Archives for February 2015

Thames Trot 50 2015

If I could sum up my personal experience of this race it would be “well organised and a painful lesson in specificity!”

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My reason for doing the race was that I expected it to be a fairly easy 50 miler to get under my belt early in the season. This would tick the box to allow me to start the South Downs Way 100 in a few months as you need to have done a 50 miler before the race day. By all accounts it was dead flat and pretty muddy and it was the flat which was to be my undoing.

Like most ultras the start was relaxed, and this year it started at the Hawkwell House Hotel. We signed on, grabbed our timing chips and at 0830 the siren went and we were off. Everybody bumbled down the road to the first bridge over the Thames where there was a small bottle neck, but this being an ultra, no-one cared about a few second delay. We were then following the river except for a few small diversions for the next 48 miles or so. At this stage the mud was frozen solid under foot, but I didn’t think too much of it as I am generally very happy running over uneven ground. As the day went on the top layer of mud thawed and became very cloying, but again this didn’t bother me too much. In fact it started to become a relief as my hips, knees and ankles started to make themselves known from the repetitive motion of simply running on the flat for hours on end. The mud became something of a change which caused me to slide around and changed the stresses a bit.

22 miles in I still felt ok, but over the next few miles I ended up slowing to a hobble with my joints screaming and when I finally wobbled into checkpoint 3 at around 28 miles I decided to call it a day. I reasoned that I could walk/run my way to the finish, but I would be a real mess when I got there and I would have dropped from being in the front third of the field to chasing the 11 hour cutoff. This wasn’t a key race for me this year, so I decided to learn the lesson, call it a day and come back next year.

Why the Jester Suit?

I am raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity as my Dad passed away from a grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme brain tumour on January 10th 2015, and we had his funeral just two weeks before this race. If you want to find out more go to www.justgiving.com/run247

The lesson in specificity

I imagine that anyone reading this will know what I mean by specificity, but essentially it is the art of matching your training to your target run i.e. if you are going to run a long flat 50 miler on a variation of mud and hard packed ground then that is the kind of terrain that you should train on. Personally my target race this year is the Oner and that barely has a single flat spot on it, so my training has featured lots of rough ground and big hills. This meant that, while I am currently a better runner than I have ever been, I simply didn’t have the conditioning to comfortably finish the Thames Trot on its pan flat course.

What really surprised me this morning was seeing the results and just how many people failed to finish. It seemed to be a very high failure rate compared to the last three years. Which I can only guess comes from the terrain not suiting many this year. The weather was chilly but good, the support was excellent and the route easy to follow, so unless I am missing something it must simply be the combination and unforgiving nature of the terrain.

The support

There are plenty of people to thank. Firstly the organiser for putting on a great race, secondly to the Hawkwell House Hotel for tolerating a bunch of nutters getting in the way at 7 am. Further thanks to The Swan Hotel at Streatley which seemed like quite a nice hotel and the guy on the desk very kindly let a muddy and dishevelled jester in to use their toilet.

The biggest thanks has to go to Stuart for coming up to crew me for the event. As usual he was excellent, gave me every opportunity to keep going and didn’t let me quit easily. It was also great to see my Aunt at the start line as she had come down to support me and see me off.

The organisers recommended The Boat House Deli and Café for spectators at checkpoint 3. Stuart and I went in there after I quit and they were right, the food and service was excellent.

The other runners

I had the opportunity to chat to a few runners on the way round and they were all awesome in one way or another. Quite a few of them seemed to be lined up to run the Marathon Des Sables this year and I wish them all the best, particularly the chap who seemed to associate ultra marathons with steaks and beer drinking.

Quite a few people asked me about my outfit and why I was wearing it, which was nice. I had the usual raft of funny and not so funny comments shouted at me (all appreciated 🙂 ) and I also got some amazing support at each checkpoint when they saw me coming.

Finally, to the competitor having a cigarette on the start line and looking proud of himself. You sir are a jackass!

I think that’s about it. Stuart wants to compete in the Thames Trot next year and so does Shirley, one of my other running companions. I would be privileged to run with them and finish the Thames Trot in 2016. Oh, and sorry for the blurry photos, but I took them all while running.