Race Start

After the annual death march at the GUCR (and then a weeks recovery on holiday with family in NYC) it was time to get some actual training under the belt. The piriformis had been feeling a lot better since the acupuncture at the start of May and I felt comfortable enough to put a little more effort into the running in June. I felt as if I had started to turn a corner with the running but not quite as fit and strong as I have felt in the past so still more work to do.

Having felt ‘busy’ at work and wanting to blow out the cobwebs I was feeling like I needed to get an event under my belt. I was conscious of a lack of long runs recently and decided upon a last minute entry into Challenge Runnings Essex 100/50/30. I entered the 100 mile race with the rules of the race allowing you to drop down to the 50 mile or 30 mile distance so I had all the options covered. Realistically, I was probably 50/50 on running either the 100 mile or the 50 mile.

I didn’t really tell anyone (except the real wife.. just in case she was wondering where I was disappearing to over the weekend) I was taking part, I just wanted a low-key training run without any fuss. Obviously my plan was blown when Lindley posted a picture of me on the start line (see above) which was pretty quickly spotted by Alex W (good spot!) and a text duly arrived on my phone.. are you running today… you didn’t tell me?

I had run the same race last year and was familiar with the out and back format of 4, 6 or 12 laps depending on the distance ran. Lindley had kindly taken onboard the feedback last year and had tweaked the start position to ensure the 100 was much closer to 100 miles rather than 103 miles previously so a good potential 100 mile PB option with minimal navigation, limited kit requirements due to the out and back nature and regular checkpoints every 4.x miles.. not that I was in any shape at present I just wanted to finish a race feeling ok about it and not death-marching it in.. (violins can be put away now).

I bumped into Ian Thomas at the start and we began the racer together. A quick breakdown of the race is as follows:

Lap 1: (Shorter lap). I ran out with Ian T who told me he wanted to pace this evenly at 9.15s from the start…. and then ran 8 – 8.15s for the first lap.

Lap 2: Still running with Ian but as we set out for the start of the second lap I could feel like a I needed a ‘sit down’ very soon. I tried to take my mind off it with some conversation with Ian but every time he said something all I could think about was I really needed the toilet. With a proper toilet at the checkpoint and limited options on the track path due to various members of the public it was literally squeaky bum time but I managed to reach the checkpoint in time and a crisis was averted.

Lap 3: After some relief, I set out on the third lap. My back and piriformis weren’t quite feeling 100% but I soldiered on. I thought about the recent Sparta training day and tried to practice some good running form by thinking about my running style and focussing on different element of this. I ran this leg by myself as Ian was ahead of me after toilet-gate. The weather had been pretty good so far, warm but slightly overcast but perhaps a little humid.

Lap 4: Probably my most uncomfortable lap. I was still chugging along but my right quad felt pretty sore and stopped to do a few Morton stretches before plodding on. I had a brief thought about dropping at the 30 (actually about 33-34 miles) but dismissed this quite quickly as I was here for 50 minimum and would have been disappointed with less than that.

Lap 5: I caught up with Ian T who wasn’t feeling too good (a bit of dry retching after his red bull didn’t agree with him). I walked with Ian for a short section to check he was ok (he was fine) and then plodded on. After lap 5 I stopped and faffed a bit of the checkpoint (thanks to Ellen Cottom for providing some assistance). My shoes weren’t giving me much cushioning at all and I decided to change trainers.. and then my socks as well while I was at it (checking shoe mileage post race and I’ve run 850 miles in them so that’s the signal to replace them). I then demolished some fruit jellies and an ice cold coke before heading out.. wasting about 10-15mins here.

Lap 6: After the pitstop I managed to get going again, mentally I was feeling ok but with a few little niggles I had decided to run one more lap and just complete the 50 mile race, banking the mileage as a training run when I was still running ok’ish rather than potentially slowing (death-march) the second half of the race if things got worse. With the comfort of this being my last lap I trotted there and back and thanked all the volunteers on the way. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you know you’re near the end.

With The Bearded One..

I arrived back at the finish in just over 8 hours, so nothing to really write home about at all but that did include quite a bit of time at the aid station (about 25-30 mins) which on a 50 miler is much more than I would do normally. However, I was happy to bank my first long run for several weeks and whilst there’s a few areas to work on, the planned run served its purpose by highlighting these areas. Having ‘only’ run the 50, I should be able to pick up the training reasonably quickly after a few days rest.

The rules of the race meant that if you drop down the distance then you do not place at all (as other competitors would be at a disadvantage by not knowing who they were racing) so it was just a finish time and a medal for me at the end. Ian T also decided to take the 50 mile option aswell and finished at this point on the day and we had a few slices of pizza and a chat with Sam Kilpatrick at the end.

Pictured with Ian Thomas

Well done to all the race winners and finishers and of course thanks to Lindley, Maxine and all the Challenge Running volunteers for hosting and supporting the race, it was a fairly enjoyable day overall.

The drive home was actually a little uncomfortable on the back and piriformis so while I think my running has improved a step in the last month, I have let the rehab (and diet) slip and this was evident from the niggles I felt. So I need to redouble the effort in these areas. There’s nothing like running an event to highlight a few home truths about your fitness and it’s basically down to me to work on these areas. It still feels like there’s a long way to go until I feel fit and strong but hopefully I will get there in time for Sparta.. getting older sucks 😉

Details of Challenge Running events can be found here