After dipping my toes into ultra running in 2021; this year was all about upping my mileage and taking on challenges that scared me. Through some misfires I learned a few lessons on how to go farther, along with plenty on what NOT to do.
However it's also the year that running became more of an unhealthy obsession, a commitment that started to negatively impact the rest of my life and something that, on reflection, I'd need to greatly improve going into 2023.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, here's a round up of the year:
Longest distance event: Gower Ultra at 81km in October
Highest mileage in a week: 122km in December
Highest mileage in a month: 470km in December
Total yearly mileage: 4,081km
Proudest moment: crossing the line of the Summer Green Man hand in hand with my daughter
Worst moment: sitting on a grassy verge in Stanton, shivering uncontrollably whilst calling in a DNF for Race to the Tower
Most beautiful moment: seeing the gorgeous Welsh hills unveiled as the sun rose over the start of the EDDUM
Toughest moment: THE REST OF THE EDDUM
Races & Events
Running Punks All You Can Eat Buffet
First big RP event I attended and absolutely loved it.
The guys put on a "Backyard" format race: with a lap around Pontcanna Fields you could do as many times as you liked. What made this special was folks could drop in and out throughout the day, hang out at the checkpoint and go at whatever pace they liked. Met so many of the folks that, until that point, had been profile pics on Twitter.
Was coming out of a niggle in my knee and used the lap format to check I was good to go for the VOGUM the following week.
Vale of Glamorgan Ultra (VOGUM)
My first even with Pegasus Ultra Running; a small scrappy and heavily respected events company I will be joining many times in the future due to the care and support they give their runners.
Also the ultra I enjoyed the most out of all I've done. A wonderful vibe throughout where I got to run with a few lovely folks who pulled me along right to the end.
Epynt Dinky Donkey Ultra (EDDUM)
The hardest thing I've ever done; 49 miles of relentless elevation, tough terrain and tricky navigation in the middle of nowhere.
Sure did help that it was also in a beautiful setting, with wonderful support and driven "just keep pushing" fellow runners with a grit I won't soon forget.
Summer Green Man Ultra
My nemesis, my first official ultra event back in 2021 and also my first official DNF the same day.
Returned in 2022. Didn't exactly smash it as my stomach contents lay in multiple locations on route, but the lessons I'd learned through the year pulled me through to running over the line hand in hand with Ellie, my daughter. Proudest moment of my life.
The unofficial Running Punks half had a huge turnout, with folks travelling from across the country to meet up.
Llanelli is an out and back, which means for ~5 beautiful kilometers you are passing other punks high fiving, cheering and egging each other on in a way that made my heart soar.
Which is probably why I ended up getting a PB I'm super happy with of 1:41:50
Gower Ultra 50
Longest race I've attempted at 51 miles and the last main event of the year. Here's where all the lessons I learned the hard way were put to the test.
I couldn't be happier with completing it, and in a respectable time, without hurling. This was the one where I feel I'd turned a corner and learned how to fuel properly in a sustainable way.
Run Up To Christmas Virtual Challenge
Typically a time of year where it is difficult to remain motivated, this challenge raising money for Mind and GoodGym did the opposite and pushed me to run farther than I'd ever gone in a month.
Ended up 1st male in the Individual rankings; happily conceding a podium position to an all female line up of absolute legends.
It's important to remember that failures teach you far more than successes, and if there isn't a real chance of failure in an event you are doing, you've likely chosen the wrong challenge.
...At least that's what I tell myself... 😅
Took a friend for his first proper trail run round Cheddar Gorge after some heavy rainfall.
Top of the first climb, taking my gloves off to snap a photo, slid on an unexpected bit of mud and landed square & rather heavily on my left ribs.
Winded and in not a small amount of pain, thought it was just a bad bruise and continued on, sheepishly laughing it off whilst we finished the 10k.
Nope, broken ribs, multiple fractures, took months of recovery and a lot of stubborness to keep training (should probably not have continue training truth be told). Lifting Ellie was a challenge for a few weeks and all!
Still harbour a fear of falling that slows me down on technical trails to a crawl.
Race to the Tower DNF
My big main event of the year, a 52 mile trail ultra from Stroud to Broadway Tower with some serious elevation.
Everything was going so well, I was trained up, had tapered properly, got some great support from my folks so I could get to the start line well rested & thought I'd nailed down my race day strategy.
Stomach rebelled at the Hayles checkpoint and it's contents ended up all over the trail. The whole thing threw me for six, I couldn't eat a bite and could barely take on water. At Stanton, a village less than 8 miles from the finish line, I plopped down on a grassy verge, called Race HQ to tell them I won't be finishing then asked my parents for a lift home.
This started a long journey of learning about how I should be fuelling my body, what did and did not work for me and what I could eat to keep my stomach from going all gooey in the later stages of an event.
I'd like to say I nailed it on the race after, but it took both the EDDUM (threw up once and couldn't eat for hours) and the Summer Green Man (threw up three times) before I started to understand where the problem was.
The Gower Ultra 50 was the first one where I'd finally got it sorted, and now I'm happy with my nutrition plan, along with how to deal with GI issues mid race in a way that reduces the risk of DNFing.
My stable plan is now:
- 500ml plain water an hour
- 1 saltstick capsule every 30 mins for electrolytes
- 40-60g carbs an hour, max 300 cals, eating every 30 mins, alternating between sweet and savoury, mixture of types including some proteins and fats
Over Training & Obsession
One thing that's become increasingly apparently after I've had a rest week for Christmas is just how tired, exhausted and "ground down" I felt after pushing so hard in December.
At work I've felt myself struggling to concentrate, whilst at home I've been snappier (likely not very nice to be around!) and unmotivated when it comes to house jobs.
Multiple days a week I'm getting up between 04:00 and 05:00, doing a 10km+ run then starting a full day of work, before getting up early on the weekend and doing some ridiculous long run exhausting me before it starts all over again on Monday.
I've realised that with my running the terminology has changed this year, from "I want to run" to "I have to run", and often I'm chasing arbitrary time on feet goals even when not training up for an event.
What's worse is that even on days when I am resting, I feel like I have to be active, get those calories burnt, and often I'll slot in a run anyway, just a quick one, even though I'm meant to be recovering.
Sleep, rest days and balance are all things that shouldn't be taking the back seat during training.
Focus for Next Year
Rest, Recovery and Refuelling Better
Enforcing "true rest" days each week, days where I must not run, and must take it easy, is going to be essential for sustaining a passion for running long term.
I want to focus more on being well rested, getting enough sleep rather than waking up early to fit in those extra miles, and balancing running better with family and work life.
I've also gotten into bad habits when refuelling, often choosing lots of chocolate bars and coke as fuel of choice rather than trying to be varied. Will be using more dried fruits, nuts and other sources to balance it out.
Running When Sproglet #2 Arrives
Hopefully most folks know this by now, however we're expecting our second child, a baby boy, in February 2023!
It's important to me that I spend as much time as I can outside of work helping look after the sproglet, and with two children I know it'll be a challenge to balance that with running.
So the first half of the year my main goal is to be consistent with my running, but not set any targets that force me away when we don't have the capacity for it. We've got an Out n About running buggy I can take Ellie in I'll be using more often to tie in childcare with getting at least some mileage in.
I've also made sure to have a free calendar with no events until mid summer so training pressure won't be there.
Race to the Stones 2023
However, Race to the Stones was already booked for July before we received the good news. A 100k point to point run by Threshold I've wanted to do for a while that a few other Punks have signed up for.
We'll see how things go on the lead up to the big day. If I feel like I'm getting the time to dedicate to training, great! Otherwise I'll be considering a deferral.
I'd also like to take a crack at Race to the Tower again, I know I can bring it home this time, but it's looking like that's a 2024 race now!
2023 Part 2
Second half of the year I'm hoping to start doing events again, by that point we'll know what time we have free and what sort of events I can train up for.
As always, the Running Punks are the absolute best folks. If you're looking for support with your running, whether you're just starting or have been doing it for years, you won't find a group better.
A special thank you to all the support I got through this years misfires, it was overwhelming and I wouldn't have been able to come back and try again without it!
An extra special thank you to my wonderful, long suffering partner Zoe; who doesn't fully understand why I do some of these mad things, but supports me endlessly regardless.