It has now been a week since the Anglo Celtic Plate race which included the UK and Scottish 100km Championships. It is 5:51 in the morning and I am ready to go for my first run post race. Spending the last 5 days walking around Disneyland Paris (where we covered between 6 and 9 miles a day of walking according to my iPhone health app) seems to have been the best recovery. I might be regretting saying that in an hours time when I get back from this run!! Also, I will probably take about a week to write this blog, slotting in time to write between ‘life’ and that first run will have been forgotten.
Ok, back from my run. Actually, I’ve ran twice since the first paragraph was written and my legs are like lead!! I was expecting that feeling but have been surprised how quickly I have come back to running, well I say running, but it is just jogging, very easy paced. It is quite a relief to get the running shoes on, I am not sure I could have gone on without running for much longer. For a start, my trousers were starting to get a little tight around the waist!! #completelyoverindulged
Anyway, back to the ACP 100km: The Scottish team, that I was a part of, changed it’s line up in the couple of weeks on the lead up to the event. Out went Paul Giblin (possible race favourite) and Andrew Murray and in came Paul Raistrick and Kevin O’Donoghue, two very capable athletes and a cracking last minute replacements to the two guys who had to pull out. The ladies team was unchanged and was brimming full of talent.
Paul arrived at my house on the Saturday afternoon and we drove to Perth to meet the rest of the team in the Royal George Hotel. Paul is a top bloke, very down to earth and it was good to share some time with him on the trip up. He showed some raw determination and a level of toughness that I don’t think I posses to complete the race after having some problems that required some intervention by the support team. Paul showed that he was the right choice by the selectors, I am sure many others (including me) would have given up, confronted by what he endured.
At the hotel we met up with the other team members and then went for a walk around the course. North Inch park is a lovely park in central Perth and has a 1.4 mile tarmac path that we would be running 42 times the following morning. I didn’t have any daunting thoughts of having to run 100km (62 miles in old money) and this surprised me. I think my training, in all it’s guises, had provided me an unusual level of confidence that I would complete the race. I’d lived like a monk for 2 months, no booze, no rubbish food and hardly any late nights. I worked hard on physical training, mental training, diet, sleep and generally looking after myself very well indeed. I left no stone unturned. It has been mentioned in the past that races of this distance may well be beyond my capability, probably based on my two DNF (Did Not Finish) races last year of 40 and 55 miles and my wins over shorter ultra distances. However, I knew I would finish this race, I was going into this race uninjured, something I can’t say about my races in the first half of 2015.
As we walked around the course, I had no negative thoughts pre race about my ability or the possibility that I might not finish the race. My training had gone extremely well, running 33:23 for a 10km off no speed work showed me that my body was responding well to the volume and intensity of the training. My taper hadn’t gone to plan though, the two weeks leading up to the race I came down with the worst cold, I can honestly say, I have ever had. Normally, I pick up one or two colds a year. They usually last a day or two, and I never take time off work. This time, I was off work, having night sweats, sore throat, coughing, blocked sinuses, headaches, you name it, I had it. A week after the race and I am still getting some symptoms, although they are very mild in comparison. I am not using this as any excuse, the taper weeks are meant to be about recovering from the event training and getting prepared for the race. I wasn’t able to do any of that. My body, already stressed with training, wasn’t allowed to recover fully as it fought the cold from hell (if hell existed, I couldn’t think of another adjective)!!!
After the wee walk around the park we head back to the hotel to receive new race kit, the new vests were good quality and the tracksuits fitted well and looked really good. We then had a race briefing with the race director, Adrian Stott and following that a team briefing. It was here I got to meet all the other team members, particularly the ladies team and the support staff. I met Ken Walker, who would be my support for the race and we then all settled down for dinner before heading off to bed to rest up for the big day.
The race started at 7am and as we lost an hour due to the changes of the clocks for British Summer Time I was feeling pretty tired when I got up. That was quickly fixed with a couple of large black coffees and a slice of toast. I’d already gotten up at 4am to eat some fruit prior to the breakfast at the hotel being served. I can’t take too much food in before a race, as it takes too long to digest and can cause major problems. No more details are required here!!
The weather on the day was a bit better than the forecasts had anticipated. There was a strong south westerly or westerly wind that made the exposed part of the route troublesome and because of the sheltered ‘home straight’ we didn’t really get any advantage from the wind. How this affected times on the day we’ll never know, but affected they would have been. I’ve heard some say it could have cost 5-10 minutes, which may well be correct as we had a full kilometre into the wind on each lap. We tried to mitigate some of the wind by taking turns at the front and allowing the others to get a small respite. I’ve jumped ahead a wee bit here, more on that later. I get myself ready for the start. ultra running is a little different from shorter course races. For example, the 10km I recently ran, I jogged 6 miles before the race to get properly warmed up. I also did some faster ‘strides’ just to get the legs used to turning over that quickly and to get that range of motion working. There is no warm up in ultras. I few half hearted static stretches and we are off!!
After the hooter goes, a couple of minutes after 7am, Paul Navesey (the eventual race winner in 6:58) shoots off the front with Marco following a little behind. James and I settle into a pace around 10 minutes per lap. This is a 7 hour finishing time and while a little quicker than I had wanted, I feel pretty good. Soon Marco drops back to meet us and we run together for the next 18-20 laps taking turns to lead into the headwind. It really helped me to have my two team mates running with me. We chatted and laughed all the way, it was like we were out for a Sunday long run together, while at the same time there was an underlying seriousness to the running. I am not sure, had I been on my own, that I would have managed to stay as consistent with the pacing over the first half of the race. James and Marco had really thought about pacing and how the wind would affect lap times. We’d check lap pace before we starting running into the wind and then just as we came out of it to ensure that our lap times would be on target. It’s a level of professionalism that I didn’t think about pre race and I was glad, no delighted, to be running with these two excellent runners and top blokes.
After about 10 laps we are joined by Chris Singleton from the England squad and like a gentleman, he takes his turn at the front. I am feeling pretty good still as the pace hovers around 6:50 per mile and continue to tick off the laps. In the early laps the only issue I had was my bladder. I lost count of the number of times I had to stop at the provided portaloos. I would speed up prior to the start/finish area and head into the portaloo then come out and catch up with the group before the wind section. This happened every 4-5 laps in the initial part of the race and the change of pace was actually quite welcome (as was the bladder relief).
As we approached the half way mark Marco and Chris dropped off the group going through their own race issues and James and I continued to knock out 10 minute laps. James’ plan was to ease the pace at half way and he dropped back. James would also succumb to some issues and had his own battle to the finish. I was still feeling the pace was ok and continued at just over 10 minute laps, but as I approached 40 miles, I started to feel a little dizzy and my stomach had started to say no to any form of nutrition. My nutrition plan was simple: every hour I would have a single Honey Stinger gel and 250ml of a Tailwind mixture. This seemed to work well and I took less gels than I had initially planned. I think this was because the Tailwind was providing enough calories, but I was now not wanting the taste of anything in my mouth. Ken, who up to this point had been fantastic, providing gels and Tailwind when I wanted them, but was now trying to get me to take on more nutrition when my body was not wanting it. Feeling dizzy is a worrying feeling 40 odd miles into a race. What was actually happening and why was it happening? I decide to slow down, in fact my body is making me slow down, maybe some self preservation. The pace per mile dropped to just over 7 minute miles, then to 7:30 and eventually a couple of miles were over 8 minutes as I try to just make it to the end of the race. I resign myself to finishing, Daniel Weston from Wales come past me and runs a crackingly even paced race to take the Silver medal in the UK Championships and eventually my team mate Marco passes me into 3rd position. I am hemorrhaging time and I know that it is only a matter of time before I am passed again and I drop to 5th position. Ken forces me to take on Coca Cola, it is not something I have tried in the past, but many say it has been the saviour of many ultra runners. I reluctantly take it and drink about a third of a bottle. It doesnt sit that well with me. By this point my fan club had arrived: My wife Lisa with both girls, my Mum and Dad, Sister and Brother in Law and my Mother and Father in law are all cheering at the side lines. It was fantastic to have them all there but even their support was not making me move any quicker. Lisa told me after the race that she knew I was in trouble and she reminded me that I said to her on one lap that ‘I was burst, but I would finish’. She wasn’t having any of that and decided to walk the course anti clockwise (we were running clockwise) to offer more encouragement.
With 4 laps to go I pass through the start and finish area, this time I want to take on some nutrition, but I don’t say that. Instead I say water to Ken. He doesn’t have any water in his hands and I stop momentarily and wait for him to get water. I have no idea where water came from, as I wasn’t thinking about water. My body must just have been needing it. I head off out the support area and consume almost the full bottle of water before the first turn. Almost instantly I feel much better, the pain actually subsides a little, and I start to open out my stride again and the pace increases. I approach Lisa and her Dad who are walking mini Turner around in her buggy and she says to me that I am probably only half a minute to a minute behind Marco. I don’t know if there will be enough time to catch Mraco but I certainly want to finish strong and not be overtaken, so I start really turning up the pace. I run the quickest lap 40 and 41 of anyone in the race and catch Marco to take 3rd overall and finish the race in 7 hours 17 minutes and 11 seconds. I win the bronze medal in the UK 100km championships, I win the Scottish 100km championships and as I am an old man I also win the Scottish Masters 100km championships. I stand in the support area and people are congratulating me and I give Ken a huge cuddle for all the help he has given me for the last 7 odd hours. He knew I needed something and maybe that coca cola did the trick. Lisa comes over and I get a huge cuddle from her. It was fantastic to have her and the rest of my family there to witness what I had just done. My girls are too young to understand what I was doing but having them there was special to me.
I head for a shower before the prize giving. We had to use the disabled shower facilities in the sports centre next to the park as I was needing a lot of help getting clothes on and off. The body just totally seized up after I stopped running. There was then a fantastic prize giving back in the main marquee and I was presented with the various medals and plates and that I won by Ian Beattie, the Scottish Athletics Chairman. As it was Easter Sunday the chocolate egg was a good touch and a welcome treat for the trip back to Edinburgh!
There are so many people that should be thanked, who helped me prior to the race or during it, but I am not going to list them all for fear of forgetting anyone. All I will do is say a huge thank you to everyone involved, it was a special weekend for me and simply would not happen for these people. However, I do need to mention Adrian Stott, who took a punt on me with selection and offered some invaluable training advice, Ken Walker, my support for the day, I could not have completed this race without him and Val MacAuley and Thomas Loenhdorf, the Scottish team captains for their organisation and support.
The whole experience of being part of a Scottish team, the camaraderie within the team and the other home nations, the huge amount of effort involved by everyone and my own personal achievement will live with me forever, it really will be a weekend I will never forget. My only hope is that I get to do it all over again.
1st: Paul Navesey ENGLAND 6:58:52
2nd: Daniel Weston WALES 7:11:47
3rd: Robert Turner SCOTLAND 7:17:11
1st: Melissa Venables ENGLAND 8:15:54
2nd: Edwina Sutton ENGLAND 8:24:05
3rd: Sophie Mullins SCOTLAND 8:30:22
A few days after the race I get an email from Adrian to firstly thank us all for our efforts in the race and informs me that my 100km debut time was good enough to get into the Scottish all time top 10 list. It just adds the cherry on top to the whole weekend. I lost a lot of time in those laps from 31 to 39 and I know that I can improve on this, so I cannot wait to get back into full training and hopefully have another crack at 100km in the future.
Post race Analysis:
The lap times tell the story here, the laps from 31 through to 39 were very slow in comparison.
10:14 10:09 09:54 09:57 09:48 10:05 10:09 10:17 09:53 10:23 10:03 10:00 10:07 10:12 10:01 10:04 10:17 10:10 10:18 10:10 10:20 10:00 09:59 10:06 10:08 10:04 10:12 10:16 10:25 10:32 10:36 10:43 11:02 11:25 10:50 11:14 11:51 11:55 11:37 10:16 10:10 10:53
In terms of minute miles, they ranged from 6:33 (way too quick) to 8:02 (ouch!) but the real surprise was my heart rate. I keep track of my heart rate in training and racing as it gives me a gauge of how well or otherwise training is going. During the 100km I averaged 145. This is a lot higher than I was expecting (135-140 was the expected HR) and could well have contributed to my slow laps. However, the paces at the recorded heart rates were not what I was expecting either and the heart rate was higher than I expected from the start of the race. First mile average HR was 140 for a 6:54 mile. That is not what I was seeing in training. HR of 140 would be around 6:20 or quicker. It could well be that the cold I was suffering from was still not fully gone by race day, there could be an element of working harder into the wind as well. Either way, it is promising for future races, where I know that firstly, I can maintain that heart rate over this time and distance and secondly, I should be able to run a bit quicker.
It is now time for some recovery and recuperation before I start to work on my shorter race distances over the summer. I will run another ultra this year, possibly late summer and I am definitely having a crack at my marathon PB in the autumn. I just need to find that pancake flat course.