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2022 Quarter 2 Review

Boom and half a year has slipped away.

So what’s happened? I would say a decent amount. I started this quarter with 1 race under my 2022 belt, I now have 6, so April, May and June have been busy – April especially:

2022 races Jan to Jun

I’ve been very satisfied by the progress this year.

Reading Half was a race that I took with one eye on Brighton Marathon only a week later. So I took that easier than I could have done and so was really pleased to get a 1:30 time.

Brighton Marathon was ace. I really wanted sub 3:30. I had in mind sub 3:15 (to beat my treadmill marathon PB from 2020), and given how well I was running, I had a bit of a dream that I might get close, or just sneak under, 3Hr. I didn’t quite make that but it was close – still comfortably a BQ time (!!!).

The IOW ultra has been bounced from year to year due to COVID and I was finally so pleased to take it on. A great race, some fabulous scenery and a lot of hills! A 6th place finish was very satisfactory.

The Hampshire Hoppit – a replacement for the cancelled Race To The Castle. A changed route to the now I ran in 2019, but still tough. Big hills, steep downhills and again, stunning scenery. Finishing 19th was better than expected.

Race To The Tower – This was amazing. The Cotswold Way is beautiful. Views go on for miles. The route is very challenging with hills a plenty. Some of the downhills are so tough they are harder to get down than some of the ups! Combining that with a nasty fall at around 20 miles, a 7th place finish and sub 10Hr for a double marathon was more than I dreamt of. That race is an instant winner in my book.

And that is the quarters events covered. The rest of the time training has continued following the Krissy Moehl guide I have used for a couple of years now. The mileage has been steady, but as we enter quarter 3, the mileage is going to grow towards the 100mile/week mark. Things are going to get tough.

The rest of 2022 has more races in the schedule. Most excitingly for me though is a return to Cornwall for some South West Coast Path running. My spiritual running home. The target of taking part in the 2023 Arc of Attrition means taking on some of the hardest hills I’ve ever run, over 100+ miles. So some time on the path this summer is going to be key to my training and conditioning for this challenge.

I also need to tackle some training with poles. I feel they are important to taking on the Arc. But not without practice. I have some cool Leki carbon fibre poles and a Salomon Quiver to hold them, so there’s no holding me back now.

One final thing for 2022. Nutrition. A lot more practice and research needed to fine tune my nutrition package for those long endurance events. I have good food options for mid distance ultra’s but long tough 20 hour plus races I need to work on. I have just started to look into Supernatural fuels so will report back on those. Im continuing to enjoy Veloforte gels/bars and have found Mountain Fuel a good addition to this, along with their night and morning fuel pouches.

So here’s to another 6 months of training and putting in the work to get me to the Arc start line in. January 2023. It’s going to be a real journey.

Getting ready to run into the second half of 2022.

How to train your gut (and consume more carb) by Precision Fuel & Hydration

Getting the fuelling wrong can so often be the reason behind a DNF. As the endurance requirements for a race increase, so does the need for thinking about fuelling that activity.

Usually the right answer is very personal and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ option here.

The top folk at Precision Fuel and Hydration have this great post about it and there’s some good tips and advice in there to help you out. Their nutrition products are also pretty good (and that’s just my personal opinion!).

Sports Scientist Andy Blow offers 10 practical guidelines to help you train your gut to absorb more carbohydrate during training and competitions…
— Read on www.precisionhydration.com/performance-advice/nutrition/how-to-train-your-gut/

The Sub 3:30 marathon Experiment

With the Brighton Marathon in 2020 being cancelled and the world basically imploding with COVID for 2 years, my plan after Brighton 2019 to break the 3:30 mark took a back seat. It’s not that I stopped running – just ask my wife or check my Strava!! But the organised events and in particular marathons that I could sign up for and had sub 3:30 potential dried up.

My focus moved on to trail events, and in 2020 I signed up for the 2021 Robin Hood 100. A 100 mile event around Sherwood Forest. Read about that here.

But doing that meant a training plan , and a training plan that was aimed at serious endurance, not a mere 26.2 miles! (I can’t believe I just wrote that – my how things change!! In all honesty 26.2 miles is anything but a ‘mere’ distance. It’s a marathon, its a lot of miles, its hours of running – even for the best in the world.

That training plan however did more than just prepare me for the endurance of a 100 mile event. It built my fitness up, it tightened my speed work and physical strength. It made me feel more capable and able. I began hitting numerous PBs at 5Km, 10Km during interval sessions, I really felt good. So whilst it wasn’t;t the plan, I felt that the sub 3:30 marathon experiment still had some chance. So I signed up for the 2022 Brighton Marathon. I didn’t target training for it. I ran my 100 miler and then restarted the same training program with more ultras in the calendar for 2022 (this time for the Chiltern Wonderland event ran by Centurion Running. Brighton Marathon just happened to fall into the training timetable, but I felt good that I would be able to turn in a good result.

In the run up to my 100 miler I ran the 2021 Big Half and set a new PB of 1Hr 23. I felt I had really smashed that, and the thought of doing a 3:30 marathon no longer filled my marathon sights, I was now thinking the 3Hr dream might just be the one I needed to aim for. Sub 3 would be beyond my expectations. I didn’t believe I had any reason to think I deserved to be that good, to break a line that is so far detached from what I thought I would be doing in 2017 when I started running.

As Marathon day approached I felt in good shape and put in a sensible taper for 2 weeks. Well that’s a lie, I ran Reading half marathon 7 days before the marathon and foolishly ran a 1:32 !! I should know better by now!

I decided on race day to run with the 3Hr pacer, see how I got on and if I had to I would drop back. But if I don’t try …

My first problem was that the pen I was in (sub 3:30 expected time) had no 3Hr pacer. They were in the elite group and so were some way ahead of me. Arggh!!

I worked my way to the front of the pen but couldn’t;t eve see the 3Hr pacer as I started, what do I do! 2 options …

  1. Run my own race, pace with my watch and control things myself.
  2. Catch the 3Hr pacing and use them to control the pace, knowing that they would do a better job.

Well, I opted for 2. I am not the best at self pacing and thought I could do without the added concern of keeping an eye on my pace. So catch the 3Hr pacer I did. According to the official timing for the marathon, this was a much bigger error than I thought. Official my first 5Km was 17 minutes ! Far far too fast. I would end up paying for that.

Now my other issue is that I am a runner that sweats a decent amount and I need fluids. I really need a good amount of fluid 500mL to 1L over the course of the marathon. I carried a bottle (500mL) hoping I would manage, but again this fell short, and the use of paper cups at the race – though commendable and something I support for environmental reasons, are just useless for taking on fluids if you are trying rot run fast.

So I had to refill my own water bottle, costing precious time.

At around 20 miles I started to slip back from the 3Hr pacer and immediately felt my 3Hr target was done for. I did however pull my big boy socks up and refuse to just let it fade into disappointment. I kept pushing, knowing now my target was 3:15 – which would be a PB (beating my treadmill PB from April 2020).

The crowd as ever was brilliant, the. whole town is so supportive of the race and the runners, so much cheering, encouragement and joy out there. The race brings Brighton to a virtual stop, driving anywhere near Brighton that weekend must be a nightmare, but embrace it they do and I’m so grateful for that, without that support it would be so much harder.

Eventually I hit Madeira Drive, saw the finish line and the customary extra skip in my step meant I crossed the line in 3Hrs 4minutes. Not the 3 Hrs I wanted, not the nirvana state of a time starting 2Hr … but still, 3Hr 4 – WOW. I cannot begin to comprehend what I would have said back in 2017 if people started telling me the ti would one day complete a marathon in that time. Its bonkers, it’s nuts, but it’s my time, I did it and nobody can deny me that.

One day I will try again for sub 3Hr, but for now I can look at that medal and the photos and think, I finished 276th our of over 8000 runners. That’s a memory to last a lifetime.

Thankyou Brighton, you were again brilliant.

3Hr 04 – that will do!!

Isle of Wight Ultra, 2022

I signed up to the IOW ultra as a continuous 106Km challenge in 2019.  It should have happened in 2020 but we all know the challenges that beset the world in early 2020.  COVID meant 2020 never happened, and the rescheduled 2021 event didn’t fit with other events.  So finally I got to take this challenge on in 2022.

The challenge was a continuous run around the Isle of Wight , starting and finishing at Chale in the South West, and taking in around 6000 ft of elevation and 106Km of distance.

The run up to 21 Km and the first major checkpoint is mostly coastal path, on grass, footpath, and some decent hills.  The views are fabulous, the hills in the distance near the needles an ominous future challenge, which kicks in from 11 miles (Freshwater bay) onwards.  But the views are amazing, some of the best views are here.  The hill to 12.6 miles goes on for miles (!) before a drop to checkpoint 2 and a decent chance to top up and refuel.  

There’s then a brief retracing of my steps a few hundred yards and head uphill a bit more (like I needed it!).  Once I get to the Needles New Battery, at the top of the headland, I  turn right and head downhill to the needles attraction (a good place for the supporting family whilst you are busy running).

A half mile climb (in places pretty steep) on some nice trails and hills before a drop down to Totland Bay, and a fab run along the coast.  It’s not a headline grabbing coast but a lovely stretch, fresh and a great break from the past few miles of ups and downs.  I take the time to settle in to a comfortable rhythm for a while on the flat.

After heading inland and a bit more up and down, I reach Fort Victoria Country Park.  This is ace, some great woodland, some undulations, but I like woodland running and I love this mile stretch (yes only 1,  but there’s more, hold on!).  From here, it’s through Yarmouth, some residential streets and then some of the best routes on this North Eastern part of the Island – Bouldnor Forest Nature reserve, coastline forest trails, ups, downs and some amazing forest.  Fort Victoria country park is the little sister of this amazing stretch, one of my favourite parts of the route.  

Reaching the last checkpoint before halfway it’s then country lanes, trails and fields before some hills and a climb through Parkhurst forest as you approach Newport and the 53Km halfway.  To reach the halfway point I find myself taking on a little more road running and an uphill climb takes you to IOW showground and a great stop, food, support and cans of coke – what more could you want.  

There’s a road crossing before the showground which I learn has confused a few and a number of people have gone off route here and missed the checkpoint, realising at 1-2Km later before retracing their steps and getting to the halfway point a little later than hoped.  Easily done given the signage, and I notice an additional sign is later added to make sure people don’t make that mistake for too long!

I enjoy the pause at halfway.  I change my shirt, socks etc and then head out of the checkpoint and back onto the roads and down to the BioGas works on the edge of the River. Medina – part of the Medina River Walk.   A nice stretch.  But this is soon followed by around 7 miles (37-44) of roads.  Not the nicest and a good few undulations, but not all ultras are solely beautiful walking routes and footpaths.

I eventually head into Ryde eventually hitting coast around Appley park just before Seaview.  I’ve had the pleasure of the company of another runner (Andrew) for that road section and it certainly made it more pleasant.  We enjoyed a good few conversations about races.events we have done and the miles soon tick by.  We will end up running together until the last 2Km!

From Ryde it’s then some more roads, but also some great trails, before heading into St Helens and eventually Bembridge.  The route takes us past the beautiful Bembridge windmill and then heads towards the top of the headland, overlooking Yaverland and Sandown with the penultimate aid station.  A nice break after some decent hills and an amazing view.  If I was a walker I could so easily spend hours just looking at the view over the coast here.

It’s then a drop down to sea level and a run along the very classical feeling seaside region of Yaverland, Sandown and Shanklin, but the hills were looming!!  This coastline gives the legs a rest from the climbs, its busy with tourists (many of them supporters of people in the event it would appear) but the resorts are sadly looking a little tired and unloved.  In years to come I would love to think these towns are rejuvenated as this part of the coastline is beautiful and the resorts deserve another opportunity to flourish.

The route carries on and I make my way through Shanklin Chine, up some pretty steep inclines and steps, before a false sense of ease is waved at you in the drop down to Ventnor, the final aid station at 60 miles and a chance to refuel and restock before the final 6/7 miles of what turns out to be unrelenting hills.

From the Ventnor stop there’s a stretch. Of easy running with some modest. Ascent, but the. Knowledge that there is still a lot of elevation pending looms heavy!

Things head up at Woody Bay, west of Ventnor.  Lots of road running and lots of ascent, this was tough, hard and never ending, the biggest climb!  This was tough given the distance 4-5 miles from the end!  At 65 miles things eventually plateau back on trails and high on the cliffs overlooking Chale, the end is insight.  There’s a lot of descent to go, but it really is all down hill from here!

I start to get that lump in the throat feeling at this point.  I think about the charity money I have raised and the wonderful support my friends, family and colleagues have given me.  I also start to picture the finish where I know my wife and youngest kids are waiting for me.  This has been the second biggest event I have completed and the first Ultra that they will be there at the end of.  It’s a challenge to keep the emotions in check.

At this point I decide to empty the tanks and move off into my own space a little.  My focus now on reaching my family at the finish line.

This final descent is technical in places, some roads around Blackgang, and just when I can smell the finishers barbeque, the route turns left directing me down some trails, out to the coast path again and I lose sight of the finish.  Eventually the flags come back into view.  Approaching the finish from the South the sound of the support builds, the finish arch is tangibly close and the challenge is over.

Finish time 12 Hrs 40 minutes, 5th across the line and 6th overall (due to the staggered starts).

I collect my medal, a finishers shirt and some champagne before a few finish line photos and the opportunity to welcome the next few runners in.  This was a big challenge and I am grateful for the support the other runners gave during the event.  Would I do it again?  Yes, for sure.  But then there are so many events out there I want to do that I might leave it a while before I come back.

IOW you were immense, especially your hills, but I absolutely loved the opportunity to run around you and experience some of the beautiful scenery you have.

2022 Quarter 1 review

I’m struggling to accept that the year is a quarter complete.  I’ve done one race, have a load more on the plan and only 75% of the year left.  Argghh.

So what has 2022 delivered so far?

In measurables, very little.  I’ve completed my first XNRG event – The Pilgrim’s Challenge.  A great 33 mile jaunt along the North Downs Way.  It’s run as a 2 day 66 mile event, but one day was all I felt I could justify without impacting on family time.

I’ve also set a long term target for 2023, but more on that shortly!

I’ve also taken a review of my training and whilst I’m still worshipping at the church of Krissy Moehl and her UltraRunning Training guide (amazon link), I have also looked to add more complimentary training.  

The reason behind this is that whilst I managed to achieve my first 100 mile event finish last year, and have completed a good few Ultra’s with respectable times, I feel as though I can be a stronger runner.  Whether that means I end up faster or simply able to do more distance.  Or whether that means I do the same as before but recovery is quicker, I don’t know.  But I feel there is more there somewhere.

My first addition is Yoga.  Following the content of the Yoga for Runners book I was given at Christmas 2021 (amazon link) I’ve added at least a weekly session, plus adopted a number of the poses and stretches into morning and evening stretching (5-10 minutes most mornings/evenings).

My second addition is twice daily calf raises.  Doesn’t sound much, but I basically do single leg calf raises every time I clean my teeth.  A time I could do very little else, so 4 minutes, every day, really starts to add up!

Most recently as 2022 has progressed, I’ve also realised I need to focus a bit on diet.  I have let that fall by the wayside a bit and relied on my running capacity to mean I needn’t think much about the food I take in. I’ve changed this now and am focussing on quality food, I’m also looking at reducing my meat intake and move towards a more vegetarian diet (though I think the step to full vegan might be a step too far!)

Final point – running nutrition.  I have long loved Veloforte gels and bars, but to ensure I keep variety and don’t get ‘bored’ of the nutrition, I have looked into more options.  My current research is for Mountain Fuel.  Some good looking food so I’ll see what happens there.

Future plans

The rest of 2022 holds a good few races for me.  Race To The Castle has recently been cancelled, and I think I’ll defer to 2023.  In exchange I’ve added the Hampshire Hoppit marathon to my June event list.  A great event which is in a lovely setting, and some of the best swag for finishing I’ve ever had.  Not to mention a free beer glass and free pint of beer!! I ran it in 2019 and did the virtual event in 2020. A really good option for a mid June event.

what’s coming up:

2023

So my 2023 plans have started to form already.  Earlier in March I decided to embrace the largest challenge I have set myself.  Having completed the Robin Hood 100 in 2021 I felt that my adventure in the 100 mile and over zone is just beginning.  And to that point I have entered one of the toughest 100 mile races in the UK.  The 2023 Arc of Attrition.  I absolutely love the South West Coastal Path and it is a real beast of a challenge.  So it seemed natural that I should combine my love of this area, with my desire to push myself and take on more 100 mile races.

I’m not ignoring the fact that this is a big race to complete.  Often seeing 50% or more DNFs it is an attritional race (guess that’s where the name comes from!). So no ignoring that the Robin Hood 100 is going to feel like a training run compared to this.  But I know I have the will to take this on, I have the desire to push myself to find more about my own abilities and limits.  And I know that you can never find your limits unless you keep challenging yourself.

2022 is going to be exciting, but 2023 already looks like it could be the best year ever. I’ll share more of my preparation for the Arc over the rest of 2022.

Pilgrims Challenge Day 1

Pilgrims Challenge is a multi-day event on the North Downs Way. Starting near Farnham and ending in Redhill on Day 1, Day 2 is the reverse.

I signed up for Day 1 only, thinking taking a whole weekend out was a bit of extra time from the family, and I have a number of other trips later in the year which I am already in for!

The XNRG Team that runs this event are great. Very organised and friendly.

This was the first race approached race day feeling totally relaxed about. I almost forgot about it and even 24 hours before race start I was hardly thinking about it. I hadn’t run more than 22 odd miles since my Wendover Woods 50 Miler in November, so I felt comfortable I have the distance in my legs, but strangely experienced a lack of nerves and worry. Maybe my running in 2021 finally made me feel that I belong alongside all these other runners. I’ve always had a bit of an imposter syndrome with running but maybe I’m now moving away from that.

The Race starts in a field outside Farnham and heads off through a few streets and paths until we finally hit the true trails of the North Downs Way. It is simply stunning. The North Downs are wonderful and some. of the views are simply incomparable.

The route is almost entirely on the NDW and this is well signposted. The addition of orange ribbons on the finger posts and some orange dots on the floor helped to make this a simple to navigate route.

The hills are tough, I won’t lie! But for me I am looking for a bit more elevation in my running so this was a good way to kick start the year, Overall I clocked 3622 ft of elevation.

The route takes in the Mole river and it’s truly fabulous stepping stones, as well as the iconic Box Hill with its 275 steps. It’s a popular spot as well which does mean there are lots of people using the NDW on a good day. We were lucky with the weather being almost perfect for the race, but that meant we had a lot of people out and about. This slowed down the river crossing and the climb up the steps. But this are minor things, having a forced break was no bad thing really.

That’s then most of the climbs of note done. The rolling NDW was a short respite and time to relax, and soon there was the long gradual descent near to a vineyard.

The race then levels out a bit – if that’s possible, before hitting one final climb and descent as you approach Redhill from the NDW and head towards The Carrington School for the finish.

At the finish the team are really welcoming, there’s food and drink and a massive bonus (even for 1 dayers) of having some decent changing and shower facilities. I had planned to get the train back to Farnham, so being able to shower and change (having left a bag at the start) made that journey much more pleasant – for other travellers as well as me 🤣🤣.

This was my first XNRG event, and I really hope it won’t be my last. This is a great team or organisers and volunteers and a real family event feeling.

I enjoyed my day, I was very happy with my 9th place and 5 hour time and I take a lot of strength and encouragement from the day.

It’s not all just running, running, running!

“I run because if I didn’t, I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that.”

― Dean Karnazes

2022 follows a big year for me. 2021 took me to a few milestone events I had been looking forward to. I did my first Centurion event (Wendover Woods 50) and I achieved a goal I NEVER anticipated when I started running – I ran a 100 mile race (Robin Hood 100).

So how can 2022 top that. Well maybe it doesn’t need to. 2021 I really focused on the distance. I followed my training plan as closely as I could and I tried my best to hit those weekly miles. The one thing I didn’t work on with any consistency was running form and strength. I did alright in 2021, but with a bit of attention on building more strength and a better base, I could do better. I think!

So 2022 I am not looking to smash any new distance goals, but I am looking to focus on additional strength, core and condition exercises. This I hope will build a stronger foundation to my running, help to keep injuries away as I get older, and give me the ability to look at new goals for the coming years.

My non-running program
  • 50 abdominal crunches after each run
  • Planks of 4 minutes plus 3 or more times a week
  • at least 1 weekly yoga session (base don the ‘Yoga for runners‘ book) focussing on strength, stretches and balance
  • twice a day 2 minutes of heel raises (Done whilst brushing my teeth!)
  • 2-3 mile walks on non-running rest days
  • Addition of kettle bell work 2 or 3 times a week after other sessions (runs or yoga as the mood takes me 😁 )
  • determination!

So that’s me for 2022, and my goals beyond that … well I think there might just be a few long races in my mind to try and tackle.

I’ve done 100 miles, what next ??

“Running allows me to set my mind free. Nothing seems impossible. Nothing unattainable.”

— Kara Goucher

Wendover Woods 50 Miles

Since my 100 training miles had been slight. I had some races in the meantime (Bournemouth Half and The Great South Run) but the mileage and type of training undertaken had been minimal and flat! 

I had been recovering from some aches and pains that my 100 brought on and whilst I had hoped to have run them out by now I still had some lingering issues – mainly a sore left foot and a wonky right ankle. At least that combination meant I limped slightly on both legs so nobody noticed 🤣.   So I was less confident than I am normally in the run up to this and had ready let my kind play around a lot with the idea of a DNF, in fact DNS had occurred to me as an option. 

But I’m a stubborn bugger and whilst that sometimes means I stick with a wrong decision  and try and sit it out it also means that I don’t give in easily. Running has really magnified this to me. I’ve never quit a race. I’ve never failed to line up alongside other runners at the start of a race. And WW50 was really a race I so wanted to do – the location and the chance to compete in a Centurion race – so this was not going to be the first time I let the mind overrule the body. 

Be prepared…

Bags packed with 2x500ml soft flasks with Precision Hydration electrolytes onboard. 

Food for 250kcal per hour assuming 10 hours on the go (I had spare in my car which I could access during the race if needed). 

Mandatory kit of baselayer, head torch, waterproof etc. 

Drop bag with extra hat, socks, top, first aid kit, spare flask etc. 

I had the kit ready and 6am I was off for what I hoped to be a smashing 50 miles in the woods. 

Race your own race …

Organisation of the event was good. Turn up, enter the tent get your number, then your tracker then drop your drop bag (available after each 10 mile loop) and then wait out for the 9:30 start. 

The weather was breezy and cold so I took the choice to put on a thin long sleeved top over my t-shirt and start with gloves. I knew I would remove them later but it was a good shout. I hate starting too cold! 🥶 

Truth be told, I had previously run most of the WW50 loop route.  2 loops in just under 4 hours on a very wet February morning made me aware that this was challenging – and yet I still signed up!! Ha Ha!!

Lap 1 was just about finding the route, getting a feel for the course, and getting into the flow.  But blimey – I had definitely forgotten how steep some of the climbs were.  

Wendover is never flat, your either going up or down (at least it seems).  Some of the ups need a climbing qualification and some of the downs feel a bit like rappelling down a rock face.  There is the occasional flatter bit, but they soon go up or down, and often steeply!

That said the route is tremendous.  Running in woodland is fab, the different terrain surroundings and noises are great, one minute you are leaping over fallen trees, the next kicking the leaves up as you run, then all of a sudden you are splodging though muddy paths.  Something for everyone – all of which I love.

On paper the route looks really windy, with 3 near crossroads – which on any other route would have been frustrating.  The woods in Wendover though are so dense in places and of such varied terrain that you don’t get that feeling of running 10 mile loops in a space barely capable of making it possible.  The space feels so much bigger.

Lap 2…

Lap 2 is where I started to doubt that this was the best idea I had ever had.  I finished lap 1 in around 1:30-1:40 and really was probably going too fast.  I grabbed some fluid top ups from the checkpoint and bashed on.

I soon felt shot, my legs were already complaining, the climbing at 2000 ft a lap is much more than I’m used to and it started showing.  The demons in the mind started telling me that 5 laps of this was going to kill me, it was far too much.  I nearly believed them.  I reached the end of Lap 2 feeling pretty beaten up.  I was taking on fuel and liquids well enough, but felt like a dead weight.

I decided Lap 3 was going to be the decision point.

Lap 3…

My mind was already packing my shoes into the car and setting the Sat Nav for home before I got through the checkpoint marquee and onto the 3rd loop.  I wasn’t checking time I was doing what I could.  DNF was an acronym I could see looming large on the results table.  But then I got that kick up the but I really needed.  8 weeks ago I learnt what endurance was all about.  The Robin Hood 100 made me realise when your body is just asking politely to stop, but not really stamping its feet and demanding it.  My body was just saying it was working hard, it wasn’t done yet, it had more to give.  Yes my thighs ached now and they weren’t getting any happier, but an ache or two isn’t the end of it.  I could have easily packed up at the end of lap 3, honestly was moments away.  But I stopped at the marquee. Changed my top/hat/buff etc, sat for 2 minutes whilst changing and had a good word with myself.

The reality is, I’m easily embarrassed and easily worried about not doing my best.  There’s often an easy way out, a route away from hard work.  I know everyone would have said well done, good effort, you did your best.  But I didn’t think I had hit that ‘best’ effort yet.  I would have been faking a ‘best effort’ and I would have felt guilty.  I wouldn’t have deserved that good feeling form everyone.  If I’m going to quit having truly done my best, I had to believe I had given everything.  I wasn’t there yet, I hadn’t hit the ‘best’ I could do.  2 laps were left for me to complete this route, or for me to reach the true best I could do.  I stood up, pulled up my big boy pants and headed out of that tent hellbent on getting another 20 miles done, or quitting knowing I had given it my all.

Lap 4…

This was hard.  But one other learning from my 100 came to mind – Thanks to Mike I had his mantra in my head – ‘If a marble rolls done it, I walk up it’. It reminded me to pick my battles and run the right paths.  Had I not I would have blown up on lap 4 for sure.  But taking the right approach to the terrain really balanced my effort and helped me maintain a good pace on lap 4.  OK the up hills were tough, but I had a good hike going.  The downhills were also getting slippery, and in the dark rather tricky! So they had slowed too.  A couple of near slips could have been interesting, but I kept upright and I finished lap 4 knowing I had done the first 4 laps in not much more than half the event time allowed.  I could walk lap 5 and easily finish.  My mind wasn’t keen on walking it in from here, but I knew that barring a disaster I had a medal to collect and I was going to make sure I got there with a smile on my face and very little left in my legs.

Lap 5…

I met loads of great people on lap 5.  The darkness, the sheer effort people had put in and the fact that people still had 1/2 laps left to go built a really strong sense of teamwork.  Every so often I met somebody that was doing amazing, taking not heir first 50, or doing their 15th Ultra, but really smashing it in their own way.  Often I would walk or run with them for a while, share some conversation and then move on.  My legs had running left in them, and there was no way I was going to get to the end of this event feeling I had a skip in my step.  

The final few limbs were a killer, my head torch was waning and I couldn’t be bothered to change the battery.  I dropped the power (just about enough light to see) and pushed on.

As I climbed the final climbs and reached the fence around Trig Field I was overcome with a feeling of emotion.  I’ve had various other emotional experiences in running.  Brighton Marathon I cried as I crossed the finish line (yes I really did).  During Race To The Stones in 2019 (my first Ultra) I found the finish really emotional – beating 60 odd miles over some of my favourite and familiar terrain was a really big deal.  But this was something special.  I had conquered Wendover, not only that I had finished in the top 25 of a Centurion event.  I had just wanted to finish in the 15 hours – I was stoked.

Next …

I have a. Bunch of challenges lined up over the coming year, but I am already looking forward to my next Centurion event – Chilton Wonderland.  Not as hilly as Wendover, but another great event to look forward to.

On to the recovery … wish me well!