January 2017

2017: the plan

After failing to get close to finishing in 2016, my big goal for 2017 is the Viking Way. I’m probably already in better shape than I was in 2016, after slowly ramping my milage up during the Autumn. However there’s still a lot of hard work to do. And it might turn out that even my best shot isn’t good enough. But I’d rather try and fail than not have the balls to try.

The other big race is the (“last annual”) Vol State 500k, a road run across the state of Tennessee. I’m probably more suited to this, but the heat will be a new challenge. I’m not sure about finishing goals yet. 6-7 days should be doable (on the grounds that if I can do 270 miles of peat bog in January with a 10kg rucksack in 6.5 days, I should be able to do 314 road miles in a similar time). But mainly this is going to be an adventure.

As a warm-up for the Viking Way I’ve entered the Endurance 24h track race in Helsinki at the end of February. This probably seems a bit silly. But all of my best 100+ mile runs have come 4-8 weeks after another 100 mile run. I’d have preferred a 100 mile trail race in the UK (more similar to the VW and less time/money). But I couldn’t find anything suitable, apart from the Arc of Attrition, which would have required too much time off work (and would probably also have been a bit too hard).

I’m pondering doing the 214k Chiltern Way Ultra too (mainly because not running over the August bank holiday weekend feels wrong). But I’ll probably wait and see how I feel after Vol State.

Here’s hoping this year goes better than 2016...

2016: good riddance

2016 was a pretty miserable year for me, running-wise and generally. Nothing really bad happened (no life changing illnesses/injuries and no-one close to me died), but it was a solid stream of crap.

Things started going wrong in late 2015 with the ‘
wonky finger incident’. I was initially told I’d ‘got away with it’ and was discharged without any physio. Two months later I had a finger that was permanently bent at a 45 degree angle. The NHS weren’t interested (‘your X-ray is normal’) and a private consultant told me that we could try physio, but I was likely to face a choice between living with a 20 degree permanent bend and having surgery which could make things worse. Six weeks of wearing a splint and lot of physio it miraculously ended up more or less straight, although there’s still scar tissue visible, it doesn’t flex ‘backwards’ like my other (hyper-mobile) joints and I’ll probably never be able to play the Maple Leaf Rag properly again.

Back to the running... I’d planned to start training properly for the
Viking Way in early December. The immediate aftermath of the wonky finger fall pushed that back to January. Then all sorts of difficult family stuff happened, and I didn’t really get started properly till February, and had to ramp my milage up too fast. I initially thought that while I wasn’t in great shape I’d got away with it, but I had a really crap run at the Haworth Hobble which left me with painful knees. It was clear from very early in the day that I wasn’t going to finish the Viking Way this time. My knees became painful before 10 miles. Despite the sequence of miscellaneous niggles/pains which followed, I managed to keep running OK-ish up to 90 miles. At that point the wheels suddenly and catastrophically fell off. I could barely get my feet off the ground, let alone run. I trudged into the next checkpoint, barely inside the cut-off and DNF-ed.

Next up was the Northern Traverse, 190 miles along Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route, in early June. I didn’t do much running, to try and let me knees recover. The one thing I wanted to do was
walk the first ~90 miles of the route (I’d done the 2nd ‘half’ last Spring, before entries even opened). I’d planned to do it over the early May bank holiday weekend, but a poorly pet rabbit who needed syringe feeding several times a day, wrecked that plan. I eventually managed to squeeze it into a two day weekend two weeks out. I went into the event planning to treat it as a sleep-deprived walking holiday. Which is essentially what I did. I ran the flats on the first day, and the last 6 miles (spurred on by the pair of head-torches that were closing in on me), but that was it. I was completely shocked to be told at the finish I was first women. 2nd and 3rd had left the 3rd CP before me, and I hadn’t realised that I’d passed them both while they were sleeping.

After another 2.5 months of half-hearted running, and nothing that could be described as proper training, I headed to Sweden for the 253km
Trans Scania. I did a better job of running, but I was painfully slow and I lost huge amounts of time by making more navigational mistakes than I’ve made in the entire rest of my life put together (and I’m honestly not exaggerating!). Lesson learnt: don’t try to navigate through dense forests using a 50k: 1 map.

I hadn’t intended to enter any more races in 2016. The master plan was to sort my knee issues out and slowly ramp the milage up in preparation for the 2017 Viking Way. But
Escape from Meriden grabbed my attention. I treated it as a bit of late season fun, but did spend some time plotting out a fairly efficient route. I struggled through the first night (I’d underestimated how hard starting at midnight on Friday/Saturday after a full week’s work would be) but in the end got to only a couple of miles short of my rough target. Which turned out to be good enough for 10th overall and (just) 1st woman.

In 2014 and 2015 I managed to do things I didn’t think I was capable of (finishing the
Spine Race comfortably and 5th overall at the Thames Ring). Not every year can be a good year though. And looking on the bright-side, 5 years ago I’d never won a single race (apart from the 3-legged race at primary school). I’ve just had a bad running year in which I won two (albeit accidentally, by the skin of my teeth)!