Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Centurion Autumn 100 2015 - or, There and Back Again, a Hobbit's Tale. By David Sloan.

This was an adventure of many firsts for me; the first time I'd attempted a solo run of over 52-miles, the first time I'd tried to continually run (and walk) constantly for 24hrs, the first time I'd attempted an Ultra without having Claire drive out to the middle of nowhere to meet me at every checkpoint just incase I needed a clean pair on socks, and, as most of you will undoubtedly know, the first time I would have those dreaded words DNF next to my name.

Going into this race I had the perfect plan in place. Off the back of the Grand Tour of Skiddaw (46-miles) at the end of August, I would have an easy week before 4-weeks of long-mileage training, culminating in a strong run at Chester Marathon before tapering the intensity down for 2-week to the Autumn-100. As I sat there with training diary in hand back in June I couldn't help feeling a little bit smug that by the end of the year I would have completed 100-miles in under 24-hrs. But training diaries can be written by anyone, going out and doing it is another thing.

A week after GTS I got the offer to run Wigan 10k, which I completed in pb time, feeling awesome in doing it, ready to move on with my long runs mid-week.
That's when I decided to work on some high-cadence, fore-foot striking on a steady 12-miler, not for a couple of hundred meters at a time, but for the whole first 4-miles, I then started to feel a burn in the right calf, and a mile later a pop.......

4-weeks and Zero-Miles later, when I had pretty-much decided to drop out of both the Marathon and the 100, I decided to go out on a secret Friday-Night Tempo Run two-days before Chester Marathon to test my healing calf muscle! Bingo! It was ok, better than ok, healed!!!

I decided to run the marathon as a test and ran all the way, with a very respectable time of 3:30. Surely I still couldn't run 100 mile on Zero Milage in my peak phase of training? But I had paid for the event and the hotel, plus what's the worst that could happen?

So, I was packing my kit and plotting my maps 15-mins before the biggest sporting event of my life, actually shaking (I wasn't that nervous for Ironman) and at 10am on Saturday 17th October 2015, I was on my way.

I can't say a great deal about the course, except that the views and scenery over the first 50-miles (which I completed in a distance pb of 9:13) were breathtaking at times, when not concentrating on what's underfoot, not too technical or hilly, but you can never be too careful.
From the halfway point I was joined by Claire, my trusty pacer for the next 25-miles (or so she thought) as we donned our head torches and headed out across the ridgeway for another 25-mile out-and-back. It's at about the turnaround point (62ish miles) that you realise that running in the dark is a bit tougher that expected, after Thunder Run I thought I had it sussed it, but hours of running into the abyss with a white circle of light to follow soon catches up on you.
After about 70-miles I dropped the bomb on Claire that I might need somebody to pace me for the whole second half of the race as I was starting to feel the fatigue. After more than a few silent moments, a bowl of hot beans at the 75-mile station (I'm sure I asked for Stew!) and a change of trainers, we headed out as a team to do the final loop and earn that buckle (not just a poxy medal).

Jog-walk turned to walk-jog as expected, but then to just walk, followed by shuffle!
The lack of training was starting to bite! 80-miles saw the end of the running stints, 85 saw the end of my mental resolve, along with my quads! The final 3-miles or so to the 87.5 mile point were a low-point in my adult life, I hadn't had such a feeling of hopelessness since finding out that the Easter Bunny wasn't real! It was at 0.3 miles to go that I had a little sit-down with head-in-hands and tried to cry, but had no water to give!
I arrived into the rowing club, knowing that I would never make the 14-miles back to the finish, even in the 8-hrs remaining. I handed in my number to retire at 6am Sunday 18th October 2015 after 18-hrs and 87.5miles.

Since then I have gone through a few things, the first was embarrassment, as I had so many people/friends expecting me to finish, plus I had never DNF'd before, then it was pain, plenty of that for the next 48-hrs.

But then came the pride.

Those friends who hand been messaging me for 18hrs, giving me the motivation to keep going as far as I had, were still proud of me, even if I didn't finish, and everyone I have spoken to since has expressed this too. Thank you everyone, those messages kept me going throughout this whole experience! But mostly to Claire, who ran the furthest she has ever run (38-miles), 2-weeks after a tough day at Chester Marathon to make sure I was safe, thank you.

In reflection, honestly I never thought I was fit enough to complete the race, but I was stubborn enough to give it a go and believe in myself. I may not have finished, but I am a stronger person because of it. I will be back at the Autumn 100 in 2017, not just to right this wrong, but because the event and the volunteers were some of the best I have come across and it would be a shame to not go back to this beautiful part of the country.

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