After a poor Chester Marathon in October which seemed to take weeks to recover from (4 in fact), I decided to buy some new go-faster yellow race socks and target December's Aber 10k as a potential PB race, which left around 6 weeks to train for.
Steve drew up a plan which transformed our lunchtime bimbles into some sensible tempo sessions (that's what he called them). To me they were sessions from the depths of hell. 30 minutes at Steve's annoyingly fast pace which really requires complete concentration and vasts amounts of bravery to keep going to the end!
Burgess came along to sample the pain one day and like me, he was crying after 15 minutes, begging inside for Steve to slow up. Fact of the matter was that cake and complacency had gotten the better of me & Dan for weeks whilst Steve was on a fasttrack to some good form, cruelly taken from him in the end by an ill timed virus.
The AC Tuesday night speed sessions helped to hammer some form back into the legs and the Parkrun showed that my race pace was going the right way. Some sessions reminded me that the body was not always able to perform well and they were a right struggle!
2 weeks to go and the crucial session that would determine if my target time of a sub 38 was possible, 6 x 1 mile efforts on the track, all at target race pace with minimal (1 lap) recovery between reps. Each lap needed to be at a max pace of 6.07 and this was achieved with some faster reps for the last couple, despite the best efforts of the Uni football team who's target practice seemed to be me rather than the goal that Monday evening..
Some final few hill sessions helped top things off but then a big spanner in the works came along - the birth of a baby daughter, a week early! Whilst this was obviously priority number one, i was secretly hoping to sneak the Aber 10k in just prior to the original birth date.
As it happened, it was a false alarm as the Mrs, who was taken in a week and a half early was not operated on after all on the saturday and was allowed home..at 1pm on Sunday...30 minutes before the start of the Aber 10k!!
To be fair to her, she acknowedged my previous plan regarding the race and so I had packed a race bag that morning to come to hospital with, should she be discharged that morning. Her sign off took a little longer than anticipated (eventually 2pm), so I had to dash down at midday to register, return to Bronglais to check on things, then back down to the car outside at 1.10 to change, back up to the ward to hand the keys back to her which involved running through the hospital corridors in my Aber AC kit(!), back out, forgetting my Garmin, so back up to the ward to even more strange looks from staff & patients, then finally a quick warm up down Queens Road and to the start.
The start of the Aber 10k was biblical in terms of the lashing rain, as we all remember and so I dashed to a relatives house on the Buarth with 4 mins to go, dropped off my warm up clothing in their shrubbery, back down to cower in a (dry) bush by the tax offices (a guy from Brecon AC who turned out to be the eventual winner had the same idea) and onto the start line with a minute or so to spare - the perfect warm up?
With no time to think about tactics, i subconsciously defaulted back to the plan from the track session, run 6 x 1 miles in 6.07 but this time without any recovery in between efforts!
Mile 1 went perfectly, I strolled off the start in row 7 or 8, held up a little by the masses of other runners who bolted from the gun but who then slowed up 100 metres down the avenue. This worked in my favour as it stopped me doing the usual fastish start and causing early onset of lactic acid in the muscles, usually culminating in a disappointing performance.
Mile two was, after talking to other runners, the toughest of the race. A stiff headwind up Queens Road and up to the Consti Railway meant a split of 6.13, and I felt it too. 'Disaster' I decided whilst running down the ramp onto the prom as the wind swirled about. Upon hitting the prom I realised that the wind was actually a side-tail and we were cruising. The next couple of miles were knocked out in 6.01 and so it was back to being game on.
At this point I was hurting, but in a good way as only other runners will understand. The usual pain was there but with no decrease in pace. My effort had been timed well and the muscles were operating at full efficiency. In other words there was a gap in the clouds, a tiny glint of hope, a small window of opportunity to grab that sub 38 that seemed impossible only a few weeks earlier. I decided to ignore the Garmin from here on in (2.2 miles to go) as I knew i could maintain the pace and didn't want to know if i was waining to be perfectly honest.
The first 'bang' came rather appropriately by the doctors surgery, but with Ian and Norman just up ahead, they acted as a carrot and with a quick adjustment to my stride, I fixed the problem and actually sped up!
Mile 5 ended up at 6.03 and so around Blaendolau Fields I caught a few runners which made a nice change from previous editions of the race where I'd been the one spluttering. Mile 6 was flipping tough but what can you do? A PB is on a plate, the napkin is around the neck and the salt & vinegar are perfectly placed for you to tuck in and enjoy!
I guess any other type of session would have meant collapsing in the nearest ditch. I am not strong willed usually, only when really really pushed, and even then its a total and painful inconvenience, but with Steve and Burgess both marshalling at the level crossing and within the last km (it's always good to know the course!), I managed to keep it together. 'Core stability' which seems to be a buzzword stressed upon more and more these days, was out the window at this point. I became that flapping runner from a few years back when I first joined the Aber AC. My back wobbled side to side with each stride, the head rocked, and arms started jiving as i lauched into a final sprint. This must have looked more like someone running with some heavy shopping, only the shopping had been photoshopped out....
In mild payback for the 3.00.02 at Manchester Marathon, the clock came into focus at 37.51 and I only had yards to go. I came over the line in 37.56, so take that mr timing clock demon. I would have been seriously annoyed at 38.01!
So for me, it was a PB and showed that with a bit of focus in training, and a lot of determination on race day, plus the minor issue of a baby daughter potentially being born that morning, any goal is possible!