Centurion South Downs Way 50 Mile Race – A Race Report of Sorts

The Boyf ran the SDW50 last weekend….50 miles on a hot sunny day….here’s how it went in his own words!

image - Bib 88 and SDW50 medalFor the TL:DR Crew:

I ran the South Downs Way 50 Mile point-to-point Trail Race at the weekend (8th April 2017) organised by the fantastic Centurion Running crew. I started in Worthing, ran up to the South Downs Way and followed it all the way to Eastbourne. I set myself a challenging time of 9hours and sneaked in with almost 3 minutes to spare. As I crossed the finish line at Eastbourne athletics track in the light of the setting sun, I tried my hardest not to vomit over the legendary Mimi Anderson as she congratulated me and placed my medal around my neck – my sprint finish for the last 3km was a little harder on my system than I expected. In terms of my Centurion 50 Mile Grand slam attempt, that’s South Downs Way done and dusted, with the small matter of North Downs Way, Chiltern Wonderland and Wendover Woods left to complete in 2017. Back in 5 weeks. If you’re that way inclined, go sign up for a Centurion Race. They’re ace.

For the Technical Manual Reading Crew:

I had my first taste of Centurion Running events last year when I entered the inaugural Wendover Woods 50mile race, which involved 5x10mile laps of Wendover Woods, all on a damp and foggy November day. After finishing that particular race, and having such a good time doing it, I thought I should attempt the 50 Grand Slam in 2017 – this involves successfully completing all four Centurion 50mile races within the race cut-offs. The first race of the 50 Grand Slam calendar is the point-to-point South Downs Way 50 (this race) and finds the unsuspecting runner hot-footing it from Worthing to an athletics track 50miles away in Eastbourne. Sounds simple enough…

image - SDW50 route

The one thing you can guarantee when running any part of the South Downs Way, there will be lumps. There are some chalky lumps, grassy lumps, impressive lumps, some not-so-impressive lumps, some rounded lumps, some pointy lumps, and then there are some lumps that have been to that special clinic in the USA to be “enhanced”. As you can see from the course elevation profile I’ve provided, this particular course has been vacationing in the USA for some time, and paid for the full “glamour model” enhancement package.

image - SDW50 Elevation and Aid/Crew Points

It may not look too intimidating on paper, but it is when you’re up close to it. I tried to come up with a suitable running plan to get me to the end without collapsing, and it was difficult to hit on a decent pace figure – mostly because there was no easy way to factor the lumpy bits. Anyway, now you’ve seen the course and the nice numbers to the left (metres of elevation), you can see why the race has a finish-line cut-off of 13hours dead. It’s tough. Cross the finish line one second after 13hrs? That will be a DNF then. Along the course there are several strategically placed Centurion Aid stations, each featuring smiling volunteers offering a free ‘eat-as-much-as-you-like’ buffet. There are also designated crewing points where your loved ones can refuel you from the boot of their car, and they can witness first hand your physical and mental demolition at the hands of the course (and the sun). I’ve attached each aid station/crewing point to the plot so you can see that these stops are perfectly placed. They are also a very welcome sight. The other thing that Centurion do very well is clearly mark the course with reflective tape and spray large orange arrows on the ground to indicate turns and deviations. I need these indicators, as I find it easy to get lost in a supermarket carpark.

image - Tailwind and water bottlesGetting Setup at Race Start HQ

Okay, the business end of the day. When I got to the race start point in Worthing there was a thick fog hanging over the place. This would be perfect to run in. I wandered into the café, had my running pack checked for mandatory kit and grabbed my race number. Two Fat Ladies – 88! As it was still quite early, I grabbed an hours kip in the car, woke up and set about getting my race nutrition organised. Traditionally, this would mean unpacking crisps, cakes, cookies, M&Ms, Oreos, more crisps, jellies, Gels and cheese rolls. However, I don’t need to do that anymore, as I’m one of those grubby Tailwind users. You can spot us exchanging little bags of white powder at race starts or locker rooms, and mixing it with water in dimly lit carparks in the early hours of the morning. For this race, I calculated that I’d need 5litres of water to cover my hydration needs over 50miles. I set up 10x500ml water bottles on the parcel shelf of the car and dissolved a Tailwind stick pack into each.

My plan was a simple one: Start the race at 9am and get to the finish by 6pm, all whilst consuming a litre of water every 10miles. Rather than stop at every aid station and crew point, I developed a suitable refuelling plan:

Point 1 Point 2 Distance Refuelling Strategy at Point 2
Worthing (start) Botolphs (Aid Station) 11 Miles Refill 1litre of water at aid station
Botolphs Devils Dyke (Car Boot Sale) 4.5 Miles Two new bottles of water from Crew
Devils Dyke Ditchling Beacon (Car Boot Sale) 6.5 Miles Two new bottles of water from Crew
Ditchling Beacon Southease (Aid Station) 12 Miles Refill 1litre of water at aid station
Southease Firle Beacon (Car Boot Sale) 2.5 Miles Pick up Mountain Dew and Red Bull from Crew
Firle Beacon Alfriston (Aid Station) 5 Miles Refill 1litre of water at aid station
Alfriston Eastbourne (Finish) 8.5 Miles Eat Jaffa Cakes

image - jaffa cakes and crispsThis was to be my second race where I rely solely on Tailwind for nutrition, and as such, I decided to take a leaf out of the Ultra-running training manual, which states that “bags left at the race finish should be in the form of a 5p Tesco carrier bag (other bag vendors are available) and it should contain only nutritional essentials”. So I grabbed a Tesco carrier bag and put a single bag of crisps and a half-eaten box of Jaffa cakes inside it, all ready for the finish. Now I was ready to go. But, there was a problem. Someone had switched the Sun on and the fog was burning away. It was also warming up. I had wondered if the met office prediction of 13DegC would remain true, and knowing their history of fake weather forecasts, I started to think that this could be a warm and breezy day. So, loaded up with kit and water I headed off to the start corral. The race brief covered the usual stuff – follow the red and white tape, follow the spray arrows, don’t turn right out of Alfriston as you’ll end up going over the seven sisters and don’t follow other race organisers’ signs. The final words were to look after each other out there and enjoy the race. Definitely.

Running out of Worthing

And with that said we are off and running (pun intended). As I made my way out of the field at the start, I bumped into ultra/marathon runner extraordinaire, James Bennett! Out of 400odd runners, in a huge field, I’m running in front of someone I know quite well, unbelievable. As we chatted about things to do with marathon running, nutrition, injuries, 50milers and the inevitable 100milers, it turns out that James is doing the DOUBLE Centurion Grand Slam – which involves the completion of the 50mile Grand Slam series, but also the 100 mile Grand Slam series! Kudos on that James. Maybe next year for me… Before I knew it, we were well out of Worthing and joining the SDW, and out of my dodgy left eye I noticed that we were actually above the fog base. This is a sight I’m used to seeing in the mountains, but not in the UK! And it looked amazing. James and I were chatting so much that soon we were at Botolphs aid station and James had seriously picked up the pace, so with his next burst of speed, I made my excuses about him being too quick for me and off he went. Once at Botolphs, I refilled my empty 500ml bottles and grabbed a very quick hug from the wonderful Maryanne Aitken who was volunteering at the aid station. Fully refuelled, off I went.

Ditchling Beacon Looks Different in the Daylight

Time started to pass very quickly. The sun was warm, but there was a breeze. My primary focus now was getting to Devils Dyke, seeing Kat and grabbing some fresh bottles. The climb out of Botolphs is a proper moose. It’s long and steep and even managed to spike my heart rate over 200bpm (not been there for a while). Soon I was at Devils and could spot Kat almost 1000m away as she was wearing bright, dayglow orange leggings. What I didn’t know was that she’d popped into Tesco just after I started the race and grabbed 1kg of ice and an ice bucket. When we swapped over bottles I was pleasantly surprised to find my new bottles were icy cold! Loverly. After a quick hug, and having refuelled I was off to Ditchling Beacon. I hit Saddlescombe Farm quickly after, and as it wasn’t on my stopping plan, and I didn’t need any extra hydration, I got my number checked and continued through. I missed Clayton Windmills completely, which I’m sure was there, but I didn’t see anybody. Then, before I could orientate myself, or look at the views, I ran straight into Ditchling. I spotted Kat almost immediately (those dayglow orange leggings again).  This time I was in a bit of trouble with my crew… As I picked up new bottles, crew reminded me of the plan, and informed me that I was 30mins ahead of schedule and at risk of falling into the Danger Zone of running out too quick and paying for it after 40miles. So I promised I’d slow down and take the climbs in a less energetic manner. This proved to be very good advice, as a few miles out of Ditchling Beacon, the pain started show itself in my left knee and I was having a slight abdominal issue (think side stitch, but across my upper abs). I had begun to slow down whether I liked it or not.

image - the yellow brick roadIt is not 400Yards to Southease Aid Station!

My new primary goal was to get to Southease, as here I would find several friendly faces and it would signify that 2/3 of the race would be over. As I slowed, I started to look around some more, the views were stunning and worth the race fee alone. The sun was beating down now, but the breeze was quite chilly. I took a slug from my second bottle and was hit immediately with a different taste – it was Mountain Dew!! I’d forgotten that Kat had given me the Mountain Dew at Ditchling. Exciting times. The run to Southease was long – 12miles. I stopped momentarily at Housedean to top up one of my bottles with clean water (just to palate cleanse) and ran on. Southease was almost in sight. Then the weirdest thing happened – as I was nearing Southease I passed a guy who decided to shout “not far to go. The aid station is 400yards on the left”. However, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even close. The aid station was at least a mile away, and I had yet to cross the river or the railway bridge! The weird thing is that I’ve met this guy before, as he said exactly the same thing when I paced Louise Ayling on SDW100 as we were nearing Southease at 2am that morning! Weird. Finally, I reached the railway bridge at Southease and once crossed I ran into the aid station. Two thirds of the race was over. Once at the aid station, I was greeted by the smiling faces of Jon Fielden and Louise Ayling! This was a definite plus point, as I was still experiencing that troublesome abdominal and knee pain. Having a quick handshake and hug from them both, I refilled my empty bottles and ran off to experience the Southease climb… Time to go home.

Up, Up, Up to the Gate We Go!

As you can see from the elevation plot, the climb from Southease to Firle is a beast. It winds up the hill, has no shade and seems to be on a constant 60° angle putting pressure on the calves, shins and ankles. I’m sure my calves grew 2” hitting this climb. Then like that, it was over and I was on top of the hill. I passed a few radio comms towers and soon hit Firle Beacon. A quick glance at the watch informed me that I was now running later than scheduled, it was 15:45. I had 14 miles to cover and a little over 2hours to do it. At that point I said to Kat that the 9hr target had gone, and that she’d see me around 18:30. I was very glum and down, and she was slightly angry with me for worrying about times – just finish the race. I exchanged bottles again, and I put a can of red bull in my backpack for Alfriston, and set off towards Alfriston. I remember very little about the run to Alfriston, mostly due to reprimanding myself about bombing off so quickly at the start. After what seemed like an hour, I could see a town in the distance and I started to descend into Alfriston. As I approached the town, it began to get busy with traffic and I spotted arrows sprayed on the ground (as well as reflective tape). Still feeling annoyed and pretty grumpy, I passed a marshal who directed me into the Alfriston hall aid station, and who remarked on how fresh I was looking! That cheered me up. Inside the hall I refilled a bottle. Just as I was about to leave I heard a thud as my can of Redbull ejected itself from my backpack… weird. I’d completely forgotten about my can of rocket fuel, and would’ve continued without it if it hadn’t fallen out. In a daze, I opened the can and sipped from it as I hiked out of the aid station. I thanked the marshal for his help and directions, and continued on my merry way towards the Jevington. 41.6 miles done.

Go On, Follow the Exceat Sign. I Dare You. I Double Dare You MotherFudger.

I’m not clear on the time, but the sun was evening orange and beginning to dip behind the trees. I think it must’ve been around 16:45. I flicked the screen on my GPS watch to ‘Altitude’ and spotted that the climbs were almost done! I had a lump to negotiate before I hit Jevington and one final climb to home. After around 10mins the Redbull really kicked in, all my pains disappeared and I could feel myself wanting to speed up – so I did. I spotted the infamous ‘Exceat’ sign and reminded myself to continue on my current course and not to take that route! I didn’t need a run over the seven sisters right now… Once away from the town, I started to run and hit the chalky, rock hard climb out of Alfriston, which turned into a run 30secs/hike 30secs training session, just as I had practiced on my little hill at home. The views on this part of the course are STUNNING. Soon enough, the climb was done, I was over the hill (literally) and began the descent into Jevington (please return all tray tables to their upright position and fasten your seat belts). This part of the run actually had some shade, and it was most welcome. Once in Jevington proper, I was directed into Jevington village hall, but as I wasn’t stopping and I poked my head inside to inform the marshal that I wasn’t stopping. I then ran straight back out, through the church yard and back onto the SDW. I knew this was almost it. I looked at my watch. I was still behind schedule, but not as much as I was at Firle Beacon – I’d actually made up time. Cheers Redbull. Things were looking up.

A Trig Point is a Big Pointy Rock

My next worry was the troublesome trig point (big pointy rock) at the top of the climb. I’d the heard rumours, checked the route, checked google maps and read the centurion course description. All I could remember was “don’t take the wrong path at the trig point”. As I arrived at the top of the climb, I entered the field with the trig point in it. It was well marked, and there was a marshal who reminded me that I was almost home. It was now 17:32. Time was running out. I passed the trig point, spotted the centurion markings and hit the path with a million arrows pointing towards it. I’d done it. Now began the run down the hill through what is known as the “Gully of Doom”. I now know why it’s called this. It’s an old path running adjacent to the golf course, with a deep V-structure wide enough to fit one foot in at a time and is quite steep. I hopped from foot to foot to maintain my speed, got hit in the face with brambles and almost lost my footing re-joining the main path. This was tough enough at the end of a 50miler, I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to see how it feels at the end of a 100miler. It’s an annoying path, with annoying terrain, but my god was it fun to run down – even more so when jacked on a can of Redbull. Soon enough I was out and down in Eastbourne proper, and I hit real concrete! I looked at my watch, it was now 17:42. That took 10mins to negotiate, and 5mins too long. Bugger. After a little argument in my head about times not mattering, I decided that I could pick up the pace and get to the track 2.5km away in 18minutes. That could be done, if I didn’t get lost on my way, or get hit by a car crossing the road… Or eaten by a Bear. They have bears in Eastbourne you know. Vicious ones.

Sprint Once Round the Track and Don’t Throw up Over Superstars at the Finish

image - the Boyf checking his time at the SDW50 finishAt this point, I popped one ear of my ipod in (safety first and all that). I needed some inspirational music. For this I selected a suitably appropriate track from my metal collection – “Lawnmower Deth, You’ve got no legs” – A classic, and started to run. Properly run. Well, as much as I could after doing 48 miles. I followed all of the centurion markings and kept spotting little wavy red and white banners in the distance. I was on the right route. I checked my watch, it was now 17:50. 10 Minutes to save my race. I then came to an arrow that turned left and pointed toward a road crossing. The road was busy (Eastbourne on a Saturday evening) and I pressed the cross button. I waited an age. The light stayed green… The light stayed green… The light stayed green… Come on! Then I spotted a large gap in the traffic and remembering my green cross code I sprinted across. No problem. I needed to get a wriggle on now. The track was 1km away and I had 8minutes left. I turned a corner and crossed another road and found myself on a nice surfaced cycle way – time to speed up. So I did. My legs started to really move and people I passed started to wish me luck. One person even asked me if I’d really just run 50miles – not yet was my reply! I was now at full tilt, but I had a problem. I’d obviously started my sprint a bit too early, and I was now feeling quite sick. I kept on going whilst trying to keep the retching to a minimum. Then I saw the athletics track! Loads of runners who had finished their races were walking in my direction, all of them wished me luck. I saw James Bennett, who I had run with earlier in the day with his medal, he wished me luck and I felt another gear become available. I sprinted up the hill at full parkrun pace (thanks again Redbull) and into the finish area. I heard a couple of voices, one telling me to sprint and one telling me to go faster – so I tried. There was no one else on the track, it was completely empty. I checked the watch, it was 17:56. All I had to do was negotiate 400m of athletics track in 4 minutes or less. Then I felt the first stirring of nasty stuff in my throat. Two retches later and I had to slow my sprint. 200m to go. I rounded the last corner to hear people shouting and clapping. Always nice. And did a final watch check. 17:57. I crossed the line and was met with a big hug from Louise and a pat on the back from Mimi Anderson. Wow. At that point Mimi asked if I would like my medal, and as I bent my neck, I felt very sick indeed. I couldn’t throw up over a superstar could I? Luckily enough, I didn’t, but it was very close. A final hug from Kat and a few race photographer photos and it was all done. SDW50 completed. 50 Grand Slam event #1 done. I felt pretty good too. Kat joked about me running back to Worthing… Yeah, not this year love.

My Critical Analysis

Okay. I’m a Neek, or Gerd. Yeah, I’m a Gerd. I like stats and my Garmin Fenix 3HR gives me loads of stats. These are displayed below in all their glory for people to pick holes in, criticise or laugh at. I don’t mind. Having this kind of information shows me straight away that I screwed up. Those 10 little RED dots between Worthing and Botolphs tell the whole story – I went out too fast with 12 miles in the ‘Crazy Pace’ zone. That punished me later in the race by filling my body with all those lovely toxins and by-products that the athletics experts warn us punters about. However, somehow I manged to pull it back from the brink of a DNF (Duke Nukem Forever). It looks like the climbs actually helped me get my pace back and by the time Kat had warned me of my over-pacing, I’d actually managed to regain control of my race. The best part for me is the little red and yellow dots running into Eastbourne – I got my short little legs to move quite fast, and they were completely buggered at the time. The graphical analysis also tells me that the climbs were hard (to be expected, this is a lumpy course), but also the descents were quite hard too. The key thing for me is having this information available when I tackle this course again as part of the South Downs Way 100 next year, as this particular 50mile will be done in the dark, on head torch, in the mist, on legs that already have 50miles in them. This data will be quite handy.  So, I screwed up but managed to pull it back, and for that I’m off to enjoy my weight in pizza and beer. If you’re after a great race with top notch organisers on a challenging course, then this is for you. Or, if you want a walk in the English Countryside, with some superb views, just pop along to the SDW. Just watch out for knackered runners everywhere. And bears. Watch out for bears. The Sussex Bear is known for its ferocity…

image - SDW50 pace analysis

So there we have it! The Boyf done good….50 miles in 8:57:08!  I am so pleased for him, although obviously it all came down to my uber-crew skills and not his hard work!

Smoothies, potatoes and waffles!

image text - 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!

image text - Feed me! Easy smoothies

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

In which the Boyf recounts his first 100 mile race

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)