The Naked PB

In the weeks leading up to my recent 10k in Bournemouth I arranged to return my Garmin for repair/replacement because the wifi connectivity wasn’t working. The FR620 has been through several firmware updates since release and I had assumed when the wifi stopped working, in June, that it was due to a bug in one of these and would be addressed in a subsequent one. By September it had become apparent that the problem was a hardware one and I would need to return the watch. I agreed with Garmin to postpone the return until after the 10k so that I could use it in my training and on race day. This I duly did.

After a couple of runs recorded using the Strava app on my iPhone – which were unsatisfactory I think more because I was using a 3GS on its last legs rather than anything inherent in the app – I decided to time my runs with the stopwatch function on my watch and limit myself to using a loop that I’d run many times with my FR620 and so was satisfied that it constituted a known distance.

week ending 18 October – 30.3 miles total

Sun 12 5.5k easy @ ~4:45/km
Mon 13 5.5k warm up @ ~4:51/km
5.5k tempo @ 4:09/km
Tue 14 11.0k easy @ ~4:47/km
Thu 16 16.4k easy @ ~4:53/km
Sat 18 5k parkrun – Dulwich

I accepted that I would have to omit interval sessions from my training schedule and continue with just easy and tempo runs. However I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to pace myself accurately particularly at paces other than easy – I typically refer to my Garmin frequently and more so when I am trying to maintain a relatively fast pace. Having worked out that I’d averaged 4:45/km on Sunday 12th I decided my target paces the next day would be 4:50/km to warm up and 4:10/km for the tempo run (between my 10 mile and HM paces). I was amazed to find just how accurately I did this although I doubted I’d be able to do it quite so accurately on another day or at other, less frequently used, paces. Nonetheless it was a confidence inspiring and quite liberating experience. I decided that a fast parkrun wouldn’t be out of the question simply because I didn’t have a Garmin to pace myself with. I felt strong and decided on a target of 19 minutes – within touching distance of my 18:55 PB.

I cycled to Dulwich Park and around one lap of the course – to check the current state of the flood alleviation works being carried out – and did a slightly truncated warm up due to the imminently approaching start time. Picking my way towards the front at the start line I found myself alongside a buggy with a Garmin attached and asked the accompanying runner what sort of time he was aiming for; to assist in positioning myself appropriately. Only as he responded, 20 minutes, did we both look up and realise we knew each other; it was a running friend I hadn’t seen for over a year. Agreeing to meet again after the run I moved myself forward a little and was soon parkrunning. Without a GPS watch I simply did what felt right and took up a position behind some runners whose pace seemed ‘about right’. One of the things I like about the Dulwich parkrun course is that it consists of three identical laps and so, even though I was naked of running technology, I was able to get feedback at the end of each lap as the timer called out the times. After the first lap I heard ‘6:40’ and thought ‘right on target’. (If your blog reading maths brain is better than my mid parkrun one then ‘yes, I know’, but I didn’t notice at the time.) I felt comfortable and focussed on maintaining my pace. I felt I’d done at least that and so was disappointed to hear ’12:47′. ‘Seven seconds down?’ I thought, as I started my final lap. I typically finish relatively quickly and so still believed I could recover to 19 minutes or better and so was mildly disappointed to record 19:15 at the finish. Catching up with my friend afterwards he mentioned that he thought I’d gone out quite slowly, but I didn’t reconsider my lap maths at the time …

Dulwich parkrun

Dulwich parkrun: Three identical laps, no sharp turns, no steep inclines, only 12 metre elevation difference between lowest (West) and highest (East) points, volunteers, brown paper packages tied up with string …

week ending 25 October – 30.8 miles total

Sun 19 10.0k easy @ ~4:53km
Mon 20 11.0k easy @ ~4:46/km
Tue 21 5.5k warm up @ ~4:54/km
5.5k tempo @ ~4:14/km
Thu 23 11.0k easy @ 4:47/km
Sat 25 1.6k warm up
5k parkrun – Dulwich

On Sunday 19th I didn’t use my known 5.48km loop (you’ll have noticed of course that all training runs noted to this point are multiples of this distance), but instead returned to Dulwich Park with my family. I ran the parkrun course twice accompanied by my 5 year old daughter on her bike for the first lap and a half. If the course was flat I’m sure she’d have done considerably more, but at present her still developing strength and, not least, the weight of her bike mean that even the slight uphill of half the lap made it hard for her to keep going.

I had the same target paces in mind as the previous week for my warm up and tempo runs on the Tuesday and was again able run them pretty accurately. Still feeling strong and really enjoying my running I decided not to do a long run on the Thursday, as I had the previous week, and so enhance my readiness for a further attempt at running a 19 minute parkrun on the Saturday.

This time I drove to Dulwich and arrived in good time to do a full warm up. For a 5k I like to run about a mile starting out very easy for the first half, moving up gently towards the faster end of easy during the next quarter and then accelerating further in the final quarter such that the final 200m or so are at race pace. A few high cadence heel kicks and high knees and I felt ready. Just as importantly there was still about 10 minutes to go until the start.

Again I took up a position near the front to start and settled in quickly behind some other runners whose pace seemed good; a little quicker than the previous week I thought. At the end of my first lap I heard ‘6:20’ called and, noticing that it was faster than the previous week, did the maths to make sure I wasn’t running too fast … It was only then that I noticed my error of the previous week. Yes, 6:20 was on pace for a 19 minute finish, but 6:40, as my friend had noticed, was distinctly slow. This time I was on pace. And feeling comfortable. Over the next two laps I very gradually reeled in three runners in front of me and in so doing kept my confidence high that I was running well. As I turned at the bottom of the course for the last time and entered the final slightly uphill 300 metres, I realised that the next runner in front, who I’d not been aware of for some time, was perhaps within reach too. I know that I can finish quickly and pushed as hard as I could whilst maintaining form. I finished only a couple of metres behind him – the official results credit us with the same time – and pressed stop on my watch. Looking at it for the first time I saw 18:53.17! I felt sure that I’d improved on my 18:55 PB, the only question being whether my official time would be 18:54 or 18:53. After a relatively short wait – the combination of great volunteers and parkrun’s robust results processing – I was really very happy to find it was the latter.

So, can I find another 35 seconds?



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