Smoothies, potatoes and waffles!

Here’s this week’s round up of smoothies and other yummy foods that the Boyf has delivered to me in the last 7 days!  Things may be shaken up a bit in future as we are testing out to see how I get on with intermittent fasting.

 

Feed me!

The Boyf and I thought it would be good to share some of the food related creations he comes up with, as I know people often struggle for ideas for smoothies, healthy snacks and recovery food.  I’ll be posting these up on my @iamkatruns Instagram as and when he makes them, but will also try and do a regular round-up on here for those of you who don’t do Instagram or miss them in the daily flow of random stuff!

So here you go!  I hope this gives you some good ideas.

 

Spitfire Scramble 24Hour Race (Take Two) – (his) 100mile Race #2

Spitfire
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.

Solo / crew tent prep underway and then I'm off to catch up with the UK Fitness Bloggers team @spitfirescramble #scramble2016 #fitspireRace Day

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.

Prepped and readyThe First 47miles

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…
Tailwind bottle swap time

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.
100 miles done: sprint finishThe Aftermath

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…
2nd Male Solo
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!

 

 

 

 

 

Graphical Geek

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:

Spitfire Scramble pace analysis

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.

The Road to Samphire100 – 100mile Race #1

As you know, I didn’t finish my first 100 mile race at Samphire Hoe……here’s how the Boyf got on!


Samphire 100 Finisher Buckle (front)

For the TLDR Crew
I ran my first 100mile race in July 2016. It was hard. I didn’t eat properly. I didn’t drink properly. It hurt. A lot. But it’s done, and I earned the world’s finest finisher buckle and T-shirt. I learnt many things about myself and how much respect the distance demands. But make no mistake, it bloody hurt.

The Boyf finishing his first 100 mile race at Samphire Hoe

For the Technical Manual Reading Crew 

A Quick Run-down

It has been a long year. HQ and I signed up for Samphire100 almost the moment it was released by the superb Saxons, Vikings and Normans team back in July 2015. It gave me a year to extend out my current running distances, get a bit fitter and get my hydration/nutrition right. The race was run out of Samphire Hoe, which is a great place down on the Kent coast, snuggled right below the White Cliffs of Dover. The course selected by the SVN team consisted of an out and back 3.71mile route, run 27 times. The time limit on the course was 32hours, but I’d checked my training and race paces, and it became apparent that I could potentially achieve a sub24 hour finish. Well, that was the plan…

Preparation. Preparation. Preparation

In June I ran 4 distance races, all as 100mile training. By the end of June (two weeks from race day) I was knackered. My training races were all about pacing, race nutrition, race hydration and learning to run on nausea and dizziness. It went well, but I was completely empty. We’d booked another bunch of marathons for me to run in that two-week run-up, but I decided to bin them and rest a bit. My two week taper consisted of running fast 5k/10k’s local to me, running a few hills and hitting the gym. I had no interest in running any longer than that. All in all, everything looked good. One thing though – I’d be running this 100miler without any support crew, as HQ would be running her own race and have no time to deal with my trials and tribulations during the race. I’d also be pacing myself with no additional pacing help, so my prep had taken this into account – so I thought anyway.

Race Hydration and Munchies

I have a problem with food. If I don’t have enough food, there are problems. However, things are different when I run. When I run, and once I hit 35miles, I can’t eat, and when running these ultra long distances you have to eat, or you will pay. So I’d been researching foods, gaining the opinions of those who’ve covered the distance before and come up with a nice tasty and varied selection of food ready for race day. This included gels, sweets, gummies, biscuits, juices, water, electrolyte powder, salt capsules, salted snacks, pot noodles and chocolate treats. If there’s one thing, I was prepared food and drink wise.

Race Day

We turned up on the dusty doorstep of Samphire Hoe at 7am on Saturday morning, broke out our personal aid station tables, loaded up our water containers, unpacked all of our food and made sure that everything was available and ready to go when needed. We’d decided to park our car on the race route, about 100m from the main SVN aid station, that way I could drop into my personal aid station to grab my stuff at the end of each lap and hit the SVN aid station for anything else as I go out on my next lap. Easy stuff. Everything food related was packed into mini lunch bags, ready to pick up and go. No problem. All of my 500ml water bottles were in the boot of the car or in my ice box, cooling down nicely. Chilled. Having put smeary gloop in all sorts of unmentionable places, and kitted up fully, I was ready to go. My goal for this race was simple – survive. Oh, and to make sure I ‘survive’ before the 24hour point. This meant running a km pace of around 8:55mins/km for 24 hours. Sounds perfectly simple, doable, and achievable. To make 27 laps palatable, I broke the race into 4 races, each containing 7-laps (thanks Alex!). At 0800 I set off into the warm early morning Saturday sunshine… ready to take anything the next 24hours would throw at me. Maybe.

0-26miles – The First 7-Lap Race

The first lap was great. I executed my strategy to the letter and hiked out of the start gate, up the incline and out onto the trail. Once I hit the gravel path beneath the White Cliffs I started to run to the gravel hill and down to the seafront. Once at the concrete sea wall on the seafront I started to hike for a minute to let my heart rate recover, and made my way along the sea wall for a mile or so, past the early morning fishermen and all the way to the turnaround point. Having tapped the turnaround marker I began my trip back to the aid station. Back along the seawall to the gravel hill, another hike break. I am not running up the hill, it takes too much out of my legs. At the top of the hill I began to run again, along the gravel track, remembering not to turn back the way I came, but to continue on to the car park where my aid station was. I dropped in and swapped my water bottles over. It was hot and I drank 500ml on that lap. Time for some biscuits too. I jogged slowly from my aid station upto the SVN aid station and got my lap card punched. One lap down, 26 to go.

The next few laps came and went. The day got hotter and more humid, and I made sure I was drinking at least 500ml of fruity water on each lap. I was eating too! A few gels were downed, many biscuits were eaten along with some nougat. Everything was going great. Importantly, I wasn’t feeling nauseas yet, nor dizzy. On my checklist of things to go right everything looked great, and with that 7 laps were done and hole-punched.

26-52miles – The Second 7-Lap Race

With a quarter of the race out of the way, I was feeling positive. The timings were fantastic, albeit slightly faster than I’d expected, but that was no big deal and I was drinking and eating. It was around 1300 now, and I’d been on my feet for a little over 5 hours. All was good. As I started out on the 8th lap, I started chatting to a few more people and discovered that the race seemed to be going good generally. So much positivity out there and it was infectious. All was well until the 10th lap… Whilst coming back along the seawall from the turnaround point, I started to feel sick. I popped a slurp of drink and tried to swallow it down, but it didn’t work. The next thing I knew I ran to seawall and forced the drink to ‘re-appear’ which it did. This was annoying, as all of my recent food intake re-appeared too. In these situations I would normally call it a day as the nausea feeling can continue for quite some time and can become very unpleasant. But I’d trained myself to continue even when feeling shite – so I continue I did.

When out on the 11th lap I started to worry as the nausea wouldn’t go away. I spoke to HQ and she advised Gaviscon. That would be a lap away, so I trudged onwards to complete the lap and made it back to my aid station in a bit of a state. Once back at my aid station I sat down in our comfy camping chair – this was a mistake. I grabbed the Gaviscon, downed it and looked at my vast selection of food and started to feel sick again. Things were not good. It was around 1730, I’d covered 40miles, puked once and now was sat in a chair feeling like re-fried crap, and the sun was still up and it was still hot. After 10minutes sat in the chair, I got up and started out on the 12th Lap. The Gaviscon did its job and my stomach settled for a few laps, and no more uncomfortable events sprang up, but I was slowing down and my run rate was dropping. By the end of the 14th lap my feet were in bits, my quads were dying a slow death and I’d broken a nail. Life was getting bad. On top of that the bloody sun still hadn’t set and it was still warm. This was annoying too.

No More Races – It’s Mile by Mile

By the 50mile point, I’d binned the ‘7-lap race strategy’ (sorry Alex!) and decided that this was going to be a war, one mile at a time. Out on the 15th lap the sun finally showed signs of setting but the humidity remained. I’d stopped eating now, and the thought of food just made me feel even sicker, so I had to stop thinking about food altogether. Hydration wasn’t good either, I was down to small sips of water from my bottles and even those were trouble to down. I wasn’t salting either. I kept forgetting to take my salt caps, and when I did they also made me feel rough. It was getting dark now, and the laps were getting slower and more laboured. I just wanted to get to 60miles. I’d also stopped talking to people. In my eyes, everyone was doing far better than I was and I didn’t want to bring down their race, so I shut up shop and concentrated on my own issues. My worry now was that at the end of each lap, I was starting to find the chair at my aid station very very comfortable… The end of the 17th lap arrived and with it the end of the 63rd mile, and as my pace had died off, it was now 2230. The sun had buggered off and I decided to reward myself with a quick stop in my aid station chair. Blissful. I put my feet up on my cool box and just stared up into the star-covered sky.

I’m Calling it Quits

Ok. I’m a little hazy on what happened next. After nearly 25 minutes sat in my chair, I contemplated withdrawing from the race. There was chatter from the SVN aid station and from passing runners. Everybody in good spirits – except me. My low point had finally come. During the next 10minutes I contemplated what the hell I was doing running this race. The call to walk away and quit was loud and could be heard loudest from my feet. I took one final look at the White Cliffs, now illuminated by the yellow moon hanging over the channel, and got out of my chair, and began walking towards the SVN aid station ready to hand in my card. As I walked towards Traviss and Rachel to hand in my card, I remembered a little saying told to me by a friend – “Get friendly with pain. Get to appreciate pain. Learn to love the pain.” I then realised that I was about to quit my first 100miler because of pain and that’s not on. I wanted to own that finishers buckle. If I quit, that goes. I got to the SVN aid station and Traviss wasn’t around, and Rachel was busy dealing with an issue. In a fit of bravery (or stupidity) I banished my thoughts of quitting and got my card stamped. Out I went onto the 18th lap. Only 10 laps to go.

The Right Decision?

My decision to go out the 18th lap soon proved to be right. I was feeling pretty lonely out there now it was dark. Everybody had their crews and pacers and I was just plodding along on my own. I’d just taken off my backpack when I heard a familiar voice behind me – it was Liz V! She’d not entered the 100miler but was busy doing several distance challenges in the 32 hour time limit. Her company couldn’t have come at a better time! It turns that we both have an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths, and just having that common ground made conversation very easy going. Before I knew it, we’d discussed all kinds of great topics and my mind had forgotten about all my aches and pains. And with that, the lap was over! On the next lap I bumped into Louise T, and we ran a lap. On the next lap I ran into Jon F, again a fascinating conversationalist, which kept me moving forward one step at a time.

I hit the end of the 21st lap. I was broken. I’d chatted and laughed my way through 4 hard laps. But it was 0030 and the 24 hour target was on its way out. I sat back down in the chair of comfort and convinced myself that the goal now was to survive. With no time limits. Another 20minutes went by. The chair was comfy and now time didn’t matter. I was feeling sick again and leant over the side of the chair to expel anything out. Nowt came out, but my groin was now killing me. Now out of the chair and back at the SVN aid station the wonderful Dee offered me toast and a slice of pizza. Oh my god did I fancy those. I grabbed a warm piece of toast and a slice of pizza and went out. 6 laps to go.

Almost Done

The next few laps, upto daylight are a bit of a blur. I was dizzy. I was sick. I was wretching at most opportunities and now I was down to what resembled a shuffle – hurting my feet even more. I’d stopped drinking fully now. I didn’t really care anyway. I’d just wandered into a haze of bruising pain on my feet. Then, I bumped into the glorious Fiona, who give me some chewy mint sweets (2 bags for £1 a bargain) and some After Eights (from a previous SVN event), which were both amazing to taste and took my mind off throwing up. As daylight broke I had 3 laps to go and the sunrise was fantastic! But I was on my own again. I was also starting to see people with their ‘last lap’ flags – I’m not sure if this was an inspiration or a knife to the ribs. A bit of both if I’m honest. It was still warm and now getting warmer. I was walking more too and that didn’t help. I walked a lap with HQ and Lorraine just to try and get some energy back. 2 laps to go. On my penultimate lap and on my own again, at 95miles, I stopped dead in my tracks. I’d had enough. My feet were dead. My legs were dead and my head was dead too. I stopped and sat on the sea wall. I was done. I put my head in my hands and started contemplating the walk back to the SVN aid station where I would call it. Then a friendly voice asked if I was ok. It was Amanda out on another of her marathons. I think I replied “yes I’m ok”, but I really don’t know. With that I got up and moved forward. That little exchange was enough to remind me to move forward and get the job done. So I did.

Done

Out on the last lap with a finish flag. Brilliant. I’ve 3.71 miles to go and I can finally sit my tired arse down. I’d been awake and on my feet for nearly 26hours and it felt like it. I was bruised, busted, broken and bissed off. When I came into the finish I wanted to stop at my aid station, but I was asked to run into the SVN finish. I tried to run, but my right foot was killing me. So I limped into the finish. It was done. 26hours and 32minutes of painful torture was finally over.

The Aftermath

As I came into the finish, the legend that is Traviss handed me my buckle. Along with a big handshake, a “well done” and a “that was hard earned” he also told me that in the coming hours I’d vow never to run 100miles ever again, but by the end of the week I’ll be actively looking for another 100miler to run… He was right.

Sitting with the rest of the SVN crazy finishers, I felt pretty good. I’d completed the distance. But, at the back of my mind I knew that the shit had well and truly hit the fan. I’d spent over half the race feeling like I could puke at any minute and I didn’t handle the pain well. More importantly, I’d missed my goal of hitting the 24hour time. I hate missing goals. However, it was done, I’d done it, had an ice cream, put my feet up and sat in the sun with everyone else. Good stuff. By my own admission I screwed up. I went out too fast, got my hydration wrong, got my pacing wrong and found it difficult mentally to keep moving. Based on these realisations, I decided that there was no way on this blue marble I would ever run 100 miles again… In the week following the race, and at my request, HQ signed me up for two further 100milers and I set myself a target of finally running 100miles at the Spitfire Scramble 24hour event in August! Quite the turnaround! It wasn’t until the following week that I could run again, and then it was tough on my feet. My appetite returned with a vengeance and many pots of ice cream, slices of pizza and boxes of donuts were consumed. For days I stared at my buckle, thinking about how close I came to quitting that race. At one point I was a vocal cord oscillation and 10ft away from handing in my card…

If you’re thinking of entering a 100miler, this is a great race. But my advice would be to bring on a crew to keep you moving and maybe a pacer to keep you company over night or to get you to the finish. The SVN crew really do put on a top notch set of events and this one is no exception. The finishers buckle, tee shirt and general level of support was fantastic (the midnight supporting hugs at the SVN aid station were fantastic), and the location below the White Cliffs is mesmerising at times. The registration is open now for 2017, so if you’re reading this and contemplating a 100miler, this is the first I would recommend. Would I do it again? Without a doubt. Would I do it differently? Err…

Geek, Nerd or Annoyance?

I’m a bit of a stats annoyance. 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:

Samphire 100 Analysis
The blue dots are the actual min/km pace times. The white line is the 24hour pace target, and my physical breakdown started really early into the race, around 60km. That was not planned. The actual km times started to drift out and the last 100km of the race resulted in the majority of laps well over the target pace. The trend line (green) running across the race was aggressive from the start. I went out too quick and didn’t fuel for that fast start. I paid for that with a quicker breakdown and struggled to hold on. The km times over 15min/km were a result of me finding the chair too comfortable! It’s an unfortunate reality that I almost screwed this race in the first 3rd, and now I look at it from a data perspective I find myself fortunate to have completed this race at all. I’m actually amazed I finished in the time I did! I said before the race that I wanted to be quick in the aid stations and always be on my feet. At that I failed. I spent over 2.5 hours stood (or sat) still. If you want my advice? Never buy a camping chair, they’re far too comfy and deadly.

Samphire 100 Finisher Buckle (back)

Running is a Learning Process

If you have been paying attention you will know that The Boyf did Spitfire Scramble as a solo-runner.  Here’s his account of it!

Running is a Learning Process

I’m tired. Seriously knackered. Normally, it takes me a few days, maybe a week to recover from any run longer than a marathon. But, it’s been 10 days now and I’m still lethargic and sleepy. The reason for this is my first attempt at running for 24hours without a break. The longest I’ve been on my feet whilst running is the mighty total of 7hours and 30mins, so a jump straight up to 24hours was a bit of a stretch. Hind-sight is a wonderful thing.

I’m also an odd beast. I can feel (or sense) various biological and biomechanical systems switching down, reducing output and switching off completely as I run. It’s almost like I can see my bodily systems in a diagnostic view whilst I am working out. At the top of the list is main battery power, followed by digestion system, glucose system, electrolyte system, hydration system, cardio system, bodily heating, vision, breathing and perspiration. And pain, not forgetting pain. I have another set of visual diagnostics that visualise the pain, its various sites and locations, and how bloody painful it is.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about this 24hour race and what went wrong and what went right…

Pre-Race Prep

My race preparation for this event started 48hours prior. During Thursday, I went a bit cookie-crazy. If there was a cookie or biscuit around that wasn’t nailed down, it got eaten. I opted for a wholefood eating day, with veg, chicken, beef and a single protein shake (cookies and cream – with real cookies). However, come Friday I had decided to ditch the wholefood diet and move to liquids only. From midday on Friday I started on the chocolate/cherry protein shakes and water. Yes, I was hungry during Friday night, but I knew having no solids in me would pay dividends when trying to exercise for 24hours! From the perspective of my visual diagnostics, I’m in the green. Everything is in the green and I’m fully charged. No need to plug me into the 13A socket just yet.

Race Day

Nervous. Very nervous. Trying to run for any length of time is nerve-wracking enough, whether its 24mins or 24hours, it makes no difference to me. I’ve been equally as nervous when running a 5km parkrun that I’m expecting to last only 20mins. When I get nervous, I get sleepy. My heart rate plummets to below my resting rate – 40bpm on this particular occasion. It’s almost like my body knows that I’m going to have to fight at some point, just not yet, so it saves my adrenaline until the moment it’s required. The problem is that the complete lack of adrenaline makes me stupidly sleepy. I can sleep standing up at this point. It’s an odd feeling, my battery power looks like its dropping, so its nap time.

All other diagnostic systems are still in the green, with the exception of digestion. Nervousness brings another issue – my digestion starts to play tricks on my mind and convinces me that I need to pay a visit to campsite facilities. But, I’ve an emergency override switch for that (installed at great cost to the project) that tells my digestion to shut up and convinces my mind that the toilets will be horrible. If I need the loo, it can wait until the race has started, all that jiggling will let me know if it was a false alarm or if I really need it! So with that, I go back to sleep. We’re back in the green on all systems.

#foodtent

My food tent had been thrown together, and was full of all kinds of tasty foodstuffs. It was acting as a personal aid station and crew stop. If we’d thought of a food, it was in there. This included my all-time favourite food – cold pizza. There’s nowt wrong with cold pizza, but it can be a bit ‘love it/hate it. Remember, the food tent IS NOT to be used as a toilet. Although, it’s a better option than using the portaloos, as those things literally scare the crap out of me. But no. Just NO.

Time to run

Diagnostically, all of my systems are green and running good. I’d bruised my ribs a few weeks earlier (old snowboarding injury, don’t laugh) and they were seriously playing up. So I had an orange light on my rib pain indicator. Oh well. Tough shit. Too late. Off we go.

Now, this is a mixed pace, relay/solo race. There are people running one lap, running a couple of laps, or people of slightly questionable sanity running as many laps as possible in the maximum time-frame. This is an ultra-marathon to me, so I let the hares go bounding off whilst I stick to the back of the field. No need for stupidity, I’m now a tortoise. A tortoise that is hyped-up on adrenaline. A great combination.  Everything is great, we’re in the green on everything and there’s virtually no pain anywhere. Winning, I believe that’s what it’s called.

image - The Boyf at the start Lap 1 – 6

Each lap of this race is 5.9 miles. Everything was moving along perfectly during these six laps. Plenty of chatty people, lots of water and whole food. My battery power is dropping, but not stupidly quick. I’ve got lots of energy and my heart rate is sticking around 125-135bpm whilst running, and drops to 100bpm when I’m at my aid station/food tent getting refilled and refuelled.

During these laps I had been doing a mix of drinks. I had a 500ml bottle of clean water and a 500ml bottle of Powerade/water mix on-board. This provided me the opportunity to have something sugary when I needed it and something a bit cleaner at other times. This worked really well. I’d had a Push Clean Energy Gel and started on the ready-made pancakes/bananas. In addition to the whole foods, I was also (under pain of death-by-angry-crew) consuming a salt tablet on each lap. It was hot out there, I was sweating perspiring a lot and drinking accordingly. The amount of fluid in/out required quite a bit of salt and electrolyte replenishment and was under the watchful eye of the crew.

From a diagnostic perspective, my glucose/electrolyte/hydration/digestion/perspiration indicators were up and down as expected. When I got hungry, I ate. When I got thirsty I drank and I popped a salt pill (S-Cap) and ate bananas purely to keep my glucose and electrolyte indicator in the green. One problem I did have was the inability to consume Pringles. I love Pringles. They are a perfect party food. The clue is in the word ‘party’. They are impossible to eat during a bloody long race. I must have looked like a disturbed dog trying to lick peanut butter from the roof of its mouth. Once Pringles are in your mouth they absorb all moisture, I couldn’t swallow them, and I couldn’t open my mouth to put water in. It was a nightmare. Eventually, 330ml of full-fat sprite later, I managed to clear the backlog of sand-dry Pringles. Never again.

After 35.4 miles everything was looking great. Then the sun started to set….

Lap 7 – 9

I had just come in from lap 7 and arrived at the food tent. It wasn’t cold, but after a quick finger-to-the-horizon check, I had 45 minutes of daylight left (30mins until the sun dropped below the horizon and the 15minutes residual light). I had been instructed to get the head torch on, as it was highly likely I wouldn’t be back before it got dark. This was a good thing. Foolishly, even though my body heat indicator said I was warm, I opted to put on my after-dark jacket and hat. Another interesting point here is that after 41.3 miles, my digestion indicator was flashing orange/red. I wasn’t hungry anymore. I couldn’t face having to chew food – which is very weird. I like food. My appetite had decided to bugger off. I ignored this indicator, probably because I was excited to have breached 40miles on my feet! Upon instruction from Louise I took a bottle of chocolate milk, a swig of ginger beer and a swig of sour cherry juice. Off I went. Suitably prepped for the night laps to start, jacket on, hat on, head torch on, I set out on lap 8…

…About 3miles into lap 8 all hell broke loose. My heating indicator was well in the red, steam was coming out of my ears, and I was sweating profusely. However, there was worse to come. One indicator I don’t like to talk about is my vomit indicator. I hide this one, avoid looking at it and really try to ignore it as much as possible. Only at this point, the vomit alarm was bloody loud, so I had to look. No sooner have I checked my vomit indicator, I have dropped to my knees and I’m throwing up. I really should look at his indicator more often. In my other sport, vomiting is part of the experience. Work hard = throwing up. Problem is, I wasn’t working hard and my head knew it. So I (un)happily vomited all that lovely water. Nice.

Rather than panic, I could hear the words of various coaches throughout the years, which go along the lines of “Stop bitching, get on your feet and keep going!” and “The longer you stay down, the more burpees you’re doing when you get up!” I didn’t fancy having to do 100 burpees for the 100 seconds I’d spent vomiting and realised that I was hot. As programmed, I got up, took off my jacket and hat, hit the drinking water and started walking forward. After a mile of walking (15mins) I had cooled, my vomit indicator was back in the green and I felt as though I could run again. So I started to jog on.

By the time I hit the end of lap 8 I was actually running again, and I was perfectly balanced again. I was hurting in my ribs from the retching, and my groin was playing silly buggers, but not too much pain. At the food tent, my heart rate was at an all-time exercising low of 72bpm, which just didn’t seem right… Under instruction, I took another chocolate milk, more ginger beer and cherry juice. Time to walk the start of lap 9 and see how we go.

Lap 9 – 11

Lap 9 and the diagnostic systems are good again. Crisis averted. I’m feeling pretty good and I’m actually running again as opposed to hiking. The problem now, is that my pain indicators are starting to light up. Firstly it’s the quads and ribs. So hills and general breathing are becoming annoying. As 50miles gets clocked up, my quads are crying and downhills hurt. I hate downhills now, and I’m waddling those but I’m happy to run up the hills. WTF. Another indicator flashes up, right shoulder pain, and it’s serious. Red is always serious. My right shoulder has locked and I can’t lift my right arm above horizontal. Curiously painful. After another mile, I’m a big ball of pain – Legs, abs, groin, shoulders and ribs are crying. Even my feet are joining the party. But, there’s only one way, and that’s forward.  

Lap10 comes around and ends, and I’m back at the food tent. 59 quite painful miles have now been completed and I’ve made another mistake. I’m at the tent and I started to shiver and chatter my teeth – but I’m exercising and that means I must be hot. Even though I KNOW I’m getting really cold, I’ve stopped looking at the indicators. Functional indicators now take priority – namely, pain centres and broken bits. The indicators for heat, electrolytes, glucose, digestion, cardio, hydration and breathing are now all secondary. The primary focus is this “Is there any physical/biomechanical reason why I cannot move forward?” and screw everything else.

What I haven’t realised is that I’m still in my running tee-shirt, it’s approaching midnight, I can see my breath and there’s dew on the ground. That’s not a good mix. Ignoring the advice of my crew I go out onto lap 11 still in a tee-shirt, a wet tee-shirt (no man boob jokes here). The head torch is staring to make me nauseous, my head is wobbling and every time I start walking I’m noticeably shivering. My teeth are chattering and I’m now going down the rabbit hole. I’m now well past my longest previous run, and my thoughts are getting to 6am still running. It’s now just pain and pain, with a side order of pain. All systems are not responding, the indicators have all switched off or they’re in their danger locations. Again, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I’ve stopped drinking, stopped sweating and really don’t feel hungry. The automatic ‘move forward’ response is still working wonders. Then I’m woken out of my slump by a friendly voice, Kat has appeared behind me at mile 3 on lap 11! Everything switches back on briefly and I have to man-up just a little bit. So we run together, and I try to keep up with Kat, but I can’t keep up with her pace and eventually tell her to run on whilst I continue. She does. Indicators switch off. Back to pain management and moving forward… and shivering, lots and lots of shivering. It’s now very, very dark out there (and inside too).

Lap 12

…Finally I hobble into the campsite and finish lap 11. Painful relief. Do I stop and call it a day? No bloody way. I’m up at 65Miles! I have to get to 70! One lap at a time. Now, at the tent I’m offered arm sleeves, which again I ignore. I don’t need a drinks refill either as I’m not drinking and I’m not eating. So it’s a chocolate milk and walk out onto lap 12. Now it’s auto-pilot. I don’t care about heart-rates, breathing rates, glucose levels, oxygen levels, food, hydration, salts or anything else. My mind (what’s left of it) is now using everything to block out the pain and shivering. I’m now in a very dark place – a place I don’t normally like to be…

…Dark places can mean only one thing for me. Hallucinations. Its dark, I’m functioning at about 10% and I’m hearing voices in the trees and I’m seeing figures in the shadows – worse than that, at mile 3.5 I can see two blondes sat on the left side of the trail. Now considering we’re in a fairly urban area, this would not be uncommon, but they’re just sat there motionless. Then I can hear voices from the right, and I’m thinking I’m about to get mugged… as I approach the blondes they disappear and turn into two large hedge/bush things… OK. Maybe it’s time to call it.

From an Apple perspective, my ‘Battery low’ indicator has just come on. It’s a case of moving my legs enough to get out of ‘hallucination straight’ and back to camp. I’m not getting mugged. Voices are loud still, and I’ve got run through the wood yet. Getting through the wood required so much concentration. All those tree roots and other wonderful bits from nature to trip over. In the words of Chunk from the Goonies “I hate nature!” To top it off, as I exit the wood around 4am I’m greeted by a group of people who question why I’m walking and that I should be running. Yeah, whatever. Another hallucination?

The end of lap 12 cannot come soon enough. I’m now repeating to myself that I must move forward. I’m not being scraped up off the trail. Move forward. It must’ve been quite comical passing me on that lap, seeing a guy in a tee-shirt (X-Bionic Trick) at 4am on a cold night, muttering, shivering and chattering about ‘no pain’ and ‘move forward’. What a mess. There’s the campsite, in I hobble and the rest is a blur.

Lap 13

All I can remember is that I was cold, my hands and feet were blocks of arctic ice, my head and sternum were piping hot and my feet were in agony from the cold. Oh, and I was shivering. A lot. I was burbling. I remember fighting the sleeping bag and wanting to go back out. I briefly woke up in the sleeping tent still shivering. If there were wheels on my little 24hour wagon, they’d been nicked and my wagon was now on bricks being dismantled component by component. Oh well…

…45 short minutes later I was wide awake and ready to go again! It was dawn now, I had a cup of coffee in my hand and I’d actually wandered back out on to the course for one final lap with Kat. I blame Mike B who apparently convinced me I could still get to 16 laps (100miles). But after my chatty, warming lap with Kat and a nice cup of coffee, I called it a day. 20hours on my feet, 26hours awake, and 76.7miles completed. Almost there, but not quite. Next time.

The end

Well, I ran until I couldn’t run anymore and that was the plan. I’m just not entirely sure I was supposed to run until unconsciousness… Maybe. The important thing is that I now know what it feels like to run and keep moving for 20 hours. I’ve a 32 hour race coming up in a year, and that gives me plenty of time to learn how to make a whole new bunch of mistakes…!

Learnings

  1. Listen to the crew. They’re in the right frame of mind to make decisions for you regarding heat, food, hydration and electrolytes. Don’t ignore their advice. Listen. I’ll need a new indicator for that – there goes the development budget.
  2. Don’t go running in night time races in a tee-shirt you’ve been in all day. When given the option to change kit, take it. See rule 1.
  3. Swap your trainers. My trainers (Skechers Ultra 2’s) are absolutely ace. Brilliant. No blisters after nearly 200miles of running. I had two pairs with me. Change them and your socks. Again see rule 1.
  4. Food and hydration was good and well monitored by me and the crew. The loss of appetite was expected around 50miles and I switched onto chocolate milk on the advice of Louise and Kat. So I do listen after all? Nah. See rule 1 again.
  5. Ginger beer and cherry juice are much better than tonnes of Cola. Cola contains Phosphoric Acid which seems to aggravate my stomach acids making me feel sick quite quickly. Ginger beer does not contain this acid and can help settle the stomach. Cherry juice is just ace, and helps recovery. Carry more of these things! Add Sprite to the list also.
  6. Powdered Powerade (or Gatorade) is excellent! I can monitor the sugar intake and dose myself accordingly. Great stuff and I now have loads of it!
  7. Salt tablets. Always keep salt tablet on me just in case salt problems happens. In this race I had no salt issues! Hooray! Salt tablets must’ve worked.
  8. Pizza. Always pack a cold pizza. Even if I don’t feel like it, it always drives me on to know that I have pizza waiting for me.
  9. Stay warm when it’s dark, watch out for nausea from the head torch and its wobbliness. Not much I can do about that.
  10. When I start to shiver, put a bloody jacket on, or arm sleeves. Do something to stay warm. If I’d have listened to my crew I suspect that I would’ve done a few more laps at least.
  11. Watch out for the dark places… There be monsters.  

image - the Boyf Spitfire Scramble