• Barry Gerhold

SVN Battle of Britain Challenge

Over the past 4 weeks, I have been suffering with an injury and so I went into this event with some trepidation. On the 7th September, I did a 30 mile training run from Uckfield to Oxted, 5 miles into that run I began feeling pain on the inside of my left ankle. Nothing obvious caused it and ever since it has been giving me grief. I have cut down my training and even had to pull out of an event in hopes that the injury would improve. Gradually, it has eased off and I felt I could at least attempt running here at the Battle of Britain challenge.

Initially I had planned to run an ultra distance, but due to this recent injury and the lack of training I just aimed to do what I could. My auntie and uncle, Shirley and Graham had ventured down from Suffolk to see me and cheer me on today, so there was an additional incentive to run for as long as I could.

As the runners got underway, I started way back so that I did not get too carried away and I slowly eased forward through the field, trying to find some sort of rhythm. The route looped around the Samphire Hoe Country Park for 1.4 miles before heading up a steep tunnel, which takes you on top of the cliffs. I managed to keep running up this, but already saw that my heart rate was highly elevated. Unfortunately, the end of the tunnel is not the end of the hills.

As you exit the top of the tunnel and turn west, running in the direction of Capel-Le-Ferne, you are faced with four times the amount of climbing that you have already covered. That by itself would be bad enough, but today the weather had an additional treat in store for us… Gale force winds. Oh the joys! The wind blew pretty constant most of the time, but every now and again a gust would come along that would knock you off balance and sometimes prevent you from moving forward at all. The energy exerted trying to run this section was phenomenal. I tried to hide behind other runners, but this didn’t seem to help. The wind did not appear to come from any particular direction. It was bouncing around all over the place.

After 4 miles, you hit a turnaround point and then the wind is behind you (sort of) and you can enjoy the downhills. Gradually as these laps went on, I worked my way up through the field and by the end of lap 3 (19.65 miles) I found myself in 4th place and 2nd place marathon runner, two of the people ahead would continue to an ultra distance.

The choppy waters don't even begin to show how windy it was

This had been quite hard work, maintaining a constant pace throughout. Trying to maintain running into that headwind and pushing on past all of them hills. I had eaten what I thought was adequate. One gel per lap, a couple of jaffa cakes at the end of lap two and 3, this however would appear not to be enough. I found myself having to walk a couple of short sections on the 1.4 mile loop around the Country Park on lap 4 and I walked up that steep tunnel, which would have been expected by now anyway.

As I exited the tunnel, the weather seemed to become worse. The rain and mist had come in and made the outward stretch more awful. Graham wished me good luck, quite happy that he and Shirley could take some shelter and here another runner, Jools Smith, overtook me and he was not hanging around. He disappeared into the mist ahead of me. I hoped that would be the last time that I’d get overtaken, but that was not to be the case. I tried to run small sections here, but my body would not allow it. I felt like I had nothing left to give, my energy levels were depleted.

However, although I walked the majority of this long section, I hit the turnaround point at around 24/24.5 miles still in 5th place overall (3rd place marathon), but then it all went to shit! I expected I’d be able to maintain an adequate pace and do some running on the downhill section, but I could not even manage this. My body would not let me run.

Running up until this point in quite chilly weather had been ok. The running had kept me warm enough to wear just a base layer and a t-shirt, but as I walked in the wind and rain my body temperature was dropping quickly. I knew running would help raise my temperature, so I tried once more, but my calves were now rock solid and seemed full of lactic acid. They were done for the day and the only option I had was to walk it out. In the 2 or so miles that I walked back to the finish line to complete my marathon distance, I had at least 16 people overtake me. This was very disappointing and there was not a single thing I could do about it.

However, this run would be another learning experience. The terrain and also the weather conditions required a considerable amount of additional calories. Nutrition is a major factor when doing long distance running and my eyes have been opened to how important it can be and how much it can effect race day.

Looking at the maths it gets a bit more obvious:

Garmin estimates that I burnt approximately 3000 calories, Strava states 4500. So let’s go somewhere in the middle, say 3500.

I ran for 4.5 hours = so 778 calories burnt an hour.

I ate: 1 energy bar, 2 x gels and 4 jaffa cakes = 650 calories

It seems that I only ate enough to sustain me for 1 hour (obviously my body would have had calories stored) but I didn’t eat anywhere near enough.

The positive is that I managed to get marathon distance done despite the previous injury. The pain was present today, but very much bearable. I will try not to see this as a factor of my fitness levels due to my recent lack of training.

Thank you Shirley and Graham for making the trip down to see me and for letting me use your shower in your motor home after the event. A nice hot shower immediately after the event was amazing!

Also thank you Natalie for editing this report for me, without you I am sure people would have clicked to another webpage long before now.

And of course, thank you to Traviss and Rachel for another wonderful event. Yes, the weather could have been nicer and the hills could have been flatter, but if every event was similar then that would be boring and I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

*Since this event the ankle has caused me further grief. I am taking a week and a half off of running, resting it up and having to miss another event. Hopefully I am healed up in time to complete the event on the 15th October. Fingers crossed

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