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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Looking forward to my lunchtime parkrun freedom run

I love Tuesdays!

One of the great benefits of working from home on a Tuesday is that I have time for a lunchtime parkrun freedom run.

It may not be the nicest weather today in Coventry. It's overcast and damp with every chance that it is going to rain later, but I just can't wait to get out in War Memorial park for a nice gentle freedom parkrun.

I think that is probably the key, with "gentle" being the all important word. Since my breakthrough moment last Tuesday, where I realised that I really wasn't up for hard training sessions at the moment, I am starting to look forward to my runs again.

Today I am just going to head off for my parkrun freedom run, with no intentions other than running it at whatever pace feels comfortable. And if, after one parkrun freedom run, I feel that I want to carry on, then I may just do a second one.

So rain or shine (looks unlikely glancing out of the window) I will be heading up to War Memorial park for a lunchtime parkrun freedom run and I hope to enjoy it.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

parkrun Training log: 13th November 2012

Today's training session in brief....

  • parkrun freedom runs: Intended: 2   Achieved: 2   Result: SUCCESS
  • Interval training:
    • 1km Intervals (at 3:30 each): Intended: 4  Achieved: Only 1!  Result: FAILURE
    • 500m Intervals (at 1:45 each): Intended: 4  Achieved: Only 2  Result: FAILURE
A rather disappointing effort today. I was just too tired. I think the cross-country from Saturday afternoon was still in my legs.

On the plus side:
  • I did manage my 196th and 197th freedom parkruns.
  • I ran for over an hour in total.
  • I ran 7.8 miles in total.
  • I got out in the fresh air in the park.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Cross-country or not?

It must be roughly 23 years since I last did a cross-country race. I represented my school in the district cross-country championship and did pretty well to be honest. But I can't think of a single occasion in those last 23 years, where I thought "I really must get back into cross-country running!". Not once!

So why on earth am I considering it now?

Well I joined a running club (Sphinx AC) this year and running clubs do cross-country, or so I'm told. The first race of the year is this Saturday (10th November) and it just sounds like great fun.

Back in my school days I was one of the better cross-country runners in my year group. But being a footballer at heart, I only did the cross-country because I was told I had to. No cross-country, no football I was repeatedly told. I was always trying to get out of the training and the races, but never managed it.

Jump forward to now and I am actually looking forward to it. I can't wait to see what it's like. I'm looking forward to being part of a team again. It's been about 5 years since my competitive football days came to an end and I suppose that was my last team sport event. I really like the idea of all the club runners trying our best to beat runners from other clubs and all of our efforts counting towards the same result. Should be a great team bonding event.

Apparently it's going to get a bit muddy and messy. No great surprise there. Not quite what I'm used to. I suppose I'll just have to get over the fact that the brand spanking new pair of Saucony Grid Cohesion Trail shoes that have been sitting in their box under my bed for the last 2 months are not going to brand spanking new come Saturday afternoon.

The only other real question is whether I can risk doing parkrun in the morning and cross-country in the afternoon. At training on Thursday evening, the club coach for the men's team suggested that doing both would be a bad idea. I can't help but agree, but now that I am closing in on my 100 club top, I don't want to miss any at all.

Anyway, looking forward to it, so bring it on and lets see just how cross-country now compares to my school days. Somehow I think it's going to be a lot more fun!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Freedom parkrun in the rain

Off for my freedom parkrun......Well it wasn't supposed to rain!

A least I didn't think it was. But right on cue, just as I had squeezed myself into the various obligatory lycra running garments (not easy when you ae as inflexible as me!) required to stop my muscles from pulling themselves to pieces in the cold, it started raining.

"I am a fair weather runner and I am NOT going!" - that was the first strop my inner child pulled (nothing dodgy - it was just my brain was being particularly rebelious at the time).

But then I told myself (quite sternly) "Yes you are. Now get out there and run man!". So run I did.

I headed out into the cold and the rain, dressed all in black (I've not yet managed to bring myself to buy Hi-Viz - I know I should), looking like the milk tray man (see below).

Ok, so I admit it, a slightly shorter, balder, less well shaven version of the milk tray man. Yes, the only thing I had in common was the all black kit. Let's move on.

How shall I run it today? I had no plan. I always have a plan when I go running. But today I did not.

I ended up doing a fairly brisk (but slightly comfortable) 19:56 on the Coventry parkrun course. My 195th freedom parkrun, if you are not bored of my stats yet. Not a bad start! Some fool (it was me) then decided I should do some hills. Granted its not a big hill, as sprinting up it only takes 30 seconds. But after 7 reps I had had enough. Truth be told I had had enough after 3 reps, but I somehow pushed myself on to 7 in the end.

So considering I am still (mentally at least) a fair weather runner, I didn't do too bad considering the conditions.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A totally unexpected PB

I have been banging on about my injury problems for what seems like a lifetime to me, so goodness only knows what any remaining readers out there think.

I'll try not to repeat all that too much, suffice to say that they started a year ago, the last occurrence was in November and I have tried to come back slowly over the weeks and months since.

Before last weekend my best parkrun since injury was an 18:18 two weeks earlier at my last parkrun.

I turned up at the weekend hoping to just beat that time but almost a bit nervous of the pain I would have to go through to achieve a new "comeback PB". But I knew I could do that.

I had decided to go out hard again and try to stay ahead of schedule. In the past I would always do the second half of my parkrun faster than the first and finish with a sprint. Due to injury problems a sprint finish is still very unwise, so I am currently trying to run exactly even paced laps to end exhausted.

I was trying to do a fast sub 3:30 first km and then stay at or around 3:40 per km to secure my target time.

I did a slightly quicker 3:27 first km and felt strong, so decided to stay as far ahead of schedule as possible.

I have to be honest that by the next km marker and those that followed I was too punch drunk to have any idea or possibility of calculating my km splits. But I was sure I was ahead.

I did manage to get a one lap split time in my head of 8:53 (my fastest first lap ever), so I knew I was well ahead of target.

The problem of being so far ahead is that it raised the possibility of beating my 17:49 PB. I decided to ignore that possibility and just knuckle down as I was still feeling strong.

I was firmly in 5th place at this stage, well ahead of 6th and at least 50 metres behind 1st to 4th.

With about 1km to go I noticed that I had closed on positions 2 to 4 (1st was long gone). At this stage it actually became a race for me rather than about time.

I decided to power past those three runners in one quick effort so tgat they had no chance to stay with me and with 500 metres to go I had a good 20 metres lead over them. A quick look at my watch suggested I would be within a second or two of my PB.

I was now trying to defend my second place with first far too distant a possibility. I gave it everything for the next minute or so and with 250 metres to go I was completely out on my feet, running with my eyes closed and gasping for air.

I somehow got myself to the finish line, held on to second place and a quick glance at my watch suggested it would be an equal PB or slight improvement.

When the text came through I was delighted to see that I had a new PB by 3 seconds! How did that happen!

I think this was the first time I have punched the air with delight at the sight of my parkrun text. That was the thrill I got from finally getting "back to my best" and from achieving a parkrun PB after all those months of injury!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Sport Relief Mile "training" with my 3 year old

After a fairly swift (but comfortable) double parkrun yesterday (21:51 and 21:30), for a respectable 10km time of 43:21 and with parkrun tomorrow morning, I had planned to take a day off from running today.

My 3 year old daughter had other ideas!

She has just taken me out for 2 laps of the block, which (according to google maps) is roughly 1.02 miles. I'm not sure that "roughly" is the right word when you give mileage measurements to two decimal places. Anyway, we ran just over a mile.

She has taken me out...and I do mean "she takes me out" as she certainly tells me in no uncertain terms that we are going, the route we are taking and the number of laps. She even decides the topics of conversation. So, as I was saying, she has taken me out to run round the block a few times over the last couple of years, but this is the second time as part of her "training" for the Sport Relief mile. She loves it so much and is clearly glad of the excuse to get me out for a run. I have to say that I really don't mind at all either. We enrolled my 7 year old son and there is no way my 3 year old daughter would have allowed us to prevent her from doing it.

Her last run was a mile around the block a few weeks ago where she ran it in about 14 minutes, without stopping! 14 minute mile pace sounds pretty good to me for a 3 year old!

Well today, she blew that away and did it in less than 13 minutes. Pretty amazing. She even stopped a couple of times this time. To wait for me of course! I wish I could pick my mile pace up by a minute between training sessions!

The best bit about all of this is the delight in her eyes, the enthusiasm with which she does it, the fact she came home to tell her mum all about it, the fact she has just told me that she wants to go every day, twice a day!

Better than that, she has just come into the room and is doing laps of the table, telling me all about her running, sorry no, she says she is jogging. Great stuff! Though I am starting to get dizzy as she laps me every 10 seconds or so, she must be getting dizzy too.

Such a special time, being out running with my 3 year old daughter! I can't remember when the Sport Relief mile is, soon I think, but I hope she doesn't lose the enthusiasm for running after that, because I had a great time and am looking forward to the next time. Tomorrow she tells me!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

After a week off, another comeback PB!

Unable to run at parkrun last week and only one training run in the last week didn't bode well for today's parkrun.

The freezing temperatures and the multiple layers on every part of my body also suggested a fast time would be very hard to come by.

Two weeks ago, at my last parkrun I got my comeback PB of 19:21. I was really hoping to beat this today. Beating it at all would have been fine, but in the back of my mind I was thinking about a sub 19 minuter.

I set off as fast as I dare with all my recent calf strain problems. This saw me lose 10-15 seconds on the people I used to start and run with. But after that I seemed to maintain the distance to them.

Aiming for 4:45 (19 minute pace) at the halfway point on the first lap I found myself about 7 seconds ahead of schedule. Money in the bank! I obviously then kept a consistent pace to the halfway point, completing the first lap in 9:32. This is on I thought.

So attention now well away from comeback PB and firmly focused on sub 19! I have to say that I felt really good considering it was my fastest lap for 4 months.

The first half of the second lap I just held position and pace. Then the last half lap I decided that to avoid the need for a fast finish, that was the time to make sure of the sub 19 and picked up the pace accordingly.

Reaching the normal 1 minute to go point I knew I had done it with a few seconds to spare and actually eased off a little to ensure no injury risk.

I finished with a time of 18:52 for another comeback PB, beating the previous one by 29 seconds! Another huge improvement. This equals a time I did in October and is my fastest since mid May last year! 9 months ago.

I have had a great day as a result, finally feeling close to getting back to my best.

I'm volunteering next week, and then the web upload, so I'm hoping that another week off makes me come back with similar enthusiasm and determination as did so well for me today!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Another week, another comeback PB

After smashing my previous comeback PB of 21:23 last week, bringing it down to 19:56, I knew it would be really tough to get another one this week.

I would have settled for any improvement over last week, but to be totally honest I had 19:30 in the back of my mind. It's been a fair few months since I was able to do a parkrun at that pace, so I wasn't certain I had the fitness to do it, irrespective of how the calf felt. But I was prepared to give it a good go.

The problem I have at the moment is a lack of confidence in my calf. This rules out fast starts and sprint finishes, and calls for fairly even paced running. I worked out 3:54 per kilometer, and very luckily I was lent a Garmin to help me.

A fairly fast start and the early downhill stretch got me nicely ahead of target with a 3:48 first km. Right there and then I knew it was possible and mentally committed to sub 19:30.

Six minutes later and reaching the halfway point in 9:45 (exactly half target time) and now feeling the effects of running at that pace, I started to feel slightly annoyed with myself for the earlier mental commitment. But a deal's a deal and once committed I am not one for backing down easily, so it had to be done.

The 4th km was not good. I drifted out to over 4:00 pace and very quickly realised that this was the time to go for it or miss it! I knew I had the comeback PB in the bag, but could I go sub 19:30 too?

Knowing I couldn't risk a sprint finish it had to be a hard last km. On lifting the pace and maintaining it for 3 or 4 minutes I felt that on the limit, on the verge of sickness, heart pounding feeling you get when you get close to your limit. Even though this can be a horrible feeling, it is one I have always found addictive. This is the best bit of exercising for me. I know I'm wierd!

Somehow, not only did I manage the comeback PB and to break 19:30, I finished in 19:21, my fastest time for months.

Unfortunately I now have to wait 2 weeks for my next parkrun and to continue my comeback PB streak.

Still another 90 seconds to get back to my very best, but for a while I'll be looking at 5-10 second improvements each week. There is a long way to go, but no rush to do it.

I can't wait to give it a go again in 2 weeks time.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Comeback PB

It's been over 2 weeks since my last blog post on my own parkrunfan blog, so I thought it was about time I did a quick post about my latest injury comeback.

I think the last time I (re)injured my calf was around the middle of November. And this time I finally realised that I needed to listen to my body and do the right things to make sure I fully recover. So I'm roughly 9 weeks into my latest recovery and I have been very sensible this time around. I started with 5 or 6 weeks of physio and lots of associated stretching and strengthening exercises.

I have taken my running comeback very slowly too. I waited a couple of weeks after the last injury before my first parkrun run/jog in 38 minutes plus. I have since progressed to 26 minutes, a couple around 23 and a couple around 21 minutes. Always hoping to improve week on week, but never too bothered about any specific target time.

Today was different. Today I really wanted a comeback PB, faster than my quickest time of this comeback which was 21:23 on Christmas eve. I was hoping it would be around 20:30.

Well I totally smashed by comeback PB and my 20:30 target time, finishing sub 20 minutes for the first since early October, with a time of 19:56. Considering I once did 30 out of 31 consecutive parkruns under 20 minutes, I feel this is where I should be.

If anything I felt that my fitness was the limiting factor today rather than my calf. Which is a sign I don't mind. I can work on my fitness, what I can't bare to think about is injury the calf again.

I can't see any more huge comeback PB improvements in the coming weeks, but I will settle for 5 to 10 seconds improvement until spring as that will see me getting back towards my best.

Hopefully next week I'll be finishing around the same time again, and more importantly, without injury.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Other running targets for 2012

As my blog title and the majority of the content suggests, my running very much revolves around parkrun. However, I do have other running targets for 2012.

Unfortunately, I have probably left it too late to make the GB Olympics squad this time around but there is always next time. Optimism is something I am good at! But the Olympics is not the only place to run this year!

I have already enrolled for the Regency Run in Royal Leamington Spa in April. After running 2 10km events with injury in 2011 I feel that I have something to prove and must get a 10km PB in 2012. I only have to beat 39:58 for a PB. If I get fit again this shouldn't be too tough.

I think I would like to do a couple more 10km events after the Regency Run too.

I'll have to see how I go, but towards the end of the year I may even consider a half marathon, but that is a long way off at the moment, both in time and distance!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

5 parkrun targets for 2012

Late last year I set myself a few targets for parkrun for 2011. Even though injuries plagued my year I still achieved a few of those targets, so I thought I should do the same for 2012. So here goes....

1. Get back under 18:30 before the end of April.

2. Get a new PB (under 17:49) before the end of the year. This will be very tough, but what is the point of easy targets?

3. Run 35 parkruns in the year. This would take me to 85 in total and leave me on target for the 100 club by June 2013!

4. Run at 2 new parkrun locations. Brueton for sure and at least one other.

5. Finish in the top 5 in the Coventry points table.

If I remember I'll try to check in on how I'm doing with these targets during 2012!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Training plan for January

A training plan? What's a training plan? And what is someone like me going to get from having one?

Well, I can't pretend to know too much about planning training sessions, but all I am really trying to achieve this month is to come up with a schedule that I can stick to. In following months I may try to plan something a bit tougher.

I believe that the common understanding of these things suggests that making your plans public makes you more likely to stick to them. Here's hoping that's true!

So what do I want to get out of this?

After all my injury problems last year I have to say that my priority is to stay injury free! After that it's to gradually build my mileage back up. I had reached 25 miles a week at various points last year, but for the last month it's been one 6 mile run a week.

One massive target for January is to lose a fair chunk of the extra half stone of cheese, wine and other treats piled on to my waistline over the Christmas period. If I can lose 4 pound this month I will be very pleased. I know that long term I need to weigh significantly less if I want to get near my PB.

I also want to build my parkrun pace back up. But this is not really a priority for January. I'd be thrilled just to knock another minute off my injury comeback PB (21:10) and get back below 20 minutes, but it won't be a problem if I don't manage that this month.

The plan...

Week 1:
Wednesday: 6 miles comfortable pace (today).
Friday: 6 miles comfortable pace
Saturday: parkrun (6 miles total)

Week 2:
Tuesday: 6 miles comfortable pace.
Thursday: 6 miles comfortable pace
Saturday: parkrun (6 miles total)
Sunday: 9 mile slow long run

Week 3:
Tuesday: 6 miles comfortable pace.
Thursday: 6 miles comfortable pace
Saturday: parkrun (6 miles total)
Sunday: 9 mile slow long run

Week 4:
Tuesday: 6 miles comfortable pace.
Thursday: 6 miles comfortable pace
Saturday: parkrun (6 miles total)
Sunday: 9 mile slow long run

If I manage to stick to that it will be great and I'll be amazed, but for now at least that is the plan!

Monday, 2 January 2012

New years parkrun resolutions

1. I must stay injury free.
2. I must do as many parkruns as possible this year. I think 35 should possible given volunteering, holidays, weekends away and all other reasons for missing out.
3. I must volunteer at parkrun at least 5 times. I know 3 is the suggested minimum, but I feel I owe parkrun a little more than that.
4. I must get back below 20 minutes by mid-February. That shouldn't be too tough given that I did 21:10 on the tough Leamington parkrun course last weekend.
5. I will try to get back under 19 minutes by mid-March.
6. I will try to get back under 18:20 by mid-April. That would leave me within plausible reach of my PB for the remainder of the year.
7. I will try my upmost to get my friends along to parkrun whenever they come to stay (be warmed friends!).
8. I will continue to blog about all things parkrun. parkrun in general, my parkruns, freedom runs and any other parkrun topics I can think of.
9. I will try to get along to at least one or two other parkrun locations.
10. I will consider joining a running club.

Double freedom parkrun to start 2012

Well it was a cold, bright, sunny morning, but not too cold, so just about perfect for my first run of 2012.

Three of us headed out for a double parkrun in war memorial park in Coventry. We had no aims for the run other than to run together at talking pace and make it pretty easy for ourselves. Doing the distance was the only real target.

The park was particularly busy today with plenty of familiar faces from Coventry parkrun and plenty of other runners and walkers besides. A huge group from the Sphinx running club were also there for a bit of a new year club run/walk.

As I say, we had no specific aims for the run and our two parkrun times were a very comfortable 27:03 and 27:44, for a 10km time of 54:47, so we certainly weren't struggling speed-wise. But I could feel the extra Christmas weight I am carrying at the moment (a good half stone put on in the last week or so!). My hips and thighs would not have been happy had I tried to run much further.

During the run the three of us discussed our aims for parkrun and other runs for 2012. There was a lot of talk of avoiding injuries and just enjoying our running for a while. We seemed to agree to a different approach this year compared to last. Last year we did a lot of work at race pace, on hills and interval training during January and February. This year we agreed that it would be more about building up our mileage for the coming two months. After that we will aim to do some speed work approaching our first races in April.

With the warm up and warm down the run today was just over 9 miles in total, so a pretty good start to our running year.

I'm looking forward to getting plenty of miles under my belt in the next two months and hopefully getting rid of some of the fat that is under and over the belt at the moment!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Leamington parkrun

Yesterday, with the core of the Coventry parkrun team unavailable, Coventry parkrun was called off.

This gave myself and a few other Coventry parkrun regulars the perfect excuse to try out Leamington parkrun for the first time. A group of 3 of us travelled together, only to find that 4 others had made the same journey. So in total 7 Coventry parkrun regulars lined up at the start line.

The course at Leamington is quite different to the course at Coventry. The start line is at the side of an area of several football pitches. The route takes you around the edge of these pitches for at least a couple of minutes, before heading onto a rough gravel pathway.

The pathway is pitted with dents and larger holes, all of which were turned into large puddles after recent heavy rainfall. A couple of these large puddles traversed the entire pathway leaving you with a long jump or a quick paddle as the only way past.

I did witness one runner who seemed to time his splashes perfectly to soak the same rival runner at least two or three times in the space of a minute. Nice work I thought!

The route then headed around Newbold Comyn golf course. A notable tough point being a steady uphill gradient which suddenly turns 90 to the right and probably at least 30 degrees upwards. This steepest of inclines only lasts a minute or so, but by the top, with your thighs feeling the burn, you feel as though you can only just top walking pace. The gradient then decreases but remains uphill for a few more minutes.

The relief of reaching the top of the hill at around half distance is incredible. And the view is superb, or at least i think it must be. My brain was so fatigued by the uphill effort that it was all I could manage to keep running.

Then the long gradual downhill starts and you can allow your legs to run freely, your breathing slowly returning after the preceding uphill struggle.

Although probbaly a good couple of km, the downhill is over all too fast and you return to the flat to wind your way around the lower section of the golf course and back to the football pitch finish area.

The football pitch area is a little bit slippy at this time of year and given the rough pathways for the majority of the route, this parkrun course would be well suited to trail shoes rather than standard running trainers.

That said, even with the right footware, I wouldn't think of this as a fast course, but it's certainly an attractive, challenging and fun one.

The Leamington parkrun volunteer team were a very welcoming bunch. Although there were under a hundred runners, the community spirit was present in abundance. I'm sure I'll return to Leamington parkrun again in the future, it's a lovely location for a parkrun and very well run, but I may wait for drier course conditions.

As for the Coventry parkrunners, well we did Coventry parkrun proud, by taking 4 of the top 10 places and 3 of the top 6! A great effort. I suspect a group of us may try another local parkrun or two in the coming months.