Run 24: another 100 PB!

If wanting to take 13 minutes off my best Haworth Hobble time was delusional, then I’m not sure what aiming to take 10+ hours off my 100 mile PB was...

I held off entering
Run24 until I’d recovered from the Games 100, and then the goal wasn’t so much a sub-24 100 as to see how close I could get to the 100 in 24 hours. Prizes were on offer for the first three women. On google-stalking the rest of the 10 female entrants I discovered that while I was the 2nd slowest over short (i.e. marathon...) distances, only a few of the rest had much ultra-running experience. Hmm. Maybe if I run well I might be able to sneak onto the podium??

As a reformed triathlete, this was also an opportunity to buy some new gear. A tent with a porch big enough for a table, chair and kit boxes. And a SLab 5 litre for carrying snacks  and water so I could minimise stops.

After a busy week at work (including a trip to Grenoble for a PhD viva) I was tired and didn’t really feel up for it. And the first time around the 5 mile loop it turned out to be a little bit more rough and undulating than I expected. So the 100 mile dream goal went onto the back burner. I over-took a couple of women on the first lap but the front end of the womens field were running two minutes a mile faster than me (faster than I can go flat-out on pancake flat tarmac!). I was amazed on finishing my fifth loop to hear that I was in 3rd place. 3rd place after 90+ miles I could believe, but after 25!?

A couple of laps later I realised my left Achilles was sore. “Strange. It’s been years since I had a problem with it.” Then the penny dropped. Timing chip, attached too tight (because
I was paranoid it’d fall off). At the end of the next lap I stopped and swopped it to my right ankle and also topped up my snack supplies. Some of the other solo entrants had parked their cars, or put tables, backing onto the route. But I don’t think I lost much time nipping off course to my tent every 2-5 laps.

The uneven trails meant running in the dark was going to be slow, so I kept pushing while the light lasted. I stopped for  7 minutes at dusk to put on my head-torch and warmer clothes and also ate some potatoes, yoghurt and tinned grapefruit (some of my favourite check-point snacks on the Games 100). I went through 50 miles in 10.22, a 7 minute PB. Possibly not how you’re supposed to pace a 24 hour race.

I kept going ~10-15 minutes a lap slower through the night, with a couple more 5-7 minute stops for yoghurt and grapefruit. Eventually they started tasting a bit weird. Hmm. Maybe eating yoghurt (in particular one I’d opened 3 hours previously) which hadn’t been in a fridge for 36+ hours wasn’t such a good idea...

The first lap after dawn felt pretty good. But then at the 80 mile mark, with my right knee joining my left Achilles in protesting, running the flats was a struggle and I started walking most of them. The sub-24 hour dream goal was slipping from unlikely to impossible. But if I got to 95 in the 24 hours I could go out on a 20th loop and take another big lump out of my 100 PB. So that became my focus.

Overnight the PA had been turned off (to allow relay teams and supporters to sleep), so I had no idea where I was in the field. As I was approaching the start-finish line at the end of my 17th lap the PA started up with an announcement of the leading runners  The first woman had finished her 17th lap about an hour before, but was there anyone between me and her? I held my breath. “And here comes 2nd placed woman, Anne Green...”.

And this is where things started to get very surreal, with overtaking relay runners and spectators telling me I was amazing. Umm, no. All I’m doing is walking and occasionally running very slowly.  And after 90 miles, with my stomach complaining about the gone-off yogurt, I switched to just walking. A 4 hour PB was in the bag as long as I could keep going. And while it was far, far slower and harder than the last 10 miles of the Games 100, I was moving far better than the ‘death-plods’ at the end of my previous two 100s.

I finished my 20th lap in 24.33. By the time I got my 2nd place trophy (my first ever trophy!) an hour later my legs had  seized up so badly I could hardly walk.

As UTMB training, running two 100s in a month is slightly unorthodox (bordering on insane), and I’ve got to hope the niggles heal quickly so I can get back to the hill-repeats ASAP. But it was fun. And at the beginning of the year I’d have settled for 2nd place in a 24 hour race, 3rd place in a 100 and knocking nearly 10 hours off my 100 PB.