I have been running well lately and I wanted to ramp things up some what in readiness for the upcoming Winter 100. I was already in the marvellous Greensands Marathon last week (which is officially my fave race) and Beachy next week so I thought if I could get an ultra in between the two that would be some great prep for the W100. Of course the last Ceasers Camp was on and it would have been nice to tie up with a few faces but I really don't like laps. I probably would have done 3 but the thought of doing 5 laps filled me with horror so the next choice was Rotherham. I did no more than check the distance, made sure it wasn't laps, checked the price (£15 I might add) and signed up. I even paid the extra £4 to kip on the sports centre floor the night before.
The only reason I paid for the sleeping arrangements was to see how I faired getting a train up instead of taking the trusty camper. Train ticket booked I had a sudden change of heart and booked the Holiday Inn, the thought of sleeping on a wooden floor prior to running a 50 didn't enthuse me. I looked on the map and the Holiday Inn didn't look too far from the station so game on.
I left my house at 2.30 on Friday walked a mile to the station, train to Victoria, tube to Kings cross, train to Doncaster and another train to Rotherham. On the last leg to Rotherham I had it in my mind that Mexborough station was near the hotel so I jumped off and walked in the general direction. It wasn't close at all it must have been about 5 miles with my massive rucksack by the time I got there about 9pm I was knackered. Great prep? Luckily I had brought a curry pot noodle and two cans of lager with me for my tea and sat in my room drank and ate and fell straight to sleep.
The alarm went off at 4.30 and i woke with a headache, not sure if it was the San Miguel but it was far from pleasant. I had brought some oats with me which i would not normally eat pre-race but i couldn't do my usual wholemeal toast so oats out of an old pot noodle pot it was. That sat really heavy on my stomach so combined with my headache i felt like shit. I got a cab to registration, i had done enough walking the previous night. I paid the cab and walked round the corner just as the walkers and slow runners started at 6am. I thought for a second how bad that would be after such a mission to get there only to watch everyone running off and your not even changed. I usually only dream such nonsense and sure enough there were plenty of running looking types still milling about to calm my nerves. Reg was like a military operation, check in, move round, number move round, badge move round, t-shirt move round, drop bag move round and finally maps. Very good so far. The RRR is not marked by the organisers you have to nav using the map provided and follow the small waymarkers en-route. Luckily i brought a little plastic map holder because the map provided was not waterproof and i wouldn't want it to disintegrate.
Pre-race i hadn't been able to work out what shoes would be best, some said roadies some said aggressive trail shoes. I opted for my stinsons as at least if they were wrong i would only be slipping if i wore my inov8s and they were wrong i could get injured. It was mild at the start so t-shirt and shorts and so it would stay for the race. Anyway after a quick race brief we were off. I didn't navigate from the start as there were so many of us there was no need. I took on my fast start strategy and shot off at marathon pace. I was moving fairly fast but still had a nagging headache and was sweating buckets so didn't feel brilliant. The shoes were right for sure as the first few miles were tarmac and hard packed trail. I got talking to a few other runners about navigation and i got the usual "you won't need your map its easy to navigate" What bollocks! If any one ever says that to you ignore them because they obviously know the route so yes nav would be easy. What i have actually found is that if you are running an unmarked ultra you need a bloody map. On the plus side about maps, the RRR map was brilliant, easy to follow and simple to use. More races should adopt this type of map they are cross between short written descriptions and a very condensed pictorial map.
I was running fairly hard but still managed conversation and soon found out i was running with people who wanted to break 8hrs i knew i would struggle with that but 9hrs was the goal. I was in and out of the first few check points in seconds and things were going ok. I did have a bad patch quite early around 14 mile which was very unusual but onwards and upwards. Another classic i heard at the start was that the race was pancake flat. Hmm not sure about that as it didn't seem bloody flat to me. Undulating to say the least. If they want to know what flat is they should get amongst the GUCR. The scenery was a total mix of town, village, ploughed fields, grassland a bit of everything really.
All the checkpoints were basic but had enough to get by (not forgetting the race was only £15). I only used them for water as i was running on GU gels today which energy wise went well but i craved some real food especially as breakfast had been a none event. There was biscuits a plenty but I don't really do biscuits I did however manage to find a tuna sandwich at one of the CPs bloody nice it was too. I got through the marathon distance in about 4hrs and tried to maintain that constant running pace. I have wanted for a while to run a 50 in its entirety and i came the closest ever during this race probably only walking a mile or two. Things started to buckle in the second half and the mixture of the previous weeks marathon, the headache and the poor breakfast took their toll. The last twenty were to be quite painful and coming up to thirty mile i felt like shit again. Just needed to concentrate and keep moving forward. There was some really good support during the race plus the relay runners constantly passing with words of encouragement gave me a lift. I got over the bad patch and ran well again for a few miles but not too much further along I felt rough again with a bout & mile to go. Luckily enough i tied up with another runner Paul we ran, chatted and that whiled away the last few miles nicely. Before i knew it the finish was on us but no sprint just a plod across the line and i had finished in 8hrs 40 which at the time i thought must be a PB. After checking my previous results at home i realized i was no where near. It felt like a PB all the same. Mind you good enough for 23rd out of 280ish so pleased with that. I really want to start getting a few top 10s and would have needed to run a 7hr 40 to get that. Given my current fitness level I reckon with a proper taper and a much better previous day I could have got closer to 8hrs but 7hr 40, mmm not yet.
I tucked into the tasty cottage pie on offer then embarked on another mammoth journey home. Thing is i was way too early for my main train from Sheffield to London so i hit the pub for a couple of well deserved beers. I finally got home at 11pm. Think i'll suffer the Friday night traffic and use my camper next time.
All in all the RRR is a fantastic race and a thoroughly well organised, cheap event and I may well go back next year.
My learnings from this race are that other runners are generally lovely friendly people but their advice on shoes, terrain and maps can be sketchy to say the least. Advice within ultrarunning is generally useless pretty much everything I have learnt has been trial and error. My camphor sprayed feet remained blister free again. I applied nothing to them on race day, first time ever. Also that the 18 pound in weight i have shed in the last six months has improved my running no end and i can't wait to shed the last half stone. Oh and don't drink San Miguel the night before a race Red Stripe is much more favourable.
Ironically after an injury free 50 I ran a 4 mile recovery run yesterday in a pair of flat shoes and my Achilles feels slightly over streched so Beachy might be out the window. I don't want to ruin the W100 so a weeks rest might be in order. Without doubt i'm looking for a PB at the W100 and I tend to go in with a Plan A and Plan B. The RRR plan A was 8hr plan B 9hr. W100 plan A is sub 20 plan B sub 22. So fingers crossed on that.