Sunday, 14 January 2018

Review of 2017

This is really for my benefit more than anyone else's but of course you're more than welcome if you're interested.  I just find it's useful to look back over the year and see if there is any learning for me, mistakes that I hope not to make again, that sort of thing.

Overall Statistics

Total miles run:                                        1911
Average weekly mileage:                            37
Highest weekly mileage:                           185
Total feet ascended:                            308,300
Average weekly ascent:                          5,900
Highest weekly ascent:                         29,500
No of runs total:                                         148
Average no of runs/week                          2.84
No of runs longer than 25 miles                  19


The first half of the year was a bit of a disaster.

I was unable to start my first planned race in January, the Spine Challenger, due to a flu-type bug. I completed the second in February, the South Devon Coasal Ultra, but later questioned the wisdom of this as I twisted a knee badly after 10 miles and should maybe have stopped. The injury plagued me for the rest of the year. It wasn't sufficently healed to start the Hardmoors 55 in March so I pulled out of that too. In April, when I had intended to use the hilly 45 mile Exmoor Ultra "plus" as a final preparation for the Dragon's Back, I was just about running again but had to "trade down" to the 35 mile ultra (still pretty hilly!) instead and complete it at a very conservative pace. In late May I went into the Dragon's Back, a race that I knew would be at the very limit of my abilities, still carrying the injury; not surprisingly the severe descents tried it too much and I limped out before the end of day two. Finally, at the end of June, I went back to the West Highland Way Race, an event in which I had nine starts and nine finishes, and failed to complete that one as well.

A serious chat with the physio gave me at least some basis for a rethink on how I should approach things. "What you have to understand" he said "is that your knees, particularly the worse one, hurt because there is now little or no cartilege left in them. And that's not going to change". The same situation that I'd been warned about by the surgeon a year or two earlier. As both these two are fairly top guys, and both sportsmen as well, I feel I have to believe them. The advice was consistent, so long there is no swelling, further reduction of mobility (a ski crash 20 years ago robbed my right knee of its ACL and also prevented it fully straightening ever since) or noise from the joint, the rest is just about pain management. The main problem I was getting since the February 2017 episode was knee pain coming on after a couple of hours running, so I had been avoiding this situation pretty well ever since.

I decided I had to gradually build up again the length of time I could run for, and in the meantime concentrate on events whose timings allowed for longish periods of walking, and to go for these with the aim of just finishing rather than setting any particular time targets.  The running is still work in progress but selecting the events that suit me better made the second half of the year much more productive.

In July I completed the Lakes Sky Ultra, a mere 35 miles but with 14,700ft of ascent crammed into it, lots of walking and scrambling, airy ridges and some rope-assisted sections. It was a miserable day, low cloud, wind and rain all day but I thoroughly enjoyed it, just beating the 14 hour cutoff by about twenty minutes.

I had an entry for the UTMB after being successful in the ballot for the first time ever, but although I was tempted my head said it wasn't on, so I didn't go. I looked around for something more modest to replace it and ran the St Begas Ultra, a charmng and well-organised 37 miler through the north western Lakes from Bassenthwaite to St Bees; again not spectacularly fast but another "job done" for encouragement.

Long events where I had to keep up some speed were problematic but I felt that those just requiring a bit of nous and the ability to keep going would be OK, so I had no doubts about taking up my place in the 185 mile, 29,500ft King Offa's Dyke Race in September, for which 90 hours overall was allowed. My intuition proved correct and I managed to finish in just over 82, putting me in the top half of the starting field for possibly my best result of the year.

I had entered the Lakes in a Day in October; I had completed all three of the previous runnings, found it a great event and planned to do at least five on the trot, but two punctures on the way to the start put paid to the plan. Again, looking around quickly for a substitute saw me back at the White Rose 30, which I had done a couple of years ago, for another unspectacular but reasonably competent day out. I then entered the intriguingly different Escape from Meriden later on in November. Enjoyable in it's own right it was also encouraging in that I put in the most miles over 24 hours (around 85) that I had done all year, getting another "top half of field" finish in the process. Finally, social commitments put the Tour de Helvellyn out of reach in December so I went down to Hampshire a couple of days after Christmas to round the year off with the pleasant Winter Cross 50k, which I managed to complete at an average pace of not much over 11 minute miles - and at this stage of the game I was more than happy to take that.

So, a year of two halves, as they say. Two events and a lot of disappointment up to the end of June followed by a re-appraisal of capabilities and six successful races in the second half of the year.

I'm hoping that I'm going into 2018 with more realism and optimism. I have a pretty full programme mapped out and with the exception of one event, which I think will test me pretty well to the limit, I'll be disappointed not to come away with a much better score than for 2017.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good luck for 2018!