Sunday, 8 January 2012

2011 and all that

A week into the New Year so I'm a bit overdue for a look back on the one just gone. Still, it's a useful exercise for me and may be of passing interest to anyone else starting to plan their 2012, so here goes.


I ran 181 times during the year for a total of 2178 miles. Taking straight averages this means a run roughly every 2 days with an average length of just over 12 miles, but of course it's a bit more complicated than that, so splitting the runs into length bands gives the following:

6 miles and under    -    84 runs
6 to 12 miles           -    47 runs
12 to 20 miles         -    25 runs
20 to 50 miles         -    19 runs
50 miles and over    -      6 runs

Earlier in the year some of the shorter runs were at tempo pace (around 7.00 - 7.15 for me) but after May I didn't do many of these so all my runs were then at a very modest speed. I've mentioned this before so I won't dwell on it except to say that I will be concentrating a bit more on speed in the coming year.  I like going out for a longish day at least once a week in the spring and summer; maybe I do too much of this but one of the basic principles of ultra training is "time on your feet" so it can't all be bad. I'm thinking of covering this in a bit more detail in a later post. Overall, the outings were enjoyable and saw me through the year with no major injury problems.


I ran two marathons and eight ultras.  I run the marathons because I still enjoy a bit of the mass atmosphere, but I don't generally have a plan for them, maybe I should.  For a few years my focus was to get inside 3.30, but once I had done this the next goal of 3.15 seemed too far away to be taken seriously.  I surprised myself with a 3.17 a few years ago but that's likely to remain my best effort and these days I'm happy to finish in good shape in somewhere near 3.30. So Rotterdam in the Spring was a bit of a disappointment at 3.36.27 as I was training quite hard then, but Chester came as a pleasant surprise at 3.34.59 in the Autumn after virtually no road running since May.

Fine Weather on the Hardmoors 55

On the ultra scene, I started with the Hardmoors 55 in March. I treated it as a training run but expected a PB because it was far better weather than on my first attempt a year before. I beat my 2010 time but only by around 30 minutes, although I wasted about 20 minutes by leaving a checkpoint without my water bottle and having to go back for it, Overall, reasonably satisfying but I think still scope for improvement. The Highland Fling was a bit of a disappointment. I normally like the sunny conditions we had, but I messed up by only taking one 500ml water bottle and getting fairly dehydrated in the later hotter sections. My 10.18 was the second fastest of my 5 runs over the course, but I could and should have done better.

I love the West Highland Way Race, but I just didn't have a plan. I had got the long-sought 24hrs the year before so all I had on my mind was to enjoy the day and not get too tired with the Lakeland 100 coming up a month later. The conditions weren't great for me, continuously wet underfoot and with plenty of precipitation on the day, but even so 26 hours wasn't good enough, must have a more focussed plan for next time. I did recover quickly though as I was out for thirty miles in the Lakes the following weekend. 

Rain on the WHW

The Lakeland 100 was my most satisfying run of the year. Though not quite in the UTMB class as the organisers claim, this is still a big gnarly event where getting round is a good enough reward. It was good for me also in that for the first time here I experienced getting through a really low point and coming strongly out the other side  - up until then whenever a race had started to go badly for me it continued that way to the end.

Leg 1 of the Lakeland 100
I couldn't pull off the same trick in the UTMB though. Getting mildly hypothermic I pulled out for my fourth (!!) failure at this event. But I'll get it in the end, I'm nothing if not persistent. After the annual Chamonix experience the Autumn ultras don't hold the same sense of urgency for me and I'm happy to enjoy them as days out without any pressure to do anything too arduous. I managed a PB at Rotherham though suffering a bit from the Chester Marathon 6 days earlier, but it was in far better conditions than I'd ever seen it previously. The Brecon Beacons and the Tour de Helvellyn were nice events that I hadn't done before, really enjoyed, and didn't do spectacularly well in.

So some highlights, and I enjoyed the events as ever, but I think the teacher might say "could do better" for the year as a whole.

Other stuff

Without a doubt. the outing that I enjoyed most during 2011 was my three and a half day recce of the whole of the UTMB course in glorious sunshine in mid August, almost made up for failing in the race, and one of the views from which appears right at the top of this post.

Another significant event was when I chatted to Mark Barnes in the bar after the Hardmoors 55. He was wearing some strange looking running shoes which he said were called Hokas. They were rather reminiscent of the crepe soled jobs that went with a bootlace tie and a velvet collar when I was a lad, but I was intrigued and bought a pair. Difficult to get used to, they have very little heel lift so the gait has to be rather like barefoot style and the toebox is a bit low for me which sometimes isn't always kind to toenails, but their overall comfort on a long day out and superb descending ability are both remarkable. I can only describe going downhill as being the difference between riding a mountain bike with suspension and one without. I didn't dare try them in the Fling or the WHW, but I bit the bullet for the Lakeland 100 and haven't worn any other shoes in an ultra since. They now have over 700 miles on the clock and I'm thinking of a replacement pair.

Well-used Hokas

So that was 2011.  I haven't sorted out 2012 yet, the overall game plan will depend on the UTMB ballot on 20th January - looks like like this year there will only be a one in two chance of getting in, with no automatic transfer to the TDS, so I'll need a Plan B just in case. Watch this space.


Börkur said...

Hope you we both get a place in this year UTMB :)

Good luck

Thomas said...

Andy, that was not a bad year you had and an impressive mileage. I liked your UTMB recce (maybe I do something like this myself some time) maybe this is more rewarding even than the race?
You got me interested in the Hokas now. Since my downhill is bad and I have a knee with some cartilage removed, maybe they are the solution?

Good luck with 2012 and I hope to see you on one or another occasion!

Richard said...

That's a good summary of the year. I am a firm fan of New Balance but the Hoka's strike me as interesting - if they didn't cost an arm and a leg.

Ali Bryan-Jones said...

Your 3 day tour of Mont Blanc was a blogging highlight too - it sounded brilliant. I almost wished I was 30 years older.