Centurion

Thames Path 100 – April 2016

For some reason, I’ve delayed writing this report.  Usually I try to get it all out of my brain within a week, but it’s now about 2 weeks after the race, and although I’ve been busy (my eldest’s GCSE’s are imminent) I’m not really sure why I’ve not been too keen to sit and write for hours on end.

I suspect, being really honest, that I’m not sure what my motivation was for doing the race…it started initially that I would accompany two members of my running club around their first 100 miler.  As it turned out, one  was injured and the other trained so hard that he probably could have carried me around on his back.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself….

Take yourself back to June 2015,  the end of the Thames Ring 250,  (well, the point at which I ended anyway, rather than the official end which was about another 80 miles or so further on.)  I was pretty buggered at the end, and decided that 2016 would be a much more sociable running year, rather than going for these massive races on my own.  Hence, when a couple of friends suggested how much they would like to complete a 100 mile race, it seemed a good way to still run a lot, but in company!

Both runners, Pam and John, were accomplished runners, having completed 50 miles before, so the step up to 100 miles wasn’t too ambitious (in my misguided eyes).  Plus, all three of us cover the “running spectrum” if I can call it that…

John is the (slightly geeky) Labrador puppy of running (I think I’ve said that before!)  He is 10 years younger than me (see…there’s my excuse out already!) and has only been running for 2 or three years, but has embraced, it showing his huge enthusiasm & talent.  With a marathon PB of about 3.20, he is a superb runner and after an initial taste of ultras at a local 50 miler, he has realised that days of running slowly, eating constantly, is far more fun that running quickly.

Pam is the classic, slightly older lady (am I allowed to say that?) that suddenly realises she can run and run and run, and when everyone around her is slowing down she can maintain the same steady pace.  She doesn’t believe it but she has some awesome endurance (as I believe more mature women generally have) but she has to battle with her head telling her silly things while she is running (i.e. that she is going to miss the next cut-off, or she is too tired to finish).

And me?  Somewhere in the middle I guess.  I can run a bit, eat a lot, then run a bit more slowly, and carry on to the end.  I don’t have Pam’s endurance, or Johns legs…but I’m pretty stubborn and I don’t like to stop.

The three of us have been working towards TP100 since about last September, and have run together a lot .  It’s good fun, running with other people, having spent the last few years generally running on my own.  A couple from the running club had agreed to crew us (Mark and Sharon are wonderful wonderful people, but quite mad) which would make the logistics of getting to & from the race much easier, as well as giving us much-needed TLC during it.

John trained unbelievably hard for the race, and stuck to his training plan rigidly.  This meant lots of back-to-back runs on Saturday and Sunday, usually over 20 miles each.  Often this meant him getting up at 4am on Saturday so he could get his run done early, and then posting all about it on Facebook so the rest of us mortals could read about his impressive exploits over breakfast.  It was truly inspiring and massively annoying.  This is a picture of his training plan, which I think he was following since November.

 

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This is his training plan, in miles…..madness!

 

 

The three of us did the Thames Trot 50 mile race in February (see the race report HERE), and did a long night run together, to prepare them for the 2am “it’ll never get light again” moment.  This consisted of setting off at about 10pm, running 40 miles through the night, with the aim of meeting our running club’s Sunday morning run, and doing the last ten miles with them.  Pam and I had completed a smaller version of this about a month before, starting at 3.30am, and that had gone well, so I didn’t expect any problems with extending the distance.  Unfortunately, on the longer night run, Pam ran with us for the first 44 miles, but realised at that point she was hurting far more than she should.  To her credit, she was still running, and somehow holding it together, but when we stopped to join the club run, she quite rightly took the decision to stop and it turned out she was nurturing a couple of small but very painful injuries that the night run had made much worse.  Her physio was prescribing some proper rest, so unfortunately she was out of the TP100.  I’m thankful to say she is recovering, and has another 100 miler booked for the summer, which she will complete!!

This put me in a bit of a quandary.  My TP100 race plan had been to accompany Pam the whole way, not really worrying about my race, but making sure that Pam finished within the cut-off.  Now, without Pam, I had no excuse not to push for a decent time (apart from a lack of training) and it seemed rude not to take advantage of having a crew by running with as little kit as possible.

So, against my better ‘slow is nice’ judgement, I decided to push hard for the first half, aiming to get to the aid station at mile 51 in about nine and a half hours, and then seeing how much pace I could maintain for the second half.  To recap about the previous year, I completed the race in about 22.5 hours, with massive blisters (where my shoes magically developed some rips in the fabric, which meant I had two 30 minute stops at miles 51 and 85 to try to repair my feet)) and carrying everything I expected to need in the TR250 – i.e. I would only use the aid stations for water, I was carrying everything else (clothes, food, medical supplies, flasks for hot food, kitchen sink, you name it, I carried it).  The race report is HERE, but don’t read it as it wasn’t nice or pretty.

This year would be different, I decided.  I would glide like a fairy over the ground, with literally no kit other than the mandatory kit that the very excellent Centurion Running insist upon, and not suffer blisters or 30 minute stops.  I would finish gracefully, under 22 hours, smiling, and smoking a slim Panatella cigar.

So, let’s get to the day itself (but well done for reading this far, you definitely deserve a star).

We set off from the deepest corner of Kent at about 6.30am, just about managing  to fit all of my crap in the boot…although I wasn’t carrying it with me this time, I was making sure it was with the support crew if I needed it.  John was clearly a little nervous in the car, I was slightly more relaxed (and tired) so managed a bit of sleep on the way.  Mark and Sharon expertly dropped us at the start and zoomed off to park the car, while John and I got registered.  At the time (about 8.30am) reception was nice and clear, with just a few people making their nests in the corridors.  Kit check and the various paperwork bits went smoothly, John being particularly taken with the tattooed and pierced young lady that gave him his number.

With that quickly out of the way (why can’t every race HQ be as organised as Centurion??) we dipped out and headed to McDonald’s for some slimy porridge for John.  I’ve seen more appetising frog-spawn, but he ate the lot.

Then back to the car, to get changed and organise our kit.  It was great to have a bit of time to do this away from the hubbub of the race HQ, and although the parking cost Mark £6, as he kept mentioning for some reason, it was money (sort-of) well spent.  John and I talked Mark & Sharon through the kit that we would be leaving in the car, and it felt pretty organised really.  I should say that our team was named “Team Lucky Gonk” by Mark & Sharon and there were notices of this in the car windows….but as I refused to use the name (very 80’s, I thought) that’s the last you’ll hear of it.20160430_084002

So, we’re back at the start, standing in what appeared to be blue sky and decent sunshine, after months of crap weather.  The weather forecast had predicted rain showers, but that was changing daily as the race neared.  The only consistent thing was the prediction of a cold cold night.  It turned out to be truer than I expected!!

The sign of an organised person, I sometimes think, isn’t that nothing goes wrong…but that when something does (inevitably) go wrong, it can be dealt with calmly.  Thus, when I switched my garmin on and the battery was flat, I didn’t waste time fretting and gnashing my teeth, but simply, took the battery pack I’d packed for the halfway point to recharge my watch (to make sure it lasted the full 100 miles) and started charging before I’d even began running.  Without question, the best thing about the Garmin 310xt, is the ability to charge it ‘on the go’ so it still records data while charging.  Thus, within about an hour or two of the race starting I was back up to about 90% charge, and still had all the splits of my impressive (not) first few miles.

At the start there was a few nervous looking people around, and a lot more spectators than I remember from last year.  There was the usual massive variety of packs being worn, from the absurdly large to the impossible tiny.  This year, however, I was wearing the string bikini of rucksacks, rather than the full length fur coat that I normally carry around with me (yes, OK, my metaphors are slightly mixed, but it makes sense to me!).  One guy had a pair of really thick gloves (think Arctic here!) on the outside webbing of his pack, he was clearly expecting some cold weather!!

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Me, Sharon and Mark, and John….team Lucky Gonk

There was a bit of pre-race instructions, and then we were off.  As always, a slight sense of the surreal, to think that we would now be running for the next 24 hours (or thereabouts), but the sun was out, the river was calm, and there was a lovely sense of community with a few hundred people setting off on an adventure.

John, Mark, Sharon and I had met the previous week to discuss arrangements and timings of the race, and what the support crew would need to do and when.  As John was going to be steaming ahead on his magic legs, we planned his first 25-odd miles at about 10 minutes per mile, which is a really steady pace for the start of a 100 mile run.  My pace was going to be rather more sedate later on, but I fancied I could keep up with him for the first marathon if I was lucky.

As it turned out, after the first couple of slow miles while the runners thinned out a bit, John and I kept up a pretty consistent 9.30 minutes per mile for the first 26.  John was running easily, but was worried this was too fast for the start.  I was thinking the same but felt good and was enjoying chatting to John and sharing in his adventure of his first ‘proper’ ultra.  We had a bit to eat and a short walk at about mile 12, but it was a lovely day and life was good.

Mark and Sharon met us at mile 25, and I think they fed John, but I was feeling good so didn’t want anything at that stage.  We passed the first marathon in about 4 hours 12 mins, which felt great and comfortable.  Now the challenge was to complete the next marathon in about 4.5- 5 hours!

Shortly after this point, John entered what shall be known as his “I’ve-run-30-miles-I-need-a-poo” stage.  It turns out that John, masterful and speedy runner, generally (always) needs a poo after about 30 miles of running.  On the drive home, where he admitted this character trait to us all, he explained that it had become a regular thing with long runs.  Now, I hear you say, that’s fine, everyone needs the toilet occasionally, and it is fine.  Obviously, though, it is useful to be aware of this and plan where you are soon going to be at an aid-station with a toilet.  It’s not so good to be needing the toilet rather urgently, with an aid-station a mile or two ahead, and lots of runners following along behind.

Did I mention the laminate I lovingly created for John??  Being the slightly-anal obsessive that I can be, I’d made us both a little credit card sized laminate that showed where we were meeting the crew and where the aid stations were.  Naturally, John turned to me after about mile 1 and said he’d dropped his – d’oh!  I, luckily, am not quite so butter-fingered as him, so I was able to tell him that I wasn’t sure that the next aid station at mile 30.5 had a toilet (in fact it did, but no-ones perfect!)  So John had to make a quick exit from the route to a nearby clump of sizeable trees and bushes, to help the local ecosystem with some much-needed fertiliser.

Why am I telling you this?  Two reasons.  The first, most obviously, is that I can embarrass John by recording forever  on the interweb his misfortune on having an enforced ‘al fresco’ poo.  Not a great reason, to be fair, as I have a similar problem far too frequently.

The second reason, however, is far far more important.  You see, the first point of the race that our times would be recorded was at this forth-coming aid-station, and hence which ever of us that got there first would record the faster time for this beginning stretch.  Anyone tracking us (I’m imagining a proportion of our running club) would realise that I had got there first, and that I was clearly not the slightly-old pedestrian that I feel sometimes.  So, with that in mind, I watched John go off to relieve himself and pushed on to record the fastest time over 30.5 miles of the two of us.

Bob – 5 hours 01 min 41 seconds (71st place of 295 starters)

John – 5 hours 02 min  55 seconds (74th Position)

There you have it.  Facebook must have been ablaze with the toxic shock of Bob beating John over any distance, even if it was only 1 minute 14 seconds (incidentally, that’s a really really quick poo, John, well done).

John caught me up shortly after, of course, and the natural order of the world was restored.  It was fun for a while though.  Unfortunately, John began to feel a bit nauseous, although he wasn’t sure why.  He manfully struggled through it, knowing we were meeting the support crew at mile 35 which would mean he could get a little rest and something to help with his stomach.  Mark and Sharon were ready, as always, and quickly had him eating some ginger biscuits to try to relieve the symptoms.  I saw he was in good hands, and carried on slowly.  I was feeling surprisingly good at this stage, although I was starting to tire and John (although feeling slightly rough) was running much more smoothly at this stage.

It was strange to be running on my own, but I quickly got chatting to some of the other runners around me and kept going.  I was not eating enough at this stage, which was pretty daft looking back, but I simply didn’t feel I needed it.  The weather was still blue sky and sunny, and really quite warm, but following my experience at the Thames Ring (where I drank lots of water but wasn’t able to absorb it, so basically had a sack of water sloshing around inside me) I was taking fairly small sips of water about every 10 minutes.

I remember approaching an ice cream van at some point, and as I ran towards it I thought how nice it would be to stop and have a nice cool ice cream.  Bizarrely, about 2 feet beyond the ice cream van, a wind appeared from nowhere and blasted me with cold air and rain for just a couple of minutes, before completely disappearing and blue sky appearing once again.  It was the oddest thing.

By the time I’d got to mile 46, I was suffering for my earlier pace.  My 10minute running, 2 minute walking regime had deteriorated to more of a 5/2, and then to a run 100 steps, walk 100 steps.  I was still ahead of my expected pace and I could feel that I was gently running out of steam, but to be fair I had pushed a hard pace for a long way and I was only 5 miles short of the aid station that would mean a change of shoes, something hot to eat, and most importantly a sit down.

It was at this point John caught up with me, and showed his huge amount of training and talent by skipping past me and looking very fresh.  He said he was running 2 miles before walking 2 minutes, which was a really sensible plan.  This was the last point I saw him, and he looked very strong.

A rather slow few miles later I got to the 51 mile aid station, where Sharon had some hot noodles for me and Mark helped change my shoes and socks.  I decided not to wear my waterproof socks for the second half of the race, as I clearly had not needed to wear them for the first half, and my feet had been absolutely sweltering in them, with my normal two pairs of socks underneath. (Yes yes, I know, three pairs of socks is a little excessive, but in my defence I’ve never had any problems with my feet, and it works for me!)

I didn’t stick around long here, as the support crew had everything organised so well.  I left in a bit of a hurry, with a cup full of noodles, clean shoes and socks, and a bit of energy.  It was now about 7.30 pm, and although it was still an hour or so before it would get dark, the night was looming ahead of me as a long hard stretch.

Mile 51 aid station arrival:

John –  9 hours 06 mins 55 seconds

Bob – 9 hours 23 mins 28 seconds

It was from here that the miles all seemed to blend together.  Usually I make an effort to remember how I feel at various times, but perhaps because I was tired or because I wasn’t properly motivated, I was simply trying to eat up the miles and not think too much.  I remember vividly getting to one aid station where I’d also arranged to meet the crew, and Sharon had walked out to meet me (which was lovely) and all I could do was tell her how shit this was, and I didn’t know why I did it to myself.  I’ve definitely gone through rough patches before (in every race, like everyone else) but I really meant it that time!

I remember running through endless fields, and getting rained / hailed / snowed (??) by very short sharp showers.  It was the oddest thing, as by the third time it happened I knew it was going to pass quickly, and didn’t bother trying to cover up.  I’ve never known weather like it (or perhaps I’ve just never been outside for it!).

As it was getting dark, I got chatting to the first of a few memorable people, that made the run much more fun for me.  I was chatting with him (no, I didn’t find out his name) and I was mentioning that I’d run this route on the Thames Trot earlier in the year, and it was a massive mud-fest…absolutely horrible.  He said that he’d done the race too, and from what I’d said he guessed that he’d read my blog on it…yes, it’s true, he was someone who had read one of these race reports that I churn out (for my amusement) and I was momentarily flummoxed by that.  I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that’s read my rather sad running blog that I didn’t know before.  (Note to readers, this could be you next time!  If you are ever running anywhere and come across a particularly average runner, check they are not me…if it’s me, you will get your own very special mention!  Try to tell me your name though, that will help.)  I chatted with nameless runner for (I think) quite a while, and it rather helped pass the time as he’d done some of the same races I had.

As it got darker and darker, I could feel the temperature dropping steadily.  I had a thick running top on, as well as my normal thin one that I’d been wearing all day and my running waterproof, that usually keeps me very warm indeed.  I had a warm beanie hat and gloves and was moving briskly (which normally means that I’m far too hot), so I  was ready for cold temperatures.  I just wasn’t ready for really cold temperatures.

Some miles later I’d put on some running tights that I’d thankfully given the crew ‘just in case of emergency’, and they helped keep my legs warmer, but I could still feel pretty much every extremity (hands, feet, lips) getting really cold.  I’ve done (I think) at least 9 or 10 runs through the night, both in races and training, and I have never got that cold, thankfully.  I was drinking warm tea at every possible opportunity, although I wasn’t eating enough (still).  It got to the point in the early hours of the morning I simply got anything else I’d brought – a pair of waterproof trousers – and put them on, and ended up wearing thick socks on my hands as my gloves weren’t coping and my hands kept going numb.  I don’t think I’d have coped without Mark and Sharon meeting me every few miles and giving me access to all my spare clothing.

I hit somewhere about mile 71 aid station after 14.5 hours.  It was about half-past midnight and I was realising that it was going to be a long cold night.  John had gone through this point about an hour ahead, and was going well (so Mark and Sharon said).  Mark was going to run with him from mile 77, to give him a strong push for the last 20 miles or so, which was great.  Sharon was going to have the unenviable task of trying to get forwards and backwards to look after both runners, which she did amazingly well.

Sometime in the early hours (it was all a bit of a blur by then) I met an American who was flying back to Houston at 4pm that afternoon.  It made for amusing conversation to hear his thoughts on the race at that stage, but he couldn’t slow down or he’d miss his flight.  The terrain had gone from hard trail, with numerous trip-hazard tree roots, to the occasional impassable mud bath, and I took a proper tumble in one of them…a full ‘both-feet-immersed-in liquefied-mud-and sitting-in-it-too’, that prompted most people that I chatted to, to comment on why I was covered in mud.

I remember the aid station at mile 77, where there was a guy wrapped up in a sleeping bag in front of a gas fire, clearly very cold indeed.  It really brought it home how lucky I was to have so much clothing and a crew looking after me.

At about 3am, I teamed up with a lady that I chatted to for hours (but naturally, never got her name).  Her husband had already finished (I think he came second male, in an amazing 17 hours) and so he was tucked up in bed, nice and warm, while she was still out in the freezing cold, slogging away.  I won’t deny that she was feeling a bit pissed off at life in general, but we kept each other amused for a few hours, talking about anything and everything (from kids, to the American  elections, to life in general).

At about 4am, we climbed a hill, away from the river, to get to an aid station (at about mile 85), cold, tired, pissed off, remarking that there was still no light in the sky or birds starting to sing, which usually suggest that dawn is coming.  Once inside the light, warm hall, Sharon fussed around me, bless her, and I got yet another cup of tea.  She scolded me to eat and I tried (and failed) to get something down me.  The aid station was warm and light though, and there were clearly a few runners suffering in there.

We left that aid station a couple of minutes later, my nameless lady and I, and as we came down the same hill, to the Thames Path, we could both feel the cold pressing down on us with every step.  On the rather more positive side, we both remarked that we could hear the birds singing (which we’d missed 10 minutes previously apparently) and that meant dawn was not far away.

The river and fields were covered in a thick fog, and our torches were only penetrating about 3 feet in front.  All you could do was keep your eyes on the rough ground ahead and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  It was a long night.

As the sun came up, the fog lifted slightly and showed the most picturesque landscape, covered with mist and glistening with dew.  Naturally I was far to grumpy to take a picture, but it was lovely.  The sun rose, as it always does, and everything looked much more positive in the light of the new day.

My companion’s sister and brother-in-law walked out to meet her at about 5.30am, which I thought was great, and I sadly had to leave her behind as the new light and finish line beckoned.  I got to the aid station at mile 91 at about 6am, and met up with Sharon for the last time.  She had done an amazing job keeping up with John and I, and had kept positive and cheerful throughout what must have been a long, cold and boring night.  Mark had run with John as planned, and clearly the crew had been indispensable throughout!  John was still doing well, although had got a little lost at one point and had lost about 30 minutes.  He was running well.

I’d like to say I also galloped the last 9 miles to finish before 8am, which would have brought me in under 22 hours, but unfortunately I whimpered to a finish at about 8.12am  Mark (who’d finished with John about 50 minutes before) had run back down the course to meet me, and was a lovely sight to see, and realise it wasn’t far to go.  I managed a run for the last few hundred yards, over a rather pleasant green field and under a finish line inflatable arch.  A couple of pictures (in  which I look surprisingly well) and a buckle, and then it was time to roll in the grass like a dog.  If you ever want to relieve your stiff achy body, perhaps after a long aeroplane trip or a 100 mile run, just roll around in the grass.  Dogs know what they’re doing.

John had finished in 21 hours 21 mins (54th), and was sitting in a chair looking pleased with himself.  I’d finished in 22 hours 12 mins (71st place), and was rolling and stretching in the grass.  I think that sums us both up.

We didn’t hang around (apart from having some excellent chilli), I think all of us were tired and wanted to get home as quickly as possible.  The journey home was very memorable (see the note above about Johns poo-ing habits) and then we were home and it was all over!

So, thoughts….

Massive thanks to Sharon and Mark for the support.  They were simply awesome, and had anything and everything we wanted and needed before we asked.  A master-class in how to support runners.  Thanks guys.

John, what  a runner!  21 hours 21 mins for his first 100 miler…which surely means he can break 21 hours in the next one if he doesn’t get lost (like a plonker).  Then what is he capable of!

Me?  Hmm, it wasn’t my favourite run, and I’m pretty sure I’d not have finished if I hadn’t had a crew with extra clothing.  However, I didn’t train with any real purpose for this race (my ‘A’ race is the Lakeland 50 in July) so apart from running a lot, my preparation was pretty poor.  My head was in a funny place as well, not really committed to the level of suffering that would be needed, as I’d done the race before and there wasn’t any real challenge for me.  Note to self, my motivation comes from the variety of races I do, and from the not knowing what to expect in a new race.  When I’ve done it before it all seems a bit boring & hard work.

Massive thanks to all the volunteers and the organisers.  Centurion are definitely the premier race organisers for ‘safe’ 100 mile runs.  The aid stations were well stocked and frequent.  I really cannot fault them at all.

And what else?  Well 207 people finished out of 295 that started, about a 70% finish rate.  But an awful lot of people dropped during the night, as I’d expect.  If anyone reading this was in that situation, don’t beat yourself up over it…it was a tough tough night.

And what now?  Well, as I said, a race in the Lake District in July…and then maybe something later in the year.  John has discovered that no-one has set a speed record for completing the North Downs Way, 150 miles of hills, so he thinks it would be great to do that!!  I’m not so sure.

Sometimes I think we’re all mad.

 

 

 

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Winter 100 Race Report

 

 

Disclaimer – I’m a very average runner (hence the name of the blog)…this is not the exciting story of a toned athlete smashing out huge mileage at great speeds, but rather the story of a bloke that ran a bit and tried to eat loads at the same time.

Second disclaimer – Alot of this lengthy race  report was fuelled by red wine, pain killers, and a sarcastic sense of humour, and completed mainly late at night.  I apologise now for the cowpat pictures.

Anyway, here we go….

 After a successful run in the summer, where I went into the 145 mile GUCR well-trained, with an organised crew, on a well-recce’d route, and had a great time…..it seemed time to do a run all by myself, with no crew or help, with a complacent attitude (after all, 100 miles is less than GUCR right?, so easier then…) and see what would happen.

 In fact, this race was really designed as a backup for me, just in case my ‘A’ race, GUCR in the summer, went wrong. I’d heard a lot of good things about how well organised the Centurion runs were (and how much food there was at the aid stations), and as I had an entry ready, it seemed rude not to do it, even though I wasn’t particularly focussed on it.. It was very much a ‘just for fun’ run.

The Winter 100 is 4×25 mile out-and-back spurs (pretty much along each point of the compass) along two trail paths (the Ridgeway and Thames Path) that intersect at Goring-on-Thames, a very posh village in Oxfordshire (how did I know it was posh?…..it doesn’t even have a Tesco’s…that’s how posh). This means you return to HQ every 25 miles, for access to a drop-bag (which is very handy) and there are aid stations at about mile 6 and 12.5 of every spur. Hence you can’t go much beyond 6 miles without an aid station, which is a nice thought on a 100 mile run with most of it in the dark. I would be doing it without a crew, a very strong contrast to my efforts at GUCR, where I had 3 mates follow me down the route like a royal procession, feeding me coffee and Smash at regular intervals, the W100 would be me carrying what I needed, getting myself round, sleeping in the car for a few hours and then driving 2.5 hours home – very ‘au naturel’.

As an example of just how little I trained (and how complacent I was)….my total mileage in the 40 days before GUCR was probably 350 miles and 40 days before W100 was about 100. I’d had a bit of a cold a couple of weeks before which didn’t help – I very seldom get colds etc, and get very frustrated when I’m not feeling good – so on a Sunday morning a few weeks previously I had driven the 2.5 hours to the race HQ, planning on doing the third or fourth spur of 25 miles to help out with the route when the darkness hit, and could only manage about 12 slow miles…not a good start. The last 2 weeks before the race I basically stopped running to try to get my mojo back, and build up some enthusiasm for it again, and luckily on the Wednesday evening I had a lovely 6 mile stretch-of-the-legs that gave me a bit of confidence (i.e. I didn’t have to stop and walk, feeling shattered).

Another fly in the ointment was that rather than having a couple of days afterwards off work, it looked like I was going to be back to it on Monday morning, which as I spend my days on my feet was not going to be pretty. Ah well, can’t be helped.

Friday morning was spent preparing enough food to feed an army….Imagine 7 tins of ravioli split into 2 sandwich bags for each tin, then put into another plastic bag (to prevent spills) and then wrapped up tightly to minimise space. It was a work of art. Add in some coke, biscuits, pepperami, a little Smash, lots of sherbet lemons (ultra-running tip of the day…..it’s very hard to feel crap and grumpy when sucking a sherbet lemon), red bull, coffee sachets, and the list continues. As I’ve said before, I don’t eat while I run, but I run at the same time as doing a lot of eating. It seems to work for me.

Right then, if you’ve persevered this far (well done!), you probably need me to start talking about the event itself.

I got to the HQ quite early, parked in a nearby road, chatting to a fellow runner (hello Ian), and got through the kit check quickly. I’m not sure I saw anyone there without the compulsory kit, but I hate to think what the cost of the ‘buyable’ stuff there was there…if it had been me I’ve had made it all cost at least £100. I then got the chance to stand around for a bit….lots of much more organised people looking like they could go a very long way. Lots of different drop bags (including a guys that had a little suitcase on wheels – bizarre I thought at the time, until I had to drag my bag to the car, not being able to carry it), and a lot of different drop-bag labels. I saw some understated luggage tags, a few stuck on labels, and some truly impressive laminated A4-sized massive personal statements of name & number. It was very “drop-bag-label-intimidating.” There was a great atmosphere in the hall though, and lots of people from Centurion as well as runners and supporters. I have no idea how some peoples tiny rucksacks carried all of the compulsory kit, I had what looked like a 40lb Bergen on my back compared to some.

in the hall

The race briefing was surprisingly useful (and most people seemed to listen too!), I think they said there were 71ish volunteers, which is truly impressive for a race with about 150 runners. I particularly enjoyed the part about being quiet in certain sections of the run, in order not to disturb residents, which conjured up images of hoards of runners galloping along while whooping and screaming at mile 80, instead of the reality of single runners, shuffling along with their heads down, groaning gently with every step (or maybe that’s just me). Anyway, it was nice to be given the warning, and absolutely correct that we should be seen to be a ‘positive’ event to the surrounding residents.

So after the quick briefing, we meandered to the start point, and we nervously watched everyone watching everyone else deciding whether to start with a waterproof jacket or not.

at the start line...

at the start line…

We had been promised ‘heavy rain’ by the forecast, but there were a few hardy souls that were still in their t-shirts, as well as a few (including myself) who felt that having bought a bloody expensive waterproof jacket (with taped seams) I was going to wear it even if it wasn’t raining.

I love the 5 minutes before the running starts, just looking around.   I saw a guy carrying a stuffed toy, saying that he was doing the grand slam and had carried it around all the three previous 100 milers he’d done (to which someone correctly said “Couldn’t you have found a smaller toy to carry”). I saw a foreign looking lady behind me doing some amazing stretches (legs up round her shoulders etc) which looked positively painful, but hopefully helped her. And lots of nervous, but all excited, runners. I couldn’t see anyone that didn’t have an excited glint in their eye.

Without much ado (but there may have been some build-up at the frontthat I missed) we started, and made it about 200 yards before hitting a single file gate…at which everyone formed an orderly queue to get through. I’d like to see that done at the start of a 10k race, with everyone waiting patiently for the person ahead to get through, and no-one climbing over the fence to gain that precious 10 seconds.

muddy!

muddy!

After the gate, we all formed a long long chain of single-file runners squelching through the muddiest part of the whole 100 miles. You couldn’t go quicker than the person in front due to the narrow trail, but felt you had to keep up with them in order not to slow down the person behind, so this meant everyone was fairly packed together, slipping and sliding on the mud. It definitely helped if you had big feet, grippy shoes, and a substantial body weight to drive your feet through the mud to the hard earth underneath. The was a 5ft petite girl ahead of me (number 170 I think) that was struggling as she had none of those three things, but on the positive side it meant I could run this first stretch at a fairly sensible pace. I’m not sure everyone behind me would agree though. To be fair to 170 though, once she got to the road she sped off into the distance, leaving the plodders behind.

 

There was still no rain, and it felt really quite hot & humid. Not, perhaps, quite the Sahara, but certainly not far off the MdS. I got chatting to Ian, a guy I’d met when parking my car, and trotted on in good company for the next few miles.

I got to the first aid station at mile 6, and simply ran through it. There were two (2!) people taking numbers outside and once I’d been tagged it seemed rude to stop, so on I went! I was a little surprised at the amount of people that disappeared inside the hall, not really understanding why, but I would get it later!

I carried on with another group, who all seemed very comfortable. A guy that had done a few Ironman triathlons (Sweden and Austria I think) and another that had done a double ironman, and had started (but DNF’d) a triple. All very impressive. Clearly I was in good company (or completely out of my depth and going too quickly!). Talking about future events, I happened to mention that I’d entered the Thames Ring 250 in 2015. “I’ve entered that” says the double ironman next to me, which is a hell of a coincidence, as there are only about 14 entrants so far (according to Facebook) and I’ve found one running next to me. The guy about 5 paces ahead slows and turns, and says “So have I”….and it turns out that three of us happen to be running along the same patch at the same time. Bizarre. So, Marcus Shepherd and Glyn Rayman, I look forward to running with you next June, and I hope we all finish in one piece…although I doubt it.

We’d already seen the leaders coming towards us looking very focused, and really ‘racing’ as they were all surprisingly close together. As we got nearer the 12.5 mile turn-around point, Paul Ali (and his hat) came steaming towards us at the head of a very strong sub-20 hour train. They must have been about 2-3 miles ahead at that stage so were moving quick!  I saw Paul a few times over the day, and each time he looked awesomly strong (so did his hat).

The 12.5 mile aid station was at the end of a long curving field, that (perhaps it’s just me) could have been cut across to save considerable time, but I’m pleased to say that no-one did. (I hope I’m not the only person that thought of that.)

It was lovely running in lovely surroundings...not sure about the sky though.

It was lovely running in lovely surroundings…not sure about the sky though.

 

The aid station passed in a bit of a blur, and I was pretty much in & out quickly, walking back over the damn curving field while eating a banana that I’d thoughtfully brought with me. As I went along, lots of people were overtaking me & running ahead (including the Thames Ring 250 guys) but I was feeling quite good, enjoying the scenery, and it was probably at that point I thought I wasn’t going to push too hard today, but just enjoy the run.

 

I ran all the way back to the 18 miles by myself, just getting into the groove and getting my head into the right place for the next 20ish hours. I also spent an inordinate amount of time leapfrogging a girl (not literally) that had the same rucksack as me (we’ll call her ‘raidlight girl’) as I never spoke to her, and never got her race number, but we swapped places numerous times over the next 10-12 hours.

At 18 miles, I got to the aid station (the same one as at 6m) and here I WAS HIT BY THE FIRST REVELATION OF THE WHOLE RUN. I wandered inside the hall to get my water bottle filled…and was met by a cheery soul who said “Do you want your water bottle filled?” “Yes” I said, thinking that was very helpful of him, and how did he know? And then I spied the food…I’ve got to tell you, it was a children’s party of a buffet…there was finger food, cocktail sausages, I think (but I may have been hallucinating) a silver-foil covered round thing with cheese & pineapple on sticks, even full-fat coke (rather than cheap Tesco rubbish that has nowhere as much sugar, caffeine & E-numbers). I looked around for a clown and some balloon animals, thinking I’d crashed some other function in the hall, but then I was given my water bottle back so off I went.

 As I ran off, I reflected that I hadn’t just visited the best aid station I’d ever come across, but perhaps a banquet that had been set out for some Olympians (or something). I’ve clearly been doing the wrong events for the last few years, as I’m used to a gel & a plastic cup of lukewarm water. This was something else entirely. This was proper motivation to get to the next one!

Over the next 7 miles, I plodded away gamely, taking it all at a steady pace, becoming slightly aware of a bit of a pain in my ankle, but not getting too fussed about it. I was caught back up by number 170, just as we got to the slippery slidey mud stretch (rather amusingly) so I slowly stamped my way through the quagmire while she slipped & slid around the edges. All good filthy fun.

Before I knew it I was back to the HQ at mile 25. It had taken me 4 hours 31 mins for the first leg, and I was sitting in 68th place (so the live tracking told everyone except me). In the hall I was again offered a positive banquet of buffet bits, and hot stuff too, but I had a plastic bag of lovely stuff in my drop bag which I was re-united with, so pulled some Smash (powered potato stuff made by aliens) out of this, got it in a cup with some water, and set off, stirring it as if it would make it taste better. When I did GUCR I think I managed 7 portions of it (every 6 miles) before getting sick of it. Today I managed about one spoonful before regretting I had ever considered the bland slimy carb-loaded mush for a meal. I forced it down (even the un-dissolved powdery bits) but it was grim. I washed it down with lots of water, pepperami, anything to take the taste away.

By now I was on the Ridgeway, a different trail to the first 25 miles, and perhaps given away by the name, it was a hilly bugger. If I wasn’t going up a hill, I was getting ready to go up a hill. I never actually seemed to go down. It was still quite hot and humid, but pleasant enough. I was still leapfrogging raidlight girl for the first few miles of this leg. The aid station at mile 32 was good (but no children’s party in sight unfortunately) and a particularly cheerful ambulance (with crew) were just outside it, with the door open invitingly. It looked very comfy inside.

I plodded on, with the leaders zooming towards me at about 32 miles. They were all very polite and said hello as they scorched the earth with their pace. I said “Well done” and thought that I hoped they didn’t accidentally trip and hurt themselves, allowing me 4 hours to catch them up.

Smooth cowpat...waiting like a landmine!

Smooth cowpat…waiting like a landmine!

There was, again, some amazing scenery on this stretch (about mile 32 to 37) with lovely trails going through forests and even a golf course that was particularly adrenalin-fuelled as I tried to time my dashes across the various fairways with the golfers not hitting a ball at me. Jolly exciting.  Lots of cowpats too, lying in wait for the unsuspecting runner…good job it wasn’t dark at this stage!

Who'd have thought you could walk and poo at the same time....or perhaps it's a message!

Who’d have thought you could walk and poo at the same time….or perhaps it’s a message!

 

Some of the hills as I approached the 37 mile aid-station turnaround were steep, and although I was running down the hills (and walking up) it was energy sapping. However, the aid station, (naturally, at the top of a hill) was decked out in a Halloween theme, and was well stocked. I don’t know how many aid stations you’ve been to that have stuffed olives as part of their menu, but this was a first for me….and I’m particularly partial to stuffed olives. I‘m not convinced they added a great deal to my energy stores, but they taste better than gels (or Smash, thank god). So, a nibble on some snacks, and I walked back down the hill pulling my first ravioli meal out of my pack. Now, there may be some Neanderthals out there that don’t get the taste sensation of eating cold ravioli out of a plastic bag…but I’m not one of them. It was cold but slightly spicy, with just a hint of juniper, mahogany and penge – and it hit the spot.

 As I was plodding back towards 40 miles, I was seeing a lot of runners coming towards me, looking very tired and as it was getting darker and we weren’t halfway yet, I did start to wonder how many of them would make it to the end. However, that is probably exactly what people that saw me on their return leg thought about me…it’s all relative I guess.

...just getting dark.

…just getting dark.

 I got my head torch & shoulder torch out at about 6.20pm,  it was just getting dark enough that the forest trails with their exposed roots were getting hazardous. My shoulder torch is actually a bike light that sits on my shoulder bathing the surroundings with ambient light everywhere, which is really useful. Even better, I can pretend to be the baddie from Predator, who has a targeting laser-thingy that comes out of his shoulder on command. Or maybe that’s just me.

All the way back to the HQ at 50 miles, which took a while as I was mainly marching by now. I can generally march at a pace better than 15 m/m which although hard work, is less exhausting than running for a bit and then walking slowly for a bit. I love running/marching in the dark, although some of the forresty bits did freak me out a bit with shadows jumping out at me and then disappearing.

 Back at HQ, I changed my shoes and socks. Despite being very muddy, I was chuffed that my new waterproof socks did actually keep my feet free from the outside water, and just a thin base layer sock inside them to soak up the trapped sweat. In fact I changed the base layer sock only once and kept the same waterproof socks on for the whole 100 miles which worked well. I had a couple of sore spots on my feet, but nothing serious, and the rest of my body was holding up well (considering). I’d got to 50 miles in 10 hours 22 mins, so it was about 8.30pm, which is about right for me, and I would find out later that that was in 68th position. I was impressed by how many spectators there were in the HQ, and again the atmosphere was quite lively, with lots of chatter. I was actually quite glad it was just me on my own, as I didn’t have to be polite an talk to people that had waited for hours for me….I could just go when I was ready. And I did.

A long long downhill though a lovely big field....magic.

A long long downhill though a lovely big field….magic.

As I walked away from HQ I had another bag of ravioli (yum yum) with a load of ibuprofen and paracetamol. This was probably the last time my stomach felt OK, as for the rest of the run I was feeling vaguely ‘not right’ but couldn’t work out why not. Maybe a bad ravioli or something.

 

As I was starting the third leg from 50 miles, the leader came galloping towards me, having finished 75 miles. This means he’d done 75 miles in about 10.5 hours….just amazing. And he was running really normally and bloody quickly. Wow. In fact, all the guys that were ahead of me and hence running towards me looked in good spirits, and took the time to say something as they went past, which was really nice. The out-and-back spurs gave a constant flow of people going in one direction or another which meant you never really felt ‘alone’ on the trail – a really good touch.

Anyway, 50 miles to 62.5 was Ridgeway again, which means uphill. And that’s all I remember really.  ‘Nuff said.

As pacers were allowed to join at 50 miles, there were a lot of runners in twos now, and it was easy to tell the pacers as they overtook me or I came up behind them – 1. They were running with some form and the person next to them was flopping along like a dead body – 2. The pacer had clean calf’s whereas the person next to them was covered in mud below the knee. I have a vivid memory of a couple (him pacing; her flopping like a dead body) overtaking me up a hill (it was all bloody hill) and then slowing, and then simply walking up the rest of the hill with their arms around each other like the were out on the town for the evening. I did think about screaming that he wasn’t allowed to push her up the hill like that, but then got caught up in the moment of true love and wanted to get a violin and serenade them.

....unsettled sky.

….unsettled sky.

Somewhere around here I did my biggest navigation error, following the bloke ahead instead of turning right to follow a road round. I was a couple of hundred yards onto the new path when I became aware of a few guys shouting behind me, and realised they were telling me I’d gone wrong. The guy ahead of me was a fair distance ahead and I could see from his head torch that he was moving quite fast. The only reason for telling you this is because it gave me a chance to us my (compulsory kit) whistle that I’d bought specially off eBay (the best £1.99 of my life). In the dark cold night, it sounded very very loud, and got his attention easily, as well as most of the surrounding 200 miles. That was the adrenaline-fuelled exciting car-chase part of the night – blowing my whistle loudly. However, thanks to those guys that corrected the two of us, no idea who you are, but it’s much appreciated.

My stomach was still feeling odd, and I was feeling very thirty but didn’t want to put any more pressure on my stomach by filling it up with liquid. I resorted to sherbet lemons to stop me feeling so thirsty, and also to give me a bit of a sugar push, which worked really well. Sherbet lemons really are the king of sweets. They are just naturally happy things to have in your mouth.

The aid station at 62.5 miles was a rave in the middle of nowhere. Flashing xmas lights, dancing, glo-sticks leading like a runway up to the tent, buffet, and I seem to remember hearing the Prodigy on the stereo. There seemed to be quite a few people sitting here, but I just grabbed my first coffee of the night (ah, bless you caffeine, my good friend), filled my water bottle and set off. I’d intended to eat at this stage, but decided to give it a miss as I wasn’t sure what the consequence would be, however this did mean I was carrying around about 2 tins of ravioli with me everywhere which was becoming heavy as I wasn’t eating it.

Now, logic says that if you’ve just marched 12.5 miles uphill, in the pitch dark, then the next 12.5 miles should be downhill. The course profile shows it should be downhill. I’d decided I would run all the downhill parts, and march the rest, but was slightly confused to find it was all uphill again…or at least that’s what it felt like. If you haven’t guessed I’m not a great fan of hills (or running) so I was starting to get a bit cross when I absolutely could not find the downhills relating to the tough uphills I’d just gone up.

As I marched the last mile into HQ at 75 miles I forced down a bag of ravioli. It was actually still quite tasty, but I was very conscious of the likely effect on my now-rolling stomach. However, it was unrealistic to think I could simply not bother with fuelling, so it was a calculated risk to see if it was going to stay down. And it did, for now.

me, in a field

me, in a field

 I got back to HQ at 75 miles at about 3am, I found out later I was in 51st place, probably due to my consistent pace (slow and then slower) and not really stopping at aid stations other than a water refill. Now it was time for some maths….I had 7 hours to do the last 25 miles to finish under 24 hours. If I maintained 15 m/m then I would be going at 4 mph, which would mean each 12.5 mile leg should be about 3 hours 7 mins, giving me 6 hours 15 mins for the 25 miles. Add in 20 mins for eating, weeing, getting lost etc, I would still be less than 24 hours. Sounds good

The winner actually finished while I was at the aid station, an awesome 15 hours for 100 miles.  Amazing.  And they didn’t bring him in on a stretcher either.

While I was at HQ, I jettisoned most of the food I was carrying, filled up with sherbet lemons, picked up another coffee and got on my way. I liked coming out of the HQ each time and having to ask which way to go, it was like a mystery tour. I’d been told the last leg was all flat (being the Thames Path) so I was looking forward to a nice meander along the river, watching dawn come up over the horizon, hopefully a bit of wildlife (there had been surprisingly little so far).

About a mile in, and I was in trouble. I’d finished about half of the coffee, and thrown the rest away as my stomach wasn’t having any of it. I was leaning on the fence at the side of the path, retching, telling myself that if I was sick I would only have to eat another load of food, and that it would be much more sensible to keep it all in. I was retching really strongly, walking about 10 steps and then leaning on the ‘sick-fence’ again for my stomach to try to empty itself again. This was my first experience of trying to be sick at a run, and it wasn’t pleasant. I felt lucky that at least there was no-one going past me at this stage as it wasn’t pretty. However, like all bad things, it passed, I kept my food down, and I started to feel better reasonably quickly. Ho hum, these things happen.

Did I say it was going to be flat for this leg? Rubbish. The Thames Path is the hilliest ‘flat’ trail I’ve ever run on. There was a hill in the first few miles that was so steep it had steps for gods’ sake. You can perhaps tell that I’d run out of patience with sodding hills, especially trying to maintain 15 m/m up them which was hard work, and told myself that my next run would be so flat I would need a spirit level to measure the hills.

The first aid station came really quickly, about mile 4 of the 12.5 I think, which was a bit of a shock (and a bit of a disappointment when I realised I hadn’t broken my own land-speed record for travelling 6 miles) but this was more than made up for by being confronted with one of the volunteers in full 70’s gear….afro, open shirt and medallion…..asking me if I was alright, at 4am, in some village hall somewhere in Oxfordshire. Clearly the ibuprofen and paracetamol were all kicking in at once, and I was hallucinating, but nevertheless it certainly cheered me up.

It was after this aid station that I went wrong again, missing a very sharp left turn and carrying on straight for 5 mins, but in my defence three others did the same and I still missed it when my Garmin told me I’d gone off course…it shows how tired we all were that we did not see the markings (on that way back, when it was light, they were clear to see). Anyway, about 5 of us got back on track, and pushed on.

It felt like a long slog to the 12.5 mile turnaround. The route markings weren’t great, but it was dark, I was tired, and we were all spread out so there wasn’t a nice runner up ahead showing me the way. With hindsight, this was the leg to have recce’d as it was definitely the hardest to find your way. I remember going through part of a housing estate that didn’t see to have any marking at all, but coming back through in the light I could see there were a few….perhaps everyone else knew the way, or I was just tired / emotional / pissed off.

I got chatting to a guy in a Buff top over the last few miles before the turnaround, which passed the time well. He was telling me he’d gone wrong by 30 minutes on an earlier leg, so was having to push to catch up the time. I was telling him how much I disliked bloody hills (he then said how much he liked hills, and that was why he’d chosen this run….bastard).

Anyway, we plodded on to the turnaround at 87.5 miles. Now, let me ask you a question….what would you not like to see at the 87.5 mile checkpoint? Is the answer 1. A clock saying it’s later than you expected, or 2. A flight of stairs at least 20 steps high? Answer – I got both. Who’s idea it was to put the checkpoint on the first floor of a building is a sadistic shit. I hope they put a camera recording all these poor runners stretching their legs for the first time in hours to go up a flight of stairs as it would be a sure fire hit on ‘You’ve Been Framed’ and they could put the £250 price towards a Stanna stair-lift. Once I’d navigated the stairs, I was confronted by a nicely placed clock on the table telling me it was 6.20 am. It should have been about 6.10am or earlier….not good. No time to sit (a lot of people sitting down again, which I found very odd so near the end), but grabbed a coffee and got back down those comedy steps.

Marching back to the finish, I was swiftly overtaken by the guy in the Buff top, running well. I was maintaining my 15 m/m pace fairly well, to achieve the 24 hours, and overtook a few guys limping hard, including one guy who asked me if it was bad to be peeing blood (oh dear). I felt a bit of pressure to keep moving quickly for this last 12.5 miles, and really was just keen to get to the finish. Quite a lot of runners overtook me which was really impressive, as there was no way I could get up any pace by then.

The 4 mile aid station came and went in a blur, and then back to the path for the last few miles. There were a few couples out walking dogs as it was quite a nice morning, but they were all very polite, even though they were clearly bemused at what I looked like. I kept checking behind me (as you do) to see if there was a crowd of runners catching me up, but the last few miles were all quiet.

A morning jogger (not a runner, a jogger – see what I did there?) told me “Well done, only 1.4m miles to go” when I actually had 2 miles to go…I don’t know if she was trying to help or took pleasure in crushing the spirit of tired runners but I hope to meet her in a dark alley in a future life.

Last corner off the path, turning right at the bridge, it was a lovely feeling to know I’d done the 24 hours. I’d purposely slowed down for the last few hundred yards to stay behind a guy that was limping really badly, and I remembered my experience of GUCR when I was almost overtaken by 2 guys with 0.5 miles to go (read my uninteresting GUCR race report to find out what happened).

A respectable crowd of people clapped us into the finish, which was lovely, and my finish time was recorded as 23 hours 42 mins. I’d finished in 43rd place (out of about 150 starters and 94 finishers, improving from 68th place at mile 50, which I was surprised at.)

Into HQ, belt buckle & T-shirt and a hand-shake (which always means a lot to me), and a very efficient bunch of volunteers fussed around me getting me my drop bag. As always, I know that to sit down now only brings the pain on quicker, so I was up and out quickly, dragging my sodding heavy dropbag (filled with uneaten ravioli, of course) to the car. Next time I judge a guy with a neat little wheeled suitcase as a drop bag I will apologise to him.

I got to the car, planning on sleeping for a few hours before the long drive back, but after 10 minutes of lying there with my eyes shut it clearly wasn’t going to happen, so I got on the move, chugging coffee at every services, eating Ginsters steak slices & Doritos, and singing at the top of my voice to the Frozen soundtrack (“Elsa, can we build a snowman etc”). Although I made it back safely, I would absolutely echo the race organisers when they say don’t drive home straight after finishing, but get some sleep (while your wife drives home).

1pm. Shower, sofa, Stella, yet more Doritos. Job done.

The Buckle.

The Buckle.

So, what a cracking race! I can’t complement Centurion enough on their volunteers, organisation, route markings, kid’s party-style buffets at aid stations and general atmosphere of fun & adventure. Clearly there are some fantastic runners that take it very seriously and do amazing times, and they are well catered for, but for the ‘back-of-the-pack’ runners like me the event was just right. I hope the runners that finished after me felt similarly looked after (i.e. the aid stations still had stuffed olives left for them). 

picturesque scenery!

picturesque scenery!

I loved the trail running; it has some much more personality and interest than pavements. It’s just a shame about the hills.

I’m still not sure why my stomach protested as much as it did. I ate absolutely tons of food during GUCR, but didn’t manage half the quantity in this race, but perhaps it just wasn’t the day for eating. I learned that sherbet lemons are a suitable food substitute if all else fails.

And lastly, my recovery? Well, I felt unbelievably stiff for the first few days, especially in my inner thighs, and the experience of going back to work on Monday morning was rubbish. My rightful place was on the sofa, and there I was having to explain to people why I was walking like John Wayne (and so, so slowly). As usual, a lot of people said “100 miles, I couldn’t do that!” or “You must be mad”, and as usual, I think to myself that if they only knew how the body & mind feels after completing a proper testing challenge, they would be out there with me.

I’m probably not going to run for a while now, I will fill my time with beer & Doritos and family time, but the Thames Ring 250 next June is beckoning…that’s going to be a monster.

...the food of kings!  I salute you!

…the food of kings! I salute you!