AUTUMN 100..... ALMOST
The Centurion Autumn 100, previously the Winter 100 (the year I finished), has always been quite a special event with the four different out and back spurs, feels like each one of the Centurion events thrown together.
Luckily the past three years I have had some part of the experience.
Last year I supported and paced Shawn for his Grand Slam victory. This will be my 2nd attempt at the A100.
I finished in 2014 in 8th Place in 18:17.
Plan A is to PB that time and try for a top ten position. Plan B is to just PB and finish.
Shawn has been training well with Ronnie Staton and has a target of a sub 19 or 20hour finish today.
Hands up for first time trying a 100?
After catching up with friendly faces, Jess, Tim, Helen, Dan and wishing Tinu a very happy birthday today, we listen to James give the briefing just before we set off...
With Shawn, Helen and Dan
The line of runners is very tight and grouped together so I gave up trying to reach the front. Some 300 of us charge down the path to meet the Thames Path heading West up the river.
We bottle neck the gates until at least a few miles for the field to start spreading out evenly...
Wallingford. Leg One along the Thames Path
52 minutes on the clock, in the village of Wallingford at Mile 6.5 we meet the first checkpoint. Runners are in and out quickly and some without stopping...
I drink a cup of water.
Louise takes my number down, Lindley Chambers is here supporting. I thank the team before crossing the road and carrying along the river.
The miles tick by quickly and I stay to my own pace trying to not pair with anyone else.
I am running approx 8:30min/mile.
The Thames Path soon reaches Little Wittenham for the next checkpoint and the switch back. I drink a few cups of water and a jelly baby. I am feeling slightly hungry now that it's been awhile since my Bulletproof Coffee, so grab a few squares of cheese to take with me.
Shillingford. Returning on Thames Path-Leg One
Thanking the team I head back the way I came from.
So far I have counted 20 or more runners infront of me.
I shortly pass Shawn, Helen and then later Dan. All looking fresh and in good spirits still. It's a good way to catch everyone else you know and familiar faces, but come Legs two and three the field will have spread further apart with much longer gaps.
Benson Lock. Leg One returning back to Goring
Once back over the Thames River at Benson lock and along to Wallingford for number check and some water.
The sun is now shining and the cooler damp air has lifted making it feel much warmer and spring like conditions.
By 18 miles my body starts to feel fatigued already and my legs are heavy. This is very early on and usually I can feel strong much longer. I sip on some olive oil for the time being as it's not too far until I reach Goring after completing leg one...
Leg Two at Grims Ditch
At 13:40 and running for 3hr 40min I reach Goring. Kevin and Sarah are in control of number recording and pleased to see me. My drop bag is ready for me as I walk into the hall.
I refill my water pack. Have some diluted coke, then some cherry tomatoes and olives I packed in the cool bag. I have a few sips of coconut water also before thanking the team and heading back out for leg two.
This section heads along the Thames River again but the other side before meeting the Ridgeway path a few miles along.
It is sheltered and shaded at the moment.
By North Stoke I catch up with lovely Alma who is crewing here. I nibble on chocolate, cheese and cherry tomatoes before having some water.
Refuelling has helped but I am still feeling very fatigued and lack of energy.
Once at the wooded track heading to Nuffield, it is rolling climbs so I start to walk. I was doing great with time and just feel so tired all a sudden...
I soon manage to jog slowly and pass the time by counting the returning front runners.
Returning from Swyncombe on Leg Two
Endless tree roots and fallen leaves scatter the trails until the path meets Swyncombe checkpoint at mile 36 for the switchback.
It is good to reach as I see the stove set up for hot drinks. I refill my backpack water, take a salt capsule, whilst the team make a black coffee. I nibble on nuts and cherry tomatoes again whilst taking a few jelly babies with me.
I walk back out along the path with my coffee in my handy carry cup. Everyone is impressed, commenting on the cup!
Soon enough, after the sharp climbs in the woods... I can start to feel the coffee and salt kicking in.
My mood is lifted and I feel much lighter than I have since starting today..
After catching Helen looking so fresh at Grims Ditch, I start seeing the other runners approaching in small groups and then closer together. I catch Dan and see Shawn, who isn't looking his cheery best, but still moving forward.
Slowly the runners approaching me becomes less and then I am running alone again.
The dark clouds come in and just as predicted, the rain starts. Not just a little... but heavy...
After North Stoke and a quick hi and goodbye to Alma and the team. I want to get back to Goring to change clothes and have some fuel.
Route not complete this time but a good training exercise under the belt...
Still feeling good but my insoles are starting to slip, so at Goring I change the shoes, get out of the damp tee and put on a base layer. Change my cap to a skull cap and add the headtorch.
I eat some of my olives, energy butter and have some diluted coke. Back pack refilled I am set to carry on up the Ridgeway...
The rain is starting to slow and soon once I am away from Goring and out into the open darkness it stops.
The Ridgeway is dry and very stoned and rutted just like I remember.
The temperature is dropping fast and the cold air feels thick with damp as the wind blows. I put my music on to distract my mind of the cold. My legs are starting to fade and I can only power walk the climbs, jogging the flat.
It seems forever to reach Bury Down checkpoint. I am pleased to get a hot coffee and nibble on some cheese and nuts. My pace has really dropped now the cold has tired me out. I can feel the damp getting through my gloves and buff already...
By Chain Hill, three miles later, the wind is more harsh up here. I am ok for food so just have a jelly baby and some diluted coke. I thank the team and head back down the hill the way I came.
I can see all the moving headlights dotted for miles ahead of me. Some far apart and others all grouped together.
On my return I make calls to my sister and then Sunday, explaining how so cold it is getting. I start to wonder if I packed another dry base layer.
My gloves and buff are now wet, but it isn't raining anymore.... I soon reach Bury Down and it is much busier now with all the other runners heading up the hill.
I have a hot coffee again and refill my water. Running friend Max is here waiting for Dan and Helen. She says they are doing well and for me to get warm back at Goring.
It has been good to see a friendly face I know, just popping up along the route. Always helpful when I do not have a crew or pacer as company...
I turn my music up and head down the track, trying my best to keep a quicker pace so to get to Goring as soon as... it isn't helping my feet are now damp and numb...
Elevation changes at Leg Two and Three...
I pass so many runners who are just starting up for leg three. I try to look out for some I know but can't remember all their numbers...
I spot Dan but only as he stopped to grab my hand, I couldn't hear him calling me. My mood is really low and I can feel the cold reaching my neck and arms. My jacket is waterproof though my arms are damp to the bone. Dan is looking good and really buzzing.
Once I get nearer to the street lights the runners have spread out again and it is just me and the odd car that drives by.
Soon enough it is over the Streatley bridge and into the village hall. Number recorded and my bag is handed to me.
My mind is made up. I am stopping.
I had those hours in the cold damp wind which went right through to my skin and as I thought, I have no other dry layers to change into. I only have the emergency layer which must be carried at all times and not worn.
The team are really attentative and help me gather my thoughts.
My running friend Sharon is here helping in the kitchen. She is so gutted for me but sympathises as to why I cannot carry on today...
I just want out of the damp cold clothes and get warm and dry again...
In warm clothes and refuelled with coffee and the wonderful homemade chilli. I am glad I decided to stay put and not carry on further.
The night is turning much colder and rain is due in the early hours, so my condition could have got much worse.
Note to self: I don't think being in 26-28C sunshine on holiday just two days ago helped my body prepare for this.
I just wish I thought it through asking for crew help, packed more clothes and my trusty winter waterproof jacket!
Before I start to get too comfortable I phone Sunday and my sister, say goodbye to the Centurion team, then head back over the bridge to the car.
The drive home was harder than some of the running today! I had to make plenty of stops for fresh air and coffee just to keep awake.
Note to self: Crew can always drive you home!
I do eventually and safely reach home at 3am.
After some bad cramping attacks getting into bed, I finally get warmed up again by the morning.
The DNF looms over me like a dark cloud for some of the next day, but I soon switch my thoughts as to why it was for the best, how you cannot always have that A race or complete your goals.
Ultra endurance is not an easy sport!
Looking back I am not sure how I managed to do a 74 mile training exercise, when I wasn't exactly feeling my best with troubles to deal with.
I have been using the past few events as training aids as my mileage hasn't been to where it should be, so considering what I dealt with, I am happy with the outcome.
My recovery was a few days and I was out running again with no real deep fatigue or low mood that I usually experience after running ultra.
Maybe my high wasn't as big this time so less of a come down afterwards.
I am looking forward to eventually reaching a 100 again and getting another buckle, but it wasn't to be this year...