After a great Thames Path 100 race there was only 5 weeks until the second of my 4 Centurion Running grand slam races, the South Downs Way 100. I decided to take a full week off before running again. Hoping to just ‘tick over’ for a bit and fit in 2 or 3 long runs. There would be no real training benefit in such a short time, so the focus was to stay injury free.
Unfortunately things didn’t quite pan out as I hoped. One or two short runs a week was all I managed to fit in until 2 week before. That is when things got a bit manic at work.
I flew to Ann Arbor, Michigan a couple of weeks before. Then spent 4 working days and half the weekend trying to adjust to the timezone (-5 hrs). At the weekend I flew further West to Seattle, Washington (a full 8 hours behind UK time). I had a few days there working and then flew home on the Wednesday evening red-eye.
Thursday was a day of sleeping and panic packing. Then Friday I dragged myself out of bed and headed to Winchester where I had a hotel for the night before the race.
I had a lift arrange with John Melbourne at 5:05am, but after getting off to sleep I got a message from John saying he had been evicted from his hotel. He was now staying in the same one as me, and he’d see me at 5:00am. He was over the moon with the prep he’d had. Desperately trying to find a new hotel at 11pm the night before a 6am start race – ask him about it sometime…
John managed not to get evicted from this hotel. We met in the morning at 5:00, jumped in the taxi and headed to the start.
It was a bit drizzly, and everyone was hanging around inside the marquee so it was a bit cramped. The registration, kit check and drop bag process was the usual Centurion slick.
Race briefing, countdown, starting horn and the South Downs Way 100 2019 edition was off.
There was a loop of Matterley Bowl to start this year, before getting onto the trail proper. It’s a lovely place and nice views around the rim. The drizzle soon disappeared and it turn into a lovely day.
The South Downs Way is a lovely route. A bit of a roller-coaster but there are some magnificent views from the tops. Everything felt okay for the first half-ish. The running was good and the weather was fine.
The terrain is a bit stony underfoot and that was taking a bit of a toll on my feet. By Washington, the ‘halfway’ point (54 miles), they were in a fair bit of pain. No blisters, just aching with every step.
I’d been washing my face at every chance again. At halfway I put on clean socks and switched to a fresh pair of shoes. This helped a little with the foot pain.
After Washington I was onto territory that I’d run before at last years South Downs Way 50. I always find it better if I know the route, so this perked me up a bit. At this stage I was still moving at a reasonable pace on the downhills and flat section and had a decent marching speed on the uphills.
I remember coming down the hill to Housedean Farm and drop bag 2. I met my friend Giacomo Squintani at the aid station, which I was surprised at again. It turns out he was having a bit of a headtorch nightmare.
By this stage I was death marching it in. The soles of my feet were just too painful to run. I was seeking out the grassy side, or least ‘rocky’ side of the trail where I could.
To be honest I was not really enjoying it, but I had a solid determination to get it finished as it was part of my Grand Slam attempt. I didn’t want to fail at this stage.
Coming off the final hill, down the ‘gulley’ towards the road I came across an older runner (MV60) who was being paced by his daughter. He had fallen over on a very narrow section and couldn’t get up. His daughter had to push from the front while I pulled from the back to get him on his feet. They both thanked me and then sped off, leaving me for dust 🙂
When you get to the road there’s still a couple of miles to go. I recall for the SDW50 last year I put in a decent couple of 8:30 miles here for a strong finish. Not the case this year… More like 18 minute miles. The finish is at the sports centre and requires a lap of the athletics track (well, 300m of it). I don’t remember exactly but I think I picked up the pace and shuffle around to the finish.
South Downs Way 100, race 2 of the Grand Slam complete in 26:28:25. I was disappointed with this time as I think I have a sub 24 hour in me. I’ll maybe have to have another bash at this one sometime.
Next up is the North Downs Way 100 in 8 weeks.