2013 has been quite an epic year of achievements and reaching my goals. I knew it would be a crazy year of racing planned, since becoming an ultra runner in 2012. To actually complete as many as I did is rather remarkable. 

With 9 ultra (2x 100 miles) and 10 marathons, a few were top 3 and top 10 finishes. I really have learnt a lot in 2013. I am still learning about what ultra running will bring to me, but I am enjoying the journey and experiences that are on the way...

Nutrition has been one of the biggest changes and then the importance of cross-training and resting. I had a few marathons that I did not start due to injuries, which is just as well with the amount I was racing. Highs of finishing 2nd place in my first 100 miler event. Then lows in the summer, from my first DNF, which was the hardest, but most sensible decision I encountered in 2013. 

After a harsh and bitter cold to the end of 2012. January started just as cold, with training lighter during the deep snow, but I still went ahead and completed the 'Go Beyond Ultra Country to Capital 45'. Starting in Wendover, then finishing along the Grand Union Canal in Little Venice, London. 

For my first ultra of the year, it went pretty well, although I struggled with the canal route of hard pavement and an ITB issue. I hit many lows but did finish strong, eventually. 12th place 6:09:00

Total running miles: 250

The weather didn't improve much this month, still cold but then came the wind and rain, lots of it... My miles increased and training off road went to plan. I felt strong and running in extreme conditions really toughened me up. I started longer back to back runs. 

My 2nd ultra of the year was the 'Go Beyond Ultra Thames Trot 50'. From Oxford to Henley-On-Thames. With heavy flooding to the Thames River, the route was made slightly shorter to 42 miles. But was the only safe option to avoid the burst banks. 

Too many roads

The weather was a bright brisk day, I paced myself well and feel that the training really pieced together the race nicely. I made a few wrong turns, but with the help from others I finished in 8th place 6:21:46

Coastal Trail Series 35 Devon

Just one week later I traveled to South Devon. Tired after work and then the 6 hour drive. I had a further long drive to the start of the 'Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series 35' event. 

This was a severe category run, along the moors covering steep climbs and dangerous descents on rock, grass and clay.bI really struggled during the second part of the race, lack of rest and the previous race from last week took a toll on me. I finished in 11th place in 6:23:06

The only half marathon of 2013

Another week later is my local Brighton half marathon with fellow BOSH running friends. 7628 runners swarmed the seafront, in this fast and flat race. 

I raced on how I felt, although not recovered from the last two events, I felt confident enough that the short distance would be over in a flash. Soon enough it was and I raced a hard 1:24:41 coming in 139th place. A surprise PB on this distance.

Total running miles: 272 (highest month)

The Steyning Stinger marathon starts off the month. A small, local, hilly trail run along the downs. just over 200 runners. Feeling very conditioned and fit, without much struggle on the climbs, I come in 7th place in 3:24:28

A week later I take part in the Worthing 20 road race. Another small local run of 478 runners, designed as preparation for Brighton and London marathons. The route consists of four 5 mile laps on residential streets.

I came in 2:12:59 in 17th place 

Worthing 20

With my last high mileage week reaching a total of 83. I feel strong and fit enough to start a three week taper, for my first attempt at running Thames Path 100.

Again the river is flooded in some areas, so the route has been rerouted, starting in Richmond then ending in Cookham. Consisting of two out and back spurs, finishing in Windsor at 102 miles. This would mean passing Windsor three times.

A cold 3C with bitter winds and sleet. Still nursing a cold from the lack of activity, my start wasn't very pleasant. I started the first half rather too quickly, then eased into a steady pace and soon the training paid off for the rest of the day. 

Slowly runners suffered in the wet, cold and started to drop. I crept up on the route to the front pack, before eventually making the finish in 2nd, just 4 minutes from 1st place in 18:14:18. 

First 100 miler event

I felt amazing finishing my first 100 in such extreme conditions, and so well. A door had been opened and I craved to run long again...

Total running miles: 259

Brighton Marathon number 4 takes place in April and always brings back fond memories, as it was my first marathon in 2010 and in my home town. Lots of friends and runners come together for this popular event by the sea. Now with 10,000 runners.

Trying desperately to achieve a sub 3 hour time, but sadly it was not meant to be. I cramped at 24 miles and had to walk a minute or so until it passed.

I finished in 70th place 3:00:18

One week later I experienced my first ever Virgin London Marathon, with over 33,000 other runners. The squeeze in the good for age pen was immense, and it was scary but amazing to be a part of it. I enjoyed every moment of the sights, support and route. A true people's race. I felt fantastic throughout, with only a slight low, briefly. The crowds really do pick you up. 

I finally reach my sub 3 hour goal. A PB of 2:57:47 in 1,068th place 

First VLM

Total running miles: 210

This month kicks off with running my second Three Forts Marathon. A huge improvement to the damp wind and wet of last year. I wore the wrong footwear, choosing my Vibram Trek Sports (4mm sole) over trail shoes. The hard stone trails really battered my foot bed and slowed me towards the end. This still stays in my mind as 'The Tough One'. 

An improvement this year of 3:43:49 in 11th place

Two weeks later I head to Florida for a brief break, and to run the Keys 50. Although I felt trained in the distance, nothing could prepare me for the lack of heat training and intense Floridian sunshine. Temperatures reached 30c and with very little shade. I really started to suffer after just 10 miles. I had GI issues and severe stomach bloating. It felt like a crawl to the finish. 

I reached Key West, the end of the US-1 in 9:18:13 in 5th place

First overseas ultra

One week later I head up to Edinburgh for the marathon festival weekend. I have never been to Scotland until now so enjoyed the sights, and the surprising, scenic route out of the city. 

Some 25,000 runners take part in this event. I feel just about recovered enough from Florida and some how manage another PB, sub 3 hour time.

2:56:26 in 68th place

EMF with Joyce

Total running miles: 235

This is the start of a very busy month. 

First I try out the South Downs Marathon, from which I have heard great things. The route, the scenery and the climbs. I found this even harder than the Three Forts in places. It is a point to point course in Queen Elizabeth country park. 

I really did suffer but managed to come in 37th place from just under 500 runners.

The next day is the popular Seaford Half Marathon with friends, that I committed to. A local off road on the downs, with 1,400ft of elevation. 476 runners took part.  

It was one of those events that you read great things, and just unfortunate it was the same weekend as a marathon. I wasn't going to treat this as a key race, but more of a training run for my next ultra. 

Although I felt tired and fatigued in my legs, falling over at one stage. It was a good test on my body for what is to come.

I came in 19th place in 1:39:21

San Francisco Marathon with Mark and Lucy

Next up is a 6 day trip to San Francisco for the marathon. A slightly hilly road marathon that attracted over 5,700 runners. Joined by our Brighton friends Mark and Lucy. 

This was the earliest race start I have encountered at 5:30am, whilst the streets are still dark. We was very lucky to experience the sunrise over the Golden Gate bridge. The first year without any fog. The weather was glorious and the scenery through the park was brilliant. I started to suffer towards the end, jet lag and lack of sleep started to set in. 

I came in 3:04:10 in 84th place

One week later I fly up to Newcastle, then head over to Carlise with my sister for The Wall Ultra. I am one of the 322 expert runners to complete the route along Hadrians Wall from Carlisle castle to Newcastle Millenium bridge in one day. 

A scenic 69 mile course, although, only 20 miles was part of the actual Wall ruins. This was too much road for me to endure and was the start of a ankle ligament injury. I suffered huge blisters wearing a birkenstock running sandal which I now no longer wear.

I came in 3rd place in 11:05:50

The Wall

Total running miles: 226

With physio and lighter running, my ankle soon improves, but is still not 100% healed. 

I still commit to running Race To The Stones 100k along the Ridgeway trail. The oldest pathway in England. 

Again I have gone for the expert one day challenge, with 227 other runners. It soon becomes the hottest day of the year reaching 33C with no shade. I suffer with the heat and it brings back memories of Florida. 

Again I have stomach issues and go off my food. My ankle starts to really nag towards the end and I eventually finish in a not so good 11:54:10 in 13th place 

I wore my Luna sandals this time and suffered no blistering on the feet. 

Struggles with 33C heat 

Total running miles: 133

Finally the month arrives to attempt my second 100 miler event from Centurion Running, the North Downs Way. With a much lighter month of running and strength training to help my ankle.

 I feel ready to run, but I am not sure the outcome of the race. After coming in 2nd for my first 100, I am being watched today. 

I have just started to tap into my nutrition and have been fueling on fats over glycogen. It has been working great for my performance and training.

The first 35 miles went well and I felt good. I did slip on rock landing hard on my hip at Box hill, then slowly the ankle started to ache, then discomfort, then pain with swelling. 

I had to make the hard decision to drop at 43 miles. It was either make the injury worse and finish walking. Or stop now and start healing it properly. It is my first DNF race.

This also ends my running streak after reaching 273 days...


Total running miles: 78

After some time out, cross training then light running again, I feel confident I can finish the London To Brighton Extreme Running event. 

A 59 mile self navigating trail route, with no course markers or GPS allowed.

I have trained some of the route on bike, and ran with Mark (one of the organisers) and another competitor, Shawn, on two of the sections previously. 

A field of just 55 runners take part this year in the off road run from Blackheath Common, taking the Kent and Sussex border south to Brighton. 

My nutrition really helps today and I feel strong throughout, although my pace starts to drop with the steep elevation and again, my ankle discomfort. I go off route in some areas and waste over an hour getting lost. 

The ankle gets sore during the last 10 miles, but with the race almost over I carry on and finish in a disappointing 11:43:20 in 9th place. 

First barefoot shoe runner

On a more cheery note I am the first barefoot runner to complete the course since starting in 2008. I wore my trusty Luna sandals again with no blister or foot problems.

Total running miles: 117

Heading to Cologne to run the Koln Marathon whilst staying with friends. 

This is my first marathon in Europe. One of the many popular and professional German events with over 4,000 runners. The route was a very scenic, sight seeing tour of the city with a few switch backs. I felt pretty good through out but not my best in the later stages. 

My legs still feel the previous ultra, injury and lower mileage, so I soon start to fatigue quickly. 

This is my slowest road marathon of the year in 3:15:55 in 329th place 

Koln Marathon

It is quite amazing to go from strength to strength, and love the buzz of running, then all of a sudden have the set back of injuries and less training. 

I have learnt to discover I am unable to train for ultra and then race road marathons hard, at the same time. I need those rest periods after the longer distances, and then periods where I can add intervals, speed training and hill repeats. 

The end of 2012 I was just focusing on marathon. Where as now I have grown into an ultra runner, this has become priority. Although my speed has dropped my endurance and stamina to go long, has improved with base training. 

Beachy Head Marathon

The end of the month is my second try at the Beachy Head Marathon. This steep hilly off road route with over 3,000ft elevation, is still a very popular, sell out event for East Sussex. 

Over 1,700 runners took to the hills. 

Going in with an open mind and running on feel, I perform consistently and my pace stays pretty solid. I get the job done. It is still one of my all time favourite trail marathons and the grueling route is forgotten by the amazing scenery. 

As usual it is a very windy day but with sunshine. 

16 minutes slower than my first try last year, in 4:06:29 in 151st place 

Total running miles: 122

My birthday month soon swings around, and it is another try at running a 100 miles! Hopefully with a finish this time. 

After a very pleasant 10 days in North Tenerife hiking Teide and Anaga Mountains. I feel rested and recharged to battle the Winter 100 event. 

This course is a cross section, of out and back spurs along the Ridgeway and Thames Path routes. Using Streatley as a base. I have the experience from many previous races, so feel confident I know most of the route. 

My nutrition has really been going to plan, and now fully fat adapted. It is one less thing I need to worry on during these longer events. 

The first half went very well, maybe too well. I raced pretty hard and felt great. I stayed in 4th position throughout and reached 50 miles in a PB time of 7:35, but after this my pace started to slow considerably. 

Although I felt tired, my legs kept on moving and with correct fuel at the right times I stayed strong until the finish. 

Maybe I could of pushed a little harder towards the end? enjoying the long run too much, I really felt like I was back running my first 100 all over again. I was on such a high and knew I would finish strong but just not in a top 5 position. 

I eventually came in 4 minutes slower than my first 100 miler in 18:17:51 making 8th place. 

My 2nd 100 miler race

Now although I hoped for maybe a top 5 position, after the on-going ankle injury I sustained. To even finish was such a buzz and without any ankle discomfort. 

I really feel this ended my 2013 on a high. To actually finish 2x100 miler events, totally 9 ultra this year and 11 life time, in total. I feel like the journey is just beginning...

Total running miles: 241

The end of the year, and another shot at the 4th edition of the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. Just three days before Christmas. 

This waterside multi-terrain course has become a keen choice among locals of the South. The out and back route to Hayling Island is always very muddy in places with a combination of grass, road, stones, puddles and seaweed. It makes one very interesting race, although practising on this type of terrain is recommended. 

Still very flat, it attracts the fast elites. Over 1,170 runners braved the high winds and rain. This year I had the company of more running friends, old and new to experience Pompey. 

The rain eased after the start, but the wind kept on pushing. I felt good on my feet and strong enough during the first half, then the switch back section, I started to slow and struggle. 

It has only been three weeks since the Winter 100, and this is where I started to suffer. My legs kept moving although my body wanted to call it a day. 

With everything I had left to give, against the strong winds. I did make it, finally, into the finish but another 20 minutes slower than last year in 3:28:41 in 106th place.

I was just grateful to actually be able to find the strength to reach the finish. 

I am finding that ultra can take it out more so on the body, physically, rather than the actual running side of it. 

Another week, or two to fully recover, I think I can get back to the trails and start adding the time on feet once again. 

I am starting 2014 lighter, and with logistics and costs of the winter events, I have decided to wait until April for the first big ultra. I have a few smaller local races to keep me busy until then, but I really want to focus on building up my base and hills for the key 100 milers I have planned.

Total running miles: 98

Total 2013 running miles: 2,244.5

One great thing that has seen 2013 end positive, is my adaption to learning about my body and how I fuel my nutrition. Through eating higher fats, no sugar, no grains and low carbohydrates. 

You can listen to some interviews about my nutrition below.

Podcast interviews:

Vinnie Tortorich Episode 218

Paleo Runner Aaron Olson

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what an amazing year you have had! Absolutley incredible achievements.. most of us won't even do as much in an entire life time :) My first marathon was also Brighton 2010, but that is where the similarity ends LOL


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