Kent 50 mile endurance run
Organised by SVN (http://www.saxon-shore.com)
This year, I have 18 events left, including this one. This one being the longest distance event and one where I’d be running into the unknown. My previous attempt at a 50 miler was at the beginning of April, on a much easier course, with more regular feed stations and one in which I attempted with a chest infection. Today, I did not have a chest infection; I was feeling very good and probably at the peak of my fitness for the year. Due to the differences in terrain it would be impossible to compare.
So, I had set my goals. Goal A was to beat the previous time of 9hrs 34mins, this should be pretty straight forward even though this course had twice the elevation. Goal B was to get under 9hrs. Goal C was to try and get close to 8:30. My long term goal for 50 miles is to get a sub 8hr, but I knew this would not be possible just yet.
This event started bright and early at 6am, which gave me a couple of options: to do the 1hr or so drive that morning, getting up at around 3am, or stay in a hotel close by and have an additional hour in bed. The hotel was the only real option in my mind and this made life so much easier. Also giving Nat and I the opportunity to enjoy a nice cider in the pub opposite on the Friday to celebrate her getting a new job. Congratulations baby xxx
At 6am I was underway and this 50 mile journey began. I set out at a nice comfortable pace, not letting myself get too carried away. There were several people doing the challenge option, which meant they can ring out at any given lap that they wish, with marathon distance being the most popular. Lee Rogers and Jon Drake, who were doing marathon distance, were up at the front setting a good pace and they headed off into the distance.
Half a mile into the course, there is a sharp climb with a lovely little windmill at the top of it. The steepness elevates the heart rate quite considerable. I managed to keep running up this, but knew that in the latter stages of this event I’d be walking up there. The course was made up of a 7.15 mile lap, which I would have to run 7 times. Within each lap, there is a 2 mile section out to an aid station, followed by a 3 mile loop before heading back on that 2 mile section, meaning I’d have to take this climb 7 times… Ouch!
Lap one was over and done with without any issue. I was around 7th position overall with Lee and Jon out in front and 4 guys behind them all quite close together. This group of 4 were about a minute ahead of me. I was interested to see if this gap opened up, or if I could manage to slowly reel them in. There were many sections that I could see them up ahead and this helped distract me as my legs were now waking up and wondering what the hell was going on.
As lap two progressed, I saw the group of 4 spread out with about a minute between the front and the back of the pack. After mile 10, I was 30 seconds behind the chap at the back of it (Ryan). A mile later I had managed to catch him. Ryan is quite a runner. He has run two 100 mile events this year already, with several more planned. The most recent was the South Downs Way 100 (SDW100), which he had done only two weeks prior and it is the reason I had caught him. On any other day, he’d be miles ahead.
As I came into end of this lap, I only saw one of the group come out of the aid station. I briefly stopped to change a water bottle and pick up something to eat and headed straight back out. It seemed that two of the guys had stopped at the aid station to re-supply, go to the toilet or something, meaning of the 50 mile runners, I was now in 1st place.
My watch had been set to notify me with some information every 10 miles, showing the time taken to do the last 10 miles and the average pace during that. My expectation was to get around the first 10 miles and 2nd set of 10 miles each around 1hr 40mins. The watch showed me that I was in fact running a fair bit quicker: 1hr 29mins for the first period and 1hr 30mins for the 2nd period. I was especially surprised by the 2nd reading, as by that point my legs were certainly starting to tire and the heart rate was starting to creep up a little.
I got through the remainder of lap 3 and lap 4 without much happening really. The legs were getting more and more tired, as would be expected. Natalie helpfully laid out a fresh top, cap and sweatband for me to put on, so at the end of lap 4, I had a quick change and headed back out. Nat was there waiting for me, cheering me on. I would have liked to stop to chat to her for a bit, but I was starting to feel a little nauseous and didn’t want to risk talking to anyone in case I was ill… 28.6 miles and I was still running.
My endurance had been the most affected by illness and in recent events, whilst my fitness was slowly getting back to normal, I was struggling to get to the 20 mile mark before having to walk. This has improved gradually over the past month and today as I headed out onto lap 5, I ran the first half mile of it and on approaching the bottom of windmill hill, I decided now was the time to walk. 29 miles before having to walk. I was very happy with this and it’s certainly a sign that my fitness is back where it should be.
I walked up that sharp hill and could try and work out some sort of plan for the remainder. I knew I was slowing and I knew that my legs were suffering meaning it would not be possible to run as much as I’d like, so I would have to break it up a bit. I felt very dehydrated at this point and that nausea was still there. Upon reaching the top of this climb, I started to run. I made it about half a mile before having to walk again.
I was trying to eat but my body was not letting this happen. I knew it was important to get some nutrition in but this was proving difficult. I walked for the next half mile, whilst nibbling away at a macaroon, hoping this would make me feel a bit better. I also drank a fair amount of water. Half an hour later, several glugs of water and I had finally managed to eat that bloody macaroon. Damn thing! During this ordeal, two runners passed me. A fella named Jon Fielden. who was in the original group of 4 and a lady named Sarah Maguire. Both were looking quite comfortable.
At the aid station (mile 30.5), I topped up my water bottle and had some flat coke. I was soon back running again. I had made the decision to attempt to run for a mile and walk for half a mile, in the hope that I can maintain that pattern until the end and using the half mile walking sections to try and take in the scenery and give those legs a bit of recovery. Throughout this lap, I managed to maintain that. My iPod had been ignored up to this point, so I decided to stick some music on and at the midway aid station, I found out they had ice pops. These were heaven and just what I needed. I enjoyed this ice-cold refreshment with my music playing loudly and I continued on with my run with a smile on my face.
At the end of lap 5, I could see how far the three runners behind me were. At the end of lap 6, it was obvious that they were gaining on me. I had to decide on how to proceed with lap 7... the final lap.
If I continued with the 1mile run, half mile walk, it would likely mean I’d be caught by at least one of the guys in pursuit, maybe even all three. I would need to attempt to reduce the rest periods from half a mile to a quarter and see how I felt. The 10 mile notifications had showed me slowing. Mile 20-30 was 1hr 41 which was okay. Mile 30-40 however, was 2hrs 5mins, which was a bit of a worry. The regular cups of flat coke seemed to be working well for me and on this last lap I felt quite energised. I kept pushing on, sometimes only walking for 0.1 of a mile and Nat greeted me about a mile from the finish line. The sight of her there made me even more determined to finish strong. I felt like I was running hard and fast, something like I would be running at parkrun, but in fact it was closer to 9min/mile. I was continuously looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was gaining on me. I pushed on, took the final corner and sprinted towards the finish line, punching the air as I crossed it.
It felt amazing to finish this event, and to finish it strong.
The final 10 miles were completed in 1hr 56, so quite an improvement over the previous ten.
My finishing time was 8hrs 42mins and 59 seconds, taking 3rd place.
I was given my medal by Traviss and Rachel presented me with a trophy indicating that I had run 500 miles with them which has been a privilege.
Thanks again to Nat for always believing in me, for coming along to support and especially for getting up at 4am on her day off. Oh, and thank you for not eating all the snacks. I love you.