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!

Finding my first 100 miler – Race Day

6am.  Race Day.  No turning back.  It’s now or never.

The car was full of refreshments and a change of clothes for after, plus all the painkillers you can imagine.  My pack, re-packed for the 7th time was hanging on the back of the chair.  My drop bag, with changes of socks/tops/food, additional first aid kit, additional ‘spare’ food and electrolyte sachets is by the door.

Back in October 2020 when I looked at starting training this race seemed so far off, like it would never come.  Today I complete the challenge I have trained for so hard over the past 11 months.  It all comes to this point.

I’m normally a very nervous runner.  Race day is normally a nerve wracking experience right up to the gun firing.  Today is different, I’m not so nervous.  I guess I have less expectation.  I really am starting this 100 mile race with nothing more than the hope to finish.  30 hours is the cut-off.  It sounds easy enough pace wise, but 100 miles, it’s a big deal.  So there weren’t nerves.  The pre-race period was strangely relaxed.

Race Director Ronnie gave a great briefing, settled many nerves for many runners, light hearted but important information.  

‘There’s a 10K going on in Wellbeck but their markings get priority as they are running a proper race, and this is just stupid!’

8am.  Go …

The first 6-7 miles is a near loop around a few tracks, gravel paths and a stubble field.  This takes us to the canal.  I started easily, settled in with a couple of chaps that seemed to be at the pace I wanted to run, good conversation and a nice start.

Once of those was Mike Scandrett, I would spend almost the whole of the remaining race alongside this seasoned 100 mile race goer.

We soon chatted about expectation and Mike was gunning for a sub 21 Hr result.  I like that idea and felt that sticking with Mike was wise.  Little did I know I would stand shoulder to shoulder with him at the finish line.

I reach Aid Station 1 alongside the canal at around 13-14 miles.  I take an age to get myself sorted.  Mike is in and out like a well oiled machine, I’m fumbling around like somebody hunting for their keys in a suitcase.  A quick lesson learnt, better planning of my kit and packing to be efficient at aid stations.  I got a lot better during the event!!

The Canal was lovely to run along, lovely little hoses, wildlife, a few barges.  A nice trail, and it’s not until nearly 20 miles that I turn to move away from the canal and head towards the forest.

At this point legs didn’t feel as strong as I would have hoped.  They were a little achy and heavy.  This worried me, thinking that another 80 miles might be hard work here!!

The trail then goes through some woods, hits some hillier sections, but eventually brings us into the forest.  At 26-27 miles we reach the drop bags.  The first time round I skip the drop bags.  Refuel, grab. A satsuma (my lifeline for the race) and head out.  

I’m now on the big loop.  2 approximate 30 mile loops through and around the forest.  I hope to complete the first in daylight, but new I would most definitely end the second I darkness.  Each loop started and finished at the drop bags.

Clumber park then honed into view and it is a lovely park.  First loop there were plenty of families out for the day, eating ice cream at the cafe, cycling around.  A lovely privilege to share the park with them on what was a lovely afternoon.

At 31 miles in we each the start of the 10 mile out and back ‘little loop’.  The longest gap without aid stations.

On this rout was the major oak which was fabulous.  Again rolling undulations, nothing huge in the hill department, and many runnable, but there a call needed to be made about whether you do. Run or walk.  We walked most hills, even the slight ones.   This. Was where experience told.  Many of the slight hills I would have definitely run.  Mike’s experience said walk.  ‘If a marble rolls down it, I walk up it!’  It seems drastic, but it works.  We were putting in a real hard march though, often sub 13 minute miles!!  This approach underpinned the event.  

Around 46 miles we reached Cresswell Crags – the areas answer to the grand canyon – what a Fabulous place!!!  Definitely a location I. Would love to return to with my family one day.  Huge history, hugely spectacular place.

Approaching 50 miles are some fabulous trees that appear to have grown out of large rocks, which form the sides of a trailway.  They were stunning in the light and really moody in the dark..

Drop Bags 2nd time.

This time it was a shirt change, top up my nutrition from my drop bag, new cap.  As quick as we could and then out again.  It was still daylight, we were over half way.  And things felt good.

The 30 mile loop for the second (and final time) was a psychological tipping point for me.  The distance run was higher than the distance left.  We were on the return leg now.  That’s a big thing for me.  I always picture it as a point whereby I have turned around and am now heading back home.

We made kept to the Major Oak a second time before we gave in and went to head torches. 

In the dark the atmosphere was great.  It made the terrain hard to judge and probably meant we walked runnable sections.  

82.8 miles final access of the drop bags before the return to the canal to get back home.  Another change of shirt. Some fresh snacks. Cmon we have this in the bag now. 18 odd miles to go. 

Generally the canal return is pretty much the same in reverse of the out leg, but the canal is so cool in the dark.  Safe as long as you are sensible.  The ground was getting damp so things were a little more precarious. We had to avoid the frogs, toads and hedgehogs. 

In the dark and after that distance things seem to tale a lot longer to get through.  Some of the paths seemed to also for ever!!  I’m sure the checkpoint gets bad moved – they of course had not!!!

Final 3 miles from the canal, was a shortened route from the the first 6 plus miles, so from the canal we knew it was less distance.  But we weren’t ready for the ploughed field.  Ankle breaking stuff.  And a little hard to see the route. The very kind farmer who owned the easily ran stubble field had decided today was the day to plough arrgggh!!!!!

After 20Hr and 19 minutes we reached the finish line. It was strangely calm, I expected overwhelming emotion, but to be honest I had gone through that earlier in the day.

I had done it, 102.5 miles, no words could explain how this feels. But a great cup of tea and some pizza from the car certainly helped!

And, to add a little bit of extra excitement, it turns out I finished joint 5th with mike. My first 100 miler and a 5th place finish!! I cannot begin to understand how that happened!!!

Nutrition

The plan was 250 kcal an hour. I pretty much hit this with a mix of the food I took and supplementing with satsumas (a real winner) and coke –  it’s normally my thing but really did the job!

I didn’t eat all my food I took, but the substitution with the coke and juice I think balanced that.  I didn’t feel I struggled with food at all. 

Fluids were good and I mostly took precision hydration electrolytes. Some tailwind and also towards the end some squash. I’d heard about overdoing the salts so wanted to keep fluids moving in but felt I could move away from electrolytes some times. 

Aid Station actions

Here I sucked!! I wasn’t quick or efficient. I found filling my Salomon soft flasks was harder on the go – definitely invest in the wider necked versions next time!!!  I could have really done this bit better. Something to work on!

Gear

All I changed during the event was top, cap and buff. Otherwise my Inov8 TerraUltra G270 hit the spot perfectly. The rest of my gear was:

  • Runderwear anti-blister socks
  • Under armour twin layer shorts
  • Runderwear briefs (merino)
  • Salomon S-Lab NSO t-shirt (52miles)
  • Ronhill tencel t-shirt (30miles)
  • Ronhill everyday t-shirt (20miles)
  • Buffs of all sorts
  • Trailheads caps
  • Naked runner glasses
  • 2XU calf sleeves
  • Salomon 8L hydration vest with 2x500ml soft flasks

Preparation

I taped my feet a little. Using Rock Tape. Mostly to avoid blisters. Heel, big toe and little toe. 

Treated socks with 2 Toms bluster shield powder too.

Body glide on the chest and ribs where I expected the vest to rub maybe after a while. 

Squirrels nut butter for those most sensitive of areas!

P20 sunscreen. 

Mental and physical

About 1/2 way round I was feeling a little bit of a struggle that was probably a little dehydration.  That lasted about 10 miles, but I adjusted my intake and all was good.  I had some salt sticks tabs so used one for a boost. 

I never reached a point of totally hitting the wall, physically or mentally. 

Physically I walked faster than ever and ran steady. I ignored tired legs. Legs that never hurt but clearly had a preference of stopping. I learnt a lot about what more there is to give when you might otherwise think it’s all done. I found the door to the pain cave but only peered in briefly before realising it wasn’t for me.  I ploughed on, legs tired, but mind winning the battle. 

Mentally I felt strong. There were times when I would zone into a focus and although I ran with Mike almost the whole way we would just go quiet and often a gap of a few metres might appear. We had both discussed how we might be when it got tough and agreed that focus, quiet, determination would likely define our tough moments. I was happy that they were really quite minor though. Mentally I felt always in control. I never felt quitting was a reality. 

Recovery

I had 3 small blisters which caused no discomfort. A bit of rubbing from my vest and a little chafing in the ‘rear’ department – thank you the inventor of sudocrem 🤣

Legs ached for 3 days but never terribly. I was back at work on the Tuesday as normal. 

Better next time

Change the soft flasks for wider necked ones.  I lost time at aid stations trying to carefully tip tailwind into my flasks.

Better aid station strategy.  Sharper, better organisation, prep in the years before the station and move away whilst still getting set again.  Standing still isn’t necessary!!

Better drop bag setup for faster movement through the drop bag points. 

Less gear. Or maybe be more aware of the conditions and adjust gear to suit better. I took 5 pairs of socks and never changed once!

Experience

I had the time of my life. It was tough but not as tough as I expected. It was emotional to achieve such a feet. I really learnt a lot from Mike for which I am properly grateful for. 

Most of all I learnt that the Robin Hood 100 isn’t my limit. It exists somewhere else. I just have to try and find it!

What’s Next?

For the rest of 2021 and into 2022 im focussing on shorter distances before then thinking more 100s in 23.  That’s to give me a year of focus on becoming a stronger runner, building a firmer foundation for an attack on more 100s in 2023.

Will I go beyond 100?  Im not sure, the one thing that might limit it is just time.  The training to make the 100 was intense and took a lot of time.  Listening to many, going longer doesn’t mean more training miles, and if I get a bit stringer in the next 12 months I might feel that this is the foundation to keep the mileage in training as it has been, but to the go further on event days.

What I do know, is that I haven’t attempted my last 100 mile race, there are more to come.  I have a taste for what this now.  No other event I have ever done comes close.  

Rea the rest of my story here!

Finding My First 100 Miler – August Update

Checkout the rest of my blog here

2 weeks to go:

Well the time for training is over and with less than two weeks to race day what is done is done. No training is going to now get me more ready or prepared for race day than I already am. The key is prepare, keep moving but take care of myself and don’t do anything that risks injury.

August was the start of the reduction in distance. I had a couple of races (half marathons) to do and training happened around that.

I thought the HMs would be a good way of measuring how my training had increased my strength. My first HM was a 1:32 trail half with some decent hills. My local race. The second was the Big Half in London which I got a PB of sub 1:24. So things look promising – the PB was more than a 5 minute improvement on last year in the same race!!

Preparation

During the month I have thought a lot about race day. I’ve had the dream in which I win 🤣 and I’ve had the dream in which I DNF. Im targeting something in between !!!

I’ve spent a lot of time preparing fuel strategies. I trained with a 250Kcal an hour policy after the great Gary Robbins recommended it.

So I have then planned my fuelling strategy on the day to this.

I’ve gone all geek on it and put a spreadsheet together, using a planned pace and therefore duration, and then mapped calorie intake to it. I’ve broken the race into section between checkpoints, bagged food up and labelled it. I can access my drop bag at approximately 20, 50 and 80 miles so will have food in there to replenish, so I don’t have to carry the food for the whole race from the off.

Gear

I’ve pulled together the obligatory list. It’s mostly complete and its below:

Packing

I’ll be using my 8L Salomon vest and a waterproof bag for my drop bag. I’ve test packed, and repacked.

Food

I have tried and tested food that I know I can stomach, that has served me well on my long training runs over the spring and summer.

Taper

I’ve cut the miles back and resisted the urge to just run when rest and preparation is the key.

Ready?

Well maybe! As much as I ever will be!

Race day is less than 36 hours away right now.

I’m in those final few moments of a 10 month training program. The time has come.

I keep looking back at a quote that I found from John Kelly (@randomforestrunner) which I think is one worth bearing in mind:

‘Don’t be afraid of failure.And measure success not by the outcome, but by how far you’ve come.Set a long term goal and then pick smaller ones based on how much closer their attempt will bring you to the big one.If the attempt is a “failure” then so be it.’

John Kelly, Endurance Athlete. From jamesrunsfar.com

The next couple of days won’t define my running experience or my running future. it will help me understand quite where I am compared to where I would like to be. Completing this challenge is so far above what I ever expected when I started running that it’s almost beyond computation. I have trained 10 months to take part in a 100 mile race. I am sat here a few miles from the start line ready.

I have already succeeded. Completing the race will be a wonderful bonus.

Damian Hall Training For A Mountain Ultra | inov-8

Damian Hall is about to embark on his fifth UTMB® (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) – a 105-mile ultramarathon race that incorporates a mammoth 10,000m of ascent around Europe’s most famous mountain. So how does Damian
train for epic ultra running races and challenges in “lumpy” mountains? He reveals his secrets in this blog post.

— Read on www.inov-8.com/damian-hall-training-for-a-mountain-ultra