So what about 2010?
A couple of years ago I exchanged some emails with John K on something or other, and I remember adding that I admired the way he was so open about his plans and targets on his blog, how I was sure I couldn't do that, too nervous, needed to keep my cards closer, that sort of thing. Well time makes a difference, you get into it this blogging business, so here I am about to come clean on my intentions for the year. My first proper ultra was the 2007 Fling so I'm three years down the road and can't really call myself a beginner any more; I know what it feels like now, the ups and downs, the pain and the joy, the pool of the headtorch and the dawn of day, the heat, the rain and the mud, the euphoric completions and the soul-destroying DNF's, the characters you meet along the way. Time to move on, expand a bit, stop gearing the effort to just a few main events, all your eggs in one basket so to speak, and go for a long season of continual interest. I won't get great times in all my races this year, maybe not in any of them, but I guess that's not so much the point for me now, PB's are going to get rarer, passage of time and all that. I'm just going to take in and savour every drop of the experiences this year promises. So with a deep breath, here goes:
February (6th): The Thames Trot. 50 miles along the riverbank from Oxford to Henley. Never covered any of the ground before, really looking forward to starting the year so early but still a bit apprehensive whether I'm fit enough yet - let's assume it's going to be OK. Daughter Julia lives near the finish, an added bonus.
March (7th): Barcelona Marathon. Well, it's a long weekend break with Jan really, but while you're there it seems a pity not to.....
March (20th): The Hardmoors 55. A new race, 55 miles over the first half of the Cleveland way. Again, I won't know the course until I turn up on the day.
April (24th): The Highland Fling. 53 miles along the southern half of the West Highland Way. Where it all started for me, this will be my fourth time, wouldn't miss it.
May (30th): The Heart of Scotland 100. Not a race but a 100 mile event through the eastern highlands organised by the Long Distance Walking Association. More new ground but I hope to recce a bit of it while we're on holiday in Kinloch Rannoch the week before.
June (18th): The West Highland Way Race. 95 miles of class, de rigueur absolutely. Completion would give me my fourth crystal goblet, almost enough for a dinner party. 24 hours would be nice (missed by 44 minutes last year) so I'll give this one my best shot.
July (23rd): The Lakeland 100. A hundred mile circumnavigation of the Lake District. I've recc'ed this one, it's going to be tough, but it visits some beautiful country.
August (28th): The TDS (or maybe the SDT now the direction has been reversed) - "Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie", 66 miles and a lot of up from Courmayeur to Chamonix. I was unlucky in the ballot for a UTMB place this year but couldn't miss out on the show in Chamonix so transferred to this one. This will be new territory for me too, a bit different from the UTMB where I have covered all of the course at least twice (and some of it four times). But it also comes with a guaranteed entry into the UTMB in 2011 so I'll be back!
October (16th): The Rotherham Round. 50 miles around Rotherham, I've done it twice but missed 2009 when the date change from December to October caused a clash I couldn't manage. For me another "must do" event, for the continually interesting course and the great people of South Yorkshire who make it happen, from the early morning briefing "Ignore the weather forecast lads, it's going to be a lovely day" (it rained from start to finish) to the warm welcome at all the checkpoints "You're going well lad, now get some snap down you, mud's coming up soon".
The list has been building up on my calendar for a few months now, sort of sneaking up on me a bit at a time, and it's made me think twice, writing it all down. Too ambitious? 8 ultras and a marathon, against 5 ultras and 2 marathons last year........what the hell, nothing ventured as they say, may not be able to do this stuff in a few years' time. And I've still got a gap or two in September and November/December, and family affairs like the Great North Run will still get done, and it's always nice to do another marathon in the autumn. And a ski tour and a couple of climbing trips to fit in. And the kitchen extension will get completed this year......... can't imagine how I used to find time for work.
So there it is, written down, no escape now. See you at the races.