Saturday, 31 December 2016

Mileage target for 2017

Now is the time when all the 2017 mileage targets come out. Normally people go for round numbers like 700, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000. However if you run to eat, here is an alternative list to choose from. This is based on the Runner's World calculator which suggests a 75kg runner will burn 125 calories / mile and given that it is "run your weight in", your weight will be cancelled out in the calculations.

Miles Food

48 celery
162 Strawberries
198 Curly kale
294 Kiwi Fruit
372 Oranges
438 Frozen peas
570 Banana
618 Olives
882 Boiled eggs
1074 Fried eggs
1140 Avocado
1242 Brown bread
1320 Pizza Express Margherita
1374 Big Mac
1392 Tuna baguette
1530 Plain bagel
1560 BK cheese burger
1602 Hot Cross buns
1698 Camembert
1722 Jam doughnuts
2040 Sultana scones
2268 Corn flakes
2340 Pork pie
2754 Iced party rings
3084 Hula hoops
3732 Almonds
4302 Butter
5412 Lard

Monday, 17 October 2016

Centurion Autumn 100 - Orion's belt, belt buckles and a lovely lady in a blue tutu

Centurion Autumn 100

The Centurion Autumn 100 is the 4th and final Centurion 100 mile race of the year. It is centred in Goring & Streatley and has 4 out and back legs of (roughly) 25 miles. First and fourth legs are flat runs along the Thames Path and the second and third are a bit lumpier on the Ridgeway.

I didn't have the best Friday before the race. I had a pretty busy afternoon which meant I forgot to eat lunch. I ended up eating a flapjack at about 5pm before joining a mate over from Australia for a glass of two of red wine before heading over to Paddington for a train to Reading and my hotel. I ended up with a the traditional pre-race meal of a sandwich meal deal with guest ale in my hotel room (Sainsbury's and Doombar). I drifted off to sleep after watching Britain's best bridges and the end of the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic "Commando". Living the dream.

Good morning Reading!

I ended up waking up fairly early so made my way over to the start. The legendary Ken Fancett was on my carriage and he led the way to race HQ. Many people doubted my strategy of following Ken including Roz "canal specialist" Glover and Nicola Hoy who I shared the walk to HQ with. After the lovely Louise Ayling checked through my bag, I was all set to go. Only about 2 hours too early. I headed over to the start and was one of just two runners there. We decided to head back into town for a cup of tea to settle the nerves and wait for the start. Very civilised.

A great briefing by James "the rain whisperer" Elson who had promised rain at 5pm and 7am. I finally got the raise my hand when the question of "who had done 5 100 mile races" and also put my hand up for the grand slam question. It was all get very real now....

I lined up near the front as the start is quite narrow and has a few bottlenecks and after the slow start of the North Downs Way, I wanted to get started quickly. I started quite well and was ticking over well but had the nagging sensation I was doing a "David Hellard".

I ticked off the first few miles running with fellow  'slammer Mark Farthing. I looked behind me and noticed Paul Ali was just behind me and probably suggested I was starting a bit quickly so made my excuses and took my first walking break. Ken Fancett came past a few seconds later which confirms I had gone off a bit quick. The first section went very quickly with a Formula 1 style pitstop from the excellent pit crew at Wallingford before heading on towards the turn around. Despite the rain, the course was generally firm with a few muddy puddles (no fall this time) and a random bit where we ran across straw bales.
A lovely touch from the Lonegan parents who had taken a print out of the entry list and were cheering everyone's name - assuming the could look it up fast enough.
The out and back nature of the course means that before long you have the leaders coming back towards you. Intially I thought Pierluigi Collina, the Italian referee was sprinting towards me. Then I thought it was a jogger out on a Saturday morning run. Then I saw the race number and assumed it was someone who had gone out way too quick but it turned out to be the eventual winner (2:47 split for 25 miles for goodness sake!). It was quite some time until second place came past.
It was an uneventful few miles and I made it to the turn around in a bit under 2 hours. A quick stop and I was heading back towards Goring. Quite a few high fives on the way back for people who have been part of the Grandslam journey #MIBUltra. Flavien Bascoul was chugging along in his usual ridiculous shorts. He had last been seen with a large glass of wine in the pub so this may have taken the edge off his speed.
I shared some miles with a Polish man (not from Warsaw!) and a German chap. Soon enough, in just under 4 hours, I was back at HQ where the lovely Sarah Sawyer was on time keeping duties. Her plan was to volunteer and then pace Tom for the last section. I had seen Tom flying in roughly 5th place but would sadly drop out through injury between here and the North Stoke CP. My parents had came along to watch in South Stoke and had told me there was someone in front who was struggling with a bad back and sadly it was Tom hobbling along.
Leg 2 is by far my favourite of the 4. It has some lovely singletrack sections with undulations and some gradual climbing to the turnaround point. You cross a Golf Course and I have to say running across fairways is an absolute joy with soft springy grass. On the way back, it started to rain. At 4:57 it started - James had warned there would be rain at 5pm and was spot on with this one. The rain wasn't too bad but I had the waterproof out which would stay on for the rest of the race. The rain eased and I hit my favourite stretch. This is definitely a hero section of running as you have the gradient on your side, 40+ miles are in the bag and there are dozens of people coming the other way giving encouragement (and reminding you how far you are clear of cut-offs). The sun was setting with views over Oxfordshire. I had hoped to make it back into Goring without a headtorch but failed a mile short when I went past the Rossini restaurant and the bright lights made me realise just how dark it had got.

Two down - two to go...

Shortly after leaving Goring, I paired up with fellow Grand-slammer Peter who I shared most of the second half of the North Down Way with. We made good progress on this section - weather was almost perfect for a night section. Mainly cloudy which kept the temperature up but the clouds cleared to show a full moon and a great view of Orion's belt on the way back. I have a special gratitude for the volunteers staffing the two Ridgeway CPs. They are holed up in a tent and keep the tea flowing and really take care of everyone. Apparently Police had been called as there were reports of an illegal rave. To be fair there were people smashing down Coke, taking white tablets and a few hallucination as well as flashing lights and dance music. Easy mistake to make.

I was starting to get cramp in my hamstrings and stopping to stretch every half mile. I was also getting a weird pain just above my ankle on my shin where I think in hindsight my Injinji undersocks and compression socks were combining to cause an issue (I didn't have blister problems though). Moderately painful but not a game breaker.

Three down - one to go.

Back to Goring for a quick refuel of chilli con carne. The "Saturday morning jogger" had won the race about 2 hours before I got back - an unbelievable time of just over 14 hours.

Next time I come back here I will be a Grand-slammer... I was about 40 minutes down on last year but hoping I wouldn't fall apart quite as badly as last year.

I started making progress out of Goring but the chilli was taking a bit of time to settle. I soon found myself on my own. I have to admit I was cracking up at this point. It was roughly 2.30am and I had been on the go for over 16 hours. I was in the woods on my own and starting singing and whistling on my own. I think I was part way though signing "Jerusalem" when some runners came round the corner. They (deservedly) took the piss out of me but I carried on through the section as there weren't any people around. I love this section to Whitchurch which had a roller-coaster feel to it but could definitely have an axe murderer feel to it on a bad day.

The Witchurch crew were awesome - particularly the marshal who took my empty cup off me on the way out to save me a couple of steps. Really nice touch. First job was to tick off the 5 miles to the "Welcome to Reading sign". Early on, I cracked the outside of my knee on a gate (one of many). To give an idea of my mental state, I wasn't upset about this. I was actually quite pleased as my shin and hamstrings weren't the things hurting the most and figured when my knee stopped hurting, I wouldn't notice the other ailments. Sadly the gate had upset the delicate balance of my knee and it was quite sore when I ran but was ok when I walked. And so started the 18 mile march.... 

Last year the stretch towards the Reading aid station had really, really dragged. There is a sign which says "welcome to Reading" which is a long way from the Reading Richmond-On-Thames checkpoint. I had planned ahead and noticed there was a Strava segment which showed the distance to be 3.5 miles. This year I would be prepared for the distance and just tick off the 3.5 miles. This however relied on me being able to count to 3. Unfortunately I miscounted and after 2.5 miles (3 beeps of the Garmin) I started looking for the checkpoint about a mile early. Yet again the Reading section dragged....
The Reading aid station was a good stop including a chat with the Russhards. Paul raced this last year dressed as a bear and is a fantastic runner who I'm sure will win at least one of the Centurion races next year. Back down the stairs and 12.5ish miles to go.
I had come to terms with a slow finish but just wanted it over now. I was longing for the sun as it meant I would be closing in on a finish. The next ailment appeared which was abdominal cramp. I couldn't tell if was digestive or the actual "six-pack" that was cramping. It seemed to ease when I burped or if it stretched backwards. Really quite painful.
I had started to cry without warning every so often on this section as it started to dawn on me that I was finally going to achieve the grand slam dream. Part of me had hoped for a real grinding painful battle against injury and the elements and at 6:57 the rain started. Seeing the people coming the other way shows just how mentally tough and determined my fellow Centurions are. I would love to mention everyone as you were all amazing. I briefly chatted to Graham Carter and Rodrigo his pacer. Kate looked to be struggling but she is tough as nails so I had no doubts. Before long Tutu Tinu came past follow shortly after by Dan the sweeping superstar. A quick chat with Dan and that was the tail end of the race. Next stop Whitchurch for my final Centurion aid station of the year.

Back over the rollercoaster woods and Goring arrived. I was desperate for the pain to stop and as a bonus I nearly threw up but just held it together. Getting congratulations from fishermen and boat owners was really nice and I even managed a hugely painful jog finish. 

I had finish just under 24 hours and enough under 24 hours to break 96 hours for the slam. I got through the door of the hall and slumped by the timekeepers table.

 The journey of 400 miles in 4 days was over. I had a famous hug from Nici and a bonus one from 2015 Grand slammer Louise which may have prevented everyone from noticing just how sweaty my eyes were.

It was great hanging out with fellow runners and volunteers post race. It makes me feel really lucky to have discovered this by accident.
My parents had come to watch me finish and gave me a lift home. I had got home and a quick bath and later there was the small matter of watching the end of race countdown. That lovely lady and her blue Tutu had crossed the line and Dan the sweep gets to live another day. A little fist-pump and it was time to have a nap.....

All the best and thank you to everyone who has been a part of it. I think Vinny Jones sums up my 2016 running year quite well...

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Centurion A100 2015 Result analysis

The 2015 Autumn 100 was an unusually fast race with James Elson steaming through to win in 14:35. The conditions were excellent with a warm day section and mild night. Personally I had a decent race and was flying at halfway in 8:47 (on track for 21:30ish). I kept up decent pace until 75 miles (15:05 /  roughly 22 hr pace) but then really struggled through Reading to finish in 22:40. My ankle was bothering me on the last spur but general tiredness was probably the main thing slowing me down. 

I am back in  2016 for another go and might go out a bit steadier this year to avoid the spur 4 crash - particularly the first 25 miles when everyone gets over excited and goes out too quickly.

Firstly I have summarised the race data in a scatter plot with some plain vanilla linear trend lines to join the dots for you. Look up your target time at the bottom and the read off where it crosses the lines on the y-axis. If you finished the race last year, you will appear as a dot on the chart.

I have also included some tables which give an idea of when previous runners passed through the various checkpoints. There is a quite a large range so it might help you to get an idea if you tend to start to quickly or pace things more evenly. 

It is just a guide but might be helpful for crews to predict when you will get to future checkpoints. If you get to half way in 10 hours it, is extremely unlikely you will be finishing in 20 hours but sub 24 hours might be about right.

  20 hr pace
Goring Swyncombe Goring Chain Hill Goring Reading Goring
10% 03:15:04 05:30:04 07:44:24 10:26:47 13:06:32 16:26:46 20:00:00
25% 03:26:56 05:40:44 07:57:04 10:45:28 13:27:54 16:42:17 20:00:00
Average 03:35:18 05:53:44 08:11:32 11:00:38 13:43:14 16:54:03 20:00:00
75% 03:44:36 06:07:01 08:29:35 11:20:27 14:01:54 17:09:13 20:00:00
90% 03:58:38 06:22:13 08:45:33 11:35:22 14:17:00 17:19:27 20:00:00
22 hr pace
Goring Swyncombe Goring Chain Hill Goring Reading Goring
10% 03:34:34 06:03:05 08:30:50 11:29:27 14:25:11 18:05:27 22:00:00
25% 03:47:38 06:14:49 08:44:47 11:50:01 14:48:41 18:22:30 22:00:00
Average 03:56:50 06:29:06 09:00:41 12:06:42 15:05:33 18:35:28 22:00:00
75% 04:07:04 06:43:44 09:20:33 12:28:30 15:26:06 18:52:09 22:00:00
90% 04:22:29 07:00:27 09:38:06 12:44:54 15:42:42 19:03:23 22:00:00
24 hr pace
Goring Swyncombe Goring Chain Hill Goring Reading Goring
10% 03:54:05 06:36:05 09:17:16 12:32:08 15:43:50 19:44:08 24:00:00
25% 04:08:20 06:48:53 09:32:29 12:54:33 16:09:29 20:02:44 24:00:00
Average 04:18:22 07:04:28 09:49:50 13:12:46 16:27:53 20:16:52 24:00:00
75% 04:29:32 07:20:26 10:11:30 13:36:33 16:50:17 20:35:04 24:00:00
90% 04:46:21 07:38:40 10:30:39 13:54:27 17:08:24 20:47:20 24:00:00
26 hr pace
Goring Swyncombe Goring Chain Hill Goring Reading Goring
10% 04:13:35 07:09:06 10:03:43 13:34:49 17:02:29 21:22:48 26:00:00
25% 04:29:01 07:22:57 10:20:12 13:59:06 17:30:16 21:42:58 26:00:00
Average 04:39:54 07:39:51 10:38:59 14:18:50 17:50:12 21:58:16 26:00:00
75% 04:51:59 07:57:08 11:02:28 14:44:36 18:14:29 22:18:00 26:00:00
90% 05:10:13 08:16:53 11:23:13 15:03:59 18:34:06 22:31:16 26:00:00

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Not a bucket list

The more races I do, the more I find out about new races and challenged that I want to do. I have included some that I have finished for completeness and plan to updated.

This is a work in progress and I will add a bit more detail why each of them has made the list and also hopefully update as I cross a few off.

My categorisation is obviously subjective and based on my perception - you are welcome to disagree but it is my list after all. I have included some distance based goals which I have put in the buckets

Fun runs (finishing shouldn't be an issue - finishing fast is another matter)

London Marathon
Rhayader 20 mile - round the dams
Comrades marathon, South Africa - the world's greatest ultra
Man vs Horse, Llanwrtd Wells
Escape for Meriden
Ironman 70.3
Sub 20 minute 5k

Challenging (should get round but not easily)
A sub 24 100 mile finish
Centurion SDW100
Centurion NDW100
An Ironman triathlon*
Self Transcendence - 24 hours of Tooting - 100+ mile total
London to Brighton Trail run
Vanguard Way oner - self supported. I have done the Croydon to Woldingham bit a few times and also the Vanguard Way marathon. However that is just the first 15 miles out of 67 and it finishes by the sea in Newhaven.
Sub 90 half marathon - unofficially done in training but would like to knock it off
Sub 40 - p.b. is 40:34
Good for age London Marathon (currently GFA is 3:05 and my unofficial pb is 3:37)
LDWA 100 mile challenge walk

Challenging + (50/50 to finish)
Centurion Grandslam
SDW unsupported
NDW unsupported - Farnham to Dover then loop back round to the junction via Canterbury
Lakeland 100
Western States 100
UTMF (100 mile-ish ultra around Mount Fuji in Japan)
10km open water swim
Leadville 100
Ultra Tour Monte Rosa
Thames Ring 250
T184 (or doing it self supported)
A sub 3 hour marathon
A sub 10 hour 100km
A sub 20 hour 100 mile finish
2,000 miles in a year

Long shots (finishing would be a major achievement and unexpected)
Automatic qualification for Sparathlon (currently a sub 8 hours 100km, 16:45 100 miler)
Ronda Dels Cims 170km / 13,500m D+
Lon Las Ultra
Badwater 135
Diagonale Des Fous 167km / 9,700m D+
Bob Graham Round
The Hill
Tour Des Geants

Batsh!t crazy (you never know how life turns out)
Race across America
Vol State 500km
Appalachian Trail - through hike
Monarch Way

Not on the list
Marathon des Sables - the 1990s version would have been pretty cool but the hype machine of "toughest race in the world" with a 90%+ finish (yet no qualification requirements) doesn't appeal. Also I could do a lot of races with £3k+. I'm glad it does exist though as it means the rich business men going through mid-life crises will continue to go for this rather than events I want to do.  I should also add that to race it hard and  finish top 50 would be bloody tough and I have huge respect for Elizabet Barnes, Danny Kendall, James Cracknell etc.
Sri Chimnoy - Self transcendence 3,100 miles - 5,649 laps of a Queen's NY block. Not sure I need to explain why this didn't make the cut. I'm glad it exists though.
Chained Ultra - what is wrong with you people?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Choose Tailwind

Choose ultras. 
Choose a race. 
Choose a training plan. 
Choose a backpack. 
Choose a fucking big GPS watch and a foam roller. 
Choose good health, low cholesterol, and a vegan diet. 
Choose your friends. 
Choose post-race clothes and matching luggage. 
Choose parkrun and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. 
Choose not sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. 
Choose rotting you stomach away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable portaloo, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. 
Choose your future. 
Choose ultras... But why would I want to do a thing like that? 
I chose not to choose ultras. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got tailwind?

Sunday, 28 August 2016

I'm gonna be (500 miles)

A few weeks ago I finished my 5th 100 mile race and also completed a "career slam" of the Centurion 100 mile events. Now is probably a good time to reflect on what I have learnt from the experience. This post will be a bit of a jumble of anecdotes and unstructured but hopefully it is useful none the less.

A conversation which sums it up for me while getting a lift back to Ashford station after finishing the NDW100 (thanks again Louise)

Louise - "I've just spoken to Kate and she is is loving it - she says she hasn't had a single down moment and should be finished in an hour or so"
Me - "neither have I"
Everyone else in the car - "really?!?"
Me - "Yes - I had about 47"

I have the other race reports in this blog if you want to see what my impression of each race was shortly after. Here I will also give my view on them with the benefit of a bit more time to reflect and maybe cover off a few things missed first time round.

The low points of the races are almost all during the night sections but can come at almost any point. That is not to say that low points can't come in the first half but they tend to come later in the races. However I will cover off the high points first before moving on to the darker moments.

My favourite point in each race seems to be around sunset. Typically I have 50-70 miles under my belt and the prospects of finishing seem good. On the recent NDW, there is an aid station at Holly Hill 66 miles which was just a car park with a gazebo and a few chairs. No crew were allowed so it was pretty quiet with just me, my pacer and a runner I had been running with for the last 15 miles. I was having a cup of tea, cooling down after a very hot day and some lovely volunteers to chat with. Most of the miles were done and the headtorch was still in the bag.

Getting to Clayton windmills about 70 miles into the SDW just as the sun was setting was a highlight. 30 miles to go seemed very achievable at this point and it is a fun aid station with glow sticks and fairy lights to guide the way.
Likewise the Henley aid station on the TP100 was a great landmark with 50 miles gone. It is a hive of activity and it is worth grabbing a seat, some pasta and having a quick chat with fellow runners and taking advantage of the great helpers before heading out for the second half. The descent back to Goring on the second spur of the A100 with the sun setting over the Thames Valley was a pretty special as I looked like winning my race to get to halfway before putting on a headtorch.

I normally try to rattle through the first 50 miles of races without sitting down but there is still usually time for a quick chat with friends and volunteers on the aid stations. I have yet to sit down in the first 50 miles of a race. I generally run (with a few walking breaks) the vast majority of the first half of races typically getting to halfway in about 9-10 hours. This is normally the fun bit...

Now onto the low points. Lots of different reasons for them and lots of flavours so hopefully I will cover most of them.

I feel like this after only X miles and there are Y to go

This has happened quite a few times. Sometimes it can be a random niggle like a squeaky calf or a blister which appears early. The top 5 for me:

Stomach related - I foolishly decided to buy a pain au raisin when I was picking up water before the TP100. I ate it before the start and figured it would be good to have some proper food early. For the first 10 miles my stomach was quite noisy and I feared it would result ina a lot of pit stops. Luckily my stomach settled by 15 miles and was fine the rest of the race.

Cramping - I have cramped a few times in the first half of races including calf, quad and groin (ouch). I carry electrolyte tabs which seem to cure it quickly. However the fear of 75 miles of cramp is still there.

Heat related - on the SDW and NDW the heat was pretty bad. It was along the lines of "if it is this bad at 10am, will I be able to get through the race". However it just made me a bit slower during the day and the night section was much easier as it was warm and pleasant.

Blister related - I had a whopper on my toe which appeared in the first 25 miles of the A100. It stopped hurting after 25 miles so I forgot about it. It looked like this at the end but didn't really affect my race.

Unmentionable related - I have had great success with loose fitting shorts and bodyglide but there are some parts bodyglide can't reach. On both the NDW is was at the point of pretending I was massaging my hamstrings to relieve the pain. Apparently sudocream is the solution to the problem. I had 65 miles to go at this point.

The mid race lull

I am fan of the big pasta feed at halfway. However this can cause a crash shortly after. I know to expect it now and just head out the aid station and accept that it will be a slow 30 minutes or so but worth it to get the calories on board and not spend to long in the aid station. It is also the first sit down of the race so takes a while to get going again.

Coming out of the TP100 aid station at Henley first time was rough. I really struggled going over the weirs and generally felt rubbish. Similarly coming starting Spur 3 on the A100 heading up from Goring was rough.

My strategy now is to hover down food, get my drop bag stuff sorted and get out walking for 20 minutes or so. I can cover a mile or so in this time which is better than sitting down for an extra 20 minutes and trying to come out running 10 minute miles which is a recipe for gastric distress. For the SDW and NDW, it was less of an issue as I was expecting it and also it was earlier in the day due to the early start.

Other runners

Most of the races are about my own times and performance but it is inevitable that being overtaken or passing other people will change your mood. I tend to be fairly rapid through aid stations - particularly in the first half but get over taken on the trail as I come out slowly and get reovertaken. I also run fast down hills but am slow going back up them. Generally it doesn't bother me.

On my first race, I went of reasonably quickly - a bit quicker than planned. I stopped to adjust my bag and lost 10 places. I did my planned walking break after 5 miles and lost another 10 places. I found this a bit rough and mentally tough. However it turns out I was right about my pacing and over the next few hours I moved through the field while chatting to people who were complaining they had started too fast.

It doesn't always work like that though. I got to the 75 mile point in the A100 shortly after James had won the race. This could have been a down point knowing that I was a full marathon behind him. However I was actually having a good race and this would be the smallest margin of defeat in my races (low of 8:05 and high of 9:35). I was very pleased to be there to see him win and he was there 8 hours later to give me my buckle (top lad). The out and back legs of this race are great and help make it a more manageable race for motivation by seeing other runners compared with the other races.

The hours of darkness

This is where the real demons come out. It has the advantage of lots of miles under the belt but even if you "only" have 30 miles to go, this could easily mean 8-10 hours of pain to endure.

The worst I have felt in all 5 of my races was the first 100 miler I did. I was in pretty good shape and within my splits for 24 hour pace for the Thames Path. Shortly after Reading (mile 60) it started raining heavily. The next 4 hours were mainly trudging through wet fields. There was a brief respite of going through the Whitchurch to Goring section with the landmark of Mount Whitchurch which was a target to reach.  At Wallingford, there was an aid station with someone being treated for hypothermia, a guy I was running with passed out due to low blood sugar and the sweeper minibus came past. There was also lots of people having fun in pubs. At this point running 100 miles seemed a stupid and pointless thing to do. I wasn't feeling that bad, it wasn't some extreme test of endurance, it was just a dull walk for hours on end. Low blood sugar man had recovered so I nursed him through the miles out of the aid station and by the time we got to Clifden Hamden the sun was rising. Two cups of tea later, we were out on the road again marching to a sub 24 finish.

The second time I did the TP100, I was dealing much better with the night section knowing how bad it would be. However this time, I fell in a puddle at mile 76. I was covered in mud and pretty cold (it was dry but about 3c). This was not a good place to be in but I carry a spare base layer (compulsory) plus spare shorts so I was able to get changed at the next aid station. Sadly the previous aid station was the last drop bag so I was stuck with what I had. Not great. It got much colder as the race continued with freezing fog and frost. However it was clear skies and the last few miles of the race were in glorious sunshine.

The night section of the SDW had some pretty special treats. I normally pair up on the night sections but for some reason I ran a lot of the night section on my own. There are some tricky bits of navigation which involve scanning fields for bits of tape. This is all done while a heard of cows are watching you. I didn't have any actual trouble with the cows but it is pretty scary none the less. As an added bonus, the sea fog came in during the early hours which cut visibility and made it harder to relax as you were nervously looking for the next tape.

The North Down Way seemed to smash a lot of people. I was briefly sat at a table at Detling and it is comfortably the worst I have ever seen a group of runners. We were well outside 24 hour pace but several hours inside cut-off. This just seemed to kill the motivation of people and they were just sat around doing nothing - not really eating or drinking - just starring into space. Now to be fair the next 4 miles up to 86 were horrific but after that, things eased off and the last 10 miles of the race were relatively easy. I was thinking about the Grandslam standings so had one eye on that which kept me going to the end.

A lot of people can DNF in at night who maybe could have finished if they had held out for another hour or two until sunrise. I have never been in this situation but I have seen people crash out but see them a few hours later at the finish and they seem like they could have done the last 15 miles or so. I have heard the rule of never quit while it is dark which seems a good one as Centurion races typically finish at least 6 hours after sunrise.

The aid station which never comes

This caused a couple of low points. The worst was on my first TP when I was desperate for the Henley aid station. My goal was to be under 10 hours to half way and it looked like I would be there in 9:30. I was coming into Henley and it was looking great. I had it my head that I would run to the aid station and have a rest when I got there. There lots of people out for the evening and it was annoying having to weave in and out them. Turns out the aid station was the other side of Henley and I had massively got the huff by the time I was walking it in. My mood had crashed in the space of 15 minutes.

The last few miles into the 87.5mile checkpoint are pretty crap for obvious reasons. The "Welcome to Reading" sign is about 4 miles from the Reading checkpoint by the way...

This is not in a 100 mile race but the finish of the NDW50 is a lovely surprise. There is a 3/4 mile to Knockholt sign but it is about 2 miles to the finish at Knockholt pound. The finish is also visible from across a field but you have to run past it and through the village. I just snuck under 10 hours for this race but was not a happy bunny for the last few hundred metres as I thought I would not break 10 hours.

I now try to look to see where the key checkpoints and finishes are on the map to avoid surprises.

The finish

If you are a mid packer like me, you will be finishing after sunrise. I have heard reports of people hating this as the situation sinks in of having run for nearly a day. However I love this point. My pace usually improves as it is much easier to see, the temperature rises and the finish is close. Plus it means you have run through the night which makes you an ultrarunning badass. There is an end of term feeling at the end as you start to talk about what you will do after the race and it is all smiles at this point.
For most normal people it is quite an emotional experience. My first race was 4 months after I had broken my hand. This required surgery and it looked for a while like I wouldn't even be starting the race. I had very "sweaty eyes" between the last aid station and the finish but had pulled myself together for the finish.
The A100 was a bit different. I had a rough last 15 miles with a painful ankle. I managed to ignore the pain and finish well in the last mile or two. However when I finished I crashed and was in pieces. Donna Richards was trying to make me a hot drink which went along the lines of

- Would like tea or coffee?
- Yes
- Tea?
- Yes please
- Sugar and milk?
- Pause - Yes please

She came back a few seconds later and asked
- I can't remember was it coffee?
- Yes
A hot drink arrived shortly after and I can't remember what it was but it was great.

So here is to another 500 miles

But I would run 500 miles
And I would run 500 more
Just to be the man who ran a thousand miles

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Which is the hardest Centurion race?

Most people say the NDW 102.9 is the hardest with a few votes for the SDW (more climbing) and some for the TP (mind numbing boredom and same muscles used). How about creating a race with the hardest sections of all of them? This is caveated by being based on my experiences and the years I ran them.

First 25 miles of all the races are relatively straight forward - mainly because they are done fresh but I think the terrain is the easiest as well as the benefit of daylight. The SDW or NDW are probably toughest with the SDW edging it with a few more hills.
Miles 25-31 is easily won by the NDW with the combination of Box Hill and Reigate Hill just as the day is heating up. Also very uneven ground.
Miles 31-35 maybe the A100 as the Ridgeway starts to head uphill - a bit of a shock after the flat.
Miles 35-43 I would take from the SDW - the hill out of Cocking is tough.
Miles 43-50 would be the NDW. I run this bit quite often - there are no real tricky bits but heavy going around the edge of fields and short sharp climbs
Miles 50-57 go to the A100 - the grinding climb out of Goring just after dark is hugely depressing
Mile 57-82 for me are the Thames Path. Starts with going through Reading town centre with lots of drunk people. Then it is mile after mile of going through dark fields just holding on for the next aid station. Either wet from rain or damp from dew and frost. It started raining at mile 57 when I did the 2015 TP100 and when I did the 2016 version, I slipped and fell in puddle at mile 76. However running the same section in the A100 was a real joy.
Miles 82-86 can only go to NDW - Detling onwards is possibly the worst section of any race
Mile 86-87.5 is definitely the A100. All you are craving is the turnaround at Wokingham waterside centre and it takes for ever. The "welcome to Reading" sign was miles ago, you have gone through Reading town centre and now you are back in the dark with no sign of civilisation. Steps up and down the aid station are included.
Miles 87.5-90 this year was the SDW. Probably not a difficult section under normal circumstances but a dense sea fog made it very difficult to navigate and keep going.
Miles 90-96.5 is probably the SDW too. Coming out of the last two aid stations, you are (as always) face by a big hill but the first 12 have worn you down.
Miles 96.5 - 96.7 Mount Whitchurch on the A100
Miles 96.7 - 100 The descent from the trig point is probably the hardest feature of any finish with tired legs

Monday, 8 August 2016

North Downs Way 100 - glowworms, dormice and the bacon barge

The Centurion North Downs Way races are how I discovered ultrarunning. I was out on the North Downs Way near home carrying my daughter in a backpack way back in 2011 when I saw markers for "Centurion running". I looked it up on the internet when I got home and was shocked to see it was a series of running with trail marathon, 50 mile and 100 mile running races. Running an off road marathon seemed quite tough and I thought I might give the trail marathon a go one day as I had run a few half marathons and was working my way up through the triathlon distances.

5 years later and my daughter is now 7 and I also have a 5 year old son, I have finished an ironman triathlon, the Vanguard way trail marathon, North Downs Way 50 , ( and 4 Centurion 100 mile finishes. However the final box to be ticked is the NDW100 which back in 2011 was the most famous, arduous 100 miles race that I had heard of (also the only race I had heard of back in 2011).

The North Downs Way is a relatively modern creation based on the ancient Pilgrims' Way with a few extra parts where tarmac now covers the Pilgrims' Way. The Centurion route goes via Wye rather than on towards Canterbury cathedral. The Western end is very well travelled with heavy footfall but the Eastern bits rather less so. As the name suggests it is on the North Downs which has lots of ups as well as downs... Enough of a preamble - time for the race report.

The weekend started with a pint and half of lager at Waterloo before getting the train. I was catching up with a friend who had a new baby and thought a beer would help me be relaxed before the race and get a good night's sleep. I went straight to race HQ to register to save time in the morning. I caught up with Graham Carter and picked up my number. James Elson was about to have an argument with a portaloo operator (being an RD is not all glamour) and all was well with the world. I picked up a sandwich from the Sainsbury's opposite my hotel and was all set for sleep by 9.30.

My wake up call came before I knew it. I had ordered a wake up call at 5am just in case and there was an incredibly loud alarm. It was the hotel fire alarm and it was only 12.30am. I threw on some clothes and made my way to the lobby of the hotel when the alarm stopped. I got back into bed and struggled to get back to sleep. Not helped by a noisy cow (the drunk woman variety) who was in the beer garden outside the hotel. I got some sleep but it wasn't ideal.

I was up at 5am and checked my watch was fully charged but turns out it had switched itself on and had gone flat in my bag. I left the room as late as possible to get maximum charge. I was walking to the start and everyone was walking the other way. Luckily I had pre-registered so I just dropped of my drop bags and dashed over to the start with a few minutes to spare. Not an ideal start to say the least.

The race started and 6 on the dot with steady miles to start with especially as there loads of bottlenecks for gates and stiles. I wasn't too bothered about a fast start as it was a hot day and I was more worried about finishing than time. The first few miles went quickly and I met a Chicagoan Raiders fan and caught up with Frank who I had ran some of the SDW with. A quick AS1 and onto towards the 10 miles mark. There was a nice surprise in the form of Allan Rumbles and the "bacon barge". This is normally only there for the NDW50 but he made a special trip for today. He runs an unofficial aid station which only serves bacon butties. This was a great shout as the salt and protein of the bacon, sugar in the sauce combined with low GI white bread has to be the perfect ultrarunner's fuel.

It was a beautiful morning with great views from St Martha's hill with some good miles under way before the heat of the day built up. AS2 was a swift affair with some pineapple and strawberries to go with the usual jelly babies. From the NDW50 I remembered the fast road descent through Denbies toward Box Hill so hammered down it to make up some time. I had forgotten the random gates along the route which a fellow runner helped me work out. Turns out it was Janette who I have shared NDW chat online with. AS3 Box Hill came and went quickly with a Leila Cheese Scone for the picnic up Box Hill. My sub 24 plan needed me to get here in 4:05 and I was there for 4:15 implying I was on 25 hour pace.

Unfortunately I got the low battery warning on my watch so had to put it on to charge. Luckily it can keep recording while charging and I had packed a charger. Janette soon caught up with me and we had a quick chat. She was way quicker than me on Box Hill and powered on to 4th place and a stunning sub 24 time.

The toughest part of the first half is Box Hill to Reigate. There are two tough climbs and some uneven ground so I just accepted it would be slow and got on with it. AS4 was there pretty soon and I went to the cafe for a bottle of sprite and a cola pop. It was probably 20 years since I last had one and really hit the spot on such a hot day. I went through the aid station and caught up with Graham again - I'm looking forward to seeing you on the other side of the table at the A100. I was drinking the sprite and saw the label proclaiming that it was 30% less sugar. This was most disappointing but at least it was cold.

I know the next part quite well so it was great to be on familiar ground. There was a speed gun in Gatton school and the person in front of me clocked 3mph so I put on a sprint and got clocked at 6mph. I thought it was more like 7mph. Miles 31 - 40 are relatively good running and mainly in the woods.Caterham at Mile 38 was passed through quickly with more fruit, water and jelly babies

Mile 40 and Ganger's hill is about a mile from my house and where I first saw the Centurion signs. Full circle 5 years later. Sadly the signs pointed me down a very familiar set of steps. I had spent a lovely afternoon spectating here last year so it was nice to be on the other side.

The NDW crosses into the Eastern hemisphere here and things heated up as the paths running through chalky corn fields throw up a lot of heat. Fortunately I was onto the Botley hill climb which is in the shade. I ran this section with Mark Farthing who I had just edged out on the finish of the SDW but I was to finish a long way behind him today. Botley Hill AS6 is the highest point on the entire trail so there was more descending than climbing to go now. I was pushing along here with formula 1 style water bottle filling from the volunteers, Steph "the legs" was there to marshal people down the hill. I knew there was a nice downhill to start the leg before heading uphill so I had grabbed some cherry tomatoes for the inevitable walking break.

Having done the NDW50 and also ran it several times, I know this section can drag a bit. However it was not too bad today and the new route to the checkpoint meant a bit less running through fields. I was expecting it to be a bit over 50 miles based on the NDW50 so it was great when the aid station arrived closer to 50 than 51 on my watch. I got to halfway 10:18 which was about 20 minutes off sub 24 pace but not bad given my NDW50 time in 2014 was 9:58 and I could barely walk to my lift let after the NDW50 alone run another 53 miles.

I met up with my pacer Owen and Dan at the halfway point. Owen was going to keep me company for the second half and be my running Butler. I had a change of top and socks, some lovely pasta and a cup of tea. It is a bit strange to have tea on such a hot day but I associate tea with the second half of a Centurion race so was looking forward to it -  I even turned down the offer an ice lolly for it. I had meant to say hi to Helena who was volunteering here but I was in my own bubble and was too focused on getting everything I need done here. I think Ed Catmur who won the race last year was volunteering which shows how special this event is. I left as runner was asking for an alarm to be set so he could have a nap. Not in my race plan by everyone does things differently.

It was great to have Owen with me as he is a fellow runner (nearly broke 20 hours at the TP100) and is my lunchtime running buddy. It helped me to regroup and get going again. The next 26.2 miles would only have two aid stations so this would be a key section. I can't remember too much notable from miles 50-66 and Wrotham at mile 60 came and went with more water, tomatoes and jelly babies. I fueled up at mile 65.6 Holly Hill. I had my target to get here before needing a headtorch and I made it comfortably. It was around about mile 67 when I was in some woods when I put it on. The next "highlight" would be the M2 crossing of the Medway. A lot of people complain about it but it was actually quite nice to have some easy miles not worrying about footing and the river was cooling things done nicely.

The trail heads up Bluebell Hill which is mile 76. This was a lovely part of the run as the stars were out. Owen spotted a dormouse which was very cute and some glowworms which would have been quite trippy if hadn't said they what they were. My blog is named after a blog post written a couple of years back when the tail of Hurricane Bertha came through and battered the runners at this point. It was quite cool to actually be here at last. There were a few runners suffering and getting medical attention. I made it through here quickly as the next stop was Detling and indoors with drop bags. There were some glow sticks marking the exit which was a nice touch.

The next 6 miles went pretty slowly without any real reason and I found it difficult to get a good pace on. There was a bridge to Detling AS which I had driven past many times on the way to Whitstable but it seemed quite harsh to have to get over it at this point in the race. Detling had hot food which was Chicken soup with a side of pineapple and tea. There were a lot of people sat around being a bit miserable and beaten up. Many of the runners looked like they had been sat there quite a while and were at risk of DNF if they sat there too long. I got going pretty quickly as I feared I might seize up.

The next section is Detling to Hollingbourne. If you are reading this with the intention of doing the race, I wouldn't bother reading this section - it is a bit dull and you might as well skip onto the bit where I finish. People will moan about it but it really isn't that hard. If you got to 82 miles, the race in the bag.

So about those miles 82 - 91... The Strava CR for mile 82-86 is over 10m/miles and that was set on a run where the rest is all sub 7s and not after 82 miles. The 4.5 miles after Detling took me 1:35 of graft with every flavour of steps possible. Super steep ones, overgrown handrails,  randomly spaced ones, all sorts. There were nettles and brambles to battle through, branches at head height to duck under and lots of random obstacles. I was half expecting a Triffid or two. The path wasn't clear and there is only so much tape the markers can put up so it added to the slow going in the dark.  And at the end of that, section there was still 4 miles to the next aid station. There were some cool trails cut into the corn fields here I think. We had a brief game of chicken with a combine harvester but there was only going to be one winner and it wasn't us.

The Lenham aid station was a basic tent on the side of the road which is probably for the best. Indoor aid stations are fantastic but can suck up time and makes it hard to get going again. They had a "zero drop policy" but were struggling with the guy who had fallen asleep next to me. These guys were really great keeping everyone fuelled and motivated even through it must have been about 4am.

The trail flattens out towards the end and we got a bit of momentum. Peter Lemon who had been with us from about halfway was starting to worry about making his train. This helped us to push the pace but he eventually dropped us has superior stamina helped him power on. I got to the last aid station and Owen went in and got me a cup of team while I had a chat with the marshals (pacers are a wonderful thing). 98.4 miles down, only 4.5 miles to go... 24 hours had been and gone but this race still needed finishing.

We bumped into a guy Ronan who was out for a Sunday morning run. It turned out he done the NDW100 before and wanted to see what the new finish was like. He was brilliant and kept us company for the last two miles through Ashford. It was like having a police escort at the Spartathlon (or at least how I imagine it would be like). He also told me that I wouldn't have to do a full lap of the track which was a relief. We caught a couple of runners on the last bit but there was no repeat of the photobombing of the SDW. I think we made the runner in front speed up which he will thank me for later...

And then there was the stadium and famous blue banner and I had finished in 25:31:39 or just under 5 years depending on when you start the clock.

This was a brilliant event with so many people to thank for getting me there.  A lot of people will have helped me but thanks in particular to Alex, Alicia, Allan, Amanda, Amy, Andrea, Andrew, Ashley, Brigitte, Caroline, Cat and Catriona, (not to be confused) Charlotte, Christine, Corinne, Dave and David, Debbie, Duncan, Edward, Elizabeth, Emma, Ercole, Gloria, Goska, Graham, Gwen, Helena, Hidetoshi, Ian, the two chaps called James and one called Jamie, Jeremy, Jerry, Jo and the trio of John’s, Jonathan, Julia, Kamila, Karen’s G & S, Keith, Kiernan, Kris, Lee, the ever-present Leila, Liz, Lorraine, Louise, Lynn and the two Mark’s, Martyn, Maryanne, Matthew, Mel, Michiyo, Natasha, Nick, Oliver and the three Paul’s, Pete and the two Peter’s, Phil, Philippe, Richard, Rob, Rosie, Russ, Scott, Sean, Stephanie, Stephen and the two Steve’s, Sue and Susan, Tracey and Zoe.

In particular thanks to Louise Ayling for giving a few of us a lift to the station when the taxi company weren't picking up the phone and we were about to resort to walking. It is amazing how someone can run for over 100 miles but getting 1.2 miles to the station seems an impossible task.

The super fast train whizzed me back to King's Cross and then I lost all the time by taking about half an hour to walk to the tube with the longest connection ever. Eventually I made it home just in time to follow the finishers over the line on Facebook while sat having Katsu Curry for breakfast or whatever meal it is after having been awake for 32 hours.

I now have run all 4 Centurion 100 mile events in the space of 12 months but there is now the small matter of doing the A100 again to have all 4 in the same year...

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

North Downs Way 100 - 2015 - Pace analysis

I have crunched the 2015 NDW100 results to help me see what I need to do to get one of the coveted sub 24 buckles. I have 4 sub 24 finishes at the 100 mile distance so far but this one is more like 102.6...

Hopefully this will help you with getting an idea of pacing or give crew an idea of where you will be at certain points in the race. However 100 mile races are far from an exact science.

This is a graph of finish time vs splits - this is useful if you want to see what a typical split would be for your target finishing time. Regression lines are added to smooth through some of the statistical variation.

Next I rescaled the times e.g if someone finishes in 26 hours, then multiply all splits by 24/26. There is a bit of distortion around 24 hours due to the clustering of people chasing sub 24s (or taking it easy to make sure of the buckle) so this should help provide more data points than just looking at people who finished in roughly 24 hours. There is a very slight trend for more even pacing for the faster runners but it is very modest.

Finish position (x-axis) versus rescaled splits (y-axis)

 And finally here is a table of the rescaled splits above with percentiles.

I have also done this for some other Centurion races and there is a fairly consistent grouping of splits despite the very different profiles and race day conditions. My 10 hours to halfway for a sub 24 is a pretty good rule for all of the Centurion 100s.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Centurion SDW100 - Cows, wasps, fog and watermelon

Firstly thank you to Aaron, Adrian, Alex, Alf, Alistair, Alma, both Andrew’s and Andy, Ashley, Barry, Ben, Berry, Brian, Bryan, Carol, Catherine, Charles and Charlotte, Chloe, Christine, both Christopher’s, Claire, Colin, Darren and the four David’s (what a band!), Donna, Duncan, Eileen, Ellyn, Emma, Ercole, Francisco, Frank, both Gabrielle’s (you wait for one, and two come along at the same time!), Gary, Graeme and Graham, Helen’s M & P, Helena, Iaan and both Ian’s (or perhaps, the Ian trio?), Imogen, Jake, James, Joanna and the five John’s, Jon and Jonathan, Julian, Karen, Katherine, Kristian, Lauren, Leanne, Lee’s D & K, Leila, Liam, Liz and the Louise trio, Lucy, Lynn, the four Mark’s and two Mary’s, Maryanne, Matt and Matthew, Maura, Michele and Michelle, Mike, Neil, Nicola, Nigel and the two Oliver’s, Paddy, Patricia, the quartet of Paul’s, Paula, Pete and Peter, Phil, Phil, Phil and Philippe, Ray and Raymond, Rebecca’s H & M, Rhianon, Richard’s G & P, Rob, Roni, Rusell, Russ and Russell, the two Sarah’s and three Sharon’s, Sharona and Sheila, Simon’s L & W, Stephanie and Stephen, Steve, Susan and Susanna, Theresa, Tom, Torquil, Vince and the pair of incredible Zoe’s. I couldn't have done this without you.

The weekend started pretty well with a night in the Winchester Hotel and Spa. I was give a free upgrade which meant I had my own tea making facilities which was amazing. A trip to the Tesco garage for an all-day breakfast sandwich, McCoys and a Tim Taylor Pale Ale and I was all set. I believe Scott Jurek has a similar pre-race ritual. I watched the France game and then tucked up in bed for a reasonable night of sleep before grabbing a taxi with Michelle and Dave at 4.15.

I left it late to book my hotel as I waited until I had finished the TP100 so ended up going upmarket for hotel. I would recommend going for the budget option (even if the same price) as it looked like a wedding was taking place which luckily was quiet. I heard later that Joe Delaney had checked into a hotel with a drum and bass wedding taking place which is unlikely to happen at a Premier Inn.

We got there pretty early and I was first to register. Drop bags dropped off and I had a quick chat with the lovely arguing couple and I was all set to go by 4.30. I tried to get some rest as the night had been ok but the nerves were kicking.

I made my way over to the start to catch up with fellow 'slammer Mark Thornbury and met Frank Chu who is a colleague of one of my friends and having got a place on the A100 is also trying for the 'slam.
James did the usual briefing. There would be 137 volunteers looking after us today which is unbelievable. And this doesn't include the kids who get into the spirit of things. There was a hands up for grand-slammers and this time I was a bit less sheepish about putting my hand up.

6 on the dot we were off with a lap of the field. There is a bottleneck after 400 yards but this only cost a few seconds and took the sting out of the early pace.

First 10 miles was pretty uneventful. I had a quick stop as I had forgot to bodyglide a couple of bits. I'm glad I packed a mini one rather than leaving it in my drop bag. In Sam Robson's blog he mentioned a tap just before the aid station so I topped up my bottles with that to save queues for water. I left the aid station with watermelon
I met a guy who had flown over from Brooklyn just for the event. It is a sign Centurion had gone full circle as it was originally set up so people could run US style 100s without flying to the US and now we have people flying from the US for our races.
There were some lively cows on this bit with Stuart March taking photos in the middle of it. It was quite funny at this point but not so much later on. 
I had made a point of hammering down the hills to use my quads less and was absolutely screaming down some of the descents. My favourite was down Butser hill (6:17 / mile!) where I managed to claw a few seconds back on Mark Perkins' course record. I was faster over this 0.3 mile section but Mark had the edge on the other 99.7. 

A most unlikely leaderboard of people I follow with me at the top...

Shortly after this I bowled into AS2 where Graham Carter and team were. A quick chat and refuel and I was on my way. I made it here just over 4 hours which was bang on my 24 hour schedule. I caught Ken Fancett on the climb out of the aid station which was a bit surreal. He is a Centurion legend and either my race was going really well or his was going badly (a bit of both but he would recover and finish in 21:10). In hindsight this was the longest section I had done without an aid station with over a half marathon between them which for many people is the longest run they will ever do.

There was the usual chat from civilians out and about. My favourite was along the lines of

Where are you running to?
That sounds quite far. How many miles?
100 or so. Hopefully finishing sometime tomorrow
Are you doing this for sponsorship?
No - just for fun.

The two older ladies looked pretty shocked and started off on their walk.

S. Harting downs aid station came and went- Import to get the space in there.

I was still ahead of Ken coming into Cocking. I was chatting to Dave Kind and we were comparing our picnics on the Cocking big hill (saying Cocking is always hilarious) and he had a cheese scone. I realised I had forgot to pick one of Leila Rose's scones again but he share his with me and it was a lovely change from the sugar train I had been on so far.
It was very nice of the Worthing air show to put on some air displays which were pretty cool to watch.

One thing I picked up from seeing Ken was that he did little jogs of 10-20 yards going up the hills. We tried this especially when getting near the top of climbs and it seemed to help at the top of the hills as it meant it felt easier to start running again.

Kithurst hill marked the half way point and I was well under the 10 hours mark (about 9:40) I had set myself. I have the 10/24 rule getting to half way in a 100 so was roughly on 23 and change pace.
I made it into Washington in 10:24 and sat down for a bowl of Pasta and dessert of home made wonderful Welsh cakes. I got some stick from Graham Carter for my drop bags saying no expense was spared but actually my two Tesco carrier bags had cost 10p. He mentioned the pig hill descent as one of his favourites and the grassy gentle descent was wonderful and helped pull back some time.

St Botolphs was most notable for the espresso oatballs. Genius idea
The next leg included being stung by a wasp. I heard a buzzing sound and assumed it was electrolyte gas being released and my shoulder was stinging. I heard sunburnt them a week or so ago (not ideal) but couldn't feel any tears in the skin. I looked down a bit later as the buzzing continued to see a wasp attached to my backpack next to the bottle. I flicked it off with a gel and it fell to the floor. Not ideal but took by mind off other things. The wasp sting didn't even rank in the top 3 things that were hurting at that point and the pain subsided quickly.
Next stop the Saddlecombe angels - in a great touch the even had plastic doggy bags for a picnic up the next hill. 
Dave Kind was in front of my going up the hill and he kept looking back. I turned around to see what was behind us and there was a fantastic sunset. I stopped to take a couple of photos and the next few miles were lovely watching the sun setting.

I could see the famous windmills and I had a pre-race goal of getting there before sunset. We ran through a lovely Golf course and before long were at the windmills and my headtorch was still in the bag. Great feeling knowing only 30 miles to go. I met up with Gabriel Flores who I had shared some TP100 miles with and compared notes. It was 8:30 and another 45 minutes until darkness.
I had a relatively quick stop here grabbing a few drop bag things. There was a guy who had dropped chilling under a blanket here. It turned out he had done GUCR only two weeks before so amazing he had made it this far. He looked amazingly comfortable and was chatting away to everyone. I was quite jealous of him later on.
I saw a pacer standing waiting for his runner in a distinctive red grandslam t-shirt. It was Paul Reader and we had a quick chat comparing Ironman experiences - good luck with Ironman Whistler.

I delayed using the headtorch as I was getting the weird dew effects when I first put it which I struggle with. Eventually there was a wooded section so it had to go on. Before long Housedean farm and the famous 76th mile were here. I was feeling good all things considered as I started the trek up another post-aid station hill.

Southease was memorable for the bridge over the railway station. When asked how I was feeling my answer was "tired, but not yet tired and emotional". I was starting to crash but was plenty of miles into the race. Yet another slow sodding hill - no power jogs up this one.

My memory is a bit hazy between here and Bo-peep at 89 miles. I had some sections on my own including a tricky bit of navigation which James had warned about. A herd of cows standing next to the exit of the field didn't help. The raw fear of being on your own easing your way through a herd of cows at 2am not being sure you on the right route is considerable. I had a some headtorches behind me so figured I was doing ok but every marker was greeted with much happiness. The sea fog had come in which made things even trickier. My torch decided to fail at this point so it was onto the backup. Not ideal.

The fog was really tricky and people were forming clusters to survive. I had my first hallucination where I was convinced I had seen Ken in the group in front but he wasn't there when we caught the group. Looking at the results he was 2 hours clear of me. A few of us tacked onto the back of a particularly determined walker and we followed him until he peeled off at Bo-peep to meet his crew.

There was a long descent into Alfriston aid station. I caught up with John who had been manning Witchurch at the A100. Yet again there was a massive climb coming out of the aid station. I had really lost momentum and my slowest mile of the race was here. I had grouped up with Andy from Minnesota who did ski racing with Scott Jurek.
I made my way to Jevington and as we all know "nobody drops at Jevington". The aid station crew were taking times outside so if you are in a hurry, you could load up at Alfriston and power past. I wasn't so stopped in for a final cup of tea, coke and chocolate.
Yet another big climb which was the opposite of a power hike and soon the famous trig point was coming out of the mist. Sharon who I had run with on the Wednesday head torch runs was there and the horrific descent into Eastbourne started. However the end was in sight and a painful walk downhill would be the last tricky bit of the race. I had watched the video on the Centurion website which helped greatly.
I was hoping for an uncompetitive jog in when Ilsuk Han came past. He saw looking strong and sailed off into the distance. On the last footpath, I got overtaken by two guys one who had a GoPro. I was feeling ok and picked up the pace to keep in touch. All was set for a grandstand finish and I somehow my legs picked up a sprint and finish line fever got me home for 91st place in 23:12:09.
I had a cameo appearance in Stephen's amazing video below.

I collapsed in a heap at the end after the sprint finish. Shortly afterwards, Dave from my taxi (there were 15 David/Daves running) came steaming past looking like Demaryius Thomas in his orange top (he used to play wide reciever) to finish just after me.

The Centurion machine clicked into action with finish bag returned and a cup of tea from the lovely Donna. I had a shower and collected my drop bag from the couple I had been chatting to 25 hours earlier. It is easy to forgot that it is 5am on Sunday morning with so many people helping out.

It was time for home and I called a taxi and found 3 people who were delighted to join me. The Centurion team usually have the number of a good one so a quick ask around got one. It is amazing to see ultrarunners smash out 100 miles but getting 2 miles to the station being like Everest.

I arrived home to a tin of Heinz Mulligatawny soup and in bed by 9.30am. Quick nap and up just before 12 for the Nici facebook countdown to the close of SDW100 for another year.

I have hopefully made it clear how much the race means to me and how good the volunteers (technical skills and just plain good people) are but I think Vassos puts it slightly more eloquently.

Performance score

Here were my pre-race targets:

A++ 14:02 - This would require a Vaz-tastic effort but unfortunately I didn't have the right puffa jacket
A+ 22:30 - The old Sparta qualification time
A 23:36 - Beat the TP100 on a tougher course (physically at least)
B sub 24 - Obvs
C finish and keep the 'slam alive

I was very happy with the Grade A performance (both time and method) and kept it together right up to the end.

A few things which worked out well

- I ran with my own electrolytes this time. I picked up water at aid stations and dropped in my own tabs. I also drank water and didn't end up with swollen hands as per previous ultras.
- Make use of the taps on course. The first one saved me a bit of time at at CP1 and the second helped cool me down near the 40 mile mark.
- The Ken micro run seemed to work well. Jogging in 10-20 yard bursts up hill seemed to help the legs run better after summiting
- You can wash a UD back pack. Mine was pretty grim and still showing the effects of the TP100. My wife gave the option of washing it in the machine or burning it. Luckily it came out lovely and clean and hasn't shown any ill effects so far.

Two down, two to go. Next stop Farnham for the leg 3...