South Downs Way 100: The Aftermath

I wanted to blog a bit about what went well and badly along the South Downs Way and thought a separate blog would be better as the other one already felt quite long. I’m not sure how I feel about running another 100 mile race at the moment, but if I choose to this might be handy to refer back to.

Overall my race went pretty smoothly, sure I struggled in the heat, but I didn’t have any other major dramas and managed to shuffle on and on. It’s easy to gloss over that, but it must mean I got something right in my training. I didn’t hit massive weekly mileage (probably averaged 80-100km a week) but I was consistent and doing a 100mile four day weekend and a 50mile training run definitely helped my confidence. I was surprised not to struggle more mentally, especially in the heat of the day, but I seemed to adapt quite readily. I think it would have been a different story if I was looking down the barrel of another morning in the heat, but who knows. At no point did I feel like I was picking up an injury, I was just tired. Another surprise was not getting any blisters, my shoes had been tight when I bought them and the left was still very snug. I taped over the main rubbing point and that seemed to do the job.

Probably the lack of blisters was down to how dry it was, but that heat obviously brought its own problems. In hindsight I should have been topping up the aid station tailwind to make it more concentrated. I didn’t plan to as I thought it would lead to taste fatigue with it and leave me without liquid calories; I always struggle getting solid food onboard even when it’s not hot so knew I would need tailwind throughout. The weaker tailwind left me lacking in electrolytes though, or at least that’s my assumption given the cramping issues I had from midday onwards. I was aiming for 200+ calories per hour and hit it over the first few hours but as soon as the midday heat kicked in I couldn’t stomach more than a few pieces of fruit now and became almost entirely reliant on tailwind. Need to carry more fruit next time (if there is a next time).

My other problems weren’t really problems, more just training gaps for the future: hills and stamina. I walked hills in training but I’ve always approached them like I’m going for a walk, need to practice hiking with a bit more purpose. Stamina will just come with time. I was assessing my body and my form through the night and nothing hurt, my legs just didn’t have the energy and range of motion to give me any bounce. Something to work on for the shorter ultras I have planned for the next few months.

Kit wise again everything went well. I wore a pair of Inov8 Terra Ultra G270s and loved them. For background I’m a barefoot convert under COVID; I stopped wearing work shoes and then found after a few months they didn’t fit anymore. I have super wide feet and wear barefoot style shoes, if any. I even run in barefoot style shoes sometimes, but usually stick to zero drop with minimal cushioning. The Inov8s are a bit narrow for me but perfect as far as cushioning goes and my feet didn’t hurt at all after plodding on hard chalk for the whole day. I’ll take the feel of the ground over excessive cushioning any day. I had the LEDlenser MH10 headtorch and it didn’t miss a beat. Kalenji pack, soft bottles and visor from Decathlon all did their job perfectly as well as being cost effective. I saved a new pair of Injinji toe socks for race day as I love the feel of them new and I’ve find them essential for stopping toe blisters with the tightness of the Inov8s. I don’t think you can beat Goodr sunglasses for running and general life, they aren’t super expensive and they are good quality, and now they do a slightly bigger range for those of us with massive noggins (my wide feet are probably needed to support my big ole head on my otherwise skinny frame!). On my wrist I had a Garmin Forerunner 945; I chose this because it has all the features of the Fenix 6 without the price tag. All the features that is except the battery life of the 6X Pro. I turned off Bluetooth, left the chest strap at home, turned off heart rate tracking after half an hour because it’s not reliable enough to be useful and didn’t use maps (although it was there ready to load if needed). I finished with 13% battery after 23 hours so seems unlikely it would have lasted the 30 hours advertised. Still I love my watch and the stats it gives me, but to be honest I barely looked at it for this run. Just to tick off the kilometres to the next aid station or crew stop.

One of the things that I noticed was virtually no one I spoke to on the way round was enjoying themselves, not that they were all miserable, quite the opposite, we were just all questioning the sense of running so far. One of my reasons for doing an ultra was to see how I coped when things got really hard and I can’t decide if that happened or not. In the heat of the day I was broken, a lot of the time I just pushed forward in a daze, should I be proud that despite all that I managed my problems and kept going or slightly disappointed that it wasn’t quite as hard as I’d expected? I did learn that I don’t really enjoy being broken, funny that eh? I think that’s one of the main reasons I’m not rushing out to book another 100 miler.

Another consideration for doing another race this long is the cost and the logistics. I think it was in the region of £500 to do this race, with entry fees, travel costs and accommodation. My 3 kids all got up at 4am two days running and my wife barely got any sleep over night. I also dragged my in-laws over to help out with childcare and supporting my wife. That’s a big impact on a lot of people just so that I could go on a bimble. And yet one of the nicest things about it was that they all seemed quite keen to help out and that the family almost seemed proud of me. On Monday the 6yo took in photos from the weekend for show and tell at school, probably just because it was a fun weekend but I like to think part of it was that she was proud of what I’d done.

It’s Wednesday morning now, over 72 hours since I finished. I did some yoga a minute ago and that’s the first exercise I’ve done so far other than walking. I’ve had no major post race issues, although I’m not ruling anything out until I’ve been for a couple of runs. My left big toe has that tingling, numb sensation and my shoulders hurt, plus my right achilles aches but that’s a recurrent on and off issue. Foot oedema is slowly resolving and the general post run aches have eased significantly. My appetite didn’t come back straight away, although I’m very glad I finished early enough to catch a couple of hours sleep in our AirBnB on Sunday morning as that helped settle my stomach a lot. I was completely plant based in the few days before and after the race, which I think helps, I’m normally mostly plant based just having dairy once a day so not a big shift. I’ve avoided alcohol for the week before and after as well, I don’t always avoid it after a race but with hydration like it was I didn’t want to push my luck. All in all fingers crossed to be recovered and fighting for again for my 100km race in four weeks!

As always Strava link is here for anyone interested.

One thought on “South Downs Way 100: The Aftermath

  1. Great description, thanks for that. I crewed for another runner, so was interested in your account of it. Oh, and great work to do the 100 miles in that heat!


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