At the end of 2020 I broke up my review of the year into months. I think that was because of what happened that year. It felt good to reflect on what I achieved each month in life and running. To put down in words that the year of covid (pt1) did actually have some great things even with so many restrictions in place for so many of us.

For the 2021 review I am going to look at this past year differently. First off I am going to review my thoughts from the end of 2020 looking ahead and then just reflect not he last 12 months in general.

This is what I had planned race wise at the start of 2021:

MARCH: Hardmoors 55 (miles)

JUNE: South Downs Way 100 (miles)

AUGUST: CCC maybe, if the ballot for guaranteed places goes my way, lol

NOVEMBER: NYC Marathon. Last road marathon

DECEMBER; The Cheviot Goat

Hardmoors 55

The race I can never quite get to! Lockdown delays and races not opening until April caused the organisers to move it to the summer. This didn’t work for a few reasons, first I had CCC booked in for the end of August and 2nd, I signed up because it’s a winter race.

Result: Postponed to March 2022. I am excited for this still lol!

South Downs Way 100

This became my “A race”. I trained my ass off for this during winter and spring. I recced the whole route, even doing the last section over night with Dai and Krysia. A race I will never forget for so many reasons but training for a 100 miler is really hard and so it should be. You must respect the distance and what putting your body through running for that long will do. This race still has my heart and brings me so much joy. I remember the pain and the feelings of sickness though. I remember every step, which sounds weird but its true. I think this was the most present I have been in a race ever. Not sure if I will do another 100 miller but I am proud to have raced one.

Result: You can read my race report here.

CCC

Well, well, well. Another nemesis race lol! I was successful in the guaranteed places ballot, due to lots of people wanting to wait, I think. I had flights and a hotel booked and was super excited to race this year. But on the eve of the SDW100 we got the option to postpone for free. The travel situation at the time was tricky, with all kinds of tests and hassle needed to go overseas. It didn’t sit well with me at that time to risk potentially losing my place that I had fought so hard for.

Result: Postponed to 2022

NYC Marathon

This was always a bonus race. A hangover form 2020 that was supposed to be my year of fun after the redundancy. I cancelled this in June, and it was confirmed as no access to the USA for tourists until after the race date. I ended up using the money to take the whole family away to Mallorca during October half term instead. This was a much needed break for us all and I personally came back so refreshed and ready to finish off the year strong.

Result: Don’t think I’ll be doing NYC marathon anytime soon now.

Cheviot Goat

Well, well, well. If covid doesn’t get a race, then a natural disaster and local government ineptitude sure can. Best to read all about it here!

I wasn’t sure if I would bother to do this in 2022 but it looks like I will now

Result: Postponed to 2022

Freezing our asses at the Cheviot summit recce

That’s the races as per the initial plan. It’s been a funny year with my running with many highs and some lows. The stats rack up like this

3 races (SDW100, Grand Tour Skiddaw & Maverick Surrey 45km)

3,152KMs

60,774m+

Those distance and elevation stats are very similar to 2020 which is quite interesting as I did more mountain runs this year. I would say 2021 was a more adventurous year. A year where I pushed myself outside my comfort zone more often. I have had 4 trips up north to experience the lakes, Northern Pennines and the Cheviots. These trips have opened my eyes to hard running, on tricky terrain. Whether it be deep bogs, -10 snowstorms, 30c heat, vanishing paths and boulder fields. I am sure that I am now a better all-round runner because of these experiences. My navigation has improved a ton as has my kit selection.

Something that I won’t forget is that I ran 100 miles in 23 hours 19mins (longest time running). Learning to problem solve with help from friends was a life changing experience. Being on my feet for that long is also something just a few years ago I wouldn’t believe possible. It didn’t go to plan but it did go well and is something that will help me as a runner and coach moving forward.

I think it’s important to talk about things I didn’t get right this year also.

  1. Nutrition!!!! Now I practice this a lot but I discovered that I had been making up my tailwind too strong for me later this year. My body can’t handle the calorie intake in liquid form at the strength I had it at. Especially in the heat! I also have had a few training runs where I didn’t take the right amount of calories per hour to sustain the efforts. I will go back to basics on this for 2022.
  2. Over training. In the lead up to Grand Tour of Skiddaw I was having so much fun in the lakes exploring that I burned myself out before race day. Now this was never an “A race”, but I didn’t respect it as much as I should have. This effected race day performance in the latter part for the event when I should have been stronger. I won’t be doing that in Chamonix come August! Coach mags was annoyed, I was sorry.
  3. Kit choices. A couple of times I have picked the wrong things because I wanted to wear something new. One such time was when I put on my new Hokas to test when it was way too muddy. The result was a slip on some wet stairs and bruising of the hands, cutting of legs. It could have been worse!

I am very thankful for my experiences and opportunities with running 2021. For all the runs with friends throughout the year. To the solo soul finding moments. To problem solving on the fly and endless planning. It’s been a whirlwind of fun which I am ever grateful to my family for supporting/coping with.

High Cup Nick just before Sunset.

COACHING

First off, thank you to all the wonderful Athletes who I have coached in 2021. You have taught me so much about yourselves and how I can improve as a coach. Coaching a wonderfully rewarding job it is also hard work (as it should be) with constant problem solving for such a variety of reasons. In 2021 I have seen athletes run their first marathons, first ultras, come back from injury, get injured and come back, get PBs in multiple distances. These are all fantastic achievements. The things that get me excited the most is the feedback. Communication is key and it has to be two way. I want them to be excited and motivated to train, I want to help each individual be the best they can. I am now working with such a range of different athletes who have very different goals that moving into 2022 I will only grow further with more experience. I am also taking my coaching education further as a goal by starting the UESCA Ultra marathon Coach Qualification. This will help not just the ultra but also the regular distance runners too. It’s important to invest in yourself to progress and I have been wanting to start this course for a year now but kept putting it off.

LIFE AND FAMILY

We all know it was a funny old year again. Home schooling in the first quarter, travel restrictions, new covid variants etc. We have had our ups and downs as a family but mostly ups I think. We have been lucky to go on two holidays this year as a family (even if I did sneak a race into one). We have had our health until catching mild covid at the end of the year. Our daughter has been a superstar really, just getting on with life and embracing her final year of Primary school. We even managed a few meals out. The Loss of Gillian’s Father in August was a sad time. It had been a while coming but was of course a difficult time for all. He was someone I always looked up to who provided us with so much support and help since Gillian and I started going out many years ago ;-). Geoff will be dearly missed x.

Holiday was the best!

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2022

I have races for the year lined up but not really sure how I will tackle each one from a goal point of view. I think it will depend on the day for most but here are my thoughts:

Hardmoors 55 – March

If I can get back to running quickly after Covid then this has the potential to be fast run for me. It seems like it’s a runnable course. I shall be using the SDW as a long run training ground for this. If I turn up in the mood, I’ll roll the dice and see what happens.

MIUT 80 (Madeira Island Ultra trail) – April

I won entry to this on a Hoka One One comp this year. I am being sensible and not doing the 120km as it’s a month after Hardmoors. I’ll need to do a lot of stairs training for this race! I am excited for the adventure and completion will be my only target, especially as it’s so close to Hardmoors. The course looks stunning but will also take me out of my comfort zone pushing my vertigo in multiple places!

Lakeland 50 – July

I love the lakes so much and am super excited for this race. Some how I got in on the ballot. It is just a month before the CCC so I will be using this as a training race. Nice and easy. Concentrating on the climbs and running those downhills confidently. I’ll be popping up to the lakes for training before this race too! I really do heart those lakland fells.

CCC – August

The dream race. The race I’ve wanted to do since coach mags did it in 2017. I better bloody be able to do it this year! The goal is to run strong and finish it. It will be tough but I want to enjoy every moment! I’ll be taking the recovery from Lakeland seriously then the fine tuning even more seriously! There will be no alpine adventures in the taper week for this bad boy!

The Cheviot Goat – December

I really wanted to stop training after CCC but I think I will just re adjust my thoughts on 2023 based on this race (yes I think that far ahead). It kind of feels like survival is the only goal with this one! We have had a look into what I could be like now. I have all the kit, will just need to keep training after a couple of weeks off post CCC.

My process goals for the year look like this:

  • Get better at down hills on technical terrain. Takes practice I know, So i’ll be hitting those fells again!
  • Face my vertigo fears and try to own them.
  • Consistent fuelling
  • Back to basics on my race day strategy planning

That’s where I see things right now. I want to again thank all you wonderful friends for coming running, my coaching athletes, my coach mags and of course Gillian and poppy. It’s a crazy world out there and running just makes it much clearer for me x

3 thoughts on “2021, another weird one!

  1. Thanks for sharing – I liked the way you are planning out your races in such a structured way. Covid is still making finding races that actually here in Thailand really difficult, and with travel being tricky I am having to train ready for any racing opportunity that presents! CCC will be amazing, very jealous!

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    1. Thank you! It’s a bit too crazy for this year but at least I know what’s coming and hope I can stay injury free. Hope your races open up better soon! A friend did the Thailand UTMB recently😀

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