#5 / 12
Kingswood 100km, 24 May 2020

No medal, no fellow competitors, no start or finish line – this was always going to be a challenge.

It would have been easy to bail on this one after the cancellation of London2Brighton. I had really been looking forward to both the run and two night stay in Brighton post-race. Adding this event to the 12in12 for May made sense as it would keep focus on endurance prep ahead of the 100miler in August so I decided to get a bit creative and get it done anyway.

It actually worked perfectly with 3 of my regular runs forming loops of 6mi (9.6km), 8mi (12.9km) and 7mi (11.2km) for a “lap” total of 21mi (33.8km) – 3 laps making up the 63mi/100km. I had the added bonus of having home as my permanent aid station with fantastic support from Carolyn (as always).

I set off at 4:36am with plenty of light given the time of year. The plan was to start really easy and try and hang on to a comfortable pace of around 11:00-11:30 min/mile (6:50 – 7:08 min/km) which would bring me in around 11:30 to 12:00 hours. Sounds very do-able. Right?

Hmmmm. I knew things might not go so well when, after just the first 5 miles (8km), I was feeling really flat with an ache setting into my hip muscles and an ITBS flare-up in my right knee getting underway. Ho-hum. Nothing for it but to get on some Pink Floyd (the brilliant live album Pulse) and grind. Music has been a recent addition to my running and it was a real life saver on the day. Unfortunately I’d not kept an eye on battery status and both my phone and headphones conked out around 54miles killing off a grand audio blast to the finish.

The lead in to this one has been governed by the monthly marathon challenge and I’ve really not done any specific workouts. I’m pretty sure this was a big part of my undoing. I’ve basically aimed to keep up regular sessions of 6+ miles with a weekly 20+ miler or 2 back-to back long ones. In truth I’ve not kept to even this loose plan. There are always low phases and this has just been one of those times when mojo lapses. I’ve also missed the club outings which always pick up the spirits and bring great motivation and workouts. In the 2 weeks before this one I decided to just let it go, rest and not try too hard to make up for any deficits. I think it was probably the best thing to do.

Loop 1

Lap 1 – 4:48am Lap 2 – 8:55am Lap 3 – 2:13pm

One thing you hear a lot about when reading about endurance running is nutrition. I’ve had the sense that getting this wrong would definitely be a bad thing but its tricky to know what the “right thing” actually is. I suspect this is also very personal and so its difficult to use others’ experience. For both previous outings I was living on a low-carb diet and hoping to maximise fat burning as my main fuel source – reasonably viable at my pace. I avoided  sugars, drank only water and used my own mix of dried meat and macadamia nuts (though this became difficult to get down before too long). Looking back I can’t honestly say that I got it right, or wrong for that matter.

I’ve been on a plant based diet since October 2019 so that was another significant general change for me. I also discovered Tailwind and have used it very successfully in recent marathons. My nutrition plan this time was was simple: 500ml water + Tailwind (2 scoops) every loop (so, 6-8miles / 10-13km) + 2 small home-made flapjacks based on the Chia Charge bars with my own twist: Oats, Chia seeds, Brown sugar, Peanut Butter, sea salt and Marmite (yum). Being able to re-stock so regularly and having clear targets for eating meant I stuck with it and it felt like that side of things went off perfectly. I threw in a few ice lollies and jelly babies just for the pleasure of it. No discernible energy walls, no gut bombs.

I definitely have a ‘mode’ when it comes to these ultras. It’s both a focus and a blurring. Focusing on what’s immediately in front while keeping a ‘blurry’ sense of the whole and dialling out noisy thoughts and distractions. The loops helped to keep a structured sense of what had passed and what was still to come. Great to check each loop and lap off “the list” and count down to the finish. Passing home each loop was great logistically but also provided an unwelcome opportunity to quit.

I vividly remember meeting Carolyn at the memorial on Colley Hill – a welcome interlude with a diet coke. I checked my watch and saw I was at about 32.5mi (52.3km). As I set off I thought: “Only just over half way!! This is just too big. The body is not prepped for this. This is horrible. I’ve already covered a marathon and met my 12in12 commitment. No need to go the whole way“. I wrestled with this for the next few miles. So easy to just stop at the end of the loop. I’d be at home anyway. Fortunately I was able to shake these thoughts before getting back home. It was close.

The low point on Colley Hill just after half way

I think once I’d broken though this low point, the rest was just rhythm and grind. Time melted away and once I was able to start checking off “last time past this point” moments I knew I’d finish.

Looking at the numbers I think I can probably say this was an improvement over the previous two. The first was just a disaster and the second was totally flat so the 4252 feet of elevation in this one definitely counted. It was never going to be fast and I think this is it for me and ultras. I’ve said that twice before but if there is another one it will have come come off a much stronger physical base.

I’m really pleased to have got this done. I think the finishing of it was important – knowing I can push through the barriers. Realising just how much of it really is a mental game. That said, right now I see the upcoming 100miler as a step too far. I just cannot see tacking on another 40miles without being in very different physical shape.

For now I can feel a bit relaxed knowing next month is just a marathon. It will probably have to be another home grown outing as the Welsh Black Mountains trail race is likely to be another COVID-19 victim.

Categories: Race Report