About Me

Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Facing the facts: 2013 in review

Coincidentally or not, this year has been a time of facing the reality in several aspects of my life. Running was one of these. About a year ago, I set three (running) goals for 2013: (1) become competitive in local fell races, (2) run a marathon in the low 2:30s, and (3) break 8 hours in the Vitosha 100K. Did I achieve any of these? The short answer is no. The longer version is below, and I can only summarize it as the most enjoyable failure I have ever experienced.

Fell running

This was actually the one where I came the closest, probably because ‘becoming competitive’ is vaguely defined. Yes, I made the top 10 in every fell race I entered this year, even if just barely (Tarren Hendre, Cader Idris, Welsh 1000m Peaks, Nant Y Moch Skyline and Skyrun Maliovitsa). But most of these races did not have particularly deep fields. The one I will definitely remember the most is Cader Idris. Making the podium was a big surprise for me, and even if that took some luck (the race was moved this year and probably clashed with some other big fell race(s)), I will take it! Overall, I think I made some real progress with fell running, and the shorter, more intense sessions, relative to the ultra-slogs I was used to, have improved my strength. As far as enjoyment is concerned, I will let this picture tell the story:


This was the painful one. In every possible mental and physical way. I have now started six marathons full of optimism and finished six completely crushed. Both marathons I ran this year (Manchester in 2:43 and Chester in 2:40) were PBs by 3-4 min, but both were also compromised by severe cramping after about 15-16 miles. I honestly have no idea why, but I suspect it might be the insultingly simple general explanation of cramping – I was just not fit enough for the pace I was trying to run. And while I know how to get fitter, I am not quite sure how to deal with the optimism, which I am pretty sure is a problem in this case. The silver lining once again came from Matt Carpenter, and I have started to train and even race with a heart rate monitor. I am not sure if this is going to completely fix my pacing problems, but I am optimistic ;)

Vitosha 100K

My focus has temporarily shifted away from ultramarathon training, so breaking 8 hours, or even running a decent race seemed like quite a long shot. As it turned out, lower expectations and keeping a cool head (both literally and figuratively) helped me run by far my most satisfying race on this course (see detailed reports in Bulgarian or English). I will be taking a few years off from this race, and ultramarathons in general. But when I do come back, I will probably have to break 8 hours (on a longer course too!) to be competitive with the exploding ultra- and mountain-running community in Bulgaria. And this is awesome!

Overall, it has been a great year of chasing overambitious goals. I can’t wait to do it all over again!


  1. Good luck with the short races, and with your goals. Your running is amazing. It is all in the trying, in the journey!

    1. They sure don't seem that short anymore, especially when I do my trademark go-over-my-head starts. Thanks, and enjoy your runs through the Appalachians! I really miss that.

  2. Thank you for your write-up, Gancho. A nice morning read for my walk on the rail-trail. I still smile every time I think of you out there running out in the mountains somewhere. All my best to you in 2014, my friend.

    1. Good to hear from you, Phil! We may be able to share a few miles on the rail trail in a couple of weeks - will be in touch. Happy 2014!