Sunday, 15 January 2012

2011 becomes 2012.


2011 ended on a positive note with two more Woodbank Parkruns squeezed in over the holiday. I managed only my second sub-23 time on New Year’s Eve – just 3 seconds outside the recent PB. The holiday's excesses can't have been too excessive. This final run was also the first and probably the last time when both of my brothers joined me on the same event. What a brill conclusion to the year.

2011 was a magical year with races and faces old and new and amazing weather for the most part. It was magical from the people perspective, with friends to meet on most weekends. The camaraderie and friendship between runners regardless of ability cannot be overstated. There are no barriers; we just do the same thing at whatever speed our genes (plus a bit of training) allow. We still have the same experiences, insights and emotions. There is an unspoken understanding through our common activity that links us. Throw into that mix the post-Ultra surge of endorphins as we reminisce over tea, pie and cake and it is easy to see how we may have a healthy addiction going on.

As each year passes, races fill quicker, winning times get faster and competition increases as more runners who don’t want to miss out “‘ave some of that”. I completed my second Runfurther Grand Slam more comfortably than the first despite it being more intense. This was thanks to keeping healthy throughout with not even a sniffle to worry about. The luck stayed with me with the rapid recovery from the shin injury that forced me to abandon my UTMB (even after a second DNF, the UTMB still holds magical memories and extends a strong draw to me to return to finally get it done).

Some 2011 events that stand out in my mind are the Rainow 5 fell race, Housman 100, Lakeland 100 and Round Rotherham 50. Looking back at the number of pictures taken by others reminds me of how much I did throughout the year. The one taken as I’m a few yards from last month’s 5k PB is priceless. Parkrun Pam captured perfectly the look of serene relaxation that hid the turmoil within as I just about held it together until the line. Armada Photography excelled themselves once again with their Round Rotherham pictures. Runfurther Karen snapped away at Howtown on the Lakeland 100 as I lamented the impending tortuous drag up to High Kop (with a smile on my face), while Harsharn Gill captured the moment of triumph at the final dib of a very long journey.

Here are some statistics to conclude 2011:

Number of runs/events: 51
Total distance: 1,573 miles (including a few 2-mile commutes and a handful of local runs)
Number of PBs: 5 (first-time events not considered)
Number of Ultras: 16
Total number of Ultras since my first Bullock Smithy Hike in 1996: 142
Number of marathons?: I never began counting.

2012 begins with Belle Vue Racers HIT THE TRAIL 5

The arrival of 2012 saw me get my first cold in well over a year, ruining my plans to run the Ovenden Fell Race on Sunday 8th. However, after a slightly more comfortable night on Saturday I did decide to run a more local race in Reddish Vale Country Park – something a little less intense to burn the infection out of me without doing too much damage (hopefully). The 3 mile jog there to EOD left me feeling a little drained but I firmly believed from previous experiences that the exercise would do me good and accelerate my return to fitness. The EODs were unprecedented and the organisers ran out of numbers. Luckily it wasn’t raining because the surplus entry forms with handwritten numbers would not have lasted very long.

As I stood waiting to start and chatted with Percy (from last month’s Gravy Pud fell race), my heart was ticking over at 111bpm after the effort of getting to the race and jogging around a bit. Once off and plodding along, it was hitting the end stops (high 180s) at far too slow a pace. It was obvious that my body was fighting a foe from within, but it still felt better to be outside running than being stuck indoors.

This 5-miler is a very friendly, well marshalled race and it was great to see a part of Stockport I’ve never seen before. Tom Snaith from Stockport Harriers was doing his familiar sterling marshalling job alongside the many other marshals. The route started at the bottom of Tiviot Way near the Portwood roundabout and Tesco Extra and wound in and out up the Reddish Vale valley to the viaduct. Under one arch we went, round and back onto the return leg that began with a short sharp climb up steps (I confess I had to walk). With loops in and out, up and down added in to make the distance up to 5 miles, we eventually crossed over to the right hand side of the river and continued virtually to the start point before turning right on the path for an uphill finish close to Reddish Road. My finishing time of 38:59 was better than I could have hoped for in the circumstances. ‘Plod Queen’ from the forums made my acquaintance afterwards (lovely to meet you PQ). There was talk of Bullock Smithy Hiking and other exciting things Ultra related. I’m sure our paths will cross again soon.

The 3 mile journey back home in the drizzle left me wanting. There was nothing left to run (I did try several times), so I walked. I felt as though I’d run a Hundred. I had to go to bed in the afternoon to recover a little from the effort. My heart rate remained raised into the next day, but a couple of days later I hardly knew I'd been ill. The accelerated banishment had succeeded.

What the rest of 2012 holds for me remains to be seen. I put my name in the Western States 100 hat but such dreams were dashed when my 7% chance of getting through the lottery went as expected last November. I applied for the UTMB too. The lottery is on the 20th January. If only nature had blessed me with the speed gene I might have found myself in the privileged position of already having a place allocated to me in both races, but since I don't, I join everyone else grovelling for those increasingly rare places.

January 20th is the major decision crossroads of 2012. If I do get through the lottery, the UTMB will become my number 1 priority. I would not attempt a Runfurther Grand Slam as well like I did last year. I couldn't anyway because the Bullock Smithy Hike is back in the series and it's the weekend after UTMB. On the other hand, even though the chances are so much better at “less than 1 in 2”, if when the expected happens and I don't get in, the Runfurther series is my oyster. “Grand Slam number 3, here I come.” It will be the only thing I can aspire to.

Regardless of what transpires on the 20th I shall be doing plenty of my favourite Runfurther races, LDWA events, the LDWA Games 100 and Snowdonia Marathon. I intend to replace some of the longer events with more short sharp races like local fell races and the Parkrun. I've already entered this month's local Hayfield fell race events (Lamb's Longer Leg just run). Not only that, I need to get back to some weekday running and, dare I say it, circuit training, which I abandoned several years ago. All of that would require a change in my lifestyle of recent years. Things will have to give to make room for this. The one thing that needs to give the most is computer time and that includes blogging. Don't be surprised if I go quiet. If I do, I'm probably getting faster.


  1. Wow, going back for more punishment on the UTMB. Good luck for the lottery. Not sure which outcome counts as a win. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  2. Thank you, Owen. I hope it's third time lucky for a completion.
    Well done to you with your 2011 completion. I've just seen your blog and commented on the UTMB post (even though I had to guess what to enter into the fields). How many completions have you got?

  3. Just one proper finish. My first try, in 2010, was the year it got cancelled with the storm. The weather's never kind for the UTMB. Storm one year, snow the next. Expect a plague of locust for 2012.

  4. A hell of a year Nick! Good luck on Friday for the draw. My name's in the hat as well, so may need to start thinking about stocking up on locust repellant...

  5. Ha ha, good one Sam. Owen, I think we can be safe from locusts. 2010 and 2011 were the first grotty years since the race's inception, as I understand. I expect a good one this year.