After the Ring O Fire race I was totally trashed, both physically and mentally, giving no thought to running at all, basically sleeping stupid amounts and eating anything that wasn't bolted down for the best part of two weeks. During this time, I didn't set myself any targets with regard to returning to running, I just thought I'd know when the time was right. The only exception to this was the Red Bull Steeplechase Race in the Peak District. If I am being truthful, I probably shouldn't have ran in this race, but I was entered with a couple of mates and just fancied a weekend away with the lads, so I toed the start line on a stunning autumnal day.
Click here to see one of the official videos of the race
To say that the speed of the race got to me would be an understatement! With a series of cut-offs where the slower competitors are pulled from the race, the overall speed of the race is artificially raised as runners are effectively racing over different distances, just trying to make one of the cut-offs. I had hoped to be one of the top 30 runners who avoid all the culls and complete the full 21 miles, but this expectation soon hit the deck as I was an hour in to the event, running sub 6 min miles and still outside the top 50! To cut a long and painful story short, I made all but the final cull and was withdrawn from the race after 18 miles in 70th place, suffering badly from cramp. Regardless of the result and pain, I really enjoyed the race and will probably have another go this year!
The feelings (or lack of them) that I had in my legs after this race simply reinforced the notion that I needed more time off to recover from the exertions of the season, so I set myself the target of restarting my training during the October half term holidays. I had a few more weeks of pretty much ignoring running, occasionally going out for a 3 or 4 mile pootle just to have a look at the views and keep some kind of sanity.
|On one of the "pootles"|
What was interesting, was that as the weeks went by and the watershed of the half term hols approached, my thoughts turned, almost without realising, towards the 2014 season and what my plans might be. I had already made the big decisions with regard to what my A races would be this year; The Hardmoors 110 in May and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in late August (with a plan B of doing the Ring O Fire again if I missed out in the ballot for UTMB.) What I started to do was look for some other races that would fit in around these two to get me on the start lines in the best possible shape.
|Just trained when it was sunny|
I have been thinking about what it might take in order to raise my game a little and have decided to re-introduce some speed work back into my training in the hope that I can either raise my cruising speed or increase the length of time which I can hold my current cruising speed. As part of an ongoing series, John Kynaston and I have been talking about training ideas for the West Highland Way Race podcasts which are fun to make, useful for me as it forces me to think about how I go about preparing for ultras but cringe-worthy to listen to!
Since October, I have had a good block of training, not doing anything radical but just putting some time on my feet in the bank. I had my usual couple of months where I limit the pace at which I allow myself to run (no faster than 8 m/m at any point), by which time I am ready to kick on a bit and push the pace. I have recently started going back to the speed sessions with Keswick AC on a Tuesday and/or Thursday and can already feel the benefit.
|Training on the Tour de Helvellyn route|
Just before Christmas, I had another race round the Tour de Helvellyn. Conditions were, as you would expect, fairly frisky with a headwind for the first 3 hours and a few flashes of lightening just to spice things up. I went off a fraction harder than last year and made up a few minutes over the first hour and a half, but this was probably worth more if you factor in the headwind. The middle part of the race, I really found my legs and started to enjoy the ride, apart from making the mile detour onto the rough path in Thirlmere forest as used in previous years - but not this one! (Note to self: read the bloody details!). Despite losing 5 minutes there, I was still making up time over last year on every leg and finally finished in 6:42 hours for 8th place, a new pb by 23 minutes. What a lovely start to the Christmas holidays :-D
|Boredale Hause T de H|
Anyhoo, that is a very brief summary to get everyone up to speed...... Oh, nearly forgot, in the last week I've won my first race in quite a few years and managed to get a place in the UTMB!! Those two must have just slipped my mind - more of them in the next post.