So, I began the year in great spirits. I was training really hard with my main objective of the year going to be my 1057mile Rip-run. My coach Mimi Anderson was being very supportive in what I wanted to achieve in my aims. I was slightly panicking as I knew I had taken on a hell of a challenge but that my only chance was to train hard & then just do my best at the time.
Thankfully, to take my mind off all of this we had just bought our first boat! A 45ft Narrowboat named Tara. Have to say, this is the best thing we’ve ever done. We’d hired a boat previously & fell in love with the way of life on the canals & after much debate we finally took the plunge & bought one. This did have the effect of depleting our life savings a bit & we looked on a little nervously at the old boiler in the house & hoped that it would make it through another winter. (It’s still going strong). In between my job & working on the boat, which I’ve found is a never ending task, I was fitting in my training quite nicely with plenty of runs along the river & the occasional run along the NDW for my hill work. Those that follow me know that I am a fan of twitter & was tweeting my training, as most do. This is when my Troll started!
I had entered the UTLD 100 in the previous July & so had my troll, whenever I tweeted a training run, he was there with his retort saying how rubbish it was & that it wasn’t going to be any good for the Lakes. I didn’t feed him & that just whipped him up even more. It was sad really but I just ignored him & got on with the job in hand. There’ll be more to come from this chap later in the review.
Moving on towards the end of Feb & that’s when the trouble started with my Rip-run. A double booking with the motorhome I was going to rent seemed to be the catalyst for a whole string of catastrophes that was just about to happen & which culminated with breaking my leg.
After cancelling nearly all of my races, apart from the UTLD (which for some reason they wouldn’t defer) & getting the all clear from the Orthopaedic consultant on my Birthday I set about my recovery program. The orthopod had already told me that it would be a long time before my recovery was complete & factoring in the muscle wastage on my leg it would also be very tough. Couple this to my being self-employed & not being able to work for nearly 8 weeks, I would have to build the business up again & at the same time try to get my training back to a level near where I was only 8 weeks previously. This wasn’t going to happen & my training consisted mainly of 4-5mile runs along the river, when I say runs, I mean plods for most of them. I didn’t have any structure for them but was just glad to be getting back out there & working on building up the muscle on my leg. With this though, my Troll went into overdrive & whenever I tweeted that I’d done a run, bang it came back, “Not good enough for the lakes” Even when I tweeted I’d had a fast run of 5 miles at 8min mile pace he was there, “I’d like to see you try that at the lakes”. By now I was finding this chap quite funny & was actually encouraging him, not replying to him but leaving the door open for his replies. Give them enough rope etc etc….
One of the races I cancelled when I broke my leg was the GUCR, a race I had run & crewed before & one of my favourites. Being given the all clear to run again & being mobile I volunteered to “Give back” & help crew a CP on the race. Having sat in terrible traffic to get to the start, I then spent one of the best weekends ever helping runners achieve their goal of a finish on what is one of the toughest races on the Calendar. Keeping up with my buoyant mood of “Giving back”, I set up my own unofficial check point for the NDW50 when I moored my boat by the bridge where the NDW crosses the River Wey & proceeded to dole out bacon butties & jelly babies to any runner who wanted them. Put a smile on quite a few runners faces that day. Tara is now the NDW Bacon Boat & she may be back next year as well.
Onto July & the day before the UTLD100 came. Even though I was in no shape to start as my fitness level was really low, off I went to the Lakes to have a good go at it. I met up with a few buddys up at the camp site & even said hello to “The Troll”.
Needless to say, the race wasn’t a huge success, my lack of training really told on what is quite a punishing course & after 32hrs & 90miles I had to call it a day. My quads were totally shot & with the extreme rainfall, I was suffering badly with the cold. Normally you can just keep moving towards the finish line but my quads were telling me otherwise & I was barely able to walk. My core temperature was dropping all the time & hypothermia was setting in. I was up to that point running with a couple of other runners & had told them to push on as I knew I wouldn’t finish but was fairly confident of (eventually) getting to the next CP. Both runners had gone on but one of them, Ian Haslett had come back as he was worried about me & gave up his race to get me down off the Mountain & back to safety. He even had his 7months pregnant wife on standby to come & pick us up from a roadside if we couldn’t get a lift from the organisers quickly enough. A true gentleman in a tough old world.
We made it back to the finish ok & after a couple of cups of tea, some chocolate & some heavy duty warming up I went off to recover in my tent & slept like the dead for a few hours. Totally, shattered I made the drive home in daylight having to stop at every service station on the way home for an hours sleep. Took me FOREVER to get home & even longer for my legs to recover.
Next on the agenda was the Cotswold 100 but an opportunity came up for me to run the inaugural Thames Gateway 100, this didn’t quite turn out to be the best decision I’ve ever made & I did blog this one as it was a total cock-up from the start.
It’s now been confirmed that the organiser has gone bust but it’s a shame that he opened his races in 2014 for entries so some folk have lost their entry fees. With the rise of the Ultra scene & the proliferation of Ultra races, some people will take on more than they can handle & I do feel that we may see a lot more of this in future.
Shortly after this race I had the bad news that a good friend of mine had died of a heart attack whilst out on a training run. It certainly brought home how fragile we are & how much we take being healthy for granted.
Into September & another inaugural race, this time it was the Cotswold 102 organised by Kurt Dunsterhoff, I was feeling really fit going into this but an unexpected couple of days at the hospital just before the race meant that I was exhausted before I’d even run a step. I’ll be back for this one next year though as I didn’t do it the justice this race deserved. The organisation was brilliant though & a massive relief compared to the last race. Kurt organises quite a few races & this 100 is only going to get more & more popular.
Onto my last race of the year & this was the much Vaunted Caesers Camp 100 which takes place on the Army training ground at Aldershot. I had entered this earlier in the year to buddy run with a friend of mine & hopefully get him round to his first 100mile finish. We had run a couple of sessions over on the training area itself but as we didn’t know the race route we just ran up & down as many of the hills as we could. Knowing Henk, we knew it wouldn’t be an easy route but after an hour of those hills I was starting to doubt the fact that I could run the race. They were horrific, the relentless up & downs were playing havoc with my quads. I still felt that they weren’t fully recovered from the UTLD & the other two races I had done hadn’t helped them.
Come race day & nothing went to plan for my racing partner & he was suffering with sickness from the off & my race plan for us went to pot. We went through the first 10miles 30mins slower than planned & then took nearly 2hrs 30mins to cover the next 5 miles. I had to make the decision to tell him to stop at the 15mile CP as there was no way we could make the cut offs at this speed. After leaving him in the capable hands of Dick Kearn & James Elson at the CP, I shot off as fast as I could to try & make up some lost time. I covered the 5 miles back to the Start/finish CP in just under 40mins. Rookie error there as I then spent the next couple of hours regretting going so fast. Still, I ended up finishing the race in 9th place in a time of 26hrs 45mins. This race had everything, runnable trails, hills you had to walk, downhills so steep & muddy you could just about manage to get down, sun, wind & a fantastic mini storm that tore apart CP2 while I was standing in it.
I was very glad to have been a part of this race as due to more & more bureaucracy it was to be the very last one. RIP Caeser, Henk had one hell of a race there.
Looking forward to 2014 & hoping that I manage to stay injury free for a very busy racing year. See some of you folks out there.
Oh my troll, oh yes, nearly forgot about him. A word of advice, “If you are going to Troll someone about a race & tell them that they’re going to be rubbish, try & make sure you get further than the person you’re trolling & not stop at 41miles”