Last year – 2011 – turned out to be a decisive year in terms of what I would be doing in 2012. It was a great year for running and an average year for triathlon mostly brought on with issue in my open water swimming.

The year started off very well with some very strong running performances. I recorded new personal bests at 5k (Edinburgh Park Run), 10k (Dunbar), 10 miles (Lasswade) and Half Marathon (Northumberland).

Two things really helped my running going into the New Year, an injury free 2010 and a huge endurance base from training for the UK Double Enduroman 2010. Both of these allowed me to concentrate on speed work earlier in the new season than I usually would do. The results from this showed in the above mentioned races. Furthermore it has to be said that none of those races were either on the easiest of courses or under easiest of conditions, which bodes well should I take on any of these distances on flatter courses or fairer conditions. The Dunbar 10k was very windy (and quite hilly), Lasswade is a very hilly 10 miler and the Northumberland Half Marathon is nicely undulating.

These were all done in the first quarter of 2011. The second quarter was dominated by the build-up for Ironman Austria which was at the start of quarter 3. The build-up though was marred by issues with my open water swimming. I have had panic attacks in a number of races since autumn 2008. In Autumn 2008 I had to abandon the Helvellyn triathlon after 200m of swimming due to a panic attack. In the races since I always managed to sort myself out during the swim even if I did lose some time. In 2011 though I toyed the start line at the Keswick triathlon and the Bala middle distance triathlon but never saw the finish line as I had to abandon the race part way through the swim. Both races were under tough conditions which was my saving grace but it had an effect on the Ironman.

Pool based swim training was good in the build-up, my cycling felt strong and as already described above the running was going extremely well. I did do the Galashiels sprint triathlon in which I finished in eleventh position and except for a messed up 2nd transition felt strong throughout.

The Ironman sadly did not live up to my expectations. Although I tried to play with positive imagery for the swim, my brain had different ideas and I struggled. Luckily I did find a way around this during the swim by counting my strokes. I did though finish the swim 20min down on my expectations. Following this I had a sub-par bike performance although I stuck to my nutrition plan and took on enough energy. During the race I couldn’t explain why the bike performance was poor but it has been suggested since that the stress from panicking during the swim could have something to do with this. I did though off the back of that have a good run, my best Ironman run to date which in part made up for the swim and the bike. It didn’t though do enough for me to be satisfied with the performance and the finish time was way off what I was hoping for. I was pleased to have finished the swim (this should help with future OW races) and the run performance was very comforting.

I said earlier that the events of 2011 would have an effect on my choices of what to do in 2012. I had an eye on moving into ultra-distance running and would make it dependent on the one hand how the Ironman would go and on the other hand what I thought of the ultra-marathons I would do later in the year. The Ironman performance had already made that decision easier.

August, September and November I had 3 ultra-marathons in the program: Speyside Way (36.5 miles), River Ayr (41 miles) and Brecon Beacons (46 miles). I ran 5:09 hours at Speyside, 6:12 at River Ayr and 7:49 at Brecon Beacons and finished 12th, 8th and 19th respectively. I enjoyed all three events thoroughly and had very little issues throughout. I ran well in all of them although I didn’t do too well in the first half of Brecon Beacons but got my act together in the second half and finished strong. Speyside and River Ayr had amazingly beautiful scenery to run through and the sport of ultra-distance running is very simplistic which I have come to enjoy. After these events the decision of what to do in 2012 was simple, it would be a year of ultra-distance running, with the main event being the West Highland Way Race. More on what plans are afoot in 2012 in another blog post soon.