I wasn’t really looking forward to this race. I felt under-prepared (because I was) and had a minor niggle in the form of a tight left outer calf on the last two runs. And my last bike ride was three weeks ago.
However, I had an early night Saturday (I’d had an early night most of the week as jetlag following my return from Australia to be fair) and was up at 6am. Had breakfast and coffee, finished off the last remaining tasks and cycled off to the event. A remarkably quiet ride later, with none of the usual waits at level crossings, and I was in the park, ready to register. I realised after registering that it wasn’t even 7.15am, the official opening time.
It was very pretty though
After registering, I racked my bike, and then had around 90 minutes to relax. So I took some more photos, and just sat and chilled out. With thirty minutes to go, I returned to transition, put on the timing chip, and suncream, put on sunglasses and headed to race start. Watched the elite men start, had a quick warm up jog, and then returned to find my fellow racers being herded into the start pens, so joined them. At 9am prompt, Zac Goldsmith started the race and we were underway.
Given my recent form, my race strategy was to take it easy and hang in there until the end. So I aimed for a Rate of Perceived Exertion of 10 out of 20, and to maintain good form, and that was pretty successful - I slowed down going uphill, sped up slightly going downhill, and ran gently on the flat. Plenty of people overtook me, but that was ok, I was just racing myself. As I got past the 5km, my left calf was feeling slightly tight, but as I got past 6km, and the second water stop, disaster struck - I took the water, and realised that as I slowed to drink it, I was blocking people behind me, so moved to the left slightly, and then turned to throw the empty cup in the bin, and then completely missed a tiny little lip between car park and path and tripped over it, sprawling onto my hands and then rolling onto my hip and left calf. For all the pain of completely stacking it, and the accompanying embarrassment, I got up, dusted myself off, and kept running. I quickly realised that although my hands and legs were sore from cuts and grazes, the calf tightness had disappeared completely. The next kilometre downhill was free and easy and I suffered no running problems from my fall, thankfully.
The second lap was much less eventful, same strategy of RPE 10, and that all went fine - I overtook one bloke who had overtaken me on lap one while sounding knackered already but the rest of it is pretty unmemorable. The stats show I went marginally faster, and wasn’t the 4th slowest on that particular lap.
Onto the bike, and here the pain in my hands didn’t really help matters, but neither did it hinder my performance particularly. Again, my strategy was to maintain a low RPE, and thus hopefully a consistent pace. Also I tried to eat gels regularly, and drink sufficient energy drink and water. Looking at my times, I pretty much succeeded at consistency, but it did get harder. Part of the problem is psychological, I’ve done plenty of laps around Richmond Park but never more than four in one go before getting bored! Seven was a real stretch!
I found myself treating the laps like a giant interval session, with two intervals (the main Broomfield Hill and then the hill up to Pembroke Lodge) and the rest of the lap the recovery between them to get up them the next time around.
Peta had come to watch me from the start of the bike - I just saw her enter the park at the end of my first lap, and it was good to see her at different points on the course in the following six bike laps. Apparently I spoiled the photos by telling her how many laps I had left too many times. It was good to have that little extra support though.
As I got back to transition, I had a really slow transition, as the walk from bike dismount to my rack was so far and I didn’t feel like running in my bike shoes by this point. After a slow change of clothes, it was back onto the run.
Again, I tried to maintain a consistent RPE, still 10, but that translated to a bit slower - the run lap was only five minutes slower in total though. My watch died after just 7 minutes on this lap, so I really was going on feel! At the halfway point, it was great to see Peta again, and had a quick kiss before heading on my way to the finish. I was only overtaken by one other ultra distance competitor, and I overtook a few myself. On this lap I was 103rd on the run, compared to 157th on the first run lap, so I was obviously doing better consistency-wise than others.
It was great to finish and to collect my medal - I was happy with 5:55 overall, especially my poor preparation. I then collected my bike and headed to Pembroke Lodge to meet up with Peta for coffee and ice cream. The ride from the finish to Pembroke Lodge is only 4km, although I had to do it along the footpath as the road was still closed, but it was utterly exhausted, so rather than cycle home, I walked to the train station with Peta.
From my times, my goals of consistency and injury-free running were well met (although I’m in more pain today) - there is about a minute difference between lap 1 and lap 7 on the bike, and five minutes between lap 1 and lap 3 on the run.
We took some photos of my scars