Monday, 2 January 2017

Review of 2016

Well, the first thing to say is that I haven't been very diligent in keeping the blog going, only 20 posts all year, must do better! I've always maintained that I would only post when I felt that I had something worthwhile to say, but even with that proviso I ought to be able to manage an effort at least every two weeks  -  so that's one of the New Year's resolutions for 2017.

Now back to 2016. In 2015 I decided to record all my outings whether running or fellwalking, because it was sometimes difficult to decide which was which. But that led to inflated numbers in terms of both the miles covered and the total height gain, and quite a lot of that, in company of friends and family for instance, was covered at an extremely enjoyable but rather pedestrian pace of probably no training benefit at all. So for 2016 I decided only to record outings which included at least an element of running. This resulted in the year  comprising 2086 miles run and 315,000 feet ascended, an average sort of year judged over the last decade.

The events were a bit of a mixed bag; of 12 planned I finished 9, some in good style and some with more difficulty. Reports of all are in earlier posts but here are the headlines:

1. The Spine Race: I started off the year with a dismal DNF. Basically I got bored and wondered what I was doing there after only 45 miles. Should have worked that out before I started,

2. Northumberland Coast Ultra, 35 miles and 1,500ft of ascent: A relatively fast, flat course over stunning beaches and coastal country. Finished in 6:04:50

3. Manchester Marathon: I entered this to get a "good for age" entry time for the London Marathon, which is 4 hours for me. It was a good course and I had an enjoyable run on a sunny day, finishing in 3:52:56. After that, I forgot to enter London before the time deadline expired.

4. Pembroke Coast Ultra, 35 miles and 3,600ft: Another lovely course but I was starting to have a recurrence of a long-standing calf problem, so took it relatively easily and finished in 6:51:52. It was a great drive to and from Pembroke though, right down the centre of Wales in my (now departed) Caterham.

5. The Northern Traverse, 190 miles and 28,000ft: A true delight. I took it easily enough so the calf gave no problems and enjoyed it from start to finish in 81:28:11

6. The West Highland Way, 95 miles and 14,700ft: I should have known that starting a 95 mile event two and a half weeks after finishing a 190 mile one was not too sensible. I compounded the mistake by setting off on a 25 hour schedule, the wheels fell off just after half way and I finished in 30:48:20.

7. Lakeland 100, 105 miles and 22,500ft: By now the calf injury had cleared up but I had developed a hamstring one to take its place. But I know how to approach this event sensibly and finished in good order in 37:29:01

8. UTMB, 100 miles and 32,800ft: The hamstring was really no better so I carried my "just get round" strategy of the Lakeland 100 into the UTMB. It required that nothing went wrong, but 35 degree temperatures on the climb out of Courmayeur ensured that something did. I was timed out at Arnuva after 60 miles and around 17000ft of effort.

9. High Peak 40, 40 miles and 5,500ft: After 3 weeks of diligent recuperation, I took this one very conservatively and finished in good shape. 8:51:29

10. Lakes in a Day, 50 miles and 13,100ft: Again a relatively conservative effort, but in good conditions I managed my best time (of three finishes) over this course, but I still don't look at the watch often enough to be aware that a significant target is achievable when I get near the finish. 15:00:41 !!

11. Wooler Trail Marathon, 28 miles and 6,000ft: A new event over a brilliant wild course. In good but cold conditions I finished with no muscle issues at all in 6:40:41.

12. Tour de Helvellyn. I've entered this esoteric but superb event five times but only got to the start line (and then finished) on two occasions. This year, family and social commitments intervened and I watched from Chester as it was run in conditions closer to mid summer than mid winter.

After the UTMB I decided that if I was going to carry on running for a reasonable length of time into the future, I really needed to sort out the calf and hamstring problems that had plagued me since late 2013. Injury and re-injury have always come from running quickly and/or with too little warm-up, so I set out a three point plan:

1. Always warm up sufficiently before running.

2. Recuperate through the Autumn by limiting the maximum speed and building up slowly. I ran no faster than 12 minute miles in September, 11 in October, 10 in November and so on, including in events. This has got me to 9 minute miles so far, and I'm not intending to push above this until I'm absolutely confident; it's fast enough for all the events I want to do and I can easily exercise at a higher effort by running up hills.

3. Weight-bearing exercises to strengthen calf, hamstring and quad muscles. I got a programme from my physio and have been doing these for three months now.

I'm hopeful.

The tail end of the year I spent a few days re-familiarising myself with the first hundred miles of the Pennine Way again, from Edale to Hawes, because I've entered the Spine Challenger which covers this ground starting on the 14th January. Unfortunately though the whole family has been afflicted by a bad cold since just before Christmas; I haven't run since 20th December and can't see that situation changing for a few days yet at least. I hope I can make the start line.

But whether the Spine Challenger works for me or not, I have a whole year of exciting plans for 2017, so out with the old and in with the new!

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