This week’s running – 16th to 22nd July 2018

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6th at Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun – Photo by Sarah Layton

An unusually low mileage week, after several in the high 40s to low 50s.

5k recovery

Slightly cooler temperatures made this 5k recovery feel like a breeze. Everything just clicked when it needed to.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

6x 800m at 5k pace

The recent focus on 400m intervals helped propel me to better attack this 800m session. Strong headwind slammed into me on the warm-up, signalling a challenging time ahead. But, in an unexpected double-edged sword kind of way, the wind may have actually allowed for the session to be completed in its entirety. I opted to not fight the gusts for at least the first rep, recognising that my legs normally take a little time to find themselves. The end result? A pretty satisfying set:

  1. 3:05
  2. 3:01
  3. 2:57
  4. 2:57
  5. 2:55
  6. 2:53

Without the wind, I reckon I’d have taken another 3-5 seconds off each rep.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 miles run-commute

The slightly cooler temperature remained, making running with a bag on my back slightly more forgiving than it had been of late. Having said that, I was still shattered upon finishing and opted to take the following day as unplanned rest.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun

I had a visit to Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun (my 28th different event) in my sights for a while, and this seemed like the perfect day for it on paper. I wanted a swift blast a week before the Magor 10k, with the low winds meaning a fast time would not be a fool’s errand. In a previous guise, Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun had a somewhat dubious reputation for being blisteringly fast, even with several switchbacks in play; it was concluded to measure a bit short and often produced runbritain SSS course condition scores with negative figures. This was remedied by altering the course to become almost 2x full laps of the path surrounding the racecourse.

I make it a habit of arriving nice and early to any parkrun I’m attending, whether it’s my home event or one further afield. There’s nothing quite like a relaxed, care-free build-up to 09:00; I despair whenever I volunteer as a marshal and see people racing from a carpark to the start line at 08:59… So early was I, the course markers hadn’t even been laid out yet! I didn’t feel particularly sharp, mainly due to heat and prolonged fatigue from what has been a torturous spring-summer. My warm-up confirmed the morning was likely to be a tough one…

Unsurprisingly for a younger event that’s barely a year-old, there were only around 200 participants in attendance. Oddly, it’s also one of the few events I’ve been to where a large contingent of runners chose to wait next to the start line rather than listen in on the run briefing. With just 200 people, it wasn’t a crowded event and there was ample room on the start line for anybody that wanted to seed themselves higher to do so.

I was caught off-guard by how fast the start was, with my Garmin registering in the 3:20s a few times during the opening couple hundred metres! There were people ahead of me that were definitely not going to finish anywhere near me, giving me a temporary crisis of confidence!

Before too long, the field thinned out and I found myself in the unenviable place of no-man’s land. The next chap behind me was around 20 seconds away, whereas some 10 to 15 seconds ahead of me was a pair of teenage boys. I willed them to split apart and drift back towards me, but no joy.

I continued on my own and began to take note of the varying terrain. Whilst most of the course is well-paved, there were some sections that were made up of broken path akin to that of Edgbaston Reservoir (a few hundred metres around the start area) and a short section of wood chips around 1km in. All of this added to my thoughts of the course not being as fast as billed, with Walsall Arboretum still ranking at the top in terms of being fast and locally accessible.

As I neared the end of the first lap, my prayer had been answered and one of the youngsters in front of me broke off and began drifting back to me quickly. Once we made contact, I gave him some encouragement to stay with me – partly for some company, but also because I like to lend a helping hand where I can. He drew shoulder to shoulder with me, but his breathing was all over the shop; I told him we were going to run an even pace so that he could steady his breathing. Amazingly, the distance between us and the other teenage lad in front remained perfectly static with no growth or shrinkage. Pace-wise, we were right on target to dip under 19 minutes if we could keep things ticking along.

With 1km remaining, the effort bubbled upwards. I continued to give my sidekick plenty of encouragement to stay on target; he occasionally slipped from the pace, but I always got him to draw level with me again. Once we reached 17 minutes on the clock, I started to give him time updates and suggested he begin wrapping things up if he was close to a PB. At around 200m remaining, he pulled ahead by a couple of strides to reach the grassy straight first out of  the two of us. I continued to holler time updates until he crossed the line, with me 5 or so seconds behind.

He was wrecked, but had enough breath to ask me what I registered. I showed him my Garmin, with 18:55 displayed, and suggested he had 18:50 or so to his name. He fist-pumped the air and let out a big, “Yeeees!” I asked him what his previous best was, which turned out to be 19:13 for a huge chunk taken off that morning. Next to us was the event’s PB bell; he seemed unsure of whether to ring it or not, to which I urged he definitely should as he’d earned it. He heartily rang the bell and thanked me before collapsing on the grass for a breather.

I stuck around to talk to a few of the locals before wandering off to complete another lap of the course for a warm-down. Worryingly, I felt the same rush of nausea that I experienced a week prior after finishing Cannon Hill parkrun. I’ve chalked it down to good old fashioned heat exhaustion and, thankfully, I remained on the right side of the effort line to avoid an embarrassing situation!

All in all, Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun was bitter-sweet. It wasn’t nearly as fast as I’d hoped for, but helping a fellow runner break new PB ground stopped the morning becoming a waste.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

10 miles – to Solihull and back

I could feel my body waving a white flag from all the hard racing and training it’d been through. As such, I didn’t feel another 15 mile slog would be the most sensible of options, and instead opted for just 10 miles to Solihull and back.

It’d been months since I last covered the route – the last time, I was almost knocked down by inattentive driver! Working in my favour was the cloud cover overhead, taking the edge off the warmth. Working against me was the undulating route that I’d forgotten all about…

Also not helping was my fixation with hitting 7:30 miles. They felt reasonably effortless in the first half, which was net downhill and had a slight tailwind. The return, with its net uphill and headwind, was much more challenging on tired legs!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

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