With the passage of time, I have been thinking through what went well, what didn’t, what lessons are there to take away from my first 100 mile experience?
I had a plan going in to the race. I know what my sustainable pace is for a run/walk of 8 mins/2 mins so assumed I would be able to do that on the early flat section but that hills and fatigue would slow me down a bit later in the race. The interesting thing is I didn’t refer to pace once during the race. The only thing I looked at on my watch was how much of the run/walk interval was left. I just moved forward, trusting that the pace would take care of itself during the race. There were puts and takes throughout. Leg 1 was a little faster than I’d planned, but my moving pace was pretty much bang on the plan for Legs 2 through 4. I spent a total of 20 minutes longer than planned at aid stations. That all netted out to my finish time being just 9 minutes adrift from the plan. Boom!
I was well stocked for grub, my personal stash containing potatoes, crisps, chocolate, various wraps plus a bunch of gels. I ate as planned on Leg 1, topping up at aid stations (big shout out to the liberal use of jam in the jam sarnies at Little Wittenham!). As mentioned in the race report, I was stuffed full after Leg 1 and didn’t want another thing to eat for most of Leg 2. While it is good to eat early and often on these long events, I think I overdid it here.
I have been training myself to take GU gels, but after Leg 1 I couldn’t take them on, too gloopy and too strong a flavour. I will revert to High5 gels, they are a lot easier to take, although they do pack less of a punch carb-wise. I got on well with the Tailwind, using up most of my supplies in the race. I find it easy to drink, and it’s easy carbs.
Aside from the odd gel, I didn’t eat any of my personal stock of food after Leg 1, instead making use of the aid stations. This seemed to work well, I did not feel under fuelled at any point. This is a useful lesson I think, certainly for the Centurion races, there is no need to cart around a load of food, just grab and go.
The only stage I was really aware of not having enough water was during Leg 2. It was warm enough in the afternoon to affect consumption rate and but for the church tap at Nuffield I would have run dry between aid stations. Generally I was fine, taking a good gulp of water and Tailwind at each walking break, there was no repeat of my hydration blip at GMU. I think for the summer races next year I will need more capacity on board.
I spent time pre-race researching countermeasures, buying Fixing Your Feet by John Vonhof, the bible for prevention and treatment of issues resulting from heavy foot use. I swotted like my race depended on it. I taped, lubricated, powdered and toe socked.
For the first half of the race I was fine and dandy. Things fell apart a bit on Leg 3, both feet becoming increasingly sore in places. I spent most of my 30 min break at 75 miles sorting out my feet so I could get on with the rest of the race without being overly impeded. The tape worked well for those areas it covered but I eventually got good blisters in the space between the base of my toes and the balls of my feet. I got blisters on the end of my second toes on both feet, I think where they hit the front of my shoes. I don’t think the silicone toe protectors are up to the job of mitigating the effect of repeated bashing, at least not over this distance. Interestingly, I also got blisters between toes, not something I’ve had before. I wonder if the toe socks actually caused an issue here, or maybe I didn’t lube up those areas enough. None of this was really a problem in the final 25 miles, but boy are they sore in the aftermath! For my next ultra I will improve on the taping, and I really need some larger and wider shoes.
There’s a taping technique in the book which I missed that covers the between-toe areas, and covers the area between base of toes and ball of feet – exactly where I suffered. Something to practice on long runs in the next training block.
I was expecting to struggle for tiredness in the latter stages. Certainly the odd sit down was welcome, but sleepiness was kept at bay by the general buzz of being in the race, and I’m sure the Red Bull at 50 and 75 miles helped. I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up to the full 100 miles, but I think the strength work in particular paid dividends, improving my endurance. A little shout out to my pacer here too, joining me for the final 25 miles. I had begun to go off the boil in Leg 3, just finding the running a little harder work. Having someone to run with kept me honest, I think, less willing to resort to walking.
We were very lucky. Dry weather in the week before the race meant the trails were in very runnable condition. It makes such a difference when the trails are in poor condition, every foot step comes with extra effort which I imagine is really tiring over 100 miles. Surprisingly, I did not suffer from chafing at all. I did lube up the usual crevices, but did not need to re-apply. Lack of rain helped with this, I’m sure, and I was wearing my longest runderwear which don’t get rucked.
On the Sunday I snoozed a lot, getting increasingly stiff and immobile as the day went on. I found my sore toes and blisters to be the worst of it, the slightest touch being quite painful. I popped the blisters and have been applying Savlon frequently. At time of writing they are much improved. My knees have also been giving me gip. In combination with the blisters, for the first couple of days I was only able to manage a slow, stiff legged shuffle using only my heels. Stairs were a challenge! Five days later, most of the muscle aches are gone, but the knees still ache a lot. I’m hoping a few weeks of rest will sort that out.
Overall, I think I nailed it. I was well prepared, well trained and lucky with the conditions. Would I do another 100 mile race? Yes, absolutely. Would I do Autumn 100 again? Yes, I think so, I like the format. Next year is filling up with ultra races already, there probably isn’t time to fit another 100 miler in. I may volunteer at a few to bag places for 2023.