South Downs 100 mile Ultra
After 6 months of training Karen Peck set off down south to run the 3rd toughest 100 mile Ultra marathon in the country, The South Downs 100 mile. I planned and prepared meticulously and it paid off. I ran a good race and completed 85 miles but alas on this occasion did not finish. If you want to hear about my race day read on.
It was an early start for race day. I got up at 3.30 and ate breakfast ready to be at the start at 5. Drop boxes had to be dropped off and kit had to be officially checked to be able to start. I had to carry my ruck sack with 1 litre of drink, food supplement powder and electrolyte tablets, food, coat, spare top, foil blanket, map, compass, whistle, collapsible cup, first aid kit. That was the minimum but I also carried some spare socks. There were 14 aid stations along the way where I could sort drinks and have more food if I needed it. The volunteers were absolutely brilliant and supportive. For me I did not think about the distance just getting from start to finish. I knew this was going to be the hardest race I have ever done but I was determined to be positive about anything that got in my way however difficult. I met up with Karen Doak at the start and had a chat and ran first couple of miles together. I stopped for an early toilet stop and lost her after that but doing these long distances you have to do your own thing. Lost count really of the amount of hills as they just kept coming. Steep ups and then steep downs some a lot longer than others, some were tricky gravel paths with big loose stones, somewhere grassy and more comfortable and others through woods and different angles.
First 15 miles was just getting into the swing of the terrain and concentrating on eating and drinking enough. The sun soon got hotter and people around me were starting to feel it. Lots of cat and mouse with runners as you would expect on a long haul run like this and especially with run/walk strategies in place. When I got to CP 2 at 22 miles I was in good spirits. It was very hot but fuelled up with drinks, quick chat with volunteers and off I went. I wanted to grab and go as much as possible as to not waste time. Coming from here was a tricky 2 miles wooded severe up and then a long big stony path down but kept moving. The route was well marked with extra tape by organisers ( will come back to the tape). First marathon done in my estimated time even though tougher terrain so chuffed. 5 hours 50 minutes!
Obviously the course was stunning with rolling hills and me being me had chosen it because of this and because it was tough. Andy met me at 35 miles and was brilliant to see him but again grabbed and went. The miles ticked by and then after seeing Andy again at 45 miles with a welcome sandwich more hills. I found myself attacking them with a good power walk technique and then running when getting to the top. This worked well and was still in excellent shape when meeting up with the GYRR support crew at 52 miles. 12 and half hours in and I was pleased with my progress and how I felt. There was time for hugs with Jodie, Mark and Malcolm and a kiss from Andy and then it was come on let’s get going. Jodie's knows I'm a bossy cow when I'm focused. I had been looking forward to seeing the at this point so used that energy to carry on the good running and walking strategy. It was only 2 miles before we got to Washington where I was able to get hot food and a cuppa which I had especially been craving or the last 2 to 3 hours. My first drop box was here with a change of bra top and running vest and shoes if I needed them. Extra food and stuff for rucksack too. Had some lovely hot pasta but really should have had a double portion! needed it later. I put glasses on here as I had had my contact lenses in too long. Also picked up head light and back up head light. Not sure what time we left here but we didn't stay long and must have sat down for all of 2 minutes. This was a busy CP . Lots of people coming and going. Another tricky wooded section on leaving the village to again get back out onto the downs. Next few miles were solid with some running and lots of fast power walking/ jogging movement. I felt good. I was going to loo plenty and kept checking the colour of the wee to make sure I was hydrated. I made Jodie laugh as the further I got the less able I was to squat. I kept saying " its ok Jodie , I'm still hydrated. You can't be fussy on runs like this, when you gotta go you gotta go! Previously during the day I had to stop for a number 2 and the place I had picked someone had already been yuk! but you just got to get on with it. Mark also experienced my toilet habits later on and said he was surprised the South Downs weren't flooded as I had gone so many times.
Jodie and I reached the 63 mile point in good spirits and shortly before had nearly got lost. We had gone a few pacers straight into a herd of cows when the lady runner behind us said hang on you have to follow the fence left down the side of the field. That we did but it seemed very uneven. After 100 metres or so a runner who I had got chatting to a few miles back said you on the wrong side of the fence so we had to climb over. I didn't like that much as I had to drop the other side with a jump. Jodie said she nearly pushed me as i was faffing about a bit. Anyway after that got going again. Head lights went on and we could see the sea and Brighton's new lookout tower to the left of us all lit up and night club music being carried by the wind. I wasn't long before we were in full blackness and the terrain was such we had no choice but to power walk as quick as we could. I kept saying to Jodie " don't lose the path, look out for tape" which was hanging on trees and bushes for additional guidance. I think I got on both Jodie and Mark' nerves. Look out for tape, and are we going the right way all the time. It wasn't long before we found Malcolm and Mark along the route and we waved by to Jodie. A good 65 miles in or so now so had to get through a few hours in the dark. Some of this was slow going at times with mostly power walking as it was pitch black. All you can see is a minimal amount of path in front of you, trying not to bugger over and a few headlights bobbing up and down in front and behind.
At about 70 miles was when I first started to feel that I had done 70 miles. I needed food and more drink but we had 6 miles to do to get to next CP and also my second drop box.
I knew the terrain on this section as I had done it in February in my recce so knew it was tough. Just keep moving forward! Whatever I tried to nibble on was really hard to swallow it and I must have really got on Marks nerves. The temperature dropped also around midnight so put my cap back on and my head over to keep my neck warm and my gloves. Mark and are were on last sips of water. Competitors around us were doing pretty much the same. A couple of chaps found a place to sit for minute as they had sore knees. My body was still doing ok but I needed food and drink. Mark literally had to drag me up a wooded climb trying to hold my hand as well as direct light in the right direction. When reaching the top we had a steep down to reach the CP before crossing the A27. I was very bossy at the CP telling Mark to stuff as much food and refill drinks as much as possible. I saw to a blister while he did this and dare not sit down as I wouldn't get up again. I had already wasted a few minutes seeing to a blister on the other ball of my foot, firstly thinking it was stone and then realising it was a blister. Poor Mark had to probably do my shoe laces half a dozen times with all the faffing to get me comfortable. My god you just can't live without compeed! I had nearly a round of cheese sandwiches and 2 cups of tea, one of which we walked away with and we were good to go.3 marathons done and still moving. The next 8 miles were tough! Blisters got worse but on a good note I was still hydrated and going to loo well while Mark made me laugh with his continued musical renditions coming from his backside. Of course he blamed it on the baked beans he had for dinner.
As soon as it was got dark it was light again. Weirdly the birds all started singing at 3 30 am ish at the same time and we really noticed it. The next few miles I just kept moving forward that all you can do. I was having doubts whether me feet were going to allow me to make it. The grass sections over the next miles were wonderful and although I felt tired I was carrying on at a reasonable pace well before the cut offs. On the chalky stony, rocky paths though it was a different story. I had to remind myself and Mark to keep eating and taking fluids on so I had enough energy. I spoke to Jodie and Andy and this point and they gave me lots of encouragement to carry on. I was very up and down for the last 4 or 5 miles before I decided to stop. We had to get down a very steep hill again and there was a runner behind us. Mark said he was removing the tape so I knew all the runners had been pulled behind us. We still had time to get to check point before the cut off so with another flourish headed off again. Got to the CP with 25 minute cushion! Although I'd covered nearly 85 miles in 24 and a half hours I knew I was cutting it fine. Mark said you can still do this but the next section was really hard on terribly blistered feet. We started up the rocky hill and with 400 metres or so in just burst into tears as I knew I was going to be hard pushed to get to the next cut off. Although I had 6 hours to do 15 miles I knew that there was some really hard terrain yet to do.
Andy and my fabulous team were with us in minutes as they were ready to meet us a couple of miles down the road.. I was gutted and very disappointed that a couple of blisters had stopped me doing this run as I felt really good physically and mentally good through the race.
On reaching Eastbourne to get my feet checked I found out that 2 thirds of the field had not finished this immense run. I have to be pleased with myself. I ran 85 miles in 24 and a half hours and I will not be beaten.
On reaching the hotel I was not in good shape but after fainting and being sick soon better, Andy was and is wonderful and puts up with a lot looking after me but I was soon feeling better after much food and fluids and more importantly sleep.
I returning home yesterday I was looking for another 100 mile run to fulfil my challenge and I found one. I have entered the T100 Thames Path Challenge in August. I have all the necessary training in my legs and I will not waste it. The course is flat and I know after running what I did this weekend I will make it, with f***ing bells on.
Bring it on. I cannot thank Andy, Malcolm, Jodie and Mark for supporting me, pacing me and generally being fab! Also to many other people who have really supported me in my training and other stuff over the last few months. You know who you are. Love you loads all of you. Remember life is short and you have to do what the hell you want however difficult.
For more pictures from this event visit karenpeckrunning firstname.lastname@example.org
Report written by Karen Peck.