Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hell on the Humber

This is a 12 hour run back and forth across the Humber Bridge starting at 7pm Saturday evening.  The idea is to cover as many 4 mile laps as possible in 12 hours.  I love lapped races as you get to see other runners a lot, which is great for support/camaraderie.  The other good thing about laps is you don't need to carry much and can just have a pile of food/drink/clothes/shoes in the check point area to pick up at the end of your lap.  I was using this opportunity to test some new shoes for my 24 hour race.  I am pleased to say that I had no blisters so will be wearing my Skechers Gorun ride ultra at Tooting Bec in September.

The event is quite different from the Sri Chimnoy 24 hour races I have done which has encouraging signs around the course, below are a sample of the signs!

My goal was to do better than last year (64 miles in 11.25 - you can stop any time after 11 hours).  Although I have had lots of PBs since last year I have been feeling tired and its only 2 weeks since a 70 mile race.  This was not an A race but a training run for my 24 hour race in September so at no point was I planning on pushing hard.  I had not tapered, normal training then a rest day on Friday meaning I was going into it with slightly tired legs which is good training for how I will feel later in the 24 hour race.  I didn't carbo load either.

Not very much of the bridge is flat. Basically you do about a mile up a mile down turn around and go back. When we started it was raining and very windy - gales, the rain was hurting as it was blowing in my face. The first two miles was into a very strong headwind, I couldn't get up and sort of pace, even on the downhill part where previously I had been able to pick up the pace I couldn't . Turning around was such a relief although the first mile back was uphill so still not that easy! The last mile of the lap was downhill with a back wind - I liked that, that was the only mile out of the 4 I liked!

I decided to opt for the same strategy as last year which was to run the first 8 miles as I didn't need any food to that point then I would walk out the check point area eating whatever I had picked up for a couple of minutes to the second bin.  At the turnaround point I would run the first part of the uphill then walk to the pillar which was about 6 mins.  So 8 mins walking per 4 miles which is more than in my 24 hour races but they are flat, this is not and it is a training run so I was taking it fairly easy.

I was very very grumpy; it was such a battle running into the wind.  Ipods were not allowed so instead of listening to podcasts I was focusing on how miserable I was and feeling sorry for myself.  I was having battles in my head about stopping early - I couldn't really justify the expense of the Premier Inn and petrol by stopping after a few hours so I worked out the minimum I had to do to still get the T shirt! You have to do one lap per 3 hour period so I figured I could keep going until 8.xx on the clock which would be a decent length training run then go back to the Premier Inn (next door) get showered, have a lie down go back to walk one lap finishing it at 11.xx and get my T shirt. 

After a couple of hours I was able to take my jacket off which had been annoying me getting blown about in the wind, it felt good to think that I was 1/4 done if I stopped!

Normally for long races my food is split into 2 categories:
Healthy/has some useful nutritional value - 9bars; powerbar coconut protein bars; bananas
Junk for energy/to make me happy - crisps; mini cheddars; crunchie; bounty; Jaffa cakes; sweets etc.

I will tend to start off with the healthy then start mixing it up using the unhealthy as treats to keep me going.  I was having to start on the unhealthy pretty much from the off as bribes to keep myself moving, was also eating too much as my stomach kept feeling a bit full but the treats were helping me through - each lap thinking about what treat I could have next lap!

After 3 hours I was 7th lady with the first 2 being about 2 miles ahead; I was slower than last year and people were passing me so my mood was not good but I was nearly half way to my stopping early time which felt good.  

After 6 hours I had covered 34 miles - last year I did 36 miles. I was now thinking that I would probably manage about 60 miles due to inevitable fade, I had somehow forgotten about stopping early!

At some point things gradually started to turn around. Someone said it was 3am (8 hours in) that the wind dropped, it was still windy but not gales. I think the combination of less wind and being in the second half I started to mentally feel better and the countdown to sunrise had started! In addition I had worked my way up the field and think that after 6 hours I was 3rd lady; passing people always feels good (although not good for them).

With about 4 hours to go I timed how long a lap took and worked out that depending in fade I might manage to do 64 miles.  I was now on a mission! I was in a better mood and made a bit more effort pace wise on the downhills.

Remarkably my time for each lap didn't seem to be slowing much and as time went on I started to think that maybe I might beable to squeeze out a half lap. I felt quite strong and was finally starting to enjoy it as I was feeling good and running well after so long of battling with the wind,

Got to 64 miles in 11.28 - 3 mins slower than last year which considering the wind and how far behind I was at halfway I was very pleased. I didn't need the last half lap but felt I ought to do it then at least I could come away feeling like I had done more than last year! So 66 miles in 11.50 and 1st lady

Taking away some positives....

I think this has to be the best pacing ever for me for a long ultra
1st 6 hours 34 miles
2nd 5.50 32 miles if I were to round that up I could say 33 miles in the 2nd 6 hours so just a 1 mile fade over 12 hours, very happy with that,
This was not because I had judged things right and did it deliberately but the wind had forced me to hold back my pace early on which meant my legs were less trashed so I could do more in the 2nd 6 hours. Had the wind stayed really strong throughout then I wouldn't have done as much so you could say conditions helped me with the pacing but still it goes to show how holding back the legs a bit saves them to smash it later.
As always the race organisation; support from others' support crew (I had no crew); and other runners was great and is what really makes this event.
DOMs the next day was just a pain at the back of my knee/hamstring which had bothered me a bit in the race, no problems with stairs etc. probably because I ran fairly conservatively until the last few hours when I made a bit more effort but still didn't hammer it as much as I could.

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