Centurion Autumn 87.5

With hindsight, on the day I should have either not run at all or should have dropped out and offered my services as a pacer instead.

I didn't.

But I'd managed the NDW100, I reckoned I could have nipped in with a much better time without having the injury, and the A100 is nowhere near as tough as the NDW. Well that was the logic and self delusion.

Ivor's words of wisdom (I have many, all experience based): Do not underestimate a 100 miler, and never get complacement about tackling one.

Training Hole

So. After the NDW100 I was slightly injured. After running 55 miles on a sprained ankle I had torn a muscle, so I couldnt get back into training.
After being really well behaved, I finally, tentatively started a bit of training. Then out running with my son, on his bike, we had an accident, I fell into him and smacked the front of my (bad) shin really badly against his bike frame. This triggered tendonitis.

My Strava graph shows the difference in volume before the NDW100 and then the A100. There's a big hole where there should have been a steady build up with a couple of big spikes.

I was really well behaved again, but watching the time ticking away, starting to panic.
Finally I started getting a bit of training back in, and concentrated on some short fast stuff, or short hard hilly stuff. I felt really good, but had a nagging doubt that I needed to get some serious time in.
at which point the plan started to go horribly wrong.

I was due to run in the Piglet Plod, the week before the A100. Perfect. This could be a little pre-race tune up, I thought I knew how long it would take me to recover from doing it. The plan was to treat it as a gentle run, take my time, eat cake but get a few hours into the legs to make sure I felt ok for the following week.

The Idiot

I am an idiot.

I had a great time. I had fun. I came second.

My legs were totally destroyed.

I have done equally stupid things before. Many times.
Usually, miraculously I can pull it off. There's a reason I titled this blog 'Winging It'. Words to live by. You can not 'wing' a 100 mile run. Well perhaps Killian Jornet could, I cannot.

I usually seem to recover really quickly, unless I get injured - which, now that I'm getting older seems to knock me out for a depressingly long time. Which you think would deter me from doing increasingly stupid things (e.g. during 2016 marathon taper, showing off on mountain bike - cracked rib).

So after a week of good food, trying to bank some sleep and taking it really easy, I thought I was ready.

No Crew

I had been having some doubts about the race already, after seeing in the infopack email that crews were no longer allowed, and trying to decide if I should rethink, muttering occasionally that I didn't think I wanted to do it any more.
I was sure that having a crew had been the key to getting me to the end of the NDW100, and even though the aid stations are brilliant, and you have the HQ to keep extra kit in, there's no substitute for having someone who really knows you, can tell what you need just by looking at your face,  shove the right fuel into you and generally make sure you get what you need. I should have organised a pacer (I would love to be paced by Hugo, but he's still too young, despite being capable).

So 8pm on Friday night I got my kit organised. I really, really, really should do this a bit earlier, I know. Decided to try to pack a drop bag for Goring with a selection of random treats and just decide on the hoof what I wanted at any point. Given the weather forecast and winds I decided on packing extra base layers.

Off to bed and the usual pre-race sleepless night. Finally gave up, got up, and properly packed my bags. Previously I'd cycled to the train station, then caught the train over but decided a lift to the station would be a better start this year. Paced about nervously a bit looking at the clock, and was about to go upstairs but Cara appeared.

Reading Cancelled

Slight panic getting to Reigate and seeing the board stating "Reading - Cancelled", but then worked out that this was the previous train and the next *was* running, albeit late. Thankfully I'd got a long transfer at Reading, but if the train was ontime, it *might* be possible to catch the earlier train to Goring and have a bit more time to chill..... journey spent flipping between two nationalrail trackers showing my train getting later and the connecting train, starting late but getting faster. :(

Bumped into a couple of other runners at Reading and we whiled away the time chatting about races and our plans.... If I wasn't totally useless I would have remembered their names. I'm not great with names. :(

Saturday - 0 miles. 10:05am

Standard formalities at Goring, lots of familiar faces everywhere, numbered up, bag dropped and sauntered off to the start with my new protocol which had worked at the NDW. Mooch, don't panic, don't try to get off quickly, don't try to bank a few miles and keep clear of the traffic. Just chill.
So we backed up a few times at the first few pinch points and gates, as usual one or two runners were desperate to get past and would dash past as you got close to a gate to make sure they didn't get held up. whatever, I've got all day.. possibly a bit more.

I felt like I managed better at reigning in the pace on the first leg out to Wittenham, really trying to ease off which I decided was the key for me, especially with the flat start where it would be so easy to get carried away. Right away I didn't feel quite right - the legs just didn't feel fresh, but I hoped this was just temporary and they'd spring back to life.

Along the Thames and a little climb through Moulsford. Surprising how many people seemed to be slipping around and seemed unable/unsure of how to run through mud, very odd. Perhaps a lot had decided to choose comfy road trainers rather than their trail shoes for this one.

I was sipping my water, taking my salt, remembering to take a gel on cue. No dramas and going like clockwork. Getting to the first aid I'd completely forgotten we are all of course now 'no cups', no idea why or how. I had my cup. I had my spare bottle. I had my camelback. Anyway I must have been daydreaming because it took me a few seconds to marshal my thoughts, dig out my cup and get some coke... just a quick stop, grabbed a sausage roll and pressed on.

Wittenham - 12.5 miles 2h:13. Saturday 12:18pm

Up to the turn at little Wittenham, eh, where's the station, oh yes I remember there was something about it being moved up the road a little. Had a bit of trouble getting what I needed, craving a selection of sandwiches but the plates were empty, there must have just been a sudden surge of runners, or perhaps someone particularly greedy. :) Anyway, no worries, I found something else and got a coke water mix, and headed on back.

In Trouble

It was about this time that I concluded that I was in trouble. Really not a good idea to be discovering this at mile 12 of a 100 mile run, but I had now concluded that my legs simply weren't going to come back to me, that something was terribly wrong, they were already tired and I wasn't going to have a pleasant day out after all.

Back through Moulsford, the extent of my predicament was hammered home when I realised I wasn't feeling comfortable running downhill and the section that should have been a fast leisurely trot, was still hard going. I felt like I was at the 50 mile mark already. Oh. shit.

Goring - 25 miles 4h:38. Saturday 2:53pm

Back to HQ, still solo at this point, family Hewitt were scheduled to see me after the second leg. I picked up my running poles planning on using them for the hilly bit at the end of the loop since I'd realised how much they'd helped me on the NDW, randomly scrambled through my bag making sure I knew where my head-torch, spare and batteries were since night would be falling towards the end of the second leg.

I *had* been planning on just using my poles once I was on the drag up to Swyncombe, but as soon as I was out onto the Ridgeway I just couldn't get going and got them out to try to keep my pace steady. It helped but I wasn't sure how long this would work for. North Stoke came and went, and then we start heading into the twisty woods, chatting to a few around me, some on very strict run walk techniques we'd get together then I'd move ahead as they stopped to walk or they'd zip past again as we were on the flat. Again, I have no idea what anyone's name was. Perhaps we should all have them written/printed on our numbers?

Swyncombe - 37.5 miles 7h31. Saturday 5:36pm

I was struggling getting up to Swyncombe and sat down for a few coffees, and lots of cake. I hoped that the downhill return would be ok if I could get into a rhythm and be able to use the poles to keep my balance. As the light faded and it got darker each time heading into the trees, it was time to fire up the headtorch.... hmm it's a bit dim. For no intelligent reason I didn't then immediately switch over to the fresh batteries I was carrying with me, I have no idea why.
Anyway, pressing on through the woods, this was pretty sketchy in places, nearly tumbling a few times over roots. Around Nuffield there was a small group of supporters cheering, and I was totally surprised that the Hewitt clan were amongst them! I said hello, might possibly have sworn a little, explained I was feeling pretty bad but would see them at HQ.


And then I fell over my running poles. Snapping one. oh right. More miles thankfully mostly straightforward, I tried a few times using my solo pole to alternate from one hand to the other but the effect was limited.

Goring - 50 miles 10h27. Saturday 8:32pm

Back to Goring, sat down (apparently for 26 minutes according to the tracker! ahem) changed clothes, ate, had a think. Discussed how this didn't look good, I now felt like I had at the *end* of the NDW100. I couldnt decide if it made sense to continue. This was explained as clearly the wrong decision by Cara, so on I went, pole free for the bit that would definitely have warranted using them. Directly into the headwind of storm Brian.

I was now walking mostly. With an occasional little jog thrown in to help me feel less of an idiot. I was also now telling myself that I was not to try to run any section of hill. Clearly given the drag up the Ridgeway is pretty much all up, it wasn't going to be fast.

Surprise surprise

Half way up out of nowhere I have Cara and Hugo cheering again! I am in the middle of nowhere here, I have no idea how they've got out here, apparently it was several miles of walking I later find out. Ok, that really cheered me up, I'm determined now to just keep grinding out the miles however slowly, I will get to the end.

Bury lane *TOOK FOREVER* to reach, up, up, up, up, wind, wind, wind, wind. Finally, it appeared looking and feeling seriously wind battered, the stamina of the volunteers up there can only be commended! JACK DANIELS FUDGE!!!! Sooo nice. I had hoped to take a chunk with me but unfortunately it was cut into really tiny cubes... perhaps on purpose to reduce the potential for doddering runners. :)

Fuzzy world

Checking my watch I realised it was all fuzzy... and I'd somehow, somewhere lost my bifocal running glasses. Brilliant. Oh well, I'm longsighted so not an issue actually following the route, but no idea what time, pace or distance I was at. Not that that was particularly important or interesting.

Ok that was the worst of it done, now just the slog up to Chain Hill and back, with my dim headtorch (I know) I was struggling to navigate the best route through the deeply grooved tracks here.

Chain Hill - 62.5 miles 14h08. Sunday 12:13am

Chain Hill, however, was a full on glittering nighttime disco, just superb.
More coffee, and looking forward to some tailwind and downhill sections hopefully making this more bearable.
By now there was a steady stream of runners trundling past as I walked, and er, slightly faster walked onwards.

Strange ground

Back past the racecourse and I was thinking the ground looked strange and unfamiliar, however, there were still three bobbing lights up ahead of me. I have no idea of my rationale here but I was seriously wondering if someone had been out and spreading something over the surface! seriously? and then a huge puddle/lake to cross. Hold on. That definitely wasn't there on the way up, now trying to remember if it had been raining heavily at any point, I'm sure if hadn't, but who knows.
Ah. then the lead light bobs about a bit, and starts coming back towards me.... as do the other two... we chat very briefly to conclude that something has gone wrong here and backtrack.
I spend a minute or two fiddling with my watch trying to get it to show me the trackback map... but since I haven't got my glasses and I'm just guessing what options I'm selecting I don't achieve anything.

As we're running back we can see a row of lights coming towards us, odd I think, so we must be going the right way after all? but then they start peeling off to the side. aha. Ahem, so back to the turn on the Ridgeway and away.
A bit disheartening but no big deal really. I can just see how much further I've gone later on.
I can just make out the large time numbers and keep an eye on the time, glancing down every now and then, I finally figure out that the big number on the left isn't getting any bigger, I must have hit stop accidentally at some point. Brilliant.

Goring 75 miles 18h02. Sunday 4:07am

Finally onto the hard surface leading back past the golf course and onto the roads back into Goring and time for another moan and refreshments. Final hug off Cara, surprised that Hugo is still awake,  they can go off to bed while I trudge on through the night.
Ok that's 75 done now, despite whatever random number my watch is saying. I finally realise I need to change the batteries in the headtorch and set off for what is going to be a slow walk to Reading.
But now I can see! The difference is fantastic, why on earth didn't I do that 37 miles ago?
The section to Whitchurch is only 4 miles and even though I'm going slowly doesn't take too long to get to, partly helped with the varied short manageable sections you pass through that you can mentally tick off as you go. In Whitchurch one of the other runners is getting himself wrapped up in his foil blanket under his coat clearly suffering from the cold. I should have paid attention to this.

Ice ice baby

Out from Whitchurch and onto the stretch alongside the Thames I suddenly started to get colder and colder. The strong wind blowing off the water is cutting right through me.
I'm physically shivvering and starting to nod off. Impressive given the quantity of caffeine I've had up to this point. I just can't move fast enough to keep myself warm and I'm now walking with my arms wrapped around me, buff pulled up over my nose and hood pulled firmly down.

I'm doing 24 minute miles.

At the lock at Mapledurham I remember I've got another dry base layer in my bag, hunker down in a corner, strip off, put it on first then re-layer. I'm still extremely cold now but that feels a bit better. With hindsight I should have done this *much* sooner, and it wouldn't have hurt to wrap my foil blanket around underneath at the same time.

Anyway, I slog onwards.

Others moan about the section to Reading as being mind numbingly boring, but I've never found it a problem, in the light or the dark. During this section the light starts to break and I hope the temperature will start to pick up a bit, also that the buildings and hedges will block the wind.
I'm now just walking. Occasionally stopping to stretch, and walking on again. I've now decided I've had enough, barring a miraculous recovery of my legs with the sun, I'm not going to manage to finish this.

Reading - 87.5 miles 22h33. Sunday 8:38am

Finally I arrive in Reading and to the Hawiian beach party theme, I sit and stare.
After several coffees and chocolates, I call Cara and ask for a rescue mission.
I've done the mental arithmetic and worked out that if I can maintain the pace I've just been doing, then I might just get back inside the cutoff. Several people try to talk me into continuing, offering to walk with me, but I'd feel guilty if I made a mess of anyone elses race.
If the next aid station had been 6 miles I might have considered giving it a go, but it's 8.5 miles back to Whitchurch, probably just over 3 hours away (although my mental arithmetic was a bit hazy at this point) and I'm worried I'll get as cold as I did before when I reach the river. I explain I'm going outside for some fresh air, go outside and have a comprehensively excellent cry. Finally regian composure and go back inside lie down on the big sofa and settle in for a snooze.
Back to Goring to collect drop bag, and off home.

Thoroughly annoyed with myself for completely and utterly cocking that one up.

87.5 miles.


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