Monday, 16 May 2011

ChallengeHub 24hour race report

I headed to a sleepy countryside this weekend to test my limits in a 24hour race. Testing my limits was exactly what happened. On paper, I have been involved in tougher races but the way the day played could not have been anticipated. I definitely expected a smoother ride.
I headed to marshside (Kent, near Canterbury) on the Friday night with my stepdad and the dog (let me add that my stepdad, clive was an absolute hero all weekend). We slept under the stars which on paper sounds great but solid ground and howling winds did not provide the greatest pre-race sleep. I remember having the feeling that those winds could play a huge part in the race.....I was right. I still woke in the morning feeling pretty relaxed however, and i felt that providing my ITB held up during the race then i could do something pretty big and possibly even scare some of the big dogs that would run for the win. As i was only 1 of 2 competitors that camped over night (other guy was called Justin, very genuine and cool ex army chap doing his first ultra) I was in a position to see all the other competitors slowly arrive. Some very familiar faces that have definitely developed into race friends arrived so the hour leading up to the 1pm start was filled with some very low key conversations. Most interestingly, Kostas telling me that he ran his last race with an arm in a sling due to a broken shoulder......the race was a 48hour race......and he ran 200miles- he was my pre-race favourite before he even told me that! Turns out he finished joint first with what can only be described as an absolutely epic finish by him. I was rooting for him all the way and to witness first hand how hard he was pushing to catch the leader was inspiring. He was nearly 12miles down with less then 4hours ago, I think the guy that was leading from the start (Kenneth, I guy that I had not met before) believed he had the race all wrapped up very early, he must have been a fraction disappointed to be caught.
The race started with the usual rocket firework, firework goes up, wait for the bang, and away you go.
Usually you get some highly caffeinated and excited folks tear off the front at a very unmanageable pace but this time everything was kept very causal and conversational. As the last two weeks did not involve a lot of running due to my injured ITB i decided to use this lap to get a good awareness of how my body was feeling in regards to tightness, soreness and strength. The weather was mild and very runable. The ground has the hardest ground a had ever run on and later caused lots of foot issues for lots of competitors. The jeep and tractor tracks were solid and horrible under foot so I tried to pick my run lines effectively as I knew they would fatigue the ankles very quickly.
18Th Place 6.55miles
Field starting to thin out a little bit, wind was really starting to pick up on the back route to lap control. Considering it was only about 3pm it was certainly an ominous sign of things to come. Legs not feeling particularly loose yet but felt ok otherwise
17Th 13.1miles
Started to get calories on board as the 4 hour mark was approaching and dinner time. Little and often was the food strategy. I was probably burning 700kcal per hour but the body will only absorb approx 300kcal per hour during performance. Towards the end of the lap I had the first indication that my ITB will play a part in the race but i wasn't too concerned yet.
16Th 19.65miles
BANG, CRASH, WALLOP. Every step with every stride the left side of my lower body started screaming STOOOPPPPPP OR I WILL HURT YOU!!!!! First ITB over my knee starting pulling, every left step was accommodated by an aggressive out swing of the knee as I landed. Minutes later, the hip gives out and I nearly hit the deck. I put my hand over my hip to feel it gliding in a really weird way, it wasnt smooth and it was very painful.....i was in trouble. for the next hour I have to stop and stretch my leg every 10minutes in order to keep running, walking was not an option with less than a marathon on the board. Towards the end of the lap my peroneals start screaming at me and the top of my gastroc is super tight. I spent this entire lap adjusting my stride in order to see if I could relieve tension. Toe in, Toe out, Shuffling, overstriding, understriding, less lower limb rotation, picking up from the hip flexors etc....I could definitely tell I had wasted a ton of energy doing this but I had to find a solution. Somehow I gained a place in this lap!
15Th 26.2miles (marathon)
As you could imagine this started terribly. It also started with me telling Clive that if this left side deteriorates as much as the last lap then it could be over.
Did a have a miracle? Did my body find a different way to run? or did a just dig in so much mentally that my body decided it could not compete with my brain and it decided to give up on causing me pain? The latter is unlikely but I like the sound of it. Things really started to loosen up but definitely at the expense of a slightly sore right knee and overworking of quadriceps and hip flexor muscles on both legs. I knew my quads should not feel this torched after 30miles but I was happy to have it and if it means its saving the lateral part of my left leg from destruction then so be it. The hard ground was also stirring up the balls of my feet which was something that brought an end to a couple of competitors races, once again I could only embrace the pain. I could survive ball of the foot pain and torched quads.....I could not survive what happened in Lap 4 for much longer!
13Th 32.75miles
Things continued in the same vain as lap 5 except for the viscous intensity of wind. I would have preferred relentless rain to soften the ground but right now it was just wind that was hammering my face, neck, eyes and lips....but I was still running and the shear relief of this just lead me to say 'bring it on'. I did notice at lap control that some people had really got away from me, probably during my slow 4Th lap. I stayed positive as I knew I would still run hard during the night and the worse conditions got the more others would struggle and the more I would plough forward and catch them. The deeper into the race and the worse the conditions the more mental strength you would need- after digging down to the depths of despair early in the race I knew I had the mental strength in abundance.
12Th 39.3miles
It got cold! and the wind got brutal and it stayed like this for the next 8 hours! Here's the weirdest thing....I could not run without searing pain through my obliques and abdominals. They were even sore to lightly touch, I have never experienced this! Was it the adjusted stride? Less rotation at the hip causing more rotation in the obliques? Was it the excessive leaning into the wind to drive forward? Whatever the reason, it sucked and it started to make me feel sick. It also caused havoc with my eating. Pasta was going down well but everything with quick release sugar, which I really needed, made me feel ill. Perseverance, come on!
11th 45.85miles
Lap8: The queasy stomach was now effecting my fluid intake and I knew this was not good as I was developing a headache but with every lap I knew I was making good progress and this was enough for me to push forward. This lap represented double marathon mark and I knew everything was hurting more then it should have been at this point. However, I also knew that people will start to crash really quickly at this point. Very rarely do you do training runs at 50miles or longer so this is where people will struggle to push through. I felt that if I keep running for longer then I could make some in-roads on the guys ahead of me.
9Th 52.4miles (double marathon)
Strong winds really starting to piss me off, saw a couple of friends at the timing tent who were considering a nap- for the first time in a race I nearly joined them. So out popped the proplus and a bottle of coke and off I went on another lap.....good choice
7Th 58.95miles
Everything felt shit. Face was wind broken, abs and obliques would no longer hold my upper body straight, stomach wanted to vomit, head was pounding, hips were locking, quads burning, calves cramping, ankles were tired of shitty rutted tractor tracks and the balls of my feet needed replacing.....but no blisters, wahoo, I must fit shoes good haha
7Th 65.5Miles
First signs of my mind giving up. I was in 7Th but the guys ahead of me were way ahead and the guys behind me were very close, that sucked. So far I had gone to the brink of destruction and pulled myself out more times then in any other race. Mentally I was working harder then I had ever before and for the longest period of time. I had a bad combination of mental and physical depletion. I needed help
7Th 72.05miles
Final lap of 'running'. I decided to chug my way through this lap and then decide to bring in the support. I lost a position on this lap for the first time in the entire race
8Th 78.6mile (triple marathon)
Reinforcements arrived in the form of my Stepdad, the dog and Justin who I had met at the start. Justin had blew himself out early and had to have a long sleep but he was up and ready to join me through my last few hours. Running had virtually finished but I knew that if I constantly moved forward then I would make ground on people. Its this point in a 24hour race that people's pace dramatically drops. If I'm walking then i have to walk the fastest. Still 8Th though, damn it!
8Th 85.15miles
Another lap struggled through, couldn't eat, couldn't drink, couldn't run. Only Clive kept me going and the enjoyment of watching Kostas sprinting laps to try and catch the leader. Go on, Kostas you crazy bastard! We've gained a place!
7Th 91.7miles
This was only a half lap to do what I could before the 24hour cut-off. I even ran a little with Kostas (about 800metres) before I slowed to a walk again. He said 'come on my friend, stay with me until the finish' I said 'no my friend, I have been finished for hours'. But I did sneak in one more place. BOOM!
6Th 94.2miles

In summery, I have never had to dig so deep in my entire life. All my mental strength was summoned to keep me moving at lap 4. I ended up doing an extra 10 and a half laps after it. Conditions sucked but damn I must be so much stronger for getting through this when it was all too easy to call it quits at various points of the race. A top10 finish was guaranteed from about lap 11 or 12 but and I almost accepted that. I'm glad I didn't because 6Th place is my best finish.

All I need to do now is get myself fit, iron out my left lateral leg issues and a top 5 somewhere will be right around the corner. Still awaiting confirmation of results but here is what I do know:
=1. Kostas 113.75miles
=1. Kenneth 113.75miles
2. John 105miles
5. ??? 96.7miles
6. Me 94.2miles

I will update this as I get official results.

N.B. well done Justin for hitting 52.4miles in his first ever long run. Good job mate and I hope I see yo at a venue before next years 24hour race. I wont be running but I plan to crew for my step dad who will tear up the course.


  1. I hope you run better than you write - Word does have spellcheck these days!

  2. Ha to be far, I was tired when I wrote this. I have since edited most typo's!

  3. Dan Cracknell (Forwarded)18 May 2011 at 19:31

    Mate was an epic read, congrats. Tell me...... what shoes were you in? And let me know the post race analysis on left side issues? Ciao from the travelling geek

  4. F**k im lazy! But you're inspiring me not to be...

  5. Fraser Morrison (Forwarded)18 May 2011 at 19:34

    Inspirational stuff mate. Your putting my 10 k to shame!! Does this mean you can finally go for a beer?

  6. well done, sounds like it was hard work :-)

  7. Epic run mate... looking forward to catching up in person!

  8. Well done Richie rich! X x x

  9. Stacy Palmer (forwarded)18 May 2011 at 19:40

    so proud of you xxxxxxxxxxx

  10. Laura Stokes (forwarded)18 May 2011 at 19:41

    Awesome to read your blog!! X well done x

  11. Janette Jones (forwarded)18 May 2011 at 19:42

    woooow well done, proud of you mate :o) x

  12. Tim Reece (forwarded)18 May 2011 at 19:44

    You my friend are absolutely mad!!! But ultimate respect...

  13. Sue Murphy MUM (forwarded)18 May 2011 at 19:45

    bloody hell rich i knew you had a hard time,but didnt realise how hard till i read the blog..sooo proud of you my wonderful

  14. Thanks for all the comments and nice words peoples. Beers are definitely on the agenda again! I went with a fresh pair of montrails Dan. There crap.....but they just work for me!

  15. Congratulations! That's brilliant. Now for goodness sakes go and eat something like fish and chips every night
    See you soon