Long time no blog

Soz about that. But hey, the Runner at the Gates of Dawn has been busy doing what he was born to do – run. At the Gates of Dawn!

Which is in Redditch.

Yes, I headed north yesterday and hit the Arrow Valley parkrun again. I thought it was time for a test, and my more local parkrun at Worcester is pretty much cross country at the minute. Which is fine if you want that, but I wanted something else. I wanted to see if I had a PB in these newly-aerobic legs.

So yes, the background is that I been churning out runs at aerobic effort levels pretty much exclusively since my last parkrun. Which in layman’s terms means nothing that will get my legs lactic (apart from one session – 2*2 mile @ 10k pace the other day. I’ll come to that.) In truth nearly all of my runs have been easy to moderate, with very little involving the severe bodily stress you get from running the 5k time you are capable of. So I knew that yesterday would be a shock to the system. But I wanted to know what kind of a system I now had. Would it just be up for running longer but (*gulp*) slower?

Or would it be more able to keep going at pace?

No KM splits because I forgot to switch my garmin to metric, but the first “imperial” went by in 6:18. Which is great, because I’m not feeling *too* bad for it. I’ve just taken that guy in black and latched on to another guy in black, so everything’s hunky dory. Let’s see how hill #1 of 2 hits me. Hmm, feels kind of hilly… but do you know what? I recovered from it the moment it levelled out and I was shoeing on the flat again. There’s a turn-up. Aerobic conditioning, anyone?

Mile #2: 6:20.

Slowing a tad but holding on in there. These things are community efforts, right? It’s not just about you and your time, but also you and the people around you. They are sharing your experience with you. They must be ground into the dirt! I overtake one. Another overtakes me. Gah! Just keep going.

Mile #3: 6:15.

Did I say mile #3? Shit, that means it’s sprint finito time! “Eighteen forty!” yells the bloke as I turn off into the field. The guy in front of me has been there forever, and I decide that he must go. I know I have a kick and I’m showing it now. Deal with it, dude in black! So I go past and make my triumphant run to… what’s this? Someone *else* overtaking me? How bloody rude! Seriously, I thought I was a kicker but this guy does it for… erm, kicks. But all is fair in love and parkruns. You get beat, that’s because he or she was better on the day. We all live to fight another.

Final time: 19:19. A PB* by 28s!

Happy with that. It shows I am well on the way to the world record, which is currently held by Keninisa Bekele at 12:37.35. Another way of looking at it is that I can stop aiming to go sub-20 and can just push the button hard and see where it takes me. I was of course knackered at the end but none of this unseemly doubling over or lying on the dirt that certain others do. (*Stands aloof with nose in air*.) Bit of speedwork and we should be good for a bit faster.

But first, a PROPER 10k race on March 14th. (Hence the 2*2 mile @ 10k pace. (Told you I would come to it.)

My running weeks – PB and re-think

Been a while. Apols to any who read this stuff. Seriously, isn’t there something better you could be doing? Like running?

So a couple of Saturdays ago I went up to Arrow Valley parkrun in Redditch. I had heard that my local one might be cancelled due to mud or a tsunami or something, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. But Arrow Valley turned out to be similarly threatened – due to snow. There was a fairly thin layer over the tarmac surface but it was kind of frozen solid. “No PB attempts!” warned the run director, fearing broken pelvises.

No PBs, I thought, settling into that old devil called “5k pace” in the first KM, You mean I’m not allowed to get what I came to get? Sod that.

OK, so the 2nd KM is feeling slightly unsustainable and those grunting bison behind me are sure to track me down and trample me underfoot, but I ain’t wasting a trip up the M5 for no health and safety palaver.

I enter the 3rd KM with new resolve, head high and smoke pluming from my flared nostrils, like a primed racehorse on a bracing morning in late autumn. But I’m tired. Unspecified stuff in my body doesn’t feel right! Damn, why don’t I just take up sitting down instead of running? What’s so bad about stamp collecting?

KM 4: slowest so far. But as Elliot wrote, KM 4 is the cruellest KM.

Damn this, I’m thinking, winding up my charge to the finish, why can’t I be more like Mo Farah? Surely he doesn’t think about armchairs and cups of tea and Bakewell tarts when it matters not to? Surely he enjoys this pain. But does he? Is that the secret to this stuff – you have to derive pleasure from pain?

You have to derive substance from the void?

That’s something I can do, I’m thinking, pumping my arms hard as I catch sight of the finish. I know that void! I am the runner at the gates of dawn! I’ve been to the void many times and there is indeed stuff there, contrary to reports! Stuff that…

But never mind the void for now. It’s over.

Damn, I only meant to tell you that I went to Redditch and got a 19:47 PB. (Sorry director lady.) Next time I go off on one like that, slap me, OK? By way of recompense here is my report for last Saturday at Worcester parkrun:

Mud. Too many runners (A record 580 or so.) Kids bloody everywhere. (KM 1.) But kids have no aerobic endurance! (KM 2.) Pain. Pain. Mud. Keep going. Pain. Why keep going? Why not stop? Mud. Pain. PAIN. 19:51 for a course PB.

Remember I said a while back about going back to basics and building a proper aerobic cake? I don’t think I’ve been doing it right. Fast bits too fast and slow bits not slow enough. Been doing it different this week and intend to continue. We’ll see what happens.

My running week – drop the dead donkey

Been doing a lot of mileage the past few weeks, upping it gradually. By my timetable I did 46.8 last week, although Strava says it was 48.8 (because it tracks Mon to Sun rather than my apparently eccentric Sat to Fri). Either way, I have been pushing it. And getting away with it by and large, because I have not been too fatigued and nor have I become fed up with it.

Right up to yesterday’s quite frankly herculean effort of 13.2 undulating, windy, multi-terrain miles.

I must admit, I found parts of that a bit of a drag. I’m simply not a dragging kind of guy – nine miles for me has always been “long”. I also had a flirtation with injury.

No doubt I will have the attention of all true runners now. No runner wants an injury, but we are all morbidly fascinated by them. Am I right? Doesn’t it make us feel all warm and cosy and blessed to know that it’s not us with that plantar fascitis, that it’s someone less fortunate who picked up that patellar tendonitis? There but for the grace of the running gods, my friend. They hit us all with their thunderbolts in the end. Luckily for me, mine seems to have been a glancing blow.

My legs felt a bit rickety yesterday’s long run, but I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific. This morning I could – the back of my right knee. It was hard to locate the epicentre at first but by mid-morning I knew it was my upper calf, right around the knee crease. The danged thing was stiff, although it loosened up with walking. Later on I did some calf stretching and that helped. I noticed the other one was stiff too, although not in pain.

Now, I may have mentioned I got some new shoes – Brooks PureFlow. They are great, and have a 3mm drop from heel to toe (as opposed to the 10-12 of trad trainers). They also have decent cushioning to the fore, which seems to be helping my temperamental big toe no end. But the absence of that big heel wedge has left a void beneath my heel, with my achilles and calves picking up the slack. This lends itself to the midfoot-centric way I run, but I have to acknowledge that all these years of wearing shoes with a bigger heel-to-toe drop have left my achilles shortened and my calves weakened. I tried to ease myself into it by wearing the Merrell All-Out Rush (6mm drop) more regularly for a few weeks, but I reckon I should have been more cautious still. And defo used something more wedgy for that mammoth long run.

But hey – we learn. And I got off easy.

Planning another attack on my local parkrun this Saturday. I have done eight so far at my local event and I have course PBd at each one. Can I make it 9? Can I beat 19:55?

Tune in Sunday to find out.

My running week (and a bit) – the long(ish) haul

I’m getting later with these things. It’s because I’m not doing any parkruns or races or anything at the moment so I’ve no war stories to report. But guess what? I signed up for two ACTUAL RACES. The Shakespeare 10k in March and the Worcester half marathon. Half bloody marathon! I haven’t run 13.1 miles in my life! What the hell am I doing?

When I used to run in my 20s I used to see anything above 10k as unnecessarily far. Why prove yourself over 26.2 miles when you can do it over 800m? To be honest I still think the marathon is too far (especially for non-runners who sign up for a marathon in order to get themselves running – what’s that all about?), but I’m starting to see the half as more in scope. I recently did my longest ever run – 12.5 miles. Then I did 11 miles on Sunday at a fair clip – 7:30 min/mile (dictated by changed circumstances and me stubbornly having no intention of reducing the distance) and frankly enjoyed the hell out of it. So I can see the value of endurance now. I guess that perception comes with old age.

But I’m still not doing a marathon!

My running week – getting ’em in

Feel like I’m really getting into the base period now. I ran nearly 46 miles in the past week and each day I’ve tried to squeeze the most out of what time I have for running. I decided to bin the structured speedwork for now (i.e. intervals) and replace them with hills. My local parkrun features some prolonged (if not especially steep) gradient and I need to learn to conquer it a bit, instead of finally reaching the summit of the last hill and feeling like I should have made that will. True to form, my thoughts were turning to last wills and testaments as I finished the last climb of Saturday’s hill session. But there will be more sessions.

Must admit, those mothers are hard graft on your tod. When you’re clawing the tarmac in the final few yards of a hard climb it’s good to have others clawing around you. If only to make you not want to be last (not every time anyway).

The only other thing to break up the endless conveyor belt of miles is a 3 mile tempo amid a 7 mile sandwich. Aim is to stick to around 90% of my max HR and see what pace I get. I may change this to 2 * 1 mile off a quick jog for a couple of weeks.

I’m working off the premise that events like 5k require a proper base of aerobic conditioning if you want to do them well. I’ve been caning hell out of this distance for a few months now and getting good returns, but without said aerobic base. So I’m trying to get it now.

We’ll see what effect it has had on Jan 17, which is when I’ve pencilled in a parkrun return for. The real pay off should come later in the year but the Runner at the Gates of Dawn will be keen to see if there have been any adaptations – pos or neg.

My running week – all about that base

Bit late this week with the update. Probably because nothing special to report. My home parkrun sub 20 was pretty much mission accomplished for 2014, so it’s head down and back to basics for a while. I next plan to parkrun on 17th Jan, which gives me a nice little mesocycle to get some aerobic base work done.

I’m all about that base – no speedwork.

Instead of the speed I’m planning on doing miles – last week was my first one topping 40. And hills. Mostly in the form of off-road fartlek on my local common. There are two long ones on there and a steep bastard of a one if I reverse it. But the terrain is soggy and you can’t get much pace up. Although I said no speedwork for now, I am wary that staying away from 5k pace might adapt me too much the wrong way. I might end up really good at soggy hill running and hopeless at maintaining speed. So I’m keeping up a weekly 3 mile tempo section on the flat road at about HM pace, which would be 6:58 min/mile. Won’t keep me in 5k shape but will keep me in touch with running quite fast for 3 miles. Which is what life is all about, when you really think about it.

I ordered a new pair of running shoes. They are Saucony Kinvara 4. Light, neutral and quite a low heal to toe offset. I used to love Saucony Jazz in my former running days, so I’m hoping these will be just as nice. Aside from the Merrells my two other pairs of running shoes are pretty basic, one a clumpy pair of cheapo Karrimors and the other some bottom of the range Adidas with getting on for 400 miles on them now. Now I’m into this running thing for the long stretch (I hope) I can justify replacing them gradually with quality.

On a forum I post to they were asking about running goals for 2015. I thought about it and named some numbers for 5k and 10k, then decided that was wrong. Or rather dishonest. What I really want to do is:

  1. Keep running
  2. Not get injured
  3. Keep progressing

That’s all you can hope for, isn’t it? If I’m totally honest I’d have to say #3 entails maintaining my PB streak at Worcester parkrun, which is currently at 8 if you include the first one. I plan to do at least one per month, and if it all worked out I would be on 20 consecutive course PBs by this time next year. Surely this is impossible? But it’s something to go for, right? Remember: this is all a game.

Another thing I want to do 2015 style is keep writing this blog. I have done a LOT of writing in my time and have been fairly successful at it in the past, but I’ve got away from the habit through life and work and plain old writing myself into too many corners. This here blog isn’t the style or form of writing I am used to but at least it’s writing, right? So if you follow this blog and think it is worth anything, please share it with someone else who might be interested.

Happy festivities one and all from the Runner at the Gates of Dawn.

My running week – another home run

I went ahead and did a spontaneous parkrun at Worcester yesterday. This is my third parkrun on the trot but I thought I might have enough left in the tank for this final stab at a home course sub 20 before getting back to basics for a month or so (got 20:03 last week). Also thought it would be nice and frosty and hard underfoot… but I was wrong there – it was well muddy. Less of a warm up this time – arrived a bit late. I finished my couple of strides to find everyone had lined up earlier than usual and the flag was raised. Shhee-it! I ran up the side of the pen to the front and kind of pushed in. No one seemed to mind though. Bang.

Oops – I didn’t press the right button on my Garmin, so no data!

I wanted to go with the front runners this time so I sprinted and found myself in 6th. But the 5 in front of me were front runners for a reason, and left me behind after about 1k. Couldn’t hear any panting behind me either so I knew I’d be alone for a while. Turned out to be the entire race! I knew I was in 6th (same finish position as last week) so I just wanted to keep that position. The mud was pretty bad in places. Especially on the 2nd lap. Hard to believe 300 people had just run through it – I couldn’t see or hear anyone! Every now and then I got a glimpse of someone up ahead in the woods but that was all. But I do all my speedwork alone so this wasn’t a problem. Problem was that I had no idea what my pace was. But you can judge it by pain, right?

My old friend, pain.

I shrugged that monkey off my back and gritted teeth up the final, bastardly ascent of Badger Hill. For a strange 10 seconds I simultaneously believed I was going to die and had a huge craving for cake (Victoria sponge, please). But I reached the top and pumped those arms. I was alive! But I had no cake.

God knows what I looked like attempting to sprint across the field towards the funnel, which looked strangely like the pearly gates at that moment. I hauled my arse through them and took my tag – 6th place had been maintained. But what was my time? The guy in front said he got 19:30. But I had lost contact with him so that meant nothing. Couple of hours later and I got the result – 19.55. Yes!

My work for 2014 is done!

Now, cake…