It is fair to say that I wasn’t sure what would happen at Thames Path 100. Apologies in advance for a lengthy post!
I had a spreadsheet. Three pacing scenarios (1. Everything is out of this world (22hrs). 2. Great (24hrs). 3. Horror Show (28hrs). But I had no idea which one would play out.
This is the first 100 miler I have done any specific training for rather than my “turn up and grind it out” approach that I took to both SDW100 (2015) and Autumn100 (2016) both of which I finished within the final hour allowed by the races.
I was lucky to stare a hotel room with Dan Park – which meant that instead of worrying about the next day, it was a total blast having chit chat about the race and various other stuff. It also meant that I didn’t have to worry as much about getting up in time (what’s the chance that we would both miss our multitude of alarms?).
Caught up at the start with some friends – many of who are Centurion 100 regulars – Sarah Sawyer, Andy Bain, Dan Park, Joanna Turner and some new to the events Paul Commons and Louise Tidbury – plus others.
After the race briefing we were off. I knew from volunteering last year that the distance has “bonus miles” so knew to treat distances as approximate between aid stations.
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The first 22 miles were great. I started off comfortable pace and found myself knocking out 9:30 – 10:30 minute / miles. Keeping things relaxed and chilled and knowing that many people would make the mistake of going out hard and fast either by design or accident. Met with Kate Scott at aid station 2 (Wraysbury) and went in and out and didn’t mess around too much. Thanks Kate and kids for the amazing cupcake! And sorry about the sweaty hugs!
Another highlight was not far from Dorney rowing lake when I bumped into Zoe Norman who gave me a much needed hug and some percy pigs wrapped inside a napkin. Thanks so much for the lovely message inside, which I read later on during the race. So lovely and thoughtful.
By mile 30 – I was having major stomach issues. This is something that besets me everytime I run alongside water – canals, rivers, (but never so far along the coast!). Luckily there were toilets which I was able to use at aid station 3. I spent around 15 minutes here. But I felt much better afterwards.
During mile 30-40 I suffered badly with things digging in my back from my racepack. I stopped a million times to adjust things, but nothing helped. I was really annoyed because I had tested this out during a couple of training runs and thought I had a way of avoiding these problems. I spotted Karen Grieves, Paul Pickford and Lee Kelly on a section along the river through a town (which one – who knows!)
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During some of the miles in the mid 40’s I had what felt like an awful race ending experience. Everytime I tried to run, my calves cramped and spasmed. ARGH! so painful and I imagined every time ending in a heap on the ground. I ended up walking 3 miles at some frankly hideous minute / mile pace. I pleaded with any runner who ran past me to spare me an S-cap – salt tablet. Thankfully a lovely lady gave me two. I was so thankful – but sadly didn’t note her name or number. After a mile or so, I was running again. No idea whether those things work, or whether all in the head, but I will take either!
I put in some decent miles up to Henley aid station (51 – ish – I was already on 53 on my watch). I was so pleased to pick up my pacer Paul Pickford. Paul make sure I didn’t piss around. I changed my top for a long sleeve merino one, drank my specially requested bottle of “fruity, non-gassy, drink”, and put my headtorch on (with the knowledge that I would need it before Reading aid station).
Off I went. It was great to have Paul along with me. By half way in a race I always want to chat with a friend of my choosing. I am the ultimate in antisocial runner (sorry to anyone I ignored in the first half because I was listening to music).
Reading aid station passed by – and then from that point I knew the section from A100. Running when I could. Taking walking breaks when I wanted to. I found having a little stretch out of the quads and calves helped everytime I got started on a run.
Feels of doom on the way to Whitchurch went much faster than during A100. I boomed along. Came across a yarn bridge !! Into the aid station around 67-69 miles. Didn’t mess around. Coffee. Then I had my first diva request that my apple was cut into pieces ha ha !
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I walked out of the aid station. Walked the steep incline, and then managed to crank out some decent pace – including on the uphill sections. We bumped into Stephen Turner and had a bit of a chat. This was a beautiful section of tarmac followed by trail. We managed to overtake a few runners here. I knew the route from A100 – which helped because I knew where to put down the pace and where to take it easy. Soon enough we were in Streatley. No messing around. In and out of the aid station – seeing Fiona McNelis and Lee Scott at the aid station. Lovely salty potatoes too!
From Streatley to Wallingford (73 – 80 odd) – I knew it was simply a case of knocking out a short ultra to the end with just over 30 miles to go. I knew the next section fairly well, walked some, ran some. Before we knew it we were at the Wallingford aid station. We had also picked up another runner who was tagging along. Happy to stick with us and pick up the pace when we did.
The next section was the worst (up to 85-87 miles) Through the dead of night to Clifton Hampden. OMG those fields go on forever! And my feet were protesting the undulations and lumpiness of those fields. I was starting to have sense of humour failure. We finally reached the aid station. Saw Lee Kelly doing the manual timings. Tried the loo again. Nothing much going on which was hugely frustrating!! ARGH!
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Then this next section I knew fairly well because I paced Paul Pickford here last year to the end. I knew where the easy bits were…. the hard bits and roughly the aid station locations. Ground out some decent pace on sections (Paul noted I was doing 9:30 / minute miles (albeit only for quarter of a mile) at a few points). By this point, I was being caught by some other runners but then played cat and mouse.
Abingdon aid station (93ish miles) was a flash….. grabbed some grapes and I was out of the aid station before Paul could even fill his water. I was on a mission.
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I ran where I could. Walked some sections. Finally made it to the final aid station before the finish. I knew from last year that the distance was around 4.5-5 miles from the aid station at Lower Radley (95-98 miles). I gave my number without even stopping. I flew through the aid station.
This next section I was keen to put the pace on a bit. I shared with Paul Pickford that Dan Parkhad confidently predicted I would finish in 22hr 35minutes and that I had laughed at him. Paul said “Dan might be spot on!”. So, off I went. Running where I could. Walking the rest. I did trip over a couple of occasions and walking afterwards for fear of ballsing up the race.
Finally, we were on a good section of towpath along the (by now narrow River Thames). I ran for a mile or so and then decided to take a walk break. Had a bit of a jog along when the fancy took me.
Soon, we were at a couple of places I really recognised from last year where previously supporters had been offering congratulations. Soon we saw Kat Miller who shouted “Come on…. get a wriggle on, your missus is at the finish line”.
So, a jog I did….. then when I saw the blue inflatable finish line I put on some pace….. I squeezed through the gap in the railings and I somehow found some power. I laid it all out knowing there was about 100 metres maximum….
then rounded the corner towards the finish line gantry…..
then “OMG Phil – someone is sprinting you down!!!!”
FUCK – I progressively throw everything I had at this…. I am not competitive but I was buggered if I wanted the embarrassment of being pipped at the finish line. LOL.
Thankfully I came across the line first. And then dumped myself in a heap on the ground!
22 hours 26 minutes. In fact – 9 minutes faster than he confidently predicted!
Here is the Strava Link
Centurion Running for organising such a great event – and the volunteers who make it so special!
Mimi Anderson for fab coaching advice. You’ve helped me transform my running.
So, that’s my first sub 24 100 mile finish. Over the bloody moon! I actually felt a bit tearful at the end that I had not only done it – but the time had 22 in front of it! And 66th out of 297 starters.
Great start to Centurion Grandslam – now just SDW100, NDW100 and Autumn100 to make a good fist of
Sorry if I have missed anyone – I haven’t slept since Friday night!
What I learned:
- Not pissing around at aid stations works for me
- I wore Pearl Izumi N3 roads for the race – which was totally the right choice
- Paul Pickford is an awesome pacer
- Another race when I have stomach issues running along a water course.
- Training actually works
- My friends are amazing (I knew that already!)
- My socks worked – Steigen ones with body glide also on my feet. No blisters. Wow. First time that has happened on a 100 miler
- My fenix 5X battery only lasted 15 hours before I had to charge it. (YIKES!)
- Getting some running done at night for as long as I fancied at a time was great.
- Running comfortable pace was perfect. That’s how I started and finished.
- Got to make better efforts to stop things sticking in my back in my race pack.
- Somehow I still had go in my legs at the end! How else could I sprint finish?!
- My Petzl NAO+ lasted on the lowest reactive setting pretty much all night (8:30pm – 5ish am). On one battery!
- Remember to work out how you will get home from the race finish before the last few days before the race!