Firstly, UTMB sucks your mojo! It was such a long build up to the race from the moment I knew I had a place, it formed a big part of my consciousness for 8 months and when it was finally gone, I had a bit of a hole in my life. I was buzzing for a week or so, in fact I was very emotional for a week, but then had an almighty psychological crash, becoming very apathetic. I slowly got back into doing some running, just the odd 3 miler if the weather as good. September and most of October just got put aside for a good regroup.
I had a few wonderful runs out in some spectacular terrain, just enjoying the moment, not really considering it training.
I even slotted in a rare appearance at a fell race, running for Keswick at the Fell Runners Association relay champs.
|FRA relays (photo by Andrew Slattery)|
By the time I got to December, I had built up my training and started the long build up back to race fitness. It is at this time that I like to sit down with a blank year planner and piece together a battle plan for the next year.
My A race for the year is the Lakeland 100 which I ran back in 2012 as my comeback 100 miler after my operation. Last time out I came 10th in 25:52 hours and said after that I didn't think I could better that, but I think I'm smarter and better conditioned now, so I have set myself a personal target for that one; more of that at another time.
I have blocked off the year into a number of sections, trying to get a nice mix of training and races, with one (enforced) change to the original plan, though, I think the change is actually for the better. December, January and February have all been good solid months with a couple of new focuses; core stability and speed work. So, as I have slightly upped my training mileage, I have been trying to have at least one core session, one speed session and one turbo trainer session per week. Things were going really well up until a couple of weeks ago when I finished a particularly big week for me (65 miles) and realised I felt pretty trashed. I'm old enough now to know that I had just over-cooked it and needed a recovery week, even though the plan had something more substantial. In fact, I eased back for two weeks which coincided with my build up to the first race of the year, the Hardmoors, Osmotherley Trail Marathon which took place this last weekend.
I wasn't really sure what to expect after feeling very jaded on the build up, but come race day, as the competitive juices started flowing, I found I was really ready for a proper race. It was a fast start and I just had to let the leaders get on with it, settling into the top 10 until the bigger climbs over Cringle Moor, Cold Moor and The Wainstones where I started to push on, moving up into the top 5 and then into a share of 3rd place.
|30 mins into the race at Scarth Nick (photo by Ann Brown)|
I was really starting to enjoy this, running much faster than in an ultra, trying to mix it with others more used to the marathon distance. What I was most pleased about was the comfort I had while still running fast (for me). Over Cold Moor, I tried to pull away from Jerome, making a bid for a podium place and maybe even higher but we were both still locked together at Chop Gate. We were told that the leader was 10 mins ahead and I got quite a lift from this, thinking I still had a chance if he wavered at all. I finally pulled away from Jerome on the steep climb out of Chop Gate and started to put the hammer down on Blisdale West Moor, knowing I was inside the last 90 mins of the race.
|1.5 miles to go (photo by Jayson Cavill)|
Over the last hour, all I could think of was the finish of the Osmotherley Phoenix where I was leading until cramp hit me in the final mile. Run relaxed became my mantra. I had no problems this time round, finishing 3rd in 4:18 hours for the 28.4 mile course, closing to within about 6 mins of the winner. Absolutely delighted with that! Speed work must be paying off.
|With Jon Steele, race director (photo by Tony Holland)|
So, that's where I am now; getting faster, confidence up, enjoying racing. Where am I going? Well, I have just over 4 weeks to the Hardmoors 55 which I did last year and really enjoyed it. This will form my longest single run before the Lakeland 100 in July, but I have a 2 month block of training planned after the H55, giving time to recover and then kick on again, I'll be toeing the start line of the Keswick Mountain festival Ultra (50km) in mid May, again giving another 2 month block before the Lakeland 100. During these two training block, I intend to spend lots of time on the Lakeland 100 route - I want to know every blade of grass personally, big back to back weekend runs will be the order of the day.
One final point to mention is the phenomenon that is Parkrun. I absolutely love my Saturday morning fix of 5k, whether I'm having a blast, taking it easy or, as I often do, volunteer as a helper. Whatever the role, it has given Saturday morning a focus. I gave some thought as to how I could incorporate the event onto my training for 100 mile races and came up with a routine that seems to work well for me. I try to do an easy 45-60 mins before the start, do Parkrun (in whatever format) and then carry on and do another 90 mins of trails. A great session and all done by 11am.
After such a good race at the weekend, I'm confident that the tweaks I've made to my training are sending me in the right direction. My next focus is now the Hardmoors 55, which will help to keep my mind off the Lakeland 100 which is still too far away to fully concentrate on yet. I've got some recce runs for L100 planned with John and Marco, which I'm really looking forward to and generally feel pretty good about the year ahead.
Bring on 2015 :-)