Sunday, 15 April 2018

Crawley 24 track hour race

My last 24 hour race was Bislett 2014.  During and afterwards I said that’s it for 24 hour races as I had had one too many bad ones.  I spent a lot of 2016 either injured or recovering from injury; during my recovery I decided that I wanted to give 24 hours another go.  Training had not gone as hoped due to hamstring tendonopathy which I picked up around June last year.  The injury was not bad enough to stop me running but severely restricted speedwork so most of my miles were done at a steady pace with the odd faster run thrown in but no interval sessions or hills.  I hoped that this would not affect me too much for a 24 hour race but it did mean i didn’t feel as fit as I would have liked.

A couple of months before 24 hour races I like to do a 100km/12 hour.  However, given that this was early season there was not much to choose from unless I went for off road and hilly which I hate.  My best option was was 75km Canalathon 2 weeks before; probably a bit close but if I didn’t do something pretty long I wouldn’t feel prepared and half the battle with these things is in the head.   I didn’t have a great day at the Canalathon.  Things just didn’t feel that good from the off.  Maybe the terrain (it was very muddy early on) or having to carry stuff; neither of which I am used to.  So pre  Crawley I was having a bit of a confidence crisis but tried to remind myself of some good 6 ish hour events I had in

Target setting was very difficult as I knew I was not in very good shape compared to my best (132miles in Basel 2013) so it’s kind of hard to be happy with anything less.  I had a good look at my training log from 2013 and compared it to today.  My MP is currently about a minute per mile slower but my steady training run pace more like 35-45s slower.  I figured that 120 miles would therefore be a realistic goal if all went well.  However, i didn’t want to get too obsessed with
goals as I give up mentally and then extend the walk breaks if I realise I’m not going to hit my goal.  I had roughly worked out something like 35/32/29/26 miles split into 6 hour blocks giving 2 miles spare for toilet stops.  However in reality I know it never works like that, this was more a guideline and if I fell below that was ok as long as I didn’t do less than 110 miles - that was my absolute
minimum (unless I had an injury or other major issue).

The plan was to walk a lap and eat every hour for quite a while and in addition to have something small on the half hour after a few hours.  I would introduce walks on the half hour when I felt I needed them.   I have made a few changes to my nutrition since my last 24 hour race - I have more liquid calories and more gels as they are so much easier than getting solid food down.

The first 4 hours passed quickly and comfortably.  As usual I set off a bit fast but it felt comfortable and I struggle to slow myself down to run at what feels uncomfortably slow.  Up to about 4 hours all was good but I felt I was slowing a bit so decided it was time to introduce a half hour half a lap walk break.  I know in 24 hour races that come the last 6 hours or so there is a lot of walking so a bit more earlier on might delay the time it takes to get to the death march!

After 6 hours I had covered 36.5 miles so a bit ahead of my fairly arbitrary plan but not too much to be of concern and I hadn’t had any toilet stops by this stage.  Quads were beginning to feel a bit tired but not too bad.  The next block of 6 hours is where I get a better idea of where I am at because i can work out my ‘fade’.  Anyone can run a decent 6 hours but can they run another 6 hours after that.  In my previous 24 hour races I seem to have a big drop off in the 2nd 6 hours.  I’m not sure if it would be better if I started slower.   Possibly not because I have done longer races in the past as training runs where I have started slower and still faded quite a lot.

During this next block I started struggling with solids - a bit earlier than usual - so started on the gels,
chocolate soya milk and coke.   My half lap walk breaks on the half hour had extended to a lap.  By 12 hours I had completed 67.3 miles so that was 30.8 miles in the 2nd 6 hours.  At this point I knew I was not going to hit 120 miles because although my 12 hour mileage was on target the fade rate was too big.  I thought / hoped that 115 miles would be possible though.

Phil went back to the hotel soon after midnight but left out plenty of bottles and food so I wouldn’t need to waste much time sorting myself out.  My walk breaks had extended to 2 laps then 3 laps at which point I realised I was walking far too much so instead of having two walks on the half hour I

just had the one long one then ran for just over half an hour.  Once the goals are out the window it’s hard to stay motivated and all too easy to walk a bit too much.  By now I was really struggling with solid food.  It took me 2 laps to eat a packet of crisps! The only solid I could get down easily was marzipan.

18 hours - 93.9 miles so the 3rd 6 hours was 26.6 - the fade was not as bad as the 2nd 6 hours so that was promising and as long as no major meltdown 115 miles would be do able.

Phil came back soon after 6am and it started to get light which always feels good. I felt that when I was running I wasn’t running too badly but it must have been around 12mm, it didn’t feel that slow!  Phil went back to the hotel around 7.30 to shower, pack up and check out.  It was at 8am I had my biggest low.  The 12 hour race finished and seeing them all stop made me feel really jealous.  Phil wasn’t there either so I got emotional and had a bit of a cry for a few laps.  4 hours was still a long time to go and moving forward was such an effort.  I tried to think about it in terms of miles instead of time because I was going so slowly there was probably little over half marathon to go.

I haven’t yet mentioned my competitors and that is because I was going into this to do the best that I could in terms of distance and damage limitation.  Any position was a bonus so I had to keep out of my mind what others were doing.  I knew Sarah was starting slowly with a view to holding it as long as possible.  I thought she would pass me between 6-8 hours which she did.  This did not bother me at
all as I was running my own race, I was pleased that she was running well and went on to hit her target.   Each hour the leaderboard is updated so of course I looked at my position in the field and in the ladies but I wasn’t letting it change how I was running my race. I was quite pleased that the guy ahead of me was a mile or so up with a few hours to go as this meant I wasn’t tempted/didn't feel obliged to try to catch him up!

In the final hours my run / walk was a bit haphazard.  Run a bit walk a bit just moving forward, not pushing myself too hard.  I think that had 120miles been in the cards I would have made more effort but it wasn’t so I wasn’t going to break myself.  My foot had been hurting from about 19 hours and was getting worse.  Paracetamol didn’t touch it so I tried voltoral gel which was no good either.  I don’t think I was limping but it was very uncomfortable and made those last few hours hurt more than they needed to. Nothing else really hurt I was just tired, grumpy and ready to stop!  With a couple of hours to go I knew 115 miles was pretty much in the bag and as my run pace was not a great deal faster than walking there wasn’t much to be gained by running lots so I was able to justify lots of walking.

The last hour must have been one of the longest hours of my life.  With about 10miuntes to go your
are given a beanbag with your number on.  When the horn sounds you stop and place the beanbag where you finish.  I worked out that if I walked the last couple of laps I would finish just by some chairs.  I think this must be the only 24 hour Race where I haven’t made an effort to run at the end to try to eeek out a few extra metres! On finishing I was so pleased to have a sit down - thanks for the chair Lindley!

Final distance was 117 miles so just over 23 miles for the last 6 hours i.e. very slow.  I was 4th overall and 2nd lady.  I was happy ish but a little disappointed not to hit 120 miles.  At 12 hours when I had been sure it wasn’t possible I walked a lot more.  If I had realised my fade wasn’t going to be so bad in the 3rd and 4th quarter then could I have hit 120 miles by walking a bit less? I’m not sure.  The walk breaks help.  If I had walked less maybe my run pace would have been slower? It’s hard to know but I do know I walked more than I needed to because I wasn’t prepared to push myself to the limits if I wasn’t going to hit my goal.

Post race I went for a shower and saw the extent of the foot damage.  Went to the Dr Monday as I had cellulitis so am now on antibiotics.  A week later it has more or less gone down.  The chip had grazed my skin so that must be where the infection got in.  The rest of my legs felt good really quickly, much more quickly than usual.  If it wasn’t for my foot I could have run on Tuesday - I wouldn’t have done as I want to recover properly but I felt good enough to run.

A few bits of info:
Kit - wore the same clothes throughout, it was warm enough not to need a jacket although it did rain for quite a while -  I just got wet and dried out!
Shoes  - skechers gorun ride 6 - got one blister which I didn't notice until after
Food - powerbars; 9bars; marzipan; about 8 gels; crisps
Drink - loads of coke and chocolate/strawberry soya milk; high5 electrolyte; OTE sports drink; AminoGo sports drink
Toilet stops - I think about 6

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