2019: the round-up

With the first blog post entry in 2020 I welcome back my regular readers and welcome new fans (if that’s how I can call those who like my page and posts on Facebook). I thought it’s worthwhile to remind why and what about I write here on this blog.

From the outset my idea has been to write up my race reports and share them with the world. Just as I read reports from races I expect to run in, I hope that someone can find my accounts valuable and useful in advance of his/her respective races.

Other than writing about my racing I like to write about running-sightseeing. A key part of my job is travelling across Europe and beyond, to various more or less fascinating places. I use this as an opportunity to go out, run around and explore the place running.

2019: the plan

I wrote in my 2018 summary that I didn’t have any ambitious plans for 2019. I had rather minimalistic targets: run in the April and October editions of Harpagan and score a qualifier for the Western States Endurance Run (WSER) If I could also sneak in a shorter Summer race that would be brilliant. Three pre-school-aged children at home mean that my running ambitions are on hiatus. But the 3-4 races I had expected to run in 2019 gave me motivation to put on my shoes and set off, especially in times when I didn’t feel like doing it! In practice, I managed to find time for running either at nights, after the children have gone to bed, or during my work trips.

As far as my WSER qualifier was concerned, in 2018 I signed up for the
Centurion Thames Path 100 (TP100). It is the easiest-accessible 100-miler race I can get to from where I live. It starts in London and finishes in Oxford, just 2 miles from my home! The race follows river Thames in its entirety, so it’s naturally rather flat. I was confident that even if I don’t manage to prepare well for the race, at the least I will be able to just walk it.

At some point already in 2019 I was on the lookout for a nice Summer race. I wanted to have a jaunt in nice weather and ideally do it in some mountains. I ended up signing for Peak Skyline– a 30-mile loop in UK’s lovely Peak District.

2019: races and results

12/04/2019 Harpagan 57

My preparations for Harpagan were going reasonably well until mid March when I caught some cold-like bug and for three weeks took a break from running. Then, a week before the race, it got worse and eventually I got diagnosed with bronchitis. I started a course of antibiotics just a few days before Harpagan. Sadly, the mind won over the heart and I decided not to run.

04/05/2019 Centurion Thames Path 100

I wasn’t overly excited about my participation in this race. Once I finally got over bronchitis, I had only one week left until the race. I went for a run three times and that was it. Hardly any running ahead of a 100-miler. I was as unprepared as one can be, but I still held on to the notion, that I can just death-march it if I have to.

The race itself turned out to be a series of peaks and troughs, but in the end I achieved my goal in a reasonable time just under 25 hours.

03/08/2019 Peak Skyline

In June and July I managed to do a bit of running, so I approached Peak Skyline with a positive anticipation, expecting a pleasant jaunt in the hills. The weather was glorious, so it looked to be an ideal day. My aim was just to finish the race, so I was under no pressure to push hard.

Perhaps this lack of pressure, and that the weather was all too glorious (hot and someone forgot his cap to cover his exposed scalp), resulted in me being completely drained by the race’s mid-point. I then significantly slowed down and got further beaten up by two hellish climbs. Subsequently, I got cut off at the penultimate checkpoint, which I missed by only 2 minutes!

I am guilty of not having written this up on the blog. I pledge that I will eventually do that and explain what, how, where and why!

18/10/2019 Harpagan 58

My failure at Peak Skyline fortunately didn’t put me down and I managed to do decent training in August and September. Then I tapered in the last three weeks before Harpagan with just a few of easy runs.

I arrived at Harpagan with a good mindset. I felt I prepared decently and that I can do reasonably well.

No only did I do reasonably well; it was my best ever performance at Harpagan (since my beginnings with this event in 2006). I took the second place and for the first time in history I managed to fight closely with the top contenders. I was actually chasing the leader till the very end and finished just 24 minutes behind him.

2019 in numbers

As the years go by, I have more and more data to share. Here’s last five years:

Year No. of ultra races Km Km in ultra races % km ran in ultra races No. of active days % of active days in the year
2019 3 1140 308 27% 81 22.2%
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%

As far as the active days go, I count just days when I was running. If I added days when I did strength exercises, rowed, cycled or swam, then I’d have additional 38 days, which would add up to 119 days in 2019 (vs. 141 in 2018).

Looking at the numbers one can immediately see much less mileage than in previous years. That’s because of a couple of long periods of inactivity due to being ill. In January I didn’t run at all, recovering from a nasty flu. April was awful because of the annoying bronchitis. And then in the other months I generally clocked less mileage due to:

  • Significantly fewer long, multi-hour weekend runs in order to get a decent amount of sleep
  • Hardly any early morning runs in order not to sacrifice too much sleep and to be around when my children wake up and with my wife get them all ready for the day
  • Fewer work trips, so fewer opportunities to run when not at home

It’s a shame my mileage went down so drastically last year, but on the other hand that was a conscious decision. As long as the children are small and often wake up at nights, I have to take it easy with running.

Despite all that, I still managed to have one decent training period from June to October. I June I ran regularly and gradually increased weekly mileage (13 jaunts, 121 km total distance). In July I ran 10 times. That includes a one week taper before Peak Skyline. After Peak Skyline I quickly returned to running and between 8th August and 17th September I ran 18 times and clocked 260 km. And finally, in the last three weeks before Harpagan I did 83 km over 7 sessions. My great achievement at Harpagan proved, that despite the low mileage and my general constraints, I managed reasonably well.

Summary

It’s a bit of a stretch to say it was a great year in terms of running for me. From the four planned races I missed the first one, DNFed at the second, finished the third one in pains, and smashed the fourth! Perhaps because of the last race, I will look at 2019 with a dose of sentiment and contentedness, that with little training and low mileage I still managed to score a memorable result.

Actually, let me quote from my 2018 summary:

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.

If I relate to the above, then I can certainly say that I achieved my plan perfectly :).

Plans for 2020

I am writing these words in the second week of March, so the year has been already underway for a while. The plans are quite clear. In April I will participate in Harpagan. In May I will return to Kierat– a fantastic event in which I ran in 2017. I am very much looking forward to toeing the start line again. One of the reasons for picking Kierat for this year is that it’s a convenient option to get my WSER qualifier.

In October I definitely want to run in the 60th edition of Harpagan. And that’s what the plans are so far. I hope I will also find some race to do in the Summer. Perhaps I go back to Peak Skyline to settle the accounts with this race!

As far as training this year is concerned I expect to do slightly better than in 2019, but not by a wide margin. So far I’ve managed to run once or twice per week and I have done hardly any long runs. When not running, I spend a bit of time working on my core, arms and legs strength. Since December I have also been playing with a high fat diet and I have been looking at how it affects my performance in training. I will judge its efficacy and impact on my strength and endurance at Harpagan, in just over a month’s time.

All the best,

Marcin

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