The Road to Cardiff – Week 2

At the start of this week there’s a familiar feeling – I’ve been here before, each time I start a training session. The physical experience is of being more tired than usual, with some more niggles, aches and pains. This is down to the additional mileage and the demands of trying to meet certain aims, be they distance or speed, when I run rather than just running for pleasure. The mental experience is worry – will this be the time when I don’t manage to deliver a performance I will be happy with? I know I’ve been here before, but it doesn’t stop that little voice in my head when I struggle to hit the pace that I’ve aimed for in a run, or find my joints aching more than usual!


The usual start to the week, a gentle 5k run. I was feeling tired after the long run on Sunday, so I was keen to keep the pace down to make it a recovery run. It ended up being a little faster than planned (why is it always so difficult to run a slow pace!?!), but it was good to get a steady run on the books.


400m repeats! I was looking forward to this – there are precious few places locally where you can do a decent track session (or something approaching it), given the local preference for hills. So I decided to treat myself with a trip down to Cardiff so that I could enjoy the flat paths of Llandaff Fields. I’m familiar with running here, as this is where the excellent Cardiff Junior Parkrun takes place each Sunday morning. It was real fun to try and hit a good pace for 400m, and I was really pleased with the results. Seven repeats, with a brief pause between each run just to stretch out. My plan will build up to 800m then 1600m repeats, so it will be important to find the right pace to be able to maintain consistent effort, but I can’t wait for the next session already.

I then joined in with the Tuesday PRR run, and out and back to the hospital gate. This was a freebie, not on the training plan, and just for fun. Note to self: in future, it’s not a good idea to eat a big meal 20 minutes before a run! My legs were already feeling the effort from the afternoon’s training run, and this was compounded by indigestion within the first mile… At least this wasn’t a training run, so I could just ease back a little and make sure I wasn’t going to do anything to interfere with the rest of the week’s running. It was good to be able to get out and support Kate leading the first of the ‘new-look’ PRR runs, and really encouraging to hear all the good comments after the run.


By this point I was starting to feel the increase in effort that running 6 days a week brings. It’s curious, because my overall mileage hasn’t been hugely increased from a usual week where I may only run 3 or 4 times, with longer individual distances. I think it’s because the effort is required consistently, with much less ‘down time’.

At least today was an easy run. I was feeling a little concerned that I was feeling more tired than I expected this week, and I knew I was taking a tempo run for the club on Thursday, so I thought I’d use this run to test my legs and lungs a little. I opted to make this one a progression run. Starting at an easy 5:50 min/k pace, each kilometer was pushed a little faster, ending with a 4:56 pace. I was happy that this went well, and I was able to evenly control the increase in pace.


Another run already? So I’d volunteered to lead this run for the club. I was looking forward to this run, albeit a bit worried about how well it would be received by my clubmates! The idea was to have a 10 minute warm-up, then gradually build up pace during the next 20-25 minutes to be running at tempo pace. The last 10 minutes was then a cool-down period. The purpose was to get runners to understand the different paces they can run at, rather than just ‘running as fast as they can’. Now if I was just running this for myself I would have been aiming to hit 4:40 pace or thereabouts, however as the run leader it was more important to make sure that everyone was able to get something out of this session. Because of this I ran with the back of the group. Whilst it wasn’t the ‘demanding’ run it might have been, it was really enjoyable. It was good to see everyone seemed to get something out of it, and by the end of the run several people were already looking forward to doing another tempo session.

Earlier in the day I’d made the effort to get down to the gym to do some core strength sessions. I wasn’t ready to kill myself with Synrgy just yet, so made my own reps. I started with 10 kettlebell deadlifts, rotating with 10 kb swing swaps (changing hands on the swing) and 40 side taps. Once I was good and sweaty I moved on to 10 sandbag squat to press rotated with 45 second planks. I finished the 35 minute session off with 3×10 seated overhead presses and 3×10 seated overhead pull-downs.


No runs. And boy was I feeling the effects of the previous day’s gym session! My glutes, shoulders and a fair few other places were aching all day today! Time for some improvised massage. I use a foam roller on my calves and thighs from time to time, but I’ve recently started just using a tennis ball. It may sound a little too simple, but it can be really effective and easier to do than using a foam roller. You just need to get the ball between the floor and wherever it hurts, then gently move until you hit the trigger point – you’ll know when you get it because it hurts! Then the key is to just relax the muscle down on to the ball, and you find the pain starts to melt away. Dead simple, dead effective. In my case it eased the stiffness in my glutes no end. (you can find lots of stuff on this online, but here’s one example).


Parkrun day. My legs were still aching from Thursday’s workout and Amanda and I had decided to have a glass of wine on Friday night. Well, shame to leave the bottle unfinished. Well, shame to leave one bottle on it’s own… So I can’t say I was completely convinced of the idea to drive down to Cardiff at 8:15 in the morning and run with hundreds of other people. I was initially going to go to Grangemoor, but I don’t like the sharp turns and repetition of that route. Cardiff’s Parkrun is a great route, well marshalled and easy to get to. The trouble is, so many other people feel like that about it too. It frequently attracts 5-700 people. I obediently stood at the junction of the 20-22 and 22-24 minute ‘pens’, forgetting that a lot of people just completely ignore these markers and start wherever they take a fancy to. I know it’s run for fun, and I shouldn’t get too fussy about these things, but there’s nothing more annoying than getting ready to run your socks off, only to find a gaggle of runners in front of you who have no intention of doing anything other than jog round and have a nice chat… So my first kilometer split ended up being about 30 seconds slower than the rest of my run. The overall time was about 22:39, so if I hadn’t had the slow start I’d have been closing on my PB time.

In the end I was really happy with my performance – ignoring the first kilometer, I was able to maintain pretty much even splits (4:30 min/km) to within a second or two all the way round. And it felt like a comfortable run. I think during training it’s always good to have a few runs like this, just to give you the confidence that you are making progress!


Now when I first put my name down on the roster to lead the Sunday run this week, I hadn’t planned to be doing anything the night before. Then at some point we decided to invite friends over, which turned into a sleep over for our 7 year old and three of his friends. The outcome of all this was that I was still sitting at the table at half two this morning drinking scotch, and was then woken at half six by four 7 year olds…

To add to my joy, looking out the window it was clear that the sky was trying to see just how quickly it could get rid of all the water it was holding in those clouds – the rain was torrential! I was actually close to postponing the run, as it looked like truly atrocious weather, even for hardened runners, and I imagined that most people would take one look and decide to stay under the covers for an extra hour. I drove up to the start point, and the rain started to subside. I was then amazed to find 12 people turning up just before 9am!!!

As I was leading the run I had to make sure that everyone was looked after, rather than just running my own run, so I set off with the front group initially, then held back at the first couple of junctions to make sure that the whole group knew where to go. Similarly at half way point I stopped to chat with some of the runners and make sure that everyone was ok. Actually this wasn’t a major issue for me. When I do long runs, I’m not really too worried about pace – the key thing is to have time on my legs. I use long runs to build up my lactate threshold. This is all to do with running for at least 60-90 minutes, irrespective of pace, to train my muscles and teach them that I want them to be able to supply me energy for all this time. These runs then complement the other, shorter, harder sessions that challenge my lactate threshold.

All in all this week has been really positive – I’ve pushed through that initial feeling I had at the start of the week, had a decent performance in the Parkrun, and had some great sessions with the club.

I’ve no new niggles or pains. My ankles remain quite achy and my glutes are sore, but more strength training next week and regular tennis ball massage sessions should keep these problems under control. Onwards to week 3!

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