Perspective

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Since the start of the year I had one main goal. Run Cardiff half with a 7 min mile average. I’d worked this out to be 1:31:42. So that was it, mind focused and what I wanted to achieve. In the nearing months I upped my mileage, started doing longer cool downs after parkrun. Sometimes 9 or 10 miles. Everything seemed to be going well and confidence was growing. Then a bit of advice said “to race 13.1 you have to be able to run 15” so training changed slightly and got my longer run upto 15.4, even managed one of them at 7:50 pace. Then with the last few weeks pressure grew and so did tiredness. I felt my last few runs were really laboured and each time I attempted goal pace it felt my limit to do it for a single mile, let alone 13 and a bit extra. I tried not to panick, I knew I was more prepared than ever to run this race. On the day I was a bag of nerves. Luckily a gathering of the other BAC runners was near a hotel at the start and loo breaks were without huge queues. After a last dash and a battle through crowds, a nipped into my pen with a barrier climb. I’d wanted to be near back of pen to give me space from faster runners and allow me to distance myself from people I knew. Having dived in last minute, that was gone. First few miles seemed to zip by. I was running ahead of goal by a few seconds. I knew 4:20 a km was ideal for what I wanted. I always try to run as even as possible in races. Approaching the 6 mile mark I started to think of gels. I’d gambled on one being enough, again at the last minute, I’d actually brought two with me to the race. Gel gone and Mile 10 approaching feeling tough but ok. Then hitting mile 11 I was struggling. Pace was slowing and crowds were stopping me walking. It was like someone had switched the tap off. I knew it was going to be hard from here in. This year I was lucky to have faces waiting for me and seeing these boosted my morale. Approaching the hill of death (fairoak road) I was on empty: I made it up without stopping, first time in 4 attempts. An achievement in itself I felt. Eventually the downhill came and I trundled on down. At last I could feel the finish buzz. The corner was fast approaching and I started to pick it up. I always get a strange excitement feeling at the end of a race, this was no different. I started to tell myself(out loud) to push, repeatedly saying “c’mon, what have you got left” weird I know, but has become a way to dragging everything that’s left out. It felt like I spent every last drop on that finish and I hit a pace of 2:31 per km. 

On crossing the line I knew I had missed my target. The clock showing 1:32 something. It didn’t matter, 1:31:42 was the target. As I walked gathered my breath and my legs, I slowly made my way down the funnel to collect my medal and finishing goodies. Gutted that I hadn’t done it. 10 months of hoping and planning all wasted. Nick came over to chat about the race but I was just keen to get out of there. Walking back with Sarah I began to realise.  Yes I’d missed a big target, but by 19 seconds. Only just, I’d come so close. And had run 6 minutes faster than the year before and 2:19 off my PB. Suddenly I was proud. That was my hardest goal yet and I was pleased to do the time I did. I’m not done with that one and in fact will go for a faster target next time. Often in running we are dissapointed to not get a time or a place that we wanted. But the really we forget where we started. Cardiff Half 2015, my 4th attempt at Cardiff and fastest yet. 2:11, 1:46, 1:38 and now 1:32:03. I’m never going to be as fast as I want, but that’s just going to make me try harder. Dissapointed to be 19 secs from a goal but can’t really complain on 39 minutes improvement. 

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Goals

From the start of this year I set a goal to run Cardiff at a 7 min mile average. It seemed sensible and achievable back then. 9 months to train and prep, what more could I need. Time ticked along, pbs came and went but that goal remained. I’ve always struggled at post 10 miles. Think I’m built more for speed than distance. Merthyr half I started at the goal pace and ticked along ok until a few little climbs blew me away. Swansea half I again gave it a shot, from about 9 I struggled. This wasn’t looking like a great target to aim for. Since then I’ve worked hard. Grasped the believe that to race 13.1 you have to be able to run 15. In fact I’ve managed a few training runs now at sub 8 for just over 15. 

It’s seemed to get tougher the closer race day has come. Certainly a combination of pushing harder and feeling the pressure. The only person that’s pushing this goal is me. But that’s what running is about. Bettering yourself at every opportunity. 

Today was the last proper part of the training, no music, just a run to park run about 8 mm. Parkrun at 7mm and run home at 8mm. I managed all 3 at faster pace. Without rally pushing it. 

An easy week now with eating decent and doing all the recovery stuff I have known and all will be sorted for Sunday.

Funny to think in looking forward to this half being done so that I can relax and enjoy some ultra training. I know I will PB at Cardiff, I’ve worked hard for it to come. But let’s hope it’s 1:31:42 or less, as always nice to reach your goal. It will make sub 90 more realistic for next time too. 

Ultras are really catching my eye, I think it’s the thought of 9mm it sounds soo relaxed and easy. A lot still to learn but can’t wait to start trying it on longer runs.

A Tour

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After a few days off I was itching to get back running. Everything felt good after a rest. While trying my had at some geocaching with my boy we managed to include some running. Helped by the fact we were starving and late for tea. A nice 6 miles with run walking was a good introduction back to running. The weekend was two lovely firsts. My first proper run with my lad. As a budding rugby player he needs to keep fit, but certainly wasn’t enjoying the 3.7 miles we did. An easy start with a few walks he did well not to hurl and we both enjoyed the experience. My friend has been working hard to build up to her first half marathon, we have done a couple of runs and she easily hits the next marker each time. She requested her first 10+ route. I’d mapped out a nice variation of my long route. I was a bit unsure of route in places but it went well, she ran a good 11 miles and healthy confidence for her half marathon goal. It’s nice to run with others with no pressure, your just there to help them achieve that particular goal. It’s not effortless but nice to just run without a personal objective. Training has been going well, the sessions are starting to look towards winter now and that’s all about strength. A decent 5x1k session saw me run consistent 3:42/3:43. A couple of shorter sessions and I’m now starting to see a 70 something 400 regularly towards the end of session and even a first 60 something. 

Biggest decision of my running time so far had occurred. I’ve always been a fan of scenery and hills and recently a 100 mile race caught my eye. Cardiff to Brecon and taking in all the hills and sights, I thought what a great adventure. I’ve always been a bit afraid of the marathon but this seemed like fun and not a race. Unfortunately and sensibly you need to have experience of doing a few 50’s before entering. I’d heard of the Vale Ultra as one of the machines from club had finished 3rd in it this year. As I have now managed to get up to 15 and a bit miles on a run, I thought the short version of 18 miles could be achievable. Not too much further and a taster of what the full could be like. Having convinced myself it was a goer I got ready to sign up. Where possible I review the start list to see who else may be doing the race. I was surprised to see that from the 15 or so on there only 1 was doing the shorter version. This made me wonder if maybe I could attempt it. After a quick post to Facebook and lots of positive comments I signed up before I could convince myself otherwise. So I’m in “The Vale Ultra 30″(32.49 miles) will be my first ultra and also first time I’ve raced a distance greater than a half. I’ve already told myself it will be more like a tour rather than a race. As with all races I’ve decided on a goal time. Training will let me know how feasible it is, but I think sub 5hrs would be a great time. Plenty of time to prepare so will look at training after the Cardiff half as thats been my goal all year. Still hunting the magic 7 minute mile average. 

I recently ran in the inaugural Kenfig nature reserve XC 5k. This was designed to be a race for the local clubs to the Kenfig area. Bridgend AC, Cornelly, Brackla, Cwm Ogwr & Porthcawl, the first 15 finishers from each club to score. Luckily it was a dry day and had been quite windy, the course was a loop with a lot on sand. This made it tough and unforgiving. I went off a bit fast and but settled after 2k and progressively got slower. The sand sapped at your legs and it was a long slog. A great route and fun competition between the clubs. Bridgend finished first team and I was 26th. Not too bad from 108 runners in a time of 23:25. I hope there can be more races like that, it would be good to get some interclub competitions as Bridgend and the surrounding areas has a mass of runners and clubs. 

This week is the Cardiff 10k. I’ve swapped doing the Swansea 10 for this one this year. Not done it before, but is supposed to be a fast and flat race. Hopefully I can look to lower the 41:37 pb to something closer to 41 or at least 41:36. 

Mileage

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My only goal for this year is to try and run Cardiff Half in a 7 min mile average. Earlier in the year I have tried this pace at various longer races and struggled so I know it’s going to be a challenge. Recently I’ve started focusing on getting longer runs in and more mileage although I’m seemingly doing a high week followed by a low week. I’ve raced quite frequently over the summer and usually would rest a few days before a race. However I have often run the day before a race so to try and keep mileage up. Fitting in the runs can be tricky. Using a few commutes to work and giving up a weekend lay in, seem to be the way to fit it all in. It’s hard to balance a running focused week with a non runners week. Impact to people around you needs to be as limited as possible. 
My few recent races have gone ok. SSAFA 5K I went off bit too fast and then struggled 3 to 4k but came home in 20:02. Magor marsh 10K wanted to run a 4:10K average here to PB with 41:40. Again went off a bit fast chasing Huw the engine. I knew once I passed him I was probably pushing too much but carried in. Could feel and hear Stocker chasing me down. When caught at 7k I managed to hold on for 1 more but couldn’t go with him. Legs were empty. New PB of 41:37 but first defeat to Stocker. I followed this with my first ever 50+ mile week. A usual training week with two run commutes, finishing with parkrun plus a 7 mile cool down with mates and a solo 15.4 mile Sunday run with a 7:50 average. These runs are ideally aimed at 8, but 7:50 didn’t feel too maxed out. 
The worst part about doubling up on weekend is that Friday and 1 weekend day are my usual rest days. So if I run both, I find I’m knackered come Thursday’s training. I decided as two races this week and one being on Friday I would rest Tuesday. Training as normal Monday was fun but tough after the preceding week. Wed was the first race of the week, the summer sizzler 5K. Main hope was to go sub 20. I’ve not done this very often and wanted to get it done. I knew I was I was a little tired. I started a middle if the pack and slowly worked my way through. I’d spotted Tim further ahead and decided that was a good marker for my pace. I’ve stopped looking at watch during short races, so just tried to run on feel. Managed to catch Tim with 600 to go. I knew my sprint would separate us and with 180 to go I set off. Finished with an official time of 19:51 and had pulled a massive 13 seconds away from Tim. I thought this must be a mistake. Surely I’m not that fast over the final bit. Normal training Thursday and although slightly tired legs a decent session with all 6 reps getting faster and a decent 200 to finish. Friday was a trip to a hill race just outside Newport. With a name like The Murder Mile, I knew it was going to be fun. I quite enjoy a good hill. Chatting with friends it was agreed sub 12 would be a good time. I set of steady and just kept the pace and pushed whenever good. Walking a little in parts as I was being lazy. Emptied the tank on the sprint finish even though I couldn’t feel my legs to get a tidy 11:17. Immediately knew I could have ran harder on the up but something to work on next year. Free bottle of beer at the end and easily the best £3 I’ve spent ever. With going away this weekend and last nights race destroying my bum muscles, parkrun was going to be a moderate effort run with a few miles after. I set off with my new plan of aiming for a 4 min first K, again no watch checking but there are timers who shout out at 1 & 4K at Porthcawl. 4:03 was the shout, reasonable and I tried to hold that pace  looking to take other runners with me up the hill. As I hit rest bay turn, I could see a few BAC runners and we had formed a nice sequence. As I was heading to 3K, Stocker pulled along side and then in front, leaving just enough room for me not to trip him. I now realised moderate effort was out the window and I would have to run hard. I was hoping he was just going to sit there and we would coast in, with a sprint at the end. That wasn’t his plan. Stocker kept pushing the pace and I knew I had to hang. He would pull a few yards and then I’d pull them back. The pace felt tough going into the prom and seemed to be upping with every few metres. We pulled along side some other runners with about 200 to go and I knew it was time to empty the tank. I immediately pulled away with another runner staying close and for a few seconds I thought he may have me. Then I pulled out the final gear and left him. Parkrun is a run for fun and not a race, however it’s always good to practice your racing skills. It Was a 6 way tear up that finish, I was pleased to come out on top. 23rd place in a time of 20:14 again 13 seconds ahead of the person i was racing. Obviously SSAFA wasn’t a mistake. After a short recovery and some motivating at the finish headed off to do some extra miles with Clare and Nick. A warm 10 in the bag making 14 for the day and bum cheeks well and truly battered.  Four days off running now to explore a bit of west wales and see my son. Most time off running since last September. Will be good for my body to rest and bum cheeks to recover. 

Organisation 

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After the initial flurry I thought I would slow the pace down with the posts. Also not enough happens in my world to write too often. 

Last week saw my first attempt at coordinating a team for an event. If manage to miss all the relay events, but quite fancied Cosmeston this year. After a few Monday night chats a few names were thrown in the hat. Quickly managed to get 5 ladies and 7 men. 1 short got each to reach two team goal. With a bit of friendly encouragement and last minute swapping the names were sorted. In the days leading up to the event I was starting to get nervous. Final order sorted and no going back. After initially going with the approach of team allocation being on sign up order I choose to try and create some competive teams. Men’s team 1 was fast and with anchor having lots of rabbits. Men’s team 2 was 4 evenly matched that would push each other (including me). Ladies team 1 was the triathletes and ladies team 2 was the masters. The legs were worked out so that respective partners could easily provide child cover if needed. 

I was anchor for my leg, a late request for leg 2 meant I was relegated there. Seemed easiest to just put me where ever was left. 180 teams made for quite a spectacle in the changeover area. Marshals for helpfully should out the team number for the approaching athletes. Watching each handover I was increasingly getting nervous but excited. I went off exactly in that fashion for my leg and realised watch hadn’t been started 200/300m in just when I looked down to see why I was gasping. The course followed a gravel path in two separate loops and crossed over to create a finish stretch. A bit of slow climbing really seemed to be tough but I hung in there on the downhill and managed a respectable 19:18. 1st & 4th for the ladies teams and 6th & 19th for the men, made for a decent start to team coordination. 

Training on the estate the next day was back to a more conventional 6×800. Haven’t been able to go full out at training lately as had a few races and was attempting sensible approach. Couple of weeks before my next race so a couple of good training sessions to follow. Pleased to get faster each rep and finish on a 2:46, not bad the day after a race. Legs struggled on the ending 200m but another session in the bag. 

This whole year has had one target, 7 min mile average pace at Cardiff half. I’ve really struggled on that distance and no doubt my lack of long running is a big part why. A few wise words have stuck with me from a recent chat with a more experienced runner and GB triathlete. “To race 13.1 you have to be able to run 15” that has made me reevaluate how I do my long runs. I know now I need to push up to that level and then start trying to run it faster. One of my friends Faye is looking to build up to this years half and we have met up for a local run to show her the routed at certai distances near us. Also nice to have company when going to a new distance. We set off Sunday with a plan of around 8 miles. The pace was set to be achievable and a marker, this was about distance only. She managed a very comfortable 8.6 and went home confident there was now in the tank. I was feeling relatively fresh so decided to treat myself to a few extra faster paced miles. Another loop through Rhiwbina and home took me to 13.8 for the morning. My longest ever continuous run and first time I had surpassed two hours on my feet. A nice radox bath as a reward to the aching quads and a protein shake. What a great way to start the day. 

Motivation

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I’ve had a good week on the running front. 3K timetrial happened on Thursday. It’s a twice a year event normally around the estate where we train on a Thursday. Huge turn out saw 22 runners fill the seemingly busiest lane in Bridgend. Fans flocking in their car loads to see the nutters sweating up and down the lane. I had a decent handicapp and went off in a trio. Debutant to club Andy and the Legend Greg (29:33 for 10K). It’s always great to run with gregg, his experience shows in how he paces a race. We started off a decent pace and started to hunt down the earlier starters. After 1K I was pulling away from Greg but Andy was also pulling away. I felt strong through 1-2K but in the last K stomach didn’t feel great. Usual turbo finish was there to recover some of the damage luckily. 11:26 and an improvement of 18 seconds from winter. A slow starting 2K and then a faster 1K of 3:39 rounded of a fun but warm evening. 

The weather was looking quite ropey heading to parkrun today. Grey and spots of rain as I passed through Bridgend and then to Porthcawl. Still very humid though. Legs could still feel Thursday so thought I’d give unofficial pacing a shot again. Clare was fancying sub 22, so we settled with a plan of 21:40, a nice evening pace of 4:20 a K. A couple around us were keen too. So I knew I had to concentrate. It’s always a pleasure to try and help someone run how they want. I’m never one to shy away from trying to push someone further or faster. It’s as enjoyable as achieving it yourself if not more. We went off a bit fast but held the pace around a steady 4:16 average even taking a slower up hill. On hitting 4k, 17:09 was shouted. Trying to keep concentration I made out the timer was wrong. I knew were were easily below target but Clare was still strong. A finishing sprint is my favourite part of a run and a glance up to a shout out saw Clare powering away with a smile from a surprise spectator of her husband. 21:22 on the watch and officially 21:24 for Clare. We were both pleased. 

I often enjoy running back out to help and try push/motivate other runners I know once done. I know I’d love this and always find someone to shout or run with. Given Carys was running for the first time in a while. I thought I’d find her and run her in. It’s funny as the longer you run the more you think you’ve missed them. Checking every face i was sure I’d recognise her. Making all the way to rest bay climb and no one in sight. I assumed I missed her or she had gone elsewhere. Jogging back I caught up with a lady who was struggling slightly. I chatted with her and tried to help motivate her along but could see she wasn’t enjoying it, so left. Iwan quite sad to see that she ran within 600 metres of the finish and then went up the steps to leave. I asked her why she want going to finish. “Too embarrassed” she said ignoring my pleas to continue and attempts of support she left. Have to admit I was quite sad at this. I take for granted that I can run 5k and not even concern myself with the distance when training up to 12/13 miles. No one should ever feel like that about a run. It’s an achievement to be at the start line for parkrun if your not a “runner” just someone wanting to enjoy the run or improve themselves. Everyone’s motivated in different ways, but I hope the thought of making that far helps to push her to the finish line next time. Although I always want to run my fastest when I’m trying, parkrun is about a lot more for me. It’s like my night out with mates. All of us doing what we enjoy and sharing the moment together. My motivation is fitter, faster, stronger. But being happy is a huge piece of the jigsaw in making those happen. It’s one big circle. Run faster, further, harder, be happier. Arrive happy, run further, faster, harder and try and help others to do the same. 

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Pacing was successful, Gemma got a PB and I was pleased to help her achieve it. Nearly forgot to allow her to cross the line first, but just pulled back. We ran 21:15, for a warm day that’s a great run based on her previous PB. A lot about pacing is mental, it’s hard for the pacer to know how far to push ahead if at all and hard for the pacee knowing they being expected to push hard to stay next to the pacer. Parkrun has volunteer pacers on the last weekend of each month. May give it a go next month as an official one. 

Over the last few months a few of us have been trying to get some longer runs in. The benefits of these are shown across all your distances. They help you increase endurance for the long races and also speed endurance for the shorter ones. Although these have at times been a bit pushed we planned to slow it down this week. 5 of us running varying distances. The Porthcawl sea front is a stunning place. From the lighthouse out to rest bay and along the plastic walkway, back again down towards wimpy, over and around Trecco back and back through Newton to the wimpy again. Sun beaming and friendly chat. Makes you want to run forever. Need to get more brave and stick with the coast off road a bit too. 

Most of my long runs are in Cardiff local to where I live. I’m very lucky to have the taff trail, castle coch, Bute park & Caerphilly mountain all within running distance. These have awesome views too, equally as lovely as Porthcawl but vastly different and a lot of traffic at times. However lots of pathways means a lot of combinations for distance and type. I quite enjoy the mountain loop I have, but not until I’m going back down it. 

This weeks training has seen a visit to golf club hill on club night. 8x75secs reps, goodbye quads, session never gets easier and by the time your just approaching the start line again you hear the dreaded “30 seconds call” I was quite pleased to get all over the 250m mark. Today was bike commute, 3.5 miles in and 6.5 home. Love the bike, respite from the pounding and always feel like a kid set free. Same again tomorrow and then the special summer 3K Timetrial Thursday at estate night. Always great fun this season. Handicap approach to get everyone finishing around the same time. 11:44 in the winter version to beat. 

Streaking 

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After the busy last few weeks this week was going to be my last before I start getting more mileage In again. I’ve never been one for heavy mileage but recent failures at long distance have repeatedly been followed by advice of “you need the long runs” and “you need to learn to run 15, so you can race 13.1” At Bridgend AC your very lucky to be surrounded by quality runners and triathletes. A few GB vests, a few Welsh vests and past Olympians. Advice and experience is in abundance provide you’ve the sense to ask for it and listen to it. 

Wednesday night was the 2nd race in the SSAFA series at Bute park. I missed the first due to work but made all 3 last year. It’s for a great cause and down the road from me so perfect on both counts. When your running its  all Individual. You want to be faster than you but inevitably you find familiar faces to chase or try to outrun. The race started fast and I was nicely positioned for how I wanted to run. I’ve got good now of not looking at garmin after 1k, pace felt tough and hot through 2 and at 3 I was slowing. A quick glance behind and I could see more reason to push on. By just after 4 I had recovered a bit and could feel the excitement of a sprint finish. I crossed the line gasping and saw 20:09. Not bad, but not the sub 20 I would’ve liked. In front of two of the 3 vests I wanted to race with, so not too bad all round. Not counting Parkrun this was my first race this year I didn’t get a PB. However it was a course PB.

This weekend sees a return to Parkrun. Although Cardiff Parkrun is less than 2 miles from my house, I prefer to travel to Porthcawl.  Cardiff is too populated and as much as its lovely to see all the enthusiastic runners I don’t enjoy the struggle through the first mile. Porthcawl is stunning, along the sea front and usually a mild breeze. It’s more like a run with friends as I’ve come to know regular attendees and there’s a few from BAC there too. To take advantage of not having to pound the busy streets of Cardiff, I’ve now started doing a long run there afterwards. It’s like running on holiday but with the ability to be home again within the hour. Tomorrow I’ve offered to pace Gemma if she is feeling up to the challenge. Nice to try and help someone else hit their targets. The only feeling better than a PB is helping someone else PB. 

Timeliness 

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As with everything new it takes time for it to become the norm. Given more than one person viewed the previous post I thought it may be nice to follow it up. When though? 

Given I’m a runner and the majority of my life revolves around running, there’s no reason why these posts shouldn’t follow the same pattern. A little bit of OCD is helpful. 

So Caerphilly 10k was the 3rd weekend in a fun but tough 3 race weekends sequence. Welsh castle relays was first up, leg 17 and a fun 9.2 miles running too fast enjoying the downhills and suffering any slight climb that came (01:01:01). Swansea half marathon, 2nd run at this event and chasing the 7min per mile average dream. Worked ok for 6/7 miles then slowed for next 3 slightly and struggled the last 3.1. If you don’t train the distance you certainly can’t race the distance (01:34:22 PB). 

And back to Caerphilly as is often the case I was stuck in the slowest toilet queue and started making my way into the pen with a few minutes to spare. Supistition now seems to dictate toilet visits as close to start time as possible. No warm up and now a push for a place in a pen. Luckily two other runners Gina & Gemma were making the same pilgrimage for the best position to start. The gun went off and i darted with Gina between runners for the first km before space lost its premium. I had planned to run this race with an ideal average between 4:10 & 4:15 a km and hitting 5k about 21 flat. 20:33 hmm, a bit fast, I know I don’t have the endurance of a strong runner and had started to ease off already. The undulation continued and I managed to keep moving up and picking off runners as I went. A decent climb within the last k and my mind was turning to my favourite part. The last 200. For some unknown reason to me I seem to have a sprint, it’s unaffected by anything I do in the race and it’s a moment of euphoria. Nothing better then blasting it with people cheering. 30/40 seconds of feeling like a champion. I picked off a few in that one and ducked under the next milestone 42 minutes. (41:59 PB). After the race I saw a video playback of that finish, certainly enjoyed watching it back the first few hundred times. Next race is SSAFA 5k, plan, to try and run 19:59. 

Dipping the Toe

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So, had this app for a long time. Thought it would be great to follow a few blogs. Then boom, get two followers. Pressure started to mount, then I thought, how bad can it be. 

A little about me, 33, male, heading for 4 years as a non-smoker this year and a runner. Not fast but getting faster. 

This weekend is the Caerphilly 10K. This will be my 3rd run at this race. The first was my second ever race. Wanted sub 50 and got 49:44. Last year was hot, most struggled and St Johns were busy with runners suffering. I snuck another PB and got 44:04. Had other 10ks between those two attempts but that was a 41sec improvement. This year, I will be hoping for another PB and hoping to get closer to a time with 41 at the front. 42:46 set at Richard Burton last year to beat. 

Hair cut and massage sorted at Captiva Spa tonight and now rest and plenty of food tomorrow. Fingers crossed.