These are the notes I wrote on the train home from Yorkshire after dropping out of the race at Hawes, after 110 miles and 39 hours. They’re unedited and pretty … honest.
Spine 2018 Problems
Getting what felt like severe DOMS in my quads after Sunday night was definitely due to getting cold and wet, but the medic said not eating enough can also contribute. They do feel slightly better after a rest but still can’t sit down without support. The pain was constant and much much worse on downhills. I could have gritted it out, but the thought of 4 more days was too much. Wonder whether running the downhills contributed to this too?
Really bad chafing of bum cheeks and upper thighs. Never been this bad before. Lots of blood when I stopped at Gargrave, put more body glide on but the pain came back quickly. It pretty much hurt all the way from Horton to Hawes, and serious pain too, I was sharply exhaling (baby contractions style) for hours. Torture. Wonder if this happened because I’ve put on a lot of weight? This alone was painful enough to drop out, because it was an almost constant sharp pain. Occasionally I managed to put it in the background but it didn’t stay there for long. Wonder whether being so wet for so long also exacerbated this, the top part of my leggings were wet when I took them off at Hawes.
Too many sweet things and not enough nice things to eat, also often felt sick at the thought of eating. The pizza wasn’t that nice, and when I ate shot blox they felt horrible on my teeth. John gave me some jelly fruit things which were soft and very easy to eat. Didn’t like the tribe bar I ate, why didn’t I test them? Didn’t like the pizza pocket things at all. Should have eaten more when I had a chance, especially the dehydrated food, could even eat on the move. Taking tea in my stove pot worked really well, saved time and helped warm up after stopping.
New mittens were rubbish when wet. Thought they were waterproof but no. Also had a fleecy lining which retained water, had to turn them inside out and wring them out! Why didn’t I test them?! Meant my hands were often cold and had very limited chances to dry everything out. With my sealskinz ones they were breathable which meant my hands would dry out, like my legs. When I got to Horton my hands looked like I’d been in the bath for hours.
Hacking cough set in very early, just after Horton. So bad thought I was going to be sick.
Brown and pink pee. The medics thought it was just dehydration, but I drank lots between Horton and Hawes and went for multiple pees, and it was still brown at Hawes. Fine after more fluid and a lie down, but still pretty worrying, and another negative thing that starts eating away.
Feet didn’t get particularly cold so think the wool injinji and winter drymax combo worked, but they seemed wetter than when I’ve used sealskinz. Wore the big inov8 shoes and they were super comfy and feet didn’t hurt at all (apart from toes, obviously).
Didn’t pick up the second map as thought the first one went almost to Hawes, but it stopped just after Horton. Didn’t have enough extra batteries for GPS and they ran out at the top of Cam Road. If I hadn’t been with John would have struggled, and definitely missed the left turn at the top as it wasn’t signed. Why didn’t I check the map properly and check how many batteries my Garmin needed?
It was almost impossible to wake up my Garmin to see my position with the new mittens, so very hard to do a quick check. Again, why didn’t I test? This meant every time I wanted to look at it I’d get frustrated and annoyed, which didn’t help the overall mindset.
The run/walk combo was great, meant I covered a lot of ground, and coupled with low faffing meant very good progress. Just need to make sure get enough to eat.
New hat was good, but needed a buff when it got very cold to keep it close to my ears. Also it was thin enough to dry out when my hood was up and it stopped raining.
I felt like I was fighting the mud and rain, rather than going with it and picking a good path. When I got my head in the right place I just flowed along, but it kept going really negative. Was particularly fed up at Gargrave when I spoke to Zoe, long night of being cold and wet, was totally pissed off about my mittens.
Didn’t take my iPhone from CP1, figured I didn’t need the weight, but that meant when I started getting low I couldn’t listen to the playlist I’d sorted out. Kicking myself at the time. Also meant I couldn’t take the call from Phil. If I’d had music to distract me I think things could have been a lot less miserable on that last leg (and maybe beyond).
The top part of my Garmin holder broke off which annoyed me as it’s much more secure and easy to get at than the pouch. Fixable but I should really have made it more secure or found a different place for it.
Lack of training didn’t help. 9 months of 20-30 miles a week (slowly) isn’t ideal.
It’s very much like sailing. You need to make sure everything is completely ship shape Bristol fashion or when the weather etc kicks in everything falls off.
It’s really fucking hard and deserves a significant amount of planning and preparation. A small issue can rapidly get worse and can completely derail everything.
I seriously thought about all the blogs I’ve read about people who DNF and then regret it within a few days, and took that into consideration. I’m aware that in the moment everything is truly awful but that as soon as you stop it starts fading, so I really needed to concentrate hard and distinguish between normal pain and stop pain. Also whether I thought that the stop pain would fade after a rest (the medic said it would likely get worse). Losing all my toenails and having painful toes whenever they knocked into something is normal, but every step shouldn’t be horrible.
I’m really glad I pushed on for another 5 hours to Hawes and didn’t make the call until I’d had a sleep. It meant I kept my options open (though I was definitely leaning towards stopping).
Pain aside, all my kit issues were doing my head in and I wasn’t cognitively able to resolve them, Zoe said she’d muster the troops but it just seemed like way too much effort, I honestly couldn’t be arsed. Basically by that point my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t want it (the finish) enough.
When I told the race staff I was “done”, they tried to talk me out of it, when I said every step was agony they sympathised.
So, what have I learnt?
Test new kit. Better planning , especially around the details.
Beware overconfidence, it doesn’t take much to derail things.
Figure out food. The cake and flapjacks were spot on.
Test food and kit in a run or if possible race situation.
Even though I didn’t get to listen to any, I really think music would really help to lift me out of low points.
Don’t forget how much this stuff hurts, 100 miles on a track is a very different thing.
Thoughts for Centurion 100 mile Grand Slam
Run/walk combo is definitely the way, practice this so that all the right muscles are strong.
Test food. Maybe rely a lot on super starch as it seems to really work. Supplement with cake?
Figure out the chafing, lose weight then do some long run/walks and see if it’s ok.
Do some more testing with my head torch and figure out how to get longer battery life. It was plenty bright enough but didn’t last very long at all, possibly as it got cold.
Don’t be complacent. These are still 100 mile trail races and will hurt, so do everything possible to minimise this. Do research, train, test things.
Micro-goals are a really good motivator, my bit of paper with landmarks and distance between really helped. Also lets you calibrate speed in terms of mph. Just had a simple watch and worked it out, really good. Definitely consider putting gps watch in pack not on wrist.
Buy an iPod shuffle or similar, small and long battery life so don’t need my heavy phone.
Carry as little weight as possible, and don’t stop unless really need to.
Get strong, get fitter and practice run/walk for long distances.