The journey continues – 2017



This blog entry is an end of year (2016), looking back, then looking forwards (2017), maudlin kind of blog. This is an online diary of sorts and not a professional venture, so I’m going to indulge myself for a bit (as usual :D) and see where it goes. You never know, it may inspire someone somewhere that their life isn’t so bad, and they may put on a pair of shoes, step out the front door and start to run. Once you do then you never know where it may end.

Setting the scene

We are all on a journey and over the last few years my family have been on a roller coaster of epic proportions. If you are a regular reader then you will know that my wife has battled leukaemia for many years (I blog about that separately here) and is now 2.5 years out from a stem cell transplant. In that time she always seemed to get bad news and end up in hospital through the Christmas period. Just as she was starting to come through it my Dad was diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumour and he passed away on 10th Jan 2015. My wife was in hospital with pneumonia, glandular fever and bronchitis at the time. In the months after my Dad passed away I struggled with a lot of things, but it was most visible in the number of races that I failed to finish. Somewhere in there our children, now 8 and 10, managed to stay clothed, fed and healthy. To be honest it’s all a blur and without the help and support of my Mum I have no idea how we would have come through it all. This all started to change in Sept 2015 when I took a trip with a friend to Equinox 24, a 10km look in the grounds of Belvoire Castle that you repeat for 24 hours. My goal was simply to sort my head out and I ended up running about 82 miles, and working out a lot of demons.

2016 recap – The good

In my mind, coming in to 2016, it was going to be a bit of a renaissance. I had two races that had smoked me before that I was determined to finish and I called them my “nemesis races.” These were the Thames Trot 50 miler in February (owned me in 2015) and The Oner 82 miles, 10000ft ascent (owned me in 2014 and 2015). I had also got an entry into my first ever stage race, also dubbed as Iceland’s toughest foot race – Fire and Ice 2016.

In January 2016 and at very short notice I decided to do something in memory of my Dad, to distract from the painful memories. I decided to try and climb my local Dartmoor Tor so many times that I would have done the equivalent of Everest. In the end I raised around £1500 for St Luke’s Hospice and was joined throughout the day by many many kind and generous folk who kept me company. I only got to the top once alone. Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team (Plymouth) were on the hill in support from 6am through to 2am. They were amazing. The support overwhelmed me. I could not believe so many people that I didn’t know came out to see me and keep me moving. The weather was terrible and thankfully the rain hid the many tears that I shed.

In February 2016 I stormed through the Thames Trot 50, finishing about halfway down a 200 strong field. It was a brutal day with continuous rain and over 40 miles of headwind. Despite it being flat it was mostly on very slippery mud and was a serious challenge with many people dropping out.

In April 2016 I changed my strategy for the Oner. My pacing approach was radical and I was totally committed to finish. This was a defining moment for me and I clearly remember the moment as I was walking along a stretch of hilly coastline after moving non-stop through the night. The sun came up and I took a moment, sitting on a rock all by myself to soak it in. The finish was still 15 miles away, but I had time and I would finish. Crossing that finish line felt simply amazing. In fact, amazing doesn’t do it justice in any way. This was a three year battle and I had finally done it.

After April I took a trip to Edinburgh to take part in the Edingburgh Marathon, setting a new and significant PB of 3 hrs 30 minutes and 1 second. I crossed the finish line with heat stroke. Who goes to Scotland and gets heat stroke!!?

2016 recap – The bad

I was poorly through July and August with a virus. It ended up being a two month rest, straight into Fire and Ice. I had barely run in 8 weeks and I was an emotional mess. I contacted the organiser who essentially told me to pull myself together, get to the start line and see what happens. He was right (thanks Dave 🙂 )

Sam also had a leukaemia relapse scare in October. This was an utterly terrifying experience, but after three bone marrow biopsies (she’s had over 20 since 2012) she was given the all clear again.

2016 recap – The good (again)

When I finally pitched up in Iceland Fire and Ice turned out to be the most amazing experience. I took it slow on the first couple of days as I simply had no idea how I would fare. It was hard, really hard. Documentary by Cojo Films on it below in which I popup a few times 🙂

Anyway, on day 3 I started to come into my own. Day 3 was the hardest stage at 40 miles, and lots of people quit. It rained for most of the day, there were two river crossings and the headwind was relentless for 10 hours. I kept repeating in my head “The harder it gets, the tougher I become.” I finished well and with four days to go started to come into my element. In the last few days I changed. I started to race and I started to believe in myself like never before. I finished stronger each day until the finish. This belief stayed with me through the rest of 2016 and I will be carrying it into 2017.

Post Fire and Ice I took on a new coach, Charles Miron of Solo Sport Systems. Under his guidance I knocked 25 minutes off of my PB at the Eden Project Marathon (My Eden Mara PB, not my overall marathon PB), and then had my highest ever Ultra finish by a long way at the 50 mile Beacons Ultra in Nov 2016. 22nd of 204.

Charles’ remit is to get me through the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race in 2017. The toughest ultra marathon I have ever seen, and all in Wales.

2016 – The ugly

The ugly

2017 – Riding the wave

In 2016 I turned 40 and started putting in significant personal best performances after a life spent cycling, running and swimming, so my aim is to ride that wave into and through 2017.

A few things have changed about the way I race and perform. I used to race all the time and race everything I could, just finishing and experiencing the event. I am now starting to have expectations of myself and in 2017 I have my biggest ever goals. They are significant, and come with them a high chance of failure, but I’m going to train hard, focus and do what I can to achieve them. They are:

  • “A” race: Compete in the Berghaus Dragon’s Back in May, not just to finish, but to race and do the best I can. I don’t expect to be anywhere near the podium, but I want to acquit myself as best as I possibly can. I will also be raising money for Dartmoor Search and Rescue (Plymouth.)
  • “B” race: Finish my first 100 miler, The North Downs Way in August. If I have recovered well from Dragon’s Back my goal will be sub-24hr.
  • “C” race: Frome half marathon in July (my favourite half marathon.) I wont do any specific training for this, but I will give it some ooomph and see what is in my legs if my coach will let me 🙂

If I come out of those ok then I have another little project to take me into winter, but I’ll tell you about that when the time comes.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wish you all the very best for whatever 2017 may bring. 


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