A new approach to training and racing was required towards the end of 2015 as injuries in the last few races really took their toll on an ageing carcass, and time restraints due to family commitments made it pretty easy to decide to bin the marathon in 2016, and focus on some shorter stuff.
I can only admire from a distance, the fantastic commitment of a bunch of club mates this Spring, who to a tee, have ran seven days a week, from as far back as December, of distances of approximately ten miles per day as they build for their Spring marathons.
Pausing for thought here, i wonder how the body could handle such a volume. They all seem to be handling it well, albeit running on severely heavy legs most of the time, but nevertheless, completing training goals and racing well. For me, I know I'd struggle with the volume, as I struggle anyway with my current 4-5 runs a week. I do get purple patches but also some dark times where the legs don't want to work, plus a new gammy knee that keeps me company most of the time.
Maybe that incomprehensible overload is the key? Couple that with a decent taper and bingo, the lads are already showing some fantastic new race PB's.
I've decided on a different approach, a bit like less is more or 'normally aspirated versus turbo'. I have to be clever. Enter Adam Bitchell, a current Commonwealth Games 10,000 metres representative for Wales who is local despite now being based in the US. His email at Christmas, advertising his new coaching company made me decide to take a punt. I've coached myself for years, or scrounged bits and bobs from clubmates and peers and generally found my way, in a haze of poor nutrition, too much beer and a 'raise the bar' attitude on race day to surpass form book expectations...
I told Adam to target half marathon distances instead of the full 26.2, and so my annual guilt trip of not doing enough training mileage was curtailed due to the new weekly schedule that was more in keeping with my current lifestyle. Out went the 20 mile Sunday runs. I can get a couple of hours at best, with a mad one year old in the house, combined with an even madder three year old and I'm happy to admit that its the sensible thing to do, rather than be away on a Sunday for 3-4 hours doing the longer stuff. My new long day is 13 miles, with Saturdays usually run free! Thanks Adam.
I've tried to follow the programme as best as possible, and apart from two dodgy illness and 6-Nations fuelled weeks in early Feb, I have done so. I've raced only once, well, make that three times if you include club TT's and Parkruns with a hangover in Dublin...
My race was the Tregaron Half, which I've done three times previous but not for 3 years due to a clash with the Anglesey Half which is a toughie. My best Tregaron was a 1.26 whereas Ynys Mon saw a 1.31 and a 1.27 the last two years, nowt to cheer about really based on what I should be running a half in. Consider i ran a 1.24 for the first half of Snowdonia Marathon last year!
So back to Tregaron with my new slimline training regime that was similar to what i was doing previously in terms of tempo and speed, but slightly more structured, and more track and somehow Adam manages to give me target splits that are spot on for my current fitness, both being just about achievable whilst leaving me fit enough to run the following day.
I raced Tregaron like I've never raced before. I actually 'raced', as in it was not an individual time trial like most races end up being. I had the power to start fast, making the front group and then settling into a small group of 7 before we hit the hills. Most had overtaken me at this point but rather than panic, I got stuck in and like a silent assassin, I picked them off one by one until only three were left. These guys were good, they were on form, so was I. They were just a tad too fast for me on the flat, but i went with it, not worrying about the latter stages for once. I was stronger on the hills, but we formed a kind of allegiance which worked really well.
We hit the 'bog' at 8 miles, a three mile straight liner that kills you mentally before the fatal physical blow is given at around mile 11. Not this time. My friends fell back at mile 9. I was in 7th place, up from 13th in mile 3 and forged a gap of around 200 metres. Just 2 1/2 miles to go and back onto the road. I faltered, I heard the screams behind. The effort was resonating with them too, and the screams and shouts were getting louder. 1 mile to go, i felt like collapsing in the hedge and letting them through, but at the same point, i also had the idea of sprinting for a mile. If i could run a sub 6 last mile, they would have to run a 5.45 to beat me. I'm convinced these kinds of thoughts only appear in seasoned runners heads at this point in a race, and so i grabbed the thought and put it into action.
There was actually 1.1 miles to go, as half marathons have a distance of 13.1 and that last .1 was done on fumes. I'd sprinted to a sub 6 but still had some distance to go. I was out of power, with that 'I've crossed the finish line' feeling, except that I hadn't.... I crawled in, holding off my pursuiters by a good 30 seconds and so the job was in hand as i threw up as I crossed the line. Why oh why do we put ourselves through such harm?
That was the first time an effort had made me throw up. Maybe it was coincidence, and I actually have a new stomach condition, wouldn't be the first time.. I had won the over 40's shield which was a very grand trophy which I am proud of. Second place went to the guy just behind me and so i was so glad that the manning up process had kicked in at 12 miles.
Onto recent training and all is going well. My time at Tregaron was 1.23 - a PB on that course of 3 minutes which i can't quite comprehend, We've all come on so much at Aber AC and so now Adam is pushing me to do 1.21 at my goal race, the Cardiff Half in 2 weeks time.