Centurion South Downs 100 race report 08/06/19
2 months later, here’s the race report. It’s a bit long but it was a long way…
The Saturday of the race started with Sam pulling his car up outside our house @ 4.15 with Neil and John. Sam was very awake, excited and ready to get going, the rest of us understandably a little less so! The journey to the start took an hour during which I couldn’t stop deep sighing, this had been happening, very annoyingly for the whole week leading up to the race.
Once we had sorted our drop bags, got our number and had our briefing from race director James Elson the race was started at 6am. John, Neil, Ash and myself all started at the back of the race with only 1 person behind us, who happened to be a Vet 70 legend who has completed several Western States races previously, therefore he must know what he is doing. I love the start of long distance races as they are so relaxed and it’s hilarious to be racing yet happily walking over the start line.
I was feeling OK and everything was going fine with the plan of walking up the hills, running back down making sure I wasn’t pushing myself and eating 120 calories every ½ hours.
The 1st drama of the day came 16 miles into the race where we came across a farmer moving his young cattle up a narrow track on the SDW, runners were forced into the hedges on either side, to wait for them to pass. There was no way I was going to lose precious time waiting for Daisy to get her dinner, so I took the lead and bounded towards them shifting them to one side, so far winning!
It was exciting coming into Queen Elizabeth Country Park at 10.30am (20miles) where I was met by Harriet, Philly, Sam and Chris, accompanying my crew members- Claire and Ian. Claire passed my new food bag to me as I jogged past, I felt very antisocial and rude not stopping to say hello to friends who had been waiting hours for me but my plan was to keep moving forward at all times. Seconds can turn into minutes, minute turn into hours without you realising and I knew I would see Claire and Ian again soon.
All day there were strong gusts of wind hitting us sideways and fortunately rarely from behind. Suddenly rain started to lash down around 25 miles into the race, I felt grateful for this as it woke me up lifting my mood, 20 minutes later it was still chucking it down. Drenched but in high spirits I made it to Cocking (35miles) where is was greeted by several friendly Waverley faces. Claire handed me my new bag of food including rice pudding which was awesome. She was unbelievable organised, fanning the whole array of gels/shot blocs I could ever possibly want, it was like being in a candy store. There was one portaloo at the check point with a queue, I was desperate to go but didn’t want to waste any time standing around, so I trotted on to find a hedge further on.
After seeing friends and still being soaked from the rain I started to feel amazing, I was running really smoothly, had a permanent smile, nice people around me, I was on a complete high. I felt great for the following 10 miles, a real ‘THIS is why I run’ moment until my mood was shattered when I found myself behind a competitor impersonating the guy from Trigger Happy TV by shorting as loud as he could into his walky talky strapped to his waist. Suddenly I felt angry and my body started to hurt especially the top of my feet. I stopped to loosen my laces and to get away from this guy. Unfortunately I soon caught him up again at which point he started shouting questions at me. I pretended not to hear as I didn’t trust what I may have said and carried on my way to the ‘half way checkpoint’ (54miles)
There were many bodies scattered in the hall looking pale and broken. They were being looked after by very friendly, efficient crew members, some people looked like they couldn’t go on, I really hope they managed to get out of there. I was handed my drop bag which contained a pot noodle, before I knew it the pot was filled with boiling water with a fork stuffed in and I was walking out on my way up the next hill munching on my lunch.
The pot noodle didn’t go down well, after 3 forkfuls I chucked the contents into the hedge. My mood wasn’t great and I knew it was mainly due to not eating enough but every time I tried to eat my stomach would tighten and would make me want to be sick, I tried my best to keep eating as much as possible without forcing it down. I had created a music playlist full of Disney and jolly songs but it only sounded like noise and reminded me of the guy earlier, that wasn’t going to work. I started to think of everything which could be worse such as a really hot day, blisters, returning injuries, running out of water/ food. I collected all these thoughts together and really imagined them happening, this massively helped as I realise how soft I was being and this wasn’t too bad after all.
I really enjoyed the hill coming up to Devil Dyke (65miles) as it was laughably steep when your body was tired and I was looking forward to seeing James and Luke who would be waiting for me with burgers from McDonalds.
James had run out to meet me just before the checkpoint, this was the first wobbly lip as we jogged over to where Luke had set up a base. To my surprise Claire and Ian had driving over to wave me goodbye for the day, thank you both for all your help it was very sweet. James and Luke were appalled by me waving off the burgers which they had put so much effort in getting for me with me asking for baby food instead, sorry guys! Again not wasting anytime I carried on my way, I would see them again in 6 miles.
At 9pm I reached the next check point, Saddlescombe (66miles) only a mile down the road from where I saw the others. This checkpoint was outside a café where there was a very personal feeling from the people crewing there. I took a look at the display of brightly coloured food, wishing I could eat something but nothing appealed. I thanked them and turned to leave when a woman offered me some soup, the soup was epic, best thing I had ever tasted, but it was served in one of their cups so I was unable to keep moving with it. I would have like to savour it but not wasting anytime I wolfed it down and carried out of the checkpoint.
The sun had started to set without me really noticing, I put on my head torch just as I came in to meet James and Luke at Clayton Windmills (70 miles) Here I decided it was time to change into a fresh top and grab some more baby food. Luke was ready to pace me but I didn’t think that would be a good idea as I knew it was about to get tough and I didn’t want anyone there to help if I wanted to go home.
Wow did it get tough from here. My watch died at 74 miles and 17 hours into the race, this was meant to have 24hours of battery life, not cool. Ian Exton had thankfully mentioned that he had the same watch and it only lasted 17 hours so I was prepared and started the new watch. Shuffling down a hill a competitor praised me for still running, but I felt terrible. My head torch started to dim and I became very grateful for the map on my watch suggesting I was heading the right direction. Trudging up a lane I came across snoring beasts either side of me, too tired to care I accidently bumped into one of the cows, she swiftly rose to her feet snorting and puffing, not even slightly bothered I tried to figure out where the path had disappeared to, while I was cursing my small head torch.
80 miles was the a big marker for me, I had only recced up to this point and I knew there was a 3 mile gradual downhill which I was really looking forward to running… but I couldn’t run. My feet had swollen so much I couldn’t bend my ankles this meant I going to have to walk the next 20 miles.
2am coming into Southease (83miles) down a steep hill was I imagining it or could I hear a microphone and lots of people cheering? Maybe the finish line? (15miles away! Lol) Lively check point? Then the base dropped and it became apparent it was an illegal rave. I contemplated for a split second checking it out but then remembered I was in a race and would defiantly choose my bed over any rave right now. I checked with a guy coming faster than me that I wasn’t seeing things, he confirmed it was happening. You have to check these things, earlier on I thought I had seen a tiger in the middle of the path, a Tiger! I knew where I was and the chances of it being a tiger were nearing on impossible so I very tentatively edged forward to find out it was grass. Whoops, how embarrassing.
I started thinking about the next check point (86 miles) where I would see James and Luke, I decided I wanted Luke to come with me to guide me the right way and some company would be wonderful. Like he has read my mind when I arrived at the check point Luke was ready to come with me. Exiting the checkpoint Luke started to very slowly jog hahaha nah mate, we were going to have to walk. He was so prepared he even had a spare head torch for me, legend. Whilst I moaned about everything that hurt as Luke told me how John was looking well earlier and Neil wasn’t far behind followed by Ash a bit further back. He checked his phone and excitedly confirmed that John had just finished.
4.30am the sun started coming up it took us over an hour to go the next 3 miles. At Bo Peep check point (89 miles) there was a nice surprise when I got there to find out that James was going to come with me to the finish, he had a main race the following weekend so I didn’t think he would.
Time and distance felt like it was standing still, moving at a pace of 25 min/mile it feels like a ridiculously long time to get anywhere. Breathing had become difficult by taking lots of slow deep breaths without being about to control this I was becoming desperate to get to the finish. I kept having to take ‘breaks’ by bending over and putting my hand on my knees just to steady myself and my breathing. Every gate looked like a very inviting leaning post, even James looked like a leaning post. The ability to eat had completely vanished but cups of tea were welcomed.
6 miles to the finish, I told myself only a 10k/ or Godalming run to go, this was quickly replaced with thoughts of Godalming run?! Really??!! What right now? This means I have at least another 3 hours until I finish.
An hour and a half later @7.30am I was struggling to get up a mound at the top of a hill. My ankles wouldn’t bend forward so I started reversing back down, not ideal, side stepping up I finally made it to the top and was hit by a rush of emotions at the site of Eastbourne. My eyes were streaming as I tried to follow James down a narrow gully into the town. I was passed by a 74 year old competitor suddenly walking poles went flying into the air as he fell into a bramble bush not sure he really noticed what was going on as he brushed it off as he ran into the distance with a few cuts and bruises.
1.5 miles to go I burst out crying as I was met by John, Chris, Philly, Luke, Harriet and Sam, I was/still am completely overwhelmed that they had been waiting for 6 ½ hours since John had finished in an unbelievable time of 20 hours 4 minute, to see me home.
A mile down the road I got overtaken by two walking competitors, one was puffing really loudly and I knew we were all having a walk off. James being a great pacer I managed to coach me into lengthening my walking stride and got my neck back in front. Around the next bend and the next I finally saw the sign point to the ‘Finish’. Again I couldn’t hold back any emotions and I once again began wailing. Finally onto the track where I was kindly joined by Philly and Harriet to help me to the finish, this was the hardest 400m run I have ever done. Coming around the last bend I didn’t want to catch site of the finish as I didn’t trust my body not to give up completely. 8:30am Sunday morning and after 26 hours 33 minute I had made it, I had a hand shake from James Elson and I realised that Neil and Ruth had also stayed to welcome me in. I really wish I had a photo of all of us at the finish but it isn’t something you really think of at the time. Wow guys and girls thank you all so much for all the support I really couldn’t have done it without you!
I finished 213/377 starters. 25th Female and 10th age category
Things I learnt
• Never be sure your stomach will hack it, even baby food.
• 100 miles is really hard
• Invest in a good head torch
• I should have asked Luke to come with me over night
• loosen your laces/ changed your shoes
• Friends will always help you get there in the end however tough it is.