2018: the round-up

Welcome in the new year 2019! Similarly to how I opened 2018 with a summary of 2017, hereby I’d like to the same with 2018. It was a significantly less intensive year than 2017 was. Except for three main races and one that I just wanted to finish, there were a few orienteering races and a few solid training periods.

Planning

Back in Autumn 2017 my wife and I agreed, that due to being happy parents of two children (soon thereafter we learned that in July 2018 we’ll be parents of three), in 2018 I’ve got to take it easy with my running.

My first priority was to get a qualifier for the Western States Endurance Run (WSER). Initially, I signed up for the 100-mile Lakeland 100 that takes place in July. Once I learned we are expecting I withdrew from the race and signed up for the Autumn 100 which takes place in October.

The second priority was to run the Grand Union Canal Race (GUCR). I didn’t get a place for it for 2017, so it was almost certain I’d get a place for 2018, which I did indeed. GUCR is a remarkable race with a cult status in the UK and a notoriously friendly atmosphere, so it was high on my to-do list.

The third priority was to fight for a top place in Harpagan, more so in the April edition. The October edition was taking place just six days after the Autumn 100, so I decided that I’ll see in the Summer how I feel. Then I will decide whether to do Harpagan in October, or let it go.

So the plan for 2018 was to run three ultras plus optionally one more. Clearly less intensive year than 2017 when I ran nine ultras!

2018: races and results

20/04/2018 Harpagan

Harpagan- April 2018

I spent January, February and March and solid and quite consistent training and I felt strong in anticipation of Harpagan. At the previous edition of Harpagan in October 2017 I had my best ever result (second place), so I was hungry to fight for the win.

Indeed, it was going well. I quickly covered the first loop and for 70 or so kilometres I was moving fast and just a few minutes behind the leaders. That was until I got hopelessly lost and wasted 90 minutes trying to find a checkpoint. I eventually finished in 5th place, so sort of not too bad, but I was furious. I had a good shot and screwed it up.

26/05/2018 Grand Union Canal Race (GUCR)

GUCR 2018

Just a week after Harpagan I felt good and fully recovered. I had two weeks of good training and then two weeks of tapering. Before the race I felt I could have a great run. I even quietly hoped that I could score a time that would give me a qualifier for Spartathlon.

This ambition got revised a few hours into the race. Despite going slower than I had anticipated, I still finished this iconic race in a very satisfactory time. 21st place and 145 miles covered 2.5 hours faster than at KACR in 2017.

13/10/2018 The Autumn 100

Autumn 100 2018

After GUCR I took a few weeks of rest. Then I was running a bit and then in late July we welcomed our third child. That meant zero running in August. I resumed training in September and did some mileage in October too. I can’t say it was a thorough preparation, but then it was just enough to finish. I hadn’t anticipated to race hard. I had aimed to finish under 24 hours and to remain in half-decent shape to take part in Harpagan, just one week thereafter.

I finished the race, but unfortunately I took me just above 25 hours. Still, the job was done: I gained my Western States qualifier which was the main thing for me.

19/10/2018 Harpagan

Harpagan- October 2018

I recovered nicely and quickly after Autumn 100. Other than a niggle in one hip, I was very much all right. I approached Harpagan with a mindset that I will not push hard and that I will not aim to fight for a top position. I just wanted to take part in the event I love, finish with a decent result and enjoy it as much as I can.

Despite a relatively moderate pace I finished the first half in a respectable time. Still feeling well, I picked up the pace in the second half. Due to a much swifter pace I finished the race in the 8th place. Despite some navigational errors I was happy with the result and content with a good finish of the racing season.

2018 in numbers

Similarly to as I did last year, the table below summarises and compares the last four years of running. I look at mileage, active days etc.

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
2018 4 1892 616 32.5% 96 26.3%
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%

When I counted the active days I only took into consideration days when I ran. If I included days when I exercised on a rower, did some strength work, or I cycled then I would have 45 days more. Altogether that would give me 141 active days. I interpret the 2018 numbers as much better and healthier than those from 2017. In 2018 I ran significantly less in races and instead trained more. That means I spent more time training and preparing for my races.

Here’s the monthly breakdown with comments:

Month Training km Km in ultra races No. of active days Comment
January 175 0 10 I started my training plan on 6th January and ran consistently every 2-3 days
February 246 0 14 Good month, consistent training continued
March 215 0 10 A drop in performance due to two bouts of cold, one early in the month and one near the end. Each bout meant 6-7 days off running
April 212,5 115 9 Once I got over the cold I ran a bit and then on 21st April ran Harpagan. Afterwards a week of rest
May 377 233 9 Two weeks of solid training, followed by two weeks of rest and tapering and then a great GUCR
June 37 0 6 One week after GUCR I resume running on an irregular basis: mainly short and swift VO2Max workouts
July 50 0 6 More or less same frequency of running as in June
August 12.5 0 2 New child and no running, except for one orienteering run and one run at the end of the month
September 112 0 9 More regular running resumed to get in shape for the next month
October 329,5 268 9 One strong week of training, then one week of tapering, followed by 100 miles of Autumn 100 and 107 km at Harpagan six days thereafter
November 86 0 8 Some running to keep in shape and maintain a regular dose of activity
December 39 0 3 I wanted to reach 1900 km, but I fell ill with flu on Christmas Eve and that was it for the year
Total 1892 616 96

Interpretation? In the first half of the year I managed to maintain a decent frequency and volume of training, much better than for the same period in 2017. On the other hand, the total mileage is not impressive. Comparing this with many runners, who can easily maintain consistent 400-km months (just training mileage), my mileage looks bleak. While I’d love to achieve such training volumes at some point, I recognise it’s not possible now. Family, work, other activities and running have to be balanced accordingly.

Between June and September I ran just a little. Sometimes less than I’d have liked, but then again I had actually planned for a lot of not-running in this period. That was due to the family expansion and not having any races until October.

I spent September and October on some preparation for the two October races. I really regret a poor December and not running more because of flu. I guess I need to get a flu jab ahead of the next winter :).

Summary

I conclude that 2018 was a good year. I reached my goals (finishing GUCR with a good result, finishing Autumn 100 to get my WSER qualifier and participation in two Harpagans). The ratio of the training mileage to the race mileage was much better than it was in 2017. This proves that 2018 was much more sensibly planned than 2017 was.

Looking at the year’s total mileage I am a bit disappointed. In the first quarter of the year I was gradually increasing my weekly mileage and reached 82 km. But it was only one week when I crossed the 80 km mark. I had planned to go up to just over 100 km per week, but didn’t manage that.

Plans for 2019

The plans for this year are considerably more conservative than my plans for 2018 were. When writing these words in mid January, I haven’t run at all for a month. I don’t suspect I will manage to do high training mileage in the coming months. I suppose this year will be my personal worst in terms of mileage, comparing with the last four years.

My plans so far are to run in Harpagan in April. It’s unlikely I’ll spend much time training to score a good result. Next, I am signed up for the 100-mile-long Thames Path 100. That’s to continue my Western States qualification streak. This race is logistically super convenient for me, with its start in London and finish in Oxford, just a couple of miles from my home. Again, not much training anticipated ahead of the race. Probably just some minimum effort to gain some strength and a bit of endurance.

As far as the second half of the year is concerned, I will likely want to run Harpagan in October. If there is a will and possibility, I may get a chance to find one more event.

All the best,

Marcin

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