Well 2018 is done and from a fitness point of view it has been another good year. Although only year three on my fitness journey it is easy to say that it has been my biggest and best year to date, it really has been. The most miles ran in one year, the most miles biked, the most yards swam and a good number of PB’s to boot.
A few highlights that standout for me before I delve deeper into 2018 have to be running the London Marathon for the British Heart Foundation in fancy dress as a Love Heart all in memory of my mother who passed away in 2017. The race time wasn’t spectacular but the feeling when crossing that finish line was so emotional and so much pride. Then there was completing my first Ironman in July, a lot to learn from that day but hearing the words “Mark Hatton, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” as I ran down the red carpet was awesome and finally, finishing the year off with a marathon PB in New York, that was a special race which will live long in the memory.
For the first time I had a race in January, I usually leave racing until the slightly warmer months of March or April but I saw this as a good baseline for the year and only 2 miles from my house. The KIDSGROVE 10k turned out to be a pretty crazy run, it wasn’t one of my fastest races but ran in snow and falling twice made for an eventful run. Not quite the 10k baseline I was after.
January saw me move into my second month of training for Ironman UK but with the main focus around running and getting ready for spring marathons. The mileage and pace were build up well, the miles on the bike really building up with the new addition of the indoor Wahoo trainer coupled with Zwift, swimming was going ok but only three swims this month. Then at the end of January I went down with a cold.
Was a very up and down month. Starting off with a cold made for a tough first week, the energy levels weren’t there and it was just not happening. This resulted in me making the decision to pull out of the Mad Dog 10k and also miss the Meet the Experts event which I was planning on attending to gain some good knowledge ahead of the London Marathon.
I also missed out planned 19 and 20 mile long runs, three weeks worth of swimming and general strength just felt low. Two months out from the spring marathons, this wasn’t the best preparation. I noticed in my FEBRUARY IRONMAN TRAINING blog I commented that “Hopefully the weather will start to pick up now we are moving towards spring”, little did I know we were about to be hit by one of the coldest March’s in living memory.
One plus point, I got a new road bike for the 2018 race season.
Back to racing again, although, only just making it, snow and ice had made it touch and go whether I would make it to London and also whether the race went ahead. Thankfully I made it and it had warmed enough for the ice to be cleared. This was my first go at running a half marathon PB, I had decided to give the distance a good go this year and try to break that 90 minute barrier. THE BIG HALF was my first go and I came so damn close with a 1:30.09, slightly gutted about those 9 seconds but I knew I could run quicker.
Spurred on by the half marathon PB training was starting to pick up. Although running was more about building endurance, running long and spending time on my feet in the hope that would help me run the full marathon distance nonstop, cycling was about speed and power. My average speed had increased from its starting point of 18mph in December to over 20mph now and I started a daily challenge of riding 20 miles. All in doors of course, its still cold. I booked a week off at the end of the month to get out on the bike for five big days of riding, but this didn’t happen. The weather was far too windy and cold so I ended up on the turbo riding 300 miles on Zwift instead.
This was the month I had been building up towards. The month where I was running the Manchester and London Marathons. As a result there was no swimming and only 30 miles on the bike and running was either tapering or recovering (besides the two races).
GREATER MANCHESTER MARATHON was first up and it was a bit of a mess really. I did run a 4 minute marathon PB of 3:35.11 but just after 18 miles my knee was aching a lot, until this point I had been averaging around 35secs per mile faster than PB pace so I had a choice to make. Do I push on for the PB and risk damaging the knee further or slow / run walk the remaining 8 miles and try to save the knee with the London Marathon in two weeks time. I went with the run walk option and gave up hope (or so I thought) of a new PB. London was just too big of a race to miss due to injury. In the end I sneaked a PB but there was no joy in running that PB, I was concerned about my fitness for London.
Two weeks of easy running and the knee felt ok to run on. It was time for the LONDON MARATHON my third Marathon Major and more importantly, running in memory of my mother for the British Heart Foundation. I raised over £2,300 for them which is my proudest achievement to date. I ran the race in fancy dress as a Love Heart and went into with the intention of attempting to beat the world record for fastest marathon dressed as a Love Heart. I would have had to beat my own personal PB to do it but I felt confident. On the day, it didn’t happen, it was just too warm and I was tired from running Manchester two weeks prior plus the emotion of running in memory of mum made it a tough run mentally. I came home in 3:58.13, my second slowest marathon but I didn’t care. This one was for mum.
May turned out to be my biggest month of the year, clocking up 56 hours of activities which makes sense as Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire was one month away!!!! May also saw the most races for me, a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and 300km ride around London. I started back swimming after 7 weeks, swam a few open water sessions and just generally smashed the bike, swim and running. My most enjoyable month of training in my three years at it. The warmer sunny weather really helped.
Race wise, first up was the LONDON REVOLUTION ride, this was 300km (185 miles) split over two days riding from central London, doing a full circuit of the city and finishing back where you started. This went well, I had never completed a 100 mile ride in the UK so it was nice to tick that one off and I was able to finish with good pace on day 2.
Six days after the London Revolution came the ROCK n ROLL LIVERPOOL 5k & HALF MARATHON weekend, where I stunned myself on the Saturday running the 5k in 18:51, I had no expectations of running fast, I had not done any speed work at all this year so to be within 45seconds of my 18:06 PB was amazing. I followed that up the next day with my second half marathon PB of the year and broke that 90 minute barrier with a 1:29.27 despite taking the first 4 miles pretty easy so more to come on that front I believe.
Straight after completing the RnR Liverpool Half it was a mad dash over to Manchester for the GREAT MANCHESTER 10k I had never ran two races in one day, it was hot as well and having just ran a half marathon PB I decided to take Manchester steady and jogged around for a 45:13, which is actually a 6 min course PB as two years ago, this was my first ever road race.
The irony of it all, having ran the fast 5k, the half marathon PB and a course PB in Manchester, I got a speeding ticket on the drive home.
All about Ironamn 70.3. Having only ever completed one sprint triathlon in 2017 June was where I step up to middle distance triathlon, all 70.3 miles of it, with little experience and no knowledge but a fairly decent training block behind me, I took on IRONMAN 70.3 STAFFORDSHIRE I had thought I would be nervous before but I wasn’t I was excited and looking forward to the challenge and learning opportunity. The swim was my fastest over that distance, the bike the fastest average speed and under my 3 hour hope but then the half marathon was tough. I had set out far to fast, actually faster than my half marathon pace and I paid the price for that, I had to stop and walk twice before nearly fainting in the heat in mile 13, I had to sit in the shade for a few minutes before finishing the race off, but I LOVED my first Ironman experience and I beat my goal of a sub 6 hour 70.3 coming home in 5:37.47. The only downside, which wasn’t a downside until later in the year, was I took a hit in my achilles during the swim. The person behind caught me and it did ache a little at first but felt fine on the bike and run. This would then be a constant niggle for the next six months and hamper Ironman training, marathon training and various races.
It was then straight off to Menorca for a family holiday where I squeezed in some early morning runs and ocean swims to keep a little fittest but mostly recovering from Staffs.
The day after we got back in the UK I ran the Wilmslow Half Marathon. I felt fresh from my week in the sun so I went off after a 1:25.00, I ran 6 miles with the 1:25 pacer and was feeling good, strong and more to give. Then my calf cramped up and wouldn’t shift, I ended up hobbling around 7 miles just to get the medal, in hindsight, not the best thing with Ironman UK a month away. The week after Wilmslow was the Alderley Edge Bypass 10k, having missed a week of running as a result of the cramping, this was just a test run. I raced the first 5k and used the second 5k as a recovery run. The calf wasn’t perfect but felt ok at pace and not good at slow pace.
In June I decided that I would work with a running coach with a goal of running a marathon without stopping and a sub 3:20 marathon in the Autumn, Chicago being the A race given the flat course then New York being the B race but far tougher option given how hilly it is. After a lot of research I decided to work with Matt Rees @TheWelshRunner he had ran a sub 2:30 marathon and recently won the Liverpool Half Marathon where I ran my PB so he knew how to run fast, I felt he would be able to steer me in the right direction and gain a better overall race experience and maybe a PB too. We started work straight after Ironman UK in July.
This was THE big one, stepping up again from middle distance triathlon to the full 140.6 mile Ironman…. well, kind of full distance. The first week of July was hot and I was out on the bike a lot, I decided not to run at all with just one test run two days before Ironman, hoping my calf would be ok. A sports massage really helped and that final test run went well, no pain. I spent over 8hours on the bike and it was lovely riding in the sun.
IRONMAN UK came around and we were told 4 days prior to the race that the bike route was changing and would be reduced from 112 miles to 95 miles due to moorland fires affecting the original route. Initially I felt gutted, I wanted to complete the full distance not a shortened course but obviously, I didn’t want to ride through the smoke and ash and speaking to people after the race, they felt that the new bike route had some tougher climbs in making it more difficult. The race itself went well, again this was all about learning triathlon and learning to fuel for the race, I wasn’t really out there racing all out. The swim went well, I survived then the bike was a mixture, the first half felt great, fast and strong and the second half was a struggle, I was not comfortable in the seat, the pad in the trisuit felt uncomfortable. Then at the last fuel station I went to grab a bottle but dropped that then hit a pot hole and lost the other bottle I had on the bike leaving around 20 miles without hydration. That meant I started the marathon feeling pretty dehydrated and it was a hot day too. Two miles in I reached a hill in the park and ran up that turned a corner and saw the hill continuing in the distance. I broke there and walked, not even completing 3 miles. By the time I reach the top of the hill I felt like I couldn’t run a marathon in this state and thought about pulling out but pushed on to complete on of the 10k laps to get a wrist band for my daughter. In the end I pushed through and finished the marathon in a very disappointing 4:47.35 and completing my first ever full(ish) Ironman in 12:13.46.
I absolutely loved my Ironman experience, in 2019 triathlon is going to be the main focus and a new goal of qualifying for the World Championships in Kona Hawaii was born on this day.
13 days after Ironman UK I was back down to London to take on another 100 mile bike ride at the RideLondon-Surrey 100 which would see me earn the London Classics medal for completing the London Marathon, Ride100 and the 2 Mile Swim Serpentine Challenge. Initially at the time of booking, I was going to push on for a sub 5hour 100 mile ride but after weeks and weeks of hot sunny weather it broke on the day of the ride and poured down from start to finish.
This month I began training proper with my new coach Matt and got off to a flying start. The calf cramping had gone but the achilles niggle was still there but only slightly affecting the run. No races no until the Chicago Marathon in October so it was all training and building the base miles ready for speed work next month. I clocked up my first 200+ mile month of running, my first 50 mile week off running and it felt great.
Picked up where August left off. The long runs were going well, I was running up to 22 miles at a pace that could see me finish around the 3:20 mark but even more pleasing I had ran 22 miles without stopping, the confidence was starting to build. It felt like I could actually do this and run sub 3:20, it felt like it could be quite an easy challenge. All my long runs had been at a faster pace so why couldn’t I go and do it on race day?
I took part in Tough Mudder North West with my friend from school and had a great time but also took a no risk approach to the course, skipping some obstacles that could potentially cause an injury prior to Chicago.
The following week I ran the English Half Marathon, again we decided to try a pacing strategy for a 1:25 but I just couldn’t do it, my legs didn’t have it in them and as this wasn’t a goal race I held back towards the end, no point pushing too hard today with Chicago 2 weeks away.
The first weekend of October was the CHICAGO MARATHON, this would be the race where I run the distance, feel comfortable and also smash that PB. I went in feeling really confident. My 11 weeks of training with Matt had gone really really well, I felt in the best condition of my running life, I had lots of miles in the legs and a good taper coming into this one. The achilles niggle was still there but it would just be what it is, I can still run fast with it as proven in training. The race started off well, I went through the first half 1 minute under target which was good, I had ran with the 3:15 pacer through the areas where GPS was affected by the building, this meant I could hold a good pace with them and still be around target.
Shortly after half way my calf cramped again and would not budge. The exact same feeling and issue as the Wilmslow half three months prior. This ended up in me walking a good portion of the last 12 miles. Being so far from the finish and knowing how it would feel having experienced this not so long ago I contemplated pulling out. I did still have New York in 4 weeks time, would I want to risk missing that race. I did run / walk the remaining miles, I didn’t want to not finish Chicago and miss out on my forth Marathon Major medal. I have ran New York before so that would be less of a worry.
I finished in 3:40.35 in the end and felt absolutely devastated by that race. I finished so far off my target time and so far away from running non stop. It was a massive failure, but on the flip side, it was also major number 4 ticked off and actually the fastest international marathon I have ever ran, only the two UK marathons were quicker.
After Chicago I took the next week easy to recover, a sports massage really helped the calf and I was back running pain free (in the calf) by the following weekend.
The next 2 weeks we continued to train but nothing too taxing and began to taper for New York. The plan was to go again in New York and finish the job. During the 3 weeks between Chicago and New York I looked into why I was getting cramping in my calf and invested in some compression socks to help with this but also more importantly decided that my race week nutrition wasn’t right, especially for these international race, I just wasn’t eating sufficiently to fuel for a marathon.
After the disappointment of Chicago it was difficult lifting myself for the NEW YORK CITY MARATHON, yes I knew the race would be amazing and the city but I was worried that the calf issue might come back, the achilles was affecting my running more now too, I was running with a hobble and it wasn’t easy. I went into New York planning to run a 3:16 but hoping that it would at least be a sub 4 hour marathon. For the first time in a long time I felt nervous at the start, so much so I ran an 11 minute mile to start the race, wayyyyy off my target pace of 7:30. Once we got into Brooklyn I felt better and was loving the sun and the atmosphere, it was everything I remembered and loved about the 2017 NEW YORK CITY MARATHON I was having the time of my life and kept telling myself that this is the race of my life. Slowly, mile by mile I was getting that time back which I lost in mile 1. I ran past the point where I stopped to walk at mile 20 in 2017, I ran past the 22 mile marker going further than any training run, I was in new territory and with 4 miles to go there was no way I was going to stop and walk now.
My pace did slow by 1 min per mile, I felt tired, I stopped laughing and smiling with the crowds, it got real and it got tough but I pushed on. I always run with my watch in lap time mode so that I cannot see the elapsed race time. I crossed the finish line and knew I had ran a PB but didn’t expect to have ran a 17 minute PB of 3:17.42 on a hilly course and carrying an injury. What an amazing end to my racing year and that put all of the hard work with Matt to good use.
Two weeks after New York I was invited to London to run the Victoria Park 10k with my Enertor team mates, like with New York I went into this not feeling a good time, no 10k speed training for months and still carrying the achilles niggle but ended up running my 2nd fastest 10k coming home in 40:34!! what a month November has been.
After this I flew out to Gran Canaria for a family holiday in the sun and time to relax and recover the body ready to take on 2019. I ended up catching the flew whilst I was out there and missed 2 weeks of running and felt totally energy sapped.
Start the month still feeling the effect of the flu I didn’t run until mid December. I used this time to really try and sort the achilles problem out, it has been 6 months now and needs to get stronger.
I also started working with a new triathlon coach with the goal of improving all aspects of my swim, bike and run as well as transition times, nutrition and strength work. We spent a day doing tests, filming and taking photos which will be used to improve my technique in all three disciplines in the coming months.
I started back swimming again for the first time since Ironman UK in July, I clocked my biggest month on the bike since July but also clocked my worst month of running since March 2017 and the first time I have not ran 100 miles in a month for 20 months. As bad as that sounds, that was the plan and things will get back to normal in 2019, although, the plan of running a 3:10 at the Tokyo marathon looks a pipe dream as I write this less than 9 weeks from race day.