This week’s running – 31st October to 6th of November 16 2016


Let’s return to training with a 10k race…

Yes, it’s good to be back and with a 10k race and 42 mile week at that!

14 mins LT pace, 4 minutes recovery, 12 mins LT pace

After last week’s botched attempt at kick starting my half marathon training plan, this particular week saw it begin in earnest with this doozy of a run. I’ll be the first to admit tempo and lactate threshold pace is my weakness; I really don’t enjoy the intensity for a prolonged period, but fully acknowledge the big training return.

Based on my now likely soft 84:54 half marathon PB, my lactate threshold pace would sit around 6:21, but it never materialised and the best I could achieve was 6:31. At least it was consistent between the 14 and 12 minute blocks! Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring it down to 6:21 over the coming weeks once pace familiarity develops.

This was also my first head torch run for months on the once again re-opened canal towpath from Brindley Place to Bournville. I love this time of the year due to how quiet it is, though all the dead leaves collecting are a serious recreational hazard! Touch wood, I’ve been nimble enough on my feet to avoid several hairy moments, though I can’t shake the feeling that it must only be a matter of time before I trip over or turn an ankle in…

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles recovery

Despite the previous day’s session, I still felt fresh as a daisy on this recovery run, thanks to the prolonged break from running.

Running through Cannon Hill Park with only my head torch for illumination was pretty hair raising, and I was surprised to see British Military Fitness still running classes in the dark.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

9 miles from work

Very much a repeat of Tuesday, except with “Gangnam Style” blaring out from the university as I passed, and without the stomach churning LT pace!

Whilst the training schedule originally had the mid-week medium-long runs spread across a variety of distances, from 7 to 11 miles, I’ve been fettling again to boost the minimum length to 9 miles for simplicity and convenience. Any runs explicitly prescribed as longer than 9 miles remain untouched. During this same window in 2015, my typical mid-week medium-long run came in around 10 miles as standard without issue.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun


Brass Monkey Half Marathon 2015 top was apt! Photo by Geoff Hughes

It was pretty damn cold on Parkrunday, prompting me to leave my long-sleeve top donned and simply roll up my sleeves when I began warming up!

With a race the following day, I opted to keep the pace calm and collected for 19:42; in hindsight on paper, this was probably still a touch too fast, though no harm was done.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Conductive Education 10k 2016

For the full write-up of the 2016 Conductive Education 10k, please click here.

This week’s running – 15th to 21st of September 2014

Andy, Nigel and Dave at Cannon Hill Parkrun

After 6 weeks of waiting/not being around, I finally have my 100 Club t-shirt!

This week was all about working hard and working harder.

2x 2 miles at half marathon pace

This session still puts fear into me, even after several instances of running it with regularity. My problem with it is that compared to 800m reps, I know how the 800m reps should feel and I’m never too far away from the end if it gets a little intense. A 2 mile rep at half marathon pace is a slow burn that grows in intensity the closer I get to the end; something I’m just less familiar with.

I certainly felt the benefit afterwards but as per usual, I didn’t have the oomph in me to push out another rep, leaving me able to run another day.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Recovery run from work

I’m still keeping these up to help with overall weekly volume and they’re still as enjoyable as before. A short run with no pace pressure really does lift my spirits after a long day at the office.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

1x 1 mile, 2x 800m, 1x 1 mile

This is a favourite session of mine, running it again on Thursday. Whilst it is a bit of a “Jack of all trades” approach without any specific focus, it does get me running at half marathon pace (1 mile reps) and 5k pace (800m reps) without the greater intensity of pure half marathon pace sessions or pure 5k pace sessions.

I also bumped into Nigel Beecroft at Edgbaston Reservoir for a brief but pleasant exchange.

Here’s the Garmin data for this session.

Cannon Hill Parkrun – the Dave Burton edition

Dave on his way to victory!

Dave on his way to victory!

Earlier in the week, I proposed to Dave that we run ourselves into the ground at Cannon Hill Parkrun to mark the anniversary of our 19:18 joint PBs from 2013. I had put some good training into my workload, as had Dave, and the effects of the Cardiff 10k should have been absorbed for an almighty smackdown between the two of us.

I was pretty fired up for Cannon Hill Parkrun – PB attempt or no PB attempt. I’d been absent for 5 or 6 weeks due to races, holidays and simply being out of town. I also had my 100 Club t-shirt to collect after first earning it at the end of July. My usual routine of beetroot juice and coffees got the system started.

Due to the Midland Road Relays later that day, a good number of club runners chose not to run, staying away or volunteering instead. The start line was noticeably thin as a result, leaving a sweet spot right in the centre of the front row for Dave and me.

The run started fast at 3:47/km pace for a targeted sub-19 minute finish. I felt comfortable for the first few hundred metres but after the first km, the intensity had caught up to me. I wasn’t as fit as I was back in July and the lack of Parkruns lately made the pace feel dramatically alien. My training workload was also pretty heavy in the days leading up to Saturday, so the odds were well and truly against me. And what of Dave? Well, he was clearly having the run of his life. The gap between us continued to grow and after 2k, I decided to resign from the sub-19 attempt and shouted this out to Dave, who was confidently zooming off into the distance.

At the triangle, I calculated he was roughly 45 seconds ahead and the gap continued to grow as I slipped more and more off pace. I struggled to find groups of people to work with and whilst sometimes you can muscle through this if you’re feeling good, it’s one of the worst things that can hit you mid-race if you’re fading.

On the approach to the MAC, he had over 400m on me and I was certain he would produce a PB, if not a sub-19 finish as well in the process.

Now that's a race face!

Now that’s a race face!

With just 400m left to go, I started working with a girl that had overtaken me but was starting to fade. I urged her to keep going, not realising that she was only mere seconds away from her own PB.

I finally crossed the line in 19:48 – almost a minute behind schedule. I felt like shit and concluded that I could have run a much steadier and less stressful performance if a 19:48 was all I could produce that day. I found Dave and he looked reasonably fresh considering the effort he’d put in. And his time? 18:53! He did it and even managed to shave 3 seconds off from my PB set at the much flatter and faster Cardiff Parkrun! I was over the moon for him where he’d executed his plan to perfection. In less than 14 days, he managed to chop down my 5k and 10k PBs set earlier in the summer and it’s more than likely he’ll also take down my half marathon PB in the next 14 days, too.

Truly legendary stuff is our Dave!

I caught up with that girl I’d urged on in the last 400m. Turns out we’d actually run the last few hundred metres of this year’s London Marathon together! Alex said she’d recognised me from my über geeky Autobots tattoo on my leg and we even managed to piece together that I was the guy she saw kneeling down to propose. It’s funny to think that I’ve now managed to finish two London Marathons with a fellow Cannon Hill Parkrunner on each occasion.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

13 miles of Birmingham canals

Gone are the days when 13 miles during my marathon schedule were considered a short to medium length run.

This was my last chance to get a proper long run in ahead of the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2 weeks (made it into the fastest start pen – woohoo). Distance has taken somewhat of a back-seat during this summer so I’m hoping the addition or more training at higher intensities will see me through.

The weather was gorgeous and exactly what I expect of early autumn – perfection for a long run. Sadly, a headwind persisted in knocking the stuffing out of me almost all the way round the 13 miles for some pretty exhausting stuff on top of an already exhausting week.

The route finished up at Edgbaston Reservoir where like last week, it was pretty busy with people most likely training for the Great Birmingham Run in 4 weeks’ time.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

As ever, here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

Having a million things to do is an excuse for running, not an argument against it

There are hundred excuses not to run. Being busy just isn’t one of them. Why? Because taking even 20 or 30 minutes for a run will help you organize your thoughts, clear your head, wake up, and return to your tasks with a clarity and energy you can’t get from coffee or even a nap.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed or overbooked, put the to-do list down and lace up your running shoes. You’ll be glad you did.

This week’s running – 3rd to 9th of February

Andy Yu will be racing at the Bramley 20 and Silverstone Half Marathon

It’s nearly time to race! Silverstone Half Marathon and Bramley 20 race bibs.

After three weeks of full on training, this was a much needed scale back week.

Threshold Tuesday

Whilst it saddens me that I’m some way off being in contention of my current 5k PB (and probably the 10k, too), I do have a rather important marathon to run in just nine weeks and with that in mind, what I do now will ultimately make or break that marathon.

Threshold pace should have more benefit to me than 5k pace, which ultimately convinced me to run my 5x 800m reps at approximately 6:45 pace to get the lactic juices flowing through my muscles. For comparison, 6:52 is my target half marathon pace to hopefully some day break the 90 minute barrier.

The session was manageable with only the final rep feeling tough on the treadmill. The air conditioning in the gym is understandably not very high at the moment due to the cooler temperatures outside, where going full pelt for prolonged periods time quite difficult. The lack of airflow means the sweat you produce just clings to you and never evaporates, similar to running in high humidity. I also opted not to wear my heart rate monitor for fear that it may have triggered another stitch like last week.

Take a look at the Garmin data here.

6 miles with the Garmin 910XT’s custom workout mode

After last week’s successful pacing experiment with the Garmin 910XT’s custom workout mode, I set about editing the program slightly to rectify some of the previous quirks. One such quirk that proved annoying was the inability to record mile split data if you create a block of mileage at a particular pace, i.e. 4 total miles at 8:00 pace. To correct this, I actually need to create each mile individually or set the first mile up as one step and have the program repeat this step a set number of times.

So, I headed out for my 6 miles along Hagley Road in the wind and rain. The first warm-up mile went by without issue. The second mile at 8:00 pace (with a wider 15 second tolerance) also went by without a peep. I was bang on target pace and rather pleased with my metronomic performance; I then entered mile 3 and the 910XT started spazzing out, telling me I was now all of a sudden 45 seconds too slow, and then 15 seconds too fast!? How do you go from running a rock steady 8:00 minute mile into the next for the pacing to suddenly be all over the bleeding shop? I did my best to stabilise the pace again with the usual run a little faster, then a little slower to try and coax it back. Going into mile 4, the pacing schizophrenia occured all over again. What appeared to be happening was with each new mile split, the 910XT seemed to need to relocate my position again, requiring I wait for the pace to settle. This continued for the entire run and grew tiresome.

So it seems I can either block miles together and have the steadiest pace feedback I’ve ever experienced, but no individual mile splits, or I can have individual mile split data and pacing feedback that has a tantrum at the beginning of every new mile. Helpful, Garmin, helpful. I think I’ll stick with the virtual pacer from now on.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Saturday rocked up and off to Cannon Hill Lis and I went. I wanted to score something around 19:45 to get my legs turning over and given it was my easy week, I should have been fresh enough for the task. Seth was also back after a bit of an absence, joining Dave for their first experience on the new winter course.

I bumped into Ed on the startline who had just completed 17 miles, with a planned total run of 22 miles that day. What was more amazing was he was happy to pace me around at my planned 19:45 pace! Incredible fitness indeed. The first mile was very congested, with Dave zooming off into the distance amongst the crowds. Just when I thought he was gone for a 19:3X finish time, he somehow reappeared behind me! Clearly, he’s perfected the art of race teleportation but uses it sparingly to avoid potential disqualification.

Impressively, there were three girls taking part in a three-way battle with each other at around our position out in the field of runners.

The wheels came off at mile 2 and I was forced to let Dave and Ed go. One of the girls had slipped off the pace and was now just ahead of me, giving me a target to work towards and for much of this mile, the two of us would repeatedly overtake and surge past each other.

Approaching the hill in mile 3, I simply didn’t have enough get up and go to really push on. My legs were heavy and refused to go any faster up the hill, but I did manage to find a little something at the very top to return home for 33rd out of a total of 514 runners and a time of 20:08.

Congratulations are also in order for Barbara Partridge of Kings Heath Running Club, winning Parkrunner of the month.

10 miles with Dave Burton

Apart from in half marathons, Dave and I have never actually run together for more than 6 miles before. I wanted to take on a shorter long run of just 10 or 11 miles but at slightly faster than target marathon pace. Long, slow runs are the bread have been the bread and butter of my build-up so far with sprinklings here and there of specific marathon pace work. This run was meant to really zone in on what the pace feels like.

We ended up on a tour of Bournville and the surrounding areas for a nice change of scenery for me. What was also pleasant was running with somebody else with the miles simply flying by. The pace was nice and steady, with neither of us two physically taxed if our conversations were anything to go by. Running with Dave really did seem to take the edge off the intensity, where I most likely could have completed 10 miles on my own at the same pace, but with a lot more added mental stress.

It was almost like therapy, having a fellow runner of similar ability to talk to about upcoming races, targets and plans for the rest of the year. The whole experience was so positive, we’ve agreed to try and collaborate on long runs more often to reap the benefits!

Take a look at the Garmin data and route right here.

Upcoming races

I do love a good race and as the above bibs show, I’m gearing up for the Bramley 20 and Silverstone Half Marathon in just one and three weeks respectively.

A 20 mile race is a relatively unknown territory for me, where I’ve only covered the distance in training or as part of last year’s marathon. To say I will be racing 20 miles is disingenuous; rather, I will be using it as a catered training run where I plan to run at just slower than marathon race pace to hone into the feeling of 8:00 minute miles over a prolonged distance, but also to aid recovery by not going all out. If I feel good at the end of the ordeal, it’ll really boost my confidence for London, which is what I really need right now. My old uni buddy, Kevin Yates of Lordshill Running Club, will also be there for a good catch-up.

Whilst on our 10 mile run, Dave and I did discuss how we would both approach the Silverstone Half Marathon. I’m almost 100% confident Dave will be able to PB there, given its much flatter course profile in comparison to the Great Birmingham Run from last October. Me on the other hand, I’m definitely at least 2 – 3 minutes away from besting my 1:31:09 set in Cardiff last year. Given Silverstone’s close proximity to the London Marathon and also my need to still complete 21 and 22 mile training runs, I’ve decided not to go all out and hammer myself in the race, merely using it as a fast training run and a fitness benchmark. Target pace will be around 7:10 and then if I have more to give after 6 miles, I’ll try and up the pace.

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

Join a local running club

I am a proud member of a running club called the Lehigh Valley Road Runners. (Don’t ask me for proof, because I don’t have any. They have never sent me a membership card.) My membership dues get me a sporadically published newsletter, a discount on some local races, and 10 percent off at the local running store. I think.

Truth is, I rarely take advantage of those perks. And even if I didn’t get them at all, I’d still pony up my 20 bucks a year to be a member of the LVRR. Why? Because my running club is full of nice people doing nice things. And it makes me feel good to be a small part of that.

They sponsor a scholarship. They organize races, including a fantastic kids’ series every summer. They have a potluck after their Wednesday night 5-K Summer Series races. It’s good stuff.

Plus, the LVRR clubhouse down in the Parkway has a nice bath-room. That perk has come in handy more than a few times.

This week’s running – 20th to 26th of January


Water, water everywhere…

This week was all about getting stuck in again with a solid week of running.

Threshold Tuesday

Not wanting to push myself too hard getting back into it, I opted to make my Tuesday session a short threshold run to dust off any lingering cobwebs.

I’ve always been troubled by what pace a threshold run is and it’s basically the point at which the lactic acid your body is producing cannot be adequately shifted away. Others say it’s the pace you could sustain for an hour’s all out effort.

The intention was to run 3 miles at threshold pace on the treadmill, so somewhere between 6:45 and 6:50 per mile. Easier said than done! The first mile was perfectly fine but then mile 2 hit. There simply wasn’t enough airflow in the gym and I was starting to overheat at the pace I was going at, and treadmill running is always mentally a touch harder than the equivalent pace outdoors. I had to cut the session short for fear of passing out.

Ironically, intervals have proven to be easier in the same environment because of the 90 second rest period between reps.

Here’s the Garmin data for the threshold run.

6 miles along Hagley Road

Conscious that I don’t do nearly enough marathon pace running, I now try to push the pace a little on my Thursday runs. It’s a great time to have a bash at getting the legs turning over after a long week at work, helping to lock in what marathon pace should feel like.

Problem is, I like to attempt to maintain an average pace and the opening mile always lets me down because I treat it as a warm-up. This inevitably means I need to run the remaining miles a touch faster. My aim currently is to run each mile faster than the last, simulating the need to go faster when your body doesn’t necessarily want to.

Anywho, I was able to Royal Flush again and the buzz from the runners’ high at the very end is always intoxicating.

Here’s the Garmin data.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

As ever, I wasn’t sure how hard I wanted to push at Parkrun. The threshold paced run I ran with Nigel two weeks ago was rather pleasant and packed with benefits. But there’s always that niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I want to try to nail that sub-20 minute finish again. Something I worked so hard for was simply too much to give up, marathon or no marathon.

So, I punched in 6:22 pace into my Garmin which would have brought me in with a sub-20 minute finish with a few seconds to spare. Rocking up at Parkrun, we were greeted with good and bad news. The good: the run directors are thinking of trialing a new course. The bad: the finish will be at the top of the uphill path that leads to the Russell Road carpark… If the new course is implemented, we can all kiss PBs goodbye for a long while!

In the opening scrum, I found myself running with Ed Barlow from BRAT. Nigel tagged along too at our rough 6:20 pace. Ed was finishing up the end of a long run by participating in Parkrun and despite the brisk pace for most people, it seemed to have no effect on him at all (his PB is 17:32!) which made Ed perfect as a pacer; this for him was almost literally a walk in the park!

Following Ed definitely took the edge off the task at hand. I normally find myself running on my own for long stretches at Cannon Hill where I’m not fast enough to hang on to the group in front, but I’m definitely faster than the chasing group behind me. We started to slow a little on the approach to the triangle, which is normal, but managed to pick the pace up again on the return home. The last mile most definitely hurt; my lungs were on fire and my legs were bathing in a pool of lactic acid, and my choo-choo train impression reared its ugly head again after a well-deserved break (apologies to those around me, I know it’s off-putting).

On the approach to the finish, I was seriously blowing and didn’t have much more to give. Urged on by Ed, I kicked with about 100m left to go and tried to pass another runner on the outside; he counter-attacked with a kick of his own and just managed to pip me by a second to the finish, clearly fresher than I was that morning.

And my finish time? 19:37 according to my Garmin, but Parkrun have officially logged it as 19:38 (boo-hiss). Nigel was in close pursuit and finished with a superb 19:41; an unexpected but not undeserved PB. Dave managed to cut it very close with a 19:54, with his last four runs ranging in times between 19:49 and 19:56 – Mr Consistency he shall be known from this day forth.

In a rather humorous post-run moment, Khalid showed us his new running toy – a GPS watch. It just so happened to be the exact same Garmin as what I have, the 910XT. He even had the footpod (I’ve never seen anybody else with this apart from me before) and the heart rate monitor for the ultimate assortment of data to chew through. It’s a great set up and I know it’ll really benefit him in training and races to come.

Take a look at the Garmin data here.

Yu versus Yu

I like competition. It helps me improve and keeps my eye on the ball. Imagine my delight when my brother challenged me to a 5k race in July! My brother is not a long distance runner, but specialised in sprint events in his school days. He hasn’t run for years and has recently embarked on some training for a 10k race in December. His furthest so far? 2.2k in over 12 minutes. His thoughts on what he could do a 10k in? Somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes…

Now, some of you might call this an unfair race but it was my brother that called it. To make things even more interesting, there’s £50 for the winner. Watch this space to see how this develops.

18 mile long run

Who sang that song from Four Weddings and a Funeral? Wet, Wet, Wet wasn’t it? Yep, that’s exactly how you can describe my long run today. Rain, wind, puddles, a knee ache. Everything was against me today.

I made the mistake of venturing out on to the canals, thinking they would at least be in reasonable shape. The puddles became tiresome and with the long straights of the canals, the frustrating headwind quickly took its toll on me. I would not have lasted long out there so I took the decision to exit the canal at Bournville.

Pershore Road took me back to Cannon Hill Park where I embarked on 3.5 runs of the Parkrun course (once in reverse). This was a real test of mental strength but there were no puddles to dodge and the wind was unable to follow me constantly. I ran 1 mile or so with a fellow Parkrunner (didn’t catch his name, sadly) which turned into the easiest mile of the 18 today. At 16 miles, my right knee started to ache again; not constantly but it would come and go making a sustained effort at the end of my long run difficult.

I’m pleased with today’s performance. I managed to run a negative split today and had it not have been for my legs giving in, my lungs could have kept going with relative ease. What is clear is I need to use my foam roller more often to iron out the kinks.

Here’s the Garmin data for the run.

Here’s your weekly dose from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:

You may safely skip ice baths

You have probably read or heard a lot about ice baths. The idea is that sitting in a tub of ice water for several minutes postrace, or post workout, speeds recovery. Many elite runners swear by the practice. Or so we’re told.

Can’t you imagine some running bigwigs sitting around in a bar, unwinding with a few beers after a hard day of bigwigging, and having the following conversation?

BIGWIG #1: “Guys, I’m telling you, runners will do just about any crazy thing we tell ’em to.”

BIGWIG #2: “You got that right. You could tell a runner to sit in a tub full of cold water for 20 minutes after a run, because it… oh, I don’t know, because it’ll help his legs be less sore… and he’d fall over himself on his way to the cold-water spigot.”

BIGWIG #1: “Ha!”

BIGWIG #3: “Forget cold water. How about ICE water?”

BIGWIG #2: “Well, come on now, Bigwig 3, even runners have SOME sense.”

BIGWIG #1: “I gotta agree, BW3. Great idea, but sitting in ice water is just too dang much.”

BIGWIG #3: “Care to make it interesting?”

I can’t say it went down exactly like that, of course. They may have been drinking scotch instead. All I know is I’ve never sat in an ice bath and I don’t intend to.

The drinking, however, I’m totally on board with.