Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Anglo Celtic Plate 2012, Scottish and UK 100k Champs

If you want the short version here is the write up from Scottish Athletics

The long version:
I passed the first Marathon Marker in 2:58 and was at half way in 3:32. Another 50k to go. So what was I doing? What was I thinking?
- Did I honestly think I could run a 7:04 100k? No! I never did!
- Did I run to become Scottish Champion? No.
- Did I run to win? No.
- Did I run to beat anyone in particular? No.

It is not in my power to manipulate what any other runner could achieve in a race like this. Winning or beating someone else was a secondary target. Nevertheless I wanted to run the 100k as fast as possible. And there is only one way of doing that: I had to run "my own race". There is no better race strategy than that. If you want I had a "plan A". I had hoped to run a sub 7:20. 

And when I reached the half way point I still found this was well achievable.

Today it was the heat on that day which made for good excuses to go off a bit quicker in the earlier hours of the day. And then later slow down. That was inevitable. Almost deliberate. I think on a hot day like this there was no other race strategy. Why holding back over the cooler part of the day and then 'speed up' in boiling heat?

So a positive split it was for today. No shame about that. A 100k is a strange beast anyway. There is nothing like it. In particular if you are wearing a Scottish Vest and it is the UK Championships. Because you have to go fast. And it is going to hurt. There is no room for error and no rest. Until you have finished the race. 62 miles. Your competitor may have a Marathon PB which is two minutes faster or slower. In a 100k he may finish an hour ahead of you. Or behind.

When I saw my first split on my Garmin for the first Kilometre I knew I had the legs for a fast race today. My training had worked out for me. Adrian Stott was getting a bit worried about my fast splits but I never pushed for a second in the first 30 miles. The second half would be tough and slower. If you ask me now, after the race, if I had gone off too fast my answer is no. I would do very little adjustments. Maybe a tiny bit less effort... Maybe not...

I was not the only one slowing down in the second half today. After 60k I caught up with Allen Smalls. He obviously had some problems with maintaining the pace. That gave me some comfort and ensurance that it was not a silly racestrategy which was making it difficult for me. Allen was a very consistent competitor. Someone actually capable of running 7 hours over 100k. If he blew up, there was no shame if I did.

It was hot!                           Thanks Ian J Berry for the photo!

But it was not so much the pacing today which spoiled our race plans. It was the heat. And we all were suffering. The lovely contryside roads we were running offered little shade. A few trees occasionally but that was it. Thetemparature was climbing and climbing. The tarmac was heating up. And there was one stretch of just about half a mile long with no shade and the wind in our back just before the sharp bend back to the village which was like an oven. And it was getting worse and worse every lap. After the race Silke told me that she offered me a hat many times and I always said no. But I cannot remember any of that.
Because when I was running through that oven I always thought, why am I not wearing one? My brain was boiling. And my quads. Boy, they were boiling. And my stomach was boiling. I had no solid food the entire race. That did not help.

I had a joker though. Caffeine. I am a coffee drinker. And I drink loads of it. Triple esspressos. That kind of stuff. And I use caffeine in later stages of races and it always gives me a boost. And I had my first coffeine gel at 60k. And I was looking forward to it. It was going to give me wings! 

So here I was running next to Allen Smalls. I think it was one lap and we ran close together and even next to each other. More or less silently. I wanted to say something to him. A joke perhaps. I think I tried to say "not the day for a negative split" but it was more like a cough what came out of my throat.

And I was waiting for the magic of the caffeine gel to ease off the pain and brighten things up but that gel did notwork. My stomach turned against me. My head decided to go into low point mode. And my bowels exploded. Thankfully I was just at the aid station and the public toiletwas available. So I made use of that. I had another caffeine gel an hour later or so but my stomach was not liking it so I said (or shouted) to Silke "no more caffeine". 

It is not your legs who can win a 100k. It is your guts and stomach! If they stop working or go on strike your legs will stop working too. 
I had no idea how Marco, Matt or Gareth were doing. I actually thought that at some point in the race I would be passed by Matt. And I was surprised that Marco had not passed me already. I have been training with Marco for years now and lately with Matt and to be honest I had to TAPER to survive those training runs with those guys!

My advantage today was I had done a 100k before and kind of knew what to expect. In order to find out how my team mates were doing I either had to lap them. Or they would pass me eventually...

I never looked back though. Not a single time in the entire race. And when I heard runners coming from behind it was not Matt or Marco or Gareth. They were Marcus Scotney and Craig Holgate. Looking strong. Going this fast they would catch Allen I thought. Or even Keith Whyte who was still in the lead by quite a margin. To be honest it was a little depressing to be passed in the second half of that race. I felt defeated. Was my race strategy completely wrong? Had I made a fool out of myself by going off too fast? 

And I was slowing. And slowing even more. Despite increasing my efforts. My quads were in a poor state.
My feet burning and aching. I had decided to run the 100k in my Addizero Mana 6. They served me well in the Edinburgh Marathon but they seem to lose their bounce and cushioning with every lap. And with every lap it felt more and more I was running barefoot.

And I have to admit I had always claimed I would cope well in 'hot' conditions. But here I was baking and roasting myself from the inside and outside.And how many times did I look up to the sky and wished for some rain. But there were no clouds. I even felt sorry for the Marshalls who had not found any shadow and sitting there in the heat for hours...

The pacing chart shows it all:
1) The zig zag pattern shows how the wind influenced the speed. The way out of the village a mile long with a slight push by the wind. 10 seconds per mile faster than the way back towards village inte the brisk headwind. The wind was slowing us runners but also cooling. I guess most of the runners found the headwind rather pleasant.
2) The stomach and bowel explosion after mile 60 when I took my caffeine gel. Leading to a toilet stop
3) and the steep decline in speed. I was in a deep and dark place for a while. Breaking down. Until I yelled "soup". And I drank that warm salty fatty substance hoping it would keep me alive. And it did. Was it the fat or the salt? I will never know.
4) Feeling a bit stronger and actually getting a bit quicker over the last 20k. 

So back to the race...
I did pass Matt, Marco and Gareth eventually. Gareth was struggling badly and Matt was just pulling away from him. Matt was suffering too but he did not show it. He smiles and commands "go and get that Scottish Championship title!"

A while later I saw Marco. I don't know what lap. He was leaning against one of those stone walls and stretching his calf muscles. I caught up with him we but didn't talk much. I said something about the heat, he about cramping and no way to keep 8 minute mile pace going... I stumble forward and eventually pass him. There was nothing I could do about it. The good news were that Marco would survive this event in an excellent 7:51. A PB is a PB but I guess his next 100k will be much faster. The same applies for Matt who finished in 7th overall in 7:55. 

Over the last laps Adrian and the team passed on information to me but I don't think I could make much sense out of it. I understood I was not far from Allen and Craig. A few minutes perhaps. Over the last 20k I felt a bit stronger again and tried everything in my power to keep the pace up and close the gap. I digged deep. Plagued by tunnel vision and "never, ever again's" but I guess Allen and Craig digged just as deep to defend their position. I finish in 4th and I am toast. Litterally. Not far behind Allen and Craig actually. Keith Whyte killed that race as much as Emily Gelder killed the ladies' race. Izzy Knox won the Scottish 100k title.

1st Keith Whyte 7.16
2nd Allan Smalls 7.25.02
3rd Craig Holgate 7.26.03
4th Thomas Loehndorf 7.28.32
5th Marcus Scotney 7.40
6th Marco Consani 7.51.28
7th Matt Williamson 7.55.54

Quality results for a 100k race in that heat.

Gareth struggled with hamstring issues but finished the race despite the problems. 

A big thank you to Adrian Stott and his team for supporting us runners. And a big compliment to Welsh Athletics who organised the event in the lovely small village of Redwick. And thanks to the friendly Marshalls and volunteers. In particular the ones who had no shade to hide from the relentless roasting sunlight.
Of course a big thanks to Silke for her flawless support and Debs for booking and driving and cheering and taking pictures and everything.


GERRY said...

Excellent performance Thomas, weel done.

John Collins said...

Ultrarunning blogs are the new sliced bread...Great review!

UltraStu said...

Hi Thomas

An excellent result, and an excellent race strategy. Yes, go out fast especially if it is cooler, before the heat rises.

Well done, but hey why isn't a 7:04 100 km time possible?


Thomas said...

Thanks Garry and John for you comments.

Stuart, to be honest I owe you some credits for my race (which I consider a great success).
I gave the pre-race mental approach a lot of attention.
I certainly did not run as fast as I could though. But I had confidence in going "fast" (ish).
There are few theoretical approaches which would support that "fast" start. Apart from your very own approach.
And to be honest in cooler conditions I would have considered a 7:04 (or at least a result close to that) achievable.
But despite all willpover and mental preparation there are physical limitations. I was cooking from the inside and outside and that was just too much. I was very close to collapsing over the last 15 miles or so.

Julie said...

Thomas, you really are outstanding. Be very proud of yourself.

Peter Duggan said...

Top stuff, Thomas... struggling to envisage running 100K at a pace not much much slower than I'd do 10 (guess that just means you're a lot faster than me), but all the more respect for that! :-)

Peter Duggan said...

At a pace not much slower (just one 'much').

Debs M-C said...

I've said it a million times now and I'll say it again...you did fantastic!! So very proud of you.

As for putting up with the GM and I all weekend? Well, that just shows how mentally tough you are! :-)

Debs x

Keith Hughes said...

Great report Thomas

Keith Hughes said...

And a great run !

Marco Consani said...

Fantastic achievement Thomas. You did so well. I have been very fortunate to witness some of your best races but this one tops them all. It was a pleasure training with you and watching you compete with the big guns. I can only guess at how far you can take this and where you will be in a years time. Just wait up for me now and then. ;-)

Take care my friend. Looking forward to more training runs together soon.


Thomas said...

thanks for the compliment.
cu at the races. Perhaps as competitor?

thanks, looking forward to seeing you at the Devils!

it was an absolute pleasure and a super fun weekend!
Despite the hen night moments ;-)

thanks! and thanks ;-)
cu at the races!

you had a great 100k debut. And the heat did not
make it easier. Looking forward to the next one!