Thames Path 100 2017 #WalkingTheWholeThing

I’d been relatively sensible in 2016 when it comes to racing on basis that I was on Spartathlon waitlist and didn’t want to be too wrecked if I did move up the list far enough to get in (I didn’t get in), so had decided to volunteer at Thames Path 100 instead that year as didn’t want to completely miss out.  This meant I got a free spot on the 2017 race :-). One problem was that I had been very broken since start of March and couldn’t actually run at all. I’d tried physio/ acupuncture etc and had had a go at ‘seeing if it just needs to warm up’ at Crawley 24 on 1 April but sensibly quit after 10 miles of walk/jog etc and resigned myself to just walking everywhere instead. I did notice that I could actually walk quite fast though e.g. 12:30 min miling at times when walking a parkrun…. 

So I wondered if I could have a go at walking Thames Path 100. I’m not as fast as Richard McChessney or Sandra Brown but reckoned I could probably pull it off ok if I could get past the first aid station in cut off as I suspected it might be at 11.6 miles 

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Double Green Man (aka the Green Woman)

So what is the Green Man Challenge?

For those of you not familiar with it, here’s an extract below from https://gaveller.wordpress.com/about/the-green-man-challenge/ 

 

 

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Back in 2014 I completed my first Green Man circuit as part of the organised Green Man Ultra event (http://www.ultrarunningltd.co.uk/green-man-ultra.html ). I discovered then that the Gaveller was actually a real person (Chris Bloor) and not a mythical character.  I remember saying afterwards that it was fun and wondered if it would be possible to do a double Green Man circuit ( 2 loops) in 24 hours.  At the time I think people thought I was just joking.. but I wasn’t.  I thought about it and realised the easiest way to do it would be to do it as part of an organised event so that there would be checkpoints with water/snacks every 10-15 miles or so to make it logistically easier. I think I even got as far as suggesting it to Steven Worrallo at the time but back in 2014, Green Man Ultra only had 120 entrants and the midnight summer version of the event had barely I dozen I think. 2015 saw the GM double in size. I entered again in the March daylight edition and cut nearly 90 minutes off my time finishing 7th lady in 9 hours 10 mins. I’d contemplated ‘doing a double’ then but had just started seeing Stu Wilkie (who won the Green Man Ultra in 2014) and we’d got a date booked for after the race (in Green Man pub in Kingsdown) and that seemed way better idea than twonking out a 2nd loop on my own…

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I semi regretted not doing the double then though as conditions were great and I was a bit fitter back then.  So shoot forward a year (ignoring the dozen or so Ultras in between) and Green Man Ultra 2016 was again in the calendar for me…. I’d again contemplated doing a ‘cool down’ lap (or warm up lap) after or before the race on 5 March, but with Viking Way Ultra in the calendar for 2 April, I decided against it. I’d raced far too much in 2015 (completing 13 Ultras, 7 over 100 miles in length, and finishing with DNF at the Hill at no. 14), and this had taken its toll on my body.

Idiot Chip

‘idiot chip’ is the thing I usually install in my brain on morning of race day of an ultra (or day or two before), Idiot Chip keeps me awake and makes me do things I can’t normally do… unfortunately at Green Man Ultra race in March 2016, I didn’t bother installing it and I did pretty badly in the race –  I felt ill from the start and keep having really bad dizzy spells and almost quit and finished in my worse time ever of 10 hrs 48. In retrospect I think that had I been doing a double that day, Idiot Chip would have done it’s job in keeping me focused and engaged and ignoring the fact that I felt ill and I would have had a better race and managed the double. Unfortunately just doing a single loop was sensible so I’d not bothered engaging ‘idiot chip’ as didn’t think it was needed. After the GM, I felt a bit down and looked again at my calendar.

So why do Double Green Man 4 weeks later?

Basically I decided to drop out of Viking Way Ultra. It was a long way to travel (about 10 hours each way when I factor in childcare too) and although I felt I probably could finish it (if I didn’t get lost), there was a 99.999% chance that I would get completely lost and have no idea of where I was going. My eyesight is rubbish in daylight and completely useless at night. The rules of the Viking Way Ultra are strict in that you aren’t allowed to use any GPS  / electronic mapping so I would have to be following the route by using maps and following signs along the way. Problem is I can barely see signs in daylight and at night I have no chance – without using my Garmin 650, I’d really need to rely on following someone else (which isn’t really advisable with such a small field of entrants). So doing Double Green Man would be my consolation prize. It would ‘tick it off the list’ and otherwise I know I’d be tempted to do it in Summer (when I should be prepping for Tooting 24 hour track race.  Also I thought all the original Woodwoses didn’t do Green Man as part of a race, they just went out and did it. It therefore felt more fitting to do it myself and not part of an organised race.

I’ve also been inspired by a range of ultra running friends / (non-ultra) running friends in their commitment and determination to push themselves to be as good as they can be. I’ve seen Stu fight his way back to fitness relentlessly time and time again setting himself incredible goals and pushing himself to achieve them.

A little bit of help from friends

I realised I needed help. I knew I could park somewhere on the course so would only need enough supplies for one loop but 45 miles (or 46 as I almost do a little bit of ‘bonus getting distracted and going the wrong way’ mileage) is too far for me to carry enough water. I knew of some points on route that I might be able to get water, as Brian Robb (the Green Man Midnight Express winner) had given me a 32 mile guided tour trot (well hike actually as I’d a torn hamstring at the time and my legs refused to run after 5 miles), and had shown me a water hose at a church in Pensford and tap at Kendleshire Golf Course, and he’d kindly offered to leave a bottle of cola by a gate on B4465, and I knew a couple of points where shops might be open in daytime, but to rely on those sources of water/drink being there all through the night was risky. I also knew that I needed Stu involved. He’s the Green Man champ from 2014 and our first date (on Valentines day) started at the Green Man’s head in Ashton Court. I also knew I’d not be able to sleep if he was out running on his own all night and he’d feel the same if I was out all night on my own, so although I knew it would mean him missing a nights’ sleep, I wanted him involved too. I needed him there along the course especially on the night section, keeping me fuelled with coffee and Wilkie hugs.  I also knew Strava bike mileage was very kudos’able so it didn’t take much persuasion for him to agree to join me on his bike with huge flask of coffee from around 9pm onwards. I was a bit anxious he might forget though. I also thought that running 92 miles on my own (especially at night) might be a bit hard going – I was comfortable doing the daytime loop on my own  -and have often run long sections of ultras at races alone and not seeing anyone between checkpoints – but thought just having someone join me for a section on the early part of the night might give my brain an well needed rest from ‘having to see’ to navigate and I could just relax and trot along for a bit. So I posted a quick message on Green Man challenge facebook group (slightly cryptically) as wasn’t sure whether to mention openly I was going to attempt the double or not…

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A few friends (whom I could have shared my plans with) said they would have joined for a section but it wasn’t the best day etc. but as always I was again blown away by the generosity of strangers in the running community and two Woodwoses (Ray Betterton and Vanessa Hawkins) agreed to join me for a section on lap 2 from Long Ashton to Warmley. Brian Robb also said he’d help out in some way too and he agreed to join me for the first bit from Henbury where I was going to start (having run to mine first from Mangotsfield.. and then he’d get to a point somewhere and veer off through town and run back to Mangotsfield.. and then of course he’d still be ok for his running training in the evening… – this of course being his taper time for Manchester Marathon 🙂 – gulp! Now that’s the type of endurance I’d like to have).

Geoff Partridge also said he might be able to pop up with any needed supplies / water if needed en route and was a very welcome face at Hambrook on lap 1 when he appeared with some water which was ace as it was a hot day and I’d have run out by the time I got to my van otherwise.

Route

Ideally I’d have started (and finished) at Ashton Court. It would have felt symbolic with the Green Man’s head being there and GM Ultra starting/finishing there in the March edition of the race but there just wasn’t anywhere I could find there where I could park my campervan (my only transport) for more than a few hours, so I decided to start at Henbury where I knew I could park on route. My youngest son goes to school up there (as they have a deaf unit) so I was familiar with how to get there and where I could park for free. I decided to do 2 laps both in the anti-clockwise direction as I was far more familiar with the course that way around. So a plan was forming. Start at 7am from Henbury (with Brian Robb for company for first section to Ashton Court) and then carry on solo (meeting my mum for lunch at Warmley with more water, topping up at Pensford Church if needed) and then carrying on to Henbury to end of lap 1 where I could take a short refuelling stop and kit for 2nd lap overnight (so warm coats, more food and drink and head torches / batteries / USB charger for phone etc). I’d then carry on to Long Ashton where I’d meet Ray and Vanessa who would run with me until Warmley. Stu would cycle on his bike after work and meet us at Norton Malreward (with coffee #TrueStart! and Wilkie hugs) and would then meet at other points for lap 2. Brian had said he’d keep an eye out too (as I had a tracker) and might join for a later bit if needed – but he could see from Stu’s update that all was fine so wisely he didn’t come back out but had left some welcome cola at a gate too.

On lap 1 I decided to take the Woollard diversion from the March edition of the race as I couldn’t recall the reason for the diversion and worried it was something to do with a bull in a field. But at Kendleshire golf course I thought I’d go through the golf course which is a public footpath and the official route even thought we took diversion on race day this year probably because they didn’t want 300+ runners stomping over the greens. I needed to go through there as knew I could stock up with water there. On 2nd lap I didn’t take the Woollard diversion as had met up with Ray and Vanessa by then and let Ray do the navigating and he was sure there wouldn’t be a Bull. And at the golf course on lap 2 I took the race route diversion on basis that it was 2am in the morning and my garmin gpx had the race route on it which went around the golf course – slightly further along the road-  and I didn’t fancy trying to navigate the the correct line on the green within my little pink gpx line.. Also as that bit was by a road, Stu was cycling alongside me on his bike and by going on the road around the golf course he could stay with me for that small section which was nice.

I did ‘strava’ it on my 2 Garmins (changing after 68 miles as first one went flat) and the run can be seen at https://www.strava.com/activities/534874459

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Tracking

As I was going to be out there ‘on my tod’ for a lot of the run, I wanted to have some means of people tracking me for safety’s sake. I asked the specialist in this ares (Rich Cranswick) what he’d use and he recommended View Ranger Buddy Beacon. The Trouble was that I just couldn’t get it to work, I’d tried testing it with Stu a few times beforehand and I’m normally quick techie but rather than waste more time on it, I just managed to hire a portable tracker at a special rate as only needed it for a couple of days. My link was http://maps.opentracking.co.uk/rozglover.cfm?n=1&smart=1 so people could see where I was alone the course. There was a few glitches with the tracker initially – one website glitch to start with and then further glitches at times where it lost satellite signal. Ideally the tracker should be strapped to the outside of a pack so it’s in clear view of satellites but unfortunately it was delivered without it’s waterproof casing and it was vital not to get it wet (or it would break and it was worth £600) so I’d felt I needed to keep it inside my bag in the end. I did waste a bit of time on the day fiddling with it to try to get it to reboot to pick up a signal again and emailing the company to get the website glitch sorted, but I tried not to get too stressed about it. It worked by and large ok with a few bits of turning it off and on (and checking and rechecking on my phone). It gave me a feeling of safety that I wouldn’t have had without it and made it easier for Stu to see where I was on the course (and others too who were following my progress)

 

Time goal

All I wanted to do on this one was to try to get both laps done within the 24 hour official Green Man challenge time. I always think of Green Man loop (with it’s varying terrain and mud) as feeling the same as a 50 mile flat race and my pb for GM loop is 9hrs 10 (compared to 8hrs 48 along 50 miles of TP. So in my head 2 loops of GM would ‘feel’ a bit like a 100 miler of a flatter course. Generally I’d say to get a 100 miler done in 24 hours (starting early in morning), I’d want the first half done in 10 hrs (as generally I’d multiply my 50 miler time by 2 and add on my marathon pb).. So I knew this would be tough as I’d only managed 10 hrs 48 in the race a few weeks previous so I knew I’d have to be keep up running where I could as long as possible and not slip into ‘death march’ mode too early on. I knew I’d not stop and drop even if I realised I wouldn’t make sub 24 (I’m the queen of gutting it out to the finish even when wrecked…), but that I’d probably want another crack at it soon if I didn’t get sub 24 (which would mess up my training for Tooting) so the best thing to do would be to keep pressing on as much as possible until I was then safely going to get sub 24 and then ease off a bit to make sure I limited the inevitable damage that that distance can do to feet/body. Lap 1 was ticked off in 10 hrs 10 mins. It took me about 15-20 mins to kit up (battery changes, USB charger for phone, coat change, head torchs, multiple spare batteries for torch) eating, refilling bottles, a fb update etc. before I set off for lap 2. This would have been easier at a race where cp volunteers could have helped but I needed to take the time to ensure I had everything I needed as I didn’t want a missing bit of kit (like a head torch battery) to jeopardise completion.

I knew that as soon as it got dark, that’s where I’d be going slower as would need to check and recheck that I was going the right way. Everything looks unfamiliar to me in the dark and trying to remember the route when I couldn’t see whether something looked familiar or not would be hard. I didn’t really want to realise I’d taken a mile detour or something. I was so so grateful that Ray and Vanessa were joining me at Long Ashton.  It was still light when I met them but I knew it would get dark soon after. I had to stop at Long Ashton to buy some cheap caffeine energy drink as I was getting a bit tired and needed a boost. I then felt very sorry for Vanessa as my first caffeine jolt for 14 hours kicked in big time and I gabbled on non stop for hours. She was very patient. Ray initially he’d be led by me and they’d just trot along side but then I realised that ideally I’d want to just rest my brain from navigating (and seeing) for a bit and to relax and follow them so Ray trotted on ahead – making sure he didn’t get too far away – while I just followed behind with Vanessa alongside. It was ace to relax and just know that I could travel with this entourage until Warmley. It really kept my spirits up. They both were very good at putting up with my swearing at the hills; non stop caffeinated chatting as I ‘overshared’ my life story with Vanessa; coughing and wheezing from bad asthma when it got a bit damp and cold in the air; moaning about blisters; constant wanting reassurance that we were going the right way; and then hours of me wretching (luckily dry wretching and not actually being sick) from half way along the Chew ‘oh this is normal’ I said … Hopefully I didn’t put Vanessa off the longer races too much as I reckon she’d rock at the 100 milers (or more). Without Vanessa and Ray, achieving sub 24 would have been much more of a struggle later on. In fact when they left at Warmley, I think I said I didn’t think I’d make sub 24 anyway but that if I did it would be down to them getting me to that point so smoothly as I knew then it was only about 19 miles to go. Geoff Partridge also joined for a little section just before Keynsham and onto Warmley. Ray also magically opened lots of gates too so I wasn’t having to clamber over them as they’d just magically open when I got there and then he’d close them behind me.. I really missed that later on when trying to heave myself over frozen gate after frozen gate or slippery style after slippery style as the frost set in and the frozen fog.

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Ray, Vanessa and I at Norton Malreward

When Ray and Vanessa left it was just Stu and I left. Originally he was just going to cycle to each main ‘race cp’ location to meet me with coffee and hugs at the ready but we both realised that seemed a long way apart so instead Stu met me at all possible road locations. After Parkway, there’s quite a bit of road location that we could travel together which was nice. We had our usual bicker at one point as we were both tired and cold.. I made the mistake of asking ‘is this the right way?’… what I really meant was ‘I’m tired and need reassurance that I’m going to make it on time’ but Stu’s tired ‘of course it’s the right way, I did win the race in 2014 you know..’ showed me we were both a little bit tired. It wasn’t much fun for either of us really between 2am and 5am as I was freezing (as was Stu) and my constant wretching can’t have been that appealing. But we know each other well enough to not let it get to either of us and just to keep it together mentally and keep moving. The flask of coffee Stu brought with him was amazing. Last year I suffered a lot on a few races from bouts of falling asleep on my feet and hallucinations during races overnight but I think this time, having both the coffee and knowing that I needed to keep focused and pushing to meet sub 24 and the ‘slight stress’ of navigating in dark through fields, woods and hills in mud on my own kept me awake. Stu was amazing at being there when I needed him and I was so glad he’d come along as it would have felt a bit flat without him there. My main worry was my asthma as the thick freezing fog was making breathing really hard going and I was getting through shed loads of ventolin.

At some point – just after Hambrook I think – I looked at Stu and said ‘I know nothing’s guaranteed, but I’m actually going to make this aren’t I?’ And yes, all I needed to do was to ‘not cock up big time’ and I’d comfortably make it. I relaxed a bit on the pace and just kept moving. Frome Valley was difficult as there was deep mud up to my knees in places and bits that tried to suck my shoes off and losing a shoe with less than 15 miles to go would have been a tad annoying. There was the odd couple out in strange places in cars as well.. Fields of livestock were hard too. Trying to make myself invisible when going through a field of cattle (whilst still wearing the brightest head torch around) was not much fun and somehow every single horse out there would follow me and nudge me or just lie against the gates that were the exits to the field so I’d literally have to clamber over them.

It was an ace feeling when I got past spinorium hill (partly because I knew that was the last hill) and partly because I knew there was not far to go at all. I went through the last few fields and could see a headlamp (Stu’s head torch) in the distance at the other on and looked down at my phone and saw Stu’s text at 5:56 ‘Go go go!!’

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I knew it was just the home stretch down into Henbury now to the Van and the finish. I did try trotting a bit on the last bit but though ‘nah’ just walk fast until the end

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Final motorway crossing before henbury

Done. 23 hours 16 mins..

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Damage assessment the next day (Saturday) parkrun volunteering as tailrunner. 

Not too bad. Have a bit of a tight chest still but managed 9.5 min mile pacing for couple of miles warm up and the beauty of tailrunning is that you just go at the speed of the slowest runner so I was able to just walk fast with occasional trot for the 5K. A then quick (very gentle) leg massage from Stu later (ps highly recommend his sports massage.. though glad I got just a light touch today -https://www.themedical.co.uk/practitioners/stuart-wilkie ) and considering what I put them through, I think I got let off lightly when it comes to damage. My legs are a bit swollen still (always get post ultra oedema) and have 3 less toenails than Thursday morning (down from 7 to 4 now) and just the rubbing on my back caused some nice scars to my back and everythings a bit tight but I also know that if I did want to use my Taunton Marathon place tomorrow (4:30 cut off) I’m confident I’d manage it ok. I’m not going to do it though because I also know it would do more harm than good and I just need to take it easy for a week at least before focusing back to training for my next one.

So Green Woman Challenge anyone?

I was absolutely blown away by the certificate that the Gaveller handed over to me tonight (2nd April) at the Green Man pub in Bristol.

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Seeing the original trophy of the Green Man challenge up there with the small number of Woodwoses who went out years ago (often alone) to do the Green Man challenge. Yes I think it’s right that the Green Woman challenge should be twice the distance of the Green Man challenge. I’m not particular fit (just a bit stubborn and determined) but basically if I can do two loops in 24 hours then it’s a very achievable challenge. I’ve not set the bar very high either. I reckon I could probably (in good conditions) and with more hours of daylight  cut at least 1 1/2 hours from that time and I’m sure lots of runners could do it far quicker than that. The route’s there permanently – there’s water stops en route (and most people will have friends who will pop out to help) so go on… you know you want to…

Mind you, if Steve Worrallo decides to set it up as an official race next year(or someone else e.g. a running club) then that would make it even more accessible to all, then count me into that starting line up :-). Though I also like the Gaveller’s idea of linking the Green Man route to the Green Goddess route around Bath… Too many trails, not enough weekends.

For those of you wanting to help keep such Community Forest Path’s open and usable for all us adventurers out there, details of how you can help (as adventurer, volunteer or financial supporter) are available at https://friendsofcfp.wordpress.com/about/

 

 

 

Tooting Bec 24 hour track race

Thoughts pre race

Help! What have I done!!! I’m doing a 24 hour track race later today – and will feel completely under the spotlight – and legs and feet are wrecked before I start. Rather than planning and training properly, I’ve done zero training since mid April and have just completed 3 Ultras in August including a 100 miler and 130 mile Liverpool to Leeds Canal Race.. What a twonk 😠.

To further complicate it, my ‘go to’ flat ultra shoes of Hoka Stinsons have changed their design/ fit a bit and they now make my feet bleed in various places after 1/2 mile so I’ve had to last minute panic buy a brand of shoe I’ve never worn before as it was the only pair in my rough size in only running shop open the evening before the race.

Oh and did I mention that the marvellous Mimi Anderson is coming to crew for me too! Less than a week before her double Spartathlon attempt too – she is such an inspiring motivational ultra runner and so generous to offer to come along and help crew and support too.

I feel so so guilty for not being able to focus and train properly for this race.

But then again that’s probably how I feel about most races 😀. After all, how do you prepare properly for Ultras when you’ve not got the life that enables you the freedom to train at will / when a plan tells you, you should train. The rest of us just have to blag it as best we can. I’m lucky that I possess an oversized idiot chip that comes along on race day and forgets ignores the state of my body and lack of prep. :-).

Race day

I left home at 5.30am and staggered off to catch the 6.30 am train to London… then 3 tube changes later, I’d arrived at Tooting. My useful downfall at races is navigation so it was a strange to think that for once navigation wouldn’t be my main concern. However it was thick fog outside during the journey and I suddenly began to worry that I might actually get lost due to visibility issues after all… At Tooting Bec underground I saw another obvious ultra runner lurking around – We’d not met before but you can kind of spot ultra runners a mile off – it was Johnny Hallneby from Stockholm. I walked over to Tooting Bec and signed in with Shankara (one of the Race Directors) – I think I was one of the first to arrive, but others soon appeared. I looked at the programme which listed the biogs of all the other runners.. gulp.. I began to feel a bit out of place and wished I wasn’t quite so broken. I also read my biog in the programme and felt a bit better as it made me sound like a proper ultra runner – so I just had to assume that all the others were blagging it a bit too.

Mimi arrived soon and I was so nervous to be in such running royalty presence I garbled on in a highly caffeinated way. Jon Fielden was running too and had Nici / Natasha and Ashok crewing him so Mimi soon joined up with them to have a Glover/Fielden camp. Stu was due to arrive much later in the day as he was running a marathon in Birmingham first.

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Race itself

Ok.. I fess up.. I completely forgot to finish this blog and am now finishing it months later. In a nutshell my accumulative fatigue/foot damage from NDW100 and LLC130 a few weeks earlier and various muscle injuries (and lack of lung power) were evident from early on in the race and around 4 hours in I was down in 36th place (out of about 45 runners).. but there’s an art form to 24 hour races around pacing yourself.. and I’m the queen of just gritting it out (albeit very slowly) and as the hours ticked a way I slowly but surely worked my way up the leaderboard. This wasn’t through any skill or particular hard work on my part, all I needed to do was to keep moving and try to ignore the pain and tiredness  – going the wrong way wasn’t an issue as even I can find my way around a track. I watched the event unfold around me and saw others suffering (some even more than me). It was hard to watch when someone had to drop out completely due to injury / collapse – especially as I guiltily would think ‘hey, I’ve moved up another place on board now..’. I had one bad spot for a couple of hours where I felt I wanted to quit –  I was just so tired and remembered I had Autumn 100 in a few weeks and I really needed to finish it as it was the last GrandSlam race and I needed the buckle.. – but I know that it would have been the wrong thing to do to quit so I just carried on – I think I mentioned to Mimi, Stu and Ashok when they asked if I needed anything that I was just thinking of quitting etc., but they wisely didn’t say anything and just let me slowly think about it when I went around. I mentally slapped myself around a bit and decided to just gut it out.

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I was getting a few tiredness hallucinations – just minor ones e.g. the Steeplechase jump had black and white stripes across it and someone had hung a jumper off one end and it reminded me somehow of a giant cow so everytime I went around the track, this giant cow was staring at me and threatening to come on the track. I had an ace time trying to race down Ann Bath. I’d seen Ann at lots of races this year (with her volunteering at TP100, GUCR and NDW100) and this was the first time I’d run in same race with her.. she was rocking a nice pair of 2XUs too. She was well ahead of me at some point as she’d zoomed out at the start whizzing around the track so fast I felt sorry for her lap counters, but later she’d gone for a rest in her tent and I’d crept back up the leaderboard and was closing in on her. When she came back on the track we were very close and I ‘raced’ her (very slowly) for a bit and was delighted to just creep past… it was hard though because I just wanted to walk at the time and we were both doing a bit of walk/run type thing and I’d get ahead and would be walking around the track and I’d hear someone behind me say ‘well done Ann’ and I’d have to start running again ;-). I finished 12th (or 13th) which was 5th lady and managed just over 107 miles. Before the race, I knew that if I was fresh and nicely trained up and tapered I’d probably be capable of between 112 and 115 miles so 107 wasn’t that bad and my goal had been 106.73 so I was happy enough with this, at the same time as being slightly cross with myself for not preparing properly for this one. That said, a lot of people had prepared properly and were unlucky to get injuries happening during the race itself, so it might have been that being slightly wrecked to start with so not able to go fast had paid off.. who knows? I’ll just have to do it properly another year and see what happens then :-).

Official Results

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There were some amazing performances to watch at the track, especially between Beth Pascal and Ali Young who came 1st and 2nd. Originally I’d wondered if a track race would be boring but it’s so far from boring. It was so much fun. Mimi, Nici and Natasha kept all the racers entertained with pub quiz / plank off competitions and various karaoke. And just being able to watch every runner out there and follow the whole race was great too – normally on a 100 mile point to point, I’ll just find out what happened at the very end. But here I could see the whole race unfold as it happened.

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It was only really at the end, listening to the speeches by the Race Directors afterwards, when I took on board what the whole event was about – it wasn’t a race against each other but we were all running together racing against ourselves. When I get the chance next year, I will make sure that this is what I do i.e. ignore the leaderboard and just put everything I can myself into doing as many miles as possible in the 24 hours.

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Liverpool to Leeds Canal Race, 130 miles 29/30 August 2015 (aka the wrong shoe size race)

Canal Slam (aka Dickslam, not to be confused with Cockbain events cockslam)

I can’t quite remember how I ended up entering both the Grand Union Canal Race and Liverpool to Leeds Canal Race (both organised by Dick Kearn) in 2015, but I think it was something along the lines of:

  • I wanted to have completed a race over 100 miles before I have a crack at the Hill in December 2015, and I wasn’t confident I’d complete GUCR which is 145 miles ish, so thought LLC would be my ‘back up plan’
  • As I found out more and more about GUCR and the history of the event,  as the date approached for GUCR, it made me want to enter another Canal Race and not to have to wait another full year (and to have gone through a ballot process) for the next Canal Race
  • Stu (my better half) was down to do it
  • I was supposed to be doing T184 that weekend but wasn’t actually looking forward to it (as DNF’d there last year.. which was my only DNF to date) and I wanted a genuine excuse to defer T184 until 2016
  • I’m a twonk and don’t know when too much is too much (as this would then mean 3 ultras in August which is tad excessive)

Liverpool to Leeds Canal

I don’t claim to know much background to the race.. I just know that the first ‘running’ of this race was last year – 2014. It’s along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal which is the longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway, which is about 127 ‘canal miles’ which is going to be about 130 foot miles considering you can’t actually walk along water so have to cross from side to side / along various short road sections where no towpath etc.. The rules and set up are very similar to GUCR (The classic British Ultra). It’s a non profit making, no frills, very well thought out rules and generous cut offs which relies on band of dedicated amazing volunteers both to organise it and to look after the runners on the day. You can do it very cheaply – i.e. £45 if you’ve got your own crew or for just £75 if you want the race organisers to support you by taking your bag from check point to checkpoint and to give you food/drink at checkpoints (including basic hot food at a few locations). The distance between checkpoints can vary from 10 miles to 20+ miles. It’s a ‘non-stop’ race i.e. you get 42 hours to complete it (with cut off times at each check point stage), and you cannot stay still for more than 40 minutes (which I suppose does allow for the odd cat nap if that helps). Dick Kearn is the Race Director but I understand that Wayne Simpson is the person responsible with coming up with the idea for this race so they are both equally to thank for it.

Double Slam

I also am doing the Centurion Grandslam  (4 x 100 mile races) in 2015 so was intrigued as to how I’ll fare doing ‘canal slam’ and centurion slam. I know Ian Thomas did the 6 in 2014 too so I wouldn’t be the first and Peter Johnson is also doing all 6 in 2015 too (along with lots of other races too.. but then again I’m no Peter Johnson 😉 ).. to make it a bit more interesting I’d also got Black Rat (32 mile coastal event) in August so that meant North Downs Way 100 on 8 August, Black Rat on 15 August and then LLC 130 on 29 August… to make matters a bit more complicated, my application to Tooting Bec 24 hour track event in September had been accepted so I was conscious that I would have to seriously concentrate on recovery (aka resting and eating lots of cake) in between all the start lines.

Liverpool

The downside with point to point races (if travelling by train) is that it can work out pricey to travel as often a return train ticket is similar price to a single but if you’re travelling from home to Start and then the Finish to home it’s 2 separate tickets. So we decided to book advanced cheaper tickets travelling up to arrive late afternoon in Liverpool and to leave the finish (Leeds) on the last train back home (i.e. 8pm) which would mean really I’d need to aim for maximum of 37 hours to finish rather than the race allowance of 42 hours as I didn’t want to pay for additional accommodation in Leeds.

We arrive at Liverpool and checked into the great hotel (within 15 mins walk from start). It was enormous converted warehouse with a bathroom that was bigger than my bedroom at home.

Hotel corridor

We just had time to check out the start line before we registered and picked up hoodies/t-shirts back in Central Liverpool.

The startline

At registration we met Dick, signed our lives away and picked up hoodies and t-shirts from Joan who I remembered from GUCR. I could see a few other familiar faces too. We’d planned to eat out in Liverpool – maybe catch up with some people over a drink or two and then head back to hotel but the pub we’d suggested had no spare tables, the food looked a bit suspect too so we ended up walking around for a couple of hours before heading back to our hotel for a pint (which ended up two) and a late night (close to midnight) which wasn’t really advisable seeing as I’d set my alarm for 4.15 in morning on basis that I need caffeine in system before doing anything else.

We trundled to start and dropped off our bags. There was only 36 of us who started the race. I’d known it would be small but was expecting a few more. Small is nice though and there were quite a few familiar faces from other races – Peter Foxhall, Liz Tunna, Peter Johnson (who turns up everywhere), Sharon Bollister, Anne Green, Glyn Ryman and Ian Thomas etc.

It was good to put a face to a name in Keith Godden (who’s going to be organising GUCR in future), and who runs Ultra Marathon Running Store.. (I think my credit card company think he’s blackmailing me from amount I seem to spend there ;-))

Dick gave a quick brief at the start of the race and then we were off… at our respective paces along the canal.

The navigation on this one wasn’t as hard as I’d expected. I’m rubbish at navigating as my eyesight is poor but the maps that Dick provided were great and in honestly I was able to just make notes from the maps and follow my notes and didn’t actually need to get the maps out. Other than in about 5 places, it’s pretty obvious where to go and I reckon I only added 2% bonus miles in total on top if that.

Volunteers

The volunteers were amazing (as always). I always forget some of the names so sincerest apologies but a very special thank you from me to all volunteers including  Gill, Keith, Joan, Ian, Fiona, Jon, Jess, Pete, Sue, John (and loads more whose names I’ve forgotten.. so sorry) and Louise Ayling (a fellow Centurion Slammer). Louise saved my race when blistering on sole of feet reduced me to a bare 23-25 min mile crawl for 10 miles between mile 75-85 as she helped reduce one of my blisters so I could at least carry on hobbling at 18-20 min miling and hence finish in time.

At each checkpoint – for those of us supported by the race (rather than our own crew) – they would help refill bottles, offer drinks (hot or cold), have an array of snacks and bring your bag to a chair so you didn’t need to bend down too much. I also noticed they’d take note of how you were too and later in race e.g. when they knew it might be dark before next checkpoint they’d remind you to take your head torch / warmer clothes / coat etc.. Volunteers were also helping those whose race had to end prematurely unfortunately. I think there were about 15 who had to drop out before the end for various reasons which is always sad to see. I was sad to see Sharon Bollister (who had been leading lady at the start) drop a few checkpoints in due to injury but was amazed to see she then joined the ranks of the volunteers and enjoyed the race that way.

The race and managing severe foot pain

After about 40 miles this whole race became a matter of managing foot pain which got worse and worse during the course of the event. Basically I had the wrong size shoes on. I was wearing Hokas but I think I normally get at least a size or size and a half bigger than my usual size when buying Hokas.. I’d one a pair of shoes which I’d swapped for Hokas at the Energia 100K and I’d tried them out the weekend before this race and realised they were on the snug side so then had decided to invest in a new (bigger) pair.. so I’d ordered these but hadn’t actually checked the size that I thought were too small… when the new ones arrived, Stu said ‘these are the same size as your other ones..’ I said they can’t be etc… then checked and saw they were. Fuxleysticks! I did what any sensible person would do and shrugged my shoulders and just decided to see if I could find my shoe stretcher thingamejig.. I couldn’t but managed to get one in Timpson on the Thursday before we were travelling to Liverpool. I put it in one of the shoes (the one where I have a slight bigger foot) and just hoped it would do..

It didn’t ‘do’. 25 miles in my feet were in agony – they felt like they were being squeezed in a vice and bruises seemed to be forming on the sides.. I could feel that my feet were being ‘scrunched up’ which hurt every step and it also felt that blisters were starting on soles of feet.. this went on and got worse…

By about mile 68 (CP5) I think I decided to put my road shoes on (which were in my drop bag) and I wore those to the next checkpoint. I couldn’t bear these either as I’d already got damage on soles of feet and all the stoney rooted paths were agony so I squeezed my Hokas back on at the next cpoint at mile 83. The pain got worse and worse.. On the night section I’d been running along near Peter Foxhall and Andy Hicks but my hobbling got slower and slower and I’d had to fall back and just trundle along on my own. I knew I was lead lady at around cp5 but I was losing time and the lovely Anne Green went past me and had a chat as I grumped and grumbled about how rubbish my feet felt.,..

By mile 94 my speed had dropped so much that I was really worried about finishing in time.. in reality I was doing find but at the time it felt that I was getting so slow I’d never finish. I thought that one of the pain areas of sole of foot was a newly bubble blister so asked at the cpoint if anyone could help me with it. Poor Louise got the short straw and she was able to reduce some of the pressure by popping something and letting some of the puss out. I still wasn’t sure if I could get a good enough walk speed up to finish in time for the train but I wasn’t ready to give up without giving it a go. It was starting to get light too which was good so I turned my head torch off and hobbled on. I’d said the volunteers at the checkpoint that it was likely I’d just hobble a mile or 2 and have to give up and come back. Joan said to just find a bridge number and give them a call if that was the case and they’d come and get me so I hobbled on.. and hobbled on and realised I was walking fast enough to be able to comfortably finish in time for train (with leeway for beer and pizza first too). When I say ‘comfortably’ I was referring to time only as each step was getting more and more agony. I could feel the pressure across the whole surface of each foot getting worse and worse. I knew that if I took my Hokas off again before the end of the race there was no way they’d get back on.. The pain got worse and worse. It was a good 20+ miles to the next cp which was CP8. I’d got a text from Stu saying he’d finished in 4th in 25 something hours. I was so happy for him (though he’d hoped for a slightly faster time / higher position as he sets himself very tough goals). He did amazingly well though as had not properly recovered from recent 24 hour track event.  I was really struggling to keep sane with the every increasing pain in my feet and I came very very very close to just chucking in the towel and calling it quits just so I could stop and take my shoes off and take the weight off my exploding feet. I’d not felt pain like it and every step cause more and more pain. It wasn’t too bad on the smooth concrete bits, but as soon as there was any camber / bumpiness or stones, it was agony as I’d put more pressure on certain areas rather than equally trying to spread the weight/pressure across the foot.

I was really glad I had sunglasses as was really trying (and failing) not to cry at places. At one point I felt I had to quit and text’d Stu to say every step was agony and it was getting worse and worse and I needed to stop – I then promptly turned both phones off….. It was good to get it off my chest. That’s what I felt at the time. Once I accepted that was how I felt, I was able to then deal with the fact that although that’s how I felt, I also knew there was no way I could just give in when there was so much time on my side.. I was hours ahead of cut offs and although was in agony, I could still walk at a semi decent pace. I knew that loads of volunteers had given up hours of their time to support me and other runners get to the end.. How bad would I feel if I just quit because my foot hurt rather than because there was no way I could finish on time.. I’d already gone through 20+ hours of pain, what was another 10+ hours.. just keep going.

At CP8 I went in and out as quick as possible before I changed my mind on the ‘don’t quit’ choice.. Joan was there and said she’d heard from Gill that I wouldn’t quit if I could still continue so she’d said she’d not really expected me to call for a lift at a bridge. I didn’t want to mention that I’d nearly decided to throw in the towel 10 miles or so ago.. Anyway there was just 14 miles to go. I was told I was in 11th position, and still 2nd lady at the time. I knew though that there was no way I could run on my feet with the pain and pressure on them so I’d just had to walk as best I could..

It was a long long 14 miles. The pain didn’t ease off, it got worse but I knew I just needed to keep going. I tried working out what sort of time I’d finish in.. 33 something seemed ‘ok’ in my head so that’s what I’d aim for.. …

The miles or even .1 of miles seemed to pass very slowly. I was also coughing and wheezing quite a bit and my tongue was a bit swollen too (must be a canal thing as it had done the same at GUCR), but eventually I was down to single figures miles left. About 3 miles from the end Andy Ives overtook me and stopped for a quick chat before running on past. Next to pass was Peter Johnson.. I’d been playing trail leap frog with him earlier so wasn’t surprised to see he’d caught me up…. it was only a couple of miles or less to go. Peter could see I was in foot pain too and I think I had to pull my sunglasses on again as was struggling to hold back tears at this point from the sheet agony. I knew I couldn’t exactly decide to quite a couple of miles from the finish either so I was stuck in this lilttle hell of my own making… Eventually I knew I was only a mile or so away so had text Stu to come and meet me to bring me in the last mile. It was ace seeing him again despite me still being in so much pain. We’d originally agreed to have our own race of ‘who can go the fastest just on the last mile’.. but when he reminded him of this I just told him to Eff right off.. I could barely put each foot down without screaming and there was no way I was going to run. Turns out he’d done the last mile faster than my parkrun pace so glad I didn’t even try ;-). I could see the finish tent at last and the finish line that Dick was holding up so I hobbled up to it and collected my medal :-).

 It’s a shame I was in too much pain to really appreciate the finish line experience. Gill had offered to take a picture of Stu and I but I was just grimacing in agony trying to stand and just flopped into a chair, grabbed some scissors and cut the laces off my shoes so I could take my feet out…

I did start to feel a bit better after a while. I’d finished in 33hrs 30 and was 13th overall and 2nd lady despite all the walking, hobbling and the pain. We had over 4 hours until our train so I went off the a gym where I’d booked a free day pass to shower and change… then took an hour to hobble down some steps for pizza and beer before hobbling to train station for journey home. It was nice to see Ian Thomas (Gill’s other half) had done so well too as he’d come second. He’d missed out on GUCR this year so I was glad this had gone so well for him.

If you want to see a short video of me vs. the flight of stairs on way to get beer and pizza, then Stu took it here Roz vs. steps

It’s now a few days later and my feet are still agony. I can’t walk barefoot and standing hurts. It will pass though and I know that I did the right thing in finishing rather than quitting. There are so many times where ultra runner friends of mine have had to DNF at a race for genuine reasons eg such severe injury or illness that they’re reduced to actual crawling and missing cut off times, and they’d have done anything to have been able to finish, I knew it would be wrong for me to just decide to quit over painful feet. Ultra running hurts at times, we all know that.. there are risks and things can and do go wrong. Yes I’m suffering now but I think my feet would still be painful and bad even if I had quit at mile 80, 90, 100 or 110 etc. and at least this way I’ve got another bit of shiny race bling to go add to the collection. :-).

Despite the foot pain, I loved the race. I’d do it again in a shot – though next time I’ll learn the correct Hoka shoe size that I need ;-).

North Downs Way 100, 8/9 August 2015

I’ll admit it now that I’m not a fan of the North Downs Way. I did it in 2014, with Hurricane Bertha for company, and it sucked then. There’s no way I’d do it if it wasn’t part of the Centurion Grand Slam and I so wanted that big buckle. On the positive side, I thought, however wrecked I am this year, I know I can do it as I managed to finish it the year before in horrendous conditions, whilst only having run once between beginning of May and the 9 August when the race took place.

Race plan

My goal for this one was to do the bare minimum needed to finish in time and to minimise damage to my feet and body generally. I have a busy schedule in August/September:

  • 8/9 August NDW100
  • 15 August, Black Rat (32 miles)
  • 29 August, Liverpool Leeds Canal Race, 130 miles
  • 19/20 Sept – Tooting Bec 24 hour race

Ideally I would pull out of some of them but the ‘idiot chip’ which enables me to complete ultras in the first place was refusing to let me pull out of any unless I absolutely needed to. So that only strategy that I could think would enable me to at least turn up at all start lines, was to do NDW100 in as lazy a fashion as possible.. (but to try to leave at least an hour ‘leeway’ ahead of cut offs by last couple of checkpoints in case things went really tits up then as I wouldn’t want to get to the end but to be timed out)…

It is hard though to get motivated to carry on in an event when you’re taking it easy. Luckily the heat; generally horribleness of the trail; stupid hills and my lack of eyesight which makes going the right way difficult; made ‘taking it easy’ feel like hard work anyway so I knew this would be enough to get me to Knockholt where I’d be meeting Stu. Stu had indicated he might be persuaded to wear his 2XUs purely to keep me happy because he knows I’d keep going for days on end if he just goes in front wearing them :-).

Centurion Army

It was lovely to arrive at race registration and to see the start of the Centurion race army in action. Lots of familiar faces, great smiles, and the knowledge that everyone there would be willing everyone to the finish.

Race briefing was at 5.30am on the Saturday. James Elson did his usual brieifng.. follow the signs; don’t go too slow; don’t moan it’s over 100miles; you’re not alone whether it’s your 1st 100 or if you’ve done several; etc. etc… I think he then asked if anyone wanted a quick gin and my arm shot up.

race briefing arm up

First half

I was trying to remember as I set off what I had against the NDW and why I didn’t like it as a course.. in reality it’s less ascent than SDW but I’d do that again in a shot.. I soon remembered what I had against it:

  • Underfoot there’s bits that are thick sand or hard stones that kill souls of feet.. running on both sucks.
  • It’s very enclosed in places by thick trees which makes it very dark. My eyesight is rubbish especially in the dark and I did many a comedy stumble and could feel blisters forming on my toes as I constantly tripped over stones and tree roots.. so much for the ‘limit all damage to feet goal !’
  • There seem to be loads of gates / styles etc. (though maybe less than TP?) and also lots of steps and steep downs that aren’t runable so it’s hard to get into a running rhythm as you’re constantly having to walk (well I am anyway).
  • I know there’s a nice view to the side, but it just seems that you’re always looking away from the nice view
  • There’s just something quite oppressive about it in places
  • Oh and it’s about 5 or more miles longer than SDW (well apart from when I did SDW and added 8 miles on!)

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I can’t remember all the lovely volunteers or friends I met on route so sorry if I miss some out.. Thank you to :

  • Claire Turton and Phil – Claire’s cheerleading routing with pompoms was a definite pick me up
  • Jamie Woods for his cheerful attitude at Botley Hill
  • Nina Smith-  chirpy as ever (can’t wait to track you online on T184!)
  • Ann Bath and Glyn Ryman at Caterham
  • Fiona at start
  • Karen W for making my dinner!
  • Jacqui Byrne at Denham enjoying her night in the tent :-).. I knew I’d make it once I’d got to Jacqui so was ace seeing you there
  • All the finish line crew and of course to Stuart Marsh for his usual skilful photographs

I trundled along, got sticks out at Box Hill and kept them out until I’d gone past Reigate. I just wanted to keep it nice and steady in the heat and not wreck myself more than I needed to. I did find it hard to navigate as my left eye seemed to have an infection and it just meant everything I could see was really cloudy which I was finding quite tiring. MP3 was on but kept falling out of one ear. It was great to have a quick chat to some of the other slammers like Mark Evans, Stefan, Tom Farsides, Peter Dennison, Melanie Ross (sorry I kept calling you Fiona Mel!) and Bryan Webster (who knew the way and got to see how rubbish I am at following the trail).

I kept going with the aim of meeting Stu at Knockholt in about 11 1/2 hours and I think that’s roughly what I did.

Was lovely meeting with Stu (and yes he had his 2XUs on). I had to gently break the news that I was sticking to the ‘take it all nice and slow and do bear minimum to finish ok’ strategy which would mean I’d be walking all of the rest. In all honesty my hamstring was at the point of pinging completely and my back was very tight from nerve tension so running would have been risking a dnf on this race let alone messing up my body so I couldn’t do the canal in 3 weeks. He took it relatively well 🙂

2nd half

It did ‘grate’ a bit knowing that I’d have to keep nice and slow and relaxed and let everyone  go past me. Part of me wanted to race and push myself.. but I also wanted to be disciplined and stick to the plan of taking this one (and next 4 races) nice and steady and that this year was all about ‘completion’. Next year I’ve entered some real tough ones so would have to train hard to be able to complete them within cut offs and the next few races are about mentally preparing for long time on feet.

It was hard in parts. I realised that the NDW was not being kind to Stu’s feet either and I could see he was finding all the walking hard going too. I also found that going slowly was more tiring in some ways than ‘racing’ and I was falling asleep on my feet again. in the wooded section before Detling I found a nice tree branch to sit on off the trail and we both sat down for a while and turned head torches off. It was strange seeing a long line of people go past on the trail.. I counted over 35 before I thought I’d better get back up there again as I didn’t want the excitement of being tight for cut offs at the end. Stu was suffering badly with his plantar fascitis and was very conscious that he wasn’t doing himself any good by being out there and did say he shouldn’t have come. Although I felt a bit guilty (he didn’t want me to feel guilty and we both know he could have done just a shorter section with me), I was really glad that he was there (and the 2XUs).

So onwards to Detling. David Ross was there waiting for Mel – he said he was going to push her to get her going faster again and he was true to his word as about 5 miles later she seemed to shoot past at my usual parkrun pace!

It wasn’t as bad as I remember it past detling. Last year it had just been like a mudslide and I’d had to drag myself up the hills by just pulling myself up on the sticks.. and would often slide back down as much as I’d climbed up. Although the same stupid hills (both up and down) were there, they weren’t as slip slidey as last year…

The last 13 miles we took very slowly. There was the option of letting Stu off the hook (and stopping the damage to his foot) by leaving him at the checkpoint to get a lift to the end, but we decided we’d finish together and we could still take our time and finish the cut offs. In some previous ultras, I’ve sped up during the last 15 miles and have often ‘broken’ any pacer during that period as they’re tired from walking lots so then speed walking at the end has wrecked them and I’ve had to just carry on alone. But I really wanted to finish this one together with Stu with as little damage to both of us as possible…

We eventually sauntered over the finish line with just under an hour to spare.

stu's 2xus Finish line one with Stu

I know that some people would think when they see how long I took, ‘wow, what went wrong.. she really must have had to gut that one out’.. but actually it was all sort of part of the plan. I did get major hamstring issues but I knew I’d get those as I’ve not really done much training this year and it’s really just been about completing races when wrecked (which will be a good skill to learn for some of the really trick one’s I’m doing next year).

Disappointedly, despite walking the 2nd half and using poles to reduce weight on feet, I did get blistering. I’d intended to try out gurney goo but had forgotten to bring it with me. I’ll definitely be bringing it to try out at LLC130.

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Before and after popping… 

Oh and just in case you want to see the blister popping operation itself

Energia 24 for Stu and I might as well do 100K while I’m there

17/18 July 2015

Stu had been wanting to enter a 24 hour track event for a while and had been on waiting list for Energia 24 (Belfast) and a place came up for him. I really wanted to be there to support him and be there to see how he got on.. but then I thought, 24 hours of standing around occasionally offering someone drinks/snacks might get a bit boring after a while, so I put my name on waiting list for either the 24/12 hour or 100K there. About 10 days before the race, I got an email from Ed Smith saying a place had come up on the 100K, did I want it? Woo hoo, I took it. Not only would it be my first time in Northern Ireland, but it would also be my first time running on a track (unless you count the half lap you do at end of SDW50/SDW100 which I walked anyway). I’d heard I’d got a place myself in Tooting Bec 24 in September, so this would be good prep.

The 24 hour event was due to start at 6.45 in the evening and one of the race entry sites indicated that the 100K started in the following morning (6.45am), I thought that might be useful as it would mean I’d be relatively fresh when Stu might be beginning to flag…. however I’d got it wrong and the 100K actually started at 7.45pm which meant I’d have to be running during the night (which I hate as my eyesight is rubbish).

Stu flew over on Thursday to spend time in Belfast the day before, I flew over on the day of the race and met Stu at airport and we travelled together to the track.

Energia 24 / 12 hour and the 100K take place at Mary Peter’s track. It was an amazing location – with lovely trees all around the perimeter. It was raining on arrival (and rain didn’t really ease off). I still had quite a few ‘niggles’ and hadn’t really run since SDW100 but knew it would be good fun trying to run around a track and the Irish National team were there too so they’d be some stiff competition for Stu in his 24 hour race.

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On arrival, we went to register and I was humming and hahhing about whether to pull out but I discovered there was only one other entrant in the 100K (a man) as the rest had been upgraded to either the 24 hr or the 12 hr.. that meant all I needed to do was finish and I’d get a guaranteed 1st lady!.. game on!

The 24 hour races started at 6:45 so I got to watch Stu for an hour while I nervously wondered what I’d let myself in for. He was doing ace. He’d decided on a run walk strategy from the off of 25:5 and I was impressed at his discipline in carrying it out when a lot were just running with no walking breaks. That took some discipline indeed.

At 7.30pm, Ed called the 100K runners over (both of us!) and I got the opportunity to ‘suss out’ the competition. I’d already done a quick search for him on DUV stats (as you do 😉 ) but couldn’t see him listed. He did look like a good marathon runner though and had a club vest on. He said he might aim for around 11 hours so I thought there might even be chance to come 1st overall as reckoned I could do that if I wanted to.. but I tried a bit of mental games by just saying I’d no target in mind really as don’t normally do these shorter type runs. He did say I looked like I’d be fast.. which I laughed at and fessed up to having only 60% of average lung capacity so don’t be fooled by the guns etc. When it was 7.45pm exactly, they let us go and I deliberately did a few fast laps – partly so I could run alongside Stu for a little bit, and partly to try and play a bit of head games with the other 100 entrant. I’d lapped him a couple of times within the first 20 laps but didn’t really see him much after that because I think we both settled into a steady pace. I’d decided to follow a similar run/walk strategy as Stu but rather than basing it on time I’d base it on number of laps i.e I’d walk every 10th lap.. I thought I’d keep that up as long as I could and then walk maybe every 5th lap if needed later on in the night. I would just the walking lap to drink/eat etc.. as I can’t run and drink without getting asthma attack

250 laps didn’t seem that far if I broke it down mentally into 25 lap sections (10K).

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I started with a water bottle in a waste pack just to save a bit of time going to the table to pick it up every 10th lap but after about 40 laps the rain was coming down quite heavily so I abandoned my waste pack and put on a coat where I could put my inhalers in back pocket.. I didn’t dare run without them.

Stu was doing a nice pace. At times he was storming around having an ace time.. he said he was in the lead!!!! I was so happy for him..  I did notice he was wasting a bit of time on some laps looking at the scoreboard and realised later there would be some learning there for future races to make sure any crew would know he’d want that type of information to hand and they could just let him know every 10 laps or so to save him keeping looking.

I was counting my laps off on my garmin 920xt so knew which lap number I was on. It was different for Stu though as he was running for 24 hours and not a fixed number of laps.

I took it nice and steady – I found it hard going running at night as it was tiring in the dark, but there were some flood lights so it wasn’t as tiring as running at night with headtorch on the trail. I did first marathon in about 4hrs 25, and had done 50 miles in 8hrs 45 I think.. at this time I realised I’d not seen the other 100K entrant for ages – in fact I couldn’t remember seeing him for hours. I saw Ed, the RD, by the track side so I asked him what had happened and he confirmed he’d DNF’d. I realised all I needed to do was finish to win so I immediately stopped running and walked the remaining 12 miles (apart from the last lap). Part of me regrets that decision as would have been nice to know what time I can do a 100K in but then again I knew my niggles were getting worse and worse and I didn’t want to get a serious injury and anyway the time wouldn’t be great as I’m much slower running through the night.

At lap 248, I was told just 2 to go, so I ran the last one and Stu held my arm as I went over the line of lap 250 and with a nice pat on the back I had to leave him to carry on the rest of his 24 hour race.

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It was great watching Stu on the rest of the 24 hour and I learnt a lot from watching crewing in action, plenty of lessons learnt for next time. At one point Stu was 10 laps in the lead (2.5 miles!) and I went off to have a shower and change and charge my phone,… I must have been gone a while because when I came back out he had slipped to 2nd place and his wheels hadn’t fallen off as such but were a bit punctured :-(… I was so proud of him though. It was his first 24 hour race and he was there competing with Irish National Champions and others who had done countless 24 hour track events.. He was suffering so much from swollen stomach and was unable to eat. It felt bad being powerless to do anything, though I did manage to blag some salt from someone which helped a tiny bit at one point. He got to 100 mile mark in 16:45 which was awesome and then 200K in under 22 hours. In total he managed over 130 miles! Proud doesn’t quite cover how I felt and I also know there was lessons learnt so room for improvement too which is really positive. So hope he gets another chance at a track event soon.

The prize giving

I’ve never one anything so was ace being given a price – a new pair of trainers which were swapped for Hokas in my size in the shop the next day.

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The Wilkie Glover mile off!

On the Saturday evening, we had a few drinks at the hotel as were staying overnight. The next day, the sun came out and it was 2 mile walk back to the track for a Wilkie vs. Glover mile off… just pipped Stu to the post but both of us were slightly wrecked and could barely do 10 min mile pace.

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Absolutely stonkingly brilliant weekend 🙂

South Downs Way 100 13 June 100

So 3 weeks after 145 miles of canal at Grand Union Canal Race, it’s time to get back to the 2nd in the Centurion Grandslam races with the South Downs Way 100

Thoughts going into the race

My body is a bit wrecked: my lungs are coughing up masses of phlegm just trying to walk up stairs at work; my legs and glutes and lower back feel really tight; My feet haven’t really recovered from trench foot at TP100 and took a battering of toenails and infected nail beds at GUCR; I’ve been getting fainty spells on occasions and generally feel really tired. So all in all I’m definitely race ready and raring to go 🙂 .

Race plan 

Realising the dodgy state of my body, feet and low energy levels I concluded that I need to take this one easy and best strategy is to spend the first 20-30 miles gently running the flats and downs, walking the ups and makin sure I’m ahead of cut offs enough to then just walk the rest. Mission is to finish (maybe in 27 hours ish) rather than pushing anything else. I deliberately stayed off social media pre race and decided not to share live tracking links etc or pride would get in way and I may try to go faster than is wise for lungs.

Route

It’s a beautiful route which many say is their favourite Centurion 100 miler. I agree it’s beautiful but in all honesty my lungs are not fans of hills at moment and I craved a flat course. That said with rolling hills, herdies galore and amazing views across the downs, there’s not much you can fault with the course.

Checkpoints 

As always the cp volunteers are absolute awesome. They keep you doing when you’re down, offer food and drink and a smile and joke at each station. It’s tempting to linger at each one just to spend time hanging with the these cool folk but knowing that’s not the way to get my buckle, I moved through each one as quick as I could.

Race in a nutshell

I ballsed it up but still finished. My calf seized up just around half way as I pulled it badly having forgotten my compressport calf guards. I also  forgot to upload the gpx file to my Garmin mapping device, got very tired, kept trying to lie down for little kips but kind concerned other runners kept waking me up and insisting I carry on so I deliberately went off course for a little lie down. I then couldn’t kip but couldn’t find my way back onto the course and took a 8 mile detour as well as spending lots of time just walking around a certain field trying to find my way out of it… When daylight came and I was back on course, my blisters got very bad as did my asthma and I crawled my way to the finish in over 26 1/2 hours. So still plenty of leeway before cut off but hardly a performance to be pleased with. That said a finish is a finish. I also really missed having Stu there and wasted a lot of time on phone texting him so vowed to see if he could come with me to the NDW100 instead.