Me and Ewan (2nd and first places at Founders XC marathon 2013), a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.
2012 was all about the recovery from the broken leg at the start of 2011 and my first 100 miler. 2013 was sustaining and improving my endurance and times at ultras.
The year commenced with the Winter Tanners being cancelled and then a couple of events that were either not attended, cancelled or me being ill led to not having run an ultra for some time. Luckily Rory Coleman agreed that I could sweep for the London Ultra 50k and that was a comfortable but nice long start to the year. Again, following this in Feb and nothing in march owing to the weather, I whizzed up to Northampton at Easter to throw away 2nd place in the last 500m of the race around the reservoir after taking on copious amounts of coke instead of my race drinks and finding out the this was sugar free and bombing the last mile and dropping to an agonising 4th place.
Then a glut of runs that demonstrated that form and flow had returned....Slowly first and a windy and wet course for the Bungay Black Dog marathon was not the most auspicious of conditions, especially as I arrived about 30s before the start, parked my car and ran to the start line as the field were out of sight. Bewl marathon on the saturday was 2 mins quicker than the previous year and conditions were atrocious. I followed that with a 27 mile 3FM race the day after and blasted the last 10k in mega quick time leaving me perfectly poised, although potentially a little short of miles for the NC50 miler in late May. this is where I hooked up with Ewan Dunlop and from mile 18-43 were in 1st place and looking for my first ever podium. Being overtaken in the last 7 miles was heartbreaking but we were beaten by a worthy winner. On that day I realised that Ewan has out-and-out speed (something that I can't yet compete with) but I have a good navigation strategy, positive mental attitude and when the going gets really tough, an efficient run-walk strategy. Most important out of these was the nav work. Very very few mistakes made meant that we clambered over the line in joint 2nd place.....actually I had run much further but this was the first 50 miler I have ever done. This also was one of my favourite races.....not for the piss poor organisation and lack of checkpoints, but the way that I pushed myself despite the pressure of leading a race, the scenery and the company.
Pride comes before a fall and fll I did just a few weeks after the NC50. Mile 38 of the SDW100 (aptly named Cocking Down) and I face-planted the rough chalk and flint downhill landing on my face and arm and knocking myself out. Garmin shattered, claret on the white chalk and concussion, I limped to mile 48 and then DNF'd on a race where helen and I were 2 hours ahead of last year's schedule and well on course for a 21 hour 100 miler. Helen incidentally finished in 21 hours
After some wound licking and trip to A&E I got back on the horse too quickly. Just 3 weeks later the Croydon Ultra 30 and I was chatting to 2 chaps about falling over and then fell straight down a manhole at mile 15.....race over.
Fast forward to 30 degree heat in July and the Heart of the Weald XC race. Eric, Phil and I set off on this inhumanely hot day. Perhaps the most technical XC race in a long while. Phil dropped down the 21 mile course to 'win' that event. Eric and I continued the full distance to claim 11th place. Hard work.
Summer hols and a new event the Vangurd way marathon. Not a nice course from Croydon out past the M25 and back. Phil had the mumps as we found out later and was very ill but I arse kicked him to the finish and we limped over the line in well over 5 hours. I'm really glad he finished and for him, I hope he learned that if you push yourself and your body is not falling part, you can pretty much do anything.
Then another low. The (Thames Gateway Ultra) TG60 miler was abysmal from the start. A transit van of refreshments at the start that looked awesome but never made it to any CP and piss poor organisation meant the entire field of runners lost 6 miles in in the pouring rain. My hamstring had been tight but 18 miles in it was hopeless and I couldn't get any power from my right leg. DNF whilst leading a race....bugger.
Autumn was a much better season, with 20 mins quicker on the Farnham Pilgrim than the previous year and a good day out, despite still limping around with that Hammy. Then, the Founders. I had been having nightmares about this race since I got lost leading the event in 2012 with 1.5 miles to go. I invited Ewan D to race with me and fresh from a fast ultra, he obliged. Not realising that we were not to run together again, he blasted off, leaving me to enjoy the day by myself. Quite quickly my nav skills saved me. Ignoring the big group of guys leading the 2nd place pack, I told them I knew the way but they didn't believe me. on I went, thinking a top 10 might be bout do-able. Mile 11 I heard Ewan drawing up behind me....'you're in the lead mate' he stated as he go back on track after being lost. We blasted the next miles out and then he went on to win the even with me coming 2nd by 14 mins, still, faster than the previous 4 years'winning times. Another 2nd place podium.
Final race of the year is one of my faves. Gatliff 50k. This year it was 'only' 54km. Sue Byrne and I ran this together, nice easy pace and I came in 19th in a good strong field. Hard as nails race that never ever is straightforward.
So, looking back, I didn't do enough quality races and I only peaked twice in the year. I have run 3075km so far, much less than last year and importantly, far less ascent.
Having said that I have run far more training runs and far fewer races this year. Those training runs have fallen into a number of catgories:
- Long runs by myself. Time for contemplation and exploration. I have really enjoyed these trips out on the train from London and then a run home.
- Stress busting mind-blowing fast miles very locally after dealing with the daily coronary of school leadership. These have been very effective in preventing an enforced lobotomy at the Maudsley and also for racking up some 6 and even sub 6 min miles.
- Local exploring runs. Thought you knew South London better than a Cabbie? Not any more. Every alley, gitty, gennel, snicket and cut-through I have navigated South of the Thames and I am getting to know East and North East London even more.
- The best runs though.....the long runs with FRIENDS. With the exception of the Lea Valley navigation route into London where at 8 miles in, I reluctantly gave in with a tight hamstring, much to the continued piss-taking by Eric, every run I have bonded closer to my good friends and made even more. Running with Sue B, Eric, George, Tom P and in the last 10 months or so, the legendary Phil B. Each run has been epic. mainly long, mainly on new territory. Each one I have really enjoyed the development of our friendships.
Next year fatherhood is the most important thing, but I will be on the scene to run events, although might be more marathon focused owing to time constraints. Lessons to learn will be to not start a race I think I can finish if I am injured.
A year of ups and downs. What will next year behold?