Here follows a few points that come to mind from my first 100mile attempt yesterday at the thames gateway 100.
Race choice is really important and I really should have made a better choice in picking my first 100 miler attempt as even though the organisers were keen and an event of this size is hard to put together, there were many areas lacking and with a 100 you need as much help as possible.
A "decent" 50 mile runner does not mean you can do 100!
If the route description isn't great on a section you didn't recce at the start then follow someone (safety in numbers)!
Totally cocked up footwear choice. Luna's were NEVER the choice and the VFF's Spyridons were not much better. Don't get me wrong I love Luna's but you also need to know when sandals and even VFF's are not going to cut it. Yes many people run massive ultras in these in the U.S. but most of these barefoot or minimal shoes are designed for use on rocky dirt trails where they never see rain or mud.
Although pacers are a great idea, you need to be careful as they can be a double-edged sword. I will be forever grateful for my friends for stepping up to the task but I'm not good enough to forecast actual pace especially when the course and elements combined with the above point worked against me and I was feeling bad if I had them waiting around for ages in the night.
My delay due to the silly footwear decision on the NDW "fell section" at around 12 miles meant I started feeling bad for my crew. I know they were understanding but I still felt guilty for not holding up my part of the deal with pace even though this was probably the hardest section of the course and the weather was now hammering it down. It takes a very special type of person to crew!
It's not realistic to have a single pace to stick to. I'd broken the race into chunks but should have looked at the course in more detail as I was always going to be slower in the hilly first section so I was playing catch up in my head continuously.
I started to have thoughts of dropping early on and need to work more on my mental strength especially later when I got to the halfway point and had the difficult night section ahead of me. I was told by my friend, experienced Race Director and Crew guru Karen Webber at his point that most newcomers quit at this point and I should push to 60 but I had nothing but doubts. Mental note to plan something special for this point? I.e. change of kit, something nice to eat... Whatever works?
Running with other racers helps dramatically. As soon as I started to run with others then the pace and moral rose.
Recce's are amazing. Knowing what is coming up and not having to analyse nav during the race cannot be underestimated. I chose to recce 50 of the 100 miles before hand but if I'd reviewed the "fell section" then .... Who knows? I picked the night section which was probably wise but again not enough analysis.
I'd took the time to prepare my food and drink and got a large plastic box and brought the usual ultra classic treats of full fat coke, iso drink, bananas and of cause fig rolls! I also stocked up on crisps, nuts, rolls, cereal bars, shortbread, fruit cocktail, boil in the bag meal and my fav pepperoni's but didn't didn't eat any of this of course.. I pretty much ran for 12 hours on solely fig rolls! Though I didn't feel too bad and never hit the wall, I felt that I was missing out on something. My previous ultra aid stations had boasted quality wraps, fruits, and hot drinks but even though there was food on offer, nothing really jumped out at me. If there is a next time I need to put a lot more thought into food prep. Sandwiches with nice fillings, nice sausages, cooked meats, fruit and warm drinks (essential in the soaking cold conditions). There's only so many cheap value sausage rolls and cold pizza that can be eaten.
If unsupported then drop bags are a must! Should always include a number of changes of clothes including "worst case" comfy trainers (lots of people running in Hoka's which look über comfy but I still think look strange).
Generally I feel I'd recovered well from my earlier poor section and I only realise now that I was actually doing quite well compared to the rest of the field. By the time I got to aid station 5 I'd caught up with a few other runners and a number had already withdrawn. I left the stop and started back on the course feeling ok for now. I was running with the others including a guy that I'd seen previously at some events. (One of the greatest things about ultra running is that you can actually "run with the stars".) I managed to keep with this small group most of the time for 20 miles and whilst running with them worked out that these guys were of high long distance pedigree with most of them I believe 100 marathon club members and veterans of multiple 100's. I felt I wasn't in the same class as these guys and they didn't seem like they were even trying at times. One thing I did notice was that they ran/walked quite often even on the flat, they also said occasionally running up hills helps the strain on the quads. I guess this all saves the legs for later?
I found out after the race that these guys were the only people left standing at the end finishing in just under 29 hrs (30 limit). My schedule was for sub24 so if these guys were finishing near the cut-off then I need a re-think. I've learnt a lot from this attempt and the only real decision left is if I ever have another go?