Monday, September 06, 2010

My 500th race - Perth 24 hour

I've been running for a few years now and realised a while back that I was likely to complete my 500th race at some point this year. When I reached number 498 a few weeks ago (I keep a detailed spreadsheet of them all - you can always tell an accountant) I decided I would try and do something 'memorable' for the big one, and the Perth 24 hour race seemed to fit the bill perfectly. So I sent off my entry, did the Kilmarnock trail race a couple of weeks back to get to number 499, and tried to prepare myself for Perth.

I had done two 24 hour races before. At Perth in 2008 I completed 106.74 miles, then did 100k at the Sri Chinmoy track race last October before stopping after 12 and a half hours. As I had failed to finish this year's West Highland Way race, I decided that my main goal would be quite simply to complete the full 24 hours; if I achieved that then I reckoned the distance would take care of itself.

We arrived early at Perth to give us plenty of time to put up my tent and to get things ready. Allybea was involved in a school barbeque so I was not counting on having any support during the race, although I had had a number of offers of help from people who were going to be there. As it turned out George and Karen looked after me for the entire race, and were completely superb, and allybea also came back up to Perth to help out after the barbeque had finished. There were also a lot of excellent support from various friends from the ultra running community - most of whom seemed to be members of Carnegie Harriers!

The race started at exactly 10.00 am on Saturday morning. My tactics for the early part of the race were to run very comfortably, and not bother about anyone else's pace or time. Each lap is almost exactly 1.5 miles, and I knew I could do 8 of these comfortable in the first 2 hours (6 miles an hour pace). If I did that I 'only' needed to average 4 mile an hour pace for the other 22 hours and would cover 100 miles. Probably a bit easier said than done, but that was the plan, and I completed my first 8 laps comfortably within schedule.

At midday the 100k and 50k races started, which meant we had a bit more company. I went through the marathon distance in 4.28.08, the 50k point in 5.21.19, and the 50 mile point in 9.12.55. I was going well and in a very positive frame of mind; my feeding plan (basically Complan, bananas and water with electrolytes) was also working well, and unlike in previous ultras I wasn't having any problems with my stomach. Phil, John and Davie all arrived at various points to watch the race for a while, which gave me another boost. I reckoned if I could get through the 100km point in less than 12 hours I would be in pretty good shape, and was pleased to achieve this target in 11.55.46. It was all going well.

I continued to work away well through the night, covering approximately 5 laps every 2 hours. After 16 hours or so I was a bit sick (the only time I had any problems with my stomach), but felt a lot better afterwards and managed to get going again right away. It started to get light again around 6am, by which time I was mainly walking but still getting through the miles at a reasonable pace. At that stage I knew I should manage 100 miles with time to spare, although it didn't stop it becoming more and more of a slog as I approached the magic figure of 67 and a half laps.

At 8.10 am (after 22 hours 10 minutes and 17 seconds) I passed through the 100 mile point. I was absolutely delighted. For the remaining time my legs became sorer and sorer - particularly after sitting down for some porridge - but I was determined to stay on the course and complete the full 24 hours. I kept going, managed a few more laps and finished up at exactly 10.00 am yesterday with a total mileage of 105.54 (169.838km), in 13th place from 28 finishers.

Although I can hardly walk today, I am really glad I chose this for my 500th race. Running a 24 hour ultra is an incredible experience, and this is an amazing event. A huge thank you to all the organisers, particularly Adrian, and also to everyone who offered so much support to me throughout the race. Someone described it beforehand as "just a very long run with some special people". I think that sums it up rather well.