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...