Well now that the partying and holidaymaking is done and we're back in Chester to start a new year, maybe it's not quite too late to look back over the old one. A game of two halves, as the manager often observes.
|At the finish of the West Highland Way race|
The statistics are pretty simple; over the year I ran a total of 1816 miles, compared with 2119 in 2012. The first time I haven't topped 2000 miles for seven years. The reasons will become clear as we go on. I didn't change my pattern of covering most of those miles pretty slowly though, as I completed
159 miles at better than 8 minute mile pace (compared with 280 last year)
294 at between 8 and 9 minute pace (378), and
1363 at slower than 9 minute pace (1461)
But ultra running for most of us is about long not fast and I completed 24 outings of 20 miles or more.
My intention for the year was to target three main races, the Highland Fling, the West Highland Way and the UTMB, but to run others for training and, well, because I enjoy doing the events. Up to a point it worked, that point being roughly the start of July, but I wasn't really aware of that until later. In brief, the events panned out as follows:
19 January: Anglesey Coast Ultra (33miles) Part of the Endurancelife Coastal series, this one was cancelled because of a foot or two of snow on Holyhead Mountain. Can't imagine it being called off if it was a Hardmoors or Nav 4 event, but we have to respect that each race director knows his clientele and sets the rules accordingly. Not an auspicious start though.
23 February: Belvoir Challenge Marathon (27miles) An undulating but not hilly trail marathon on a nice course through the Belvoir Estate in Leicestershire. Cold enough for some falling snow at times but not cold enough to freeze the mud. Still, it was a nice enough outing to start the year. Finished in 4:28:20.
9 March: Wuthering Hike (32 miles) I'd done this one a couple of times before but the day coincided with the worst period of a bad cold that got me for about four weeks, so I didn't bother to go. Another failure.
23 March: Hardmoors 55 (55 miles) Just about recovered in time for this one. My previous three runs had taken between 11:10 and 11:50 in this event. I had decided to take it easy and planned 12 and a half hours, but the weather had turned very cold again in March giving us sub-zero temperatures, a fierce wind and deep snow on much of the course, so I was happy to get home in 13:21:40.
13 April: Exmoor Coast Ultra (34 miles) I got a free entry into this because of the Anglesey race being cancelled. It was a stunning course, great tracks and views and lots of climbing. I finished in 6:35:29 and got the V60 prize.
27 April: Highland Fling (53 miles) My seventh attempt at this great event. I gave it my best shot, feeling that I could get under 10 hours if all went well. Finished in 9:57:56, just under 3 minutes over the V60 course record.
19 May: Scafell Pike Marathon (28 miles) A trail run to Scafell Pike summit and back by a sort of figure of eight course from Keswick. A tough but satisfying run with climbs (obviously!), lots of technical ground and difficult navigation in the conditions on the day. Finished in 6:30:26
22 June: West Highland Way (95 miles) After a couple of mediocre times in recent years, this was the one I had planned for. We had ideal running conditions on the day and I was able to beat my previous PB by over an hour to finish in 22:23:13. Definitely the highlight of my year.
27 July: Lakeland 100 (105 miles) Having completed this race before, I didn't give it the respect it deserves. After my West Highland Way performance I thought I was a shoe-in for 35 hours at worst. Covered the first half too fast, made hydration and nutritional errors, and ran out of steam near the top of High Kop at about 70 miles, so returned to Howtown and dropped.
31 August: UTMB (104 miles) Even after the Lakeland knockback I was confident of this one, but still couldn't get beyond Champex (75 miles). I've concluded this race is probably too big for me.
14 September: Ultimate Trails Lakeland 100k (66 miles) After the disappointments of the previous two events I needed this one to get my confidence back. I had a good run and managed to get back as 1st V60 in 17:10:58
After this, I had planned to do the Rotherham Round in October, but my perpetually problematic knees were complaining a bit more than usual so I decided to have 4 weeks off. I'm still not sure whether this was a mistake or not. I restarted full of enthusiasm in mid October but in retrospect started to ramp up the speed too fast. My reward was a tweaked hamstring which cleared quickly, then a pulled calf which didn't. I'm only now getting started again very, very slowly after the calf injury, so I also missed out on the Tour de Helvellyn in December which is one of my favourite races. In the last quarter of the year I went 8 weeks without covering any miles at all, and another 4 when I managed 10 miles or less.
So not a great end to the year, and of necessity a slow start to the next one. But that's life, I've been lucky in avoiding injury since I started running in 2004 until now. Here's hoping for a steady recovery in 2014.