Good grief. It's March! That's, like, a quarter of the way through the year. I've only just gotten used to writing "2014" instead of "2013". There's only 283 shopping days to go until Christmas! Okay, ignoring my histrionics, it is still a little late in the day to be writing a post about my plans for the year, but in fairness the season is only just starting really. Plus nobody cares anyway. Still, it's good to get this stuff down on paper, if only so I don't forget.
2013 was a bit of a damp squib running-wise, mainly due to an injury at Transvulcania which awkwardly occurred slap bang in the middle of my main series of races. Add to that the whole "having a baby" thing, and my running kind of fell by the wayside. Probably for the best to be honest. The end of the year was a case of getting rid of the remaining niggles and avoiding making things worse, which unfortunately resulted in pulling out of the Piece of String so close to the end. Still, it was all good fun, and I have had an amazing year getting to know my little girl! She's almost walking now, and is definitely not a baby any more. Her cheeky little personality should keep me on my toes in the years to come - I can't wait!
But now we're into 2014 and I have some plans. Things have settled a bit in my home life, in particular with respect to sleeping. She's still not sleeping perfectly, but it is a million times better than it was last year. And being able to sleep more than an hour at a time does wonders for your ability to run. Rehab on my knee went well last year due to some sensible decisions on my part, and some great work on the part of my physio, Chelsea Harding. So the only issue is that I have started the year in worse shape than I started 2013. It's not terrible, but I have definitely lost some speed. It's on the mend, and there's plenty of time to get myself sorted. But it will require not eating quite so much cake. Damn.
Right, so what's on the cards:
First up is (well - was) The Spine Challenger in January. Given how unfit I was in January, and the fact that I had absolutely no kit for it, I very nearly didn't turn up. Particularly as there was a very real chance I would die. But given that I had already booked everything, and my awesome brother-in-law leant me a whole bunch of great stuff, I decided to give it a go. It actually went surprisingly well, and my legs felt pretty good throughout. I had to pull out at about 90 miles due to a small injury, but I didn't want a repeat of last year so I am completely happy with this decision. I only missed about 10 miles of the course, so could have pushed on, but then I might still be rehabbing it today. Instead, it was sorted a couple of weeks later. I thoroughly enjoyed the part of the course that I ran, did surprisingly well with my navigation, got to meet up with lots of friends, and most importantly found that my legs didn't cope too badly at all. Definitely a positive start.
I wasn't sure how wrecked I would be after the Spine, so didn't book much in straight afterwards. So next up is the South Downs Way 50 in a couple of weeks. This is a very last minute entry, and is mainly because I feel a bit lazy not doing anything for so long. I'm most definitely not going to be bringing my A-game here, and the field is incredibly deep for this event. I won't be troubling the front-runners at all. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sub-6 hour finish here if the conditions are right. I will be expecting somewhere around the 7.5 hour mark I think. Still, it will be a good benchmark for how my fitness is and will be a sneaky recce for the 100 miler later in the year. Plus a lot of my friends will be there, so it will be great to catch up with everybody!
After that is the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race in May. This is somewhat of an institution in the UK ultra running scene, so I am really looking forward to having a crack. I am hoping to be in a position to actually compete at this race, and am hoping to be able to push for a podium place. All being well, I will be heading out strong as I did at the Viking Way, and trying to not cock things up quite so badly. Surely I can't get lost on a canal, right? Right?! I have sub-29 hours in my sights, but only so that I can Lord it over last year's winner James Elson.
In June I will be heading back to the South Downs Way 100 again, which was my A race last year. Unfortunately my injury forced me to pull out after 20 miles, so my plan to push for a 16 hour 100 miler never really took off. The conditions were perfect last year, so I thoroughly expect torrents of rain and hurricane force head winds this year when I can actually run. Regardless, I will be aiming for a time starting with a 16 to make up for last year. As with the 50 miler, the field is stacked with some awesome runners taking it on. It should be an amazing experience, and hopefully I can get myself up at the pointy end.
In July I will be heading back to the Lake District to take part in the Ultra Trail of the Lake District Lakeland 50 miler. I ran the Lakeland 100 in 2012, but spent the whole time worrying about the fact that I was heading to Chamonix to run UTMB the following month. This time, I will be able to focus on the race at hand rather than worrying that every little twinge will stop me from heading out to the mountains. I was originally signed up for the 100 miler, but the 50 miler has now been designated as the British Athletics Ultra Trail Running Championships for 2014. I decided to apply for one of the additional "elite runner" places that they released, and have been accepted. I will therefore have to put in a bloody good performance to not feel like a complete fraud.
Then in September is the big A-race of the year; I will be heading out to Greece to have a crack at the Spartathlon. This has been on my radar for a while, and following the exploits of the British Spartathlon Team last year made me really wish I was there. It looks pretty easy - 246 km on road in searing heat with a little mountain at the end, all to fulfil Gerard Butler's foot fetish and drink some rancid river water. Maybe I should actually read up a bit more about the race... Whatever, I'm sure it will be almost identical to the GUCR. Many of my friends who have taken part in many, many more events than me have described this as the toughest race they have done - and I don't doubt them. The real challenge is keeping ahead of the cutoff times, while not destroying yourself in the process. With a bit of road running practice, I am pretty confident that I can do it. The real question is whether I will. A lot can happen out there, and even Mr Spartathlon, James Adams, struggled last year. He'll also be heading back this year with a renewed sense of purpose as the fearless leader of the British team.
So all in all a pretty easy year ahead. Plus interspersed through this, I will be throwing in a few shorter local runs to keep my speed up. My main aims then for these events are:
- Don't suck at the SDW50
- Podium finish for the GUCR
- 16ish hours for the SDW100 (although actually finishing this time will be good enough for me)
- Pretend to look all elite-like at the Lakeland 50 and try not to end up needing mountain rescue when I end up lost in Scotland
- Kiss the smelly foot of Leonidas in Sparta (and hopefully get a hugely inspiring photo of it in the process a la James Adams)
- Beat 27 minutes at the 4.7 mile Sawston Fun Run (27:52 last year, and I've knocked over a minute off each time for the last 3 years - imagine my time in 20 years!)