Tracking running Part #1

Part one of two part blog posting... 

At start with Laurence of Arabia head gear..

If you are just interested in technology this is probably not that interesting for you so head over to the tech post instead... (link)

If you're just interested in running and not technology, this is the post just for you!
If you're interested in both, probably read this one first, then head over to that one... will remember to add a "next" button at the end. 😁

This is a bit rambling. sorry about that.

It's been a long time since a running post. 2020 has been pretty miserable, apart from not having much to write about... there wasn't much point writing to simply moan how awful everything was.

I'd had a superb start to the year, I ran Country to Capital and had a blast actually properly racing the final 26 miles .... I was feeling *very* fit and ramping up training, looking forward to the races through the year with an "A" race I was already planning for and recceing. Then lockdown. Then everything cancelled.
Then both of my beautiful cats were killed by drivers. Lockdown traffic has been much worse here recently, our local residential road often feeling more like a major A road at times.

Eric & Ernie. 2018-2020

But then a real race. 

After all of the Centurion events had been juggled around, the NDW100 was now the first of the series (I was due to run all four 100's). James and the team had done an amazing job of rearranging everything so quickly. They'd run a couple of virtual events to keep everyone engaged and on their toes and put in a huge amount of effort reorganising the formats of the events to both "comply with the current laws" but also to be run sensibly and safely regardless of what the actual guidelines said.
It was a bit tense in the run up not knowing quite what was going to happen, but the communication was brilliant and clear.


So 8th of August 2020. The new day for the NDW100 race. I spent the night before in Farnham, woke up ridiculously early and waited until I thought it was "polite" enough to able to the start, I had intended on starting closer to 6am, but I headed out at about half past five thinking I'd have a gentle stroll, warm up a bit and be about on time at the line. The start was actually closer than I expected/remembered. So I started off at 5:37. ahem. oh well.

The format for Centurion's races this year is now to have a staggered individual start times, you start off based on expected completion time one at a time, lots of other changes in format with more crewing encouraged to reduce the burden on aid stations with socially distanced aid stations with no contact and food pre-packaged.
I *had* wanted to start a bit further back and run through the field (my successful tactic from before), but with the new restrictions in place that seemed an unreasonable idea so I started instead at the time listed for my planned run time.

Wondering if I can remove any more clothes

The forecast for the weather was H O T which it had been building to for weeks. On the day it was even hotter.

So. a very very weird start, I totally understand the format is necessary, and some people have said they love and prefer it... but I just couldn't get comfortable with it. It just felt odd and wrong as a race. Once started you would have no idea how you were doing relative to others (apart from people passing you who were clearly faster) but also normally you would have a constant "gaggle" of similar speeds and runners all around that you'd keep running with, chatting to, moving away from and closer to. But this was basically just a solo run. from the start. a long solo training run. but it wasn't training it was racing. I normally do a *lot* of long solo runs, that can be either training or course marking, both of which I enjoy for different reasons. If training I'll run listening to a book and go for random "food diversions", I'll take photos. Marking, clearly it's constant checking, thinking, marking, getting lost, losing kit and so on.... but racing - there's focus and an aim to get a time (i.e. better than before) I'm only carrying the absolute minimum I need, I'm not going "off-piste" to nip into stores, partly because on the NDW there aren't any (I think there's one at Merstham) but also because I don't feel comfortable doing so. Whilst I did bump into a fellow friend - Dave Stewart - along the way, and we had a good chat, it just didn't feel right (in the current climate) to be running with someone so I ran on ahead after we caught up.

So the heat.

It was hot.

Ridiculously hot.

Nevada hot.

I used to really struggle in the heat, I'm fair skinned, I don't do sun. I wear SPF50, I have in the past suffered from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I *thought* I'd got a handle on it. I really suffered in the past at Ironman racing...

Digression: long story, I'm not a good swimmer so I cycle like a demon on a mission from Satan - (I overtook over 700 riders in one race!) - but as a result I'm massively massively beyond the red-line when I start the run, also, typically by this time it's full on afternoon heat. So this one time I found myself lying on my back staring up at the sky looking into the face of a concerned paramedic trying to explain that I was fine to continue, a handful of salt tablets and I was on my way. I finished but it wasn't pretty.

Since then I'd always tried to get used to the heat, and work out how and what I need to adjust *before* it's too late. I ran the TP100 race in 2018 (Strava), this was a famously hot one and lots of people DNF'd and/or said how much they'd hated it.... I really enjoyed it and revelled in the conditions (I actually got too cold in the night!) one higlight was queueing up at an Ice Cream van looking completely out of place with other parents and kids and me in my full ultra running kit.

So I wasn't overly concerned starting the NDW100, I thought I would be able to play it by ear and adjust stuff as I went. I'd intentionally started out at well under pace, and was taking it easy any time there was some shade, already mentioned how the format felt odd running, similarly the experience at the aid stations was strange (again I can't fault the effort, time and thought that's gone into making the changes, this is not a criticism!) since normally these would be little oases of calm where you can pause, chat, socialise and take the pressure off. In the new format they were very much "full-on" in (well pause, then in), select, grab, refill, and out, with no downtime, no hugs, no bragging and chatting. 
I was running like clockwork, tapping out a constant steady pace, but felt like I was a frog slowly boiling through the day. I was eating less than usual, was drinking about double, had forgotten salt tabs but was ready to pick up supplies at mile 35.

Now midday and the heat hit like a, er, hot hammer?. There's a long open exposed drag up the climb from mile 35, once I reach the Caterham aid station (38) it's not going well. Sickness hits, I stagger about a bit. Have a lie down. Then I throw up, well out of sight, both to be private and I don't want any volunteers getting involved (completely forgot to add in one of my earlier summaries, a different incident in the heat in the past where on entering an aid station one of the crew simply stared me in the face and announced "I'm retiring you here") ... I wobble off and throw up again along the trail.

Not the most direct route through the aid station.(left to right)

I meet my crew again at 42 miles and let them know how I'm feeling, I'm planning on taking it steady to Knockholt at 50 miles and then deciding there, moving along at 20 minute miles now (this has been my pace since Caterham) but even at this pace the heat is just destroying me.
At 48 miles I try to find some shade and lie down for 20 minutes or so, but even the shade isn't helping I get up feeling even worse. Time to send *the* text message.

Will 'dorp'

Finally an age later I'm into Knockholt. Quick mental recap, conclude I'm done. I tell my crew, they try to talk me into keeping on. I take off my number and head into the checkpoint, I try to hand it in but the volunteer says he's not going to take it and I should sit down for a bit.
This takes me off guard and I think about it for a moment.... but as I've stepped aside and am wondering what to do another runner comes in. Hands in his number and says he's going home.
The volunteer starts to talk, but before he can finish a word the runner says "no I'm off" leaves his number and walks off.
Oddly. For some reason. that seals it. I had decided I was done before I came in, I decide yes I've had enough and go back up give my number and walk out.

I try talking to Cara, but I now notice I'm acshually shlerring my wordsh ash I try to sschpeek. Yeah OK that's not a good sign.

I order a beer. I need a beer. I lie on the grass and down it.
I swear (well schweeare)
Oddly I'm calm. Home. 

Now what. I go out for a run the following morning. 2 hours. Legs fine. Everything's absolutely fine. Now it's nice and cool. I swear. Slur free now.

The rest of August... just can't be bothered.

and that's that. I just can't be bothered.
All the way until the 5th September. This is the date of the next 100, the Thames Path 100. I've done the very basics of preparation, given the scheduled start time I'll be able to get up, get a train, get to Richmond and start, my kit is mostly organised. 
I'm up at 4am on Saturday. I sit. for three hours. Just looking at my kit. I just can't think of any reason I want to go. I logon and cancel all my entries for TP100, A100 and SDW100. 
I feel calm. I still have an entry for the WW50 (Wendover Woods) race remaining, I'll build up the training again (probably) and decide closer to the day.

Leading the CW50 😁
Complete with PPE

The following week I'm out and running happily again, at the weekend I'm heading out to "double mark" the Chiltern Wonderland course, I was due to do this with Cara, but due to logistical troubles I'm out here on my own. It's a long drive out to Goring crazy early, it's a messy complicated start for me (for various reasons) - I take an hour to cover the first mile and another for the next three - but thankfully it's faster from then on, but I am stunned when the leaders pass me when I've only covered 12 miles 😬 and I feel awful about it.... but I later find out that they were doing 6:30 minute miles for the start so feel better again.😁 Nutters.
Since I'm only marking half the course I need to work out a way to get back to the start, under lock-down clearly a bit more complicated than just blagging a lift from a random person and I don't feel "comfortable" being on the race route as a non-racer, so I make up an alternative "direct" route back... in the end I run just shy of 45 miles anyway. However, I had an awesome day of running, perhaps I should have stayed on the course and got a medal. πŸ€£
Then a long drive back...

aaand I'm out of action for three solid days with a migraine. Lots of potential causes (the stress? long drive? 45 miles with no nutrition or hydration? the head shaking? combination of all?) but I take a full week to want to get out again.

The NDW100 had been the first proper race using my new DIY tracking system, albeit still using the "off-the-shelf" cheap tracker hardware. I had been adding all sorts of tweaks to the page, it now showed aid station locations, whether they were "crew only", elevation profile, users relative position etc etc... and it all worked well on the day letting Cara track me accurately and judge exactly when to be where.

But now I decided it was time to have a go at improving the hardware side of the tracker with some of the ideas I had, part 2 of this post going into that further is over there.



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