2010 has come and gone and before I settle my resolve on the resolutions ahead of me, it is time to spare a thought for the year past and reflect on what was.
Somewhat surprisingly, I ended up running thirty kilometres less in 2010 than I had done in the (largely injury-free) 2009. There’s no reason to fret and fear laziness, though, as my injury hit in week 34 and for the remaining 18 weeks of the year my mileage could never sneak beyond 62 kilometres. Having started 2011 with a nice 21.1km run, it’s safe to say I should be back on track.
It’s not all bad, despite getting the balance between aerobic quantity and quality somewhat wrong throughout the year, I ran my first six 100km weeks and broke my personal record with a 141km which in hindsight was too much too soon but taught me invaluable lessons of organisation and approach to high-mileage weeks.
Beyond that, the year was a major highlight in that it allowed me to make an almost staggering series of mistakes which forced me to both reflect deeper on the Lydiard system and engage with Nobby and Lydiard’s works to such a degree that I know feel a true mastery of the system.
Through happenstance it was only on roads that I would harvest success and the training benefits would become apparent. PBs on seven distances ranging from the 800m to the half-marathon showed thorough aerobic conditioning and the fitness gained runs deeper than quick anaerobic gains, the new capillaries, neural connections and strengthening muscle tissue, a permanent addition unless I fall into complete sloth.
My highlight of the year was the bettering of half-marathon record to 1:22:29 in a race that started with little optimism and gathered momentum all the way to the finish line. This would be the only time in the year, a truly elated mountain runner celebrated with himself in a quiet moment away from the crowds, then a lonely proof that all hours of investment had not been taken out in vain.
The joy derived from my successful half-marathon and 5k PBs were tempered by a failure to replicate my most successful hill running performances of 2008 (the Wicklow Way Trail and LL) and 2009 (the Wicklow Way Relay Leg 7).
In hindsight, a distinct lack of focus worsened my chances of success as I ran a variety of distances on both track, road and hill, never truly committing to one and at the same time forcing myself to do battle where chance of success was the smallest while eschewing the races where I had most hope of success in the past year (Wicklow Way Trail and Relay among others).
On the few occasions where some progress could be celebrated, such as when improving my summit times at Lugnacoille and Brockagh, poor descending and injury (in the former case) or injury alone, left a bittersweet taste in the mouth. Most of all, though, the failure of my hill running season had less to do with failure of performance than a failure to enjoy the pure thrill of the sport and the rich social scene that comes with it.
The season melted down like Chernobyl on the slopes of Snowdon: overweight, overt-rained and mentally out of sorts, I finished well outside my previous best and for the one, and only time since taking up the sport, the question of whether it was all worth it kept posing itself. Luckily, like many dark clouds, a new wind cleared for bright skies to be seen again.
As an anecdote, I could take joy from our team gold medal at Fairy Castle, but despite a steady and combative performance on the day, my tenth place was flattering even in the small field and I don’t consider it.
My osteitis injury nearly ensured that this final part of the review would have stayed blank and there is little running to write about. I attempted a premature come-back for the Novices and although it set me back it was a triumph of wills as I dragged an unfit and crocked body through 23 minutes of misery. A heart rate of 190bpm no average left this as my “gutsiest performance of the year” although I was a minute slower than the previous year.
It was ironic then that with only a few weeks training I produced my most mature, smartest and competent cross-country race yet, breaking the 40-minute barrier at the 10k mark of the 10.6km Leinster Novice in Adamstown in a perfectly paced race.
Finishing off the year without the bang that would have been the National Novice, I recorded my fastest ever cross-country event in a make-shift race in Carlow. It was also the shortest, by a bit, but it did enough to convince me of better times ahead.
My coaching has taking a few interesting turns (more on this tomorrow) and physically and mentally I am ideally placed for starting a new training cycle today on the 02/01/2011. My work and effort will be focused on delivering success to all my athletes and, for myself, to finally make good on the promise of 2008.