What A Difference A Week Makes – My Fated Return To Ultras!

What a difference a week makes. This time last week I had one thing on my mind, my return to running ultramarathons at the D33 following a near 2 year hiatus from the world of long distance running.

Whilst it most definitely wasn’t the easiest of days, mostly thanks to the debilitating cramps that struck me at mile 18 and stayed with me for the remainder of the race, retrospectively, it was far easier than the week that was to follow.

My legs were particularly sore in the aftermath of this event, no doubt as a result of the spasms that shot through them mid race. However. little did I appreciate on the Sunday that DOMS was to be the least of my worries in the aftermath of the race.

I left work at the usual time on Monday afternoon, feeling less than 100%. Arriving home, something caught my eye as I changed out of my work clothes – spots. Lots & lots of spots.

What followed was a swift deterioration of my condition, accompanied by the arrival of a multitude of spots, appearing in every conceivable place of my body, and more than a few places that I just hadn’t expected to see them!

At the age of 42, I was experiencing chickenpox for the very first time. I knew my time was coming. Ever since my son Harris arrived, back in February 2013, I realised that there was a good chance that he would get it and that he would then, as he does so well with all of his ailments, pass it on to me.

True to form, Harris appears to have developed a mild form of chickenpox, leaving me to experience the considerably more severe form. It’s all that I can do not to try and rip the skin off my body and I have to admit to finding the various creams and lotions largely ineffective at reducing the irritation.

Looking on the bright side, it could be worse. At least this happened in the week immediately after the D33, in a time when I was expecting to be taking things easy/easier anyway.

It could have waited until days before my next event, the Hoka Highland Fling.

What with illness, cellulitis and now chickenpox, I have surely had my run of bad luck as far as training for and running in ultras is concerned.

When I decided to make 2015 my comeback year, I didn’t expect that everything would run smoothly. I didn’t, however, expect this!

I’m still highly contagious at this point, with spots still developing wherever they can find a space and, as such, instead of heading off for a lovely weekend in Glasgow, I am confined to the house and trying my best not to scar myself by giving in to the numerous urges to scratch!

I’m determined, however, that I will still be heading to the Cairngorms for my birthday weekend at the end of the month, and, further, that there will be running!

I can only live in hope.

Hopefully, surely, things can only get better from this point on!

Return Of The Mac – D33 2015

Update, 16th March 2015, 17:00: felt a little poorly at work today but put this down to my D33 efforts over the weekend. However, turns out that I actually have chickenpox, with rapidly spreading spots. Will admit that I didn’t see that one coming! Having never had chickenpox before, I’m not relishing the prospect of the next week. Hopefully won’t impact too much on my Fling training.

Back in March 2013, I toiled around the D33 ultramarathon, finally completing in a PW time of 06:18:33. The event, just a couple of weeks after the birth of my son Harris, was to be my last ultra until this weekend just past, the 14th March, when I once again toed the line for the D33.

Having taken a 2 year hiatus following the birth of my son, I finally felt prepared to once again tackle ultra distances. Or, at least, that was the thinking behind my application back at the start of 2015. The reality, of course, was somewhat different.

The short version of events is that, just like in 2013, I made it to the finish line and, in doing so, completed my 18th ultramarathon out of 19 starts. Again just like 2013, It was anything but pretty!

Looking at the available splits information for my participation in D33 events to date, the one thing that is evident is that I ‘may’ have gone out too hard and fast on the day.

Perhaps this is why, come mile 18, I found myself rooted to the spot, absolutely unable to move, thanks to debilitating cramps that were shooting through every inch of both legs.

Or then again, maybe it was more to do with the absolute lack of training, the recent issues with cellulitis that had curtailed all running in the run up to the event, or the fact that I chose to hydrate entirely with nothing more than 100% water, with no electrolytes or salt tablets at all, a habit that I had become accustomed to over the considerably shorted runs that I had completed whilst on my ‘ultra vacation’.

To say that things hadn’t quite gone to plan would be an understatement.

When I last ran the race, back in 2013, my training had been adversely affected by preparations for the arrival of my son Harris and my longest training run had been just 11 miles. However, despite the short distances back then, there was considerably more volume of training and I still had the muscle memory from 3 years worth of ultra events that I believe helped me get through on the day.

This time around, illness and parenthood limited the training time available to me and my situation was further exasperated by the events of the past month.

I should add at this point, that it’s not all doom and gloom. A good few people commented on my considerably reduced frame on Saturday, thanks in no small part to the loss of over 3 stones in weight over the past 6 months approx.

However, this in itself added yet more uncertainty into the mix and I really did feel as if I was starting afresh. Come Saturday morning I was extremely nervous and pretty much kept myself to myself, save for a few short catch up conversations, as I awaited the start of the race.

Initially, as the weight started to drop off, I came to ‘expect’ PBs, almost forgetting that they needed to be earned. An 18 mile run from Ellon to Mintlaw at the start of the year, along the Formartine & Buchan Way, soon put paid to these naive thoughts. Less than 3 miles in I found myself toiling badly and I will admit to considering making the call for a pick up at one of the many hop on/off points along the line. Retrospectively, I was glad that I did complete the run, though at no point did it feel like anything more than an absolute slog.

It soon became apparent that weight loss alone wasn’t going to be enough to ensure PB times and that, further, any muscle memory in the legs was well and truly gone.

The only option was to ramp up the long runs, mixing these up with 2-3 speedier sessions through the week. With this in mind, approximately 1 month before this years D33, I set out to do a back to back weekend, pushing hard on the Saturday.

I was delighted to smash my 1/2 marathon PB by a considerable number of minutes in the course of the 15 mile run that day and I followed this up with a 13 mile run the following day, pushing only marginally less hard.

Come Monday, my legs were in bad shape and I spent the week swimming in place of my planned cross training and running sessions. What I thought was just a bad case of DOMS hung about considerably longer than I would expect.

With the D33 looming ever closer, I took the decision to ‘test’ the legs, setting out for an out and back 15 mile off-road run. Daft perhaps but I am sure, given the circumstances, something that most runners would have done themselves.

The run out was manageable, just. The return however, was anything but comfortable and the notion of running ‘form’ soon went out the window as I ran/walk/limped home.

Waking in pain at 1 am, unable to return to sleep thanks to the throbbing in my left leg, I knew then that there was something seriously wrong.

Sunday revolved around a hospital visit where I was diagnosed with cellulitis, provided with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and painkillers. I was advised to keep the feet up and do nothing.

Over the course of the week, my left leg lost its warm red glow and returned to a size more comparable to my right leg. However, despite completing all medication, there was still considerably more pain that I would have expected at this stage. Unfortunately, flexion was the root cause of much of the pain which didn’t bode particularly well for running.

Seeking further medical advice, I was advised that the continued pain was likely a side effect of the cellulitis and that continued rest was the only approach. Thankfully, the doctor was very understanding when I broached the subject of the D33.

I was advised that there was little constructive training that could be done at this point anyway, and that, if I really had to run it, I should just stay off the leg as much as possible until the day and then attempt to complete, using any pain experienced as a barometer of if/when I should pull out.

Armed with this advice I at least had some hope, which was good enough for me. (I’ve got to love my medical practice. They really do tolerate my insanity really well!)

I waited until the Wednesday before the D33 and, with pain levels almost back to normal, I hit the treadmill for a fast paced 5 mile test.

The pain was bearable, my race was on. (Retrospectively, I shouldn’t have pushed quite so hard as I spent the Friday worrying about the DOMS that my test run had brought about!)

As I headed into the D33 early on the Saturday morning I was a bag of nerves. The limitations of my training were playing on my mind, as was that torturous 18 mile run along the Formartine & Buchan Way, my longest training run to date. Surely it wouldn’t/couldn’t be THAT bad!

My leg was still an unknown quantity. How would it cope with any distance? Would the cellulitis return? (at the time of writing, thankfully not!).

Finally, I had taken the decision to replace my trusty Altra Lone Peak 1.5 trail shoes with the new Lone Peak 2.0 which, it turns out, has quite a different feel to it. I just hadn’t had the opportunity to test the shoes out. Thankfully they were the real success story of the day as my feet were in immaculate condition come the finish. The slightly increased stack height of the 2.0 quite possibly best suited the hard conditions underfoot of the D33.

The race itself was going well for the first 13 miles. Really well. Too well in fact. I knew I was going too fast, considerably faster than previous efforts, and yet I didn’t back off.

Stupid? Maybe, but who’s to say that the events of mile 18 wouldn’t have happened regardless of how hard I pushed. I can, at least, take some consolation from the fantastic run that I had to start. I didn’t even stop at the first check point, confirming my number to one of the marshals and continuing on my way.

By miles 14 and 15 I was starting to lag, and I was glad of a can of Coke at the 1/2 way point, my one guilty ‘ultra pleasure’. There’s nothing quite like the thought of a can of Coke to lift my spirits and keep me heading on to the next checkpoint.

I’ve already documented the events at mile 18. I was absolutely rooted to the spot, unable to move, afraid to move, for fear of the pain that even the slightest sway was met with.

The ultra community really came through for me at this point, with many people enquiring as to my well-being and/or if there was anything that they could do. I owe my race to the assistance of one guy who was supporting his wife who was kind enough to help me stretch out both legs. This was enough to get me back moving, albeit very, very gingerly, for fear of inducing yet another cramping spasm.

I also owe thanks to Nicola Stuart for sharing some rock salt with me, and to the final checkpoint for more salt, all of which I am sure helped me nurse my cramping legs to the finish line.

Given all of the issues going in to the event, who would have thought that my performance would ultimately be dictated by cramp!

What I can say for certain is that I made it, and was delighted to be rewarded with a 05:59:41 time, sneaking in just below the 6 hour mark. Further, of the 5 times that I have run the event, it’s actually my 3rd fastest time!

As with so many ultra events, I had a chance to catch up with old friends, and to make new friends along the way, surely one of the best aspects of ultras.

Hopefully my return to the Hoka Highland Fling will fare better!

Huge thanks to the RDs and Marshals without who, the D33 wouldn’t exist.

New Inov-8 Bags & Apparel

There’s an abundance of new gear from Inov-8 arriving in time for the start of the 2015 season, including new ISPO award winning 5 and 10 litre vest packs and a waterproof jacket and pants combination that, whilst perhaps not aesthetically to everyone’s taste, offers functionality at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

“Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, ultra and mountain runners will be able run lighter and faster with the Race Ultra Shell. Weighing just 125g, it boasts superb levels of protection, while its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running. Race numbers pinned on tees/singlets underneath remain visible at all times through shell’s transparent material.”

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA 5 Vest/Pack

“Evolution of the award-winning race ultra™ vest. The Race Ultra 5 vest has been specifically designed to carry five litres of kit while maintaining a close-to-the-body fit that ensures stability and zero bounce when running over even the longest of distances. Available in two sizes (S/M and M/L), the vest has two simple-to-use adjustable clip straps at the front. It boasts a total of eight pockets. The rear can hold up to five litres of kit, while an extra zip allows access to a separate reservoir compartment. Comes supplied with 2x 500ml soft flasks with 30cm tubes.”

Features

  • Large weather resistant zipped pocket to rear
  • Separate reservoir zipped pocket
  • Two 500ml softflask with 12″ / 30cm tube
  • Two large side mesh pockets
  • Two large zipped mesh pockets to front double as bottle holders
  • Two large mesh pockets to front top
  • Two smaller stretch mesh pockets to front top
  • Whistle
  • Rear bungee compression
  • Pole loops to rear
  • Two sizes

Specifications

Volume Capacity

  • 5L / 305 cubic inches

Fluid Capacity

  • 1L in 2 x 500mL soft flasks with straw/tube (included)
  • 2L in bladder (not included)

Weight

  • S/M: 250g / 8.8oz
  • M/L: 255g / 9oz

Back Length

  • S/M: 30cm / 11.8in.
  • M/L: 36cm / 14.2in.

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • S/M: 31 – 38in. / 78 – 97cm
  • M/L: 38 – 44in. / 87 – 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Materials & Design

  • Nylon / Polyester / Spandex

Included

  • 2x 500mL soft flasks with tube/straw

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA 10 Vest/Pack

“Evolution of the award-winning race ultra™ vest. The Race Ultra 10 vest has been specifically designed to carry ten litres of kit while maintaining a close-to-the-body fit that ensures stability and zero bounce when running over even the longest of distances. Available in two sizes (S/M and M/L), the vest has two simple-to-use adjustable clip straps at the front. It boasts a total of eight pockets. The rear can hold up to ten litres of kit, while an extra zip allows access to a separate reservoir compartment. Comes supplied with 2x 500ml soft flasks with 30cm tubes.

The Race Ultra 10 was voted best in the performance accessories category by a panel of expert judges and named a 2015/2016 ISPO AWARD GOLD WINNER.”

Features

  • Large weather resistant zipped pocket to rear
  • Separate reservoir zipped pocket
  • Two 500ml softflask with 12″ / 30cm tube
  • Two large side mesh pockets
  • Two large zipped mesh pockets to front double as bottle holders
  • Two large mesh pockets to front top
  • Two smaller stretch mesh pockets to front top
  • Whistle
  • Rear bungee compression
  • Pole loops to rear
  • Two sizes

Specifications

Volume Capacity

  • 10L / 610 cubic inches

Fluid Capacity

  • 1L in 2 x 500mL soft flasks with straw/tube (included)
  • 2L in bladder (not included)

Weight

  • S/M: 260g / 9.2oz
  • M/L: 265g / 9.4oz

Back Length

  • S/M: 30cm / 11.8in.
  • M/L: 36cm / 14.2in.

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • S/M: 31 – 38in. / 78 – 97cm
  • M/L: 38 – 44in. / 87 – 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Materials & Design

  • Nylon / Polyester / Spandex

Included

  • 2x 500mL soft flasks with tube/straw

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA SHELL Waterproof Jacket

“Inov-8’s lightest ever waterproof running jacket, weighing just 125g. Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, mountain and ultra athletes will be able to race as light and fast as possible. This shell is fully transparent, so race numbers worn underneath remain visible at all times. Its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running and packs away into its own hood pocket, ensuring it is small and easy to carry. Breathable, the Race Ultra Shell keeps you dry and protected in the wettest of conditions. Unisex.”

“If you’re an out and out racer and every gram counts, this ridiculuously lightweight waterproof is for you. It won’t handle day to day heavy use but, packing into its own hood, it’ll deliver just enough protection to get you off the hill, home or, with taped seems, past a pre-race kit check. It’s see-though so you can wear it over your number” (Trail Running Magazine)

Features

  • 2.5-layer waterproof fabric with 10,000 HH and 10,000 B-1 breathability
  • Taped seams
  • Packs away into hood – small and easy to carry
  • Fully Transparent fabric – race number visibility at all times
  • 4-way stretch fabric – allows unrestricted body movement whilst running
  • Deep centre front YKK Aquaguard zip with internal storm flap and dual locking zip heads
  • Thumb loop
  • Elasticated cuffs and hem
  • Multi-angle reflective detailing

Specifications

Weight

  • 125g / 4.5oz

Materials

  • 56% PU / 44% Polyester Soft Tricot breathable fabric (2.5 Layer)

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • XS: 36in. / 92cm
  • Small: 38in. / 97cm
  • Medium: 40in. / 102cm
  • Large: 42in. / 107cm
  • XL: 44in. / 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA PANT Waterproof Trousers

“Inov-8’s lightest ever waterproof running trouser, weighing just 95g. Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, mountain and ultra athletes will be able to race as light and fast as possible. These trousers are fully transparent and instantly stretchable to fit over shoes. Its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running and and can be quickly compressed into its own integrated pocket/stuffsack. Features taped seams and lycra-bound hems. Breathable, the Race Ultra Pant keeps you dry and protected in the wettest of conditions. Unisex.”

“Designed with the same racing philosophy as their Race Ultra Shell jacket, these will mainly live in your pack to pass kit checks. They weigh practically nothing and pack down impressively small. Their fit is good over tights, they deliver a surprising amount of protection but won’t take much abuse. Ultimate weight and space-saving choice” (Trail Running Magazine)

Features

  • 2.5-layer waterproof fabric with 10,000 HH and 10,000 B-1 breathability
  • Taped seams
  • Packs away into integrated pocket/stuffsack – small and easy to carry
  • Fully Transparent fabric
  • 4-way stretch fabric – allows unrestricted body movement whilst running
  • Lycra bound hem
  • Elasticated front, flat back and waist band
  • Ergonomic fit
  • Multi-angle reflective detailing

Specifications

Weight

  • 95g / 3.5oz

Materials

  • 56% PU / 44% Polyester Soft Tricot breathable fabric (2.5 Layer)

Sizing at waist (Unisex)

  • XS: 28in. / 71cm
  • Small: 30in. / 76cm
  • Medium: 32in. / 81cm
  • Large: 34in. / 86cm
  • XL: 36in. / 91cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Available from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com

The Altra Lone Peak Neoshell – ‘Better Than Waterproof’

I’ve all but worn off the tread of my Altra Lone Peak 1.5 (Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review) which have been by far my favourite trail shoe for at least 5 years, if not my all-time favourite. I get a decent number of shoes to test so the fact that the Altras have seen quite so much use is testament to the quality of the shoe.

As far as I am concerned, it offers the perfect balance of cushioning, zero drop and a spacious toe box, offering what is essentially the perfect ‘minimalist’ shoe for long distance running.

As such, I was interested to see the information about one of Altra’s latest releases – the Altra Lone Peak Neoshell, which is described as being ‘better than waterproof’.

“Altra Running introduces the Lone Peak Neoshell – the ‘better than waterproof’ version of its award-winning Lone Peak trail shoe – at the 2015 ISPO international sport, performance and outdoor industry trade show in Munich. The new shoe has better dryness, breathability, flexibility, comfort and toe room than traditional waterproof trail shoes on the market.

The only negative is that we have to wait until August 2015 before the Lone Peak Neoshell is available!

Specifications

  • The FootShape™ toe box allows your toes to relax and spread out naturally for more comfort and stability in uphill and downhill trail conditions
  • Sandwiched StoneGuard™ technology offers protection from rocks and other trail debris
  • Sticky rubber TrailClaw™ outsole combines unique uphill and downhill lug traction for a wide range of trail condition
  • GaiterTrap™ and full compatibility with Altra Trail Gaiters
  • Stack height: 26 mm on a Zero Drop™ platform
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces/326 grams, one of the lightest trail shoes with technical protection for wet, muddy or snowy conditions
  • Altra is the only running shoe company with a full line of gender-specific footwear created with completely unique lasts, or patterns, for every shoe in each gender, to accommodate natural differences in foot anatomy

2014 Review

Given that it’s now the start of February 2015, it’s technically getting a bit late for a ‘2014 Review’. Things keep getting in the way, not unlike the way they keep getting in the way of training, but I set out to write a review of 2014 and I am determined to complete it. After all, if I can’t even complete a review, what hope have I got of completing 2015’s planned event schedule.

My ‘2014 Review’ will be quite unlike many of the reviews that I have been reading online.

For one, my ‘2014 Review’ is actually going to go back as far as 2013, so we can get the whole picture, as my running spiralled into oblivion.

Further, my review is different because I didn’t run in any organised events, let alone any ultramarathons, and I ran fewer miles than I have since at least 2010 and, most likely, since 2007.

There were no big events, no (official) PBs, and no logging of mileage. I couldn’t even give an approximation of how many miles I ran.

Sounds a bit chaotic really but the truth of the matter is that I was ‘otherwise engaged’, ‘on sabbatical’, ‘out of office’ as far as running was concerned.

It’s a situation that, given the prominent role that running has played in my life these past few years, I would never have envisaged, and yet, 2014 was the first year since 2004 that I didn’t compete in an organised event.

Since late February 2013, it has all been about parenthood, attempting to master the role of ‘daddy’, a challenge that I have relished despite constantly feeling like I am making it up as I go along!

My last ultramarathon was the 2013 D33, just weeks after the birth of my son Harris. ‘Training’ had been severely impacted by preparations around the house for the impending birth, with practically the whole house decorated, including a kitchen that was finally finished just a couple of weeks before Harris’s arrival. I hope never again to repeat the chaos of those few months.

By the time the D33 came, in mid-March and just a couple of weeks after our new arrival, I had mustered ‘long run’ training, and I really do use that description in the loosest sense, of just 11 miles, 1/3 of the total distance that I expected to cover.

I did grind out a finish, along with a PW time, but admittedly not actually that much over my first ever D33 time!

It wasn’t pretty.

Understatement.

It hurt.

A lot.

Huge understatement!

I knew there was no chance of me making it to the 2014 D33 and was gutted to lose my place as one of the ever presents in this, the 5th year of the event.

So, we’ve established, 2014 wasn’t about the running.

It wasn’t, however, a complete write-off where fitness was concerned.

But we are not quite at the positive part, not just yet.

Following injury and my resulting failure to attain a 1/2 marathon PB at the Great Scottish Run in October 2013, a very visible failure thanks to my role as a PUMA PB Challenge Ambassador with PUMA and The Running Bug, I found my running mojo plummeted.

I was then unfortunate enough to catch something called Hand, Foot & Mouth from my son. Fortunately, he appeared to have a fairly mild reaction to this viral infection, something which, according to the NHS mostly affects young children.

I, on the other hand, did not. One of the symptoms is described as follows:

“A non-itchy red rash, made up of spots or small fluid-filled sacs (vesicles), which usually develops on the hands and feet, but may also occur on the knees, elbows, groin and buttocks; sometimes the rash can develop into painful blisters”

I ended up unable to walk thanks to painful blisters that covered the soles of my feet, amongst other areas, almost in their entirety. My feet were in a better condition at the end of 95 miles of apocalyptic weather on the West Highland Way than they were after just one single day of hand, foot and mouth.

It was a good few weeks before I could even walk, let alone run without pain, and the skin of my feet took months to properly heal.

My weight started to creep up, nullifying all the gains that I had made thanks to the nutrition element of the PUMA PB Challenge.

2014 started with illness. I was in the Cairngorms for the start of the year but was under the weather thanks to a bad chest infection. I made the most of my time there but I was most definitely held back by the severity of the infection.

Finally, around the middle of 2014, things took a positive turn on the health front. By this point, my weight was up around the 16 stone mark.

Following the opening of the new Aquatics Centre at Aberdeen Sports Village, I popped across for a swim, just to see what it was like. This made a change to my usual approach of working through lunch, eating a packed lunch at my desk.

My single visit turned into a daily pilgrimage to the pool. When I tired of swimming every day, I alternated between the gym and the pool, and this is pretty much how it has been since.

I started 2015 some 3 stone lighter than my 16 stone peak, still heavy by a lot of people’s standards but, certainly as far as I am concerned, the lightest that I have been since… well, since I can actually really remember. I was possibly lighter at some point back in my early 20s, but that’s a good while ago now and the memory isn’t ‘that’ good!

I’m not finished yet. Despite a plateau over the past few weeks, I am determined to lose more weight, hopefully in time for 2015’s planned events.

Losing weight does bring new ‘problems’. For one, I need to replace a large portion of my wardrobe as and when finances permit. That’s not such a big deal.

I also discovered that I am no longer impervious to the cold, resulting in the purchase this past weekend of a Rab Summit Jacket, a toasty warm down garment that should hopefully keep me much warmer.

The main issue is with regard to the impact on my running.

On the plus side, I’ve found myself able to run considerably faster than previously, notching up a massive PB at the 5k distance and taking over a minute off of my 10k PB, a time which itself was a fluke, much faster than my usual times, set way back in 2008!

On the negative side, my pacing has gone out of the window. I’m no longer ‘Mr. Single Speed’. I can now mix it up. Unfortunately, however, I usually do mix it up, each and every long run, and I have yet to find the optimal pace for completing runs over the 6 mile distance. That’s obviously something that needs to be resolved, ideally before the D33 in March.

I had, admittedly somewhat naively, hoped that muscle memory, coupled with the not insignificant weight loss, would see me easily smash all of the ultra PBs that I have set in the past.

The reality, as I found on one particularly bad 18 mile run the other week, was that I will need to a) find my optimal long run pace and b) train just as hard, if not harder, than I have in the past, to try and get anywhere near to the levels of ultra endurance that I had previously accrued over 3 solid years of ultra training and racing.

To add insult to injury, I actually struggled from the 3 mile mark on that 18 mile run. Still, I persisted, something that I obviously haven’t forgotten from my time running ultras and, further, an 18 mile run, albeit a bad one, is still 7 miles longer than any run I managed while training for the 2013 D33! As such, I can’t really complain.

So, that’s where things stand now. I am attempting to get enough running in, albeit mixed up with swimming, cycling and cross training. Gone are the days when I run simply to log miles and add to yearly mileage totals. I haven’t in fact, logged any of my mileage. I just have a rough idea of how things are building up.

With a bit of luck I will complete the D33 and the Highland Fling, the two events that I have signed up for at the time of writing. I’m also keen to do the Great Glen Ultra, a 72 mile run from Fort William to Inverness that I have never run before. It would, in fact, be my first BaM (Bill & Mike) event. Having cycled the route, from Inverness to Fort William, a good few years back, it’s a race that excites me, and especially with the prospect of running some of it on the new higher level path, with the improved views over Loch Ness.

Ideally, I would also like to round off the year with a return to The Speyside Way. Hopefully training, finance, and logistics, will allow that. As an ‘Elgin loon’, it’s almost like returning home, even though running, let alone running endurance events, was about the furthest thing from my mind in those first 18 years of my life when I lived in Elgin and Lhanbryde (located 4 miles out of Elgin, not in Wales, for those that don’t know the area).

There are elements of that Speyside Way Race route that are amongst my favourite trails outside of the Cairngorms and I can’t wait to run them again.

So, in summary, 2013/2014 didn’t have the best of starts health wise and running was always a secondary, if even that, part of my life in this time. However, 2014 was the year when I finally, after years of trying, turned a corner where my weight was concerned, something that will hopefully have an impact on my 2015 ultra schedule and for many, many years to come.

Run, Walk, Cycle Scotland