2019 review – racing/training summary

2019 is already well and truly in the books, but I’ve been enjoying my Christmas pudding and mince pies far too much, so there’s been a short delay in publishing the much anticipated ‘how much training and racing does a semi-mediocre ‘athlete’ do in a year’ post.

For those of those of you bored at work/school/home (tell the significant other that, no, you don’t want to watch the next episode of ‘The Masked Singer’, as you’re reading Spraggins blog), you can pore over previous reviews as it turns out this site has now been running for 6 seemingly never-ending years.

2014
2015
2016
2017
2018

Being an accountant, we’ll stick to the usual format, with the numbers first;

Running – 2,614 miles (2018 – 1,827)

Cycling – 5,226 miles (2018 – 6,812)

Swimming – 200 miles (2018 – 255)

Total time spent training/racing – 785 hours. This is an average of 15 hours per week, spread across the entire year.

The increase in running mileage can be linked to me trying to morph into Forrest Gump in the build up to the London Marathon, which resulted in me getting fit but then very sick. Swings and roundabouts.

Racing

41 x 5km parkruns
3 x 10km
5 x half marathons
4 x marathons
2 x cross country races
2 x green belt stages
1 x sprint triathlon
1 x half-ironman
1 x ironman
1 x duathlon
1 x Ride London

On paper, this seems like a lot. But bear in mind I’ve done a lot of these for ‘fun’, and they haven’t been completed at anywhere near race intensity. Most of them involve me pratting around in a flat-cap, much to the disgust of my long-suffering girlfriend. Little does she know, I’ve bought her one for her birthday.

January – April 

As always, the year kicked off at the New Years Day triathlon in Edinburgh, where once again it was glorious failure, as I scooped a 3rd place finish. Key takeaways included successfully pulling off the chimney sweep look during the prize giving, and not drowning after minimal swim training.

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During the Spring I launched into some fairly hefty run training, while making sure I was ticking over in the pool and on two wheels. This led to some encouraging races, including probably the performance of the year for me, clocking 75:42 at the Reading half marathon, a chunky PB. Not only that, but I got to ‘pace’ future Olympian and running chum Steph Davis for all of 2 miles before I realised I was running at a completely ridiculous pace and pulled up the handbrake.

This was all after shoe-lace gate at the Wokingham half, which believe it or not still haunts me wherever I go, as readers of this blog (apparently there are some) make quips during races regarding the tightness of my laces before charging off away from me into the distance. Bantz.

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During the build up to London I realised I should probably pretend to be a triathlete for a bit, so I put in my annual entry to the highly prestigious Diss Duathlon. The highlight of this trip is always seeing my Grandparents and getting treated to some lovely home cooking. The race itself went quite well – some nobody going by the name of Joe Skipper turned up, leaving the rest of us mere mortals fighting for scraps and I managed to finish (a quite distant) 2nd.

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In the final push towards the marathon I ran a 10km race in Victoria Park 8 days before. I decided things weren’t going well during the race and threw a bit of a mini-strop, not even bothering to raise a sprint in the closing stages, which ultimately saw me equal instead of beat my PB of 35:41 set back in 2016. Spraggins you absolute chopper. In fairness, I passed the 10km point during the Reading half in 35:10, so I know I’ve got a quicker time somewhere in my locker.

From here it was all eyes on the capital, where me and plucky Irishman Paul Hunt plotted a team assault on the marathon. This was all going well until around halfway, when he dropped me like a bad smell as I was quite clearly struggling. After suffering my way around Canary Wharf, I had a mini-resurgence and caught the little leprechaun with 3 miles to go, and we ran it in together, squeaking under 2:40 by the slimmest of margins. 

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This was all after the Silver Streak, Nick ‘The Badger’ Bowker (now 2:24 marathon runner) tried and failed to out-kick us down birdcage walk, showing how much of a team player he really is. Maybe next time, pal.

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May – July

Being an uncoached ‘athlete’ after Paul Burton jumped shipped post the glory days of Kona 2018, I was slightly rudderless and my year lacked any kind of formal structure. I picked up my bike more regularly (after a brief diversion via the world famous Wimbledon 10km, and a 3rd place finish) and dived in the pool as much as I could, with Challenge Roth on the horizon.

One of my highlights of the year was the Edinburgh half marathon, where did I not only get the chance to run with Katie as she knocked out a 1:26, but quite unfathomably (I can’t believe I’m writing this), my Mum ran it! Something I never thought I’d say, and I was so proud of her.

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Challenge Roth was a race I’d always wanted to do, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The whole town went triathlon mad, and the organisation was faultless. I was lucky enough to share the journey with some great friends from Clapham Chasers.

I had a bit of a mid-race wobble (seems to be a theme this year), and after Katie rubbished my idea half-way through the run that I was going to ‘walk it in’, I stuck it out and finished in a respectable 9:28, just about holding off a charging Ruth Astle (we won’t mention that I actually had a 20 minute head start…)

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Despite this being a new ironman PB for me, when I signed up back in 2018, I’d hoped for so much more from the race, with the goal of a sub-9 hour performance not being realised. You can’t win them all, and it was another great experience to be a part of.

Following the usual ironman recovery protocol, I raced a half-ironman just 2 weeks later, being coaxed in by the lads from home with promises of beers and barbecues afterwards. Perfect.

Rather surprisingly, I managed to take the overall win at The Owler Triathlon – only my second ever triathlon win. Elite athlete and good friend Dom Rea-Long also took out his age group in the sprint distance, leaving Brownie as the only loser (non-winner) of the weekend. What a shame.

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August – October

I’ve not shied-away from the fact that 2019’s been a tough year, suffering with depression for large periods and at points struggling just to get by, day-to-day. Luckily, I’ve got an amazing girlfriend, as well as friends and family who’ve been there for me and helped me through the difficult times.

After Roth I took some time off, stepping back from any structure and just trying to get control of my life back. I found this really difficult as I love to train and exercise, and when this is taken away I don’t feel myself and suffer as a result. But prioritising R&R was definitely the right thing to do.

This doesn’t mean I was completely sedentary (god forbid!), with a little hit-out at Ride London with top chap Andy Stringer resulting in a surprisingly decent finish time and position.

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Katie and I had a holiday to Croatia booked, and who doesn’t love a hilly (> 2,100 meters of climbing) mountain marathon whilst on their travels. Mainly due to lack of specific training, the Ucka Trail marathon was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The real comedy value to take from this was watching me limp around Croatia for the next 7 days – I’ve never had such horrific DOMS. I was struggling to lift myself down and out of the car for the first 4 days.

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From here I slowly built training back into my routine, now under the guidance of new head coach Ben Webeck. He holds the unique and rare skill of actually getting Spraggins to listen instead of charging off and doing something completely irrelevant for the 3rd time this week.

By far the highlight of 2019, and possibly my entire running/triathlon career to date, was the Frankfurt marathon. Katie had been training like a little demon for a long time, and she was (rather worryingly) letting me run with her. I’d never been so terrified before a race, with frequent dreams of me not being able to keep up as she sped off into the distance.

The race itself could be described as ‘eventful’. Snapping the middle metatarsal of her right foot just 5km into the race definitely wasn’t part of the plan. Thankfully (?), she didn’t know it was broken, thinking it might just be cramp or ligament pain. So she gritted out a further 35km, obliterating her PB and running 3:01. Zero regrets on being that close to sub 3, mainly because it’s only a matter of time now..

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I’ve never seen such a display of determination and grit – it was hugely inspiring and if I could access just even some of her ability to suffer, I’d be a much better athlete!

November – December

I was finishing off the year as we always do, at the Valencia marathon. After Frankfurt I got back into some decent training, running my fastest parkrun in over 2 years at Dulwich, clocking a 17:31.

Back at the start of the year I was hoping our trip to the home of paella would be a bona fide PB attempt, but after all the goings on of the summer, I knew well before that I wouldn’t be in the kind of shape. However, I resigned to give it my best shot.

I ended up with a 2:44, after getting to ‘pace’ the legendary Danny O’Reilly for the first half, before he showed me a clean pair of heels and pushed on to run a massive PB. What an influencer. I mean inspiration.

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The absolute star of the show was Steph Davis, ambling around for a 2:27, only good enough for the 9th fastest time by a British woman. In history. Ever. Ridiculous. This gave her an Olympic qualifying time and a genuine shot of being on the plane to Toyko 2020. Best start packing my bags then.

2020 plans

A new decade, and the show must go on. But where is the circus stopping off this year? The main race targets are two British races – Ironman Ireland (June) and Ironman Wales (September). Mainly because, who doesn’t love the freezing cold sea, a most likely wet and windy bike course and local chav’s leering at you during the run.

In all seriousness, there are no chavs in Cork or Tenby, as they’re decent places, and I’m really looking forward to racing both. There will no doubt be some running going on earlier in the season, alongside some duathlon/bike races. And if a golden ticket to that magical island in the Pacific Ocean turns up? I’ve already booked my flights m8.

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