Autumn 100 report (by the Boy Who Cried Wolf).
Since picking up a knee injury at the Monarchs Way back in June, I’ve been troubled with that injury for a few months.
Running has been a bit patchy (although I have been running) but I did make a deliberate attempt to keep all my running offline as I just wanted to do my own thing and get fit in my own time. I did foolishly started the T184 at the end of August and bailed out after 80 miles and since then have been trying get fit and prepared for the A100. 3 weeks ago was a big test when I took part in the Rocky Triple (2 Marathons 1 day and a Half Marathon the next) which I managed to complete but the knees were pretty sore (any more than 25 miles and that was the problem). So I went into to the A100 with no plans/no goal and a fair amount of caution.
Reading Joggers at the start.
I’ve done a few training runs with Paul Beechey and Alex Whearity recently and to them this sounded like a familiar story to the Endure 1250 run back in July where I had a decent run so they were convinced I was sandbagging. I had a few excuses, as whilst I have logged a few miles I have not run with any intensity, have been forced to take rest days at times (I know it was that bad), have been carrying 1/2 stone over fighting weight and had no form over the past few months and was in unknown shape… so it may have been only partly true!
Alex Whearity was also taking part in the event was was planning on running with Reading Jogger Wendy Shaw and they were aiming for a sub 18 time and so I elected to hang back, take it cautiously and do my own thing. No pressure, a relaxed run, let’s see how it goes. I didn’t event prepare an excel spreadsheet with splits and times.. shocking I know.
As a side note, despite the Reading Joggers being a pretty small, sociable running club we do have a small core of good Ultra runners including Paul Beechey, Barry Miller (both resting from Sparta today), Alex, Wendy and myself as the ‘Ben Kenobi’ wizened old man of the team although Alex and Paul like to call the ‘The King’…. not through any form of flattery but as “The King” (of Junk Miles) which is probably more appropriate.
There was one little fun aspect of the race in that Nici Griffin (current owner of ‘The Hat’, long story but I lost it, found it and then gambled it away) had offered it back if I could run a PB time (current PB was 18.44 at the TP100 this year). We kept this largely to ourselves having done the public bet a couple of years ago and so a nice bit of extra motivation.
Photo by Super Stuart March
Leg 1 – Goring to Days Lock (and back)
The weather was ok at the start and I elected to run with a 1/2 zip running top and 1/2 zip mid layer but with sleeves pulled up to keep myself cool but after running the first few miles I did feel warm so adjusted the tops to give myself a bit more air. The field set off quite quickly with about 50 runners heading off infront of me. My observation here is that some people went off far too quickly. I had a plan of nothing faster than 8.30m/m for the first leg which I pretty much stuck to.
I had a chat with Jay McDonald on the first leg out but we drifted apart at some stage. I was pretty surprised to see Mark Denby hurtling back towards me when I reached the 10 mile point (which meant he had run at least 14 miles). Mark eventually run a 14hr something time to take the overall win and course record (sorry James) with an incredible performance. I recall running this event in 2014 where Mark was a place ahead of me with an 18hr something time. So he has improved his time by 4 hours in 2 years, so hat’s off to Mark for a super run.I made a minor mistake after entering the field in Shillingford where the route I have run in the past went straight on but I missed the X sign on the cross directing us a little to the left (and maybe one or two who followed me.. apologies) so I made a wide loop of the field to make up the few yards I missed so I could continue to enjoy a ‘guilt free’ run.
Wendy and Alex passed me not too far from the turn point and gave me a wave and I reached the turn point, grabbed a sandwich and headed back straight away. It was getting pretty warm on the return leg although running conditions were almost perfect overall so no complaints about the weather or footing at all.
I stopped to use the facilities at Benson on the way back and ran all of the leg and arrived back at Goring in 3.32 in 27th place have moved a little way through the field on the first leg.
Grin and bear it! Photo by Stuart March
Leg 2 – Goring to Swyncombe (and back)
I ran this leg by myself and took it easy on the way out as we headed through South Stoke and North Stoke. I caught up with Wendy and Alex as we saw Tom Sawyer struggling with a bad back and checked he was ok briefly (he was ok to get to the Aid Station) before continuing on. I drifted ahead of Wendy and Alex and ran this leg largely by myself through the lovely Grims Ditch section. There were a couple of points I hiked briefly but I was pleased that I ran most of the upwards leg (more than I had done last time).
Stuart March had positioned himself in the dipping/ploughed fields before the turn and I had to make sure I ran this bit to save a bit of pride and avoid any photos of me walking this section.
I arrived at the turn, didn’t tarry too long and headed back, hiked up the hill and then started running back. This return section was probably my quickest and at times I ran some of these sections quite strongly (the Grims Ditch bit is great). I had overtaken a few people and arrived at the 50 mile point with Jez Isaacs. The Centurion Live Timings had me in 6th place at the 50 mile point in 7.20 which was only 10 mins off my 50 mile PB. I was also feeling pretty good, had some energy to run the second half and I cheekily whispered to Nici Griffin that “the hat is coming back today”. This was more for my own motivation as I couldn’t have a disastrous second half after a comment like that! I did spend a few minutes here to put some Rocktape over a potential hotspot, change socks and wolf down some tea, fruit and biscuits but left the Aid Station running.
Photo by Stuart March
Leg 3 – Goring to Chain Hill (and back)
I had hoped to get out onto leg 3 in the light and managed that with an estimated hour or so before I needed to the headtorch. It did start to rain, not too heavily but enough for me to pause and swap my midlayer for a rain jacket as I didn’t want to go into the night with a wet and cold upper torso. Leg 3 was always going to be the make or break leg for me. If I could run a half decent leg, I could manage a PB here. I’m not sure what it was but I ran a good leg and tried to run a lot of the ascents and keep the odd hike to a minimum. I arrived at Chain Hill (62.5m) in 9.33 (shout out to Ken Hughes and Barry Miller who were manning the Aid Stations around here). I had a quick cup of tea and rammed down a few more biscuits and then trotted back.
I’ve commented on this before but I like the out and backs and passing the other runners. It had got dark at the 58ish mile Aid Station which exceeded my expectations so I had my head torch switched on for the way back and offered a ‘well done’ to the runners I passed. Unfortunately, as it was dark I didn’t recognise many runners aside from Russell Tullet who was on course to finish a 100 miler after an injury hit few years which was great to see. He looked like he was enjoying the run more than our recce a few weeks earlier! Thanks to those people who gave me a shout out and apologies for not recognising many people.
I arrived back at Goring in just under 12 hours have traded places with a couple of people and was in 7th position at that time. Hold on.. 75 miles in under 12 hours thats around 4 hours per leg? That’s an hour up on where I was 2 years ago.. not sure what’s going on here but let’s see if I can keep this going.
Photo by Stuart March
Leg 4 – Goring to Reading (and back)
Well after 3 great legs I was starting to run out of energy and crammed in some more biscuits before I headed out. I had to make a toilet stop somewhere where I lost a few mins and then found an LED Lenser SE07 head torch on the floor which I picked up and handed in at the Whitchurch Aid Station. I was starting to struggle a bit more and my jog was being punctuated by more marching breaks.
It was noticeably colder down by the river after Whitchurch and you could start to see the white of the evening frost forming but as I was still moving ok I didn’t need to put my midlayer back on (and the emergency base layer was still safely stashed away). I took a pro plus to fight off the sleep demons and for the first time put on the iPod but even my favourite tunes couldn’t get me moving any quicker.
I walked/ran to Reading high-fiving Jess Gray who was just leaving the Aid Station, grabbed another cup of tea and a few biscuits and tarried here for a couple of minutes before heading back. It was around here that my knee started to feel a bit sore and the walk breaks started to become more frequent. Nothing too bad just the usual late race aches but I was definitely running out of energy aswell by now. 3 legs had gone really well so no surprises that I was becoming tired and slower on the 4th.
I ran/walked as best I could but could only really manage the 100 yards run/100 yards walk routine and knew time was slipping away. My Garmin ran out around mile 93 so I didn’t have much of an idea of the time but knew it must be a PB by some margin. I was overtaken by one chap a couple of miles before the end as I was doing the run/walking but nothing much I could do so as I was moving as best I could.
Despite a bit of a slog on the last leg, I arrived at the finish to find out that I was in 8th place and had finished in 17.04. A personal best by 1hr 40mins. How the hell did that happen? It seems a little churlish to feel disappointed to miss the Sparta auto-qualifier by 16 mins with a big shiny new PB but we’re never satisfied as runners and I know the last leg was where I lost the time.
Nici put on her look of mock disgust that I earned the Hat back (it will never die.. will it?) but did make the observation that she should take it more often with improvements like that! Thanks for being a good sport again Nici.
No comment from Nici.
Well done to all the runners who took part and thanks to the Centurion Army for another well organised, well supported event. I should add that there was a strong female presence with Susie Chesher running the fastest female 100 mile time at a Centurion event and finishing 2nd overall, Jess Gray running sub 17 hours and Cat Simpson and Wendy all looking strong and all 4 finishing in the Top 12/13 with well paced efforts. Wendy finished together with Alex in the end both achieving their sub 18 targets so a good day all round.
The finish time of 17.04 represents a 10% improvement in my Personal Best time for the distance (Previous PB was 18.44 at the TP100 earlier this year) which is a big gain and the question is what did I do differently from other events of a similar distance.I am going to list what I did differently below and leave it for people to decide which they feel was the biggest benefit.
- (I hope Mike Julien thanks for me for this!) but I used Tailwind for the first time during a race. I had bought a couple sample packs previously and have started to try it out during long training runs. During the race I carried 2 x 500ml bottles with Tailwind and replenished my supplies after each leg. I did not rely exclusively on Tailwind but also ate real food during the race and did have other drinks at Aid Stations (Coke and Milkshake). However, I can honestly say that I felt like I had more energy to run than I have done at previous races (well.. up until the last leg). So using Tailwind to supplement my hydration and nutrition is something I will continue with. As a side note I used the ‘tasteless flavour’ (is that an oxymoron?). However, there is some taste to it which you have to get used to.
- I completed more long runs. Since the knee injury at the Monarchs Way I had been struggling to complete long runs as the knees wouldn’t take the stress and did a lot of shorter runs. It has only been in the last 6 weeks that I managed to put regular long runs together and I had alternated between 1 long run and 2 long runs (20-25m) per week.
- I had a rest day once a week. This was largely down to the fact that I needed to rest my knees at least once a week but the rest may have helped.
- I had a more relaxed attitude going into the race and paced the race better (i.e. went from 27th after 25 miles down to 8th overall at the finish) and made a particular effort not to go off too fast.
- Obviously ‘The Hat’ motivation was a factor.
So at long last you get to read a race report where I say I was pretty satisfied with the result. Not to say there aren’t areas for improvement (i.e. the last leg) but it was definitely a good day/night and I have no complaints at all. If I had been offered that finish time at the start, I would have bitten your arm off.
Edit: A couple of things I have forgotten to mention. Firstly, I have started to have a massage on my legs on a semi-regular basis thanks to my friend Matt who is training to be a Sports Physio and he needed a volunteer to practice on. Secondly, thank you to Adrian who was crewing Wendy and Alex but kindly took a bag of drinks and snacks for me and who I saw periodically at the crew meeting points and grabbed the odd extra snack or drink.