2011 was really about three things - the ElliptiGO, the North Downs Way 100, and the birth of my son Jasper. The GO which was delivered almost to this day a year ago had a major impact on the way I trained in the lead up to the NDW100. Jasper also had a major impact too but for very different reasons!
I was running far less and cross training for the first time. Between January and June I logged just 24 miles per week on foot, and 64 miles on the GO. The results were that I stayed injury free all year and logged some new PBs at various distances.
January was the first Ultra of the year. The Winter Tanners. A very nice 50k trail run along the Surrey downs and up and over Box hill. A very enjoyable run to start the year finished in a leisurely 6hrs.
In March I upped the pace and raced the Leighton 10k. I trained well and was logging some high mileage on the ElliptiGO. It was one of those races where I just found my groove and everything went right. My time of 36:56 was my first official sub-40 minute 10k so I was well pleased with that. Not bad for an ultra plodder :-)
March also saw me return for the second year to compete in the SIS Lightning 12hr race. This year was without doubt the toughest race of the year which almost broke me but I battled through and learnt a lot from the experience.
In April along came little Jasper into our lifes. It was all change once again this time with 2 children vying for Daddy's attention. Would there be any time at all to run? It certainly reduced but you can always make time for the people and 'things' that you love.
In June was the Chiltern 100 cycle sportive which I rode on the ElliptiGO. An epic route and an epic day. Thoroughly enjoyable and all adding to my general fitness and training for NDW100. Finishing it also put my name on the ElliptiGO century list Hall of Fame alongside a select few including Dean Karnazes!
In July I went to Hungary with the family and convinced myself and my wife that I would serve me well to run for 5 consecutive days around a 1/3 mile loop of a local lake. The 5 day lakeside challenge as I called it consisted of 30 mins on Day 1, 1hr on Day 2, 2hrs on Day 3, 4hrs on Day 4 and 8hrs on Day 5. It was tough but so rewarding clocking up my first 100 mile training week. This is something I will definitely look at repeating this year in a similar but different format in the lead up to UTMB (perhaps involving a big hill!).
In August was the big one - my first 'proper' 100 mile race (I previously covered the distance in a 24hr race in 2010). The NDW100 was awesome and everything I had built it up to be in my mind. An epic challenge of signifcant proportions and a superbly organised event by new Race Director James Elson of 'Centurion Running'. James' approach really is to put the runner first before profit! I completed the course in 22:50 with my dad who was my pacer through the night making this a very special race. And to top it off an American style sub 24hr finishers belt buckle! Very Nice indeed.
In October was the goal marathon of the year - Snowdonia. This was hands down the best and most enjoyable marathon experience I have had to date. And this was despite it raining from start to finish. It's hard to compare Snowdonia with a big city marathon like London. The ONLY similarity is the distance covered but for me it was way better on so many levels. And to finally put the sub 3:30 marathon ghost to rest was the best part. 3:26 and 4 minutes faster than London! :-)
And finally December saw me complete in the Bedford half marathon. At the time it was a PB attempt but illness put pay to bettering my 2010 Royal Parks time of 1:27. However I still posted only my third sub-1:30 half which I was very pleased with on reflection.
So a good year with PBs at 10k, marathon and 100 miles. I would certainly have taken that at the beginning of the year. The big difference with my approach in 2011 was far less of a focus on clocking mileage. Out has gone the spreadsheet and an obsession with stats. Indeed I've focused on 'experiences' and running with more feeling. I didnt follow a single training plan during the year yet it seems to have served me well. My simple approach is quality over quantity in terms of the training miles that I do put in.
So what's in store for 2012?
Right now there are two goal races: The inalugral MK marathon on 29 April. The goal for this one is that with a solid 16 weeks of training ahead of me I will get close or under 3hrs. I think I have it in me but it remains to be seen if I can keep up the intensity of training over this length of time. The trails will also have to wait whilst I pound out the fast miles on the road.
And then its the big one! (dependant on me getting a place in the ballot drawn on 20th Jan) UTMB !!! If I do get in then my marathon training will quickly give way to trails and major hill training from May to the end of August. Whatever happens though I'm sure 2012 promises to be another year of discovery...