Another Ultramarathon Running Blog

2019 Samphire Challenge

Hey everyone, this is my first blog in ages as unfortunately I’ve been out of action through illness and injury for quite some time.

A quick recap of events in recent months started with disappointment at Sparta (read all about it here) and then subsequently being ill for a few weeks afterwards, following which I aggravated my longstanding piriformis issue (which was frankly a pain in the arse.. pun intended) which meant no running for a couple of months before Xmas. It got so bad that I even bought I bike to try and get some exercise! Unfortunately, the weight crept up over the period of layoff (and Xmas) and there’s a stone to lost to get back to my fit running weight.

So the last few months have looked like this Sep-Nov, no running; Dec-Jan, started jogging (but not “training”); Feb, plodded through the “Run Until You Drop” (running a number of miles in the day equal to the day of the month) challenge. The “Run Until You Drop” exercise was definitely challenging in the last couple of weeks with a combination of trying to fit the miles around a working day and injury management (my knees were feeling very stiff and sore towards the end) but I managed to plod through it.. nothing fancy but job done.

Not really ready for the start!

This led me to the first event of the year. I had managed to defer my Arc of Attrition place until next year as I was hardly running at the time and in no shape to attempt that event but also had a pre-booked entry to the Samphire 100, a lapped event taking place at Samphire Hoe in Dover and organised by Traviss Willcox from Saxon, Vikings & Normans running events.

I knew I wasn’t fit enough to run a 100 mile event but thankfully there was a 24 hour challenge taking place at the same time with options to switch to this event which essentially meant that I could cover whatever distance I could and stop when I wanted to.

A view of Samphire Hoe

Whilst, it felt like I was taking the ‘soft’ option to enter a 100 and drop to a 24 hour event, the benefit of this was that I could still participate in the event to some degree. If this had been a choice of running ‘100 or nothing’ then I simply would not have started (and would have lost entry fee and an unused hotel cost) so I did appreciate the flexibility on this occasion which was no real issue for the RD to organise with an event of this format (i.e. out and back within a self contained race environment).

To be honest, even though I didn’t have any pressure on time or distance I wasn’t really emotionally invested in the lead up to the event. I reluctanctly bought some snacks and supplies the day before I travelled, reluctanctly packed my gear and reluctanctly drove down the night before the race in the rain and darkness.

After the usual rubbish nights sleep in a hotel room, I arrived around 7.15am on race day for an 8am start, registered and placed a cooler box of drinks and snacks at the start/finish area ready for the race.

The format of the event was an ‘out and back’ which can be described as a “U” shape. You start heading along a trail parallel to the white cliffs perform a short U turn and then head along the sea wall for a mile before turning and heading back. The navigation was simple, ground conditions good and the weather was good apart from the wind.

Whilst I had fully expected a coastal run to be windy, the wind on the return leg along the sea wall was pretty strong to the extent that after 2-3 hours pretty much 99% of the field (me included) walked that section as the effort to try and run it didn’t really feel worth it.

My running plan was simple, just go and run what I could. I had set myself a goal to try and get to 50 miles and started off at the only pace I’ve run in the last couple of months (10m/m) and followed a group of runners around the course.

Each lap was 3.71 miles and to cover 100 miles meant 27 laps, so I had 14 to complete to get over 50.

The first few laps were fine, the weather (aside from the wind) was ok although you had to be wary of waves splashing over the sea wall and spraying runners if you got too close. I did see one chap get splashed to which he turned round and gave the waves a “V” sign (that’ll tell the power of nature!) which made me chuckle.

After each lap I grabbed a drink and a snack to keep fuelling myself. After 5 laps then I started to walk the section along the sea wall into the wind. I was trying to rationalise this by thinking I was saving my legs or I was expending too much effort for the pace I was running but the truth was I was probably a little bit lazy and wanted a regular walk break.

A view along the sea wall.. breezy!

I covered the marathon distance in about 4.30 which was slow and after this point found it difficult to motivate myself to carry on in all honesty.

I continued with the run/walk effort ticking off the remaining laps I had planned to complete with sporadic conversation with the occasional other runner.

The wind did seem to die down a touch later in the afternoon but I was already set into my run/walk pattern and was too lazy to break out of it.

On my penultimate lap, the RD had arranged for pizza to be delivered to the runners. If I had run a bit quicker then that would have been a perfect place to finish the race. Unfortunately I had one more lap to complete (13 laps at 48.2 miles wasn’t quite enough) and I set out with pizza in hand to trudge through one more lap which I did eventually finishing my planned 14 laps (52 miles) in a slow 9.37.

It’s fair to say I was pretty disappointed with the run. On the positive side, I had completed what I had set out to achieve and this was my first run over a marathon distance in about six months. In addition, my knees felt ok and the piriformis issue whilst still “there” hadn’t caused me much of an issue. So the niggles are starting to settle down but it’s taking a long time.

However, on the downside I was hoping to have run a bit more of the race and the time is 2-2.5 hours slower than I have run for that distance. Motivation wise, I was never really invested in the event (no disrespect intended to the event itself, I just wasn’t in the mood or shape to do it justice) and it was probably a sub-par effort overall. Whilst I had a good mileage month in Feb, I’ve only been able to run slowly (10m/m) and that’s all I could achieve during the run.

Watching out for the waves

Thanks to Traviss, Rachel and all the volunteers for putting on a well organised event. The event was easy to manage with a single central race HQ and straightforward out and back route which meant you were never very far from people/supplies. The only downside was the section of the route along the sea wall was very windy which frankly was a bit of a pain trying to run into this.

Overall, first race back from injury completed but I’m ‘miles’ away from full fitness and much more work to do over the next few months.

6 Responses to “2019 Samphire Challenge”

  1. Steve

    Good to read yout exploits. Perhaps you need to reset your expectations?
    Rather than compare with the past take each event as it comes and treat any run as a tpb…todays personal best opportunity. A cheesy approach and dont forget few people attempt ultras.

  2. Dave Lennon

    Hi Paul – lovely to meet you and run along the canal this morning. Thanks for the advice and encouragement and all the best on your return


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