Race Review: Robin Hood 100

Image of text - Robin Hood 100 the one with interna over-heating

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I went for another run at the weekend (Robin Hood 100). It was supposed to be a pleasant, 100 mile bimble along the Chesterfield Canal, round Sherwood Forest twice and then back along the canal. What actually happened was the first canal bit and the first loop!

The day started off brilliantly when we couldn’t get out of the hotel car park because the code to lift the barrier wouldn’t work. Not for us, or the night porter. In the end he had to switch the barrier on and off again to trigger the “IN” barrier to lift as we drove through at high speed, hoping we would make it before the barrier dropped on us. Luckily we, and the car, survived.

Of course this still wasn’t a huge issue as due to my love of being early for stuff I think we were still in the first 5 runners to arrive at registration. Numbers allocated, RaceDrone trackers collected we set about faffing for the next hour. Getting Tailwind into bottles, drop bags loaded to the van to be taken to Aid Station 3, numerous trips to the loo, deciding if I wanted my jacket out (light drizzle) or not (drizzle had stopped). In the end I went for arm sleeves instead and it was the right move.

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The Boyf and I set off at 8am, taking it steady and positioning ourselves near the back of the pack. We weren’t in a hurry and the plan was to run 4 mins:walk 1 minute from the start. We stuck to this and made good time along the canal, reaching the first aid station (10.4 miles away) in just over 2 hours. A refill of our Tailwind….conveniently packaged in individual plastic bags, snip the corner, add powder to bottle, top up and away we went. The scenery was lovely and the course was empty! We barely saw anyone in the first 20 miles other than a couple of dog walkers, a runner and the aid station crews. We did see sheep, horses, pigs, cows and a king fisher!

Aid station 2 was just off the canal at 16.2 miles and we hit this at 11:32. Another bottle top up with Tailwind and here we went with the refined technique of adding the water to the plastic bag, a quick shake to dissolve and then snip the corner to pour the water into the bottle before topping up. Much quicker and a lot less sticky (plus the powder doesn’t blow everywhere). I was also adding Peppermint Oil or Sicilian Lemon Juice into a couple of the bottles to add extra zing! Plus the peppermint is great for cooling and keeping your stomach settled.

Aid Station 3 was just under 3 miles away (19.06) and we were there by 12:19. Although I had up to 20 mins on my plan to stop here we probably weren’t more than 5 minutes. Another Tailwind top up and a swap out of our first fresh bag of Tailwind and gels to cover us for the next 30 miles. Can you sense a theme here? It’s all about the Tailwind!!

Robin Hood 100
We continued to make good progress to Aid Station 4, we were into the forest trails now with greater tree coverage and an increase in humidity but the run:walk strategy was working well and we were making good time. Still slightly ahead of my “ideal” zone on my planner. Hurrah!

Aid Station 4 to 5 was where I started to feel the heat. Not the external heat so much as my internal heat. I could start to feel my temperature increase but at this point I wasn’t really acknowledging it. I think the Boyf may have noticed a slight slowing in my pace but I think at that point he put it down to me running the undulations. As he put it afterwards, I was running stuff he would normally have walked on a 24 hour race like Spitfire Scramble. At this point though I was happy, not feeling like I was trying to hard and felt as though I was running well within my limits.

Robin Hood 100

Aid Station 5, 27.78 miles was reached in 6 hours 37 minutes and after topping up my bottles I poured a glass of water over the back of my neck. This helped me fell refreshed and we headed off into the 10 mile loop that would take us past the Major Oak. I was really enjoying myself and the scenery, but as we dropped down into the forest the humidity started to take its toll. Once we were past the Major Oak we were finding more ups than downs and we adjusted the run walk a bit more to have slightly longer walk breaks to keep me feeling in good shape. By the end of the 10 miles things were starting to be more of a struggle though.

We arrived back at Aid Station 5 having taken 2 hours 40 minutes. So about 30 minutes longer than our 10ish miles along the canal had taken, but considering our legs were less fresh and the course was more undulating that isn’t a bad drop off. This aid turnaround took slightly longer, I had removed my t-shirt in a bid to cool off, got my water bottles refilled with more Tailwind and took time to get myself bug-proofed with Avon Skin So Soft…..this worked as I only have 1 mosquito bite on my ankle and whilst it’s a bit red it hasn’t blistered like the last 2 mega-bites I have had.

The Boyf and I headed off to Aid Station 6, this section was less fun, there was a lot more running on actual road, and the local drivers weren’t really fussed about giving us much room. Plus my internal temperature was really starting to spike. Despite not having any nausea at all (thanks Tailwind), I did start to get a couple of vomit-burps bubbling up. Not a good sign….this meant I was starting to properly over-heat and my body wasn’t happy about this. We were about 40 miles in when it really all did go wrong. Despite having my cooling rag round my neck I just couldn’t keep the pace. We slowed to a walk in a bid to try and keep me cool but by the time we got to Aid Station 6 I was pretty sure that it was game over.

Robin Hood 100

A lot of chat and analysis was going on as we kept pushing forward, but it was obvious I wasn’t able to run any more. My legs were feeling strong and I could keep my pace up, but if I did my temperature spiked and that wasn’t good. What was a worry was that we were pretty much alone on the trail, in the middle of nowhere with no mobile signal. We had trackers with an SOS button but didn’t really want to get in a state where we needed to use those. We carried on from Aid Station 6 to Aid Station 3 (back at the start of the 30 mile loop) as dusk, then darkness fell and decided that we would call it a day. There was no way it would have been sensible to set out for the 30 mile loop again. Yes I could have walked the remainder of the race, but I didn’t set out to walk 100 miles, I set out to run 100 miles! This wasn’t about gutting it out and ultra-shuffling to the end. If I was going to do it I wanted to do it safely AND in (some semblance) of style.

So we decided enough was enough….a gutting decision to make, especially as we were meeting our lovely crew member Fiona back at Aid Station 3 as she was going to look after us throughout the night. Best laid plans and all that! So at 20:41, 12 hours 41 minutes after starting we reached the 48.66 mile point (80.11km in Garmin distance) and handed in our trackers.

Huge thanks go to the volunteers who fed the Boyf soup (I couldn’t risk it for fear of triggering more over heating) and helped us get in touch with Fiona when we couldn’t get a mobile signal. She eventually managed to find the aid station location (not easy in the pitch-black with a post code that didn’t match the real-world presence of the station) and rescued us. A trip back to the village hall start point, a chance to change into fresh clothes, and then we headed to McDonald’s for a chat and burger. I can’t thank Fi enough for trekking halfway up the country, sitting and chatting to us before driving home again with minimal crewing complete.

We were back home before 3am, bathed in Radox Bubble bath with added Epsom Salts and Rosemary Oil (the perfect recovery combo, and the rosemary oil is great for soothing irritated skin e.g. mossie bites and bramble grazes!) and that was me out cold! Not the race I had planned but one that has given me much food for thought and a reignited plan for the future. More on that to follow!

My planned pace and real time arrivals:
My pace chart from Robin Hood 100....it was all going so well. Blog post to follow soon 😄

Garmin Stats (click if you can’t see the embedded version):

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)

Race review: Samphire 100, the one that got away

image of Samphire Challenge medal

Samphire 100 (Samphire 74.2)

It’s taken me a few weeks to get round to writing this post as I’ve needed the time to get over my first 100 mile race, held at Samphire Hoe. The race that didn’t end at 100 miles as I had hoped, the race where I rang the bell and called it quits at 74.2 miles.

It took at least a week for me to not bawl my eyes out whenever I told anyone I hadn’t finished the race. Even though it was a choice, it still broke me to stop and it was hard to admit to people that I had failed. Of course no one else seemed to think I had failed, I did of course run 74.2 miles but it wasn’t what I had planned and I was, and still am, gutted.

I don’t regret stopping, it was the right decision, but I do regret some of the choices I made during the race, which contributed to my downfall.

Everything started so well, the Boyf and I had our plans for the race, our mini aid station was set up with everything I thought we might need and I even thought I was prepped for the weather. It was clear that Summer was coming to Samphire Hoe and I wanted to be ready for it. Factor 50 sun cream, special cooling rags for my neck and a hydration bladder in my pack. The plan was wrong from the start, I realise now that I need to focus on the race in hand, not future races….perhaps at least where 100 milers are concerned.

I stupidly planned to not take advantage of the looped course with food & drink every 3.7 miles. Not wanting to lose too much time stopping, and thinking it would be good practice for point to point races with distance between aid stations, I was carrying a larger pack with extra water, and plenty of food. This worked well for the first few laps, I was eating and drinking regularly and wasn’t suffering too much in the heat. I was hot, but I was dealing with it. A standard loo stop at about 10 miles and I came in to finish my first marathon in 6 hours.

Samphire 100 (Samphire 74.2)

Wanting to make sure I didn’t overdo things I took 20 minutes at this point to refill my bottles, hydration bladder and food stores. I was happy, confident and raring to go. Marathon 2 was then underway, and this is where it started to go wrong. Nausea hit around the 30-35 miles point. I was expecting it, and kept pushing onwards, I tried to eat and drink as much as I could but I just couldn’t shake the sick feeling. Sweet food, savoury food, swiftly melting salted caramel ice cream were all eaten and none of it helped so in the end I took control and made myself sick. That helped! Aside from needing constant loo stops things were getting better. That should have been a clue, but I was too dense to see it for a while, nausea and a constant need to pee, despite not drinking huge amounts, “salts” way out of kilter! When the penny dropped I started to up my S!Cap intake, and it actually seemed to work for a while.

Samphire 100 (Samphire 74.2)

Darkness came but it didn’t get any cooler, I ditched my pack and rolled up my top trying to get cooler but it was a struggle. I did make progress for a while, I was still on a strong(ish) run:walk strategy, I enjoy running in the dark and I still felt in control. Then the stomach issues started….no more sickness, but the feared “runner’s trots”. My pre-race Imodium were no longer useful and I was managing to get a lap done before I needed another stop. Every time I picked up the pace I felt my stomach gurgle and prepare to explode, so I’d slow to a walk. It was so bad on one lap that I even needed to cut back to the loo halfway through the lap before heading back on course again.

I got things briefly back on track for a while with the help of Dee, Sarah & Maryanne the queens of cuppa soup, buttered toast and “get your ass out of here” encouragement. I managed to get some more running done, but in the end I was finding that the only way to keep moving forward was to walk not run. Having given myself a massive blister from walking in my running trainers at Endure24 I decided it was time for a change of shoes and socks. I had my trusty Skechers Go Walks with me, and decided that if I was going to hike it for a while that these would be the better option. I almost regretted taking my socks off, despite not having been painful my feet looked as though I had spent all day in the bath…..not good! I decided not to look too closely, drenched my feet in GurneyGoo, got a fresh pair of socks on and put on my walking shoes. Then I was off. I still wanted this, and I really thought I could do it.

Samphire 100 (Samphire 74.2)

I made it to day break, I was feeling strong and happy and my stomach seemed much better. Fiona had given me some magic, chewy mints that really helped and knowing I had made it through the night really helped. Lorraine made me more toast and we headed out for a lap together. I think it was a good lap, I was feeling positive and I still thought I could get the job done, the maths was there. I have never felt like I have gone downhill so fast…..the Boyf joined us as he was flagging and wanted some company, all was good, we hiked along making good progress, then I needed a wee stop (thank goodness for beach access at the bottom of the hill). As we continued our lap I started to struggle more and more, my pace was slowing, I was struggling to swallow and breathe and I could feel panic building. Not about finishing the race, just general unfounded panic. We needed to stop a couple of times for me to catch my breath/not throw-up and then I knew I needed another wee. At Samphire there’s nowhere to hide! I managed to hold it till we made it back to the beach, it was worth the stop, it was definitely a full bladder moment, one I suffered again as we came to the car park.

The Boyf and I knew it was over, whilst my legs were strong my body didn’t want to play ball and I knew that with the best will in the world my hydration and fuelling was too broken to go on. I knew I couldn’t survive another 7 laps in the heat that was to come, especially if I had to stop for a loo break every kilometre! The pace:distance maths didn’t work and I didn’t want to not finish at all (go beyond 8am and fail to make the distance and I would get nothing), quit now and I got the challenge medal, goody bag and hopefully a body that would recover. I knew that my body was shutting down, from experience I knew I couldn’t get back from where I was in the time I had.

I told the Boyf and Lorraine that I was out, sent him on his way and then walked up and rang the bell.
It wasn’t hard to do, I knew it was the right decision, but it ripped my innards out (what was left of them), and the tears flowed. I certainly stunned a lot of people! Rachel couldn’t believe what I had done, but I think a lot of it was down to the fact I had mostly kept my suffering to myself. I hadn’t been hanging around the aid station that much and I had mostly been moving when within site of the support crews, so it was a bit of a bolt from the blue.

I crashed in the car, I was gutted not to be able to support the Boyf but I was totally drained now that I had finished and just needed sleep. It helped, I kept dozing and waking up to check on the Boyf as he did his loops and then I perked up enough to be ready for his finish.

I am so glad one of us made it! 100 miles is a long way, and we worked hard to be ready, he was just more ready than me!

Samphire 100 (Samphire 74.2)

Things I have learned:

  • My legs will be able to cover 100 miles if I hydrate and fuel correctly
  • Run the race you are in, not the race you want to run in the future
  • I need to take S!Caps, just relying on salts in gels and food isn’t enough for my high sweat rate
  • Buttered toast is amazing!
  • Be honest with yourself, you’ll know if DNFing is the right choice. Don’t be a dick and force yourself to finish just to satisfy others, you might not live to regret it
  • GurneyGoo works wonders, my trench-foot had vanished by the time I took my fresh socks off and my feet were perfect
  • OOFOS are the comfiest, post 74.2 mile race flip-flops I have ever worn

Samphire 100 (Samphire 74.2)
Massive thanks to everyone who ran with me, gave me encouragement, kicked me up the butt, fed me soup and toast, chewy mints, tubs of sweets and all the hugs when my heart broke!

Crustie, Dee, Fiona, Gemma, Jackie, Jake, Janet, Jon, Liz, Lorraine, Maryanne, Sarah, everyone on the course or there supporting all the runners and of course the two that started this all in the first place, Traviss & Rachel…..I couldn’t have made it to 74.2 miles without you…..thank you from the bottom of my broken heart!

Race Review: Kent Road Runner #marathon19

I signed up for the Kent Road Runner a year ago, just after friends had run the race and the Facebook hype was high.  At that point in time I had only run 1 marathon (and 2 ultras).  Fast forward 12 months and KRR was marathon 19 (count includes ultras)!  In that time I have run good races and bad, and whilst KRR wasn’t even close to being the worst race I have ever run (that has to go to Lydd 20) it didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Yes, it was well organised, yes it had a big medal, but if I hadn’t made so many friends over the last 12 months then I think it would have been a lonely 21 laps!  There were some ace supporters, and enough people that I knew on the race crew for me to feel as though they cared but it’s also a “road race” and that means run clubbers out for their 1 marathon of the year (or maybe 2 if they are on a 6 month training cycle)!

I’m not a fan of run clubbers, yes some of my friends belong to run clubs, I realise they aren’t all bad….but I hate the runners who barge you out of the way because they feel they have more right to that part of the track than you, or they deserve to grab that jelly baby, or are determined to snatch that water cup before your hand can close on it.  Unfortunately KRR had its share of runners like this, and that takes the enjoyment out of it a bit for me.

I was running the race with my friend Nikki, making her give run:walk ago to see if we could get her in within the cutoff, rather than her foregoing the race completely due to lack of training (if you can consider completing Brighton & London marathons earlier this year, by walking them both, a lack of training).  I was definitely taking her out of her comfort zone, but I like to think it was in a good way.  We chatted, ate a bit, ran a bit, walked a bit.  Rather than sticking to a fixed time strategy we decided to go with the undulations.  Run the downs (till our quads were hurting too much), run/walk the flats and power hike the hills…..it worked well and we ran past the personal drinks zone, walked from the portaloos, run down the hill, hike the hill, run round the mound to the poppies, walk to the next poppy, run down and round the bend before the long hike up the hill.  We made the half-way cutoff and ploughed onwards.  As time went on our pace slowed a bit, but we were still running and making a good pace on the run sections.  Nikki was starting to ache a bit, so we increased the walking to balance out the downs that were starting to get a bit painful for her.

KRRUnfortunately we hadn’t quite managed to stick to a fast enough average pace to finish ahead of the 6 hour cutoff, but Ian one of the race organisers graciously gave us the opportunity to see if we could complete the remaining laps by 30 mins after the planned cutoff.  We had already decided we wanted to give it a go….and off we went.  The pressure was piled on slightly but we decided to just keep going until we had finished or been pulled from the course.  After all, Nikki had very nearly not started, so even if we didn’t get the official finish we had had a good training run.  Thankfully we made it round to finish in 6:33:50 and get our medals.

Would I do the race again? Yes, if I was after a fast, road race, with a lapped route I could power round without worrying about uneven terrain or massive hills.

What would make it better for me?  More clarity on the cutoffs.  It became clear after the race that pressure was being piled on by the owners of the site the course was on.  Being clear upfront that all runners need to be offsite by time X or they’d be locked in all night would make sure there was no ambiguity and no one would look at finish times from previous years and think they would be OK.  Set the mid-race cutoff at 3 hours, people generally get slower in the second half of a marathon and it gives them more leeway to make the final cutoff without having to run a huge negative split.  Finally, have a sweeper, set them loose after the mid-race cutoff and give the slower runners more warning that they might be pulled.  By making it clear that if you drop behind the pacer and haven’t caught up by the end of the lap then you are out would mean you don’t find yourself right up against the wire with the finish in sight but the hope of a medal has gone.

All in all it was a nice day out with friends (too many to mention as someone will only get offended), and marathon 19 in the bag (by the skin of my teeth)!

Click me for Garmin stats if you can’t see the details below: