Four and a half months into 2020 and I'm finally getting around to writing about what there was of my 2019 running season. To be honest, I've really not had the urge to write about my running as it's hard to when you can barely get around the block without wincing, but things are finally on the up, so here you go, the better late than never (BLTN) summary of my 2019 season.
Tl;dr; it started off great, hit a few bumps, hit a high and then fizzled out in tears.
In the Beginning
Given the great season I had in 2018 and the fact I set a whole bunch of PBs at the ripe old age of 39, I was eager to give 2019 a damn good go with the goal of maybe earning an England Age Group Masters vest in the V40-45 category for the 10k and half marathon. My times were there, or very nearly there, so if I kept on the same trajectory from 2018, all I needed was a PB, or close, and for a few peeps to have a bad day when it counts, and I'd be in with a shot.
I started my year as I left off 2018… ticking over the kilometres in the 100-160km per week range sticking to pretty much the same training I did in 2018. This was going well and I felt strong as shown by a good time (36:35) and position (5th) in the very tough Woodcote 10k in the first week of January, and then a cracking time of 35:27 at the Chichester 10k. This last one was the 10k Masters qualifying event which was hotly contested so my 35:27 only got me 17th V40 😔.
The next week I ramped up my training to tip just over 160km, eased off the week after and then took on my first 20 miler, the Bramley 20, as a semi-racing training run. I used this as a fitness test for the Barcelona marathon I was racing three weeks later in which I was hoping to go sub-2:45 again. This was a good tough effort on tired legs and a pretty good indicator of my fitness level. What I didn't realise at the time was I was incredibly fit as the very next weekend I ran the Wokingham Half and missed a PB by 2s without even realising I was that close to a PB 😭. Bouyed by this I was pretty confident a sub-2:45 at Barcelona was firmly in my grasp… and then the first of the year's troubles happened.
The Monday after the Wokingham Half, I ran to the gym, worked out, and then ran home again, all nice and easy and very comfortably. However I somehow managed to trip over absolutely nothing and was forced into a ninja roll (I'm too young to "have a fall" 😉) to save my face getting smooshed into the pavement. In the process I managed to clobber the ribs on my right side really really hard - I think I heard a click too. I managed to run home and even again that evening but that night things got incredibly painful as I cooled and I didn't sleep at all. I was forced to take the entire week off as running was not an option due to the pain. I didn't go to the doctor as the worst case scenario is I'd broken a rib or two and there's bugger all you can do about it but rest. They'd probably also have told me not to run the Barcelona marathon the week after but there was no way I was going to do that… flights and accomodation were already booked. My legs were also still working perfectly fine 😜.
I took the rest of that week off and then kept things easy for the week of the marathon went and I went into the Barcelona marathon fresh, excited and eager for a good race, though still a little tender in the ribs. To quote my race entry on Strava:
I had planned on really going for it before I had my fall so switched tactics to "see how it goes" with the prospect of a sub-2:45 being a real possibility. In the end the race turned out better than expected and also not quite as I'd have liked given the circumstances.
So why wasn't it "not quite as I'd have liked"? Back to my entry:
Ticked over at this comfy pace for a good 28-29km before my stomach started to feel uncomfortable. I slowed quite a bit and tried to push through but in the end I had no choice but to visit a portapotty at the 35k mark for fear of sharting myself.
For the first time in my life, I was beaten by my stomach in a race. On reflection after the race I pointed out that battered chicken wings probably wasn't the best pre-race day lunch to have. So whilst not as fast as I'd have liked, I finished in a pretty respectable time of 2:52:06.
The next week was an easy one and the pain in my ribs eased off… well, I assume as much as I didn't mention them at all in my Fleet Half entry on Strava. The race itself wasn't my best performance either as my legs were dead and I didn't get the sub-77 I'd hoped for. Opportunity number two for an England Master's vest gone 😔.
From that point I had four weeks until the Boston Marathon. I rested the first and then put in a good solid two weeks before easing off on the final week which included flying out to Boston.
All my training for the year was a build up to the iconic Boston Marathon. This was my first A-race for the year and despite the little mishap with my ribs, I went into the race in fine form. Sadly the race didn't turn out as I'd hoped.
In the week before the race there was talk the weather would be hot, then cold, then no one could make up their minds. It ended up starting off cool and very very wet with a torrential downpour before the race started and ended at what would normally be a quite nice 14ºC. Thankfully I was already on the bus on my way to the start and not standing in the street around Boston Common like many others during the downpour. This cleared about 45 minutes before the start, however it was replaced with an insane level of humidity. How humid? 92% according to the info Klimat added to the Strava entry and boy did I feel it. My heart rate and perceived exertion were sky high from the gun whilst I tried to keep pace for 2:45 and it sapped so much energy. I ended up switching into "just finish it" mode at about 18km and trudged to the end, even walking up Hearbreak hill - I'd planned on cruise up the hill.
I finished in 2:56 very drained and quite disappointed. I had such high hopes for this beautiful race and they were dashed by insane humidity. I'll definitely be back for another Boston though.
After Boston, the wife and I spent a bit of time in New York before coming back to the UK. Once in the UK I picked up my training where I'd left off and kept my mileage in the 100-140 km per week range. I didn't have any races on the schedule other than the Wargrave 5 (finished 3rd) and the Round Reading 50k, so kept things enjoyable with the aim of getting strong and keeping my endurance up in preparation for the autumn build up.
These three months of training ticked over without any incidents and I went into the Round Reading 50k feeling fresh and strong and eager to run sub-3:40 which would be a course record if I came first.
And I did!! I won my first competitive race, in a new course record, and it was an ultra.
Downhill From Here
My legs were naturally tired after the Round Reading 50k but I kept running at an easy pace and picked things up pretty much where I left off. In retrospect this probably wasn't the best idea as by the Wednesday after, the inside of my left calf, where it attaches to the shin, was still really tender. I took the rest of the week off and tried again. It was ok, but a few days later, the pain returned. It soon became a case of no pain, run, pain that evening, no run the next day or two. Rinse and repeat.
With the Lisbon marathon looming on the horizon, I finally convinced myself to take some time off to try and heal and this seemed to do the trick, but it wasn't long before the pain was back when I did start running again, but now it was accompanied by what felt like bone pain in the same shin. I did however find tightly wrapping my legs allowed me to run and made things manageable over the days after. I used this approach to keep some semblance of fitness in preparation for the Lisbon marathon which I'd decided was going to be run for the enjoyment as there's no way I could race it. I ended up finishing in one of my slowest times ever: 3:11:59. Thankfully my leg wasn't too bad during the race, in which I wore compression socks and a neoprene wrapping. I thought I'd finally got through it.
Sadly not. I took more time off after the race but everytime I ran, I encountered the same issue: no pain, run, pain that evening, no run the next day or two. Rinse and repeat. I kept this cycle up until 1 December when I ran the Valencia marathon with my legs wrapped but this time using my Stryd power meter as my guide. This worked really well and I ran a pretty consistant pace and really enjoyed the run. I wasn't wreaked after it either and even ran quicker than I did in Lisbon, but only just 😁.
This was to be my last run of the year as I really needed to sort this issue out so forced myself to take the whole of December off. Sadly, this wasn't enough to resolve the issue as I only got two runs in in January before the pain returned so was forced off the road and into the gym.
I'm not going to go into any further details about what happened next as that's this year but suffice to say it wasn't good but things are finally looking good thanks to the covid lockdown.
So all in all, a rather tumultuous year that ended in a wimper, literally.
With the gory story told, lets reflect on the stats, cos everyone's only here for the numbers, right? 😉
Needless to say, I didn't hit any of my goals, though I did get close with the half marathon. I did get a few PBs though, but mostly because they're odd imperial distances I've not raced before.
|Distance||2018 SB||2019 SB||Notes|
|5M||–:–||29:05*||My first 5M road race.|
|10M||–:–||–:–||I didn't race a 10M this year.|
|20M||–:–||2:04:42*||My first 20M so an automatic PB.|
|Marathon||2:39:46*||2:52:06||My disappointing Boston turned out to be my quickest for the year.|
|50k Trail||3:54:46*||3:39:06*||My first race win 🎉.|
|Comrades||7:21:03*||–:–:–||I didn't run Comrades this year.|
* Are new PBs
Nothing changed in terms of my diet in 2019. I kept up with the low-carb-high-fat lifestyle and the intermitant fasting from last year and didn't feel the need to change this during the year.
What's on the Cards for 2020?
I started the year with my priorities being the new Run to The Sea 50k in March, the London marathon in April (I have a championship entry thanks to the Chester marathon from 2018), the Great North Run in September, the Chicago marathon in October, and then the New York marathon in November. Sadly, a combination of a re-occurence of my calf/shin pain in January and the covid 🦠 pandemic means things have been shaken up quite a bit. I've deferred the Run to the Sea 50k to next year and at the moment I'm in for a bumper autumn with London, Chicago and New York all within just over a month, assuming they all go ahead as planned 🤞.
On the plus side, the covid 🦠 pandemic lock down has allowed me to start running slowly and carefully again, and so far no signs of the calf or shin pain. I've not been to a doctor about it yet as I planned to when I returned from South Africa in February, but I didn't get the chance before the covid lockdown kicked in (yes, I procrastinated too long 😊). It has however let me investigate and think about my calf/shin problem and I suspect I might have induced shin splints that moved onto a stress fracture probably caused by too much running without enough rest, too much beer, and possibly some form of RED-S brought on by all of this combined with the intermittant fasting. As such, this year I'm dropping the fasting. I'm also taking creatine again to aid with the recovery and plan to pick up the strength work again when the gym opens or I can buy a few kettlebells. I also plan to add a day of non-running cardio, like cycling, rowing or swimming to my schedule.
Other than that, I have no other plans for the year other than to blog more about my running and exercise and get strong again and back to my former running frequency, but in a more conciensous and careful manner. Time will tell if any of my plans come to fruition thanks to the corona virus.
That's it for 2019. Bring on 2020 and 🤞 I can get back to a normal running pattern and for all the races in the autumn to go ahead.