TP100

The Buckle

Centurion TP100 - Richmond to Oxford, up the Thames Path

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training

Training for this has been similar to my NDW preparation, I've thrown in a series of 50-60 mile training runs, also this year I've been practicing with fat burning adaptation which has been a fascinating journey, perhaps worthy of a write up all of its own.

doubts

Before the race I'm having a major crisis of confidence about this race. After the NDW100 I thought I knew what I needed to do to get to the end of a 100, but with the failure at the A100 I'm nervous.
Especially so due to the nature of the course, the NDW is hilly, tough, relentless - but the TP100 is quite similar to the start of the A100, lots of long relentless flat terrain, traditionally it has a huge drop out rate.
I'd been spending pretty much all of the year so far concentrating on running on flat routes, and lots of road running 😟 So, surely I've got this. But still, that A100 failure was a huge confidence dent.

goals

The sole task for the day was to finish. That was all. Run a smart race, take it steady, don't do anything silly, and finish. A sub 24 would be a lovely achievement, but that was completely off the radar and I didn't even keep that in the back of my mind as a "nice to have goal". (along the way I tried to phone Cara at each aid station - I gave up once I got to half way- and the one time Cara mentioned I was comfortably inside a 24 pace, I said that wasn't something I was thinking about at all, I just wanted the finish.)

before

We'd spent the weeks before looking at times and distances, coming up with a crewing plan.... but two weeks before I came down with a horrible cold, it cleared just before race week, just as Cara then caught it. We decided a weekend staying up all night trying to crew for me just wasn't a sensible idea, time for me to fly solo. After all, these are Centurion events, they are about the best organised and well supported events you will find anywhere.
Second doubts started seeping in now though, after all, the NDW100 I got to the end by having a crew over the last few miles to keep an eye on me and cheer me up, the A100 debacle was un-crewed.

travel

As a regular London commuter, since the TP100 starts at a perfectly leisurely time of 10am, getting to the start is nice and simple for me. As long as there are no surprise weekend/bank holiday rail upgrades underway it's just a matter of hopping on a train and scooting over from Clapham Junction. Perfect start, no traffic/parking worries.

Everyone sitting around waiting.

ready

Ready
Despite being really relaxed and confident all week, once I get to the start area at Richmond nerves set in. I am now terrified. Probably entirely understandable, I can't quite work out *what* I'm nervous of, but I've got that knotted stomach fear feeling.
I try to mingle, and start chatting to a few random people, sharing different war stories of races past. Then I spot Ben Parkes, he won't know me, but I've followed his various races and popsts on Strava and amble over to say Hi, he's here with Sarah and Vickie so I have a quick chat, then circulate again. Now I spot Keith Simpson, a friendly face from my local park run and all round legend.... he's here to support Cat (similarly legendary) , who looks fast and race ready just standing still. Finally I spend a few minutes playing "where's Conrad" I noted Conrad Wild's number on the startlist, but I can't see him around anywhere.
I say hi to Stuart March and get myself a startline photo.
I've still got loads of time, so portaloo pitstop, then amble about looking at ducks, trying to calm down.

Then it's briefing time - James lays down the law does the usual hands up for first timers, old timers, grand slammers and so on, then it's countdown time. I position myself comfortably in the centre of the pack, it looks a bit crowded to start right at the back (my NDW tactic).
James' Briefing


Looking ahead, and at the size of the path and arch ahead I wonder how we're all going to fit through.

start

30. 10. 5.4.3.2.1. Honk. and we're off, surprisingly there seems to be plenty of room around as we get through the arch. Perhaps I've got too used to marathon crowds.

Within a few hundred metres confusingly the field splits into two, one group going left, one straight on. er. what? Ok I haven't recced this or thought there was any possible confusion on the Thames Path, I see that the group going left curves back down ahead, so just keep going.... a few moments later it becomes clear. There's a small gate at the end and a pinch point. hah. *that's* why so many went left, oh well, whatever, long day ahead and all.

In no time at all I'm crossing the Thames at Kingston and onto a very familiar stretch of riverside past Hampton Court palace - I've run this section many times at various Human Race events before... unfortunately this is also the first point at which I have a pressing need to relieve myself - and this stretch is 1. very popular and busy and 2. has rather limited potential cover and 3. really? alongside a palace?
At last I spot a substantial looking bush I can discretely blend into and resolve the situation. Extricating myself a few moments later as I discover that I'm entrapped by several thorns in my clothing, I run on and remove a rather large twig from my hat.

A little while later I'm pondering how far along I am, at the moment I just have my watch showing pace and nothing else to make sure I'm not going off too fast so I have no idea how far I've gone so far.
I *think* I've covered about 4 miles or so, scrolling through the screens I'm surprised that actually 8 and a half miles have passed, wow that just flew by.

I won't give a detailed section by section analysis here, just list the locations, distances and times, with any comments for that part. To be honest, I really can't remember all that much over the first few sections.

Walton - 12 miles, 2 hours - 12:06.

The first stop is 12 miles in at and I don't really need or want anything yet, so just a quick cup of coke and move on. Even though this is one of the longest stretches, obviously being fresh and refreshed it appears in no time at all (wheres a later 8 mile stretch lasted for ever).

Wraysbury - 22 miles, 3.75 hours - 13:44

OK I'm walking a little
I *think* I bumped into Sarah and Vickie here, but now I'm certain it was much later in the day because I think I had a coffee. Anyway, they looked extremely organised and efficient.

Dorney - 30.5 miles, 5.5 hours - 15:28

Just amazing
By now I'm starting to really feel the heat, I've already seen two other runners holding ice-creams, and just past Maidenhead I can't take it any more. I need something cold. Now.
There's an ice-cream truck, right on the path, just as I head to the counter a line forms out of nowhere, oh well, I'm committed now, I line up and produce an excellently surreal picture queued up amongst families dressed in sun hats - beach ready and me full ultra kitted out with backpack, compression socks and hokas.
Moments later I'm strolling on. Calippo in hand. It is amazing.

Cookham - 38 miles, 7 hours, 17:00

The Sounding Arch

 

Hurley - 44 miles, 8.5 hours, 18:32

Thankfully the heat of the day starts to subside the last few hours have been really tough.

Henley - 51 miles, 10 hours, 20:17

Pretty
At the half (and a bit) way point now, there's a huge crowd and here's my first drop bag. Hot food, coffee, change of shirt and socks - this was to be a huge mistake later. It's still way too warm for base layers so they stay packed. Head torch relocated to handy pocket.
I like to run well into the dusk in natural light, so I'll leave it until the very last minute before putting my head torch on.
Just before getting to Reading it's finally dark enough for the torch, but I'm still pretty warm.

Reading - 58 miles, 11.75 hours, 21:47

Now we're onto a very familiar stretch, I've run this path Reading to Wallingford so many times over the years both training and racing, so I have no worries covering this in the dark.
The aid station is a lot more subdued than the beach party vibe from the A100! Just out of the aid station the chill air hits me and I realise it's base-layer time. I should have changed while stopped in the light, I could have nipped back in but I'm not sure if that will muck up the timing system.

Whitchurch - 67 miles, 14 hours, 00:03

I remember back to the A100 and this was the aid station where I'd completely misjudged my situation and clothing and got so cold my teeth were physically chattering together as I ran. I was surprised just how cold it was getting so quickly, but still seemed OK... and I had my "secret weapon" thick base layer still in the bag.

Streatley - 71 miles, 15 hours, 01:06

Into the Morrell rooms in Streatley, I regret not packing another pair of socks. Running through the fields, even though it has been such a hot day and dry, the grass is absolutely soaking. My shoes and feet are completely drenched. My mistake earlier had been switching from my DryMax socks (which I'd found a bit hot and sweaty) to my "go to" hot running "1000 Mile" socks, I had blisters between my toes and my feet felt just awful. This was going to be an unpleasant evening.
I had packed my running poles for the final stretch, I hoped they'd give me a nice rhythm and help take some of the pressure off my legs and feet.
I switch to my thicker base layer and the dry cloth really lifts my mood. On goes the waterproof jacket, it's obviously not raining, but I am getting really cold now. There are huge sections of freezing fog we keep running through and I hope that the extra layers will be enough to keep the heat in.

Wallingford - 77.5 miles, 17 hours, 03:04

Through Wallingford and I see James Moore at the aid station, it's such a lift seeing a familiar face. I down strong coffee (*note later) and try not to hang around.

I pass someone, who says "looking strong stick-man" and I start reciting the children's story to myself, I must have read it hundreds of times as my sons grew up.

Clifton - 85 miles, 19.5 hours, 05:38

The Clifton aid station is a frustrating climb out away from the path and around a corner, it feels like ages before getting to the hall. It's a nice sensation getting inside a building and resting for a moment, I take stock, remove the jacket, curse my feet. drink more coffee and press on....
Actually I have some cake. there is cake. I sit down and have some more. before a quick top up of cake and then finally decide I probably should get going.
Finally sun is coming up and the few times the light hits, the heat starts to come back.

Abingdon - 91 miles, 21 hours, 07:00

To the Abingdon tent, and I feel sick. I try but nothing comes. OK. Feeling odd and weird. So have a coffee and stretch and breathe for a moment.
Once I'm on my way though I have a good patch here, I just tap into a pace and keep going. Probably the fact it's a short stretch helps mentally.

Lower Radley- 95 miles, 22 hours, 07:58

The Lower Radley aid camp is such a strange sight, it looks so desolate and lonely! Several runners just keep going past but I really feel like human contact and sit down for yet another coffee and a chat.
I'm determined to run the final miles, but I just find the surface too challenging with my blistered toes and keep having to walk. Someone passes by and says you've got got 1 km to go, it's around that corner, and that's all I need to hear.

Oxford - 100(ish) miles, 23 hours, 09:03

 

I'm running, I can see the arch. I can hear crowds. I turn the corner and glide.... just as I hear a voice over my shoulder saying "you're nearly there, don't let me overtake you" ! really? you have got to be kidding.... I surge and float over the line.

I actually have no recollection of then seeing anyone once I cross the line, but looking at the results it seems that there was someone seconds behind so I didn't just imagine it.

I start crying (and I'm welling up typing this now).

The NDW wasn't just a one-off, I can do this. I can run 100 miles.

and

I did it in one day. I get handed my "100 miles one day" buckle. James is right by the line and shakes my hand, telling me well done. I blubber something in response.

I'm surprised Cara is here, I'd assumed I was going to be getting the train home.... (and she has previously been known to oversleep one of my finishes*) so I sniffle a bit more.

*It has been pointed out to me that this was after she had spent the entire day and night driving and crewing for me, that it happened just once, and that I probably ought to shut up if I ever want a crew again **

** can I point out that Cara is amazing.


fin

Very different experience to the NDW (injured) or the A100 (idiot) I didn't fall asleep whilst running - writing up the summary I realise that I drank 10 cups of coffee on the way.... and the coke. So *that* mystery is solved.

I can't believe on one of the hottest days of the year the most trouble I had was getting cold overnight and suffering from soaking wet feet. I'm going to make sure to avoid that in future.

Again I can't overstate just how much it mattered having the support of the Centurion crew and aid stations, it wouldn't have been possible without them, just the simple reassurance of what the time was, what the distance to the next station was, what the next section was like and knowing that they're keeping an eye on everyone and making sure that everyone looks OK (ish).

The sense of achievement after this one was immense and I'm still having trouble coming to terms with it.


Now. Can I do that for each of the remaining in the Grand Slam?

.
(Quality photos from Stuart March, ropy photos from my phone)

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