2014 Most certainly has been quite different to last year! With far less races, some on going injuries and in particular no where near as many marathons... 

I found out that although I do enjoy marathons, especially the off road events, it was getting very costly, hard to balance shift work, time off, logistics, and then with build up to ultra events. My ankles soon caused me to really slow down and look at what I wanted this year to be like....

I took January off, keeping my longer runs and gym sessions shorter, but started to take my road bike out more so for some cross training. 

The first race wasn't until February. 

The year went like so:
1x Half Marathon
1x Unofficial Marathon
3x Marathons
1x 33 Mile Ultra
1x 24hr Event
2x 100 Mile Ultra
1x 147 Mile Ultra
2x DNF 100 Mile Ultra
1x DNF 160 Mile Ultra


My only half this year, and like tradition in my home town. It is quite a big meet up with the running friends I have made over the years, local and from afar. 

I rarely train for this distance and just seem to go on my current fitness and feel. A chilly morning but typical bright sunshine for Brighton. 

Not my best time but a happy 1:26:42 in 235th place from over 6,900 runners. 

The Moyleman (Lewes Test Marathon)
Local runners have created a route for a new marathon starting in 2015. In honour of runner Chris Moyle. 

So I jumped at the chance to be one of the guinea pigs to experience and write up a report on the course.

I was one of the twelve runners today.

Myself and Shawn really enjoyed the route and weather. Some aid stops were quite far apart so I did go quite dry without water. But felt good otherwise. 

The last few steep climbs over Lewes Downs WILL be in the final route (So whoever told me after the race that they probably won't, was winding me up).

I came in 2nd in 4:00

The marathon was a success and the organisers will be making some adjustments to put on an inaugural marathon for March 2015.

Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series Sussex
A week later I headed to Burling Gap, East Sussex. Which is close to Beachy Head, Eastbourne. I have good memories of pain and very scenic views from the CTS Devon last year, so really wanted to give the local Sussex event a go. 

The ultra distance uses the marathon route, then passes back through the finish, before heading out again onto the 10k route. 

Endurance Life rate this event as 'Moderate' on a scale of 3. The Devon event was a 'Severe' scale 4. To be honest they both were with hard, harsh, steep climbs but Devon was definitely much tougher rugged terrain along the moors. 

I took it easy on the hills and raced the flat, downhills with feeling strong. The wind chill was fierce, but once the rain stopped it turned out good conditions...

I finished strong in 10th position out of 83 ultra runners in 5:33:33

I am signed up for next year and hope to improve my time and position.

Brighton Marathon
Brighton marathon has always been a special home race for me. It was my first ever marathon back in 2011 and Brighton's first too. 

This year was my fourth attempt, and after struggling so hard to reach a sub 3hr last year (just seconds off from cramping). I wasn't so sure how this year would pan out after running my ultra races...

I hadn't been training much road or intervals, so just counted on my current fitness and feel to get me through.

The run went well and I felt pretty strong throughout. I started in the elite area again which starts in Withdean Park, and avoids the lap around Preston Park.

I am not sure if I started out too quickly with my pace or my muscles just tired from the road towards the end....

I came in minutes over 3hrs and was pleased I am still fit and consistent, but I was slightly gutted that again, I did not reach that Brighton sub 3 goal of mine.

Although I have nailed a sub 3hr goal already, twice, it would be nice to actually achieve this in my home city. 

Perhaps next year...

The Viking Way Ultra
Easter weekend I made a long journey by car (to Peterborough) where I met Ultra running friend Nick, who then looked after my car for the weekend. I jumped on the coach for a 4hr journey up to Hull. 

I finally managed to get settled at midnight for a 4am wake up to share a taxi with fellow runners over the Humberside Bridge to the start. I should have registered on the morning instead of getting the train over the night before. I now know for next time...

I was very rested and tapered for this event, despite the lack of sleep at the Travelodge. I would have liked to reach a further distance in my training but a 90 mile week would just have to do. 

A 7am start at sunrise was a beautiful beginning south of Barton On Humber along the Viking Way. I was amongst 20 other ultra runners today. I took it very steady with a 9:30min/mile pace on average for the first 50 miles. 

I have never run over 100 miles before so really wanted to keep my energy levels for when tiredness and day two begins. I stuck to my nutrition plan of only liquids, and salt capsules for the first 8hrs, as the usual avocado, bulletproof fuel lasted me all this time. 

The weather was perfect spring conditions, breezy and dry mostly. 

I did go off course in places, as this was a tricky self navigating route to follow, with the small picture maps I had printed to carry along. As time went by I soon added bonus miles to this epic journey!

The night section was very difficult in places and I soon went the wrong way trying hard to run back along the actual route. I met up with another runner in lincoln, who remembered the directions through the city and back into the woods. 

Slowly other runners started to drop and injure, then quit. I had to battle through some pain in my ankle after 27hrs, then the frustration of getting lost. The last few hours and into Oakham was a major fight to keep moving as walking seemed to hurt my ankle more so...

On Easter Sunday at 16:29
33hrs and 29min from starting, I reached the finish. I covered 160 miles in total, 147 is the actual route...

I still managed first place 4hrs in the lead. Only 3 other runners finished in the 48hr time frame.

This was the biggest highlight and achievement of my running to date. I was so so sore, yet so ecstatic with joy, it took me awhile to digest what really happened that amazing Easter weekend. 

Centurion Thames Path 100
This was my second attempt at running the Thames Path 100 miler. I had some tough competition this year, and with a much later date in the calendar than March 2013. The conditions looked to be perfect, if not a little too warm for the time of year. Slight breeze and little cloud, it was a very warm start and I made sure to take precautions and keep hydrated and cool. 

I couldn't seem to get my layers right and I also really struggled to settle into the race. I didn't feel as comfortable or happy as I usually do at long distance events. My body felt tired and strained from Viking Way still and after a marathon distance it really wasn't looking pleasant then on...

I suffered with the same ankle, ligament strain when I finished the last race, and it just got more and more sore the further I went. the Thames Path is a very flat and hard surfaced route, which really made my ankle uncomfortable. 

I added an ice pack at Henley-On-Thames, the half way point, and tried to decide the best action for the later stages. 

I eventually hobbled away, but once I reached the next bridge, I had already made my mind up to stop and call it a day...

My ankle was just too sore and the thought of walking the last 50 miles in pain wasn't my idea of fun or helping. It really was too soon after the epic distance of Viking Way.

More rest needed. My first DNF this year.

The end of May I tried out the Sussex Trail Events new addition to the calendar. The River Arun Marathon starts in Littlehampton Marina, where it follows the river north, passing Arundel Castle, then reaching Amberley. The off road route then stakes the South Downs Way up high towards Washington, before the switch back half way.

The route was very scenic and flat to start before the track leads into Amberley. I ran most of the race with ultra runner Dill, who runs at similar pace. We both wanted to treat this as a training run before the SDW100 in June. Although off to a good start, the warmer weather and no shade took a toll on my body. I over heated quickly then felt sick from sun stroke. It didn't help that I went off route missing a turning and Trey followed. 

We both ran 3 extra miles and came in 6th and 7th place. Shawn was not too far behind us in 8th place, he didn't get as lost as we did...

I threw up after I finished three times, which for me was a first. I really suffered from lack of shade and wearing all black was a bad move!

Centurion South Downs Way 100
After much needed rest and recovery, some light running, but mostly the gym and bike to help heal my ligament damage from April. The South Downs 100 miler was the next challenge, and my first attempt.... finally. 

The eastern section of the South Downs are local to me. So this has been on my radar for the past two years, and I really wanted it to be my first 100, but then I wouldn't of experienced the Thames Path in 2013, when I did, for which I was very prepared for at the time...

The weather had been warm leading up to the event, then stormy the night before. I was lucky enough to get a restless nights sleep in a tent on site at the start. The rain was so immense it kept deaf old me awake on and off for 4 hours. 

Although lack of sleep and an early start of 6am, I felt surprisingly good and charged to go...

It wasn't to be for long..... 

I chose Luna Sandals to start, which was a huge mistake after the rain storm. The mud was so thick and deep in places I had to remove the sandals and try to run barefoot until I reached dry patches. 

Once I reached 25 miles I managed to change my footwear to trail shoes and could eventually pick up my pace. This wrong choice really slowed my pace, and I dropped places, forever playing catch up for the rest of the day. 

The very humid start from the storm added excessive sweating and loss of salts. I really suffered for the first 50 miles. 

It wasnt until late afternoon I started to settle and feel I could concentrate and focus on the next half. Things started to go more to plan, and the weather improved with less humidity and more of a breeze. 

Although it was my slowest 100 miler to date it was one of my most memorable experiences. I had so many lows but even better highs. I had fantastic support from the team and my crew. No nagging injuries and my nutrition was spot on. 

I learned much from the south downs this weekend, and it is one event I would like to participate every year where possible. A very tough and steep route, with plenty of vast scenery and contrasting landscapes that can be seen from near and very far...

I came in 23rd position in 19:29:28

Centurion North Downs Way 100
I have some history with the North Downs. One of the first 100 milers I tried to enter, but volunteered instead, then last year I dropped at the aid station I was a volunteer for.

So this year I really wanted to make it past Botley Hill at 43 miles!

I kept a nice gap in my calendar, after the race in June, so I was really rested for this one. The North Downs 100 is classed as the toughest of all four Centurion events.

Another 6am start for the summer race and I made use of a more comfortable rest at my parents house an hours drive away.

The start was cooler than usual but very muggy again. I felt better prepared this time and kept my salt levels up from the start. 

As the first section was very familiar to me, from previous marathons in the area, I could get my pacing correct and consistent. It wasn't until reaching the familiar climbs at Box Hill and Reigate Hill, that I could feel confident reaching Botley Hill injury free. 

I really had to power hike the steep parts and steps, so to save my energy for much later. The dreaded Detling steps are at 80 miles, which everyone talks of will finish anybody off if you have raced to early on... 

The weather turned out great, with some clouded shelter from the sun and a breeze. No rain to worry of for now and I got to the halfway point in a good time of 8hr 50min in 9th position. My crew, friends and family were fantastic following along the entire route into darkness. 

I tried with everything I had to make the finish by midnight, but with all those steps and steep hills it wasn't to be. The tail end of a hurricane in the Atlantic hit the coast in the early hours, so the heavens opened to strong winds and rain for the last few hours of running.

I really didn't let it dampen my spirits and outlook. My cheering and very helpful pacers got me to the finish still feeling strong and again without any injuries. My energy levels throughout the race were steady and I rarely suffered with lows. 

After the South Downs I felt very conditioned and prepared for this one, and my body seemed to except the stresses with ease and knew how to cope with it. 

My recovery was the quickest it has ever been. 

I finished in 8th place in 20:52:15 which was my slowest 100 miler to date but considering the elevation and tough rain towards the end, it was a nice surprise to reach this position still.

All four Centurion 100's now completed in under 24 hours

A slightly late decision to enter another event in the same month as a 100 miler, but this was something quite different. I teamed up with my good friend Helen for the Spitfire Scramble, running as a mixed pair. Appropriately called Hare and the Tortoise.

I have always wanted to try a 12 or 24 event running laps, solo, but the thought of road or track does not appeal to my trail running legs. This new 24hr event for London seemed ideal. Using a 5.79 mile loop. 

Taking place in Hornchurch Country Park, Havering. A mixed terrain through woods, farmland tracks and parkland, with some scenic views out to London.

A large number of teams ran as a relay and myself and Helen were one of three as a mixed pair. I figured this would be a good experience and taster for the both of us to see how these lap events pan out and feel. 

We spotted many other running friends by surprise, who too kept it quiet about this one. The Gosport Runners were kind enough to let us use their tent area to keep our supplies and changes of clothes for later.

Starting at midday we agreed to running one lap each for the time being. Perhaps I started out a little too fast but I soon got into the hang of recovering between laps. 

After Helen reached her 2nd lap she asked me to run two, as she was having less rest periods between my laps. We planned to have one of us running for the complete 24 hours until midday Sunday.

The afternoon flew by and when the night time came it was the most enjoyable part. The temperature dropped quickly and although still humid it felt cold warming up between laps. We used large blankets and change of tech tops to stay dry, but by 4am we had run out of clothing and started to borrow gear from The Gosport running team! 

As tiredness set in we started to slow and take longer breaks to warm up. 

By 9am we called it a day as the car battery had died (I didn't lock the car properly) and the RAC had to jump start the car, which then needed the engine running afters. 

We managed a total of 18 laps between us in under 22 hours, and were the winners for mixed pair. It really took us by surprise and had we kept going we may have covered even further. 

I ran for 12 laps (70 miles) in total. We was so pleased with the result, and our first 24hr event. We have already signed up to go back in 2015 and see if Hare and the Tortoise can claim another trophy...

I decide against running Coltswolds Way 100, as the Spitfire created Plantar Fasciitis in my heel. Which is a first for me. 

It was quite uncomfortable to run with, so I really didn't want to risk straining it further on a route I am not familiar with. 

An event still on my to do list...

Winter 100 
(Renamed to Autumn 100)
Centurion Running have pulled forward the last 100 miler event to October as such harsh conditions caused many problems the first few years, during the end of November. 

This will be my second try at the Winter 100, so I am familiar with the route, terrain and areas covered already. 

With September as a month off to allow my Plantar Fasciitis to fully heal up, I wasn't sure how this race would go and my training had suffered as a consequence. I spent more time in the gym, on the bike and cross trainer to try and keep my stamina up. 

I most certainly was rested for this one...

The first two legs, out and back started out well, although I was aware I had to keep my pace steady at around 8:45-9:00min/mile. 

The conditions were warmer than usual with a muggy feel to it all day... I kept my salt levels up as I was feeling slack from the start. I was waiting for the usual enjoyable runners high I get when at these long events. 

It never came. 

I got through the familiar Ridgeway route out to Chain Hill in the dark and with the winds picking up. This is the steepest and loneliest leg of the race. 

The volunteers and disco lights (from the aid station) were fantastic, and like true Centurion style, nobody was left disappointed with the show.

On this leg back to base my ongoing Plantar Fasciitis started to really aggrevate more so, and I was unsure how the next 30 miles would end up...

I remember catching up with Shawn as I came down the hill, and his race was improving, but I explained how mine has never really started. 

I just never had that buzz or felt like my heart was in it today.... I was so low and once reaching base I decided to call it quits. 

I really do not know if it was the injuring making me feel so depressed, or that my body needed the time out from endurance running?

I already have the Winter '100 miles in one day' buckle and felt it was unnecessary to push myself through the night walking in pain, when my holiday was so close...

I used the time off and vacation in November to rest up fully and find my running spark again.

The Hill Ultra
This would be my 2nd try at one of Mark Cockbain's epic challenges (not for beginners). i signed up to run The Hill Ultra some time ago and had planned on using my 100 milers as warm up leading to the end of year event.

Set in the Peak District and using Shining Tor as the hill section, an out and back 2.9 mile leg in total. 

All we had to do was run up and down the hill 55 times, in less than 48 hours, which totals 160 miles if you finish...

With plenty of rest and starting at 8pm on the Friday. 23 runners set out on the cold frosty hill for the night. I felt brilliant during the night and didn't get much fatigue until well into the next day come afternoon. My nutrition kept my energy levels up and I stayed around 3/4 place throughout. 

It wasn't until the weather really started to turn and the cold turned to fog then high winds...

I was still feeling strong, but with some slight ITB syndrome developing on my left leg. However, my pace dropped considerably as finding my footing in the thick fog was near impossible in places. I fell and then my judgement started to get hazy when the cold really got to my head and chest. 

By the 27th hour at almost midnight on Saturday, after 40 reps of the hill I decided to call it a day. The winds slowly getting worse by the hour, and then rain and hail predicted, I think I would have got very ill or caught Hypothermia in the night.

I am just not kitted up or acustomed to the harsh northern eliments the Peak District brings! I needed polar gear!

I had the best experience and it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable moments of my year. The dark fog will haunt me forever...

I will be back to conquer that hill...

The 5th year of the marathon in Portsmouth and my 3rd time! This has become the last race of the year for my schedule and I have a love hate relationship with the route and time of year. It's always the last Sunday before
Christmas so weather can be pretty nasty. I wasn't fully rested last year after the Winter 100 and really suffered at the end.

This year, however went much better and
Just 15 days after running 116 miles in the Peak District, my body did not seem to tire like I was expecting it too.

Actually I felt very good throughout considering and only slight leg ache towards the end. 

My pace was consistent and steady without pushing too hard, just in case, and I managed to finish five minutes quicker than last year in 3:23:26

It was a good training long run and ended off the year nicely to actually get a medal. After the last two DNF's my confidence was slightly knocked, so to finish strong and without any further injury was a big boost and a Happy Christmas to look forward to....

The 2014 Collection

Ultra Marathon statistics for Ultra Luke 

I have a few more marathons planned and perhaps an overseas event possibility somewhere in my schedule of work and time off allows. 

My challenges are the Hardmoors 160 in May and then the T184 (entire length of the Thames River self-supported) in August. I hope to run a 12/24 hour event solo where possible and then some different 100 milers around the country.

It looks to be an exciting 2015 to come...

See you there...

1 comment:

Please add your comments here. I would like to encourage discussion on running, training and nutrition. Luke