[Note – I wrote most of this shortly after running at E24, but never got round to publishing it. It seems pretty much complete so it seems a shame to leave it languishing in the depths of the internet as a draft…]
August 2013 was when I did my first run over 26.2 miles. June 2015 – a little over 48 hours ago – I finished my first ever 100 miles at Endure 24 🙂
A bit of history
I started this blog as a way of tracking my progress towards trying to run 100 miles at Endure 24 in 2014. I didn’t quite get there, managing 75 miles in the end. I should have been delighted – and in a lot of ways I was, after all that’s one hell of an achievement. But I wanted to run 100 miles, and I thought I could run 100 miles, so another part of me was pretty annoyed that I’d failed to meet my target.
The thing I learnt from the 2014 Endure 24 run was that when I get tired I am a bit likely to throw all my toys out the pram, and that’s not very useful for reaching big miles! I had planned to do a few long night runs in training, and have a few days where I didn’t sleep through the night so was awake for 36 hours just so I could get used to surviving while tired. But as usual, none of that actually happened.
For the 2 weeks leading up to Endure 24 I stopped caffeine and alcohol completely, and tried to take quite a few 20ish minute power naps so I could get used to falling asleep quickly and getting straight up when the alarm went off.
But I supposed the biggest preparation for this year’s run was a complete change to my training, brought on by an annoying result at the Bournemouth and Poole Marathon last year. My previous PB was 4:24 and I wanted to break 4 hours and was sure I could. In the end I managed 4:01:46. This got me questioning why the hell I couldn’t even run under 4 hours at a marathon – I really should be capable of it.
In the 6 months after the marathon I lost 2 stone in weight and started aerobic training. I ran most of my runs at around 140bpm, starting off around 10:30 min/mile back in November (and now running around 8:30min/mile at the same heart rate). I upped my running from 20-30 miles per week to 40-50 miles per week.
It’s all working rather well to be honest: In the first few months of 2015 I knocked 3 minutes off a quarter marathon time (49 min down to 46 min), 10 minutes off half marathon time (1:48 to 1:38), 2-and-a-half hours off a 45 miles ultra (11:24 to 8:51) and have finally broke 20 minutes for 5K (19:51). I’ve also done at least one run of marathon length or more each month since January 2015, and last month my marathon run was 3:37.
So, physically I’m a very different runner from last year, which I was hoping would take me on to the 100 miles.
I arrived around 1330 on the Friday via Dominos Pizza, grabbing a ruddy great vegetarian supreme pizza to do as lunch and dinner on Friday 🙂 Solo runners have their own camping area, so I picked a spot about 10m or so from the entry/exit area for the track and set up my tent. I’m not a natural camper, so I tried to make it a bit like home in the tent with a big thick double inflatable mattress, sheet, duvet and pillow. I set up a second small tent for my sister too, who would be coming along to support from about 1500 the next day.
I registered, getting the 2015 Endure 24 t-shirt, my chip and my number (138), then met up with my cousin Culvin and his family. He had entered as a pair but his other team member had dropped out due to injury, so he was hesitantly running solo for the first time. His wife Alison was also running in a team of 5. They are both part of Purbeck Runners, and I gave them a hand setting up the club shelter etc as more people turned up – I think Purbeck had 19 runners in the event in total.
We had a few cups of tea and a chat in the shelter while the sky dumped a whole load of rain on us. I was beginning to worry that the course might end up being a mudfest like last year, but it did eventually ease up later in the afternoon. I ended up staying for a beer (I really fancied one that evening!), and also got to meet Paul Ali who is someone I’ve followed on social media and read lots about over the last couple of years – it was nice to finally meet him.
Back at my tent, I ate a tuna lunch thingymajig and went to bed about 2100 to get an early night. I watched half an episode of Spooks, listened to the News Quiz and then lay awake for another 90 minutes until the bloody loud music in the entertainment tent stopped for the night. It was gone 11pm when I got to sleep, so much for the early night!
I woke up at 7am with a stiff back and sore hips. I bloody hate camping.
Time for a coffee, I got the burny thing out and stuck a kettle on top. 15 minutes later I gave up with waiting for it to boil, and had a lukewarm cup of decaf coffee and some porridge from a sachet which resembled wallpaper paste. Then I went to the catering tent and grabbed the biggest sausage and bacon bap I’ve ever had 🙂
I went back over to the Purbeck Runner’s area, had some more tea, a chat and a Clif bar, then at 11am – with an hour until the start – it was time to go and get ready.
Shoe wise, I opted to start in road shoes (Saucony Guide 8’s). I bought a new pair 1 week ago as a direct replacement to an old pair of Guide’s with 500 miles on them, and managed to pick up a blister on the first run (typical!), so I was just hoping they’d be OK. They are my most comfortable shoes, and I figured if the weather held up then I should be OK in road shoes.
I’ve worn Injinji socks for all my ultra events so far, but this time I opted for “normal” socks. It was mainly because I hadn’t had any issues with my normal socks over all the training, and it’s easier to swap socks that you don’t have to get your toes into after a few hours. I stuck on my Skins calf guards, shorts, my Run Until You Drop t-shirt and my hat (not quite sure why).
After a disastrous lap in the rain last year, I decided to start off this year with my Inov8 Race Ultra vest with my rain coat in, a single 500ml bottle of water, my MP3 player and my old-skool Nokia phone (which lasts for weeks on a single charge – great for running). I completely forgot to put any nutrition in the vest, but that wasn’t a problem because this year I knew about the solo support tent by the start and I’d stuck a cool bag in with some isotonic drinks, gels, flapjacks etc. Last year I had no idea about this area and I kept going back to my car after each lap to fill up with water.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide what the best strategy was for me to try and get to 100 miles over the weeks before the event. I downloaded last years times, looked at other peoples laps, created some spreadsheets with run/walk strategies, breaks for food etc and a schedule for all the laps.
About a week before E24, I decided it was all too complicated and silly! So I figured that if I could do each lap in 1 hour 15 minutes then that would get me to 95 miles by 11:45 on Sunday, meaning I could start the final lap and get to 100 miles.
So my only real plan was to be ahead of 1:15 per lap (15 minute miles) – including stops – for as long as possible. And to get to at least 55 miles by 12 midnight (12 hours in to the event). I figured I’d get the first 5-6 laps done at about 1 hour a lap which would build me up 1:15-1:30 time “in the bank” and then figure the rest out later.
And we’re off!
About quarter to 12 we all lined up on the start line. Culvin (my cousin) was with me and we squeezed ourselves into position about 2/3 way back from the front. 12 o’clock came and we were off!
The sky was grey and the ground a little damp, making it the trail sections forgiving but not too soft. The first half a mile was really busy, and Culvin and I walked up the first hill mainly to let the field split up a bit (and also to try and get into the habit of a bit of walking and not charing away from the start).
A quick summary of the course: Start on field then left turn onto a little road. Over a cattle grid and into some trees at the beginning of a gentle hill which got steeper, then another cattle grid at top onto gravel path. Generally slightly uphill past 1K mark, then undulating hard packed gravel track through to 2.5k where there were the first marshals at a right turn, a sharp little hill then on to 3k. I was always happier past this point – something about the first 3k was a bit mentally tough. From 3k, the tracks are generally flat although a little boring in the later laps. On to a new bit of new chalk road (white to start with, black by the end!), then downhill past 4k and mostly down or flat to Al’s bar for refrehsments at 5k. Along a little, past the noisy camper van (vdubar), then the long “bastard” hill. The route finally flattens out a bit before 6k, then it’s flat or slightly downhill along to “magic wood” bit. It continues downhill but was quite technical with roots, sharp corners and a horrible steep drop then sharp slope where I generally did “controlled falling” in the last few laps. It was then very runnable to 7K and flat on to about 7.5k into the field. Round a few marked out corners and back to start.
I ran with Culvin for the first 3 laps, and as expected we were a bit ahead of the planned 1 hour per lap (53min, 55min, 54min). Each pass through the start I refilled my 500ml water bottle and grabbed a snacky thing – flapjack, gel, pepperami etc, depending on how I felt.
I ran the next lap on my own (54 min), during which Niki (my sister) arrived and it was great to see her at the finish. I can’t remember much about the next 2 laps, but I got them done (58 min as I was chatting to Niki for a bit, then 56 min), finishing lap 6 at exactly 1730 with a very pleasing 2 hours in the bag ahead of the 100 mile cutoff pace.
I didn’t want to waste too much time, but wanted to have a decent meal. So I had a big load of chilli and rice and a little sit down. I did a bit of a “systems check” and was pretty pleased. I didn’t really feel tired, and my legs didn’t ache much at all. I was a little stiff getting back out the chair, but considering I’d just run 30 miles I felt pretty good. I was back up for lap 7 about 1800, so it was about 30 minutes of rest in total.
The plan was to go on until about 9pm, so 3 more laps, but after the first 2 laps after the break (both about 1 hour) I felt really tired. Not physically, just sleepy, and I thought rather than struggle round the next lap half falling asleep I’d try and have a quick power nap – after all, that was my plan to deal with tiredness. I came straight off the end of the 2nd lap into the tent, took off bag and shoes and lay down, telling Niki not to leave me more than 30 minutes. It was nice to lay down, and I tried not to be bothered whether I went to sleep or not. In the end, I lay down for about 15-20 minutes with my eyes closed, then realised I felt much more refreshed and got up ready to charge on out again.
I started the next lap (lap 9) at a little after 2030 with my head torch on my head (but not on yet as it wasn’t all that dark), and my hand torch tucked into a front pocket of the race vest. I was really determined to get 3 done in a row now and then have a rest for an egg roll and cup of coffee which would be my first caffeine for 2 weeks.
Lap 9 went well (about 1 hour), and during this lap I remembered that my head torch is a little on the dim side, so I used it alone while walking but any time I was running I used the brighter hand torch as well. I find it useful to have a hand torch as it makes the shadows more visible so you’re less likely to end up tripping over any rocks.
Laps 10 and 11 were both about an hour, and I finished lap 11 – 55 miles – at about 2350. From about 1800, I had secretly been hoping I could get closer to 60 miles by midnight, but I was still ahead of half the distance in a little under half the time so I felt fairly confident that – even with some night time slow down – I could get to my target.
I had my double egg roll (it’s very difficult trying to keep 2 fried eggs in a roll!) and a cup of coffee, and then got ready to set off again. I was starting to feel pretty tired now. A bit of mental calculation had me thinking that if I could get to 70 miles by 0600, that would give me 6 hours to do 5 laps, so about 1:12 per lap. That was a cutting it a bit fine as I was pretty sure I’d slow down significantly from the roughly 1-hour-per-lap I was doing up to now, but it meant I didn’t have to do much through the night, so there was no pressure and I could just enjoy it.
So a little before 0030, I set off for lap 12 with a plan of doing 2 more laps before a 30-40 minute nap. I remembered the night laps were beautiful last year, and I was really glad it wasn’t raining this year. The path was lit with glow sticks, lots of lights at the marshal stations and the “magic woods” section had fairy lights wrapped around lots of the trees.
I managed lap 12 in about an hour, but lap 13 I was feeling pretty tired mentally and physically and there was more walking, bringing my time down to about 1:11 for the lap, and about 0240 I pulled into my tent, quickly ate a Tuna Light Lunch and some ginger cake, drank lots of water and lay down.
Having covered 65 miles, my legs were starting to hurt a bit and no matter how I lay I couldn’t get comfortable. Eventually – with 5 minutes before the alarm sounded – I managed to close my eyes laying on my front. When the alarm sounded I jumped up, not really feeling any more refreshed.
I texted my cousin to see if he was free, but he was having to wait for his wife to get back, so at 0338 I headed back out onto the course on my own for lap 14. I finished this lap at 0444 which was over an hour ahead of my planned time of 0600. This worked well for me as it encouraged me to keep as much time in the bank as possible, and I headed straight out for another lap, and then another to get me to 80 miles for breakfast at just after 7am.
I was really starting to feel tired now. The last few laps were around 1:10, and I figured that was about the pace that I was going to be doing from now to the end as long as I could just keep going. The night laps start off fun, but after a while the darkness can be quite draining mentally. Add to that the tiredness of having been awake for the best part of 24 hours and run 70+ miles and it all becomes a bit of a struggle.
For breakfast I had some Frosties, a cup of coffee and probably something else but I can’t really remember. I didn’t want to waste any time so I headed off after quite a short break, getting back from lap 17 (85 miles) at 0835. Straight out for another lap, I was starting to feel much better getting closer to the end. The sky was light, people were awake and the course was much more alive. 1 hour 9 minutes later I was back – 90 miles covered and now with just over 2 hours to do one more lap and get started on the final lap before 12pm.
This was almost the point that I could relax! Culvin was at my tent when when got back after lap 18, so for the next lap we went out together. He’d managed to cover 65 miles – fantastic work considering he hadn’t really prepped for solo – but was pretty shot away now. We did very little running on this next lap, and to be honest I was hurting a lot too. One of my blisters started really hurting and it was seriously upsetting my form. At one point I was standing on the side of the trail, stamping on my blistered toe with the other foot hoping to burst the damn thing so it would stop hurting (not a brilliant idea – it didn’t work but did hurt my foot quite a lot!). In the end I found it actually hurt less as long as I kept running, so despite my legs and mind just wanting to walk I managed a shuffly run for a mile or so towards the end of the lap.
And that was it! At 1115 I crossed the line, 95 miles done and the 100 miles in the bag!!
The problem with concentrating on getting to 95 miles before 12pm is that you sort-of forget that you have to cover that final lap. That last 5 miles. Another hour. Oh. Shit.
Culvin and I started together, but on the first hill I ended up quite a bit ahead of him. I waited for a moment but he waved me on, so I crossed the cattle grid and got on with getting this lap done as quickly as I could. Up and down the gravel tracks, past the marshal stations for the last time thanking all the marshals for their support over the time (especially the “Happy Brigade” cheering so much at the marshal station around 2.5k during the last few hours!). Past Al’s bar for my last cup of water, past the vdub blasting out it’s music, up the bastard for the last time. I even managed to pick up some pace and run through the Magic Wood and survive the last time down the steep slope. And then it was the final kilometre and into the field.
There was so much support in the field. Shouting, clapping, cheering – so motivating. Niki was there with the camera taking some photos of me as I weaved through the field, managing to run slowly the whole way with a massive grin on my face. At one point I asked the runners in front if this was it – was it really over? I couldn’t quite believe it and I didn’t want to find I was just so tired I’d got my timing wrong!! They did indeed confirm that this was it, much to my delight. About 200m from the end I just started sprinting, taking a really wide line round the final 2 corners as I didn’t trust my ability to do a tight corner, and flew across the finish line (it turns out my final 200m was about 5:30 mile pace, and I just felt like I could have kept that going for another mile!).
That was it. 100 miles. 24 hours, 25 minutes, 18 seconds. 20 laps, about 6600 feet of ascent, daytime, nightime and daytime again. Goal achieved!
Here’s the splits from the website: