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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.