TLDR: On Saturday 23 May 2015, I ran 100k, taking part in Action Challenge’s London2Brighton 100k Ultra Marathon and Walk. I raised over £1,000 for the mental health charity Mind. I ate a lot. I drank a lot. I hurt a lot. I met some amazing people. I had a great time. I had an awful time. I ran 100k.
In July 2006 I was on a plane bound for San Francisco, on my way to do my first marathon. I was reading ‘UltraMarathon Man‘ by Dean Karnazes. Karnazes is, rightly or wrongly, sneered at a bit in the Ultra community, but I, like many runners, first read about Ultra running in this book. As well as being amazed that people could run that long and far, it made me realise that the marathon distance, whilst long, isn’t the limit of what we as humans can do. And that key takeaway from the book, helped me mentally cope with the marathon I did later that week, finishing in just over 3hrs 30minutes.
Fast forward in time to late 2014 – I’d just completed my 3rd marathon (Bournemouth – badly) and felt the urge for a new challenge. London2Brighton looked ideal – I wanted a 100k as I felt I wouldn’t feel such a sense of accomplishment out of 50k; it gave me a good amount of time to train; and I love the city of Brighton.
I took up coaching with Paul Navesey, which has paid huge dividends for me – I think without that, the 100k would never have happened. Nice one Paul!
I trained my ass off, went from running four days a week to six, incorporating easy and steady pace runs along with hill work and tempo work.
In March this year I did my first Ultra (CTS Endurance Sussex – c.33miles) which was a great learning experience and gave me confidence going into L2B knowing I’d already completed an Ultra (albeit a much shorter one).
On the day
The alarm went off at a disgustingly early time of 5am. I’d done race registration the evening before so aside from eating, drinking and getting dressed, there wasn’t much to do other than grab the gear and head over. I’d said to Sam to look out for a guy with a shaved head and loads of tattoos – managed to confuse him by having the tattoos covered up initially but managed to meet up about 10 minutes before the start.
It was a lovely bright, warmish day and thankfully no hint of rain. Before long the race director called us in to the start pen and just like that, London2Brighton 100k was underway!
I ran with Sam until the first aid station (c.12.5k), running along the Thames, everything quite serene and peaceful at that time of the morning. It was great getting to know Sam and his ‘running story’ and exchanging tales of training. Running this part was completely flat, I felt good and carbed up, and it was almost impossible to think that things would be tough going later!
I decided to pick up the pace a bit after aid station 1 as I was worried I’d been a bit over-conservative at the start. Things went OKish until (if I recall correctly) aid stations 2-3 and 3-4, where I ran out of water and got hit by dehydration. Totally my own fault as I should have taken more water in at the aid stations and have planned more about how much time was between them. Lesson learned.
My first ‘bonk’ came at mile 20 (just as it had at CTS Sussex). I assume because of dehydration, I was having major problems keeping food down, and thus ended up in a field puking my guts out. Which was nice.
It took me some time after that do get rehydrated properly (thanks to copious amounts of orange squash at an aid station). Much of the rest of the race was a blur – I’d love to say I really took in the scenery and stuff but for most of the race I kind of switched off and just focussed on the few feet in front of me.
The main aid station at 56k was great as I got to see my wife and there was a nice little crowd there cheering people on. That said, it was fairly depressing seeing runners who were doing just (I don’t mean ‘just’ in a bad way!) doing the 1st half, finish.
My best running was probably around 80-85k, I got a real rush on and was doing a great pace on the flattish trails, felt amazing.
95-100k I ran with (sorry, can’t recall your name!) an awesome guy who really kept my spirits up. This was a mix of run/walk.
When the racecourse came into sight, the last 1k still felt like a lifetime away. There were some ’10….9…8′ signs counting down the last few 100 metres. I did as much of a ‘sprint finish’ as I could, and, just like that, I’d finished my first 100k ultra. After two minutes or so enjoying the glory of the moment, I was overcome with emotion and was crying my eyes out.
Probably around ten minutes after finishing, I started feeling awful. Shivering cold, light headed, just dire. By the time we got to the hotel I was shivering but sweating, hungry but couldn’t eat, thirsty but couldn’t drink. The whole night was just nasty – if I had duvet over me I felt too hot, if I took it off, I became freezing cold. It was a long, unpleasant night. At several points I said “I’m not ever doing a 100k again. Ever.”
This is me 15 mins after the race desperately trying to force down some food:
Things I learned
- Ultra runners are an awesome, friendly bunch of people
- I need to eat more savoury foods at this distance
- Learn the course more in advance
- Take in more fluid at aid stations (rather than rely on bottles in my pack)
- Vary food more
- Don’t be influenced by other participants – run your own race
- Focus on effort, not pace
- There are some awesome people out there (spectators)
- I’m an emotional mess when I finish a race
- Plan more for the evening and day after – in terms of how I’m going to feel crap, consider foods I may be able to tolerate
Some key moments
- Encountering such great staff and supporters at the aid stations
- The ‘WTF’ moment of running through the train station bridge (can’t recall where)
- The ‘OMG’ moment of having to run over train tracks (don’t think I’ve run so fast in my life)
- Can’t recall where but in a village, some children who had set up a table and were offering people drinks and food – faith in humanity restored!
- Getting a second/20th wind around 80k and flying through trails, feeling amazing
- Running first 12k with Sam (SamStaggersOn.com) – great guy, enjoyed getting to know you!
- Doing last 10-12k with a guy called Will who really kept my spirits going and was a legend by not minding my frequent requests for walk breaks. If you’re reading this Will, you’re awesome mate!
- Seeing my wife at 56k aid station – best support crew ever!
- The last 200m and of course the finish line – amazing, highly emotional momnent I’ll cherish forever
- The guy with the rice cakes and bottles of water a few k before the end – LEGEND!
- Hula Hoops at one of the aid stations – best food ever!
The day after
Ouch. My quads hurt. My ankle hurts. But I want to do another 100k! I slept most of the day, along with eating and drinking.
The day after the day after
Ouch. Everything hurts. Spent entire day in bed, eating, drinking and sleeping. But I still wanted to do another 100k!
Apart from my quads and ankle and a general feeling of tiredness, I feel pretty much OK – albeit I expect my left big toenail won’t be with me much longer. And I can’t wait to do my next 100k!