Race To The King

Like any normal person coming to the end of a difficult working week, I got up at 5am on Saturday morning in order to run/walk 53 miles.

Although we had our race packs through the post already, we had to get to the start line, at the Southern end of the South downs National Park, near Chichester, for 08:15. I didn’t have time for my normal bowl of porridge before leaving in the morning so I bought a sausage sandwich before the race. I was working on the theory that “there’s no such thing as a bad calorie” in an ultra, but even so, I think I must have a fairly strong stomach to be able to pull off such a poor fuelling decision (not that it didn’t cause me a bit of discomfort).

Unlike the Exeter marathon, where I got seriously sunburnt, I made sure I applied that factor 30 from early on. I also had my pack prepared from the night before. (I say “pack”; I actually prepared three bags, one for on-the-run, one to leave with my supporters with stuff for the halfway point, and change of clothes for the finish line just in case I got absolutely drenched.) The bag I ran with was my usual running pack with a one litre water bladder, and room for a bit more if you stuff it full. I took:

  • Small sun-cream
  • Blister plasters
  • Packet of jelly babies (I find energy gels disgusting)
  • Hand wipes
  • Head torch
  • Headphones
  • Mobile phone

I also used Decathlon brand body-glide to prepare those prone-to-chafing areas. (Let’s not get into that!)

We were well prepared and the atmosphere starting the race was very happy.

ultra runners

Race To The King bills itself as a double marathon but is actually a bit longer than 52.4 miles. “Basecamp” is at the 23 mile point, and it sees the participants split off into three groups: the non-stoppers, for whom the basecamp is just a check-point and an aid station to pass through, the two-day participants, who camp overnight and do the remainder of the race on the Sunday, and the people who entered for day one only (these guys were finished and jubilant).

By the time Running Buddy and I got to basecamp, the heat of the day was already taking it’s toll on us. I was finding it hard to swallow any solid food, and I was getting tired of sipping warm water. I guzzled down a cold can of flat soft drink and slumped in a camp chair.

It took a lot of motivation to get going again, and when we did there were more hills to overcome, with the heat of the day not yet letting up.

Running Buddy was having blister issues which meant we sat down on a bench for a bit in the woods so that he could tape his foot up. I secretly felt happy not to be the one holding us up for a change.

As we got to one of the later pit stops (I can’t remember which one) I became sick of sweet snacks. I’d been gorging on sugary items to fuel my run all day and I couldn’t deal with anymore. I tried eating a peanut butter sandwich as I knew I needed to take some calories on board but the issue of not being able to swallow had actually grown worse. I spent twenty minutes eating the damn thing between gulps of water, and then set off again, annoyed at the lost time.

Fortunately for me, that was the time at which it started to cool down as afternoon gave way to evening.

At the very next pit stop, I took a bag of ready salted crisps and they tasted amazing. Seriously, crisps have never tasted better before or since. And that was when the penny dropped; it wasn’t enough to just keep taking on water – I needed salt as well, and had badly underestimated this very obvious fact.

At the next three pit stops, I helped myself to one of the cup-a-soups on offer, knowing it would replenish my salt levels.

And so in the evening, I got a second wind, despite the fact that I was now mostly on my own, as Running Buddy had gone on ahead during one of my longer rests (the peanut butter sandwich I think) and the participants were thinning out now.

It took me late into the night to finish with a very poor time, but I did finish and that was enough for me: 36km further than I had ever run before!

As I limped through the streets of Winchester just after midnight, knowing that I would make it, I felt very tired, but I also had a massive sense of achievement. I had now run a double marathon and whatever happened afterwards, no-one could take that away from me.

There was of course, one more souvenir to be had from the day, besides my medal, and that was my very first lost toenail.

Here it is the day after the race:

messed up toenail

It doesn’t look so bad there, but a few days later it came off. Running Buddy seemed very pleased about it when he told me: “You’ll lose that you will”.

I didn’t mind too much- took a kind of perverse pride in it in fact – after all, now I really was a proper ultra-runner!

More Things I Like

Continuing in the same vein as my other “things I like” posts, here are some things that I have liked recently…

The Joe Rogan Experience #1027

Joe Rogan interviews Courtney Dauwalter, who won a 238 mile race by a considerable distance, and what’s more, she seems to have done it with more than a bit of the half arsed spirit about her, shunning diet plans and not really being able to give much explanation of how she managed it. Joe jokes throughout that her diet plan appears to be beer and nachos.

But the flip side is that she has some serious, serious grit. Think of the baddest bad-arse you know and then add some extra bad-arse on top of that. I won’t go into detail as it would ruin some of the surprises in the podcast but Joe pretty much nails it in his description of her as “savage”.

 

Breaking2

This is a National Geographic documentary that has made it onto YouTube. It covers the attempt made by Nike last year to see whether it was humanly possible to run in a marathon in less than two hours.

Taking the concept of marginal gains to a whole other level, we see the efforts of three of the greatest marathon runners in the world. Especially impressive is Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge, who did manage a time of two hours and twenty five seconds. He trains well, he eats well, and he has good form. But the thing that got me was his complete air of stoicism as he runs. This was a timely reminder to someone like myself (who isn’t always as positive as I could be on the longer runs) that mindset is incredibly important in big events.

 

Some Of My Favourite Running Photos

Since starting this blog (and upgrading to a better phone that can my camera app and running app at the same time) I have been more conscious about taking photos when the light is good, or when something interesting pops up on my runs.

Here are a few that stand out for me:

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I took a photo of this glove on a stick because it scared the crap out of me for a split second.

I have an active imagination. Put that together with listening to Zombies, Run! and only seeing it in my peripheral vision, and of course I didn’t see a glove, but a severed hand on a stick!

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This photo really captures the sense of adventure when setting out on a really long run. It was taken during Race To The Stones 2017 and it just turned out right; to me it looks like a still from one of those artsy documentaries about ultra-running.

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This photo is the backdrop to my blog and it just shows what can be done on a phone camera if you are willing to get up early enough and catch a time of day when the light is perfect.

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This photo is taken in the same location as the one above, at a different time of day and incorporating the man-made, industrial side of the landscape. This appeals to me for some reason I can’t explain, but whatever it is, it would probably also explain why I’m so drawn to video games that take place in stark, post-apocalyptic settings.

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This photo is another case of being in the right place at the right time. The local football goals in the park took on a very different feel as shapes emerging out of the mist.

Everyone has a deadline

I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions this year. I’ve never made any changes that last longer than a few weeks off the back of them.

And perhaps that’s why my January has largely been more of the same. The things I’m good at, I continue to be good at; the things I’m bad at show no signs of improvement.

I wanted to start writing short stories this year; so far I’ve done nothing, barely even picked up a pen to make notes.

But here’s a thought…

…imagine if what you do in January sets the tone for the rest of 2018. Imagine if doing something in the next five days means you will continue to do it, and not doing that same thing means that it won’t happen for you this year.

If you want to start running, tell yourself that unless you go for that first run before January is out, you won’t go running at all this year. If you want to powerlift, pumping some iron before the month is out means you’ll keep doing it all year.

Why the arbitrary deadline? Well, it’s no more arbitrary than the calendar changing to New Year’s Day. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see progress.

It’s all about setting up a template for yourself and your future success.

I believe that forming good habits is the key. Training is only optimised one session at a time. Stories are only written paragraph by paragraph.

If you’re reading this and you have any sort of ambition for 2018 at all, I challenge you write a post about it and commit to starting by February first. If you link to your post in the comments below, I promise to come and ask you how it’s going on Thursday next week!

In the meantime, I’m off to start writing…

Running as a release

This is a response to today’s word prompt: gratitude

By shuffling my way through lots of miles, over a period of a couple of years, I have gotten myself to the point where I can comfortably run a 5k or a 10k and find it a joy instead of a chore. It still takes effort when I’m trying to go fast but I can jog along non-stop quite easily.

This allows me a release when times get stressful. Between my job; my landlord; living in a spiritually and morally bankrupt society; anxiety about the coming zombie apocalypse and worrying about my image on Facebook, stress is never in short supply! (Some of those were jokes but I won’t tell you which ones!)

There’s just something about leaving the house (going into the scary real world where everything is offline) and engaging in physical exertion that hits the re-set button and takes me out of my own head.

I live in Berkshire, near the Thames Path, and I get to run alongside some fantastic greenery. (The featured photo is my favourite taken whilst running and shows Caversham weir at sunrise.)

I am grateful that I have the money to buy decent running shoes and enter events. I am grateful for having the physical ability to be able to run, and I try not to take that for granted. I am grateful for the support of friends and family, and for the people who read this blog.

If you are reading this and thinking about starting running, I hope this post will give you that last push that you need. You will feel better and you will meet supportive people. You will lose weight and get fitter. You will be able to blast music through your headphones and get an endorphine high.

There is literally nothing not to like!

And finally, if you want to run but you haven’t exercised in years and you’re terrified of trying, please consider reading this post.