2014... An incredible year!

2014 has been an amazing year for me, and since today is the last day of the year I've had a quick think back to the major races of the year. I've written about them all previously, but here's a quick whistlestop tour of my year. I've also been thinking forward, and plotting 2015, but more on that later... For today, here are my personal highlights of 2014. I hope you have had a great year, and all the best to anyone reading this for 2015!

Skimo Scotland
My Ski Mountaineering career was scheduled to start in February, but things didn't quite go to plan! After a bit of practice on a family ski trip in the Alps I did at least know how to put the skis on, though I had no idea what to expect in my first "Skimo" race at the Ben Nevis range in Scotland.

Unfortunately, high winds meant that the race (and the second one on the following day) had to be cancelled. This was a shame as the snow was OK, but we just couldn't safely get to it! I have subsequently had great fun with Betty (my knackered and bodged touring skis), but have still not managed to get to a race. Maybe this winter I will finally manage.

High Peak Marathon
The HPM is a classic start to the running year, and until I've raced either it or the Howarth Hobble I don't really feel like I've started. This year I took part in the HPM in a Dark Peak Fell Runners team. I'm a proud member of DPFR and it was great to be racing this very odd little local event in the team.

We had a pretty good run, enjoying the silliness of running in a 43 mile circle through bogs and over moorland during the night in March, and finished 4th.

I know I called the HPM a classic, and it is, but the Fellsman really IS a classic. It's a 62-odd mile arc of Yorkshire Dales wonderfulness from Ingleton to Threshfield, taking in two of the three peaks and a good few other hills too. I've run it quite a few times now and won the team prize before, but never managed an individual placing higher than fourth.

This year the Fellsman felt strange, I somehow couldn't get into top gear. I ran quite well, and stuck with Jez Bragg for a while after Adam Perry and Kim Collison shot off into the distance, but after Jez dropped me I felt like I just dawdled along and wasn't able to up the pace. I (predictably) ended up 4th, not too disappointing, but not too spectacular either really. As always the race was a cracking day out, and the organisation and running of the event was second to none. I did leave my shoes in the field at the end though, which was a bit sad.

Interlaken - The Dogtag Advert
This was a totally different experience. Last year I entered a competition to win a trip to the Alps to film an advert for the travel insurance company Dogtag. Thanks to my fantastic friends who clicked relentlessley for months, I was one of the winners and was taken to Interlaken in the summer for a week of adventure and film-making.
It was a brilliant week, I met some great people (my fellow filmstars were mountain bikers, kayakers and skiers) and learned a lot about how this sort of thing is filmed. There was also quite a lot of time off, which I took full advantage of and had some amazing runs up into the mountains, such as the long day out along the narrow ridges to the Rotefluhe and back. 

Birthday run
In May I was 29, and decided to celebrate by running a route linking the 29 highest peaks in the Peak District. It turned out that they formed quite a nice circuit, though it did turn out to be about 115 miles long. The "day" (it ended up being about 28 hours) was awesome, I felt so free as I ran between some hardly-visited summits with nothing but my rucksack. I love racing, but for pure ultra-distance running, for me it's hard to beat a really silly route like this. Running, darkness, weather, sleep deprivation, hills, difficult terrain, it had it all!

3 Peaks Yacht race
The 3PYR was definitely one of the standout races of the year, not least because I'm chuffed to say that we won! The race is a sailing race from Barmouth to Fort William, via Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, which the runners on board the boats must run up. I paired up with Alex Pilkington, as part of the Wight Rose team skippered by Geoff West, who has had more than his fair share of success in this race!

The race took just under four days, and after a close battle with the Army team we were the first team to return from Ben Nevis to Corpach harbour. We also won the prize for the fastest time up and down Scafell Pike, and even the "Wrinklies" trophy for the oldest total age!

Fuji Mountain Race
I was lucky enough to attend a conference in Tokyo in July, and managed to travel to the Fujiyoshida region in the week before the conference, and race in the Fuji Mountain Race. The race is 21km long and climbs from Fujiyoshida city to the top of Mt Fuji. I hadn't realised before starting that the first 10km was basically flat, meaning that the climb was relentlessly steep after that. I struggled and ran too fast in the first 5km or so and had to slow down for the remainder of the flat part, but gradually made up places once we started climbing. This was a big race with thousands of runners starting, so I was amazed to find at the finish that I was 22nd!

Matterhorn Ultraks
This was my biggest race of the year, and the first time I've raced at a proper international Skyrace-type event. It was a great atmosphere, I even spotted a few running celebrities wandering around Zermatt on the day before the race! This made me feel a bit out of my depth, but the race was another amazing experience - as we set off the streets were lined with cheering spectators, and there were people watching all the way round the 46km course.

I was supported for the first time by Scott, and wore a pair of Trail Rocket shoes, which performed really well straight out of the box. As in Japan, I worked my way gradually up through the field during the race, and was again surprised with my finish position - 18th in the male race, and again 22nd overall!

Lakes in a Day
After the sunshine and marked courses of Japan and Switzerland, in October I returned to proper UK racing. I took part in the inaugural Lakes in a Day race, a 50 mile route across the Lake District. After a good summer of training and racing I was running well, but proved again that my navigation doesn't always keep up with my legs! I spent the race either at the front or trying to get back to the front after going the wrong way. Towards the end I was running at the front with a guy called Robin and it looked like we would take a joint win, but within the last few kilometres we took a wrong turn then lost more time trying to find an easy way back. We were overtaken by Tim Higginbottom so ended up with a joint second place. I was pleased with a good run, but a bit annoyed with myself for losing the chance of a win.

The Original Mountain Marathon is a two-day race for pairs, and I took part this year with my friend Will Wright. We had a brilliant weekend up in Northumberland, and did pretty well in the B class, particularly as Will was only able to train on the streets of London!

And finally...
Towards the end of the year I officially became part of Team Scott-Accelerate, meaning that I'll be racing in Scott shoes and kit next year, and will continue to be coached and supported by Accelerate and the Accelerate Performance Centre. This is really exciting and I'm looking forward to hopefully having another great year in 2015. I'll keep blogging so watch this space for updates!

Team Scott-Accelerate - Me, Dot, Pete from Scott, Colin from APC, Debs from Accelerate, Chris (Stu H from Accelerate behind the camera)


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