Saturday, 21 June 2014

Gloucester 24 hour race

After the World 24 hour Championships in Pilzen were cancelled this was the obvious choice being just one week earlier, on a 400m track and just 2 hours from home.

I cut back more than usual on training in the final 2 weeks so my legs were feeling nicely rested but my body less so due to struggling with sleep as it had been quite warm at night.  Caffeine cut began 5 days before (I forgot to start sooner) and I tried to be good with my diet (still room for improvement there).

As usual Phil was crewing for me but since he has to drive home afterwards and is not safe driving on no sleep (I have been in the car with him driving back from the airport and had to take over) he was going to a hotel to sleep.  I was going to be unsupported overnight which is OK (not ideal) as I did my PB at Basel that way (Phil made up lots of bottles before he went and put out food I might want).  However, a few days before another runner had to drop out, her support, Tim had already booked his train ticket so was now going to come and crew for me.  This was great as I had 2 crew support in the day and 1 at night and the obligatory cuddly toy throughout!

I always set off too fast in 24 hour races because my legs are raring to go after the rest! This time I had my hour by hour pace plan which had me starting quite a lot slower than normal.  The aim was to be a few miles behind my last couple of 24 hour races at 6 hours but then by 12 hours be around the same as my last two and hope that because I got to 12 hours with more conservative pacing I would then find the second 12 hours more comfortable and have a slightly smaller fade therefore completing a little bit extra distance.

The start of the race was 12noon, it was very hot so I was wearing vest rather than my usual T shirt.  My first lap was far too fast; over the next few laps I gradually slowed myself down so that it was not long before I was going at a pace which felt comfortable and was about target pace.

Normally I don't drink much if anything in the first hour otherwise I seem to be constantly going to the toilet but after my issues in the 100km which I think were fuel or hydration related this time was different, the priority was to stay hydrated even if it meant more visits than usual.  We had portaloos trackside so I would not lose too much time.  After a while I figured I could save time by getting Phil to wait outside then go in and flush it for me as flushing these things takes time and strength!!

I started with my usual 5 mins walk on the hour to take on food with a view to doing this for 4-6 hour then dropping to 40/5 as I need food more often later on.  I have never been so glad to get to my first walk break as it was so hot.  By the time it was over I felt as if I had just about got my body temperature to a reasonable level so the next few laps running were not too bad but then I became overheated.  Tim had brought bottles of ice water which was great to pour over my head.  I tried wearing my buff round my neck soaked in water which helped a little then I wore it on my head and poured water over it but really nothing was helping for any length of time. 

About 3 hours in I felt so over heated and was seriously doubting if I would finish the race.  My legs were happy with the pace but I just felt so uncomfortable running in such heat. Because I had a more conservative schedule than normal I was on target up to 4 hours.   I was doing a good job of getting food (9bars, powerbars and bananas) and fluids (water and powerbar electrolyte) - my crew were filling in a spreadsheet to keep track.  I was drinking up to the point where liquid was just starting to slosh about so I knew I couldn't take on any more. 

After 6 hours it was starting to cool down a bit but in the last 2 hours I had managed to get 1 mile behind target.  I didn't let it bother me thinking that as long as I didn't get further behind there was still a chance of a good outcome especially now it was cooling down a bit - it was still warm though, infact even overnight it stayed warm enough such that I ran in my vest throughout, no need for extra clothes.

My quads were now starting to ache a bit, they have never hurt this early on in a 24 hour race.  I was wearing Gorunride3 which is a newer model with the same cushioning as the ones I wore on the track at Tooting.  I wondered if the track was perhaps more firm but when I mentioned it to others they didn't have the same problem so it must have been something to do with me.  Post race I have been trying to work out what I have done differently 1.  When I got my knee injury in October I stopped doing body pump (which has weighted squats and lunges in so works the quads) and spin so my quads are not being challenged as much and 2.  Normally I wear long compression shorts but as it was hot I wanted something shorter and the compression shorts take longer when going to the toilet as you have to squeeze yourself into them. 

At 7pm jacket potato and beans were provided.  I had been looking forward to this.  Phil had instructions to scoop the potato out the skin and for me as I didn't want to be dealing with hard skin from a time point of view but also thought my body might find it hard to process the skin. By the time I got the food I didn't really fancy it so ate what I could walking a lap of the track then disposed of it.

Until 10pm I had been consuming mostly good quality calories - 9bars, powerbars, chocolate soya milk and bananas.  Now it was time for some junk as I sometimes felt I needed the calories quickly so started on the funsize crunchies.  I had quite a few of these and several packets of crisps over the next few hours. 

I hit 100km in 10.29.  I was gradually getting further behind but apart from my quads was feeling a lot better than when it was hot so was still positive I would do OK- no PB but at least there was hope of hitting 200km.

Just before Phil went to bed it was time to do squats! Yes in the middle of a 24 hour race I stop to do squats; about 10 at a time.  They are amazing and help stretch things out.  They are done supported with Phil behind me holding under my arms.  Normally squats mid race are not especially pleasant but these hurt a lot and some very bad language came out of my mouth.  The squats were repeated a couple more times in the morning when Phil got back and hurt more each time but they I did feel I was getting a decent stretch through my quads.

After around 14 hours the bottom of my feet were tired/sore/burning.  In addition the left hand side of my left foot was feeling uncomfortable, like it wanted to expand but the shoe was stopping it.  I changed into my more cushioned Gorun ultra hoping these would also help with my quads which were quite sore now despite putting voltoral on them.

The bottom of my feet felt better with more cushioning and the quad did a little but straight away the shoes didn't feel right.  The arch support seemed wrong and was digging into me.  I put up with them for about an hour as I thought they might get better and they were helping some issues but then changed back.  I have worn these shoes for a couple of 40 mile training runs and lots of other runs so I can only assume that my feet must have expanded so much that they were not happy in the new shoes.

I felt better once I had my Gorunride3 back -I love those shoes.
However, things were still not right with the foot and my quads were still hurting so I tried taking some Ibuprofen - normally I will  just take it for last few hours but I was hurting more than I have done before.  This seemed to help for a couple of hours but my pace was so slow now that it almost felt pointless running.  My 40mins run 5mins walk had gone out the window some time ago, I was now just running a bit walking a bit but running more than walking.  I was aware of how slow I was walking when others passed me walking, I really need to work on that more as if I walked as fast as Vicky I am sure I could have covered another 5-10miles!

At this point I should talk about the other competitors.  It think there were 38 starters.  The nice thing about track ultras is you get to see everyone a lot. Even if you don't run with others there is still a bit of chat as you lap or are lapped which makes them really friendly events.  Most runners had support crews some more involved than others.  Mine were brilliant.  Tim was really good at getting my exact distance at the end of each hour from the chip timing people and telling me if I was ahead or behind as well as giving me the ice water which, if you are doing a hot water and have access to ice is amazing.  Phil was keeping track of my food and drink and getting things ready for the next lap when I shouted;  he also kept disappearing into the tent to play his racing game on his ipad as there was some extra points challenge going on at the weekend! Having a crew makes a big difference as they can get your food/drink/change of clothes sorted without you needing to stop to find things.  They are also good for encouragement and for suggesting things when the brain is not working properly!

Back to the race.  I know you are meant to wait 4 hours before the next lot of Ibu but I needed more so held out for 3.5 hours.  Every step I ran really hurt my quads, my foot hurt too but less so; I was worried about the foot though as it felt a bit like plantar faciistus so I was worried running was making it worse. 

enjoying a walk and hot chocolate
Around 9am I decided to try a massage on my quads, I had not been running much for the last few hours and was not going to get a distance I was happy with so thought I might as well stop for 10 mins to see if it helped.  It was nice to have a lie down and take the weight off my feet but unfortunately it didn't help, if anything my quads just hurt more.  So that is a useful lesson learnt! I have stopped in races before for tight glutes but that is when something has needed releasing so massage does help.  I think there was just so much muscle damage in my quads that nothing other than morphine was going to help.

The last few hours of the race seemed to go on forever.  I mostly walked which meant I fell into step with others more often and had some quite nice chats.  Walking didn't hurt, walking was easy, I could have carried on walking much longer but I just wanted this whole thing to be over now. 

Near the end they give you a beanbag with your number on and suggest that someone runs with you to drop it when the horn goes off so Phil came with me.  He had been trying earlier to get me to run when I didn't want to/it hurt too much so I was determined to be running at the end of the race and to make him work to keep up.  So with a few minutes to go I gritted my teeth, eased into a jog and then what felt like a sprint.  I am quite sure that he had to work hard to keep up with my sprint or maybe he was pretending to make me feel better!!

I have never been so pleased for the end of a race.  As is always the case I finished the furthest distance away from my tent so had to walk back there then I just lay down on the track with my feet up on the deckchair and a swab in my mouth for some saliva testing that I am doing.  I could quite happily have fallen asleep  but  knew I needed to shower and that was going to take some time.

Final result was 114 miles - my best is 132 so that is quite disappointing.  I was 1st lady though so have to be pleased with that.

Other positives were that I felt I got my hydration/nutrition right.  I was taking ginger and electrolyte tablets which I have not had before and was drinking more chocolate soya milk.  I didn't feel sick like I normally do (ginger is meant to help with that) and although I got to a point where I wasn't interested in food and needed to be reminded to eat occasionally I never felt like it was a struggle to get it down it was more that I was just bored of constantly eating!

I think that the early hot hours drained me of a lot of energy so that when it cooled down I couldn't keep pace.  My quads being so sore each time I put my foot down made running hard and the foot just added to this. 

Going forward I cant do anything about the weather.  I do wonder if perhaps I should have walked a lot in the first 4-6 hours to keep my core temperature down and minimise fatigue so that when it cooled down I could pick it up. 

On the quads, I think they need to be my focus in the gym.  I will get back to body pump or at least do weighted squats and wear my compression shorts even though they are harder work when going to the toilet!

With the foot, the new Gorunride3 are narrower than the original - Phil brought some fancy digital measuring devise home from work and measured various parts of the shoes.  My toes were fine, I had no blisters, it was more the side of my foot which I felt was restricted by the side of the shoe.  Mr Skecher has kindly managed to source some of the older model of the Gorunrde so hopefully the foot will be fine next time.

I have now done 5 of these 24 hour races and each one has been a learning experience and useful for the next one.

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