Sunday 8 February 2015

2014 Review: Out with the old, in with the new

Right, well we're over a twelfth of the way through 2015, so I should probably do the obligatory look back over the previous year and see how things went. Looking from the running side of things, it's been an okay year I guess. I'm certainly happy with the performances I put in along the way, but there have been some things which could have been better. But on the personal side, it was absolutely incredible. My little girl is growing up so fast, and I just love the time we all spend together as a family. She runs around like a mad thing now, and her favourite things are running (complete with  crouching in the starting position and shouting "on marks, get set, gooooooo!"), eating, drumming and Batman. No idea where she gets it from. And now she sleeps! Huzzah! So much so that she actually told us off for having the TV on too loud, and slammed her bedroom door on us. Didn't think we'd be at this stage for another 12 years or so...

Anyway, the year started with a fantastic opportunity to run the Spine Challenger - the "easy" version of the Spine Race. The full Spine Race follows the entire Pennine Way route for about 268 miles in the middle of winter. The Spine Challenger only covers the first 108 miles, so is obviously much easier to finish. Ahem. I had a fantastic time out there, and it was an incredible experience. I decided to pull up short a few miles shy of the finish after injuring my foot on the way down one of the mountain passes in the rain and ice, since I didn't want a repeat of 2013 where an injury at Transvulcania early in the year threw off a lot of my racing calendar.

I always say that, when it comes to DNFs, I always try and think what "future me" will think when he looks back on it, and try to use this to decide whether or not to drop. I really don't care about having DNFs on my CV (as if anybody cares) as long as it wasn't just because I was being a pussy. Well now I am future me, and I'm still happy with this call. I had a great time out there, was able to have a sleep and clean up before a 14 hour train journey home, and was able to get back to training pretty quickly afterwards. If I had pushed on, I would have had to go straight to my journey home after about 40 hours running, and would probably have been limping for weeks afterwards. But I would have got a medal to put under my bed and never look at again. It wasn't a tough call.

Next up was the Centurion Running South Downs Way 50 in April. I originally hadn't planned any other races between the Spine and Grand Union Canal Race since I half expected to be a broken mess. But since I managed to avoid any serious issues, I decided to head off for a little jolly with a bunch of great people, and was able to catch up with lots of friends I have made along the way. It didn't go fantastically well, as some stomach issues cropped up making it a bit of a slog. And I lost a Buff. But let's not go into that. But hey, I had great fun out there and got to catch up with a lot of friends who I only see intermittently through the year.

The Grand Union Canal Race was next up, and was one of my main races for the year. I had hoped to come into it strong and ready to actually race, having felt like I hadn't really raced for a while. Largely this was down to focussing my energies on my new family (so much more fun!), not helped by having a little girl who was not a fan of sleep. But leading up to the GUCR, things were getting much better, and I had had a few good podium results at local 10Ks that were a good boost to my confidence. My speed wasn't too bad, but my endurance was a little bit of an unknown quantity. 

I went into the race feeling good, but not as good as I had hoped. For a few weeks before the race, I had the onset of plantar fasciitis, something that I had never had to deal with before. It may have been a result of trying to ramp up my miles in too short a time to get ready for the race. In hindsight, running 150 miles on it wasn't a great plan. I went out hard and things were going pretty well for a good chunk of the race. Unfortunately, after about 120 miles my knee went out, probably as a result of overcompensating for my PF. Normally that would be it for me, as I've got to the stage where I can't be bothered risking months of injury for the sake of finishing a race. However, I decided to push on for two reasons: 1) I wanted to remind myself that I could push through adversity and run through pain if I wanted to, and 2) I had the Spartathlon coming up in September which was my main focus race, and wanted to remind myself that I could run that far. I knew that it would probably cause problems, but I figured I had a few months to get fixed back up again. 

The last 30 miles of that race sucked pretty hard, but I got dragged through it by my awesome crew of Simon, Liz and Tim. When I decided to push through to the end, there was no doubt I would make it, but having friends there to keep my spirits up made things much more bearable! For me at least - for them it probably sucked having to deal with my whinging. I just managed to hold out for a top 10 finish, but it wasn't pretty. However, I was still very happy with the race. Pacing, nutrition, etc. all went to plan. Running with an injury - not so much. You live and learn. 

I had some other races planned, including the South Downs Way 100 and Lakeland 50, but these got put to the side as I aimed to get myself fit and healthy for the Spartathlon. I really wanted to hit the start line in good form, as the last thing I needed was a niggle or even a full on injury to make me doubt myself in Greece. The PF continued to be a problem, and nothing I was doing seemed to work. With only a few weeks left until the race, I was not feeling happy. I hadn't run much at all, was putting on weight (despite cycling a lot more), and was starting to wonder if I would ever see the start line. I ended up taking a trip to see the fine fellas and fellettes at Profeet in London, who helped me with a new rehab program to work on. After a few weeks, it was looking like things were improving and that I might just make it after all.

Then I twisted my ankle. Sigh.

Regardless, this was my main focus race of the year, and I had already paid for everything, so I stayed off it until race day and hoped that would be enough to be ready to run 150 hilly road miles. Not the best preparation for an A race, but the worst case scenario was that I would get a nice sunny all inclusive holiday in Greece. Luckily all was well, the race went really well, and I got the finish that I had looked forward to all year. Huzzah!

Lastly, there was a sub-optimal Piece of String race, which was great fun but which I had to cut short at the end of the first day. As it happens I would have been done by about 10pm if I had hung around, but for all I knew it could have gone on until Wednesday - and I had plans with my little girl on Sunday. Easy call!

And that was that. Not the best results all told, but I had some fantastic adventures! So what's on the cards for 2015? This year I haven't arranged any big adventures or trips abroad, and am instead focussing on some more local races. I have entered in for all 4 of the Centurion Running 100 milers, so assuming I get a place on the Thames Path (I'm currently on the waiting list) I will be having a crack at the Centurion Grand Slam. I would like to get at least line good 100 mile race out of these, as I haven't really raced a 100 miler as a focus race for a couple of years. I'd like to see what I can do.  Hopefully by concentrating on some "shorter" races I can focus on some good solid performances. I'm also having a go at James Adams most recent ridiculous event, the Bingo Race (the World's Most Unfairest Race TM) in March. Knowing my luck, I'll only get to run 10 miles before all of my numbers get drawn though. Add in a bunch of local 10Ks and half marathons, and hopefully I'll have a nice fast injury-free season this year. And some sleep. That's not going to hurt matters at all!

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