I woke up this morning with a headache after a terrible night’s sleep. I tossed and turned and was feeling both freezing cold and boiling hot at various points during the night. If it wasn’t for the twin facts that (a) I have a bunch of work that really has to get done before Monday, and (b) taking New Year’s Eve off because I am unwell probably looks about the dodgiest thing you can do, I would be staying home today. Instead, I’ll get into work, get my day done, and hopefully start to feel a little better later.

On account of the headache and the bad night sleeping, I didn’t head out for a run on this the last day of the year 2015. Instead, I thought I would take a look back at the year and the highlights and lowlights of the running I have done.

prague-run

I started the year injured. I had run a lot during a trip to Prague and injured myself about half way through a long run there. Stupidly, I pushed forward to the end of the long run to the point where I walked in the last 2 kilometres and then couldn’t walk at all after I stopped moving. The next couple of days were brutal, and the next couple of months were hard, too. I learnt a pretty valuable lesson there: if it hurts, stop – or at least consider whether you really have to keep pushing hard.

I started a new job in January and managed very little running that month. I got out a total of seven times, and never for more than 12km. February was much the same, with only a couple of running days and all rather short 10km efforts. The injury I had picked up in Prague was playing up and I was pushing too hard even with these ‘only one day a week’ runs. I decided about then to give my body a chance to really rest and took a couple of months entirely off from running altogether.

Mid-year, though, I was ready to get back into things.

July saw me getting out a couple of days a week, though I was keeping my longest runs to about 10km. In August and on vacation for a week, I picked it up a little more. I ran almost every day that month, extended my longer runs out to 16 and 17km and cross-trained on the days I didn’t run. All in all, there was only one day in August I didn’t do some sort of exercise and I was feeling good. The injury had had the time it needed to heal, and I was starting to pick up some speed.

About this time, I signed up for the Run in Lyon Half Marathon set for October and hoped that it would give me a nice goal to shoot for. I was hoping to run under 1:55 and – in the back of my mind – wondered if I would be able to go for 1:45. I didn’t know it then but a combination of good running, taking care of my fitness and dropping some weight meant that these goals were not only within reach but also setting the bar way too low.

In September and in preparing for the Half Marathon I lifted the tempo of my training. I was getting out every day and what had been a long 10km run earlier in the year was now the minimum run I would consider. I extended my long runs out to 20km and even 30km and was confident I could go the distance at the Half Marathon. Weekly mileage edged up to (and then surpassed) 100km a week: things were getting serious.

runinlyon-2015

Race day arrived and I had a perfect race. Though I started back in the pack with the other 1:55 runners, I spent the whole race passing people and crossed the line in 1:34:02 – a personal best (PB) for the distance for me. I was ecstatic with the result and knew that I wanted to run longer – a marathon for sure, but maybe something longer than that, too.

I read a lot about events around France in the last quarter of the year and settled on a 12 hour race in Ploeren. The Ploeren 24H/12H/6H race was a couple of months away at that point and I thought I would have sufficient time to prepare and get more miles into my legs before the big day.

mt-revard-marathon

Two weeks after the Half Marathon I went down to Aix les Bains and ran my first marathon distance long run: 42.2km up the side of a mountain and then down again. It was a brutal way to introduce myself to the longer distances, but all good fun. Having a weekend getaway to share it with Cécile, too, also added to the fun factor. As the profile above suggests, it was not the easiest of long runs, but it gave me confidence for the Ploeren 12H race to come.

Throughout October and November I kept my training rhythm high and aimed to put in 80km or more each week. If I felt sick or had even the slightest sense of an injury coming on, I backed things off and took a day off from running. Taking this sort of proactive stance – as I am again today – and avoiding training through injury probably helped me enter the race in Ploeren feeling as good as I’d ever feel. I was ready for my first ultramarathon.

ploeren12H-header

I was both happy with my performance in Ploeren and disappointed, too. Happy because I had finally run an ultramarathon distance in a race and I had never run that far before, period. I was disappointed, though, as I had been aiming to run about 85km (two marathons) in this event and I failed at that goal. I learnt a lot about pacing, however, and I learnt a lot about fueling on longer runs and in ultras, and so in the end I left Ploeren knowing more than I did when I arrived, and being ready to press on for the next challenge.

I took most of the next week off from running before easing back into things with a couple of runs the following Saturday and Sunday. Then, with my eyes firmly set on 2016 and the challenges to come, I started back into building a base of miles and increasing the time I was spending on my feet.

In the last two weeks I have had my heaviest training weeks of the year, or actually ever. I pushed well over the 100km barrier to record 119km in weekly mileage two weeks agao, and then 124km in weekly mileage last week. Last week included my first training run of 50km and the fact that it went so well confirmed for me that I have both recovered sufficiently from Ploeren and am setting myself up well for races in 2016.

So: what coems next?

First on my list for 2016 is the St Fons 6H race in March. This should be good fun and I am hoping that the combination of a race closer to home (Ploeren was more than 1000km from here, St Fons is on the other side of town) and a shorter distance (6 hours instead of 12 hours) will allow me to gain some more confidence at the ultramarathon distances. I haven’t really set a goal for this race but I would be happy with 60km in 6 hours, and anything more would be a real bonus.

Second up is the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra, a race held in the twilight in May. It’s also a local race – the starting point is almost visible from our street! – and is also a timed event of 6 hours. The kicker is that it is an urban course that involves 90m of ascent in every one of the 2km laps. If I can make it to 21 laps in the 6 hours I will be happy, and anything more will again be bonus.

Besides those two races, though, I haven’t signed up for anything else just yet. Perhaps the season-ending SainteLyon could be a good option if I start running trails more and, again, as a local race it will help me save on travel and finances, too.

But I have a whole year to make that decision so I’ll stick with St Fons and UBDLS for the moment. Here’s to a great 2016 running for me, for you, and for everyone!

Yearly Total Distance: 1842km

Yearly Total Elevation: 17,488m

Yearly Total Time: 152 hours and 51 minutes

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