Saturday 24 October 2015

Centurion A100

The Centurion race series is often called a family. As a runner it is a chance to spend 24 hours or so being looked after by aunties and your nan with the odd crazy uncle to keep things interesting. The A100 is the last leg of the Centurion grandslam and my second Centurion 100 of the year.

The A100 is 4 out and back legs with two flat Thames legs either side of 50 miles on the Ridgeway. It is known for people setting off too quickly and I would be no different. This was somewhat planned as I wanted to get some miles done before darkness set in.

Registration and the start

This was the usual Centurion precision machine with a quick kit check and number collection. I stayed in the Goring YHA which I can recommend so I was able to stay in bed late before a gentle walk to register and on to the start line. Sam Robson was behind me - another tick on the blog roll spotters list.

Leg 1

I ended up at the front at the start. This was more by accident as I happened to be stood at the start line. I spent the last few minutes before the start chatting to Paul Russhard who is a friend of a work colleague and was easy to spot as he chose a bear onesie to run in. Suddenly it was time to run.
I remember this as mile after mile of dark wet fields from the TP100 but in the daytime on a dry day, it was much nicer. The front of the field disappeared out of sight and it would only be a matter of time until they were speeding back towards us. After 10 miles or so the front runners were coming back towards us. It makes this race unique. The front runners hit the turn at close to 90 minute half marathon pace which is ludicrous for a 100 mile race. I reached the turn in about 1:55 which was a bit keen. It was definitely at the thick end of the field with at least 50 ahead of me at this point but was nice to turn and see at least 50 coming the other way.

The rest of the leg was fairly uneventful. I felt very good and decided to skip the walking breaks to keep the pace up until dark. Back to base in a scary fast 3:56 - almost sub 4 hour marathon pace. A quick grab of some food and bottle top up and I was on my way up the Ridgeway. I saw James Adams on the bridge and complemented him on his book(a good read) and another tick on the blog roll of honour.

Leg 2

The first 4 miles disappeared quickly and North Stoke appeared. A quick bottle top up and cheeky coke and I was almost on my way. I then knocked over a cup or two of coke which I tried to apologise for before heading up the road. I had a quick chat with Rich Cranswick in the chicken suit and I was on my way. I finished the TP100 just ahead of him but not sure the clown suit had helped him that day.
After  a couple more miles, the Ridgeway proper started and the first hills of the day. I shared a few miles with Sarah Sawyer and Paul the beard. It was good to hear about his Spartathlon experience - maybe one day... The hills forced walking breaks which were much needed. I caught up with with Rich Stewart and we formed a small group to get through Grim's ditch. At this point James Elson flew past grinning like a loon. That settled the debate on who would win. It was a while before the next runners came past.

After a couple of false starts, I eventually found the right field to do my bird impression (thanks Stuart March)

A couple fields and a lovely Golf course later and 37.5 miles was up. Then came the chance to see the people behind us. A few more bloggers ticked off plus I got to shout some support to runner 78. An epic story behind his Grandslam buckle. The most memorable part was kicking a root which resulted in cramp  in my groin which luckily went away quickly. Soon enough I was back at North Stoke and tried to apologise again for spilling my drink and manage to mess up putting the top on my bottle and spilt more drink on the floor. My number of 180 which I had been shouting bullseye style all day was now more like a bull in a china shop. 
Now it was a race  against the sun. I was getting dark but I really wanted to get to halfway before the head torch came out. The sun beat me but the lights of G&S got me home. Halfway in 8:47 which isn't bad for 50 miles. At this point I saw Rich Stewart tucking into a McDonald's - each to their own. 50 down 50 to go. I take 58 to be halfway by time. Also my 10/24 for 50 miles rule meant that I was on for 21:XX pace.

Leg 3

This was a beast with a massive hill which went on for miles. Before long James was speeding past us and plenty more coming past. This seemed to go on for ever before we emerged into a world of headlights. The cheers from other runners were getting less as fatigue kicked in. You could spot the pacers as they were chatty and keen to talk. The runners could just about grunt. 62.5 miles up in sub 12 hours at halfway. I have limited memories of the next 12.5 miles except there didn't seem payback for the climbing on the way out. Back to base in just over 15 hours just before second place arrived. James Elson was home well before that. Quick refuel and out again

Last leg

I got the first 4 miles out of the way to Witchurch ok and then it crashed from there. It took a while to get to the Welcome to Reading sign and the 4 miles from there were horrendous. It reminded me of the night section of the TP where you keep hoping the CP is round the corner and it never comes. It was mainly walking now and sub 22 finish unlikely. I got a lift seeing my "4 park runs to go" sign on the steps. Some gin cake and I was almost ready to go. My running buddy Ben who I had shared the previous 87.5 miles wasn't. He was out on the floor with exhaustion as weeks of nights with a teething baby caught up with him. I abandoned him in the hands of Sarah Barker who fed him cake but it wasn't enough to stop him refusing to continue.

I buddied up with Daniel Youds and Claire before getting dropped after Reading West station as I couldn't keep pace with 15 min mile walking. Pace dropped to nearly 20 miles as the sun came up. Everything hurt at this point but I was almost there. I got a lovely surprise as my friend Dom met me by the Bridge with a Mars Bar and we walked into the last CP. I had a nice chat with a volunteer coming up the road to the CP and realised how ruined I was and I suspect I didn't make any sense. A quick chat with Donna Bullock and off. Just 1.5 park runs to go before the pain would stop. The 180 thing had definitely worn off now.

My ankle was in a bad way and had to walk one legged and literally drag my leg up the super steep bit (you

know if you have done the TP100 or A100). I had a lot of people go past over the previous miles and had a chat with a pacer about how long I had left. I thought it would be about 70 minutes and she reckoned 50. At this point I figured I might as well run so the pain would stop sooner. It started as short bursts but I got finish line fever and started running. I retook a few people over the last mile or two and almost sprint finished. I look back at Garmin afterwards suggests the "sprint" was actually a 12 minute mile - it is all relative. Soon enough the sound of the Goring weir grew louder and the finish was upon me. Time for a final "one hundred and eiiigggghhhhtttyyyy!!!!" and the medal was mine.

Final finish time was 22:40:36 for 22 minute pb. I would love to have cracked 22:30 for Sparta qualification but I don't think I am ready for that yet (is anyone?). Mentally it was a lot better race than the TP100 were I struggled the last 40 miles. That was a race where I really questioned why I was doing a 100 whereas this time it was only the bit in and around Reading where I questioned my sanity.

It would have been great to hold onto the first 70 miles form and pace for the last 30 miles but I guess that is the lure of the 100 miles race...

Thanks again for Centurion team and 73(!) volunteers for putting on a great race and see you again next year. It was great to chat with James Elson who was still chatting to everyone after the race. Now to time to start planning for 30th April in Richmond...

Leg 4


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