NDW100 – 2015 DNF :(
The dust has started to settle after another personal duel with the North Downs, it’s fair to say I got my arse kicked at the weekend in spectacular style, proper trouser round the ankles whipping.
Planning in this race had been ongoing since September 2014, our week in the Holiday Inn Farnborough leading up to the race was our family summer holiday, what a selfish twozzer dad I am! It went all wrong and work replaced planned trips to Brighton/ Legohell/ Bird world
The one constant with any Centurion event is the organisation and volunteers, always first class, this weekend was service as normal. At the typically tense, excited race briefing, everybody had a chuckle when James announced a diversion that added half a mile within the first two miles, but I’m sure we all thought the same “Oh ffs!”.
I met Paul Reader whilst we both waited for the last minute bowel movement, I knew this would be the last time I would see him as he’s a bit speedy and so it proved he turned in a bruising sub 24 hour performance.
The trail head always has a buzz of energy it would be hard to equal anywhere almost like a working bee hive, bosh and we were off encountering course conditions that seemed almost perfect, trail sections that two weeks ago resembled a mud bath baked hard. Today was the first race outing for the new race vest with soft bottles and the super helpful girl at Puttenham dealt with the slightly fiddly things with ease. Leaving the aid station with a handful of tucker and a cup of coke, this was supposed to be my “race like an elite” tactic to save a few minutes at each check point, I wondered if the vest pocket full of plastic cups accumulated by halfway had saved me any time, hmm the jury is out.
My lofty (foolish/ downright stupid) pre-race target had been sub 24 hour finish which I tried to maintain until around mile 10 when I realised my watch was set to 1sec gps recording and my fiddling with the wretched device led to me buggering the thing right up. My pace had already slipped before watch blackout so I decided to enjoy the course and surroundings and eased up slightly with memories of the pain and suffering of last year’s 2nd 50 miles bringing me back to planet earth.
The sun rose higher, the birds sang louder and the miles clicked by, chatting to many great folks along the route and was surprised at the number of runners who were running the race for a Western States qualifier. Big shout to Phil who was doing the grand slam after timing out on the NDW100 last year as his first 100, that’s a class comeback.
By the time we reached Box Hill the temperature was on the rise and hydration was becoming a problem, I sweat a lot evidenced when I showered the tables at each CP. Ascending Box Hill dare I say it seemed easier this time but I was passed by a few runners so maybe I was going slower than previous encounters with “The Steps”. Disappointingly I started to feel the effects of 25 miles of running around now.
Reigate Hill is always a joy, that breath taking panorama gets me every time a great pick me up after some fair ascending and it was at Reigate where my wasp phobia saw me whooping and hopping around like a right moron, sorry to anyone who’s foot I jumped on whilst evading the yellow and black striped thugs, I’m scared to death of the little blighters.
The next ten miles or more are now something of a blur until a few miles from Knockholt where three of us ran into the village together having puzzled over a sign that had tricked us into thinking we were ¾ mile from a hot coffee. I do remember there were a lot of cows lazing around, seemingly dazed by the heat of the day, one small mercy to be thankful of the sun for poleaxing the cows into a lethargic stupor.
Knockholt was buzzing with no obvious physical casualties laid out, the volunteers were amazing, the coffee tasted like nothing I have tasted since the same cup at this stage last year and the pasta was divine. I was now ten minutes slower than last year, arriving at Knockholt in 11:07, worst case a death march would see me home inside the 30 hour cut-off.
From last year I cannot remember a lot about the next ten miles, only arriving at Wrotham to the sound of a cowbell, this year I really enjoyed this ten mile stretch, a mix of clambering/ shuffling/ walking in the sinking evening sun, only the steep down hills really slowed me down. It’s such an unusual section through gorgeous villages along darkened alleyways, across open fields. For anyone still running there are good opportunities to make some decent time along these 10 miles I would think.
I had started with a slight sick feeling approaching Wrotham, the coffee and crisps were possibly a bad idea but eventually went down. This next section is my absolute favourite, quite possibly due to the time of day I arrived here last year and this. The sun is setting, runners are well spaced out (not literally) and we have some great sections through woods that offer total peace and solitude for thoughts and reflections. Like last year there seemed to be less markings in the woods than other parts of the course allowing the demons of doubt to creep in “Am I on the right track, it would be bad shit to go back from here.” Through one group of fields the route passed by a full on house music party banging out serious decibels that honestly shook the ground and could be heard miles away.
Holly Hill seemed to happen quicker than I expected but the preceding hill I certainly did not remember from last year, going up this hill my sickness seemed to ramp up a notch yet I was starving hungry. I ate and drank a full to the brim coffee, thanks again volunteers you guys rock and wanted to head off to first crew meeting and pacer pickup asap as I was probably 15 minutes behind the schedule for our 23:30 meeting.
Chatted to a guy called Martin who as the conversation went it transpired he had run just about every ultra on my long bucket list many times, not often such an accomplished runner is at my end of the field, but he soon powered off looking strong. At this point John who I had chatted with many time and was running his first 100 took off going on to post a cracking time.
Met crew and pacer at mile 70 car park, Shelley took expert care of my chaffing raising girl like screams from me, sorted my feet and we were ready for the final 30 miles. Physically I felt 1,000,000X better than this stage last year but the sickness was getting worse. That is not to say I wasn’t in pain, waist downwards was one big ball of pain, but that seems to be the norm. Rachel my pacer was new to her task and was eager to set off running. I had tried to stress lots of times it was going to be slow, my opening greeting to her was “I’m really sorry Rachel, it’s going to be a long long miserable night for you.” I tried to keep her pace over the bridge yet sneakily slowing to a pace I could manage, 11 minute miles are not happening for me at mile 71! I had promised Rachel an emotional roller coaster and a feeling of fulfilment like no other at the end of 100 miles, little did I know.
Once over the bridge I was happy to death march as I felt so sick I wanted to curl up in the undergrowth for ten minutes but knew such a request would freak Rachel. We moved on in silence which was broken occasionally by my apologies for the pace we were holding. And one occasion where we both thought someone was shooting a rifle at us across the field, bizarre happenings. The sequence of events that followed seem like a bad dream, I have never thought of dropping from any race ever before. Arriving into Blue Bell hill the thought of dropping had not entered my mind. We met the crew and within minutes the bushfire of defeat took over my mind, I handed in my number got into the car and cried uncontrollably.