Random thoughts on normal things.

Doing the impossible

Sunday 15th July 2007 will forever be etched into my memory. It was one of the greatest day’s of my life. I became a…..a……read on if you want to find out 😉

After my Rotterdam marathon failure  of not achieving a sub-3 finish time in 2006 I was feeling dejected. I read about my friend Hippo’s epic race report of the Kent 50 Mile Challenge, got excited and entered for. Bloody Hippo, has a lot to answer for 😉

Leading up to the event I knew I had to get some long runs in. I only run on pavement. I did:

  •  26mile run. Learnt that choccy is no good for refuelling whilst running. Sunny weather and loads of isotonic Lucozade Sports don’t work for me. I also developed muscle cramp towards the end.
  • 37mile rin. Learnt that less Lucozade (ie 500ml per 12miles) and couple of bananas seems to work well. I also added a 1/4 teaspoon of LowSalt to the drink, no muscle cramp, but did get sore nipples!
  • 13mile walk. Learnt that my joints and tendons are not strong yet muscles are fine. My heels got very sore and I almost developed some blisters – but I can walk if I want to!

I spent the last few days sorting out my MP3 player for some fast cadence music. I didn’t carbo-load for the above training sessions so I didn’t really feel the need to carbo-load for 50M, just to eat well the day before. Also the info on 50M said that most of it was on good firm track and only a few dodgy bits which shouldn’t be a problem in the dry. I planned to run in minimalist NB150 racing flats, however I bought a pair of Decathalon’s Kalenji Off-road shoes, very cheap, light and flexible. I made sure the shoes were a little on the large size.

Saturday afternoon we did some map-cap packing. The 50M is so well organised they provide all the food and fluids you need. I still mixed my own concoction of LucoSports plus LoSalt. We left to go to Marshside, Kent. There was total traffic chaos everywhere. AAAaaargggh!. The whole of East London and Essex had shut down due to a spate of accidents. After being stuck in traffic for an 1hr, we went back home and had a meal. Phoned the AA who confirmed all was clear and then set off at 7pm. Got to the Gates Inn Pub which is 50M Race HQ in about 1hr 20mins. The organiser Mike Inkster is also the head chef! I registered and then drove to Reynolds Farm. I was very impressed to see an exquisite beautiful country cottage B&B set in six acres of well maintained land owned by Freda and her husband. They made us very welcome and our room, a self-contained gound floor annexe was simply excellent. There were a number of other runners staying there too. One of them, Dave, lives just round the corner from me. Dave’s an experienced ultra-runner and he told me all about the mental challenge of ultra-running. By the end I was wondering just what I had got myself into! The event start was at 6AM. After setting all of our mobile phones to ring at 4AM we all went to sleep.

Sunday: I had a restless night and managed to wake up before the alarms. I shaved some of my chest hair around the nipples and covered them with surgical tape. I also rubbed a large amount of Vaseline all over my feet, toes and heels before putting on my racing flats. Packed my plastic race bag with drinks, Kalenjis and wind-proof jacket. Freda made breakfast for all the runner-guests for 5AM. Dave kindly offered a lift so I left the wife and kids snoring to set off to the race start at Gates Inn Pub.

The 50M is 8 laps of a ~6.5mile route given 52.4 double-marathon distance. There’s water stops every ~1.6miles. My plan was simple: Forget the total miles, just focus on one lap at a time. Get to lap6 ie ~40miles and then if necessary walk.

Note: Some of the pace times include the stops.

Lap1: Mike Inkster gave an inspirational speech. Sadly this may be the last one. All the more reason to finish it I thought. Without much fanfare we were off. Remembering UltraTrini’s words I set off slowly, drink in hand, chatting with Dave. At the half-way point there is a steep concrete hill. It is aptly named Tourette’s Hill 😉 Just after that at the water-and-toilet stop Dave had to pee, so I continued focussing on pulling the ankle and good pose form. The weather started to get darker and darker. Flashes of lightning and deep rumble of thunder. Counting the seconds between the flash and sound proved to me that the lightning strike was getting closer – yikes! I hastily put my MP3 away. Completed the fist lap in 9:23/mi pace 145bpm. Had a banana and put my wind-jacket on.

Lap2: Hooked up with ACID who went to school near where I live – small world! Also met Cliff Face and Mark Foster 7. Immediately the heavens opened and God turned on the Power Shower! I’ve never seen so much rain. One moment we were running and next we were wading. I recalled Soda’s quip about wearing a wetsuit and smiled. The guys were too chatty for me so I pushed further on. The terrain was atrocious. I’ve always run on pavement. But here I was in racing flats running over mud! In times like this I find it useful to talk to myself and I didn’t have polite words! Completed in 10:04/mi pace 151bpm. At pub the organisers had kindly put plastic bags all over our kit bags. I dumped my bum-bag, had a banana and continued.

Lap3: It kept raining and the feet of a 100 runners churned the mud. I decided I had to change into Kalenji off-road shoes next time as I was mud-skating. I just couldn’t find my form I was slipping so much. At one point my shoe nearly came off. I had thoughtfully put my lovely new MP3 in a plastic bag. Sadly the water had got in and zapped it. Bu33er!!!! Completed in 10:01/mi pace 155bpm. I was so busy putting my MP3 away that I forgot to change into the off road shoes – and no sign of the family!

Lap4: Still loads of problems with running with a good rhythm – oh well. Luckily the rain had eased and I could see blue-sky. One great aspect of this race is the friendliness of all the runners. I chatted to so many people. One person confirmed my strategy ie if you get to Lap6 you’re on the home straight. 10:15/mi pace at 154bpm. I saw the family and realised I had just completed a marathon! Thought of Sportaloo and smiled. Luckily, family had brought along spare clothing. I took off the NB150s and wet socks, dried the feet and put on nice dry socks and the kalenjis. Took an extended 10min break to have some tea but just could not eat anything.

Lap5: Nrg, you are a total fucking idiot. You have never run off road, yet here you are doing an off-road ultra in brand new XC shoes. Is that the mental madness Dave spoke about? Kalenjis got some getting used to. Suddenly, my right Achilles started to tighten. Wow what’s going on here? Ok, I thought, Kalenjis have a larger heel cushioning so I must land flat. It’ll hurt the quads but I’d rather have sore quads then a busted achilles. I altered my style and immediately the achilles soreness went away. Feeling very pleased with my rational thinking I pounded along, thinking that maybe Fell Liker and Lizzy B had a good point about all their muddy cross-country runs. Completed in 10:13/mi pace, 160bpm. It was getting hot so from my training sessions i knew I had to stop taking Lucozade Sports and start drinking water. Kids helped me to wash my face, get rid of the salt and mozzies.

Lap6: The important one. Just focussed on getting round. Chatting to as many people as I could. Started to take walking breaks as I found that running slow and steady was tiring. Completed at 11:00/mi 155bpm. Another extended stop and I was off.

Lap7: Walked with another runner for a mile just talking about ultras. Bid him good bye and phoned that my slow running was killing me. So what to do? I can’t run slower, walking is not an option – yet! So the logical answer is to speed up. So I set off at fair clip at about 8-8:30/mi pace. When I got exhausted, I walked to recover. I did these run/jog intervals to complete at 11:00/mi at 150bpm.

Lap8 (Final): This was so tough! I tried repeating the intervals of Lap7 but couldn’t. So I just run/walked about 60/40 of the way. I thought to myself if I were to die at least I would have run an Ultra, c’mon get moving Pal! Came up to Tourette’s hill one last time. I thought, I’ve run up hill all the other times I’m gonna fucking well sprint up the hill this time and I did! About 2.5 miles from the end one chap was power-walking along. Had a good conversation and with the Sun beating down I felt like walking with him to the end. But then I realised it would mean I’d finish after 10hrs. Thinking if maybe this was the moment of mental madness Dave told me about, I decided I wanted to run under 10hrs. Bid him fair well and away I went. All throughout the 50miles I had been focussing on my Pose form: Pose, Fall, Pull, Pose, Fall, Pull, Pose, Fall, Falling, FALLING, SHIIIIIIIIIT! Splat. I had fallen into the mud, 1.5 mile from the finish. I burst out laughing. Nrg, when you shoot, you shoot to kill 😉 I picked myself up got moving again and decided what would be a fitting end to an amazing ultra? Answer to run the last 0.5mile at 6-6:30min/mile pace to the finish. 🙂

I’m really pleased. Lots of my decisions came out right. My form was good and as expected my quads are a little sore as I had to focus on where I was landing. I reckon if I had spent less time resting at the end of each lap and perhaps run a bit faster where I would’ve been more comfortable then I could’ve got a better. Oh well. We live and learn.

Sunday 15th July 2007 : The day I became an Ultra-Runner.


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