Review of 2010

My plan this morning was to run the mile or so to Paisley Canal Train station, jump on the train for a few miles and then run the 1.5mile to Bellahouston Leisure Centre where I’d left my gear so I could have shower before work.

I arrived at the train station a minute or so before 8am to be told that the train was cancelled and the next one wasn’t until 8.30am. So I decided I might as well just run the whole way. I had the option of catching a bus along Paisley Road West but by the time I got there I was enjoying the run so kept going.

Fri 3rd Dec Run details
5.51miles in 42mins 20secs (8.14pace)

So onto my review of the year…..

I find it really helpful to do a review of the year to reflect on how I got on and learn for the future.

At the beginning of the year I decided to do things a bit differently. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 I followed a similar training pattern and it helped me to run better than I ever expected in my key race, the West Highland Way Race where I ran sub 20hrs two years on the trot.

I wanted to change things a bit this year, do some different races, maybe try some different tactics (go off a bit harder) and see whether by changing things I might get faster. Someone has said, ‘if you do the same things you will get the same results.’

So initially I set out to run three races in the first half of the year. The Hardmoors 55mile race in March (on my 51st birthday!!), the 53mile Highland Fling in April and the 95mile West Highland Way Race in June.

Then the SUMS (Scottish Ultra Marathon Series) was announced around February and I immediately wanted to take part. The minimum requirement was to run four of the 9 races. So I had to add in two more races.

We were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary by going to Thailand for three weeks in the summer so basically the only two races I could do were the 53mile Cateran Trail Race in May and the 41mile River Ayr Way Race in September.

So now I had taken on four races from March to June – one a month. I realised that this was going to be a real challenge but decided that I would try and treat the Hardmoors in March and the Cateran in May as good hard training runs rather than flat out races. As it turned out easier said that done!!

So how did I get on?

Here are the facts ….

Overall I feel mixed about how I got on. In 2009 to celebrate my 50th birthday I ran five ultras but they were spread out from April to December. This year I’ve run five but closer together. I found that a lot harder and my overall feeling is that I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped and my experiments with my training didn’t work!

So I thought it might be helpful to make a list of the positives and negatives from this year before writing down some lessons that I’ve learnt.

POSTIVES FROM 2010 …
# I completed all five ultra races
Given some injuries and the weather this was an achievement in itself and one I don’t take lightly. It was tick off five races from my planned list.

# I finished 3rd in the Super Vets Category for the SUMS
At the beginning of the year I thought I might have a possibility of getting in the top 3 so I was very happy to achieve that. My trophy sits proudly on our Welsh Dresser in the Living Room.

# I achieved pb’s in three of my five races (Hardmoors, Cateran and RAW)
This is slightly (?!?) diminished by the fact that I’d never run these races before and so a finish would have been a pb but hey ho you have to take the positives whenever you can!!

# The last 35miles of the whw race
One of the highlights from this year was how I was able to get going again after Bridge of Orchy in the whw race. I arrived a ‘broken man’ resigned to walking the last 35miles. I knew I could do it in 12hrs or so but it wouldn’t be pretty or enjoyable.

Somehow I turned it round. I stopped for 15mins (unheard of for me), changed shoes (never done that before), drank a hot chocolate (also a first), ate some ham (never tested that one in training).

The next section to Glencoe Ski Lodge showed some signs of life returning and then from there to the end I was able to get going and run strongly again.

So even though my overall time was two and half hours slower than 08 and 09 I finished really happy knowing it could have been so much worse!!

It was also great to share in the excitement of friends who had some amazing races, especially Marco, Thomas, Sharon and Debs who I’d trained with.

# I really enjoyed the Cateran Trail Race
I’d had a bad run in the Fling (see negatives below!!) and this race just three weeks later gave me the opportunity to restore my confidence and run a more sensible race.

I really enjoyed not running to splits and schedules, taking lots of photos and video clips and running by how I felt. The route was really interesting and as I’d never been on it before kept me from pushing too hard.

The result was I ran far quicker than I’d expected and it did restore my confidence. To be first Super Vet was a nice bonus.

# I ran the RAW race far better than expected
The build up to this race was far from ideal. My foot injury really hampered how much training I could do and my 22mile recce run two weeks before the race was hard work.

I was expecting to take well over 7hrs so to finish in 6hrs 34mins was a real bonus. It also gave me enough points to finish 3rd in the SUMS super vets category.

# Finishing the Hardmoors Race in awful conditions
I’d cracked my ribs in a fall a month before the race which again hampered my preparation. The weather was really tough with wind and rain all day so it was a real achievement to finish the race.

NEGATIVES FROM 2010 …
I don’t normally like to dwell on the negatives but thought it was helpful as I look back on this year.

# This year I had three bad falls
The first was during the Marshall Moor Race at the end of December. I rekon I cracked a rib or two and it affected my training for a week or two. The second was slipping on ice as I ran along the cycle track to work.

The worse fall, though, had nothing to do with the snow or ice. It was four weeks before the Hardmoors race in March. I was tripped over by a discarded wheel trim. I fell really heavily on my chest and again think that I cracked a rib or two. I was just about to do two hard weeks of training followed by two easier weeks before the race.

Instead I tried to keep running for a couple of weeks but it wasn’t much fun and quite sore so I didn’t run for the two weeks before the race hoping it would clear up enough to run the race pain free.

It meant that my March mileage was a lot less than planned and definitely had an effect on my training for the year.

# I ran a poor Highland Fling Race
This was my fourth running of this great race. In the previous two years I’d run under 9hrs 50mins and was aiming to do so again. I decided to try and run a 9.45 schedule. I managed to keep up with the pace until Rowardennan (27miles) but had to work far too hard to get there.

The second half of the race was really hard work as I fell further and further behind my goal. It took all I had to keep going and finish in 10hrs 14mins. I wasn’t too happy with the way I’d run.

I feel one of my strengths is being able to pace myself well and I got it badly wrong in this race and paid the price.

# I arrived at the start of the whw race not in 100% condition
I did my final long run with Marco a few weeks before the whw race and I knew then that I’d be in trouble. My legs felt far too heavy and I knew I wouldn’t be able to recover in time for the race and I didn’t.

# The section from Beinglas to Bridge of Orchy in the whw race was one of the toughest ever
I was more or less on target for a sub 21hrs by the time I arrived at Beinglas but I was starting to struggle in the heat.

I made a big mistake in not taking enough water for the 12mile section to Auchtertyre. I tried to ration how much water I drank and consequently didn’t drink enough. I arrived at the half way point feeling so dehydrated that I knew I’d struggle to run much for a while.

The section from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy normally takes me about 1hr 40mins during the whw race. This year it took me over 2hrs 30mins and I was really struggling, walking sections I normally run.

I can’t remember feeling as low and battered as I did at that point. Definitely a low point in my running this year. I hated the feeling of having absolutely nothing left in my legs to be able to run.

# My foot injury returned
Two years ago when I was training for the Loch Ness Marathon in October I experienced some pain under the toes in my right foot. It took a few months to get it sorted out with some new insoles.

I had not replaced them since and during the summer I experienced a similar pain. When I eventually faced up to the fact that this pain was not going to go away I got some help which included getting a new pair of insoles.

I ran the RAW race with this pain but just about got away with it.

I’m sure there are more negatives but that will do for now!

LESSONS LEARNT FROM 2010 ….

# I don’t like using a race as a training run
A lot of people are quite happy to treat a race as a good hard training run but I’ve decided I’m not one of them. For me races are for doing your very best and I’d rather keep training for training runs. I love the training runs, especially on the whw, so I don’t feel I need to do races just to get more miles in.

So I would rather do less races and try and do my very best in each and every one. While I enjoyed the new races I did this year I found it hard to peak for each one.

# I need to spread out my races
For me trying to run four ultra races in four months was far too much. I had 5 weeks between the Hardmoors and the Fling, then just 3 weeks between the Fling and the Cateran Trail and 5 weeks from the Cateran to the whw.

For next year I have spread out the four races I’m planning to do over a longer period. The way it has worked out is that I have exactly 7 weeks between each race. This means that I can have a couple of weeks to recover, 3 weeks of good training and still leave 2 weeks to taper.

We’ll see how that works next year.

# I need to trust my own judgment
This year I did try some different tactics including going off harder. I’m sure it’s a good tactic for some but I’ve learnt it doesn’t work for me. So I’m going to trust my own pace judgment, running my own race rather than get caught up with others.

Also in my training I’m going to trust my own judgment. It’s so easy to think others have a better plan than me but I’ve decided that I probably know me best so I’m going to stick to what I think works for me.

# I need to do some more research and experimenting with nutrition
This is an area that I’m always working on. This year I relied far too much on sugary products. For next year I’m going to go back to trying savoury items. Mashed potato and baked beans will be tried first. I’d also like to try out complan type meals during long runs and if it works in races themselves.

I’ve asked for a Nathan Elite 2V Plus Hydration Waistpack for Christmas as I would like to have the option of two bottles during some of my runs in case it gets as hot as last year. I don’t want to get as dehydrated as this year.

So there is my review for 2010. I’m really looking forward to 2011. I’m doing four ultra races that I’ve done before and it will be interesting to see how it goes. My goals for 2011 will be coming in the New Year.

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6 Responses to Review of 2010

  1. parkrunfan says:

    Unbelieveable! What a man! I have only started follwoing your posts very recently, so this is all new news to me.

    As a fairly new runner, I think of a half marathon as a long way. But 95 miles, that is incredible. I hadn't even heard of such a race.

    It may take many months or years of reading your blog posts to even think about going for a 5th of that distance.

  2. Stu McB says:

    Another fine year and another 5 ultras. Well done John. I know you're a bit disappointed with WHW and Highland Fling. But to me losing 25-30 minutes over a race as long as 53 miles and having gone out too hard to half way is pretty impressive! Also the way you hung in there in the WHW shows a lot about your character. Onwards and upwards in 2011!

  3. Andy Cole says:

    Good year John, well done. Another achievement is keeping your blog going so consistently, it's often giving me good ideas – for example last weekend I tried your 6.45/8.15 miles and thought it was a really good workout. Mark Laithwaite (one of the organisers of the Lakeland 100) has written an interesting article on nutrition, should be available on the site if not let me know and I'll send it to you – backs up some stuff that Stuart Mills has been saying. Sure you don't want to go back to the Hardmoors 55 again to see the view next year?? Cheers, Andy

  4. Peter Duggan says:

    Think your own training and your own strategy is always right for ultras. The Nathan Elite 2V Plus is brilliant (said on my blog that it's 'quite simply one of the best-designed bits of kit I've ever bought'), although I don't like the bottles that much (broke the top of one on a chilly Ben Lawers a few weeks ago). So going to try some standard cycling bottles (which are the same diameter) because narrower ones (eg Lucozade Sport 500ml as tried on our night run to Balmaha) ride up in the holsters and could pop out. Apart from that it's perfect!

  5. I have always said John that you learn more when things go wrong than when they go right. You have learned a lot this year and this will make you a far better runner next year. I better not see your wee smiley face on the Larig Mor though. 😉
    Seriously though, this year you have done amazing to have done what you have. With injuries and so many races in a short time i think that it is a fantastic achievement that you didnt just finish all of your races but also did so well in them and the SUMS too. Well done.
    Training for 2011 starts tomorrow with 4 hours in the snow.
    Looking forward to it.
    Marco

  6. Richard says:

    Hi John, I find your review very interesting. I'm still on a very big learning curve when it comes to this ultra lark, so I'm interested in your thoughts about running (or not running) races as hard training runs. You've had a very successful year, and finished everything that you've set out to do, and learned a lot in the process. I'll be following your progress in 2011 with interest, and hopefully learn a few things along the way!! Good luck, Richard

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