Ode to the Blackbird.

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Dear blackbird that has been in my garden for the last seven days.

Why have you been in my garden for the last seven days?

What do you want?

Fuck off.

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Richmond Nice Work 10km

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Sunday was a gorgeous day. On the back end of Saturday’s meteorological erraticisms and angry skies, the sun rose and beamed on South West London. We made the pleasant and uneventful commute from Southampton fairly early to arrive in time for the gun at 10am. On arrival, Sheen gate (in the North East corner) was positively bustling and seemingly, as far as the eye, a human engine coughed and chortled into action. Two men with designer coffees and presumably occupied prams wandered carelessly through the Tamsin Trail. The queue for the toilets grew ever longer. Underneath the sprawling canopy of trees the beginning and end of the Richmond Nice Work 10km was found.

On arrival, having not been entirely familiar with the route I decided to canter along it, 1 km in each direction. It seemed reasonable enough. I would openly refer to the course as an enjoyable run. With a good mixture of terrains and gradients, it makes for a particularly interesting but not easily accomplishing course. I wouldn’t personally seek it out for a PB. The opening 3km take the form of an insidious climb, confusing the eyes but not the legs as the course brings you along the Tamsin trail to the Western most aspect and the peak of Richmond Hill. From there and acute turn almost back onto oneself is made onto a paved road, tumbling down Sawyer’s Hill lasting some 2km. From there a further kilometre began a grass lined ascent to the start.

Safe to say, I found the course difficult. Undulating, muddy swamps reflecting the preceding month’s weather, uneven grass patches – it did not make for straightforward racing. This said, I was still fortunate enough to register a chip time PB of 45:36. Although not a “Garmin PB” – I suspect it’s calibration may need some attention, I am holding this official time as my PB. The following is the race and the splits. Screenshot 2016-01-11 15.57.53.png

As can be seen, the second lap was a real pain. I overtook an older chap in a white cap as we passed 6km but was rapidly overtaken in the onslaught of an oncoming hill. As he crept away from me I decided to hold on to his pace for as long as possible with the intention of jumping an attack on the hill and getting away from him. As it happened, he sped up more than I could counter and I watched him peel away from me slowly but ever so deliberately. He must have maintained a minute’s gap at least as we passed the finish line. After the race we had a chat and I lamented with him on his fitness. He told me of his upcoming London Marathon  qualification via good for age. Disgusted, I shook his hand as he left.

All in all, another PB on the back of a non taper week and difficult (for me) course. I cannot help but think that perhaps what is required is a flat fast course for the required <45. Perhaps after Spring’s two half marathons a 10km is back in the picture. We’ll see.

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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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