SOUTH DOWN WAY 50

Date: 5th April
Location: South Downs Way
Distance: 50 miles
Assent: 4800ft
Navigation: Fully marked course by organisers and SDW signs
Time Limit: 13.5hrs

Well it’s been a while since I last competed in a race, The last One was Caesars Camp 100, Which was very tough and in harsh conditions too.
After that race I took some time out from training and was rather Ill for a while, So when I was meant to get back to training I couldn’t as I was no way near 100% so I was very frustrated, Then I began to get a constantly dull ache in my one remaining testicle and this when on for a few days, So I managed to ring my Professor and get an appointment to see one of his team.
The time that followed was a bit nerve racking as so much had happened in a good way since I had got my life back, Now having similar symptoms to what I had before, I had testicular cancer in 2004 (click here to read my story) Well like I did the first time, You just have to ride it out and deal with what ever comes at you, That’s the thing with illness there really isn’t anything you can do but just be as positive as possible and DON’T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF.

So after a number of tests (blood, ultrasound, x-ray) I was told that all seemed to be normal and that the cancer had not come back, I have a check up every 12 month where by there is a blood test and I’m checked over by my professor, But there had been a gap of about 7 months since I was last seen and I was just a bit worried I guess, I think even though I have been cancer free since July 2005, It can always come back and it’s best have it checked out and have peace of mind, Which is what I had after all the results.

So after all of that craziness, I began my winter training in the 2nd week in January, So I was already few weeks behind, But that’s life and there is nothing you can do about it.
My training had been going really well and I was getting some really good mileage in and good times too, So I was really happy with my progress.
The 7 weeks running up to this race had not been as easy, As I was going through a pretty hard time on a personal level and it was hard to deal with, Some people, Me being one of them will say that running or sport in general is great therapy for dealing with many situations in life, But even I found it pretty hard going, Whereby I was having breakdowns during my training sessions, I pushed on through to finish them, But it was hard.
My feet on the run up to this event had been a constant pain as I had been getting really bad pain on the balls of both my feet and was unsure as to why.
The week running up to the race I had planned as holiday which I greeted with open arms when It finally arrived, As I needed to get my head straight and focused.
I had two light training runs each of 4 miles and one swim session of 1.5k just to keep me ticking over and the body moving.

I had done quite a few recce’s of the course in the months running up to the race, So I was familiar with the route and what to expect on race day, My last one however I got very lost trying to get to Blackcap from Lewes, I eventually got there but it took 8 or so miles to do so, DOH,
As I’ve said In many of my race reports before I love doing events in amazing locations and this one is up there with the best of them.

So the day before the race I packed all my things together and headed to Victoria Station for my train, 1st class I might add, (for £15) bargain, The main reason begin for the plug socket for charging my iphone with it oh so good battery life….not.

I got to Worthing and head to my B&B which was in Sompting, About 20 mins walk from the start, Which Is good.

I get there and am greeted by a sheep Dog (smudge) and Izzy and Ozzy who own the property, Two really lovely people who wouldn’t look out of place on a Harley Davidson.So I get to my room and straight away notice this sign…..SEE PIC ON LEFT

OOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Now this could be a problem….

So after sorting out my things ready for the race and having a quick chat with Izzy & Ozzy I headed for the shops to buy some dinner, After a few miles walk I found a Morrisons and pretty much raided their entire salad bar (I’m vegan by the way) rice, pasta etc, 3 x large salad tubes full and a few bottles of water and I’m out of there…oh yes and bananas , You can never have to many of those.
So back to the B&B to eat, eat and eat in front of what Saturday night tv had to offer or do I opt for one of the many dvd’s that the B&B had to offer, Interview with a vampire, Should have good sleep after that :/

So race day, Woke up with a pretty bad pain in my back as the bed was very soft indeed, which is not a bad thing, Just something I’m not use too.
So after doing a few back stretches It seemed ok, So it was time to crack on with breakfast, Which was fruit granola with bananas and soya milk, Now for some reason I wasn’t feeling great, I couldn’t eat all my breakfast and so felt a bit weak which is strange as the night before I had no problem with eating 3 large helpings of pasta, rice and mixed salad.
I ate as much as I could, Got changed and got my things together, Said  my goodbyes and headed for the start.

I arrived and everything was in full swing, There were some many people there,  More so than a lot of other ultras that I have competed in.
I heard really good things about the organisers of this event and have entered all of their 100 milers this year too, Which is known as the Grand Slam, The races Include the Thames Path 100, South Downs Way 100, North Downs Way 100 and the Winter 100.
This will be the first time I have run a 50 miler, So I was treating it as a race to see where I was  fitness wise and what I had to work on with my coach, 100 mile races are what I can see rather different in the way you pace yourself, You see I normally have a pretty good pace when I’m running longer races, and my pace stays pretty consistence , So taking on a 50 miler needed a different approach I think.

I got organised near the start and headed for registration, Which is where you got given your race number and there is someone that checks you have all of the mandatory kit for the race (head torch, Survival blanket, Whistle, Thermal long sleeved top, etc). Well in the weeks running up to the event, Nici one of the organisers had been posting  random Q&A’s on their Facebook page and there have been some very funny banter about the kit list.

So to the race itself, I started of at a pretty steady pace and kept that pace going for about the first 8-10 miles by that point I was not feeling great, My legs were ok but I just couldn’t breathe 100%, Worrying I know, knowing that you can’t fill your lungs up properly, My feet felt ok, There was only a bit of pain which I wasn’t too concerned about.
So I pushed on and was drinking well and keeping a good steady pace, The weather during this race was pretty good from start to finish, It was very humid and muggy though which made it important to stay hydrated, Something which affected me in my first race last year, The Ultra Tour Of The Peak District, Where it was the hottest day of the year and I was not drinking enough at all, Which is something that ended up happening in this race too, I just didn’t drink enough in the first 35 miles and that had an effect on the rest of the race, As I was trying to make up for it in the last few aid stations and when that happens you waste more time there and you also feel very bloated with all the fluid inside you.
My feet were really causing me issues from about mile 24 and that completely effected my race, As I had to keep stopping and taking my shoes off and massaging my feet as they were in so much pain, I took a few pain killers of which I’m not one for doing so as I believe that to feel pain while running is good and then you know if your improving or not, But in this case I think it was different.
Having a pain in both your feet during a running event where they are a pretty important part of getting you to the finish is hard and this is where the mind takes over and pushes  you on, Many people say the 1st half of the race is run with your body and the 2nd half is run with your mind, So having a strong mind, Of which I think I have is very important.

I always go into a race thinking that I can do well and always have a time in mind of which to complete the course in, For this race I gave myself a realistic target of 10 hrs, This was based on the fact that my first race last year, As I’ve mentioned already didn’t go well. So I was aiming to finish by 7pm.
The aid stations during the race where absolutely amazing, I mean they where pretty much what I remember seeing at kids birthday parties, Just see the photo below for an idea.

The support on the course was really amazing too, From the volunteers to members of the public that had come out to watch, The volunteers though who as always are the main reason why these events are such a success, They were so encouraging and very helpful.

There was one couple I remember that were at most of the gates that were accessible by road, They had a motorbike, He was always eating and she was taking pictures and opening the gates for you and both cheering you on, It all made such a big difference to the day I think.

I spoke to a few people during the race and many of the competitors I spoke to said that this was there first attempt at this distance, There was also one chap, I can’t remember his name, That made me laugh a few times as we were discussing things when running and your so tired you do silly things, For example while filling up your water bottles you try to put the top of the Nunn tablets tube on the top of your water bottle instead.

Well as the race neared the final 10 or so miles I was feeling better hydration wise but my feet were not having any of it, The last section of the course off the downs is coming down  a rather fast descent t to a road which you then make your way to the streets of Eastbourne and then left after a roundabout to a path which seemed to last for eveeeeeeerrrrrrrr, Then you can just about make out the Centurion arch that is on the athletics track and as I approach the track there were lots of people there to cheer you in and all thats left is about a 300m run around the track to the finish…and then yipppppeeee, I crossed the line.

It was really great to see my parents too as they had made the trip down from Twickenham to watch at 3 different points of the race and at the finish, It was so easy to spot my dad though as he seems to wear the same beige trousers all the time.

Overall I’m not jumping for joy about the result even though I set myself a time and beat it, I knew I could have done a lot better, So the time between now and the next race will be  crucial and working on getting my feet 100%.

SEE YOU ALL THE THAMES PATH 100

Final result
STATS
314 started
301 finished
Placing: 96th
Time: 8:55:28

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