Review of 2013

At the beginning of the year I wasn’t full of optimism for 2013 especially for the long ultra races.  I was still really enjoying my running but the 2011 whw race and 2012 Lakeland 100 race had followed a similar pattern with a decent start before running out of energy and struggling to finish.

I was proud of the fact that I finished both races but the last 7hrs in each race weren’t much fun and I seriously wondered whether I really wanted to put myself through it again.

Plus during December 2012 I was trying out some new running shoes called On-Running which obviously didn’t suit me as I was having problems with my calf.  To finish off my year I weighed myself and wasn’t happy to see that I was 12st 14lbs.

So at the beginning of year I really felt that 2013 was going to be a make or break year. I had entered the Highland Fling in April and West Highland Way race in June.  I was going to see how they went and think about the second half of the year later.

I decided I needed to change a few things in my training.  I never lack motivation but decided to join the Jantastic challenge organised by Marathon Talk to give me an extra focus.  So the plan was to run 4 times a week in January and then up that to 5 times a week from February onwards.

Another change I made was to introduce back to back runs at the weekend.  Most ultra training plans incorporate this and lots of friends do it so from February onwards I started running Saturday and Sunday mornings on the Gleniffer Braes.

Probably the biggest change I made though was losing some weight.  I decided that I needed to get back to nearer 12st.  I considered a low carb diet but felt it would be too disruptive to the family.  So basically I just cut out bread during the week and ate smaller portions for my main meal at night.

Within weeks I’d lost 8lbs and felt so much better for it. I found that I was running up and down hills easier than I had for a while.  I wondered what 8lbs looked like so weighed a full water bottle. It was just over 1lb so 8lbs was like running with 7 water bottles.

By mid March I was down to 11st 5lbs (equivalent to 16 water bottles?) and really feeling the benefit.  A number of people mentioned that I was looking ‘good’ which always helps with the motivation!

From March to October I did 5 main races, 2 half marathons and 3 ultras. I don’t like to race too often as, for me, the build up, planning and training are as important as the actual race. The main race was definitely the West Highland Way Race but the Highland Fling was going to be really important in my build up.

Inverness Half Marathon – Sunday 17th March 2013

Part of the Jantastic challenge is to do a race in March where you have to predict your finishing time for a race or training run.  If you are spot on you don’t lose points but if you are quicker or slower you do.  The idea is that you should know by this stage in your training what pace you are capable of running out flat out.

Based on my training, especially my tempo runs, I felt that 1hr 27mins 30mins would be about right.  I had a great race, keeping the pace consistent all the way through.  When I entered the stadium with 300m or so to go I glanced at my watch and saw I had 90secs to hit my goal.  I pushed as hard as I could and missed it by a mere 4secs!

I finished 87th overall and 7th Super Vet (over 50).  I was really pleased with the race as it was a good indication that my training was paying off and I was in decent shape.  Katrina also had a great run finishing 2nd Female 50 in a time of 1hr 40mins 59secs.  Our daughter Jo finished her first ever half marathon in 2hrs 5mins 24secs.Inverness

Hoka Highland Fling (53miles) – Saturday 27th April 2013

This was my 7th Highland Fling on the trot but I was looking forward to it as much as the first.  I set off with a sub 10hr plan but more importantly I wanted to run it sensibly starting comfortably and finishing strongly.  I like to race the Fling as hard as I can but I’m aware in the back of my mind that the full race is only 8 weeks later so I want to make sure I can recover in time for the big one.

The race went really well and I was on or just ahead of my sub 10 schedule for most of the way.  I slipped behind my plan in the forest above Crianlarich as my quads were complaining on the downhills.  I was encouraged that I was able to pick it up again and I finished feeling quite strong just under 6mins over my 10hr plan.

I wasn’t too disappointed as it was my best Fling for a few years and again showed I was on the right track with my training and pacing on the day.Fling finish

Katrina finished her 2nd Fling in 12hrs 11mins 8secs which was a pb by 15mins which was even more impressive when I heard she’d been sick around Balmaha and had hardly eaten anything!

I realised that I needed to do some more work on my quads though between the Fling and the whw race so I decided to swap my planned speed sessions for regularly weekly runs up and down Ben Lomond.  My friend Jonny joined me each Wednesday and these sessions really helped.

I also did my two back to back days on the whw route 4 weeks before the race.  Day 1 was Balmaha to Bridge of Orchy (42miles) and day 2 Bridge of Orchy to Fort William (35miles).  I ran well on both the 2 days and it encouraged me to go for sub 22hrs for the whw race.

West Highland Way Race (95miles) – Saturday 22nd June 2013

  • 21hrs 26mins 57secs (Overall 24th M50 2nd)
  • Race Report

I set off with a real confidence that I could finish in under 22hrs and more importantly to finish running strongly having enjoyed the race.  These aims encouraged me to start comfortably and maintain a steady pace all the way through.  I was 61st at Balmaha and finished 24th so basically I do think I achieved that.West Highland Way 13a

I really enjoyed the whole race and was just inside my sub 22hr plan all the way through.  I did have one wobble for about an hour after Glencoe.  I suddenly found it really hard going and struggled up the Devil’s Staircase and couldn’t get running on the section towards Kinlochleven.  It was almost as if my mind was slowing me down as I wanted to finish strong.

Once I was in sight of Kinlochleven I just as quickly got going again and ran really well to the end.  Two years previously Katrina had walked with me when I took over 7hrs to cover the last 14 miles. This year Katrina enjoyed it more as we covered that section in 3hrs 15mins.  I was very proud of the fact that I was 5mins faster than my sub 20hr races!

So I achieved my goals of a time I was happy with and I finished really strongly with a big smile on my face!

A week later we were off to Indonesia for Emma and Yonas’ wedding so I had 3 weeks of rest and easy running …. though running in the heat of Indonesia was not particularly easy!

Once I was home I had an 8 week build up to my final ultra of the year the Ultimate Trails 100k in the Lake District. I had some good long runs including a recce of the second 50k of the UT route and a run round 5 Munro’s from Bridge of Orchy.

I also did weekly runs up and down Ben Lomond with Jonny who was also doing the UT 100k. Katrina and Jonny’s partner Frances had entered the 50k so we all had a great weekend.

Ultimate Trails 100K (nearer 65miles!) – Saturday 14th September 2013

  • 15hrs 18mins 35secs (overall 18th place M50 place 4th)
  • Race Report

I was really looking forward to this race as my training had gone well and I was keen to run in a similar way to the whw race, ie start steady and finish strong.

I ran the first section with my friend Jonny and was 87th out of the 176 starters after the first 6.79miles.  From there onwards I worked my way through the field finishing 18th.

The race was very similar to the whw in that I was running solidly for the majority of the race with one wobble. In this race it was after 45miles or so. Thankfully it only lasted about 45mins or so and I was able to get going again finishing strongly.ut100k

I really enjoyed the route and we had a superb day which always makes the whole event fun.  Jonny, Katrina and Frances also had good runs so we were all happy on the way back to Scotland.

My final race of the year was the Aviemore Half Marathon. Katrina was keen to do this one as it had been recommended by friends.  As it was only 4 weeks after the UT 100k I originally planned to run with Katrina and enjoy the scenery but I recovered quicker than anticipated so decided to go for it!

Aviemore Half Marathon – Sunday 13th October 2013

Katrina also ran as did Tracey.aviemore

It was a really interesting course.  We were bussed out from Inverness to the start. The first 6-7miles were mainly on forestry tracks and undulating with a tough hill after 3miles.  The final 6 miles were on the road back into Aviemore and it was a lovely gradual downhill run.

I was really pleased with my run as I maintained a steady pace throughout as my heart rate graph shows.

According to the age graded stats it was my best ever half marathon but as there was an overall drop of 400ft I don’t think I can really claim it!!

Lessons learnt from this year …


It’s hard to say what is the biggest factor which contributed to a good year but I reckon losing over a stone has made a big difference to my running.  I have felt more comfortable and feel I’m running up and down hills easier.

Back to back runs at the weekend

This has been the biggest change I’ve made this year to my training.  It’s probably best not to change too many things as, if you do, you never quite know which was the one that made the difference.

Running Saturday/Sunday wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be and meant that I got more mileage in over a weekend without feeling really tired.  I found running on the Sunday with Saturday’s miles in my legs was really helpful and prepared my legs for the ultra races.

Ben Lomond Runs

From April to June and then August to September I did a run up and down Ben Lomond each week and it really helped prepare my quads for the whw race and for the UT100k race.  My quads in both races were fine which meant I could run strongly right to the end of the race.

Speed Work

I only did speed work until mid April and then picked it up again in November.  I think this was a good pattern for me but it is interesting that my present hamstring niggle is due to the speed work over the last few weeks.

Maybe I’m at an age when my body can’t cope with a weekly Fartlek session and Tempo run.  That is something to think about for 2014.

Cross Training

I’ve been trying to cycle to work 1-2 times a week rather than doing another run and I think it has been beneficial.  I’ve also been using the Power Plate to aid recovery.


I’ve been really happy with my pacing for all 3 ultra races this year. In each of them I’ve started conservatively and been able to finish strong.  Would I be able to run faster by going off harder and hanging on?  I’m not sure but I do enjoy finishing feeling as though I’m still running well and could do more.  I also find I recover quicker.

So 2013 had been a really good year running wise.  I’m really excited about 2014 and my Hardmoors Grand Slam Challenge.

If you have followed my progress on this blog throughout this year I’d like to thank you.  I always enjoy getting some feedback on how things are going.

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2 Responses to Review of 2013

  1. Marco says:

    Hey JK,
    Brilliant to see you back but most importantly enjoying your long ultras again.
    The WHW isn’t the same without you smiling although please not at Lundavra.
    Looking forward to hearing all about 2014
    Have a Happy Christmas and New Year.

  2. Great review John, it’s great to see you back running well for all your races.

    The changes you’ve made obviously have been effective, reversing all the issues you were having with long ultras in the two previous years. I recall in 2011 and 2012 you put away some very respectable 10k and half marathon times, but the ultra’s just didn’t match up. While this year the shorter races you’ve done have similar in speed suggesting you base aerobic fitness is similar, but you’ve been able to covert that speed to good ultra times far better – in effect you’ve shown much greater resilience.

    Any chance you can put together a table of your 10k, half marathon and ultra times through the years to see about the pattern that emerges?

    In terms of periodization of training – doing faster training in winter, and longer training in summer, I suspect this will be maximizing your aerobic fitness over the winter with all your faster sessions but letting your resilience slip, then when you replace the faster training runs with long runs you develop aerobic fitness less and concentrate on building resilience. The danger would be that your aerobic fitness might actually be diminishing during this period of mainly long runs as you put less demands upon the upper end of your aerobic fitness. If your aerobic fitness diminishes then the base line speed you have will diminish with it, so potentially your ultra speed could suffer. Finding the perfect balance between developing both aerobic fitness and resilience may be the key to optimum ultra marathon training.

    For me this year, your diet and dropping some of the least health carbs (wheat really isn’t a healthy food) will have helped you burn more fat when living and exercising, and may have reduced your general level of inflammation helping recovery. Burning more fat will certainly help you be more metabolically resilient. The spreading your longer mileage over back to back runs will also help build resilience, and I believe should place less risk of chronic elevation of cortisol by doing less long training runs, and doing so reduced the risk of over training. The big hill runs should help provide stimulus for the upper end of your aerobic range on the ascent (it’s a bit lit a tempo run) and then on the descent it’ll build your muscle resilience – to me this looks like a great way to provide development of both your aerobic fitness and resilience all in one session.

    If I were to tweak your training I’d suggest not periodizing the faster training so much. Instead just to merge them more so in winter you retain more resilience building. Try your fartlek as hill play, run hard uphills, then recover your breath downhill but still provide that prod to keeping your resilence. For tempo sessions try longer hill ascents and followed with longer descents. With the back to back’s your could try out doing what Lydiard suggests – do a faster tempo run followed by a long slow run, this way you maintain the upper end of your aerobic fitness and fatigue your aerobic fast twitch fibres and develop your slow twitch fibres. With this approach you potentially can main your aerobic fitness and resilience better throughout the year.

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