s running – 30th April to 6th May 2018

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Andy Vernon at the Great Birmingham 10k 2018

The taper for the Shakespeare Half Marathon begins!

5k recovery

With the DK10K on Wednesday, I wanted one full rest day ahead of the race, so this was the final run before then. I’m now firmly in the camp of no running the day before a target race!

Nothing strenuous at all – just an easy 5k at recovery pace to keep my legs moving.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

DK10K 2018 review

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

Cannon Hill parkrun

After the DK10K, I was in the mood to take advantage of the taper window, newly found fitness and excellent conditions on offer at Cannon Hill. Being the John Enright-Darren Hale Memorial Run, attendance lived up to expectations, though no attendance records were broken due to the Great Birmingham 10k the following day.

3:41 per km was the target pace to beat for a new PB. Sadly, I felt like I was still suffering the effects of the DK10K. My legs had little resilience to them and my Garmin reported a -5 condition score – ouch…

From the line, I remained in control and found myself tailing Ed Barlow and kept the effort low. 3:45 felt sustainable, so that’s what I sat at for the 1st and 2nd km. It was a strange morning, as many of those traditionally faster than me were on my tail, whereas several traditionally behind me, were ahead! Andy Young was one of those in my rear view mirror, whereas Chris Callow had a sizable advantage of some 15 seconds.

That awkward 3rd km struck, with everybody around me slowing slightly, so my natural reaction was to also slow. I ended up drafting behind Matt Lewis and a Bournville Harrier – both taking it easy ahead of the following day’s 10k race. This was quite a pleasant spot to be in, as they comfortably paved the way for me and allowed me to just switch off and follow, resulting in a 3:49.

Moving into the 4thkm, they were both casually chatting for a total contrast to my quiet suffering from the exertion. “You’re both making this look far too easy,” I shared with them from behind. “You’ve gotta go for it, Andy,” Matt instructed. He and the Bournville Harrier gave me some more encouragement and both created a gap for me to slip between them. “OK. I’ll go for it…” came my pensive reply. I crept away by a few steps to chase down the next person ahead. Andy Young latched on and came along to overtake me. The collective effort and encouragement got me back on track for a steady 3:46.

One final swift km, with Chris Callow as a rabbit to chase down, got me back in with 18:35, perhaps 18:36 in the official results. Sadly, some sort of barcode scanning error means I’ve not been recorded! Fingers crossed the organisers will manually add me – the generally practiced etiquette is that anybody that turns up to run with a physical barcode, even if it cannot be scanned, will be added into the results.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles – to The Vale and back

With a warm day on hand and spectating duties at the Great Birmingham 10k, I opted to head out earlier than normal. It appeared many other runners not racing also did the same, for I was rarely alone for long on the canal towpath.

Passing Bournville Station on the out leg, all was silent. On the return, it was heaving as runners and spectators filled the platform that headed in the direction of the city centre.

I did not envy those participating in the race. I was working up a sweat just casually running at around 8:00 per mile with occasional shade from trees that lined the towpath. 10 miles was more than enough for me – thank you to the taper!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Great Birmingham 10k

Lis and I spent some time spectating the race, shortly after the 5k point and next to Cannon Hill Park. As runners, we largely see little of the organisation behind a race until it directly impacts us in some way. As spectators, we both saw some of the shonkiest organisation either of us had ever seen, and Lis has spectated plenty of races!

A van had somehow found itself on the route before the race started, yet the two security personnel for the patch we found ourselves in were largely clueless as to what to do with him! They eventually got him on his way, but it was so painful to watch.

The next calamity occurred when an ambulance had to get on the course. Neither the security guards, the highways agent, nor the marshal knew what to do! Eventually, they teamed up and separated the runners from the ambulance, but it still shouldn’t have taken nearly as long as it did.

Finally, fellow-run-blogger Shaun Hemmings was the official 40 minute pacer, yet was instructed not to start in the first wave, which would have contained all the people looking to run under 40 minutes. What madness!

Anyway…

Well done to everybody to that ran, especially those that PBd under such brutal conditions.

This week’s running – 25th of September to 1st of October 2017

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Running and sight-seeing? At the same time? Madness!

Week 21 of the 22 week marathon schedule. Some running in that there London town and we’re almost there…

5k easy

Due to the increased warmth of the Robin Hood Half Marathon, my Garmin suggested a lengthier recovery window than a year ago. Heeding its advice, I delayed Tuesday’s run with a sprinkling of marathon pace and rotated in an easy 5k.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

7 miles with 2 at marathon pace

Faster workouts are fraught with danger as one gets closer to race day, so I purposely softened the marathon paced miles by slotting an 800m recovery between them. I wasn’t going to get any fitter and simply needed to not lose touch with how marathon pace should feel.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

Traditionally, I’ve always set out to run hard at the final parkrun the week before a big race. Along with the VO2max benefits, blowing off some cobwebs from tapering is rarely a bad thing. Little did I know how badly my 5k pace had deteriorated!

Kings Heath Running Club took over the volunteer duties for the morning and kindly provided pacers, including a 19 minute one. Whilst I was initially able to keep up, the pacer drifted away after 2km and my lack of 5k intensity reared its ugly head. My breathing was still perfectly adequate, but I simply could not coerce more from myself to shift into higher gears, eventually finishing in 19:20 without too much discomfort.

Whilst I would have liked one last fast parkrun ahead of race day, I’m totally on-board that my training has seen me trade in speed for (hopefully) out and out endurance…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Oh, and don’t forget the parking charges for Cannon Hill Park kick-in from the 6th of October onwards. £2 for the first four hours or £3 for the entire day.

14 mile London runaround

Lis and I found ourselves in London, making for a fantastic scenery change from the norm to keep me company on my final long-ish run. Despite London being somewhere I’ve visited many times over the years, this was actually only my fourth run in the capital, with two of the prior occasions being the London Marathon!

Starting and ending on Brick Lane, the route I plotted could be considered quite lazy, straddling both sides of the Thames for much of the duration. Run firmly at an easy pace for the first half and then working up to a typical long run pace for the second half, the entire duration was very much a stop-start affair for any photo opportunities that presented themselves (and there were many).

I adore running in cities when it’s quiet because you see a totally different side from what most other people would. Little details became more apparent and I often felt like I’d stumbled upon a well-kept secret.

It was also positive to see so many different types of people out running on a Sunday morning. All genders, sizes, ages, colours and creeds were covered; as a sport, running is incredibly inclusive because it requires so little to get started, and I felt like London had cracked it.

Oh, and for those wondering, the infamous Yu lack of direction sense did strike occasionally (especially around Monument), though I was able to course correct and only added an extra mile on!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

A lengthy marathon training plan can be a double-edged sword. One particular benefit is it affords plenty of time for adaptations to take place with no particular rush, resulting in reduced injury risk. My Garmin 935 now frequently suggests to me that I’m peaking and little more can or should be done. One particular pitfall of such a long schedule is it takes its toll, mentally… I’ll be in serious need of a few weeks off afterwards!

I’m ready to give the race my best shot. Why? Because I’ve made it into the Yorkshire Marathon race pack…

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This week’s running – 18th to 24th of September 2017

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Week 20 of the 22 week marathon schedule. And now I taper!

No taper blues this year!

12 months ago, I found myself feeling incredibly agitated as I began tapering, but not so this time. My body has been craving the chance for some recovery to shift fatigue, so I opted to play this particular week quite casual. Volume was knocked right down to circa-50% of a busy week and intensity was used sparingly, ignoring the half marathon on Sunday.

Crucially, the fatigue is shifting. I need to be careful not to use up too much new-found free time just because it’s available…

3 x 800m at 5k to 10k-ish pace

Sticking firmly to the cause of not overdoing it, I knocked this session down from the original 5 x reps to just 3 x. The wind was howling and due to the short nature of the intervals on the canal towpath, finding a stable and reproducible pace was difficult, hence ending up somewhere between 5k and 10k pace:

  1. 3:05
  2. 2:55
  3. 3:03

I got the desired effect of some faster running, helping with efficiency and to keep me from getting too sluggish as I recover.

Here’s the Strava data for this session.

5k easy

I said this week was low volume!

In truth, this run was more of necessity than of yearning – I could have very easily skipped out! I knew I needed to keep my legs turning over, so an easy trot it was.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill parkrun

With the Robin Hood Half Marathon the following day and needing to be somewhere sharpish after parkrun, Lis and I opted to volunteer as marshals for the morning. We were paired with the lovely Ginette, who absolutely adored the concept of parkrun.

Robin Hood Half Marathon 2017 review

For the full write-up of how this marathon dress rehearsal went, please click here.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

By the time you read this, I’ll be able to legitimately say race day is just next week… I’m filled with mixed parts excitement and dread; excitement in that I’ll be able to put the 22 weeks of training to the test, and dread because I know whatever result comes out of the other side, it’s going to hurt…

Speaking with Dave Burton recently, he made an interesting observation where, in reality, the goal is not the training, but rather the race itself. Arguably, being consistent and surviving such a long training schedule (over 5 months!) is a major achievement and is not to be overlooked. So many things can go wrong on race day – just look at the elites – and luck plays a bigger part than you would believe across 26.2 miles.

The training is now done and many of us will be setting foot on the biggest running challenge of our lives in a few short weeks, whether it be our first marathon, or a moon-shot time goal. Let’s not forget to congratulate ourselves on what we’ve accomplished so far!

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

cardiff_world_half_marathon

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 – 11th to 17th of January 2016

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Another annual pilgrimage to York for the Brass Monkey Half Marathon

This week was all about getting my A-game ready for the Brass Monkey Half Marathon.

8 canal miles

Wowza! Was it cold on Tuesday evening’s run! Personally, I run a little warm and will regularly be found in the winter wearing shorts and a t-shirt whilst out training, but not so on Tuesday! I squeezed into a compression vest, stuck a long-sleeve top over that, pulled on a pair of tights and finished the whole ensemble off with some gloves! And I was still able to feel the cold whilst I was out there…

On the out leg, I threw in one mile at marathon pace and on the return, I traded up for one mile at half marathon pace. I was reminded to reintroduce some glute activation exercises – they weren’t present at all during the run.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

The mercury was still low on Wednesday, so out came another winter ensemble. I also had to lug my heavy winter coat home in my backpack, and after weeks of commuting with a virtually empty bag, the additional weight was most noticeable.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Canal 10k with strides

Even with multiple layers, I was never able to warm-up on this particular run – I lost all feeling in my fingers after 2 miles or so!

The aim was to cover 10k and intersperse it with the odd short burst of strides to get my legs turning over. Largely achieved, though I never felt like the strides really had the anticipated outcome of restoring speed and mobility.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

The Brass Monkey Half Marathon 2016

For the full low-down of how my race went, please click here.

Time for a few more running rule shorts from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Running rule shorts – 41 to 50

  1. If you “need” music in order to run, you’re kind of missing the point.
  2. On a long run, it’s always better to have a bit of toilet paper and not need it, than vice versa.
  3. Wearing a terrycloth headband ironically is more annoying than wearing one in earnest.
  4. To help keep your upper body relaxed during a run, imagine you’re carrying a potato chip in each hand.
  5. If you wear it running, keep it out of the clothes dryer.
  6. The shorter the race, the more important the warmup.
  7. If a road is busy enough to make you wonder if runners are “allowed” on it, avoid running on that road.
  8. Two types of runners raise their arms in triumph at the finish line: the runner who has just won the race, and any runner who wasn’t even close to winning.
  9. Nobody has ever watched Chariots of Fire from beginning to end. Not even the people who made it.
  10. When the announcer says a race is “tactical,” he means “slow.”

This week’s running – 13th to 19th of July 2015

Andy smash!

ARRRRRGH! ANDY SMASH!!!

So, how did that 5k PB attempt go?

5k PB envy

Looking through my 5k PB history, I have put the following numbers together:

  • 2012 – 15x 5k PBs
  • 2013 – 10x 5k PBs
  • 2014 – 3x 5k PBs
  • 2015 – 0x 5k PBs

Would 2015’s lack of anything end this week?

4x 800m at 5k pace

Wind was almost non-existent for the first time in ages, but wet and humid conditions took its place. The air actually felt chunky enough to be cut with a knife! Once I reached Edgbaston Reservoir, the heavens also opened up to dampen everything. At least the paths would be quiet!

4x reps were all I wanted to keep my body ticking over until Saturday’s Parkrun. I was bizarrely feeling pretty strong going into this session, with the warm-up feeling particularly comfortable. Had Sunday’s race had a distorting impact on my perception of effort?

Pleasantly, 3x of the reps came up a smidge faster than target pace and the final rep was precisely on target. In fact the reps largely managed to surpass those that I completed recently on the track under better conditions.

Here’s the Garmin data for the session.

Taper time

To a lot of folks, tapering for a 5k seems a little odd. For such a short distance, some would argue that it’s not necessary. My 18:51 5k PB was achieved through a short, sharp taper with no running of any sort for three days from Wednesday through to Saturday. No specific 5k training happened leading up to that PB either; only a weekly fartlek run that covered a variety of paces.

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Wolverhampton Parkrun

Come Saturday morning, I was primed and ready to roll. Training had gone to plan, and I’d even dare say slightly better than anticipated. I’d even made sure I was loaded with the optimal amount of beetroot juice for that extra edge!

I reached Wolverhampton Parkrun with about 40 minutes to spare – plenty of time for my entire warm-up routine and more. I had fond memories of West Park, where my previous visit was just over a year prior and generated a PB. Why West Park? The course profile is reasonably flat and the terrain is a beautifully paved tarmac path. If I were to nit-pick, the total elevation gain is comparable to Cannon Hill’s latest course, but spread out over three mile long laps rather than throwing most of it at you in one go.

It was a little odd turning up to an event where I didn’t know anybody from Adam. Not necessarily a bad thing because I used the nervous energy to keep me on my toes. My one foe for the day was to be the strong gusts of wind that blew. The apartment complex I live in is particularly susceptible to wind, and the previous night was an absolute howler for noise.

1-2-3 and we were off. Congestion was bloody awful from the very start due to the course quickly narrowing into a series of left turns before we hit the main park path. The nemesis for the morning introduced itself to me by smacking me around with a few gusts. Still feeling fresh from the taper, I adjusted my effort to combat the wind resistance to stay on target for just a fraction faster than the target 3:45/km.

The congestion fully dispersed within the next few hundred metres to leave me running on my lonesome. The faster guys had all taken off ahead, and the lead girl was slowly putting more and more daylight between her and me. An older chap crept up from behind and slotted himself in just before me. I took the opportunity to draft behind him for some shelter from the wind, though this proved rather challenging because he was moving at just slightly faster than what I was happy to commit to. The first km was pretty much exactly where I wanted it at 3:40/km.

The second km became a tough slog despite a few more runners joining the fray for some much needed company. Thick tree cover caused my Garmin to become erratic with its measurements, flitting from being on target pace to several seconds down in the blink of an eye. When the second km clocked in at 4:01, I knew it was game over. All week, I had done some rough simulations on paper and the slowest split I could tolerate and still hit my goal was 3:55; any slower than this and it would be too much to make up even as part of a final fast split.

I lost some of the fight inside and everything started to get on top of me. The remaining 3km would prove to be a major suffer-fest.

Whilst the third km was slightly faster than that before it, the fourth km was the slowest of the morning by a long shot. A combination of reasons, but mainly down to fatigue and dodging and weaving through slower lapped runners. The last time I was at Wolverhampton Parkrun, there was only some congestion within the last 800m or so; clearly the popularity of the event has risen in twelve months.

A guy with heavily tattooed arms joined me for the final lap of the park. He pulled away ever so slightly, but did me a favour by clearing a path through the crowds and I simply followed. I was blowing hard and doing my best steam locomotive impression, wanting it all to end. The short, sharp rise at the end of each lap was upon us and we both put on a cautious kick, filtering through the crowds at the same time. The other guy had one more gear to shift into and pulled away on the home straight to create a sizeable gap for the line.

I finished in 19:11; about where I expected it to be given the conditions. Disappointed and dejected, I trotted off on a cool-down and the guy with the tattoos joined me. Turned out he’d pulled off a 19:05 PB in the process of gunning for a sub-19 finish.

Various folks have said not to over-analyse the outcome; the same conditions would have yielded similarly slow times at Cardiff Parkrun or on a track. I still can’t help but feel like I’ve been cheated this year by all manner of things conspiring against me.

Here’s the Garmin data for Wolverhampton Parkrun.

11 canal miles

The theme of dodgy conditions continued into my long run on Sunday. The entire out stretch towards Bournville was into a stiff headwind – the waves created in the canal further reinforced how strong the wind was with no let up. I didn’t even bother to run by pace and took no notice of my Garmin.

Once beyond half way and looped back on to the canal towpath, I expected everything to be hunky dory. Nope! The water in the canal once again confirmed the head wind had turned itself around and hit me square on.

As I approached the tunnel leading back into the city centre, I spotted a cyclist just a bit beyond the entrance on the other side; I sped up to make sure I was safely in the tunnel first, but the cyclist took no notice of this and entered anyway. Being a small chap, there’s usually enough room for me to squeeze past cyclists and other canal users once inside, so not the end of the world. The guy was talking on his phone and had sunglasses on, so clearly his attention was elsewhere to explain why he’d taken no notice of me. As we crossed paths, he had the nerve to say, “Yo! When you see me coming, you make room for me because I ain’t bumping my cell phone in this tunnel!” A few choice words from me and I made sure I barged my shoulder into him as I passed. I’d hoped to knock his phone out of his hand and leg it; the tunnel’s too narrow to quickly turnaround on a bike, plus he’d have been scrambling for his phone whilst still wearing his sunglasses. There was less than 800m until the next exit to street level, and fuelled by the adrenaline from how pissed off I was, he would never have been able to catch me.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Completely unrelated, but I also managed to give myself a second degree burn on my right leg due to an accident in the kitchen. The perfect way to cap off a craptacular week of running!

It’s a short one this week from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

You must run at least one race in your lifetime that finishes on a track

Seriously. It’s really something.

This week’s running – 8th to 14th of June 2015

Two Castles Run 2015 warm-up

No, I didn’t participate in the mass warm-up! Photo by Leamington Observer

This week was all about getting primed to race again.

8 canal miles

Taking two complete rest days over Sunday and Monday seemed to do the trick. I felt fresher than of late and was ready to head out and hit the canals.

Something was occurring at the NIA, so I chose to run out towards Smethwick and back for a bit of quiet time. Funnily enough, I had only just returned from work from that very direction… There was a spring in my step and leg turnover that was both odd but pleasant to experience; my form was poised and I felt unstoppable.

Hitting the switchback, everything suddenly fell apart when a ferocious headwind hit. I remained aerobic, but I’m sure if I had worn my heart rate monitor, an upward spike would have appeared for the second half.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run. Unusually, Strava has interpreted the paces per mile differently.

5k from work

Sadly, writing this entry up almost a week later means I’ve largely forgotten how this run went. Garmin Connect offers the only clue of a royal flush, so it can’t have been that bad…

Canal 10k

What a shocker of a run this was. I headed out on the usual stretch of canal out towards Bournville; before I’d even left Brindley Place, somebody had barged me into the wall of the tunnel to scrape up my shoulder pretty badly. There was plenty of blood and the sweat made the raw flesh sting like a mofo.

I decided to continue with my run instead of calling it quits, but things didn’t get any better. I struggled to hang on to the pace in the second half due to under-fuelling again. I just can’t seem to fuel up adequately at the moment, where it’s always a balancing act of eating enough for performance but also to maintain weight.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

What? No Parkrun?!

In a bid to freshen up as quickly as possible, I opted to not even put my name forward to volunteer at Parkrun. It was dreadful weather-wise, so I was quite glad to give it a miss in exchange for a much needed lie-in.

Two Castles Run 10k 2015

Find out how the Two Castles Run went for me by clicking here.

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

Be cordial with your rivals

Did you shadow another runner in the final stretch of your race, or vice versa? Perhaps pushing each other to go a bit faster or out-and-out fighting to be first to the line? Good for you. (Both of you!) This competitive give-and-take is one of the best parts of racing.

Once you’ve crossed the line, a gracious gesture is always appropriate. Offer a kind word, an open hand, or pat on the back to anyone who was with you in those closing minutes of your race. Whether you egged each other on verbally, or wordlessly coaxed a bit more kick out of each other, you’ve just shared a bit of sportsmanship that deserves to be noted.

Hugs and kisses? Maybe not – unless your rival is also a spouse or significant other. Or European. Or both.

This week’s running – 4th to 10th of May 2015

Taper time!

First of many races this week

This week was all about the tapering for and recovering from the DK10K.

Taper time

With the DK10K as the first of my 10k races that I’ve seriously trained for, a small but significant taper was called for with no running on Monday or Tuesday. Achieving my sub-40 target at the race was needed to put me in the right frame of mind for the rest of the season. Not all of my 10k races will get the taper treatment, with a small number being treated as hard training runs.

DK10K

For the full fat run-down of how the DK10K went, please click here.

5k recovery

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. The DK10K managed to destroy my legs with both of my quads aching the following day, and my left knee feeling out of sorts.

A very gentle 5k jog home from the office was exactly what the make-believe coach ordered. Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

There was a lot of hubbub last week in response to Cannon Hill’s course change. Some loved it and felt it returned a few valuable seconds that were sorely missed after 2014’s finish line relocation. Others felt it was another move that slowed a course down further by introducing traffic between faster runners and lapped runners. Being absent last week, I waited with bated breath to sample the changes for myself.

New course at Cannon Hill Parkrun

2x short laps and 1x long lap make up the new Cannon Hill course

So, what exactly has changed? Cast your eyes over the course map above. Essentially, there are now 3x laps of the park; 2x short laps skipping out the route next to the duck pond in favour of going past the tennis courts and golf course; the final lap has runners heading out towards the triangle and back as before, re-joining the main park perimeter for the remainder of a short lap towards the uphill finish.

Warm-up with Nigel done, we returned to a jam-packed bandstand surrounded by Kings Heath Running Club and Bournville Harriers, along with everybody else. The day was in honour of John Enright, a Bournville Harrier member that sadly passed away last year. It was touching to see so many present, many of whom I’d never seen at Parkrun before, come forward to celebrate one of his passions.

Lis ran again, looking to complete the whole course without walking, much like last week at Cardiff. Elsa also made an appearance to boost the total attendance numbers for the day.

Whilst listening to the briefing, I bumped into Selena who was back in town and just had to get a Parkrun fix in as well. Too busy gassing with her, I missed my opportunity for a decent spot on the start line, but found myself stood on the grass next to Alex and Jonny. I wasn’t entirely sure how fast or slow I wanted to go and simply settled on sub-20. Before too long, the starter’s orders were given and we were off.

Nigel mentioned to me last week that the new start produced a fast opening mile; without any corners, a slight descent and the adrenaline from the start line, it was very easy to see how this happened! It was only the congestion from the boosted club runner numbers that slowed things down.

But one man’s congestion is another’s running company, and I’ve often complained about the lack of people to run alongside at Cannon Hill. Not so on this day when there were plenty of people to track and trace. I found myself following Nigel, Alex and Jonny for much of the first half of the run. We did end up lapping some of the runners towards the rear when we passed the bandstand for the second time.

In and out of the triangle, I sensed the pace was slipping so I took the lead and pulled away. Before the run, Nigel also highlighted that the changes to the course meant the right time to begin winding things up was from the MAC through to the finish. I struggled to grasp this at first but once I experienced this for myself, I knew exactly what he was referring to. Three years of running from the MAC, past the duck pond and then through to Fergal’s/Dave’s corner, meant this change to the course made things feel much more progressive. Lis also agreed with this after completing her own run.

Andy Yu at Cannon Hill Parkrun

One final kick up the hill – photo by MudRunner Sports Photography

I crossed the line in 19:31, so a lot faster than the sub-20 result I envisaged. My legs didn’t feel too bad and my cardiovascular system was able to keep up, so no complaints from me or my body. Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

No complaints either from Lis who scored another PB of 32:16 after Cardiff last week. A sub-30 minute finish can’t be far now – she’s taken almost 2 minutes off her time in 2 weeks!

I’ve got to say I do approve of the new course changes, where it does indeed feel faster. I had my reservations initially when I found out we were required to run around the sharp turn next to the tearoom bin three times, but this did not pose much of a problem yesterday. These changes go some way towards returning some much needed speed to the course after the addition of the finish hill in 2014.

It’s the Parkrun Ambassador’s weekend next week, but it won’t be happening at Cannon Hill due to the park being used for a food festival; instead, the event will take place over at the nearest neighbour, Perry Hall Parkrun. There are normally an array of guests and last year saw Paul Sinton Hewitt, Tom Williams, Steve Way, Chrissie Wellington, Liz Yelling and a few others in attendance. I’ll be marshalling at the event, treating it as a mini-taper for a race the next day, so hopefully see a few of you there!

10 canal miles

This was the worst feeling long run in a good while. I delayed heading out until the afternoon, so I was full of a protein-packed lunch to make me feel bloated and heavy. The out section on the canal towpath was also entirely into a raging headwind. At least I didn’t see any geese with their goslings!

The return leg was loads better and I duly picked the pace up. I still felt crappy but at least going faster meant it would all end sooner.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Time for your weekly fix from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Relax

This just might be the single most useful rule about racing. And it works on more than one level.

  • Relax in the buildup to your race: Added tension and anxiety can only hurt you.
  • Relax the night before your race: At this late stage, you’ve trained enough to meet your goals or you haven’t; things are in fate’s hands now. And there’s certain relief in that. Take advantage of this relief to get some much-deserved rest.
  • Relax in the hours just before your race: Apart from a brief warmup walk/jog, spend this time thinking pleasant thoughts – or not thinking at all. Focus on running a smooth, fast race. Visualize yourself smiling on the course. Imagine the finish line, and yourself gliding across it. Then go do it.
  • Relax during the race: Clenched fists and hunched shoulders will only sap energy that should be devoted to moving you forward.

Oh, and don’t forget to relax postrace, with the recovery beverage of your choice. My personal favourite is Blue Point Toasted Lager.

This week’s running – 9th to 15th of March 2015

It's time to burn rubber!

<Insert Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”>

The week was all about preparing to burn rubber at the Silverstone circuit.

5k with strides

Work was and still is mega busy at the moment. It’s difficult to say whether my training has suffered or not, but what is certain is the hit it has taken on my energy levels on a day-to-day basis. As a result, I made this particular taper week a little more extreme than usual in a bid to try and perk myself up.

A dull ache also presented itself to the ball of my left foot. This came and went as it pleased, but crucially disappeared entirely when I was fully warmed up and running.

This 5k with a few strides thrown in here and there was all I wanted to do to get the legs moving and turning over without impacting the taper. Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

Besides the Silverstone Half Marathon, the only distance I ran this particular week was 5k!

Silverstone Half Marathon 2015 review

Click here for my full run-down of how the 2015 Silverstone Half Marathon went for me.

And here’s this week’s slot from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

“Lookin’ good”… And 10 other lies runners tell each other

Lying is not something we endorse under normal circumstances. But racing is not normal. This is why it’s perfectly acceptable – admirable, even – to tell a fellow runner that he is looking good at mile 19 of a marathon when, in fact, he looks like an insomniac zombie who’s trying to sneeze but can’t, and is confused because someone has apparently switched his normal running shoes with exact replicas made of concrete.

In cases like this, by all means, lie.

The “go-to” lie in these situations is that old standby, “Lookin’ good!” Variations include: “You look great!”… “Lookin’ smooth!” and the hybrid “You’re lookin’ great!” Then there’s the cruellest lie of all: “You’re almost there!” (In a marathon, you may hear this one as early as mile 7.)

These lies are all well and good. In fact, a race wouldn’t be a race without them. But if you’d like to try something more original, try one of these.

  • “You look so smooth, I suspect someone has sprayed your joints with PAM™ cooking spray!” (Yes, you must include ™ when you say this.)
  • “I am tempted to alert a race official because I could swear that you just walked onto the course, rather than starting with those around you. That is how fresh you look!”
  • “If I weren’t so awed by the apparent ease with which you’re navigating this course, I might be angry with you for nearly knocking me unconscious… with your very awesomeness!”
  • “From just the right angle, I’m fairly certain I can detect an actual, visible aura of strength and fluidity surrounding you like a halo! Continue running so that others may bask in it!”
  • “Go in grace, you lithesome creature of God! Your very presence elevates this road race to levels sublime!”

And if you just cannot bring yourself to lie, there are always these truth-neutral chestnuts: “Keep it up!” and “Wo-o-o-o-o-o-o!

Truth, fiction, or neutral, the key is to say something. Even a zombie appreciates a note of encouragement.