Saturday, 23 September 2017

London to Brighton 2017

The sun rises over Blackheath
Back in 2010 I ran my first "proper" ultra and by proper I mean 50+ miles. I had a tough outing, I had been desperate to crack 10 hours. It wasn't to be and I came in around 11 hours having covered 56 miles. It really ignited the ultra running flame in me, I'll never forget the feeling of elation having finished on the seafront only to promptly seize up and be unable to walk. It mattered little as I ate an ice cream totally content if temporarily disabled. Fast forward to 2017 and Sussex Trail Events decided to resurrect this marvellous race. How could I not enter? L2B 2017 was on.

 It's been a tough year and I was really struggling to recover from the Lakeland 100. To make recovery that much harder I threw this in to the mix just five weeks later. So rather than train for this I sort of recovered into it. Come race day I felt as good as could have been expected but I was determined to crack 10 hours. The course also measured 4 miles longer some how, so 60 miles it was. As an extra incentive a sub 10hr t-shirt was on offer. Well that's like a red rag to a bull for me!
We are off
(photo by Jon Lavis)

We left Blackheath at 6:15, it would have been 6 but one of the runners turned up 6 so we waited for him. Aren't we nice. We headed off down towards Ladywell and I started chatting with a guy I'd previously run the Tanners with a few years back. Good company and he runs at my pace so the time passed easily as we worked our way through the London streets chatting away. There were two other runners ahead but I wasn't bothered, I had a plan and was determined to stick to it. My plan was simple, run each 10 mile section in 1hr 30, allowing for a bit of drop off  and minimal stops would get me in under 10 hours. As much as I was enjoying my company, running with someone else isn't a good strategy when running to a plan. I had carried a bottle of tailwind in addition to my water bottles for the first leg . My idea was to drink the tailwind in the first 10 miles meaning I could run straight through cp1 and still have all my water for the next leg. I did just this and left the cp alone and ready to run my own race.

Running into CP1
(photo by Jon Lavis)
After Cp1 at Keston you leave London behind and the countryside starts. I was bang on time wise and running well. Just after Biggin hill I approached the two leaders. Bit of a dilemma though, I didn't want to push for the lead so early, I also didn't want to run with them or even run deliberately slower. As I pondered what to do the decision was taken out my hands as we hit a big hill and they both immediately started walking. I felt strong so continued to trot up the hill. I exchanged the lead for the next couple of miles but never pushing outside of my game plan. Around mile 18 I ran a long hill and managed to edge ahead, as I sprinted down the other side I  missed a turn. There is nothing so gutting as having to back track up a hill you just ran down. I caught the other guy back up and we entered cp2 together. Again I was in and out only having to fill my bottles. I ran out at pace and the other guy decided to stop for a while.

So this was it, I'm leading, 40 miles to go. Stick to the plan and keep at those 8 minute miles. The miles ticked by nicely and I was enjoying some lovely trails. I have been lacking energy during my last couple of races so I upped my calorie intake and decided to eat a gel every 45 mins with the occasional bottle of tailwind. This was working just fine and running was coming easy. I ran through 30 miles bang on schedule. I passed through miles of glorious countryside and London was a distant memory. I had no energy dips so that meant no walking. Luckily I was following a GPS and not map reading, it's quite a fiddly route and map reading would have slowed me down massively. The route is very intricate with some real under used pathways. On more than one occasion I was battering through stinging nettles but there was little time for loitering as I was constantly conscious someone could be right behind me.

It's Done
This was a solid performance and I ran into the 50 mile CP feeling great and a smidge under 8 hours. It was good to see some friendly faces and stop for a brief chat. I ran towards Black cap with some gusto knowing I would be walking up the hill. There was a route change coming up and I turned right as I should. I ran too far though and came out the other side of the farm onto the road. The run to get back on track seemed to take forever and I really had to push hard up the downs. My legs were screaming at the top but knew this is when I had to push hard so immediately after cresting the top I started running across the other side. I was having a slight wobble at this point but I battled it and ran all the way to Falmer. The weather had closed in now, it was raining and really rather shitty. I cobbled together a run/walk up Falmer rd and stopped at the end to have a look back. I couldn't see anyone behind but felt determined to run to the end. Once I'd crossed the racecourse I was on the final descent and still running strong. I crossed the main road and found the underpass which led me to the finish. It felt good approaching the finish flag even though the weather was horrendous. I'd finished in 9hrs 37 and 1st place.
Yay I got a black T-shirt

It was so pleasing to run such a perfect race. I had a plan and stuck to it, my nutrition was spot on, I got the time I wanted and the black t-shirt all on such an iconic route. When everything goes so well there is nothing left to prove to yourself on a course so that'll be the last London to Brighton I run. Great course, Great organisation, Great result.

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