2015 End of Year Review Paul Ali

I’m dedicating this blog to Gary who loves running statistics and end of year reviews.. this one’s for you. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of all my medals to go with it.

I’ve just about managed to grind my way to the end of 2015 and it’s been a huge year mileage wise for me, this is the brief story of how it all went down..

January

The end of 2014 saw the typical Xmas slump and over-indulgences (food) so it was good to start the New Year with a few challenges.

I made a commitment to doing some upper body exercise aswell as running and had entered a small open water swim in the summer. My big running goal would be a return trip to Sparta which would be my ‘A’ race for the year.

Some banter with Messrs Chambers, Stout and Pinnington also saw the launch of a 2015 mileage challenge with Team Awesome (Ali/Chambers) vs Team Beard (Stout/Pinnington) although only one person really competed, Lindley was injured most of the year and not running and then grew a huge beard and defected; Stouty didn’t bother recording his stats and Pinnington made a half hearted effort by reporting everything in kilometres.

I’m totally claim victory here although I feel like I’m Ross or Monica in that scene from Friends when they are left clutching the ball and everyone else has gone home hours ago.

Friends

“You just don’t care, guys”

Running wise, I started off with a long run at the Enigma News Year Marathon and trotted around the lakes in 3.39 and ran every day in January notching up 363 miles.

February

Ferbuary saw the start of the “Run Until You Drop” Challenge where participants aimed to run a minimum number of miles for the day in the month (i.e. 1 mile on the 1st Feb, 2 miles on the 2nd Feb etc). James Adams and I were co-hosting this ‘fun’ challenge. Thank you to everyone who got involved in the spirit of the event, you can read the event report here

I got my tactics all wrong by running the Thames Trot (48 miles) on Day 3 although despite a horribly muddy course this year managed to run my quickest time at the event (of an unaltered course) in 7.24. I ran the last few miles with Sally Ford who was stepping up to the 100 mile distances and aiming to complete the Centurion Grand Slam. I said she should try and finish quicker than my cumulative time in 2014, she said “maybe” and subsequently destroyed all of my times… absolutely destroyed all of my times with a great year of running.

2015 Thames Trot Paul Ali 06 photo Ernie Jewson

Thames Trot

I enjoyed a short weekend break on the South Coast, recceing The Oner route with Keith. It was a tale of two days with glorious weather on the Saturday followed by a horrible wet, windy day on the Sunday when we both got truly soaked and battered. Character building stuff as they say.

Week 4 was tough running 23 (Monday) up to 28 miles (Saturday) a day and was achieved by splitting this over morning, lunch and after work runs but I managed to complete challenge to earn the coveted Run Until You Drop T-Shirt and had banked 501 miles that month., my highest ever monthly total.

March

I had been swimming once a week since the start of the year and my swimming technique had improved from terrible to below average but I knew I could manage a 1 mile swim in the summer by now.

The only event I had lined up in March was the local Half Marathon. It was a fancy dress year for me (I alternate each year) and despite being really under the weather the few days before I had a half decent run finishing in 1.31.

2015 Reading Half Marathon Paul Ali Dick Dastardly 03

Catch the pigeon!

March saw me run 330 miles that month.

April

I took part in the Oner in April which to be honest didn’t go that well. I started the event tired (early mornings, lack of sleep and having to move hotel room due to noisy neighbours all contributed) and really suffered trying to stay awake during the night. Staggering along a coastal path in the middle of the night metres from the edge of the cliff on the coastal path wasn’t a great idea and I had to have a little power nap at a Checkpoint (in a van) and then death marched the remaining third of the race. I managed to finish the event but it was slower than I had planned and was a bit disappointed with my efforts on that one.

2015 Brutal Events The Oner Paul Ali 01

The Oner

The only other event I had that month was a return to the London Marathon. Having run the ‘perfect’ marathon in 2014 (felt comfortable, negative split, new PB) I didn’t think history would repeat itself and in a total act of cowardice decided to run in fancy dress so I wouldn’t be under any pressure to run for a ‘time’. I did feel a bit embarrassed at first getting changed into a fancy dress outfit amongst a lot of more serious looking athletes in the Good for Age pen and started right at the back of the group.. then proceeded to pass a few of them in the race and ran a new PB time of 3.06.

However, the real highlight was being captured running across Tower Bridge and having a slo-mo few seconds of fame on BBC TV. After years running in fancy dress at the local half just to try and get my photo in the paper, I had topped all those efforts at London making national TV, woo hoo!

You can see a brief clip here on the BBC Website.

2015 Virgin Money London Marathon Paul Ali 00 Header photo by Rachel Clarke

Lahndon Marafun mate.

With a few days taper and rest after the The Oner, the monthly mileage was 292.

May

May saw another run at the GUCR although it was another disappointing run finishing a couple of hours outside my previous best time with a 34.55 finish. There were no excuses here really, I really didn’t give that extra 10% of effort during the second half of the race and settled for the ‘power march’ far too early. However, the bonus was that I did spend a good few hours in the company of thoroughly nice chap Andy Horsely.

2015 Grand Union Canal Race GUCR Header Paul Ali Andy Horsley Photo by Ross Langton

With Andy. Smiling through relief rather than pleasure.

Still feeling a bit sorry for myself a week later, I ran the Kent Road runner marathon a brilliantly organised event put on by marathon supremo Ian Berry and an event which boasts a huuuugggggeee medal if you’re into that sort of thing. I ran a 3.18 which hurt a bit towards the end as I certainly hadn’t recovered from the week before but I sort of felt I deserved a bit of discomfort for my lack of effort the week before.

2015 Kent Roadrunner Paul Ali 01

The medal is the size of my head.

May saw 359 miles covered.

June

After the GUCR, June was a month spent doing lots of short runs. My stats show I only ran more than 20 miles once that month with a few other 10-12 mile runs thrown in.

I took part in the Endure 24 event as part of a 5 person relay team. The event involves running as many 5 mile trail laps as you can in 24 hours and camping out with hundreds of other people. Last year, our team had finished second and this year we were looking to better our result which would hopefully lead to another podium position.

Our team goal was to ensure we matched last year’s effort of 36 laps which would mean everyone averaging at least 8m/m for their laps for the entire 24 hours. The better ground conditions this year and strong running meant we were always ahead of schedule.

The team of Paul Radford, Amy McKechnie, Jim Seaton and Michael Sartorious bonded well and were fantastic, we eventually ended up coming first in our category covering 40 laps resulting in a rare win!

2015 Mizuno Endure 24 Paul Ali 01

Top Team!

I was really happy with my own personal effort. Last year I did 7 laps and averaged 39.49 per lap (7.58 m/m per lap). Ground conditions were much better this year which helped but I thought I was still slightly quicker covering 8 laps and averaging 36.29 per lap. An average of 7.18m/m for 40 miles on a trail route with a bit of up and down and with 3 dark legs was pretty good for me. That weekend saw all of my speedwork completed in one weekend and I can honestly say I was running on empty those last few laps having made some effort.

Very few long runs in June saw only 307 miles completed.

July

With my “A” race a couple of months away and no form in long races as such this year t was time to knuckle down and do some training. In all honesty, my ‘hunger’ to complete Spartathlon was less than it had been two years ago but I knew I could not afford to be complacent and I set out to achieve my most consistent training of 100 mile running weeks for the next ten weeks before a couple of weeks taper. I had also planned a marathon every two weeks over the next couple of months in order to work on my speed endurance in a semi-competitive environment (i.e. a 90% effort so these weren’t A races but a race event would force me to run a little quicker than the usual Sunday morning plod).

The other event of note was the launch of the Saturday Night Marathon a small low-key, friendly, evening trail marathon I hosted which went quite well from the positive feedback we received. Blatant plug but if you fancy a small sociable marathon with a friendly atmosphere and a bit of a difference by being run on a Saturday evening (‘What else would you be doing?) then check out the event here. You can even finish before pub closing time…

2015 Saturday Night Marathon July Half Marathon 600x450 06

Trying out as Race Director

I managed to complete my first ever open water swim. Nothing to really shout about here with the result but it was good to do something a little different.

2015 Henley Mile Swim Paul Ali 02

Henley Mile swim

This resulted in a 459 mile month, several long runs and a Personal Best at the local Endure 12 50k finishing in 3.53 in an evening/night trail run which I was quite pleased with.

August

August was another solid months training with another couple of marathons and a total of 481 miles for the month.

The month started well with a Marathon PB at the Phoenix Summer Marathon with a 3.05 finish despite solid high mileage weeks and no taper for the event and then a 3.18 at Leila’s Run another low-key marathon. I have to say, I quite enjoy the low-key marathon type events with the easy logistics (event numbers are 50-100), social aspects with a little bit of competitiveness to ensure it’s a good training run. I don’t think I have ever just trained specifically for a marathon, they have always been training runs for longer ultras. One day, I should really apply myself and aim for a sub 3 but the speedwork aspect doesn’t appeal to me that much (i.e. I’m probably a little put off by having to make some effort with the running).

2015 Phoenix Summer Marathon Paul Ali 02

New PB

September

The second Saturday Night Marathon took place in September and once again ran smoothly without issues and I hope the runners that took part enjoyed the event.

The ‘A’ race was approaching but there was time for one more build up marathon at the Farnham Pilgrims Marathon. This would be a good benchmark as I had run he event before Sparta in 2013 and has also treated it as a 90% effort race.

It’s not a fast course at all with a lot of up and down over the North Downs area. My time in 2013 was 3.55 but this time I finished in 3.25 (and into the Top 10) so a good improvement. Despite admitting to not having the same level of desire for the second Spartathlon run, a commitment to some solid training to ward off any thought of complacency meant my fitness was good and I was actually ½ stone lighter in weight than two years ago. I was probably the fittest I have been at that point.

I flew out to Greece with Stouty at the end of September and took part in Spartathlon. You can read the event report here or watch a few photos and highlights here.

I had a brilliant (if tiring) weekend with the British runners and crews and it was great to catch up and socialise with other like minded people. Despite not being an ‘official’ team, the whole British Spartathlon Team approach was a huge success (thanks to work by Rob Pinnington and others) and we were undoubtedly one of the most well regarded teams over the weekend.

I managed to finish the race in 32 ½ hours some 2 ½ hours quicker than I had done previously. There was an incident with “The Hat” when I managed to lose it somewhere after Corinth and it then poured Saturday night and Sunday by way of punishing me for my carelessness but amazingly it was found by the side of the road by Mimi Anderson and crew on her return leg to Athens and has now been reunited with me (thanks Becky Healy!).

2015 Spartathlon Paul Ali Header Photo

Finishing Spartathlon

Result wise, I achieved my goal but I had aimed for a slightly quicker time and was initially a bit disappointed when I crossed the line. However, for a race which is as challenging as this is nothing will ever be perfect so after a couple of days reflection was satisfied that I had achieved a good result in my ‘A’ race this year.

The (unofficial) British Team did well with a better than average finish rate and a fantastic run by Dan Lawson who came 2nd overall and of course Rob Pinnington (finally) getting a finish after 4 attempts. That was probably the most celebrated finish of the whole weekend, well done chap.

2015 Spartathlon Rob Pinnington

Well done sir.

October

After a week of no running I carried on with some general training albeit with a slightly reduced mileage (70-85 mpw). It was a quiet month event wise although I did sweep the last leg of the Winter 100 which was good fun.

The total miles for the month was 342.

November

I use the Fetcheveryone website to log my training (with Strava as a backup) and I noticed I had been creeping up the league table. Since my mileage has been increasing year on year then I have been slowly moving up the table and there was now a fair chance I could top the table if I put some effort in.

This was probably, the main driver for a high volume finish to the year. Looking at some numbers, if I ran around 1000 miles for the last two months of the year I could finish on 4810 which would equate to a Half Marathon every day of the year. It was an arbitrary goal I admit but you’ve got to take your motivations where you can.

I ran a 100 mile week and then ran 3 x 120 mile weeks in November which included the Phoenix Marathon in November where I ran a 3.15.

I managed to cover 522 miles that month which was my highest ever monthly total.

December

The last month of the year and so the countdown to the end of began. It basically rained all of November and December and running started to become a real grind with tired legs, poor weather and rapidly diminishing motivation.

The first week in December saw a huge 135 mile week, followed by a 124 mile week and then 2 x 100 mile weeks. Participating in the Marcothon was a nice extra motivation to get myself out each and every day. By the end of the year I was on a 90 day run streak with my last rest day occurring on the 3rd October.

I also took part in 3 marathons in December and ran a 3.19 in the Engima Xmas Marathon, a 3.29 at the wet and miserable Portsmouth Marathon and another 3.19 at the Phoenix Year End marathon so pretty consistent runs.

With the last Marathon taking place on the 28th December, the last couple of days seemed to just taper off. My body was starting to feel a little sore and I’m looking forward to a nice rest week the first week in January before planning some training and events for 2016.

I did my final run early on New Years Eve so I could have a lazy day but then changed plans and went for a 11pm run for an hour to see in the New Year. I’m not massively into the New Years celebrations which all seem a little contrived but did enjoy an evening with the family before heading out for a last run of the year and watching some of the midnight fireworks.

The total mileage for December was 527 miles (my highest total ever) and the total for the year was a huge 4868 (93.6 miles per week or 13.3 miles per day).

Other Thoughts

Some other random running related observations from the year.

• I have transitioned to Hoka Shoes for some ultras and recovery runs (I ran Sparta in Hoka Conquest 2) and can feel the benefit from the enhanced cushioning on the feet and joints especially with a high mileage year. However, I don’t use Hoka’s exclusively and still swap daily runs with these and normal road shoes.

• If my Marathon times are anything to judge by then higher volume definitely leads to better performance… to a point. This should also be balanced by rest/recovery and some quality sessions (which I didn’t do so much). Next year will definitely be a few less miles and a regular rest day each week (apart from Run Until You Drop month)

• I have really started to enjoy the low-key Marathon type events which act as good training runs. I’ve only ever run 24 marathons in total and 10 of these came this year!

 

Highlights of the Year

• Topping the Fetch mileage league (assuming no-one retrospectively adds loads of miles of course). I’m sure there are a few people who have run more miles this year who don’t use Fetch but within this group it’s acted as a good bit of motivation to keep myself running. Admittedly, it has started to become a bit of a grind so it was nice to get to the end of the year.

• Being captured on national TV at the London Marathon

• Race Directing a couple of race at the Saturday Night Marathon

• New PB at Sparta and enjoying a fabulous (and tiring) weekend with the British Runners & Crews (and being there the year Rob Pinnington finished).

• Top Team (in our category) at the Endure 24.

• New Marathon PB.

• 50k PB.

• Finding ‘The Hat’ (after losing it.. see below).

2015 Fetch League

 

Low-Points of 2016

• Performance at The Oner & GUCR were below par.

• Seeing a few British runners not manage to complete Sparta.

• Losing ‘The Hat’

 

Plans for 2016

So what’s planned for 2016 I hear you ask? Well here goes.

January

Resting, training , no events planned yet.

February

The annual pre-season fitness test at the Thames Trot takes place the first week in February. With all the mileage in November and December, I should be reasonably fit for this event. This probably means a flooded, muddy course, diversions and a miserable run.

The Run Until You Drop challenge will return in February, stay tuned for further details on this.

Run Until You Drop - Paul Ali

2015 Run Until You Drop Challenge

March – April

I have a few marathons lined up as training runs before a couple of ultras in the Summer. I am looking forward to Traviss’s “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” marathon (one of my favourite films) and working towards the huge Phoenix Firebird medal for completing the series.

May

The Thames Path 100 is my only timed target goal of the year so far. With some good training, I’m confident I can better my current PB of 18.57. I was looking at a sub 18 hour which would have meant an automatic qualifier for Sparta in 2017 but this has since gone down to 16.48 but I think the sub 18 goal and an hours improvement is a challenge enough for me so that’s my current target. There’s three things I need to do to achieve this, obviously train well, secondly no wasting time at Checkpoints and thirdly a bit more mental effort in the second half of the race to muster a run when I can. We will see how it goes in a few months time.

2014 Thames Path 100 - Paul Ali 10

2014 Thames Path 100

May – June

My big event for the year is the inaugural Monarchs Way event put on by Lindley at Challenge Running. It’s a 615 mile continuous race where competitors will have to camp out along the course and you have 14 days to complete it. I’m looking forward to seeing further logistics so I can plan my approach a bit more but I’m treating this as an adventure race with an aim ‘just to finish’ and will be working out an average amount of mileage each day to ensure I get some sleep each night.

July

Saturday Night Marathon is back and I have an offer from a reliable friend to act as guest Race Director (so have some assurance everything will be in safe hands) so I might even have a little jog and earn one of my own medals which will be pretty cool.

August

This sees the return of the T184, a 184 mile self supported run along the full length of the Thames Path and the source of my only defeat (DNF’d in 2014 after just simply not fancying another 74 miles of trudging and I quit). This is a must finish event, no time goals just get the job done.

2014 T184 Sleeping Photo

Houston.. we have a problem

September

The return of the Saturday Night Marathon but I will be Race Directing this time.

October

I will be participating in the Autumn 100 after helping out this year. No real goals, at the moment, I’m simply treating this one as an end of year fun run. ‘The Hat’ vs Griffin Part 2?

2014 Winter 100 Paul Ali 20

2014 (Winter) Autumn 100

November – December

A couple of marathons (i.e. finishing off the Phoenix Series).

 

The Statistics

Ok, so what do the stats tell us this year. Here goes.

2015 Training Total

Training 2015 2014 2013
Miles Run 4868 3406 3299
Highest Monthly Mileage 529 December 432 March 406 August
Lowest Monthly Mileage 292 April 142 November 153 November
Total Number of runs 613 388 368
Total Running Time 740hrs 55mins 564hrs 52mins 572hrs 36mins
Average Pace 9.08 m/m 9.57m/m 10.25m/m

There has been a huge increase in mileage from last year. I have run less ultra race miles this year with only 3 long events compared to 5 last year which is a major contributor to a faster average pace (i.e. less slower miles during the second half of an ultra).

Training Run Types

Training 2015 2014 2013
Hill Runs 2.70% 6.70% 5.10%
General Runs 56.90% 48.70% 69.70%
Long Runs (16m+) 11.80% 8.40% 2.00%
Medium-Long Runs (8-16m) 13.10% 6.50% Not classified
Intervals/Drills/Tempo 0.90% 0.30% 0.40%
Race Miles 14.60% 29.40% 22.70%

Notably, there have been more Medium and Long runs (the 8 miler has become a typical run) but less ‘effort’ runs. Race miles have been reduced with fewer longer ultras this year but more marathons.

Race Times

Race 2015 2014 2013
5k N/A 19.44 19.55
10k N/A N/A 41:06
Half Marathon 1.31 1.33 1.29
Marathon 3.05 3.13 3.33
Thames Trot 07:24 (48 miles normal route) 7:44 (46 miles re-routed) 6:49 (45 miles re-routed)
100 miler N/A 18.56 22.26
GUCR 34:55 35.20 32.47

I didn’t run a 5k or 10k race this year mainly because I focussed on mileage. I only ran 1 Half-Marathon (in fancy dress) all year so not a bad effort and the highlight has been an improvement in Marathon times despite no real focus on these events.

The GUCR and The Oner runs were a little disappointing, I didn’t run a 100 miler this year so it is difficult to compare how I would have fared here but Spartathlon was a 2 1/2 hour improvement so the one that really counted this year went ok.

Finally

Thanks to Fetcheveryone for the training tools (I do use Strava aswell though) which helped produce all these stats and my trusty Garmin of course.

My initial thoughts are to cut back on the mileage and work on a bit more shorter/sharper runs (i.e. the type of running I don’t usually fancy) and get back to doing some core strength work which was abandoned quite quickly after Sparta.

General observations, thoughts and opinions welcome on the training and events aswell as I’m always happy to consider feedback here. Despite considering myself a ‘hobby’ runner, it’s good to try and improve your performance each year and set yourself goals to keep you motivated throughout the year.

Happy New Year everyone!

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