Thursday, 6 April 2017

Crawley 12 hour race

This was my first big ultra following a lot of 2016 injured or slowly returning from injury.   I did a 6 hour race early February as my longest run; a back to back track marathon and a few other marathons in training (as well as a few solo long runs).  My most recent marathon showed I was starting to get my speed back as it was just 14 minutes slower than my PB and I wasn't tapered.

I knew I was not going to be near my best but I was in better shape than I thought I would be when I entered so had my eye on the V40 12 hour track record of 114.4km - I actually did 119.8km as a 12 hour split at a track 24 hour but the times were not submitted so it's a fairly unoffical record but would be nice to have my name on the DUV website! 
A selection of my race snacks

Spenser kindly offered to crew for me - he has seen me in a state crying during a 24 hour race before so at least he knew what he was letting himself in for.   This was a totally different experience to having my husband there.  Normally Phil will sit in his chair playing games on his phone getting up when I bark orders at him for food/drink and popping off to McDonalds for meals!  Spenser was so much more involved (he is an ultra runner so knows the score) he was timing my laps constantly; giving me feed back on if I needed to speed up or slow down; giving me drinks/ food when I didn't ask for them because he knew I needed them; offering encouragement when I felt like s*** and when I felt good and persuading me to run a bit harder when I had nothing left to give.  Having someone like that certainly helps get the best out of yourself and I am so grateful to him for giving up his bed for the night as the race started at 8pm.

When we started the 24 hour runners had already be going for 8 hours; some of them were still running strongly; I hoped I would be that strong in 8 hours time.

My usual plan for a 12/24 hour is 1 hour run 1 lap walk.  Spenser suggested 5km run 1 lap walk as I get breaks more often and more opportunities to recover.  I was not totally on board with this as I felt that there would be too much walking so I wouldn't cover enough distance.  More walking / rest means the inevitable fade is delayed and legs stay fresher for longer but is the extra time spent walking greater than the time saved from fading later than usual??? So the plan was to start with 5km run 1 lap walk but possibly revise it.

The first 5km went really quickly, I didn't need my walk but the idea is that you walk before you need it then it takes longer before you get to that stage where all you want to do is walk!  As I had tapered for this race my first few laps were a bit fast as my legs were raring to go; it took a mile or so to get into a sensible pace.

Next 5km and time for a powerbar, that 5km went v quickly too.  Pretty much on target so all good.  From now on I would have something small like a Jaffa cake on my half half hour (ish) walk and something a bit more (powerbar or 9bar) on the hour.  This went out the window after about 5 hours when I started feeling a bit full so couldn't stomach food for a while; that's when the chocolate soya milk is cracked open; this always goes down well.

having a walk - photo Jon Lavis
The walk breaks continued to come round quickly.  I found that because I was only having to run for 
5km I was running a bit faster than if I was running for an hour before a break.  After around 4.5 
hours I was starting to have to work a bit harder to maintain pace but I knew at 6 hours I could slow down as I had one fewer laps per hour to cover so I pushed on to the 6 hour mark knowing I had could back off the pace a bit after that.  As I was only running 5km at a time I wasn't having to work hard for too long.This may have been a mistake.  Maybe I should not have worked so hard in that 6th hour as I was ahead of schedule so could have backed off a bit to save energy.

It was a relief to beable to ease off a little at the half way mark; it was also a good feeling to be past halfway and very soon only a marathon to go.  At that point I was feeling quite good and the thought of another a marathon to go felt very doable.  The thing is; a marathon towards the end of an ultra is a totally different matter to a stand alone marathon and takes significantly longer!  

Up until 9 hours I was hitting my target number of laps (or slightly more) but then the slippery slope began.  My pace was dropping off which was allowed but I wasn't sure if I was loosing too much.  It is so easy to loose all the gain you have made in the first 3/4 of the race.

I had been putting it off for quite some time but had to go to the proper toilet.  It was occupied so I had to go to the other changing room to find another.  The previous person had made a mess which needed clearing up before I could sit down so I ended up loosing 5 mins on that's stop.  Once I got going again there was a big drop off of about 5s per lap.  I am not sure if the stop was to blame or if it was just that point in the race so would have happened anyway.  Laps for the 9th hour were down due to the stop but I had 5 spare laps in the plan for stops so it was OK to loose a couple for that toilet stop.

With just under 3 hours to go this is where it pays to have someone telling you what to do ....try to keep up with the guy in the white shirt; lets have a big effort for the next 5km; handing you food/ drink because you forget you need something etc,  as well as that having a someone find out how many laps you have done and working out what you need to do was a massive help as the brain struggles this late on! 

5am - photo Jon Lavis
After 9.30 my Garmin 735xt beeped low battery so I plugged it in to my portable charger on the next walk break and unplugged on the following one.  I had tested it at home where 30 mins gave quite a lot of charge so I assumed it would be enough. The flaw with this was that I wasn't using it just left it sat in the kitchen when I was testing.  Needless to say at 10.40 my Garmin died totally.  By this stage my laps (I was pressing lap on the Garmin every lap to see my lap time) were so slow it was depressing so I didn't bother charging it up again.  As the race was chip timed I knew I could get my splits later.  

Each hour the leaderboard was updated with distance in miles.  Looking at my 10 hour distance I didn't think I was going to get my target as I had slowed so much.  With around 90 minutes to go Spenser told me how many laps I needed to do.  I was trying to do the calculations but couldn't figure to out; it sounded like too many though given how slow I was going.

Falling asleep - photo Jon Lavis
My quads were killing which was part of the reason why I was so slow so gave in and took some ibuprofen in the hope that it would ease the pain.  About 20 mins later my laps got a bit faster for a short time so that must have been the Pepsi and drugs kicking in! In addition as the end was in sight I was able to give a bit more but soon I had nothing left.

The countdown started from I think 16 laps to go with around an hour or so to do them in. I used the official clock to time my laps and then do a quick calculation to find that it was quite possible provided I didn't get cramp or have to go to the toilet or something! 

When I had my last walk there was about 5 laps to go to the target so I knew I had got it.  Goal achieved with 20 minutes spare.  Those last 20 minutes were slow and painful.  I should have been happy but I was in too much pain and was trying to keep movingly forward faster than others who were walking. 

With about 5 minutes to go I was trying to figure out where I would finish.  I wanted to finish near the tent so I wouldn't have to walk too far once I had finished.  It looked like I probably would just pass it so there was no incentive to 'sprint' for the last few minutes as the further I went the further I would have to walk back to the tent.

When the whilst blew I was about 50m away so not too bad.  I dropped my beanbag so that the final fraction of a lap could be measured then hobbled to the tent for a nice sit down. 

Final distance was 117.4km.  
1st lady (approx. 20 miles ahead of 2nd)

Nearly finished - photo Wendy Edwards
4th overall

I was very happy with that as I felt I gave it my all.  I wasn't sure going in what I would manage as I hadn't been over 40 miles in around 18 months so I thought I might suffer badly after that- I did but it could have been a lot worse. 

1st 6 hours  156 laps
2nd 6 hours 137.75 but a couple of laps were lost to the toilet.
For such a long race that sort of positive split is fairly normal for me.  I think if I were to start slower I might have slightly more event splits but am not sure as after 8 hours running regardless of speed I'm going to be tired and slow down! 

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