Well, as regular readers will know I'm currently making my way back extremely slowly from a couple of injuries (still not sure that I'll get away without more surgery on one knee) so I hadn't really thought seriously about events for the year to come, even though I had entered quite a few back in last year before my troubles started. January is usually the time for getting some speed in, intervals and suchlike to try to improve (or at least arrest the decline of) the VO2max. But I suspect mine's gone through the floor now as two consecutive miles at 9 minute pace counts as a tempo run at the present time. Sensibly, I should just keep nudging forward one week at a time and forget about events for another couple of months at least. But that would mean missing out on a lot of fun in some nice places. And on the positive side, looking at the diary I see that I've managed to hobble my way around nearly 160 miles in the first four weeks of the year, and I've also made my way wetly up Coniston Old Man and snowily up Helvellyn.
So I've decided that while still taking things much easier than in recent years - no real speedwork and running no more than three times a week - that I won't be deterred from going to the races. The goal each time will be to enjoy the trip and finish in as good a shape as I can. I will be very slow, just staying ahead of the cutoffs will suit me fine, and at some stage hopefully I'll get strong enough to start back on becoming a runner again. So here's the plan:
8 Feb: South Devon Coast Ultra. I ran the North Devon Coast race in this series last year and thought it was brilliant, well organised and with stunning views, so I wanted to get a bit more of Devon. I've entered the Ultra which is 35 miles, but I can duck out to the "marathon" at around 29 miles if I feel I'm not up for the distance by then.
23 Feb: Grizedale Trail Marathon. Grizedale is one of the best poor weather options in the Lake District, varied forest often opening out to great views. This one should be ok.
22 Mar: Hardmoors 55. I've run this race every year since its inauguration in 2010 and have enjoyed it in a range of conditions from the warm sunshine in 2011 to the near arctic of last year. My best time is a few minutes over 11 hours but I'll be happy to finish inside the 15 hour limit.
26 Apr: Highland Fling. Another not to miss, it was my first attempt at an ultra back in 2007 and I've been every year since.For the past four years I've managed to win the Vet 60 category but no chance this year; although it's a less demanding run than the Hardmoors, usually in much better weather, so I'm hoping that I'll be up for a finish in around 12 hours by then.
3 May: Great Lakeland 3-Day. Although I've done the Welsh 3000's many times and really enjoyed my Wainwright ticking in 2012, I've never tried a "mountain marathon" event, so this year's the time for a new experience. 3 days in the hills and camping overnight, with a choice of route difficulties.
7 Jun: Cheshire Sandstone Trail. Again, I've covered this 33 mile trail many times as it's pretty well on my doorstep, but always alone and always in the winter. Time to take part in the official event, and in hopefully better conditions than I usually experience!
21 Jun: West Highland Way. Unmissable. This will be my eighth in a row, but I won't get near my 2013 PB of 22 hours 23 minutes I'm afraid. I'll have a target nearer the time but I expect it to be around the 26-28 hour mark.
28 Jun: Lakeland 10 Peaks. Only a week after the WHW but after reading about it I couldn't resist this one. The 10 highest tops in the District, based on Keswick. As an undertaking it looks similar to the Welsh 3000's and there is enough time allowed to take it at a walk (which I'll probably do!)
25 Jul: Lakeland 100. The big one for this year. After success in 2011 it was a DNF for me last year, so a score to settle.
29 Aug: Anglesey Ring of Fire. Anglesey is only an hour away for me, so I'd run bits of the coast path over the years, then around 5 or 6 years ago I did the whole thing over two separate days and found it a good trip. I was interested when the race was first started three years ago (it's run over three consecutive days with overnight stops), but it always clashes with the UTMB weekend so I've never entered. This year I'm giving Chamonix a miss and staying in the UK.
4 Oct: Lake District 3 x 3000. Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and Skiddaw with an interesting course linking them. More miles but fewer tops than the 10 peaks. Should be a nice one to round off the year, but of course there still the immaculate Tour de Helvellyn on the last Saturday before Christmas......
Well, that's the plan. If the injuries or their treatment put paid to some of it, then that's life. But it looks pretty good from here. Let's hope for some nice weather.