Thursday, 14 November 2013

London 2 Brighton Ultra Run 2013

I first signed up for the London to Brighton Extreme running in 2011. I had run my first marathon in 2010 at Brighton. I had only planned to run the one. A bucket list kind of thing! But I found it fairly easy and managed a time of 4.06hrs.  I then went onto complete the 30 mile Downland Challenge in September that year. And the following year I ran the Steyning Stinger.
I attempted the Frostbite 50 in January 2013. I ran 39 miles with real bad GI distress ( trapped wind) that saw me dropping at 39 miles up on the Yorkshire Moors knee deep in snow and utterly dejected! I had started to get cold and it was dark on the moors by now. As the blood was heading to my stomach / small bowel where the distress was and away from the skin surface, I was starting to get very cold. I decided to stop rather than  risk carrying on. However I was pleased at having got that far. Feeling like I did.   It was a great race and I will be going back to compete again sometime. Something about the harsher conditions I like. Running along exposed cliff tops on The Cleveland  Way with biting winds and then getting up onto the moors in knee deep snow makes for a challenging run. 

In the training  for London to Brighton 2011 I developed Plantar Fasiciitis. I had it really bad and there was no way I was going to be able to run that year. In the time between signing up for 2013 L2B I have run many marathons and a few 50k's and other ultras. I have run the other London to Brighton also in 2012.I completed The Malvern Hills Ultra 50 miles in May this year on my 46th Birthday. My treat to me! This is where I met and made good friends with Ian Shelly and Bill Guiver too very good ultra runners.

I also had DNF 54 miles on SDW in June 2013.  Inexperience and not be able to put the constant nagging aside in my head prevented me from pushing thorough the lows!

This London to Brighton was going to be different. I had stepped up my training. My confidence in knowing I could run 50+ plus miles was a boost. In preparation for this run I had started to recce part of the route with the map I had from 2011. My map reading skill are basic. And I soon found myself getting lost when using my compass and not  trusting it what it was telling me. The whole route is far from straight forward! Paths that have been overgrown or hardly walked. And an issue I had is you can recce a route but if the gap is too long in between the race the layout of the land can change and throw you as it did with me!

What was invaluable was taking part in one of the navigation training mornings which is offered by Extreme Running. On this I met Denis Rice and Mark Dean who are Extreme running. What I learned in 3 hours with them about map reading for £10. This was much informative than the £130  I had paid in 2011 for a days navigation training with an adventure company!
And in Marks words " This course is a proper off road marathon". And believe me it is a step above your average off roader.

Mark and Denis are couple of nice guys and they really put a lot of hard work into this event. They can at anytime be driving between 4 different counties picking up runners who have gotten lost. Or who have dropped. Denis used to run the original London to Brighton Road Race. He really enjoyed it. When this stopped Denis approached another runner with the idea of putting on a cross country London to Brighton! The runners response was you must be mad.

Denis put in many 100's of miles looking at the route whilst using these long runs for his training for Marathon of Britain. Mark Dean got on board in 2008 Mark is a barefoot runner and runs in the Luna sandals.

I had started to network on line with other guys that would be running L2B. I met Luke Ashton and did a recce run with him. A very talented Ultra runner his blog is well worth a look for nutritional advice. I use the bullet proof coffee now. More about that later. I also got chatting to Craig Usher and Johnathan Wilkes via Ultra running Community on Face book. Me and Johnathan touched base the night before to chat about the race.
Race day as usual I had hardly slept. I got up at 4.00 am and met Jonathan in the hotel lobby. On are way to the TA Center across Blackheath common we bumped into Craig and chatted about the difficult navigation. It was very humid as we walked over the common in are race gear. I was surprised for it was 5.00am. Once in the TA center we met up with Luke and chatted about the race. Like me Luke had been getting eyes on the course. The numbers were not big this year 55 runners. I was feeling good and excited I wanted to get running.

We were duly invited to make are way to the start, I felt a buzz of anticipation. I made my way to the front of the start line. Normally I will go mid pack. But as the numbers were not large I thought I would get to the front.  As the horn started us off Stuart Mills was off like a shot. Everyone laughed at his speed. In amazement at starting that quick!  Stuart finished in 8.55 a great time. My strategy was to run the first 10 miles in about 1.30 hr. It was mostly road work down to Keston. I felt strong and I was enjoying the run as we made our way out of Blackheath heading towards Catford. I was comfortable with this part of the route and the first 20 miles. I had ran 2 weeks previously. All you have to do it follow cycle route 21. It’s a fairly straight forward run from here. The pack was pretty spread out and I was enjoying the run on my own.

After 4 miles you come to a golf course just by Sydenham. There is a path that goes round the course. But there is a permissive path that is un marked and saves time and goes across the course. I met with Luke at this point and some other runners. Luke was doing well and enjoying the run. I jumped the fence heading off over the golf course and the others followed. We got in to the woods tricky here as you need to follow the right path. There are many. Making my way down to Hayes and heading towards Keston all was going well. I was eating well and drinking fine.

Through Keston (10.1/2 mi) which I got to in 1.40hrs I was running well and I was comfortable at this pace. Heading towards Biggin Hill I met a few others runners. At this stage it is easy to get lost in the woods. There is a foot path here leads you in to the back of a small housing estate. As I was making my way out of the woods at Biggin Hill I bumped into another runner who was lost. This was where I made my biggest mistake. I looked at a gate and I was sure that I should go through. But it looked different. (The grass had changed color and the layout of the field as a result) I said to the guy I was running with that I would run down the road and check it out. It did not look right at the bottom of the road.

What happened next was other runners had followed me! I said to another runner this does not look right! He was adamant it was right! Pointing at his map!  I followed him and his crowd. A farmer stopped me and pointed out I was in the wrong place. What I should have done was gone back down the track 1/2 a mile! My thinking was shot. I chose to go the other way which took me 3 - 4 miles of course.

At this point my race had gone! I stopped eating and drinking and was only concerned with getting back on track. I felt pretty low at this point.Panic had set in! I had to lower my expectations and not get to negative. I was walking at this point on and off. Lucy Dean's words rang in my ears. DO NOT FOLLOW ANYONE! Eventually I stuck the Garmin on and got back on track and re-joined the route at Tatsfiled. I had the route downloaded onto my watch. Just in case!The feeling of being back on course was great. I was soon heading down to the M25 and part of the NDW. There was a slight detour here across some farmland but it was marked. My pace had slowed here and my legs where feeling it. I think the getting lost and not eating was playing a part here. I kept running hoping to make up the time.

Most of the course from here was off road and lots of woods and twist and turns. Even though I had run most of it I had to keep checking my map and compass to keep on track. At CP 2 there was little food and I had caught up with some other guys. Stuart Mills had been first through. Luke was also through. I was starting to feel sick at about 25 - 30 miles. I have the added problem of having had my large bowel removed. So taking on board nutrition is that bit harder. Getting sick and frequent toilet stops can become an issue. But I am getting better at managing and avoiding GI distress. My head was pretty despondent. I had some friends waiting for me at CP4 I had started to think about dropping. 

I got down to CP3 after another slight detour. I am not sure how I got lost here. But luckily I found CP3 without too much of a drama. I was now pretty far back in the runners and had about 8 people behind me. Never ask how many have gone through! This just added to my feelings of despondency. I had to get my head right. I was running with some other guys which helped. We were coming up to Weir Wood reservoir and Lavender Platt. This is part of the course where everyone gets lost. I had run this part a few times having house sat nearby a number of times. So I knew it well. We got through it fine. The sickness had started to pass as I was getting near to Horsted Keynes 38miles.

I arrived at CP4  and seeing my friends helped. I had a quick change and a bullet proof coffee. Mark Dean told me I was going to miss the cut off at CP5 but to keep going. The coffee really helped and I shot out of Horsted Keynes (38 Mi) with a bit of a boost. I found another runner Ian in Sandpit wood. He was not sure which way to go, having run this part twice I said I know my way to Brighton to if you want to tag along. We ran the rest of the race together and we both benefited from each others company.  We got to 42 miles and all I could think about was drinking a nice cold coke! I knew coming up to Sloop Lane just after a turn off into Hammer Wood there was a pub The Sloop. I said to Ian I need a sugar hit. We nipped in and order two cokes. As an afterthought I said can you make them to go! Off we set again. Coke’s in plastic cups.
Knowing that Brighton was not too far another 20 miles helped with being able to push on. There is one more real tricky bit as you get near the A272 just after Linfield Wood. You come through a farm onto a concrete drive. A finger post points in the direction of some ones garden. There is a big black gate and another gate 10 paces after. You have to go across these and run down a slope into woods and head towards Chailey. I did not like running through Chailey, there is a common there that is quite humid and marshy. I got bitten badly and was itching for a week. We made it to CP5 half hour late. The volunteers where great having stayed to make sure we got through. I was feeling good now although we where both hurting. We kept running and made it to Blackcap at mile 50. A very big hill that on a good day with good legs is difficult to run up. We had to walk this and it took about 15 minutes. Once I made it to the top. I took a minute to savor the achievement and look at how far I traveled.  I was so glad I had not dropped. We headed down part of SDW and then to Falmer. The track here is white and chalky and hard. Most of the terrain had been hard that day. Coupled with tiredness and stiff quads it felt like my bare feet where slapping on the track. We went slightly off course here but it did not make much difference. There is something about running across Falmer Hill in the Dark that is just energy sapping. Our morale was low here neither of us speaking. We met someone else s support crew here. They were kind enough to give us some coke.

I phoned through to the finish to see if they were still there. We had missed the 13.30 hr cut off. But Extreme Running where kind enough to stay and see us in. I heard a cheer in the background from friends of BOSH Run who were waiting to see us in. It made me feel quite emotional knowing people had been waiting about all that time. We missed the turning to head down over the race course. Instead we went down Wilson Avenue a long Road that heads down to the marina. Ian was struggling here with his kidneys caused by dehydration. We were welcomed back by Mark and Lucy Dean and fellow Boshers. My good friend Gary Mckivett was waiting to see me in. And Luke and Sunday was there and others from BOSH run. Luke was the first person to complete the whole route barefoot. In Luna sandals. It was a great day and a race I will be doing again. Not just to meet the cut off, but the whole experience was fantastic I enjoyed the navigation. My finish time was 14.44. I think I may have added an extra 5 miles to the route which I measured at 60 and not the 58.

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