The Boyf and I recently ran the Spitfire Scramble 24 hour race. It was our second year doing it. I ran as part of the U.K. Fitness Bloggers team and he ran solo again. Here’s his account of how he got on and managed to finish his second 100 mile race in 4 weeks!
For the TLDR Crew
I ran my second 100mile race in four weeks. I paced it properly. I ate properly. I hydrated properly. I even had enough time to change my clothes for the night section and fix my feet. It still hurt me. A lot. This time I was better. The race was better and I finished my 100mile target with time to spare. I learnt more about myself (how to follow a pacer for one thing). It still hurt though. Quite a lot actually.
For the Technical Manual Reading Crew
A Quick Run-down
It has been a few weeks since my first 100miler at Samphire100, and during my rest week after that race I did no running, anywhere. I just walked a lot. Whilst out walking and randomly checking my phone, I find that I’ve entered three 100milers, one of which is Spitfire Scramble 24 and it’s in a little under 4 weeks. Strictly speaking, Spitfire Scramble isn’t a 100mile race, it’s a 24hour race. But, I crashed out of this race in 2015 around 77miles and after my success at Samphire, I REALLY wanted to complete 100miles in 24 hours. The Scramble is run out of the old RAF Hornchurch airfield in Essex, and is a single 5.9 mile loop and is an undulating trail course with a little bit of tarmac, but mostly dusty trail and farmers’ fields. My favourite. To complete 100miles in the time-frame I would need to complete 17 laps and my analysis showed that with some effort from me it could be done. I had 3 weeks to prepare…
Crew. Pacers. Tailwind
I’ve attempted this race before, and others like it. The outcome has not been good. Around 35miles into a race, I start to get nauseous and dizzy. Even if I’m hydrating properly, my electrolyte balance gets all screwed and I end up crashing out. Whilst running at Samphire100 I ran with a guy who noticed just how nauseous I was becoming, and he made a recommendation to me – Tailwind. Now, HQ was aware of this stuff, and I’d tried a single serving of it before. However, this nausea/dizziness stuff was starting to get me down a bit, so desperate times called for desperate measures. In a fit of desperation, I signed up to the Tailwind challenge. The Tailwind-UK folks sent me four bags of the stuff in varying flavours, all with a money back guarantee – if it doesn’t work on your race, they’ll give you your money back. In addition to the nausea we’d spotted another issue at Samphire100, crew. I’d been spending far too long at aid stations (and far too long sitting in comfy chairs) and it was damaging my race. We’d also noticed the success of runners who use pacers, I needed a pacer too. During the next two weeks I ran with HQ, at her pace. It was hell. I always seem to want to run faster than I should, and keeping pace was tough. I also tried every flavour and dosing level of Tailwind. I did a two hour run on the stuff and there were no ill effects. In fact I was getting to like the stuff.
Race Hydration and Munchies
A quick rundown on Tailwind. This stuff has a castor sugar consistency and contains a dextrose/electrolyte mix which is added to 500ml of water – 1 serving for cold days, 2-3 servings for humid days. One serving is 25g and gives you 100 calories. Simple stuff. I’d checked the weather forecast and it was supposed to be 24DegC and humid, and during humid runs I opt for 1litre of water per hour (2x500ml bottles), with 2 servings of Tailwind per bottle. Even with my arithmetic skills, that’s 200 calories per bottle of water and 400 calories going in to the body per lap. Now that’s out of the way, the nutritional plan was this:
1. Drink one litre of water/Tailwind mix per lap
2. Have a Gel if I feel like it
3. Eat white bread products when you want to eat real food.
And that was it. This is an alien nutrition/hydration plan to me as I’m all about the cookies, crisps, biscuits etc. But this plan excluded all of that. Just a water mix, a few gels and bread stuff if I want it.
Spitfire Scramble is a camping-style race. We packed our marvellous inflatable tents and headed off to Hornchurch early on Saturday morning. Having hit the campsite, we started to lay out our pitches and HQ began inflating the tents. The inflation process makes all the other campers curious… It starts with a few laughs and chuckles from the others, but after 30seconds the tent is up and I’m hammering the tent spikes into the ground. The laughs soon turn to chats and conversations, mostly wanting to know where to get the tents! In a few minutes both the food tent (the big one) and the napping tent (the small one) were up, secured, kitted out and ready to go, and I was ready for a pre-race nap. After waking, HQ and I discussed the race plan for the day. She would crew me solely for the first 9 laps (53miles) and then come on to pace me during the night laps (maybe 6 laps) and I’d run the race in for the last 3laps in the daylight. A simple plan.
This is an unusual position for me. There were no issues during the first 8 laps. Honestly, everything went according to plan. I drank a litre of Tailwind (400cals) per lap and had a gel when I felt like it. It was hot and I was randomly sipping on the water when I felt like I needed it. But without fail, when I hit my aid station I swapped out two empty 500ml bottles for two new ones. I did have a single bag of crisps on lap 4. I was in great shape, my legs were good (not too sore) and above all I was not nauseous! I didn’t feel the need to wretch or vomit! Unheard of at nearly 50mile for me. The aid station visits were quick and simple, and HQ made everything easy to pick up and go – awesome crewing. And before I knew it, 8 laps and 47miles were done. Completed. Sorted. Time for the interesting bit to commence…
The Next 53miles
In all of my attempts at this distance, my nausea and dizziness make this bit of the race quite unbearable, but this time I wasn’t feeling rough at all. I was unnervingly cheerful. I arranged with HQ to pick me up and pace me from lap 9. It was already dark. As we started out on lap 9, I was in good spirits, but I was getting really tired. HQ noticed this, and we began running a 4:1 run:walk strategy. I’ve never really executed these run:walk strategies very well, as I get impatient. But HQ policed me well and before I knew it we were covering a kilometre in 8mins flat (including the inclines!). This was speedy. At the end of lap 10 we agreed that I would have a complete kit change, this included a complete strip down, re-application of lubricants, new clothing and new feet! I like new feet. With my feet massaged, gooped up with new socks, inserts and trainers on I was itching to go. The whole stop took 13 minutes.
As we began Lap 11, I was beginning to regain a bit of speed and I started to get comfortable running next to my pacer. This wasn’t good. After a quick exchange between the two of us, HQ was beginning to struggle keeping the pace I wanted to run. I felt quite bad about this situation. But HQ had been running fast laps with her team during the day, whilst crewing me, and had now covered 3 laps with me and she needed a break. I told her that she should take a break on Lap12, grab some sleep and I’ll run on my own for a bit. At least this way she was guaranteed a good hours kip and she could pick me back up on lap 13. Awesome. I motored around lap 12, and 70miles ticked over. I was still religiously sipping on the Tailwind and not feeling any ill effects, and I even downed a couple of gels and a fake Redbull (you know, the cheap Tesco stuff).
On lap 13, HQ picked me up and started pacing me again. We continued on the 4:1 strategy and the lap was quickly completed. I had a minor wobble at 80miles and started to become a little grumpy (LOL) and incoherent and HQ reminded me of this fact. I was also starting to struggle with running fully for 4 minutes, and the pace soon started to drift out. Unfortunately, I began staring too much at my watch, and began convincing myself that I would miss the 24 hour cut-off. I can remember HQ telling me I was talking rubbish, but I was convinced. In an effort stop me looking at my watch, and to get me to concentrate on the road ahead, I switched my watch screen to Heart Rate only and we dropped to a 3:1. Before long, lap 14 was done and 83miles ticked over. HQ dropped me again for lap 15 (probably my deodorant – I was beginning to stink real bad) and by the end of the lap, the sun had fully risen and it was beginning to warm up again. Two laps and 12miles to go…
HQ joined me for lap16 and we ambled our way around the course, chatting to the marshals and other runners. I still felt good, with zero nausea or dizziness, and I was still on the Tailwind. I was shocked. I’d had no real food cravings, but was starting to think about breakfast. 90miles ticked over, and I was still convinced of failure. I was quickly put right. Finally Lap 17 began and for some reason I looked at my watched and saw that only 21hours had passed! This wasn’t right… I tried to compute how that had happened, but couldn’t. There must have been a mistake and I was convinced that my watch was wrong. But around the course we went on my last lap. As we passed the last set of marshals, I mentioned that they wouldn’t be seeing me again this year! As I hit the carpark, I looked at my watch and for some reason I said my goodbyes to my pacer and started a 400m sprint to the finish… and I sprinted into the finish. Job done. 101miles in 22hours 47minutes. Happy days. Time to sit down.
Sitting on my own in my comfy camping chair (not so evil after the race) I contemplated the night and day difference between this race and Samphire100 a month previously. I was still struggling to understand what had gone right and what had gone wrong… My obvious reaction was to highlight the Tailwind hydration system, and I cannot deny that I felt awesome running into the finish – throughout the entire race actually. I wasn’t sick and didn’t feel the need to be sick. That was amazing. I’m still trying to understand how I managed to consume 17litres of water (almost 4 gallons in old money) and not need the loo!
But, it wasn’t solely the hydration, the crew help and pacing help was immense. If anything, I find the term ‘pacer’ unfortunate – they are coercion and company. I was coerced and convinced to keep moving forward at a decent rate and that was invaluable. After going through my stats on my phone, I noticed that I’d spent a total of 47 minutes standing still! That’s 16 aid stops at 2minutes each and 13 minutes changing my kit over. That couldn’t have been planned/executed any better. Compare that to 2.5 hours at Samphire100…
Spitfire Scramble is an AWESOME race. One of my absolute favourites. The fellow runners are supportive, their crews encouraging and the organisers put on a great show. It’s not on the same scale as an event like Endure24, but that makes it a very personal event, and I quite like that. I wanted to return to Spitfire after my disappointment last year, and I wanted to cover 100miles in 24 hours. To cover that distance nearly 4 hours quicker that Samphire100? Well, I’m still quite shocked. They even placed me in 2nd for Solo Males… That was an even bigger surprise!
I like to look at my numbers and see where things went right and wrong. Numbers never lie. After a bit of tickling in excel I wound up with this simple graphic:
The blue dots are the actual min/km pace times. The orange line is the 24hour pace target, and my physical breakdown kindly waited until late into the race, around 130km. That was a shock and not expected. Only a handful of laps were above the target pace and the green trend line shows how consistent the pacing was. At last! I started out at the same pace as Samphire100, but hydrated correctly and paced correctly when on my own – my pacer made damn sure that the consistency continued.
I’m going to count this race a success if that’s ok, and another great learning experience as I attempt more of these races. All I have to do now is get myself in shape to run Robin Hood 100 in 4 weeks, and try navigate my way around the East Farm Frolic 12 hour thingummy. This could be a busy 4 weeks and my feet ache. I also split my trainers and Skechers have stopped selling them. So barefoot it is then.