Well all my good intentions of managing at least two posts a month for the year went out of the window in December. A couple of excuses, possibly even reasons, but things sort of got in the way both physically and mentally.
I had intended to complete my running year with the Dorset Coast trail marathon in early December but three weeks earlier I tweaked a calf muscle; on top of previous experience in this area and having already had a pretty full year I decided to play safe. I carried on walking but avoided running for three weeks and so missed out on Dorset, making a total score of one DNS, one DNF and eleven completions over my thirteen (maybe that was the problem) planned events for the year. I don't write about DNS's or DNF's nowadays unless there's something worthwhile to learn from them, so this one just contributed a bit of a hole in the plan.
Then later in the month storm Desmond got to our holiday home in Keswick and left it a bit wet. It's neither our main residence nor our business, so our slight misfortune in no way compares with those who lost either or both, but it still brought its share of disruption and distraction to normal life. We're hoping to be back in action there by around the start of March.
So, back to the year just gone.
In terms of statistics I'm struggling a bit to find anything meaningful. I've carried on recording all my outings but I'm spending more time hillwalking and less running these days and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish which is which. Clearly a trip round the local roads at even 9 minute miles is a genuine run, and putting your boots on for a hike up Scafell Pike with no intention of breaking into a jog is a walk. But how about when you go out for 20 miles and run the flats and downs but walk the ups? Or when you walk the flats and ups but run the downs? Probably, none of this matters, but in lumping all the statistics into one pot for last year I think I'm missing something and I need to think of a better system for 2016. Anyway, putting everything together, during 2015 I covered a few miles short of 2500 miles with a total ascent of 340,000ft - enough to get me out of the house regularly whichever way you look at it.
I completed the following events during the year:
Anglesey Coast Ultra (33m) 7:36:27
South Devon Coast Ultra (35m) 6:53:14
Belvoir Challenge (26m) 4:37:12
Hardmoors 55 (55m) 12:11:45
Highland Fling (53m) 10:53:15
Keswick Festival Ultra (32m) 6:58:07
Pennine 39 (37m) 8:33:00
Ring of Fire (135m) 36:12:05
Hardmoors 60 (62m) 15:09:30
Lakes in A Day (50m) 15:38:32
White Rose Ultra (30m) 5:47:00
I took the first three events pretty slowly as I was still conscious of the injury problems from 2014. Of the others, the ones that I was pleased with were the Festival Ultra (only 32 miles but a fairly rugged course) and the Ring of Fire, where I finished fairly well up in what is regarded generally as a fairly tough event.
On all the others I had the impression that I was an hour or so off the pace that I would have expected a couple of years or earlier. Whether this is still coming back slowly from 2014, pacing my races so that they feel more comfortable (I finished all of them in relatively good shape, keeping hydrated and fuelled throughout), or just the effect of increasing age, I'm not sure. 2016 should help to complete the picture.
My big disappointment was a DNF in the Dragon's Back (200m) which was my main target for the year. I simply wasn't fit enough to complete each day comfortably in a time to beat the cut-offs. More of this a bit further on. A DNS in the Dorset Coast trail marathon (27m) was a judgement call; with a fairly minor injury I could have gone but it might have compromised the run-up to 2016 so I wasn't too bothered about missing it.
Injuries and Recovery
Ever since the long-term calf injury back in 2014 I had been very nervous about pushing the pace too hard. Consequently during the first half of 2015 I did almost no speed training and very little running at even a steady pace. I did a lot of long slow runs and had become a long slow runner. My problem was that a bit of speed, or even pushing a steep ascent at a jog or fast walk, seemed to give some calf discomfort. So although I did a lot of miles (and enjoyed them) I didn't push hard enough to get any real training other than "time on the feet". I think this was the principal reason for poor my Dragon's Back performance.
The Dragon's Back, in spite of being a failure, at least helped to change this situation. I came back after well over a hundred miles and around 35,000ft of ascent over rocks, boulders, grass and bog with no muscle pains at all. I finally came to the conclusion that the recurring calf pain was in my head. Since then I've started to make progress, but after effectively just short of two years taking it easy I was starting from a low base. I still get the odd problem if I push too hard - only on Christmas Eve I came back with a slight glute pull after 6 miles at just under 8 minute mile pace, but I think I'm starting to get there, and as I said earlier 2016 will hopefully confirm this.
So overall, a pretty sound if unspectacular year. I'm looking forward to 2016!