This week’s running – 17th to 23rd of November 2014

Warning! Diversion!

I hate it when a plan doesn’t come together!

This week didn’t quite go according to plan…

5k from work

After the heavy weekend of a Cannon Hill Parkrun course PB and a mind numbing 10+ miles exclusively again at Cannon Hill, I was determined to get some easy miles into my legs for recovery. The plan was to increase run days to a total of 6 – my highest ever. Sadly, whilst the Monday run from work did happen, Tuesday was a write-off due to an unexpectedly late finish at the office. My 6 run week will have to happen another time.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10k fartlek along Hagley Road

I really enjoyed this run last week; this repeat of it more or less cements it into my winter schedule until it starts to get brighter again in the evening.

Largely uneventful, apart from one dick driver that decided to pull up and mount the kerb, requiring evasive manoeuvres from me. He clearly didn’t see me, even though I had my head torch on strobe mode. Stay safe out there, peeps!

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Perry Hall Parkrun

Perry Hall Parkrun course

The Perry Hall Parkrun course

It’s been a long time coming but the second city finally has a second Parkrun.

Perry Hall Parkrun is roughly the same distance from me compared to the usual haunt of Cannon Hill, so the schedule remained pretty much unchanged to most Saturdays. The course terrain covered tarmac, grass and gravel for a cross-country feel. I used to hate cross-country as a fat kid at school, so this would be interesting…

Arriving at the venue, it was immediately apparent that parking on-site was at a premium. Whether this was due to limited spaces to begin with, or a larger number of visiting vehicles than the site can support, I’m not sure. More spaces are supposed to be made available next week, but I wasn’t certain where they would materialise.

We quickly met up with Nigel Beecroft, making up the Cannon Hill Unattached ©. Our warm-up consisted of one lap of the two-lap course, roughly resembling a figure of 8 or an hourglass. Clearly, the park was in the middle of some redevelopment; tarmac paths began and ended abruptly, and orange plastic netting blighted the landscape. The recent rain had saturated the grass sections of the course for a squelchy warm-up, making me think again about my sub-20 ambition for the morning.

Perry Hall Parkrun event number 1

Start line of the inaugural Perry Hall Parkrun – photo by Perry Hall Parkrun

Everybody regrouped by the finish line for the briefing. Expectedly, almost everyone present was an existing Parkrunner, and a Parkrun tourist at that. Despite this being my eighth different venue, this was my very first inaugural event. We made our way to the start line for what was a very civilised affair with plenty of room up front, where I found myself standing next to Cannon Hill speedster, Darren Hale.

Once into the run, I was able to stick with a group of runners at around the sub-20 pace. Developing a rhythm on the course was tricky; the tarmac and concrete paths were a touch slippery due to the rain and the grass sections absorbed a lot of energy from each foot strike. I slipped off the pace and had to let the group go, falling back to the next group behind me. Positions changed rapidly between four or five of us and I eventually settled down to draft behind the lead girl.

I normally have a decent judgment of distance, and I was certain I had run through the first km, but my Garmin kept schtum. The pace looked right and was set to minutes per km; that’s when I realised I had left it to auto-lap for every mile, which simply wasn’t regular enough given the changing pace and terrain.

Running a clean line was near impossible on the course and often, the shortest route was not necessarily the easiest. Trying to maximise traction, I ended up running wide to utilise dry patches that were less churned up. My group continued to jostle for position, but one positive was we had collectively overtaken several runners that had over-egged it in the early stages.

Andy Yu at Perry Hall Parkrun

Mud everywhere at Perry Hall Parkrun – photo by Lis Morgan

Reaching solid ground, the group kicked things up a notch and I started to go backwards from them. I had to throw in a few small surges to stay in contact; one well-timed surge actually took me ahead of the group to lead again. We rapidly closed in on two younger Sparkhill Harrier runners; one of whom was the lad that I’d pushed on a few weeks ago for a vomit inducing PB. They were both fading and we were only at the start of lap two…

I was breathing pretty hard from all the regular pace and terrain changes. The stabiliser muscles in my legs are definitely less developed due to the near-exclusive road running I do; I simply didn’t have the necessary drive to push hard on the grass or mud.

Andy Yu finishing Perry Hall Parkrun

Just missed a sub-20 finish by a few seconds – photo by Perry Hall Parkrun

Once I was back on tarmac and in my element, I cranked the pace back up to try and reclaim as much lost time as possible. I thought I was safe but out of nowhere, an older chap in a 100 Club t-shirt stormed past me. I tried to close the gap but I was out of gears to shift into. His downhill technique was far superior to mine and the gap only increased; I gave up on the chase and looking behind, there were a good couple of seconds between the next guy and me, so a sprint finish was not necessary. I crossed the line in 20:07 to be just outside of target; I could have found an extra second or two per km if I had set my Garmin up correctly.

Nigel finished only about 15 seconds after me and looked dramatically fresher for it. We both enjoyed the change of scenery and Nigel even planned to attend Perry Hall Parkrun for their Christmas Day run if Cannon Hill decided not to hold one themselves. I’m not sure how often I will run at Perry Hall Parkrun, but I would like to tackle it again before 2014 is out.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10.5 miles out and back to Birmingham Uni

Without a critical marathon to train for, I’m using this winter season for some training experiments, one of which is to try and boost my body’s ability to utilise fat. There’s been a lot of hubbub out there about running on fewer carbs, or running in a fasted state leading to improved endurance. I’m also interested in getting my body fat down to 10%, where it currently flits between 11.5 and up to 13%. So today, I set out on my long run with nothing but a coffee and some diluted orange squash for breakfast.

I wanted to head towards Bournville via the canal towpath and imagine my disappointment when I discovered it had been closed off again! A quick detour back on to street level and I decided to cruise along Bristol Road for an impromptu tour of Birmingham Uni. I felt great considering I’d skipped breakfast – there was no sluggishness at all and the pace always felt comfortable. To top off an already positive run, I even bumped into Jort out on his own long run.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

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

Approach the expo with caution

Race expos are mystical places where the usual laws of retail and consumption do not apply.

Don’t need another singlet? Another pair of shorts or tights shoes? Another bagful of energy gels or a new pair of shades?

Who cares! You’re at the expo! You’ve trained hard to get here and denied yourself for months and months. Now it’s your weekend, dammit, and you owe it to yourself to indulge a little in the form of purchasing that commemorative race plaque, those hats, and this what-the-heck-is-this-thing, anyway? You know what? Who cares? You’ll take it!

If you have the disposable income to handle this sort of indiscriminate splurging on stuff you frankly don’t need, then have it. Enjoy.

Winter workload

Welcome to the first post since 2012! Blogging had taken a back seat to Christmas and everything that comes in tow with it, such as shopping, work parties, socialising and so on. Running also took a back seat to these things, though it still made guest appearances so at least I managed to get out there.


December saw me take a bit of a Parkrun tour where I visited the Cardiff event. Rated as one of the UK’s faster courses, with average finish times over a minute faster than Cannon Hill, I figured it would allow for an easy PB, that’s the theory anyway. The reality was quite far from the truth, with a very crowded start line and very narrow initial path. The faster average finish time is probably down to more club and competitive runners compared to Cannon Hill’s more recreational group. I’ve now run this event twice and failed to PB on both occasions, though I now know the tactics needed to maximise a potential PB attempt.

Cannon Hill hasn’t yielded any PBs either since early December with a time of 20:53 and my longest period so far without a new PB. I am however only 17 Parkruns away from joining the 50 club, which I estimate will happen in May.

Marathon training

Training for the marathon has well and truly begun with several long runs of 15, 16, 17 and 18 miles completed. With each run, the final mile has felt stronger than the last and will lay out a good base for the 5x 20+ miles I still need to run.

I’ve just discovered the Marathon Talk podcast which I took out with me on today’s long run and it served as the ideal training companion, giving you something to focus on during all those lonely miles. Content wise, I can only call it a running magazine meets a running talk show containing news, tips, interviews and so on. I will be loading a couple of these episodes on to my iPod shuffle for each Sunday between now and the London Marathon.

Race calendar

So, how’s the racing horizon looking for me? I have the Bath Half Marathon coming up in early March, with Dave and I looking to smash our respective PBs of 1:45:27 and 1:45:22 set at the Great Birmingham Run. We’ve set sub 1:40 finishes as our targets and I think we’ll nail it come the first Sunday in March.

After that, there’s obviously the London Marathon. I have a small entourage going to London to cheer me on and I’ll need to co-ordinate where I want certain people to be to minimise problems of not seeing each other.

I would like to do one or two Summer 10k races, though there aren’t too many of these around the Midlands unfortunately, so will have to find alternatives elsewhere. I hope the Cardiff 10k is back on again, if only because of the convenience of getting there!

My Autumnal plans are still up in the air. It’s a shame really because there are so many high profile half marathons in the Autumn that I would like to participate in, with the Royal Parks Half, Nike Run to the Beat, Cardiff Half and Great Birmingham Run on my Radar. Royals Parks is touted as a mini London Marathon with all the best sights and none of the filler in the early stages. Nike Run to the Beat is a unique half where the course is lined with live music from big acts. Cardiff needs to be slayed because of the blow-up I suffered there in 2011 due to overcooking it in the first few miles. And of course, the Great Birmingham Run is literally just on my doorstep and training for the course is easy as pie. I hope I get a ballot place for Royal Parks and failing that, Cardiff will be my B race and I’d dare say I’ll enter the Great Birmingham Run again anyway.

I promise to blog a bit more often on here so until next time, run to win!