Final Run of the Year: 10km

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The last run of the year took place in Poole Park. I woke up several times in the night in anticipation, quietly unrested and in the sonic assault of the lubricious south westerly wind. The windows rattled and rocked and I slept  a little more. I woke myself up at 5am to prepare myself for the run but didn’t actually head out into the world till 6am. I wish I could tell you of some more romantic interim that occupied me for that hour, but I simply lay in bed and as these things do, the hour passed by with a timely celerity.

The plan today was to end with a gentle paced 10km, perhaps laced with a series of 200m strides. I chose to keep things simple however with a gentler 5:00min/km run which quickly settled into 4:50min/km average pace overall. The workout is linked above and the splits and route are shown below.

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There was a momentary pause just after 3km where my left shoe lace wriggled itself free and I had to pause to do it up. This literally never happens to me and it’s rarity was rewarded with 500m of questioning why it had come undone in the first place. To ensure it remained done up, I added some tightness for added measure into the double knot and as a result, spent the rest of the run wondering if my foot was going to fall off.

Poole park reveals itself fairly clearly on the enclosed map. The greatest part of it’s composition is water, much like the people who use it for their pleasure. This water is enclosed exclusively in the large boating lake across the centre of the map. After dark, there are a choice selection of lights both in the park and around the lake which can make for a treacherous affair. Of them all, the westerly side is the most taxing with almost no light whatsoever owing to an imposing raised train track running briefly alongside it. At appropriate intervals a series of lights appear that quickly conform into the shape of a train which hurries past, seemingly as keen to distance itself from the park as you are to remain.

The run today was something of a solitary affair. Not uncommonly, as the run progresses another runner or at least the morning dog walkers arrive and do their best to hinder your progress throughout your run. Today they kept their notable absence perhaps mourning the loss of another year and their slow inevitable march into oblivion. Under the suggestion of the rising sun a cyclist passed by at the north end of the park as I sought to complete my final split around the cricket bowl. As I finally rested I sat on a bench and if by magic a young female runner appeared out of nowhere, doing a frighteningly good and uncompromising pace. She looked strong. I was glad I had finished.

I have spent some time reflecting on the year’s numbers and as a well seasoned statistician who only believes in quanta, these are my achievements. I should add that my running calendar only seriously began in August and hence my embarrassing numbers. There’s no easy way to sell mediocrity.

Total mileage: 1,620km (total runs 177)

The trailing 90 day km gives a good example of when my running really began. See. SEE?

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I have broken all but my HM and Marathon distance PBs. Screenshot 2015-12-31 12.35.14.png

The ones I really care about are 1 mile, 5km, 4mile, 10km, 10 miles and HM and FM. To be clear, I have not tried to run a mile or 8km to speed. I will come back to PB goals for the new year in a post, well, next year.

In any case, I am aware that my running career has been somewhat remiss and anergic. I can’t really explain why that might be the case but I suppose  to some extent, this reflects my parochial views on health and fitness. 2016 is only a date but that cannot mean that we cannot endure. The pain is a part of it but even that is not so bad. At some point the endurance will become tolerance and hopefully a galvanised inurity.

 

Mile Repeats: Lammas Park

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My legs are still heavy and reluctant. Although the emphasis on improvement is very much present, I cannot seem to rest my legs enough. As such, every run at the moment is a battle. Just getting out of the door is a full on war. Today’s workout of five 1 mile repeats seemed straightforward enough but my gentle warm up down to Lammas Park was reminder enough that my legs would not deal with this well. The wind, which had been threatening an encore for several days, finally returned and with quite some venom. In West London a southerly current blew excitedly through the dimly lit streets in it’s search for equilibrium. I passed a bin man muttering to himself as he pooled rubbish bags in preparation for the oncoming rubbish truck. Further along a rubbish bag was splayed across the road, a single tear gaping its insides. Wrapping paper and polystyrene decorated the concrete in small manic eruptions, green and gold across the black of the road. Even the foxes were in their dens this morning.

I got to the park and began the first repetition. For a reminder, this is the loop of the park which totals a mile exactly, marked helpfully by 100m signposts. Screenshot 2015-12-30 10.05.34.png

The wind hit me at the first 200m or so at the northerly end of the park and my heart sank. It rallied against me repeatedly and without mercy till the very apex of park and the acute turn back up towards the start. I finished the first mile and gently jogged in a central bisector of the park and contemplated my options. I could not see myself completing another four of these. Here is the workout and the pace chart.

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As you can see, in the succeeding rests I walked and contrary to what I have said in the past or will say in the future, this was borne out of complete necessity – I simply could not see myself completing the workout without resting completely. Each mile was a gruelling endeavour. The first 800m (which were a supposed downhill) were accompanied by what can only be described as a wind tunnel, a constant and merciless battering against the elements which only really let up as you turned fully away for it and onto the uphill which in itself added another barrier.

The final mile splits came to 7:14, 7:09, 7:07, 7:13 and 7:15. A fair performance in the circumstances. I sat on a park bench afterwards and watched two men complete a series of circuits – running between trees, doing press-ups and displaying awkward and slightly comical poses, which I assumed were for my entertainment. I took the above picture just in front of the Lammas enclosure and decided to film a time lapse, just in case anything of significance happened. It didn’t. Disappointed, I picked myself up to drag myself back. For the first time that morning the wind placed a gentle hand on my back and guided me home.

Medium Long Run: 14km

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This is the view at the top of Cleveland Park in Ealing looking back across North and West London. In the hidden distance the A40 hurries to the City and away to Oxford. The houses are large and proud. The park represents a sincere incline away from the River Brent, a polluted and opaque affair, a sorry tributary to the pumping vein of the Thames. By this point I had completed some 13km of my run and paused to capture the scene. On my way up the hill a man slipped and fell and was picked up by some concerned dog walkers. Embarrassed, he picked himself up and continued. I watched him run out of the park and having caught my own breath, pulled out my phone and took the picture.

I was in no mood to run in the morning. The was no real sense in recovery from the previous days hiatus and it was everything I could do to get myself to the point of beginning the run. My legs felt weighted and I felt aware of them more than I have done in recent times. The ground was wet but the skies were clear. Two cars countered each other belligerently in the narrow recesses of the road, each refusing to move. I began.

Irritatingly, there is still no data to show you given the very notable absence of my ANT + stick and so you will have to take my word for this excursion. I completed 14.3km at a 4:55min/km pace and felt every footstep. There were countless times I wanted the run to be over and in many circumstances found myself willing my psyche to the end of the road, the next tree or the top of the hill. One more kilometre. One more kilometre. My average HR was 151bpm with an average cadence of 92spm. The kilometre splits (min/km), I have hand written below, so you better fucking read them

  1. 5:00
  2. 4:55
  3. 4:55
  4. 4:47
  5. 4:53
  6. 5:04 (big hill man, you had to be there)
  7. 4:44
  8. 4:49
  9. 4:52
  10. 4:55
  11. 4:56
  12. 4:56
  13. 5:13 (big hill man, you had to be there)
  14. 4:55
  15. Only 260m (in 1:15) Screenshot 2015-12-29 17.56.30.png

So given how tired I was, not a bad pace for me overall. I obviously joke about the hills but they clearly continue to hit me hard. On lap 13, I genuinely cannot convey how difficult it was to put foot in front of successive foot. I didn’t fall but I would have happily ended the run at the park’s summit, such was my exhaustion. To date, there are many many runs that I have not wanted to do. There are many many runs I would have happily ended prematurely and walked the remainder of the distance. There are many runs, like today, where every step almost required a conscious battle to progress from A to B. As it happens and despite all of this, there are no runs I have regretted on completion and as I sit here now, I am conscious that every run only makes me stronger now matter how weak I feel whilst in it’s oblivion.

*Addendum. The Garmin is now connected. Rejoice in the data that is the Strava application.

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Rest Day

I ran some 50 miles across the South Coast last week. Not including the bike rides, that is a considerable distance for a lightweight such as I. Today however, I am grateful for the pause in the relentless running schedule. As much as I do love to run, there are days when my body seemingly cries out for a rest and today is one such occasion. Although sleep has done me good and I feel happily renewed and refreshed, there is still a haunting ache that rests deep within my bones, reminding me that I am far from rest and still not the honed athlete I intend on becoming.

It is coming to that point in the year where reflections on the year’s achievement’s (certainly from a running perspective) can be annotated and the following year’s resolutions can be drawn up. Following a seemingly endless two running vacation (where I ran without purpose or intention) I found a serendipitous  but welcome second wind. In the last five months I have cumulatively run more completed miles than in the entirety of the preceding 2 years in total. I feel stronger and more comfortable on my feet. I have attained personal bests in all but my half and full marathon distances. I have run in the sun and the rain. I have run either side of freezing point. I have run in the vanishing cloak of the night often, but rarely in the day. I dislike running in the presence of others. Running is best with the world asleep and away. Running is best at 5am. No one moves with anything other than purpose in the dregs of the night. There is nothing else to do.

I will define a set of running goals in a future but not too distant post. In the interim, run with intention and meaning. Feel nothing but the world at your feet. As a running contemporary noted, I don’t run from anything, I push the world away with my feet.

The Long Run: Kew(l) Loops

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The real problem and only one if we’re being particular, with the Garmin 610 running watch is the ANT + connection. Fundamentally, it is to great detriment of the good folk at Garmin and a colossal oversight that they did not think to include a hardware connection between the watch and it’s receiving computer. ANT + is a fine gadget when it works, but this is choice and seemingly more temperamental than a girl with her arms crossed on date night who is very definitely “fine”. I cannot tell you how many countless occasions I have sat by my watch coaxing it into cahoots with my macbook, only to languish after the most recent episode of pavement pounding I have undertaken. Today the problem was defined by its absence – i.e. not ANT + stick altogether which meant no workout to upload and hence share with you. It is beguiling that there is no other means to access that workout but that’s the way the world works. There are greater injustices in the world but right now I can’t think of them.FullSizeRender-2

The following chart is taken from walkjogrun, a fine application that is well worth looking into for route planning. My older brother and I rose with the dark dawn skies for our long run.The plan was to cover a looping 19km from Ealing, through Brentford (where these industrial monochromes are taken) via Kew back to Ealing. I strapped my GoPro head mount on using a time lapse which didn’t bear much fruit but I’ll have to look into that to see if there was anything worth salvaging. Halfway through it turned itself off and I reverted to film which itself turned out to be a staccato and irritating affair.

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The final route didn’t quite resemble this but it did serve a fantastically sad meander through industrial London as it previously stood. I will touch on this again in the future but we shared some interesting conversations as we coursed quietly through this decaying Kingdom. A total of 15km were realised together and I completed the final 4km on my own. At points he wanted to walk and I would be lying if I said that my legs didn’t feel thankful for the respite. This only really occurred at the 10-11th split. The pace was very gentle and overall settled at 6:05min/km, incorporating the shameful walking. A total running time of 1hr 56min was observed.

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I returned home weary and fatigued. The run had been enjoyable but was the signature on a seemingly heavy week on the legs, a total of 77.6km banked in earnest. In conversation the other day I mentioned that I felt exhausted and I was met with the appropriate reminder that exhaustion is not tantamount to improvement and indeed does not corroborate a healthy running lifestyle. I thought about this and realised that I both understood this completely and not at all. While I assured myself that exhaustion would be in keeping with near collapse – I was by no means close to this point, but that said, I had no idea how I should feel if I were.

In the same manner in which someone might point at a sky and comment on how blue it is, I often wonder if our blues are of the same spectrum. When I say I am tired, I don’t really know if I’m as tired as I should be, or even as tired as you. I don’t know if I’m tired enough. These circular arguments often repeat within me and are as confusing to me as they are comforting. When the lights go out and I let myself slumber I wonder, does anyone feel as tired as me and realise that there are people who don’t and somewhere in this peculiar world of ours, some of those will be running.

Parkrun No. 10 Gunnersbury Park

This is the backdrop awaiting you as you arrive in Gunnersbury Park. 6 towers furnishing the southern most point, arms up to the sky. I don’t know what purpose they serve but they have been there ever since I can remember on my earliest visits to the park. One of them may be a Sega building but I can’t be sure. Does anyone still play the megadrive? As you approach them, the rumble of traffic increases and in such lazy and unfurled grounds it’s easy to forget that the M4 comes into existence here in it’s storming relentless passage to Wales. It is quite abundantly, a classic example of life in London; we play under the smog of traffic that surrounds us.

After yesterday’s yuletide 5km personal best in southampton, today was to be a gentle affair. The plan had been to do the ParkRun in Gunnersbury as a warm up and then retire to it’s mid town neighbour for a series of 10x1km repetitions at 10km pace. That was the plan anyway.

As soon as I left the house, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy or even possible. As I cycled through South Ealing, the wind reminded me that even though South England might not be flooded, it wasn’t going to let me get away without a slap in the face. My legs, stiff, heavy and unrecovered grumbled beneath me. They’re never particularly happy with most things, I didn’t expect any different now.

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The start. That lady looks a little un-impressed. He definitely forgot to put the seat down.

I ran the park run at a gentle-ish effort. The 5:00min/km I was aiming for quickly became 4:40min/km odd and I registered a final time of 23:34. I would link the Strava data here but, pleb that I am, have lost my ANT+ stick and so have been using my iPhone instead. Looking at the splits, they couldn’t be more dissimilar to my watch and so there’s not point in commenting further. The race itself was seasoned with a good helping of wind throughout, with little to no crowd cover. The field itself was only of 172 odd patrons and so there weren’t too many running groups.

Just some pictures of the end funnel there. There was quite a big bridging pause between the <25 and >25 runners in my mind. Not sure as to what the reason for this discord was. As I left, some runners were still trickling in. I have to admit, I didn’t give any encouragement as I was more concerned about the repetitions awaiting me.

By the time I arrived in Walpole Park I felt tired and the decision had been made, with extreme guilt to reduce the workout to only 5 repetitions. This guilt was consolidated by the circulating runners whirring their way across the park’s perimeter. Clearly lots of folk trying to lighten the Christmas day dietary damage. I locked my bike up and began the workout which is here (and remember this is iPhone data which is about as useful as taping a cat to my wrist and getting it to pace me).

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Needless to say, I was fucking dying. If you look, and you really don’t need to, the pace drops off incrementally and by the final rest I have succumbed  to walking. The pace was supposed to register around the 4:30min/km mark but it was way off and I think on average it would have been closer to 4:35 or so. I was disappointed to have performed so poorly and perhaps the smarter of you might have suggested leaving this workout out altogether. Personally I think that you need to identify your running needs and a big weakness of mine is running whilst fatigued. Clearly we can’t all have the burst of acceleration of a certain Mo Farah but it would be nice to be able to hold a reasonable pace with out flapping like a fish, long out of water, being prodded by an idiot toddler.

I leave you with the new improved Walpole Park.

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This was what I previously and lovingly called Paedo lake (please note, I don’t know if any bonafide paedo-ing went on here). There was a conglomerate of bushes that had once stood in quiet contemplation around this water whilst all sorts of naughtiness went on under the drooping arms of the English Ivy canopy. Basically I think this was the place to be if you either wanted a little bit of drugs from that bloke Trevor or to lose your middle class virginity. I did neither of those, in case you were wondering. Still haven’t.

Toodles.

 

5km Parkrun: Festive PB

Merry christmas folks. I was working last night and so the evening didn’t seem particularly festive. I spent a good part of the evening trying to stop a bleeding nose from bleeding, which is often both a lot more annoying and difficult than you might think. The nose is a beautifully designed organ, fantastic for its purpose, but not conducive to an examination under a headlight at 8pm on Christmas Eve. Serious design flaw.

The rest of the evening was spent thinking about running today’s 5km Parkrun which I had intentionally marked as PB potential. I wanted 21 minutes ideally, a swooping 40 seconds faster than my current PB – which sounds easy to do (40 seconds is nothing right?), but in the last kilometre of the race when all you want to do is stop and take a big big BIG fucking breath, it really isn’t that straightforward. Not that that’s lost on supporters in races who remind you to keep going. Don’t get me wrong, I love the support and its always fantastic to have a good crowd and their bleary eyed mildly condescending support, but if you’re the kind of person that shouts keep going, you are a terrible person and there is a special place in hell for you. It is right up there with dog walkers that can’t control their dogs. OF COURSE I’M GOING TO KEEP GOING DID YOU THINK THAT I WAS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF STOPPING THATS THE POINT DONT YOU GET IT I HAVE TO FINISH THIS FUCKING RACE OTHERWISE THERES NO POINT IN STARTING AND SO BY DEFINITION I WILL KEEP GOING GOD.

Ahem.

The pace I needed was 4:12min/km which would have brought me tidily in at 21 minutes. I knew that this was a tall order and so I decided that anything shy of the 21″40 PB would be acceptable.

I met up with two of my strava buddies to begin the festive race with. Ironically there were less Santas today then on the Parkrun last week. Suppose all the work’s done by now I guess? The venue for today’s run was Southampton, which generally supplies a good event. I was told once that it was in fact the third largest Parkrun in the UK but I don’t have any evidence or numbers for that statement. It probably comes from the same people who tell you that you’ll catch a cold if you go out after a shower.

Southampton is a nice place to Parkrun. There are 4 main courses which are largely similar and are based around a proud and defining hill at the north end of the park. The route is paved throughout and only at the very end do you cut onto grass for the finish funnel. Volunteer support is aways seemingly plentiful and people look like they enjoy their lives, which judging by yesterdays queues in Tesco, not many people do. In today’s course (C) this was to include 2 laps of the aforementioned hill. Now this hill is not particularly steep and I believe overall its gradient comes to 3% or so, so nothing that makes you whimper in terror. That said, it does go on. The climb each time is a kilometre and builds from the point just after the so called Flats. It continues to the very top of Coronation Way and true to the gradient, is mostly gentle in incline. The first 300m or so are subject to an insidious change of gradient, which to the eye, almost seems flat and as you begin to catch your breath it really begins to frustrate you. You know there’s a proper hill coming but you’re tired already. The “actual” hill then kicks in 2 places towards the end, I slightly longer steep part, succeeded almost immediately by a shorter one. Both kicks are interspersed by a short flat segment which I have described as flat but is still in incline. In short, this hill is a bastard and you do it twice.

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Here is the workout and I have enclosed the pace chart from Garmin below. A few points – the green line is the elevation which seems perfectly benign but the graph is lying to you. Clearly that pace chart has never run up that hill before. Also my Garmin was playing up today quite considerably and chose to screw up my times which has upset me no end. Strava now thinks I didn’t PB and so as far as I’m concerned, it can go and fuck itself.

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Here are the splits.

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I’m not going to comment on these particularly – the 4th split represented the bulk of the 2nd loop of the hill and quite evidently it hit me hard there. Looking at pace trends, this is similar to other times I have run Southampton. Aaron my friend who was running with me gave me great advice to drop pace but maintain a similar effort going up the hill and so part of this was intentional. What this meant was that as I turned the northerly most corner down towards the final kilometre I felt I had something (not very much) but something left to churn for the sprint home.

In sum, I am happy. My official final time was 21:28, watch time 21:25 so I’ll go with Parkrun. I ranked 50th overall of 351 runners which was pleasing. There’s something genuinely and morbidly satisfying about passing people in a race. It’s a right bastard when they overtake you again though. That said, the run was as good as I could have achieved in the circumstances. It was on the back of a full week running and some tiring preceding sessions and no taper. On a flatter course, with a bit of a wind down on the weekly miles I am sure that 21 minutes is there for me. I’m only 28 seconds away and hey, that’s easy.