Monday, 2 April 2012

56m Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra: Race Report

So here I was again at the start of the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra.  

Formerly known as Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon. The race was probably renamed because the distance is in fact more than just a “Double Marathon”. And although advertised as 56 miles the exact distance has still to be confirmed.  There is a long (and dark) tunnel not far behind the Wheel which confuses the GPS devices a lot so I am not 100% certain about the accuracy of my own Garmin but I think the distance which was displayed at the end of my race of 55.2 miles is more or less accurate.  

The weather was great that day. In particular not as cold as I had feared and even sunny for much of the race. The path was dry for almost the entire length. The only flaw of the conditions was the wind. It was not particular strong but it blew in our faces for almost the entire race and sometimes over exposed terrain even gusty. Anyway, the conditions were the same for all of us. So we all had to deal with it.

Start is 9am sharp and Grant Jeans went off like the Road Runner going 6 minute mile pace. He is a remarkable talent but there have been very few runners on this planet who have ever been able to sustain such a pace over such a distance. Don Richie managed a 6:10 over 100k once when he ran a 6:10:20 in London/Crystal Palace 1978.  Grant passed the 10k in about 37 minutes as far as I heard from Silke who was supporting me today. Unfortunately for him he dropped out at CP3.

I was in the “chasing” pack with Marco Consani, Gareth Mayze and Joel Jaile Casademont. Chatting and running comfortably and enjoying the day. The pace was close to 7 minute per mile which I found ideal to start with. However I soon noticed that I had to work harder to maintain it than I had hoped before the race. One reason was the headwind which was slowing us down. Another reason was that my legs were not quite as fresh today as I had hoped for.
Gareth soon pulled away from us. For me he was the man to beat today. He won the D33 only 14 days ago (ahead of Grant Jeans) in a very quick 3:32. But the question was if he had recovered from that race and also was he able to pace himself right over a race which was 22 miles longer…

After about 15 miles Marco and Joel started to pull away from me. Both runners looking very comfortable. I just felt not strong enough to follow their pace. I was a bit disappointed but I had to deal with it. I could not see Gareth anymore but kept Marco and Joel in sight. I still averaged about 7:10 per mile at that time. My 10k splits were at around 44 and 45 minutes.

Before the right turn at the Falkirk Wheel I could see from a distance that Marco suddenly took off leaving Joel behind. After that climb next to the Wheel I passed Joel as well and he looked tired. I spoke to him after the race and it turned out he had an impressive collection of Ultras under his belt. Including a 36 hour UTMB, a Transgrancanaria and a Transvulcania finish. He had done the MDS and other brutal races. But he certainly was not the guy for flat races like the G2E. Certainly not today.

Marco was out of sight. Although I had not slowed (yet) he must have gained several minutes on me. I was going steady but it started to become hard. And it was getting harder and harder by the minute. I passed the Marathon distance in a quick 3:09 but that did not count for anything. When I passed the 50k (in 3:44) my average was still slightly below my target 7:15 m/m but from one minute to the next my pace dropped. And there was still almost a Marathon distance to go. The mind and head game had started. 
My legs were already sore and the desire to slow down was getting bigger and bigger. My left knee started to feel the pounding and was hurting.

I was glad that I was not alone with my struggle since I had Silke who managed to meet me every hour or so. And I got cheered on by Neal and Caroline. I was also encouraged by Marco’s support team Rob and Euan and it was good news to hear that Marco was closing on Gareth. And it certainly gave me a bost to see two Ultra Legends Keith Hughes and Murdo McEwan who had come to the canal to cheer us on.
But I was more and more in my own space of suffering and increasing tunnel vision. I was in 3rd. Great. But what about runners behind me? Gavin Harvie was someone who would be capable of running a strong 90k. Was he right behind me? And what about Debbie Martin Consani and Sharon Law? When it comes to pacing those girls make not mistakes. They do have a 50 miler for breakfast. And they would take no prisoners!   

I am ensured that there is a comfortable gap behind me and that the distance to the runners ahead of me is fairly constant. 3 minutes to Marco. 6 Minutes to Gareth. And it is still 25k to go. 

Then it’s 5 minutes between me and Marco and 6 minutes to Gareth. Marco was closing the gap. I am getting slightly excited. Will Marco win this race? 
There was not much I could do. Increasing the pace was just not possible but maybe either Marco or Gareth would blow up? 
I set myself a new target and try to keep the pace under 8m/m. That was quite far away from my original plan to run 7:15s but my legs were so sore and heavy, I just did not have any more to give.
There are short sections with cobble stones and they are murder. And all those little gates where you have to stop and then get yourself going again. I am getting closer and closer to Edinburgh and the path is getting more and more crowded. It is so difficult to dodge all those cyclists and walkers. 

I hear that Marco has dropped back and was struggling. I take no pleasure from that. All I want is to finish. But I do not want to slow down either. Could I pass Marco? Could I run a PB perhaps? A PB would be something. An extra reward. 

With just about 4 miles to go and I can see Marco in the distance. He is walking. And then running again. Running just under 8 minutes per mile does not seem fast. But there is no chance I can go any faster than this. Maybe a 7:40 here and there. I can see Marco again and he is walking and then running again. He does not want to give 2nd place away. Certainly he is suffering as much as I do. It is like running into a brick wall and pain in unlimited quantities. Why do I not just run a bit faster and catch him? Because I can’t.

I have to say that not all ultra races are like this. I have been running with sore legs before but was still enjoying it. But today it’s just brutal. 

To put it into a chart it would probably look like this:

I finish in 3rd and 6:53. A minute and a few seconds behind Marco. And 5 minutes behind Gareth. I am hurting and exhausted. I think I used the f-word a few times after passing the finishing arch. But I am delighted. And happy. A 2 minute PB and 3rd place.

It does take 44 minutes before Gavin arrives to take 4th place. Sharon Law finishes in 5th overall in 7:41 and wins the Ladies Trophy.  Debs Martin Consani finishes 2nd Lady and 8th overall in 7:54. 

The gang ;-)


John Kynaston said...

Congratulations Thomas

Another great run. Thanks for sharing your highs and lows on your report.

Hopefully see you soon.

Silke said...

Great result for you! I'm very proud! :-)

Tim said...

Congratulations Thomas! A PB in conditions like that is just amazing. You just keep getting faster! You don't mention nutrition in your report. What did you eat and how often?

Thomas said...

Thanks folks!

Nutrition was an issue in that race. Maybe I should dedicate a separate post to that.

But I can answer your question quickly: I had one SIS GO Gel every 25 minutes and after 30 miles some SIS SMART GELS (with caffeine (I had set an time alert on my Garmin and it bleeped every 25 minutes). I tried to eat a pancake in after 40 miles or so but could not get it down. I also managed a few jelly babies in the last couple of hours. Maybe 10 altogether.
That was it! Nothing else. No secrets.

But I would not recommend this strategy and it did not make me fast. I felt sick quite early in the race and could barely swallow the gels. I had stomach issues all week before the race and therefore avoided anything sweet in the race.

If possible (stomach permitting) I would have loved to eat some sweeter gels (with more pure sugar because it's faster) some more bread or starch. And also Protein.
And all that earlier in the race. But I did not dare to try this because I thought my stomach and bowels would blow up.

So it was not ideal. Not what I wanted. But it kept me going.

Tim said...

I alternated sweet and savoury foods at the weekend for my training run to Tyndrum and that seemed to work well for me. I just can't do sweet things all the time and alternating them made it a lot easier. For savoury snacks I made small cheese sandwiches for the first day that went down well (at least until the cheese sneezing episode). ;-)

Interesting to read about your 25 minute interval as that was what Karl Zeiner was doing at the weekend so I just copied him and had my best training run ever.

It's certainly a recipe that I'm going to repeat in the Fling.

Debs M-C said...

Well done, Thomas. Amazing result! So pleased for you. Hell, I'm so pleased for us all :-) xx

NORRY said...

Well Done Thomas,

Thats some great running, Maybe you could tell how I could learn to keep that pace for more than 6miles lol

Well done you all.

Thomas said...

Thanks Norry, and thanks for the art work on the way :-)

GERRY said...

Great run Thomas, I like to read about nutrition as I have problems getting anything down apart from runny gels ( viper seems the best).
I think I passed Silke on Sunday morning in Drymen, she was cruising along.

harry_johnston said...

I used the f-word a lot just running a 10 miler at the weekend! Well done Tom sounds like you are back in te game.

Thomas said...

Gerry, nutrition is still something I have to figure out. Gels keep me alive but they are not ideal. Btw, well done on your D33!

Harry, thanks!
I am happy with how this is progressing after the knee op. I hope you can get back into your shape from last year again and see you at one or another race. Maybe even a hilly one?

Marco Consani said...

Hey Thomas,
Fantastic racing. I am so pleased that you have come back from your knee op exactly where you left off last year.
Really looking forward to training with you for the Celtic Plate. Couldn't think of anyone better to train with both from a friendship and ability point of view.
Can't wait to see how you do this year but I am sure you will make it hard for me to keep up. Well done.
See you soon.

Santababy said...

fantastic racing Thomas, you got your head down and stuck it out, mustve been an exctiting race. Huge well odne to you :)