Fitness Magazine

The Autumn 100 - My Ultra Comeback

By Jamesrichardadams @jamesradams

I thought I made pretty good time getting to the turnaround point. Now I was pleased it was downhill all the way to Goring, except there still seemed to be loads of uphill.

I had a punchy target here. I wanted to qualify for the Spartathlon (16.40) which about 9 months ago I thought I'd be able to do here. But inevitably training didn't go perfectly but was still thinking something like 18 hours was possible.

I wanted to get to half-way in not much over 8 hours. My one and only long run in training was running 50 miles in 8 hours. I got to halfway in about 8.20.

I changed my shoes, I'd been wearing Sportiva Helios which are delightful for knocking out 7-minute miles on the trails around home but not so comfortable for shuffling along at lower speeds. I put on some Hokas. I may have said nasty things about these shoes in a previous life, but nowadays I'm all for throwing money at stuff to make it easier. I am actually writing this blog in Grammarly which lights up red every time I write something shit.

Leg 2 finish - 8.28 - 24th

Now it was getting dark. When I first decided to do this, I thought I'd get most of it done in the daylight. But I didn't realise that the start was 10am, and I forgot that October is closer to December than it is to June. As soon as I left Goring for the third time it was dark, I headed up the main road then off onto the Ridgeway again for another bit of up and down.

Here I got chatting to a chap called Alex, he was doing both the 100 and 50-mile grand slams this year.

There comes a particular sweet spot in a race where someone is going to have to suffer your whole life story. This was that time (sorry Alex!). I felt miles 50-60 really quite comfortable and made a few places. The past was really easy to follow, like a trail dual carriageway. The first CP was great to see and seem to come quite quickly.

That said it is always tricky to know whether the van up ahead was a checkpoint or people dogging. Would I get an eyeful or a ham sandwich? Or both?

The checkpoint on the top of chain hill was wonderfully lit up. I was now drinking coffee instead of coke at the cps. Now at each CP I was walking out and drinking coffee.

In my head, I thought the down would be much more comfortable than the up, and I should be back at the CP in great time. It didn't work out that way though. I started to feel a bit crap and then get annoyed that things weren't like they were "in my day", such as the non-existence of retina-burning 9 million lumin head torches. I found that uncomfortable. I thought everyone had those fancy ones you program into a computer that calm the fuck down when near some other light source? Anyhoo, I was probably just annoyed that I was slowing down now and it looked like I wasn't going to win.

Eventually, I got back down into Goring. It was just gone midnight. I faffed in the CP a bit, having some food and

Leg 3 - 14.41 - 28th (Didn't get legged)

So I headed out on the 4th bit, to Reading and back. This was the business end of the race, literally as you run to a business park and back. I was pleased that DNFing didn't cross my mind. Gemma had the kids on her own all weekend, so I felt like I got the easier part of the deal here. Despite pretty poor sleep in the run-up to this race I didn't feel additionally tired. So no sleep monsters or DNF demons rattling around. Perfect. Time to get out there and bash this out.

Ahhhh f**k my legs had stopped working.

It's OK, legs are a minor detail. Just walk a bit, visualise that scene from Forrest Gump where he runs off his braces and just get into it.

That wasn't before I had to cower under a bridge to put my rain jacket on. It was raining quite a bit (are we still calling that "biblical", or maybe "Quoranical"?) It was looking like a grim trip to Reading. And then Reading.

It isn't long before you get to a sign that says "Welcome to Reading". This is an in-joke, like London Stanstead airport. It's fucking miles away. The meadows part was quite fun, the paths were a bit slippy, but the sky looked like it was opening up and the rain abating.

After the sign to Reading, I was on the river path which was mostly familiar to me. Reading just goes on and on. This was a test of my mental resolve which has improved considerably since earlier in the year when I tripped over a pinecone and then told it to fuck off. I just wanted the turnaround to come and thinking it must be around the next corner. I got passed by someone who said it's at least 2 miles away. 2 miles! Shit. It's not the distance but more the realisation that your internal GPS has just gone all numberwang.

I didn't wear a GPS for the race, I asked for advice on a facebook group about what watch was best, and people kept saying Casio or tailwind. I had a tracker on me courtesy of racedirector so I could put it on my strava later. I did have my cheap Garmin FR35 (I think) which only lasts about 10 hours when you switch it on, but it does just guess your miles anyway. It told me at 75 miles I had done 95. Totally counts! Then I thought about all those 0.4 mile walks to the chip shop and wondered "is it really only 0.3 miles?" All those trips I've eaten a battered sausage too many because I thought I was walking longer. Perhaps that's why I look like Nicky 1 and not Nicky 2.

Anyway, yes I made it to the CP, which was upstairs and had a balcony. Would have been pretty romantic if it didn't point at Reading. By this point, in all honesty, I just lost arsed. Couldn't be arsed doing it anymore. I couldn't DNF because it was 4 in the morning and I was in Reading. I just lost the heart to try hard anymore.

So I started to walk and thought I should be able to keep a good walking pace going, and if people start streaming past me I'll start running again, unfortunately, no one overtook me for a few miles, and by then my maximal leg spread was on par with an arthritic nun and I just could not get going anymore.

It was a long old plod, and I did not enjoy those meadows again. Meadow after meadow (not like that beautiful one in the field, but muddy ones in the dark. In Reading). I thought I had done them, I thought they were over, but then over a little bridge and this.


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