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Gearing up for a big 2023.....

If you've followed my journey throughout 2022 you'll have seen that it was a pretty big one! I ticked off my Bob Graham Round, became the 23rd person to ever complete the Lakes, Meres and Waters 105 mile run, cycled the C2C in a Day (140 Miles), survived a solo round of the 'No Cure, Always Hope Ultra' - as well as led international treks and much more. 2022 was awesome! But now it's 2023 and it's time to push on with new goals.

Enjoying a cold Athletic Brewing Co NA beer at the end of the C2C

My ultimate goal of standing atop an 8000m peak in 2024 is still burning away, and so 2023 must act as another worthy stepping stone towards gearing up for this physically and mentally. When I wasn't away leading International expeditions, the last few months of 2022 saw me back to running for the love of it rather than completing training runs as so much of my year was focused. It's been lovely. There's no doubt about it that my fitness will have dropped from what it was, but having some time off concentrated training is pretty important too. Despite knowing I've lost some of my hard won fitness from 2022, I know my mental game is still stronger than ever. For me, this was the biggest win of the year. I managed to mentally survive big challenges, and take on more challenges, to the point where I was actively seeking out more. Climbing an 8000m peak will be pretty tough physically, but with all these endeavours it is usually the mind that breaks first, and so I'm pretty pleased to have taken such a big step forward in this area. That said, there are still improvements that can be made. And so, we push on...

The four goals I'd like to achieve in 2023:

- April - A solo, car supported run of the Cumbria Way in a Day- 74 miles with 3000m ascent

- July - The Lakeland 100 - 105 mile run / walk with over 6000m ascent around the Lake District

- (Probably) August - A day out cycling the Fred Whitton Route - 112 mile road ride over the Lake District passes (3900m ascent)

- (Probably) September - The Cuillin Ridge in a Day- The UK's finest ridge tackled in one go, fast and light (Mountaineering).

As you can see, my goals sit across three disciplines - running, road biking and mountaineering. The benefit of this is that your training does not have to all revolve all around just one style, promoting variety and interest. There are of course some pretty big crossovers between the three disciplines, and being very fit for one will certainly feed into the other. Participants of all these sports will however know that you need to put time in doing that sport to be efficient at doing it, and not just relying on raw fitness to power through. I felt this in August 2022 when I cycled the C2C in a Day. My longest ride before that had been about half the distance of the entire route, and it was about three years ago! I had put some miles in on my bike in advance, but not nearly the amount required to be more comfortable on my bike. As above, I relied on my run conditioned body to get me through, and despite wanting it to end by the time we go to the other side, I did enjoy it (Type 2 Fun!)

My doing the Lakeland 100 was a bit of a knee jerk reaction thanks to the ballot system that they run for entry. I actually finished my LMW in 2022 and said I was done with trying to run 100miles or more, I'd ticked that box. About 2 weeks later the L100 entry was up and something sparked in my brain. Interestingly, the distance and ascent for the L100 is pretty much identical to that of the LMW, however there is one major difference in style. For the LMW, I had support runners throughout who helped to carry some of my kit, fed me, paced me etc. In the L100, you carry all your kit and ultimately it's down to you to get around. In my eyes, this makes it a harder challenge and is a nice progression (physically and mentally) from what I achieved in 2022. I threw my name into the ballot and got a place - an email I wasn't too sure I really wanted! haha But I've got the place and it will be a big tick if I get it done. (In 2015 I ran the Lakeland 50 (the second half of the L100) and said I'd never run the L100 - how times change!)

At the end of the Lakeland 50 in 2015 (when I had much more hair!). This was my first Ultra and still remains one of my proudest achievements.

And this brings us nicely to my first ambition of the year - The Cumbria Way in a Day.

When it came to training for my Bob Graham Round it was quite easy to get out of the door and get training and this was because I was really thirsty for the success of doing it. I'd wanted it for years, and I knew that putting in that effort would bring the reward - and it of course did. I used this fitness and confidence to jump into the LMW, a goal that I dreamt up at short notice, but soon became pretty focused on. I intend to operate a similar way in 2023 - use the Cumbria Way as a stepping stone to the L100, and so right now I'm not giving the latter much thought.

I've decided to pit myself against the Cumbria Way for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I love taking on challenges here in the Lake District. It's easy for me to recce routes, and I love the constant reminders I get when I'm out and I see part of a challenge completed of that I've achieved. The Cumbria Way is quite often tackled by walkers over a 5-7 day period, but at 74 miles it lends itself nicely to a big run. Until recently there was an event that covered this route in a day, an event I had a place on a few years ago but had to withdraw due to attending a wedding. Since then the thought of doing this has sat in the back of my mind, but now I certainly feel capable of pulling it off.

My plan is to run the route solo, but have my trusty friend Sara provide car support for me at about 11 different places along the route. Taking this on solo will feed nicely into growing that mental strength, and as previously mentioned is more akin to the delights faced on the L100.

The route is about 74 miles with 3000m ascent. Much of the route is on valley paths which are very runnable, so this is a different beast to something like a Bob Graham where you spend a lot of time speed hiking up hills. Traditionally, I've been better on big days out with lots of hills as I can ascend better than I can keep a pace going on the flat, but that does make this quite interesting for me. This will be one of my main training focuses.

I have about 17 weeks before I intend on taking on this challenge. I will firstly focus on improving my V02 max, and then my Lactate Threshold. This should all equate to the ability to being able to run further and faster before feeling the need to back off. After that my focus will be on Endurance runs to build the mileage into the body again. (Note I say Focus, and not sole focus).

I'll be completing the sessions running outside, but also using my trusty bike turbo trainer when parenting duties or the weather dictate. I of course have my main work of guiding to help keep the mileage and ascent ticking over. Finally, I intend on completing at least one, preferably two running specific strength workouts a week at home.

The Cumbria Way

So, there it is down in black and white. I have no doubt much like last year I'll have many training highs and lows, but hopefully my experience from 2022 will come to the fore and help me power on through to another year of success.

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