I’d said last week that this week was going to start to drift a little from the plan, with the Severn Bridge Half Marathon fast approaching. I wasn’t looking to hugely reduce the number of runs, but I didn’t want to do too much distance towards the end of the week. With that in mind, it seemed like a good idea to volunteer to help out with Vicky’s monday session, training for the newcomers to the half marathon distance.
I was asked to lead the run, taking people out at a pace of something in between 2hrs and 2hrs 15min for the half marathon, so something like 6 min/km pace. The numbers that turn out for Vicky’s sessions (and Kay’s Wednesday runs) always amazes me, and this week was no exception. Despite the weather looking rather grim and damp, there was a huge number of runners keen to come out and run 10 mile! Three of the gang were looking to run at the front with me, so having scrutinised the map carefully beforehand, we set out.
It was great fun to run at a decent pace and speak to people who were keen to see how far they could stretch themselves. I was really enjoying the chat, offering up some suggestions about how to avoid or reduce shin splint pace, and improving cadence. I don’t see myself as hugely experienced, but I think we can all benefit sometimes from running with others who can look at your performance and suggest areas for improvement – you don’t need to be an expert, just take the time to look at your running partner and see if you can spot any potential problems. I think that some issues (such as muscle strains, joint pains etc) show up very quickly when you look at a runner and notice something uneven about their gait, or how they hold themselves.
I was probably enjoying the chatter a bit too much, as I did manage to overshoot the turn-round point by about a mile! Not an easy task considering we were meant to turn round by a large pub with it’s name emblazoned on the side! So we ended up doing 18k instead of 15k, but all credit to the three who ran with me, as they completed the distance and kept up a respectable time!
So that is my long run out of the way for this week!
With the long run on Monday, and a planned night out (rare occurrence!) on Tuesday, I decided to skip the Tuesday run altogether. My joints were feeling the impact of two 10 mile runs in succession anyway, so I thought that a rest day would be more useful.
With our son away with the grandparents this week, Amanda and I have the rare pleasure of being able to go out for runs together! I therefore came along to the Wednesday Womble, and yet again was impressed at seeing about 30 runners turn up. The womble is a good fixed route which gives people a chance to benchmark their performance. I was asked again to take the lead runners out. I was expecting to pootle along at about 5:30 pace, but didn’t count on having some fast runners along. Paul Binning was keen to push his pace, so we ended up running at just under 5 minute pace, not too bad for a mid-week session! I did make sure that I wasn’t going to slip up on the route this time though!
I was leading the efforts session for this week, so I plumped for hills. I can’t say I always ‘like’ hills, but I do see the benefits every time. When I arrived to set up the marker cones there were a couple of runners waiting. A little while later someone mentioned that some of the group were waiting round the corner – I didn’t expect to see about 18 others there!
We followed the same set-up as before; build up speed and run using good form 300m up the hill, then jog back 100m before sprinting back to the top. Then everyone walks off the effort before jogging back down to the bottom and repeating. Last time we did 6 climbs, and this time it was 7. I really enjoyed being able to put good effort in to the climb each time, and I was very pleased to see so many people who had never done hill sessions previously, completing the full set.
Friday was a rest day. Saturday I had the opportunity to do Parkrun, so I arranged to attend Porthcawl with a friend. By the time we parked up the clouds had rolled in and the wind was picking up. I was feeling in good form so I was hoping to better my recent time of 22:20, despite the poor conditions. I managed to get a good start and at the end of the first kilometre I was running at 4:17 min/km pace, well above my average for a good 5k time. I was feeling strong from the hill session and the rest day, but figured that my time would drop as we hit the headwind and the climb. The second kilometre I ran at 4:30, slower but not as slow as I expected, and importantly I was still feeling pretty good. The third kilometre was 4:26, meaning my average was still well under my usual time. Now it started to occur to me that I could not only do a good time, but this could be a personal best. I’d previously managed 22:10, so maybe this was nearer the golden 22 minute marker. I’d been trying for the last couple of years to break 22 minutes, and my average time was getting closer to 4:20.
Although the next couple of kilometres were mostly downhill and with a tailwind, I had to really keep pushing to be able to keep my pace ticking down. The fourth kilometre was 4:15, my fastest yet. By now I just wanted to throw up. My legs were still feeling good, but my heart was pounding and my core was complaining. I was approaching the finish line and had nothing more to give – my last kilometre was 4:06, and I crossed the finish line at 21:44. I could barely speak, my stomach was convulsing, but I’d not only got a PB, not only broken the 22 minute barrier, but I’d taken 25 seconds off my previous time. I certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I was thrilled (I still am, as I write this blog!).
Now, my training regime at the moment is focussed on being ready for the Cardiff Half Marathon. I wasn’t expecting to see this sort of improvement in my 5k time, and I think that a lot of the credit is down to my PRR buddies. As I’ve been running with people recently I’ve been pushed to think and re-think about stuff that I have just been taking for granted for a while, from things like my persistent ankle pains, to how I place my feet and improve my gait. I’ve re-read books that I’ve not looked at for some time, researched new running vlogs and every time I passed on some advice to others I also took that advice myself. So I’ve been keen to get my glutes working better, improving my breathing and nailing my cadence at about 180 spm. I’m also always saying that efforts like hill sprints can show immediate effect, so maybe this was also proof of that!
With a week to go now before the Severn Bridge Half Marathon I didn’t want to be doing any serious distance today. I volunteered to marshall at the Cardiff Junior Parkrun, something my son does fairly often. This time however he actually wanted to marshall with me. It’s great to volunteer at a Parkun, especially after having such a great result at my own Parkrun yesterday, and the junior events are even more special. Seeing over a hundred young kids tearing round a 2km course is really heartening.
As the day drew on I was feeling less and less inclined to go running. The clouds were set in for the day, and the intermittent rain kept obscuring the view through the window. By half four I knew I had to make the move, so I decided to go for a simple 10k run out to stretch off my legs. The hospital gate run is my ‘go-to’ route for that sort of distance, so I headed off at a comfortable 5:30 pace. My legs quickly felt comfortable so I decided to adjust my plans and make this a progression run, gently increasing my pace until I was running at just under 5:00 pace. Nothing too strenuous, but it felt nice to push myself gently and see how it felt.
This has been a great week. Once again I’m not feeling any major issues, and I’ve been able to see some clear improvements. The first big test will be next Sunday. I am not sure how I’m going to play it at the moment – I always enjoy the spectacle of running over the old Severn Bridge, and I’ll certainly taper a little at the end of next week to have a good bash at a reasonable time. That said, my goal has to be to continue to train for Cardiff, 42 days from now, so I doubt I’ll be looking for a PB just yet.
Roll on week 7…