Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Winter 100. Part 2!

This would be my second time running  The Winter 100. It had been my first completed 100 mile  continuous race with Centurion Running. Last years race was held on 30.11.2013. I had finished in a time of 28.55. Totally worn out but feeling awesome at finishing my first 100 miler and having achieved a dream.

I had traveled up the night before with Luke Ashton and Sunday Odesanya. Friends I have made through BOSH. I had a fairly good night's sleep. I generally sleep well before a big event. No point in worrying.  It's going to be tough enough without causing yourself more stress. Sleep is something that has come with time. I have not slept before events when I first started running. It's not caused a major problem but can play on your mind. I was feeling relaxed as we set off in the morning.

 Picture Courtesy of Sunday Odesanya L-R Shawn Timmons Tremayne Dill Cowdry Luke Ashton and Andy Nuttall.

We arrived at HQ which was in the Village Hall at Streatly, a different venue than last year. This gave more room and enabled runners crew to be at hand once they had returned from each of the 4 legs of the course. It was good to see Tremayne Dill Cowdry and Andy Nutall. We had our usual picture taken. I also caught up with friend Ian Shelly. Lousie Ayling, another friend had made some of her crack cake which I took delivery of. It's a well sought after piece of cake in the Ultra world! The time seemed to go really quick. I had one last quick kit check! James gave the race brief and then we all walked to The Morell Rooms, last years venue which served as HQ. It felt warm as we waited to start. The usual guys were up at the front, me and Luke wished each other good luck.
Picture Courtesy of Sunday Odesanya Luke Ashton and Shawn Timmons Start line Winter 100[]
Then at 10am the horn sounded and we set off, I heard someone shout "good luck Shawn". I think it was the lovely Jacqui Byrne another BOSH lady and ultra runner.  I had no real plan for the race, just to finish.  But I had hopes of just coming in under 24 hours.  However as soon as we hit the mud on the first leg I knew this could be a long day. This first check point was 6.5 miles in. There were a few fields and a path along the Thames as we made our way to Wallingford. There was comfort in knowing what was coming up ahead on the course.  I could see runners up ahead. I could feel my pace was slower. I was not overly concerned. I thought this would  benefit me later on in the race. My stomach started to feel a little gippy. I had my large bowel removed in 2007 and I had a bowel reconstruction out of my small intestine. It has its complications and one of them is I need the loo a lot. So I like the fact there are toilets at a lot of the aid stations on this race. 

A quick pit stop at Wallingford and off over a bridge and we are soon into more fields and mud! There was some more road work here and then more fields and lovely mud. Up to Little Wittenham CP2 a quick turn around and heading back the same way. There had been a change to this section of the route this year which added more road. Benson Lock was closed for works hence the detour.  As I was coming back on this leg I started to tire of the mud, the slipping about and the slower pace. I had to keep my eyes on the trail all the time. I felt tired already. I wanted to enjoy today and not get despondent which happened on North Downs Way 100 this year which had me dropping at 76 miles - just because I had listened to my head. There was nothing wrong with me!

Picture Courtsey Of Stuart March.
 So it was at this point I lowered my expectations, a sub 24 would not possibly be on the cards today. This made things easier for me to just keeping going and remain positive. I had started to eat as I started the race and this was making a real difference. It was good to get this leg over with. It was a real gutty one. I got back into Streatly and HQ.  It was good to see Sunday and John Fitzgerald waiting outside. I find some aid stations are time voids ( The Comfy Ones) and I manged to waste 27 minutes here. I could not tell you what I did. But I am a bit of faffer!! 

Picture courtesy of Sunday Odesanya. Off on second leg.
I headed out on to the second leg going towards North Stoke.This was literally across the road from HQ.  I was with Ian at this point chatting and catching up. It was good to have a bit of company. I tend to like my own company when running. I just like to focus on the task ahead and I am not a great one for small talk. This was also to be my second attempt at running a solo 100 miles without a pacer in the later stages. Northstoke was the next stop 4 miles away. We arrived at Northstoke mile 29 in 49mins. My time so far was 5hr 35mins. Ian headed off as I needed another loo break. It was good to see Nick Jones a friend at this aid station. We had a quick chat and I headed off again. Now off to Sywncombe. 
North Stoke Aid Station.

Getting there was some road and then fields along the Thames, after a couple of miles we hit the A4310 and run along it for a bit before going onto the undulating Grims Ditch.

 I like this bit of the route. Lots of tree and narrow trail. Lots of small ups and downs. I saw the leaders pass then Tremayne came running past grinning and shouting encouragement. He looked like he was really enjoying himself. A bit later I met up with Luke. I was expecting to see him sooner. But he soon let me know he was not having a good race today.  He is carrying an injury and his head is not in it. He lets me know he may drop at 75 and write today off as a training run. I wish him well and carry on. I hope Luke gets past it as he carries on the race.  As I get to Nuffield I go off course for 10 minutes and end up on Nuffield Golf Course - map and compass out. I have not gone too far, so I back track and cross a main road and am soon on my way to Swyncombe  and aid station 6 at 37.5 miles.

Arriving at Swyncombe, I said hello to Alma another BOSH lady and regular volunteer at Centurion events. I had something to eat and sat for a while and left with Louise who ran off ahead. She looked like she was having a good run, I drank a coffee on the move and caught up with Louise after some time. We were running together with head torches on. I was enjoying this part of the route with the ups and downs and darkness I was feeling good. I love the night running, I get a real feeling of freedom and a connection to the earth and universe. Louise soon ran off ahead as I stopped for another loo break.  There were now more people on this part of the course. I soon found myself back at Northstoke and talking to Nick. He was relieved to see me looking better and sounding better on the return leg. He got me a bag of Haribos which I enjoyed over the rest of the race. I ate and drank again and headed off feeling good knowing it was 4 miles to HQ. 

Getting back at HQ I said hello to Jacqui who was most helpful and got everything I needed. I wasted some time here, but headed out onto the third leg feeling good. I was confident with the course at this point and knew what was coming. After a bit of road work out of Streatly you start on a bridleway. I put some music on. Not one to normally do this as music can do my head in when running. Coming up a hill I power hiked as best I could making my way to Bury Down and the most exposed part of the course. As I was making my way along Blewbury down I passed Luke and called to him. Like me he had his head phones in. We spoke for some time. He was still not having a good race mentally. He felt that his race was over. I wished him well and hoped it would shift. I felt sad for Luke as I headed off. It's hard to drop. But I also admired him for having got so far. I know what it's like to run when your head is on you. It's not easy. Later on Luke was kind enough to text me and say he had dropped but also though wished me well and to stay strong.

The trip up to Bury Down was straightforward. I had a cup of soup and a slice of bread. It was a little cold but not like last year. I then headed up to Chain Hill. This part of the course is a real pig. And this may have been where I turned my ankle and done some ligament damage. It's technical in the sense there is loads of trodden gully's from horses and tractors. It is just hard work jumping about and trying to run  it. It was not as windy as last year and I was feeling really good still. I was keeping an eye out for a monument on my left as I knew once there the next aid station was coming up. I saw the monument and then a sight that made me smile. A mobile disco that was the aid station with lights and music. I was greeted with a 'come on' and a very warm welcome. It lifted my spirits. I sat and drank a coffee, and spoke to a guy who had to 

I was soon off again and once past Bury Down aid station I was hit with the same thing as last year at this point of the race. Fatigue! I just had this overwhelming desire to lay down and sleep. My mind was just saying 5 minutes. I had some coffee beans which I ate. And then it started to rain. It was not heavy, but if it kept up I could end up getting cold and wet. So I pulled out my minimus smock and pants and chucked them on. I was very warm and snug and the wind and rain did not get a look in. I fought with fatigue for the next hour. Even the soft wet cross looked like a big soft bed. So inviting. I sat a couple times, but then shook myself. This was the start of a slippery slope if I gave in. So I whacked in the headphones and kept going. Running when I could and walking and hiking at other times. It was at this point I really noticed a pain in my right ankle. It was not too bad and I made a mental note to check once back at HQ.

How my ankle looked at the end. I had turned and caused some ligament damage.
Getting back onto the road was good, I started to run at an easy pace. But once I saw a sign saying 2 miles to Streatly I was hit with a high and started to run at a quicker pace, I was really enjoying myself and sped into HQ sweating. This was my shortest stop for 20 minutes. I changed my socks and I do not remember looking at my ankle. But in hindsight it was the compression socks that were holding my ankle in check. I put on bigger trainers as my toes had started to butt in the others. I put a lightweight jacket on and took some food to go. Jacqui Bryne was really helpful here again and got me what I needed. Earlier she had brought me some avocado and cut it up for me. We walked out of the aid station. I was buzzing.

Leg four, I knew what was coming which in a way made it easier. The course underfoot at times is very unforgiving. From towpath to compacted trail makes it hard going after 75miles of feet pounding. Coupled with an ankle that kept twitching with pain every so often. I made my way to Withchurch, this part of the course is not too bad, through some fields into some woods and up a slight incline then a tarmac road I soon found myself at Whitchurch. I was feeling good and knew I would be finishing. I just want it to be quicker than last year, I was still running at points, but I am sure I was not running as good as I thought I was. Through more fields and I bumped into Andy Nutall heading back, it gave me a lift to see him and know he was going to make a sub 24. I counted the fields as I went through them so I could break it down on the way back. I then saw Katherine Ganly a GrandSlam lady heading back and looking well fresh. It was great to see her and know she was going to finish a sub 24 also. I headed through a housing estate before getting back on the Thames Path making my way to Reading and the Wokingham Waterside Center. I turned 47 here on TP100 earlier in the year. My feet were hurting as was my ankle and I am sure I was running a bit like a chimp at times to ease the pain.

Getting to Reading was good, a nice Aid Station with lovely ladies who put on a great spread. Brigitte and Lisa and crew thank you. I had some soup and got a lollipop to suck on for the return Journey.
Wokingham Waterside center. The end of the Line.

 I head off feeling good and ran and walked. The pain was getting worse in my ankle, so I sat and I ended up taking a paracetamol. Not something I do is take painkillers on a race. But I did this time. It took the edge off. I caught up with Ian and his pacer Wayne. Ian's feet were really painful and he was reduced to walking. I carried on and was soon into Whitchucrh again with its 70's disco theme. I am really grateful to all of the volunteers for the hugs, smiles and care I got on this race, it was fantastic. With 4 miles to go I did not stay long. I just wanted to get back and beat last years time which I was on target to. Also my partner Donna would be waiting and I just wanted a hug. The last 4 miles I had a spring in my step.  My legs had coped well and I made good time. I was buzzing. I had ran my first 100 miles on my own and had remained positive and strong. The last mile as always I found enough energy to put on a good show and run. It felt great coming up to HQ and seeing Donna and others, the Centurion gang outside to see me in.  Thank you to everyone who helped and made this event possible but also very special for a lot of people. I beat last years time by 1hr and 11 minutes.

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