Race report – 100km track championships

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250 times around a 400m track. Brutal.

When I first heard about this event I was keen to enter. I’m not sure why, but it just appealed to me. 100km on a track, with a 12 hour cut off. I had only run 100km once before, in a trail ultra, in just over 14 hours. But on a dead flat track it should theoretically be easier. Faster, certainly.

There are so many pros to running an ultra, on a track, at night.

No possibility of getting lost.
No snakes.
No need to carry any food, drinks, mandatory gear.
No sunscreen, sunnies or hat required.
Never more than 400m from food, drinks and toilet.

My race week was quiet. I had two fairly challenging trail runs on Sunday and Tuesday. After Tuesday’s run, which involved a stupid amount of stairs, I decided I wasn’t going to run again until the big day. I did one easy walk on Thursday and that was it.

Food-wise I took 3 sandwiches (a combination of peanut butter and chocolate nut spread), a couple of nut bars, some almonds and some mashed sweet potato in a tube. And a big container of sports drink.

On the day I thought I’d better switch my meals around. As the race started at 8pm, and I was used to eating cereal (or a cereal-based smoothie) for breakfast before a run, I thought it would make sense to have breakfast for dinner! So I had smashed avo and chickpeas on toast for brekky, sweet potato vegan mac and cheese for lunch, and cereal for dinner. In between lunch and dinner I managed to sneak in a few hours sleep.

I went with my favourite long distance running skirt over Skins shorts, and on the top a singlet I’d worn for my first two marathons and my rainbow striped arm socks. I also threw into my bag some clean singlets, long sleeved tops, buff, fleece headband, rain jacket (just in case), extra shoes and socks. As it turned out, the top was not the best choice as it started to chafe after about 50k, and consequently I finished the race in a different top.

I arrived at the track about an hour before the start. There were 27 starters, with 12 in the 100km and the rest in the 50km. All runners started at the same time and had the same 12 hour cutoff. Conditions were perfect, with around 18 degrees at the start, and no wind. The previous night had seen torrential rain so we were incredibly lucky! (The temperature only dropped to 16 in the stadium overnight, making for the best possible running conditions)

We had access to the stadium toilets for the duration. Unfortunately, they were up a flight of stairs!

It was going to be a long night!

Running around in circles can be tedious. I’ve run a timed event on a 2.2km loop, but this was something else entirely. I thought the track would ve easier to run on than the gravel of the Uni Loop. At first it seemed easier but as time went on, I found it really harsh on my feet, especially my toes. I could feel blisters coming on but I didn’t want to take my shoes off – mainly because that would involve sitting down, and I thought getting up and getting going again would be a struggle!

I had expected the 250 lap thing would be the biggest barrier but as it turned out it was the track surface. Paul, the eventual winner of the 100k and with whom I ran a fair bit, changed shoes and socks after 50km and found that this helped a lot.

The progress times were written up on a whiteboard every hour by event organiser Ben. After 1 hour I was in 8th place overall, 2nd female, one lap behind the first girl, Rebecca. (Interestingly eventual winner Paul was one place behind me). Also in the event were Sheena, a last minute entrant, and 2 Karens – Karen C who had come from interstate, and Karen B who will be well known to anyone who is a regular reader of my blog! On the male side, the people I knew were Paul, Barry (who was doing the 100k as a training run for a 48 hour event in March), and David who was going for a very fast time – possibly sub 7:30! David lapped me pretty much every second lap but eventually withdrew – it wasn’t to be his night! Which then made for a very interesting race as he probably would have been a runaway winner.

It was great having the 50km runners out there too. Many of them were going super fast, including Alex (the eventual winner), Simon (who led for much of the race and ended up finishing second, not bad for a last minute entrant!) and on the women’s side Anna and Tina (who took out first and second place respectively) looked strong throughout.

There was also Michelle, who was the 3rd placed female but took first place for most entertaining runner! She was the one who started the singing (she had her iPod in) and not long after that I decided it was time to pull out my iPod too. I don’t normally like to run with music but in an event like this where there are no road crossings, no marshal instructions to follow, not to mention the monotony of running lap after lap, most of the 100k runners and a lot of the 50k runners had iPods.

To distract me from my feet and legs screaming at me, I started singing (pretty loudly, and hopefully in tune), much to the amusement of the spectators. I hope it wasn’t too off-putting for my fellow competitors!

The laps went by quickly at first. I was sitting on sub 10 hour pace until probably 65km (I haven’t uploaded my Garmin data yet due to tech issues) and it would have been amazing to be able to sustain that, but I knew it wasn’t realistic. I hoped/expected to finish between 10 and 11 hours.

The support tent was fantastic. Every time I passed, the volunteers gave great encouragement and were always willing to help me with anything I needed. Ziad, Chris, Katie, Vic and anyone else I may have forgotten, ably manned the support tent/food table and I can’t forget to mention Kieran who I think came to support Michelle but even after she left he stuck around right till the end and was my unexpected but much appreciated support crew – what a champ!

After 2 hours I had moved into 7th place and one lap ahead of Rebecca.

By 5 hours many of the 50k runners had finished including the top 3 men and top 2 women. I had just cracked 50k myself and moved into overall third place, one lap behind Barry and Stuart in equal first place. Somehow I had managed to open up a 13 lap lead over Rebecca, that’s around 5km. This gave me a little breathing space when it came to toilet breaks (I only had two – those stairs were a struggle – and managed to keep them to around 2 minutes which equates to 1 lap or less).

At 6 hours I had moved ahead of Barry into overall second behind Stuart. My lead over Rebecca was now 17 laps. Paul had moved into 4th place, one lap behind Barry and 2 behind me, and looking incredibly strong.

Around this time my left hip started playing up. Michelle, who had not long finished the 50k, offered me some Voltaren which I gratefully accepted and which seemed to help, although I still looked like a 90 year old during my walk breaks (interestingly I was a lot more comfortable while running than while walking – I just had to take more frequent breaks as the race went on!)

By 7 hours Paul had leapfrogged me into first place and that was where he stayed. My lead over Rebecca was now 22 laps, and a further 2 laps to Karen C in third position. I thought, surely neither of them can catch me now? Even if I end up walking most of it? Fortunately it didn’t come to that. I started with a 30min/5min run/walk strategy. After about 5.5 hours I went to 25/5 (it was easier to keep track, plus I was tiring). Later I tried 20/5 but quickly went to 15/5 and then 10/5. By the end I was doing 7/3 but still managing to maintain my position (obviously everyone, with the exception of Paul and possibly Barry, was struggling as much as, if not more than, me!). I was constantly checking my watch and counting down to the next walk break!

At the 8 hour mark Paul had opened up a 5 lap gap between himself and second placed Stuart, who was beginning to struggle and was walking more than he was running. Paul was looking unstoppable and regularly lapping me! I was still 3rd, 3 laps ahead of Barry and 25 ahead of Karen C who had moved ahead of Rebecca into second place.

Getting towards the pointy end, at 9 hours Barry had passed me into a strong second position, and I had passed Stuart so still sat in 3rd overall, with my lead over Karen maintained.

After 10 hours Paul was practically finished and Barry only a few laps behind. Hearing Paul and Barry’s finishes called by Ben over the PA gave me a lift, as I knew I wouldn’t be too far behind them!

My Garmin was well out, so I didn’t really know how long I had to go until Adam, the timing guy, started calling out numbers of laps. Once that number was into single figures I knew I was really nearly done! I was up to the 7/3 run/walk by then but once I got down to the last 3 laps I somehow managed to run the rest of the way. The best feeling was when Ben announced me over the PA as I started my last lap. I can quite safely say that was my fastest lap of the whole 250!

I finished strongly and was glad to see some friends who had come to see the finish, including Neil who made it just in time to see my last lap, and James who had come down for the last hour or so before going rowing. Mum had also come down and had seen my last 3 or 4 laps – I didn’t realise she was there until I’d finished and it was a nice surprise as I hadn’t expected her to come!

I finished in about 10 hours 43, just before 6:45am, in daylight! I then sat down, had some delicious vegan pizza, and Kieran helped me get my shoes off before first aid legend Susan came and taped up my epic blisters.

It was only just over an hour until the 8am cutoff, and I sat back and watched the rest of the runners struggle around the track. Stuart finished 4th overall (3rd male) and another guy John was the last to finish the 100km, with 4 minutes to spare! The only other 2 left by that stage were the two Karens who stuck it out to the end but didn’t quite make the 100km. Still – a fantastic effort to keep going for 12 hours, I’m not sure if I could have done that!

After the presentations Karen treated me to a guest pass at her gym where we had a very luxurious spa interspersed with quick dips in the cold plunge pool – perfect way to finish a very tough but very satisfying event!

Thanks as always to Ben and all the amazing volunteers, all the supporters who came down to watch, and last but not least all the legends who ran in the event!

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2 thoughts on “Race report – 100km track championships

  1. Pingback: Race report – 2017 SA 100km championships – randomthoughts

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