This time 12 months ago, I was just about in a position to call what I did "training". I was past the point where my rehabilitation was taking me towards being able to run, but I did not really have great confidence and was constantly worried I might be doing some damage.
My first real target for the year was to complete a long run on the West Highland Way in mid-February, so the first 6 weeks of training were planned around building up (slowly) to that. I was really pleased with my discipline during those early weeks as I held back, listened to my body and made good progress. I completed the run (and became an ultra runner again), running from Balmaha to Tyndrum, getting a real boost of confidence.
Just a couple of weeks later, at the beginning of March, John and I had our first Lakeland 100 recce run. We had some interesting weather but a fantastic day out, starting our video record of the Lakeland 100 route which became a useful tool for many others as well as ourselves. I did not admit it at the time, but I really had to dig deep over the last hour of this run and knew I had a lot of work to do before the race if I was to do myself justice.
By the end of March, having had a consistent block of training for a couple of months, I fared far better on our next recce run, from Dalemain to Ambleside. This time the weather took a swing for the better and showed the Lake District in all her glory and I felt I was now starting to get back to some kind of position where I could cope with an ultra marathon race.
John and I met up again in both May and June to complete our recce runs. The outing in May was, I believe, the most significant of all our runs together, We ran from Ambleside to Coniston, continuing on to Wasdale and it was the first time we both struggled. Up until this point we had coped reasonably well with the route and, I for one, was possibly getting a little casual about the whole thing, starting to think I could breeze round the race. This recce run was just the sobering moment I needed, reminding me of just how tough an undertaking this race is.
At the end of June I had a couple of days out with my dad who was running/cycling the 90 miles of The Two Saints Way. This was perfect preparation for me as it gave lots of hours on my feet without trashing my legs and it was a nice distraction from the usual training.
Three weeks prior to the Lakeland 100, I competed in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, using it as my last long session before starting a three week taper. Of the six races I did last year, this was the only one where I was disappointed with the result. In the wider scheme of things, the result did not matter, time on my feet in rough terrain/hills was more important (along with not getting injured!) but I still felt I should have finished higher. The format meant that the first decision made at the start of the race would dictate your result and I made the wrong one!
The big race arrived at the end of July and I can honestly say I got myself to the start line in just about the best possible shape I could be and executed my game plan to the letter. I still get emotional when I read my report.
I intended to take some time to recover but after just a couple of weeks, I was back in training and starting to re-focus on some new targets for the remainder of the year. I started to introduce more tempo work into my training (which is something I will add again next year at the appropriate time) with an eye on a new PB at the Round Rotherham 50 mile trail race in mid-October.
Before that, I ran in the RAB Mountain Marathon on the Cheviot hills, having a super run, taking 2nd place on the Elite Class (=2nd actually) which set me up nicely for my last race of the season, the Round Rotherham Race. Having not done this race for a number of years and previously not really trained as an ultra runner, I was keen to see how much I could improve and try to finish off the season in style. As the race went on, I thought I might be able to dip under 8 hours and I pushed myself over the last couple of hours in the endeavour, but fell just short, still setting a new PB by 1:15 hours.
|Sunrise during the Rotherham race|
All-in-all, a very successful year but another year of learning how to play the ultra running game. I think this is one of the reasons why I enjoy ultra running so much - I have done many different running disciplines over the years but this is one where the preparation, understanding and knowledge play as important a role as pure running; there always seems to be something new to learn or understand.
As ever, I am thinking about how I might tweak things for this next season. I have already squeezed in one race; having a wet day out on the Tour de Helvellyn but have still not yet finalised all my race plans for next season, though my main goal is for a new PB on the West Highland Way Race in June - all roads lead to Milngavie!
A couple of things I am toying with are increasing my mileage slightly and also putting more back to back big days together. I have not generally been a big mileage trainer as you can see from the figures below but this does mean there is scope for increase without getting daft. I know this is going to take careful planning and I only intend to do this over the winter, but it will be interesting to see what I write this time next year!