Long time no see!
I direct you to 2016 New Year Resolution no7 – I will keep my blog more up-to-date.
Epic fail 1! Utterly hopeless. This end-of-year round-up will, in fact, be my THIRD – that’s right, just my third post of the year. A shambles. Especially considering that many of the events I will now have to sum up in a paragraph probably deserved entries in their own right. Oh well, that’s one New Year Resolution in the bag for 2017. Please click the links down the side of this post to read previous efforts, (or just don’t bother!)
So, while I am highlighting my inadequacies, here is a brief review of my other 2016 Resolutions:
1 – beat 1200 miles and 143 training events.
Phew! Well at least I can look one Resolution in the eye. I have utterly slaughtered this one. As it stands (29th December) I’m going to fall a few miles short of 1800 for 2016 (about 1760) and this morning was my 175th outing of the year, (see frosty pics below.) Very happy with that. Will try and beat it next year, but it gets harder every year.
2 – run Lakeland Trails 110k again (faster!)
Well, half achieved, in that I completed again. Not faster though! More detail in a moment.
3 – run a 100 mile race.
This was always going to be more of a 2017 target than 2016, and hopefully something I will achieve in May 2017.
4 – run a half marathon PB.
In actual fact, I only really had to enter a race to do this. My PB stood at 1hr 33 mins from about 4 years ago. I managed to get into the Leicester half marathon in October and duly ran 1h23m59s. So I now have a reasonable half PB to attack in future.
So that’s 4 of 6 targets achieved so far.
5 – incorporate cross training and core exercises into my training.
Right, now it’s going to start to get messy. The problem is, if I’m fit and I have a choice between the cross trainer in our conservatory or running outside, I’m going to pick outdoors everytime. The cross trainer only gets dusted off when I’m injured. And, thankfully, I have had an injury free year to date. Therefore, I’ve run a lot of miles and left the core training until ‘tomorrow’. I really need to improve on this next year.
6 – improve my diet.
Oh sweet Lord what was I thinking?! I think one of the only draw-backs of my increasing mileage is the fact that my brain is now utterly convinced that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. And, whilst the scales may indicate this is largely true, it MUST also be true that, if I could only stop eating pizza, chinese, cake and biscuits as the four staple corners of my diet, I would SURELY be able to run both further and faster! MUST DO BETTER!!!
7 – keep my blog up-to-date.
Next year, Sticks, next year.
8 – raise money for Child Death Helpline.
Details in a moment, but proud and delighted with the amount raised again.
OK, that wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. 2017 running resolutions to follow at the end of this post, but first, let’s round up what I got up to from June until December. Make yourself a brew or crack open the wine, let’s do this!
My last blast of high mileage output before tapering from the 110k came in half term week at the start of June. I logged 110 miles in 8 days, a huge amount for me, rounding it off with the Lakeland Trails Marathon at Coniston on Sunday 5th June.
Race day itself was absolutely roasting – probably the highest temperature I have ever run in. Due to having over 80 miles in my legs that week, Rob (Conti Lightning/Thunder buddy and 110k partner) and I decided to treat it as a training trot as opposed to a race. Thank goodness we did. The oppressive conditions put a lot of runners in distress, even Rob had a moment a couple of miles from home. I came home in 4hrs 27mins – 14 minutes slower than the previous year. Anyone who raced it and survived – kudos. That was tough!
Saturday 2nd July – Lakeland Trails Ultimate Trails 110k.
First things first, it was an honour to run in memory of Iestyn Keir (12) just as it had been to run in memory of Alisha Bartolini (18) the year before. I am so proud of the money raised for both Meningitis Now (£2500) and Child Death Helpline (£1000). Thank you so much from myself and the families involved.
I did say, in my final blog of 2015, that I would need good luck to beat my 2015 time of 17hrs 37 minutes, and so it proved. I genuinely feel that I was fitter, faster, better prepared and had trained more sensibly for 2016. The weather ultimately had a massive impact on my run but, in all honesty, I think I sowed my own seeds of failure in the week leading up to the event. (It’s all relative btw, I don’t see the race as a failure. I finished in adversity, something I am, if anything, more proud of. But I thought I would be quicker, and I wasn’t!)
Let’s just compare my pre-race preparations from 2015 and 2016:
2015 week build-up: early nights.
2016 week build-up: report writing until midnight/1am.
2015 race day prep: half day at work, afternoon nap in cottage, pile of pasta, evening nap still in comfy bed in a comfy cottage.
2016 race day prep: finish work at 3.30, pick-up kids, load car with camping stuff, get stuck in traffic, put up tent, register for race, cook pasta, fail to fall asleep at all as too pumped up for race to drop off at 9pm for a midnight start!
2015 weather: perfect.
2016 weather: p***ed it down most of day.
2015 race: skipped round, took photos, made a film for chuff’s sake! Had a couple of wobbles but generally skipped round in 17hrs 37mins.
2016 race: felt really sleepy in night hours, recovered, got soaked through, conditions underfoot sapped energy – especially stage 7 over moors, took 3 pics all day. Staggered (literally) home in 18hrs 44mins. First ever visit to a medical tent, narrowly avoided passing out!
Firstly I need to say thanks to my running mate, Rob Lister. I think we are both undecided on whether it is a good thing or not to plan to run a race like this together. I’m pretty certain I prefer the solitude and the personal suffering route, to please myself and go at whatever pace I feel or rest when I want. But I think we can both say that, when the going got really tough in those last 15 miles and we both felt like packing it all in, having someone there to gee you up and chat to was invaluable. I’m pretty certain Rob could have gone quicker on the day but, in the end, we just about dragged each other to the finish! Cheers Rob!
Secondly, I’m making it all sound bad, but we (mostly) had a great day out! The race organisers, Graham Patten and his Lakeland Trails team, pulled out all the stops. The food was incredible and plentiful! The marshals stood outside in foul conditions all day were amazing. To everyone – thanks. We had a cracking run for the most part. Once you’re wet, you’re wet; it wasn’t freezing or anything so the rain didn’t unduly bother us. I knew I was more comfortable and moving better for the majority of the day. I just got more and more baffled as we slipped further and further behind my target times at each checkpoint! I can only really put it down to how slippy it was during any descent – and the need for sleep. We would still have been quicker than 2015 had we been capable of running in from Stake Pass. But Rob and I both looked at each other at that point, and subconsciously knew we were spent. I am pretty proud of how we held it together that last 3 hours or so.
Finally, the aftermath! There was no posing for pictures and post race pints this year! I was goosed. Cold and soaked to the skin, the shivers started straight away. ‘Just grab some hot food and get out of the wet clothes,’ I thought. Unfortunately my t-shirt was stuck to my back! I knew my pack was rubbing in the wet over 3 layers and a waterproof, but had underestimated how much.
“You need to get that seen to!” said Leanne. (Once my t-shirt, and therefore skin, had been peeled from my back!)
“No, I need to go to bed!” says me.
Anyway, I lost that argument and, whilst we waited to be seen by the kind medical volunteers, my body decided it had had quite enough thanks. I sat down quickly as I felt myself going, which certainly grabbed the medics attention. She wasn’t impressed with the state of my back either and treated me wonderfully, despite my point blank refusal to get in the freezing cold shower! She even sponsored me the next day.
Finally I was patched up and went straight to bed (in the tent!) where I slept like a log for absolutely ages! Thanks once again to the medical team. You were amazing!
110k lessons learned:
- I will never underestimate sleep deprivation again. I need to make sure I am properly rested sleep-wise for future Ultras as I am not good when tiredness (the sleep variety) kicks in. (Anyone who knows me will tell you I can nap on a washing line, so it’s hardly surprising!)
- On the positive side, if Ultras really are 90% mental perseverance, I have learned again that I do not give in easily. Just keep putting one foot in-front of the other, and repeat to the finish. Any other information is expendable. It would have to be something pretty serious: injury, medical advice, missed time deadline etc for me to drop out.
- Conditions WILL affect your race. Comparisons of the same race in different years are largely futile as, the further you run, the more conditions underfoot and overhead will mean that it is essentially a different race – especially when comparing hard-baked footpaths to muddy trails. There were plenty of people who went faster in 2016 than 2015, some considerably so, therefore I still feel that my tiredness affected my performance more than the weather.
- It took me a bit of time to come to terms with being ‘slower’ the 2nd time. I’ve been pretty lucky running PBs with each race recently. But 110k in the Lakes is 110k in the Lakes. Pro-athletes don’t have to do a week at work, be a parent and rock up at a race after putting up a family tent! Finishing is finishing and now, if anything, I’m prouder of my 2016 performance, (nearly!)
(nb. If you want to watch the film of the my 2015 debut, follow the link below. Remember, I broke every You Tube copyright law in the book, so you cannot watch it on mobile devices (phone, iPad). Watch it on a proper computer, or put You Tube on your Smart TV and search for ‘#110kforAlisha’. Make sure you enjoy the music – I’m a fugitive!)
#110kforAlisha – my film of the 2015 Lakeland Trails Ultimate Trail.
July & August 2016.
July was mostly spent resting and finishing off the school term. This was a little more time consuming than usual as I was leaving Lowton West after 13 years and moving to a new job at St. Catharine’s in Scholes. Exciting times, but sad too – saying goodbye to the families I have taught over the years and the close friends I made while teaching there. It has to be said that social media makes that kind of thing much easier these days, as I feel I see more of them all now than I did when I worked there!
I spent a bit of time (a bit too much!) in my new school sorting things out, but I am fortunate to be now working with a staff just as kind and friendly. I/we have plans to inspire the families to get fit in the coming months as well as the deeply unfortunate need to raise more money for another tragic cause. (More later.)
At the end of July I was again invited to be part of the Continental tyres sponsors team for the annual 24 hour Conti Thunder Run. I love this event and love the people I get to run with – a truly great bunch, one-and-all. Instead of busting a gut to win (which we couldn’t anyway!) we run hard but enjoy the social catch-up that 30 hours in a field brings! Thanks to Felix, Karolina, Christoph and Hayley from Continental, and to Rob, Pedro and Brad for all being such good company.
This year’s summer holiday was a couple of weeks in the tent near Barmouth in Wales; a place we know well and the kids love. It also means Leanne and I are pretty familiar with the running routes around as we began to prepare for Autumn 10ks, half marathons and marathons. We even hired bikes and had our first family bike ride with our friends, the Bonds! Poor little Nancy (aged 5) cycled 13 miles on her tiny bike, turning about 300 reps a minute while we all cruised along using gears!
The day I ran 84 miles by accident! (Or, supporting Ian Yates at the UGB200!)
One of the joys of joining a running club is the different people you meet who, whilst all of differing abilities, all share the same passion. A great example of this is Ian Yates.
I’d only really met and spoken to him once, but Leanne came home from a training session saying she’d spoken to this bloke who was running a race from Southport to Hull, 200 miles along the Trans-Pennine Way, in memory of his Dad. He had a few people planning to meet him in the initial stages but, once he crossed the Pennines, he would be on his own. We contacted him to offer our support.
Thus it was that we drove over to Bradford on a wet (very wet) Sunday evening, dropped the kids off at my parents, then moved on towards Doncaster to pick up the Trans-Pennine route and join Ian. Leanne was going to support in the car whilst I accompanied Ian through the night. I thought I might be able to support him towards Hull – maybe 30-35 miles.
If ANY person this year deserves a write-up of their own, it’s Ian’s performance that followed in the next day or so. Massive kudos also to Cat D’Ascendis, also from Wigan, who also finished. I didn’t know her at the time – I do now!
Only 25 hardly souls started the race, and after the soaking they got that first night and next day on the Pennines, they were starting to drop. Ian had been steadily plodding away at the back (we were watching on the live tracker!) but by the time we met up he had caught a decent number of others. To a man/woman they all dived into sleeping bags at the next rest station! But Ian had met us and had woken up! “Let’s do the next stage and see how it goes!” he said. So off we went on the 14 miles to a little hamlet called Sykehouse. Just by staying awake, Ian had jumped up into 3rd place!
That night it rained and rained. I was fresh but Ian was on his 2nd night without sleep. He was amazing – even more so when we reached the next feed station and Ian simply got changed and ploughed on! By then we had closed right in on the 2nd place guy and, using the live tracker, we could see exactly where our opposition was!
Food was eaten on the move, running repairs to clothing, feet, watches and phones etc was also on the move. Leanne did an amazing job of providing for us so that we could just keep moving.
By the time we reached Blacktoft on the banks of the Humber, Ian had completed 169 miles and myself 46. This was where I planned to leave him initially, but by this stage Leanne and I were fully invested in the mission to support Ian. “If you two are staying, I’m going to the end tonight!” he confidently predicted – bravely too, considering it was well over 30 miles away! I felt great – I was going with him!
(Above: Ian repairs his feet, my feet after nearly 50 miles, Rich arrives to carry us!)
We were joined for the next stage by a friend of Ian’s, Rich Harrison, as we set off towards the Humber Bridge, our next target, 16 miles away. Rich’s enthusiasm was so infectious – just what we needed at the time. Ian’s strength was remarkable. He just knocked off a mile at a time and refused to stop. By this stage he was nearing 60 hours on his feet…
We reached the Humber Bridge at about 7pm and by now, with 17 miles left, there was no doubt we were going to finish this. Leanne brilliantly arrived with Domino’s which we demolished and even shared with some of the organisers, who by this stage hadn’t slept for 3 days themselves!
We left the Bridge at sunset to run (walk!) to the Hull waterfront before taking the last leg of the Trans-Pennine Trail over to the coast at Hornsea. Nothing could stop Ian now – we thought…!
We were in high spirits and fair charging towards Hull. The views were spectacular across the river at sunset – who would have thought Hull could look so good? Next we were surprised by yet more of Ian’s running friends – Mark and Kristina, who were so inspired by Ian’s efforts that they wanted to come and guide him through town. Little did we all know how vital this would be.
We hit the riverfront and passed retail parks and assorted other buildings. As darkness fell we could see the recently renovated quay sliding ever closer – marking the point that we would leave the river. Then it all started to unravel…
We reached the end of a Pier – but the bridge to the other side was shut! We back-tracked half a mile or so to the retail park where Kristina and Mark plotted an alternative route to the waterfront. It was a bit of a long way round and the enthusiasm drained from Ian and I like a smashed bottle. Kristina and Mark were not that happy to be walking through some of the less salubrious districts of Hull themselves! It took a miserable hour to reach the beautiful quayside where Leanne was waiting for us again.
The next kick to our waning enthusiasm was the Trans-Pennine Trail signpost. ‘HORNSEA – 15 miles’! We couldn’t believe it! It was only supposed to be 17 miles from the bridge and we’d already walked nearly 7 miles from there!
I slumped on a bench. I couldn’t think about Ian anymore. I’d done nearly 70 miles myself now. I just wanted to get in the car and drive home with Leanne. Poor Mark and Kristina too – they were giving up their own time at approaching 11 o’clock on a Sunday night and were being rewarded by having to cheerlead us to our feet to get us going again. I honestly have no idea where Ian was finding his strength as I had only been going 24 hours and I felt beaten – he’d now been going for 64 hours and just under 200 miles!!!
Anyway, somehow, get going we did. Mark and Kristina guided us through even dodgier parts of Hull (how was that even possible?!) and out onto the last stretch of path. We now had 13 miles on a disused railway line, in an arrow straight line, all the way to Hornsea and the finish.
I don’t even have pictures of Mark and Kristina to show – I was too tired to take them. But it was only their kindness and guidance that got us through Hull. I have no idea what would have happened without them! THANK YOU!!!
That last 13 miles was the hardest thing I have ever done, I think. (it’s difficult to remember it!) We were hillucinating all kinds of weird and wonderful things in the trees: stormtroopers, babies bundled up, lions, lots of ghosts. I swear I fell asleep walking at one point, just staring at the light from my headtorch. Ian tried to curl up and go to sleep on a footbridge!
Another friend of Ian’s, Lainey, came and met us 5 miles from the end in the middle of nowhere. It perked Ian up but I just spent the whole conversation trying to find somewhere to lie down. Fortunately there was nowhere.
And so, at about 3.30am, we staggered over the finish line. I’d done 84 miles in 27 hours. Sounds good until you see what Ian did – 215 miles, just under 70 hours! Truly incredible!
He even had energy for photos and interviews! Not me, I was straight into our car and asleep before Leanne even turned the engine on!
Ian, your performance that day was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. He still tells everyone he meets that he’s not really a runner! Then he tells me to enter this race next year as he thinks I might win it – he doesn’t seem to remember that I only joined him for the last 80 miles last year and couldn’t keep up with HIM! Single-minded, determined, brave, driven – I could go on forever. But if I ever feel tired running now I think of Ian and remember that I don’t actually know what tired is! Well done again, mate – you are every bit a runner!
Right, sorry. Went on for ages there – Ian earned it though. But now, back to important matters – me!
September & October 2016 – PB season.
Sunday 5th September – Wigan 10k. New PB of 36m50s.
I headed to the Wigan 10k less than two weeks later not feeling confident. I’d barely put my trainers on after the 84 mile epic above. If I could just get close to my PB of 38m13s I would be delighted. Leanne was running too and it was amazing to be part of the Wigan Harriers. Suddenly, everywhere we turned were people we knew! I felt a bit of pressure though; usually, I was just running for myself and only I would know. This time, everyone at the club would know how everyone ran. Gulp!
It’s a fast first mile, so I set off like a train just thinking that I would simply see how long I could last. By the time we were round the stadium at halfway I was pretty tired but I knew I was in front of schedule.
After that I never looked at my watch again. I just tried to run to the next km marker as fast as I could. Up the hill towards the park I was all in, but was still catching the guy in front. There weren’t that many other runners around either. By the time I hit the home straight I could see the clock; the seconds were ticking. 33, 34, 35… If I could just make it in before 59 I would break 38 minutes.
The clock ticked through 50 seconds as I went over the line. I was so tired! It’s funny how the level of exhaustion feels greater after a 10k than an Ultra; a different type of pain, a ‘Don’t ever do that to me again, please!’ type of pain!
It was only a few seconds later that I actually saw the time on my watch – not 37.50, but 36.50! I was stunned. I thought it was wrong! I asked another runner what time they had! But, once recovered, I was thrilled. I was even happier later to find that I’d finished 19th overall in a field of 3100 and was first Vet40. Plus, Harriers won the team comp too!
The girls were with grandparents, so Leanne and I had a rare child-free afternoon to spend in the pub with our fellow Harriers! Leanne was shattered though so she went home and left me to it. (The next day we discovered that she was pregnant with our third child, which explained a lot!)
Sunday 9th October – PlusNet Yorkshire Marathon, York. New PB of 3h11m34s.
5 weeks later I was on the startline at York. I was pretty confident of beating my 3.15.55 PB as long as I didn’t blow up. But training had gone a bit off track when I could only really run at weekends for a couple of weeks. I’d got the long runs in but knew in my heart-of-hearts I wasn’t quite ready to go to the low 3 hour times of which I am probably capable.
Paul Platt from the club was also running and also hoping to go sub 3.15 so we set off together. We weren’t together long but it settled us both down. It was great running through the City in the first mile – Leanne and the girls were waiting as I passed the Minster about a mile in.
I went through halfway in 1hr 32mins and, aerobically felt good, but my legs were missing those fast 10 milers I should have done in training and I knew I would have to reign in the pace. The second half was tougher but Mum and Dad were there at 17, 19 and 23 miles to give me a much need boost and I finished reasonably strongly in a PB of 3hrs 11mins and 34secs.
It’s a good marker and a good target for future. It’s also a good for age Vet 40 time which means I qualify for the London Marathon in 2017. I think I could go close to sub 3 hours so need to train properly for that one.
An added extra was meeting stand-up comedian and keen runner Paul Tonkinson in the finish area. I’d seen him the first time I ever went to the Comedy Store and read his monthly article in Runner’s World. He was a really nice guy and happily chatted about our respective races – and the fact that we were all interlopers from the other side of t’ills! (I don’t think I should really count in that as a Yorkshireman!)
Two PBs down, one to go…
Sunday 23rd October – Leicester Half Marathon; New PB of 1hr 23mins 59secs.
One second under 1.24, but I’ll take that second thanks! I enjoyed the race, I enjoyed the day. Again, I didn’t train much between the marathon and the half, just stayed loose. I just tried to run as quickly as I could without getting too tired, settled at around 6m30 pace and just waited to see what happened.
I was pleased that, suddenly, inside the last 3 miles, the runners I’d been behind for 10 miles began to fall back towards me. Suddenly I was flying. The race winds through town at the end before climbing for a mile to the finish. I was catching people all the way and loved the hill – there were so many spectators there. I was too fast for Leanne and the girls as well – they never saw me finish!
Again, this is another good PB to aim for in future as I know I can go quicker, but I was very pleased with the run. I was also very pleased for our friend Leanne Bond, who completed her first half marathon in good shape too! Well done, Leanne!
(Above: me before, Leanne Bond after!)
November & December 2016 – Chill-out time.
Since then I’ve just been ticking over really. I’ve done a few club cross-countries, but not really performed to potential in any of them. I enjoy them, and I try to turn up for the team whenever possible. But my legs haven’t been as keen as I have! I logged under 100 miles in November for the first month in ages! December was as frenetic at school as ever so I’ve only nudged over 100 by running 24 miles with my brother one Saturday morning and doing 40 miles in the last 4 days now the Christmas rush is over!
(Above: relaxed running – with the club, with the girls on bikes, with my brother.)
My mojo will be good to go by 2017 though, so here’s the goals for next year…
2017 Running Resolutions.
1 – Beat this year’s mileage (go over 1800 miles) and outings. This will definitely be tough next year. I need to stay injury free for a start! But if I do, the first half of the year should see me well on the way.
2 – Run a 100 mile race. Thanks to GB Ultras (The guys who organise the UGB200) I am running my first 50 mile race in April, from Liverpool to Manchester. Then, providing everything is OK with the baby, I will be joining them to run it there and back in the 100 mile version. This will be for charity too; details will follow in the New Year. (#legitforLogan)
3 – Marshal at a race. I am planning on contacting Graham Patten of Lakeland Trails to offer my services at a couple of events next year. (Again, pending the baby being healthy.) I am planning on missing the 110k this year to try other things, but my brother is entered for his debut ultra, so helping out would be a great way to say thanks for everything Lakeland Trails have done for my running. (If you are reading this Graham, then I will be in touch!)
4 – Take Hannah and Nancy to Parkrun. Trickier than it sounds, as I really love going out early on my long runs on a Saturday. But the girls are currently quite keen so I need to strike now before they stop being keen!
5- Get St Catharine’s running! The new term will be quite emotional at school I suspect due to some tragic news received over the holidays. (They say these things happen in threes – if so, this is the third such tragedy I have experienced in three years so I sincerely hope it’s the last.) Anyway, we were already planning a running club at school to lead up to the new Wigan half marathon, 5k and 1 mile family run on March 19th. Now I suspect lots of people will be motivated to have a go at whichever distance they feel they can achieve and raise some money for a worthwhile cause into the bargain. Some negatives cannot be turned into positives, but if any little thing can help then I for one will have a go. Let’s go St Cats! #legitforLogan
6 – Try and PB at 100 miles, 50 miles, marathon, half, 10k and 5k. Some are easily done, others not. 100 and 50 miles will be OK as, so long as I finish, I will PB! The same with a 5k, as I’ve only run one before and just broke 20 minutes. I can beat the marathon too, but I may not enter one next year! The half should be achievable, especially if I choose my race carefully. It’s the 10k that will be hard – I can’t see how I can ever run that well again!
7 – Update the blog regularly! Need I say more? Resolution no7 remains the same!
8 – Baby buggy running! This is a fitting last resolution. To say the baby news was a shock to Leanne and I is an understatement! But we are all excited now, especially the girls, and we will definitely be purchasing a proper running buggy to help Leanne get fit after the pregnancy and for me to be able to run while helping out with the baby at the same time! Look out local Parkruns and pavements – the Morgan-Hillam’s are coming and they will have wheels!!!
So there we go, another year whizzes by. Some things were expected, others not so. Most of the year has been exceptionally happy; but tragedy has again reared it’s head. I can only repeat what I have said before – life is way too short, much shorter than we imagine, as we rarely have much warning of tragedy round the corner. So get out there, do amazing things; do wonderful things for other people, but do wonderful things for yourself too. Challenge yourself. Attempt something you’re not sure you can do. Drag a loved one or friend along to try it with you. The sense of achievement will drive you on – and you may inspire someone else while you do it. Do things that make you happy; pack in things that make you sad.
2017 – go and get it!
Happy New Year everyone!