I had a couple of weeks building up them miles then 4 solid weeks of training with a longest run of 36 miles and last long run of 30 miles 10 days out. My pace has been slower than similar runs leading up to the 24 hour race but not too far off. As this was not an A race I wasn't going to have a proper taper but did take it easy during the week and have a rest day on Saturday.
The course is a 1 mile loop around a country park, mostly Tarmac with about 200m around a field at the start / end of each lap. There is one small hill; a few shallow inclines; a couple of sharp turns and a lot of dog walkers with dogs off leads which would block the path as it was quite narrow in places.
My goal for the race was not to set any records but to take it steady and finish feeling comfortable/ like I had more left in the the tank. I wanted it to be a practice for 24 hours so would have walk breaks as I would in a 24 hour race (5 min per hour then 5 min per 45 min using the break to take on food) and treat this as the first 12 hours of a 24 hour run rather than a 12 hour race. Had I been racing I would have run for as long as possible before walking like I do in 100km races - this usually means running until just over 40 miles then having short walks every few miles.
Having been on school holidays for the last 5 weeks I have been getting up late so a 7.30am start and 6am porridge was a struggle, I felt quite sick after the porridge and it was repeating on my for the first half hour or so!
I walked for 5 mins and noted where this took me to so that on future walk breaks I would just start walking at the same point rather than timing it. Unfortunately I had to start running again just before the hill! On my 4 hours break I was drinking a bottle of coke so needed bit longer to get it down and let it settle before running so walked to the top of the hill. From then I always started my walk at the top of the hill so that was probably about 6mins walk.
Although I was running at an easy pace I just didn't feel like things were flowing well; I felt quite sluggish and was seriously thinking about stopping after 6 hours (there was also a 6 hour race). I was gradually slowing down and thought at this rate the last 4 hours were going to be a death march and what was the point in that, I would be better off stopping at 6 hours, bagging a decent distance long run and recovering more quickly.
I think that the problem with long ultras is that when we look at the whole picture it just feels too big. I had done 3 hours and was thinking I have to do that 3 more times this is too big. Once I got to over 6 hours I felt a whole lot better. I had covered more miles so would have been more tired yet I felt better which just goes to show how much of running is mental. Knowing I was past half way was a big boost. 39 laps covered in 6 hours. I suddenly needed the toilet again and couldn't wait for the proper one. I found a discrete spot then remembered that when squatting after 40 odd miles some kind of support is needed to hold to stop wobbling over and then to help you up!!
After around 7 hours my left hip flexor started to get really sore. I started thinking that if it didn't get any better I would stop at 50 miles, that was a respectable distance, the race was not worth risking long term injury/time out for. After a few laps of quite bad pain I stopped to do some supported squats with Phil. This tends to help stretch/loosen off some tightness. I got a few funny looks and questions but it was worth it as it did ease off a lot.
Next issue was my left glute suddenly tightened up, almost going into spasm then my left quad and knee. This was really bad, a bit like sciatica. After a lap all those issues totally disappeared! I had no pains so no excuse to stop early now!!
I was now feeling OK and just ticking off the miles. I was ahead of target and although getting a bit slower the fade off was not that bad. Each walk break I was having some food and often something else between walk breaks. I was drinking regularly too as I was quite thirsty (it was a warm day); at times I would have liked to drink more but I had fluids sloshing in my stomach and stich a few times.
I was still having walks approximately every hour as I was ahead of schedule so decided to treat myself with a few more walks. I worked out that if I walked at 9.45 then every 45 mins that would give me one extra walk break for the rest of the race and having the break a bit sooner broke things down into smaller segments. I would always start my walk at the start/finish area so the 45 mins was approximate.
Its with a few hours to go that I start thinking about my position. There was one lady (Sunny) ahead of me by almost a lap. We had spoken earlier as with my walks she would often pass me (to lap me) then I would run and catch back and pass her (but she was always a lap ahead). She said she was getting tired and would walk the last couple of hours. Although today was not about winning its hard not to think about it when you are close. However the priority was to have a good solid run and restore my confidence following the 24 hour race.
I could have picked the pace up/reduced the walk breaks but I wasn't that bothered and kind of hoped she would come back to me without me needing to do any extra work (she had said she was tired). With about an hour to go Sunny was still going strong so I gave up any thoughts of catching as although she was coming back to me it was not enough for me to catch her with out picking up the pace which I didn't want to do.
My last walk had been 10.50. I wondered if I could go for the rest of the race without a walk and thought no, there is no need to deny myself the last walk as looking at the time I would hopefully make a nice round 75 laps so what was the point in soldiering on when I could have a little walk! My last walk was on the 3rd last lap. As I was finishing that lap the race director said 'just one more lap' I said I should have time to do two, he said we will see when you finish this lap.
I now had just over 6mins to go round this track so moved up to the final gear and was able to run around at 7mm pace!! I finished on 75miles and one thousand and something metres. I was 400m behind Sunny who was 1st lady and outright winner. The next person was over 10 miles behind!!
Could I have won?? Phil says I shouldn't have had that last walk break as I lost time on that lap but I say if I hadn't had that walk break would I have been able to pick the pace up as much?? I wonder if I had picked up the pace with 3 laps to go and not had the walk break would I have been able to keep it up? I don't know, possibly, that would have been enough to gain those 400m BUT if I had caught up Sunny would she have found that little bit extra and put up a fight?
Looking at my splits for how far I ran each hour. The first hour was the fastest then the next joint fastest were the 2nd and last hour (the first hour didn't have a walk break in it)
Am I happy with my race and how I ran? Yes I am, the distance I achieved is nothing spectacular - my 12 hour split in a 24 hour race was 74.5 miles so it was only a mile further than in a longer race but I wasn't properly tapered and have had an injury recently and the course was harder with dog walkers in the way so I am pleased with the final result. Sitting here now part of me thinks I should have raced in the last hour rather than plodding along until 25mins to go but I am saying this knowing that I did had something left. I was good to know that even though I was fading gradually throughout the race with a bit of extra effort I could pick it up quite a lot.
Fluids consumedHigh5 zero with caffeine
SIS / powerbar electrolyte drinks
Calories consumed3 x 9bars
2x powerbar protein bars
3 x bananas
Scampi and lemon nik naks
3 Jaffa cakes
1 funsize crunchie
approx. 1 litre coke
3 x 250ml cartons choc soya milk.