So here we are again, at the end of another year already. This will be the 8th annual summary! We’re through an entire Harry Potter series worth now (with a similar number of fans, I can only assume). The epic back catalogue can be found here;
2021 started off in a similar fashion to the previous year – locked down. Things started to kick off again as the year progressed, and we were lucky enough to get some racing and fun events in. As always though, we’ll go with yearly training totals first;
Running – 1,741 miles (2019 – 2,019)
Cycling – 10,679 miles (2019 – 11,124)
Swimming – 100 miles (2019 – 129)
Total time spent training/racing – 807 hours. That’s an average of 16 hours per week, spread across the entire year.
20 x 5km parkruns
1 x 10km
1 x half marathon
1 x marathon
1 x half-ironman
1 x ironman
3 x cycling time trials
2021 will also go down as the year of the hamstring. I’ve been incredibly lucky to mostly avoid injury in my long and very unsuccessful amateur endurance career, but this streak ended early in January. I was out running and felt something tweak high up in my left leg. It felt innocent enough at the time, and I wasn’t in any huge pain, but this ended up leading to months of frustration as the issue got progressively worse as time went on.
Thankfully, I was still able to ride my bike pretty much unaffected, so that’s what I did – very, very often. Many miles were logged on the faithful indoor turbo whilst the weather outside was horrid. But then; an outdoor ride in the middle of February. What’s going on? We’d decided to up sticks and move out into the Surrey Hills, with Dorking as our new HQ. With Box Hill just an 8 minute ride away, it would’ve been rude not to ride up it on the first morning in our new digs.
As lots of restrictions were still in place and I was only able to run sporadically, I was consistently smashing myself on the bike, mostly in a variety of hellish Zwift races which usually see you flog yourself to within an inch of your life. Pools re-opened in April and I made a reluctant return to the water, taking to it like a blind person flying an aeroplane.
Did I mention I was riding my bike a lot? A 20-minute outdoor power PB of 380w showed me that things were definitely moving in the right direction, and at the same time I’d been to see Liam Maybank at Aerevolution who got me properly dialed into my new TT bike – this was probably the best thing in terms of equipment I’ve done for years and years.
This coincided with me dipping my toes into the murky world of cycling time trials. I’d always been tempted, but Liam gave me the final push I needed to get involved in a couple of local events. I had a rather eventful debut when I managed to drop my chain halfway through and had to stop to put it back on, but after that went on to ride a 10 mile in 21:25 (on what wasn’t a totally flat course), and a 50 mile in 1:56.
Real racing didn’t return until the second half of the year, when more restrictions started to be lifted and Outlaw half in Holkham was on the agenda. Katie had decided that this was the year to tackle a full ironman, and all being well we’d both be doing Ironman Estonia in August. Racing in East Anglia is always a nice family affair with my grandparents and now Mum also living out that way, so we enjoyed hanging out with them alongside racing.
I had an average as always swim, really decent bike and injury affected run to just about scrape onto the age group podium, and earn myself another little wooden trophy. More impressively, Katie also nabbed 3rd in her age group so it was bronze all round and a celebratory bottle of Lambrini.
Between that and the main event of the year, photographer to the stars/good friend Jack Schofield and I decided we want to tackle the North Coast 500 up in the Scottish Highlands, across 3 days rather than the usual 7-10. So that would be 500 very hilly miles, in 3 days. Sounds like a brilliant plan to me.
This proved to be an absolutely epic adventure, with some stunning scenery and unbelievably good Scottish weather. There were some long days in the saddle, but we rolled back into Inverness on the evening of the 3rd day in a buoyant mood, ready to sink a few tinnies to celebrate.
July the 24th was a momentous day as Parkrun finally returned back into our lives, and the joy on everyone’s faces was a beautiful sight. My good friend Graham (of sub 3 Valencia fame) finally got the chance to complete his 250th run, and I stalked him around the entire course before he left me for dust in the closing stages.
Before you knew it, it was August and the main event of the year had rolled around – Ironman Estonia. This was always going to be about Katie, and if she hadn’t have piggy-backed onto an event that I was already signed up for, I definitely would’ve preferred to have watched and supported from the moment the starting hooter went.
As it was, we got to share a rather special moment of nervously standing together on the start line and diving into the water together. I then spent the rest of the day trying to concentrate on my own race but instead worrying about her being ok and safe.
I knew with my lack of significant running, things were going to get difficult during the marathon, so I didn’t have high expectations. I was super pumped to lay down a 4:38, 112 mile bike split, which included riding the final 8km on a flat rear tyre after a puncture. I just about held it together with a 3:28 run which hurt like hell, but I knew on a better day that sub-9 finishing time is within reach.
Normally after finishing and ironman I spend at least an hour trying not to be sick, but this wasn’t on the cards today as I needed to get straight back out on the course and support Katie. My single moment of the year is without doubt witnessing her cross the finishing line, and it’ll come as no surprise to anyone that knows me, that the waterworks were well and truly turned on. To go under 11 hours and run a 3:30 marathon in your first ever ironman is just utterly insane.
After a bit of R&R I was desperate to jump back into some running, with my hamstring finally starting to co-operate. I was back in action at the Big Half marathon, running 1:21 and it felt like things were finally starting to turn a corner. I had both eyes firmly on the return of the London Marathon in October. That was until some bastard knocked me off my bike on the way to work, and left me lying in the road as he drove off into the distance.
Weeks of frustration ensued as I was in a lot of pain; in the early stages I was unable to get in and out of bed without yelping in agony. This happened 6 weeks before London, and with 10 days to go the most I’d been able to run was 2.5 miles, before the pain was too much to handle. But then things started to improve, and three days before the marathon I’d got up to 6 miles without having to stop.
Clearly I was completely under-trained and my leg muscles hadn’t seen much action, but we know I’m the worlds most stubborn man, so if there was a chance to run, I was going to give it my best shot. Going through the halfway point in 1:24 was ludicrously stupid, but somehow I managed to cling on in what probably was one of the hardest runs of my life, to run a 2:53 and keep the sub-3 streak alive for another year.
That effort really did leave me in absolute pieces, and I had to take some serious downtime before I was able to get back running again. I had Mallorca to distract me, as I headed out with my bike to go and support lots of friends taking part in the Ironman and 70.3 out there, which was almost but not quite as fun as racing myself. Witnessing Ruth take out her first professional ironman win was the icing on top of an awesome trip.
I knew that as soon as I was back and able to run properly, I really wanted to focus on my running again for a while, with some marathons lined up early in 2022. So that’s exactly what I did, increasing the run mileage as much as my legs would allow, all the time monitoring my hamstring and watching out for any early warning signs.
Moving into December, I’d banked lots of miles (mainly on the trails), so Katie and I fancied a hit out at a 10km before the year was done. This went so much better than expected, as I ran under 35 minutes for the first time ever, and Katie went sub 38 – an incredible result. We backed this up the following week at Hove Prom parkrun, where I clocked 17:04, my 2nd fastest 5km ever and oh so close to that magic 17 minute barrier.
There was still time for one more bit of fun before the year was done, as we headed back to the 10 mile ‘Gut Buster’, a feast of hills, mud, river crossings and more mud; a great way to end the year and opportunity to blow away some of those Christmas cobwebs.
So that brings us to the close of 2021. Still awake? I highly doubt it. Motivation levels in Spraggins towers are at an all-time high, and we’re both ready to make an early dent into some races in the Spring of 2022, all being well. Highlights on the calendar so far include;
Boston (US) Marathon
Oh, and we’ve got the small matter of a wedding to plan…
Hopefully we’ll see a lot of you at some upcoming events. Thanks for reading Mum, I’ll give you a call next weekend.