What started out as one final push for a sub 3 hour marathon, threatening to take over my life during January to April, actually turned out as a year for some new training sessions, less focus on racing so frequently and a quick stab at the iconic Marathon Eryri.
With the sub 3 marathon conquered (see previous blog), it could only ever be described as a good year, but with new challenges along came new targets and some ups and downs along the way, one of the downs being the fact that I have been 'upgraded' to the veteran 40+ category for all races :-(
Firstly, the club I belong to (Aberystwyth AC) has exploded into a bigger operation with first class race promotions, new runner incentives such as 'Couch to 5k', and a website that encourages friendly competition with the Badge Scheme and the Club League...and that's not even mentioning ParkRun!
ParkRun has been the single most important new venture that has made running more accessible and social in Aberystwyth, and in turn has seen many new faces come along and give it a go. Personally I haven't had as much involvement as I'd like, with a young family this year but have helped out when possible. The credit is down to a few key players in the club (they know who they are!).
As well as the competitive side of things, the training sessions have also grown, especially in the female sector and more and more social runs are springing up all the time which makes it all a bit more communal.
Any spare time I've had this year has been spent getting out the door for a quick hour in between baby's sleep, eat and play patterns although some great Sunday runs have been had with the usual suspects of Ian, Keith & Gancho. With Keith's dad living in Capel Bangor, the usual route has been along the Rheidol Valley with a water stop, arranged by Keith at 5 & 12 or whatever miles, just put your money in the honesty box.
The 'new' lunchtime track sessions have been really effective in tackling some PB's and again it's those usual suspects that have raised the bar. Firstly Ian Evans got the ball rolling early in the year and soon saw the benefits with a PB at Tregaron Half and then some regular sub 18 minute 5k's. Gancho then also brought some of his focus to the track with some killer lunchtime sessions which usually involved towing me around the track, lap after lap with the odd 100 metres of rest if I was lucky. These 'cruise intervals' were tough but really made a difference as I brought my own 5k PB down by around 30 seconds.
The lunchtime recovery runs were taken care of by Steve King and myself usually lamenting Shrewsbury Town's lack of form as we trundled gingerly through Dan y Coed woods and along the prom.
My targets for 2013 after the marathon were a bit hazy, but thinking back and after looking at the unnervingly accurate Club Badge tables, a Gold badge had been achievable with a bit of hard work. A sub 18 5k, sub 37 10k and a 1.22 half marathon will have to wait another year as none of the above were quite cracked, but I still managed the Gold Badge standard times at all distances by a hairs breadth. The platinum standards are a bit extreme for me but why not give them a crack :-)
Surprisingly tho, my best race of the year was probably the Cardiff Bay 5 mile just 3 weeks after London where a sub 30 minute time (sub 6 min miles) came as a pleasant surprise and gave a bit of confidence for the year ahead.
In amongst all of the events that I entered in 2013, my favourite running experience was probably the Snowdon Marathon in October. With no aspirations on time for once, I showed up, hung around the cafe with Dave & Lou just chewing the fat (something I've wanted to do all year but have always been in too much of a rush or simply never at the same races), eased down to the start line and just took off. This is one of the toughest 26.2's in Europe and the one thing I didn't do enough of over the summer - the long run, came back to bite me in the bum (actually the hips) at Waunfawr at around 22 miles of the race.
I'd actually blown at Rhudd Ddu a tad earlier but had run through it and was back on track with a group that would eventually finish in 3.15. My implosion at the climb (I mean Mountain!), meant a run/walk strategy both up the hill and down it into Llanberis to lose a further 8 minutes, but that foil blanket (my first ever foil blanket) and a warm mug of tea soon made it all worthwhile and I fancy heading back again next year with some more miles in the legs.
The gap between Snowdon and the legendary Aberystwyth 10k was about 6 weeks and this was all focused on the sub 37 minute time with those afore-mentioned intervals. Despite coming close (a PB by 30 seconds of 37.28), it wasn't to be but the knowledge gained on track pacing will hopefully prove useful in future.
Another distance which has/will become a target is the sub hour 10 miler. This will probably be the toughest test of the lot as I am still deficient by around 3 1/2 minutes after Novembers Elan 10 miler. This was a hilly event but I had hoped to be in the 62's and so its back to the drawing board on that one. With no spring marathon in 2014, some genuine focus can now be spent on these shorter distances. Again, the sub 30 at Cardiff 5 has given me a bit of hope here.
Back to Parkrun and this is a cracking early Saturday morning exercise, getting all of the pressure to train on the weekend out of the way early doors. I've worked out that a more satisfying weekend is to be had in general if the Parkrun is done.. Edging closer to to a sub 18, I've hit 18.06 on two occasions, in September & October and so I'm hopeful of finding those 7 seconds from somewhere soon, surely just losing a couple of pounds will do it?!