2017: the round-up

So here we are in 2018. 2017 is over so it’s a good time to look back and recap. Interestingly, I cannot confidently say whether 2017 was a good year for me, or a bad one, as far as my running is concerned. There were glorious moments and there were ugly moments. In this post I present my analysis and my conclusions. I’d be grateful for your opinion too. Sometimes another pair of eyes can help me realise things that I miss, even though they can be in front of my eyes.

Planning

My race planning for 2017 started in mid 2016. Firstly, I decided that in 2017 I want to taste skyrunning. So I signed up for Vegan 3000 (V3K). Thinking that this will be a good warm-up and preparation, I also signed up for Lakes Sky Ultra (LSU), taking place just 3 weeks after V3K.

My second target for 2017 was to complete a 145-mile race. I registered for the Grand Union Canal Race (GUCR), but didn’t get a place in the ballot. Therefore, I signed up for the Viking Way Ultra (VWU), taking place just 3 weeks before Harpagan.

The third target was to run the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). Again, I didn’t get a place in the draw, so I had to look for another race/s that would give me qualification points for Western States Endurance Run- WSER (I signed up for Kierat) and for next year’s UTMB (I signed up for Cotswold Way Century).

2017: My races and results

18/02/2017: Trójmiejski Ultra Track (TUT)

TUT 2017

I signed up for this race to have a good warm-up. Plus, the finish line is a walking distance from my family home in Gdansk, Poland, so as convenient as can etc. After 3 weeks of training in February this was supposed to be a nice jaunt through the Tricity Landscape Park. Instead, it turned out to be a hard, tiring, winter slog through snow, ice and mud. I finished the race in an unimpressive time. Afterwards I fell sick and for a few weeks just couldn’t put myself together.

02/04/2017: Viking Way Ultra (VWU)

VWU 2017

When I signed up for this race I knew this was not a wise decision. My big plan for 2017 was to finish GUCR, but since I didn’t get in, in an act of desperation I signed up for the 147-mile VWU. VWU is considerably more difficult than GUCR. My training in March was poor and irregular, so I expected it will be tough. Indeed, my lack of experience of running such long races showed and I DNF’d (Did Not Finish) after 113.5 miles. I took this failure quite badly and it was a definite low point for me.

22/04/2017 Harpagan

Harpagan (53) 2017

3 weeks since my Viking Way Ultra DNF was not enough time to recover properly for a 100k Harpagan. I guess I should have let it go, but I decided to run it anyway. In spite of that, I still managed to finish in a decent 6th place, which boosted my mojo and improved my outlook for the remainder of the season.

27/05/2017 Kierat

Kierat 2017

After Harpagan I managed to recover nicely and heal my feet, but I didn’t train a lot. Still, I was super excited about Kierat and couldn’t wait to cross the start line. The race itself was tough and had it’s great moments, but it did have more bad moments: exhaustion, steep climbs and blistered feet among others. I still finished better than I had expected, so I was quite pleased with myself.

24/06/2017 Vegan 3000 Ultra (V3K)

V3K 2017

After Kierat I recovered quickly, had a few weeks of decent training, and set off for a tough, technical V3K in Snowdonia, Wales. My aim was just to finish, and I achieved that, but the sheer number of ascents and descents was too much. Combined with a less-than-adequate preparation I was unable to enjoy the race. Moreover, the thought that in 3 weeks’ time I will run an even tougher race, made me anxious and filled me with dread.

15/07/2017 Lakes Sky Ultra (LSU)

LSU 2017

I spent the 3 weeks between V3K and LSU mostly recovering and resting. I approached the race with no enthusiasm, having realised how inadequately prepared I was. However, I did manage to finish it, having to laboriously grind it out. For the first time I was dangerously close to the race cut-offs, which I didn’t like at all.

29/07/2017 Kennet & Avon Canal Race (KACR)

KACR 2017

Just 2 weeks after the gruelling LSU, I stood on the start line of a 145-mile race from Bristol to London. Ridiculous! My obsession transpired. I couldn’t let go of my failure at VWU and I needed to redeem myself, so, not thinking too much about time between races, I signed up for KACR. Miraculously, I made it to the finish line in London and achieved my goal. There was, however, a cost associated with it: I was physically and mentally exhausted. It took me the whole month of August to recover.

24/09/2017 Cotswold Way Century (CWC)

CWC 2017

In September I was back among the living and did a few decent training runs, including 2 long runs on the Cotswold Way, so I felt quite fine. The race itself went all right: I finished and could wind down. There was just next month’s Harpagan left and the season would be over.

21/10/2017 Harpagan

Harpagan (54) 2017

In the space of 4 weeks between CWC and Harpagan I mostly rested; I ran just 15 km. I had no grand expectations for Harpagan. I knew I wasn’t well prepared and couldn’t hope to score well. I don’t know whether this was the good rest after CWC, or good luck and favourable circumstances, but thie edition of Harpagan turned out to be my best race ever. I finished on the 2nd place and finished the season motivated and on a high note.

2017 in numbers

Here’s the comparison between 2017, 2016 and 2015. I look at how many ultras I ran and how much I trained, how many kilometres I did and how many days I was active. I count here only the running days. If I considered cycling, long walks, hikes, some strength exercises or indoor rowing, there would be more active days, but let’s focus on running only.

Year No. of ultra races Km Km in ultra races % of km ran in ultra races No. of active days % of active days in the year
2017 9 1831 1101 60.1% 80 21.9%
2016 8 2240 723 32.3% 142 38.8%
2015 9 2009 756 37.6% 123 33.7%
Here also follows a monthly breakdown with some comments:

Month Training km Km in ultra races No. of active days Comment
January 30.67 0 3 Taper ahead of the 2017 season, deliberately hardly any running
February 151.07 63.49 14 A good month with 3 weeks of solid training and TUT on 18th Feb
March 72.19 0 7 Little training due to a post-TUT sickness
April 44.96 305.6 8 For starters 181.6 km at the unfinished VWU, then a break, a few training runs and a relatively good start in Harpagan
May 79.46 104.83 8 12 days of rest after Harpagan, then 1 week of decent training, another break and then a good performance at Kierat
June 103.43 56.24 10 I recovered after Kierat quickly, trained well, but struggled at V3K
July 33.97 288 7 Just 3 training runs between V3K and LSU over a 3-week period. LSU was tough, I barely made it in one piece. Just 2 weeks later I managed to finish KACR
August 49.74 0 5 I was recovering after KACR the whole August. Occassional jaunts to check how I was feeling only proved I was feeling bad
September 99.93 166.48 10 A solid few weeks of training and finished CWC
October 35.91 116.32 6 A lot of rest and recovery after CWC with just 2 runs in a 4-week period. Result: 2nd place at Harpagan!
November 10.82 0 1 End of the season, I did just one orienteering race
December 18.04 0 1 One long run before Christmas Eve to ensure I could eat more at Christmas 🙂
Total 730.19 1100.96 80

How can I interpret these numbers? In 2017 I had long stretches of no running (hardly anything in January, 12 days off in April/May, hardly anything in November and December. As a result, I spent considerably fewer days running than I did in 2016. This was amplified by long breaks to recover after races for which I hadn’t prepared properly. The mileage I still managed to accumulate comes from ultra long races (145 miles, 113.5 miles, 102 miles).

Summary

2017 was intense as far as quantity of ultra races is concerned. Is it a good thing? In 2016 I came up with this brilliant idea, that by doing that many races (including mountain ultras) I will consistently grow stronger and stronger with every race throughout the season. Short ultras (TUT, V3K, LSU) were supposed to be kind of long training runs to help me prepare for long ultras (VWU, KACR, CWC). The 100k races (Harpagan x2 and Kierat) were supposed to be walks in the park.

In reality the plan turned out to be a failure. Since the end of February my running was very patchy, so I was seriously under prepared for VWU. Then I had a whole series of races, with 3-5 weeks between one and another. I managed to finish them all, but it became a vicious circle. I was under prepared for a race. As a result, even though I finished, it was hard work and I suffered afterwards and recovered slowly. I didn’t have enough time to strengthen my body, because there was another race looming. This lasted until KACR, which I managed to grind out.

A month’s break after KACR was helpful and in September I had a bit more power to conquer CWC. And a few weeks later my success at Harpagan came unexpectedly. I am still surprised how this happened.

My conclusion is therefore: less racing, more training. I learned from my own mistake, that there is no point in having a tightly-packed running calendar. In 2018 I intend to run 3-4 ultra races. I’ve already started my training, I’m gradually ramping it up and hope, that this will allow me to be in top shape for my first ultra this year: Harpagan in April.

To close off, I’d say that still it was a good, rather than bad, year for me. I achieved my targets and I learned from my failure at VWU and from other mistakes.

All the best,

Marcin

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