Strava Update

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rowbothams Round Rotherham 50 Mile Race

Round Rotherham.. Not the most inspiring sounding of races perhaps, and indeed when I first heard about this race a couple of years ago I wasn’t really tempted, but I also had heard that this was a qualifier race for the Western States 100, so a few months ago after a chat with my mate Leanne Rive a plan was put in place: We would do Round Rotherham a month after our first 100 miler to then get into the lottery for the 2014 Western States 100 miler in the US...


After my DNF at the Costwolds a month ago, alot of soul searching took place, mostly mulling over why my stomach issues occurred, why my head wasn’t maybe as in the game as it could have been and how I move forward with the multitude of lessons learnt. After the 61 miles in the Cotswolds one of my key objectives for October was to recover and walk the fine line of staying fit for Round Rotherham. I think over the 3 weeks leading up to the Rotherham race I did about 60 miles, but felt really good for it to be honest; legs felt rested, mind felt up for the challenge and as race day approached I had an “excess” of energy which felt good.

So on the Friday afternoon fellow Ultra Team Jersey members, Leanne Rive, Lee De St Croix and I made our way from sunny Jersey to Liverpool on an Easyjet flight, and picked up our hire car from the airport to make the trip across to Rotherham. We hit the rush hour traffic which meant the trip across to Rotherham felt more traumatic than the race even, but we eventually made it to our destination checked in and tried to locate the obligatory supermarket for the mass panic buying of items for the next day that we would not use in a million years!

 Luckily for us there was an Aldi directly across the road, so we filed across to this grotto of running related delight and proceeded to pick up necessary items for the following day including; fruit scones, baby food (?), baby food rice pudding, Clementines, Grapes and cycling arm warmers. I contemplated buying a car battery charger and a very warm looking onesie (I love a bargain me!!) but due to Easyjet’s generous hand luggage allowance couldn’t fit it in to my hand luggage.. :(
Panic Buying In Aldi...(!)
The next task was to get fuelled up for tomorrows race, luckily there was a pub across from the hotel as well, by this time some friends of mine from the MDS, Gordon and Tom, had joined us so we had a meal and a catch up there before each retiring to our rooms to get our gear ready, say our prayers, or whatever else people get up to the night before a race.

Tom, Me and Gordon
The next morning I woke up at 5:15 am well rested and ready to go. Over the last couple of years I have developed a bomb proof preparation routine for races away from home with checklists coming out of my ears so that i don’t forget anything. So I was feeling pretty smug in the knowledge that I had everything I needed that day to perform to the best of my ability.. “New UTJ Tshirt – check, base layer – check....” until I put on my trail shoes that I was going to wear.. A few weeks ago I had been to see a podiatrist about orthotic insoles and had take the generic insoles out, I hadn’t used the trainers since then and so when I put them on my foot was slopping around in the shoe and it wasn’t the usual snug fit I was used to.. Disaster!!  I hadn’t brought the insoles with me!! Luckily for me my MDS colleague Gordon had brought a spare pair of shoes so I was able to borrow a pair of his size 8 insoles for my size 12 shoes! I could feel the ridge of the end of the insole right underneath my toes, but being the soldier I am I took a deep breath and “On with the show!!”

So to the start of the race.. We arrived at the college on Manvers Way after seeing a few of the 6am starters making their way up the road as we were driving. The atmosphere seemed relaxed and friendly, Leanne had been put in touch with a few runners from Portsmouth, Martin, Mark and Mitch amongst others who we all said hi to and had a quick chat with. I also chatted with Kirsty Harvey wife of another MDS friend Graeme who was tackling her first ultra while Graeme was speaking at the MDS expo shamelessly plugging his new book on the MDS. ;) (Which incidentally is available at all good online book sellers starting with “A” and is entitled “Running The Highway to Hell: The 28th Marathon Des Sables”) We were called outside around 6:50 and we all lined up outside the sports centre, I with a little trepidation because of the insoles situation, the previous stomach issues I have had and general nerves due to the prospect of the unknown.

The Start Line - Just Before the Off!
However we were soon off and running and I had decided that today I would take it relatively easy.. Off I went at 8:15 min mile pace, feeling like I wasn’t particularly pushing hard but I still seemed to be overtaking people. I had really learnt from the lesson of going out quick at Round The Rock but also wanted to go out with intent in this race so went with it. Over the first ten miles we weaved our way through industrial estates, housing estates, via canals and some scenic parts and I settled into my pace. People were quite chatty along the way and I had a few brief conversations with people and settled into the day.
CP1(Grange) was soon upon me and I took this opportunity for a quick comfort break. I now felt ready to take on the world and celebrated by having a lemon curd sandwich at the checkpoint (not had one of these since I was 13!!) I had previously been running with a couple of guys who had gone on whilst I was in the loo, so it was just me against the world, I fired up my Ipod, got my Garmin GPSmap 78 out of my rucksack and got going again. As a quick aside this was the first time I had used the handheld GPS and I wasn’t completely sure how to use it but it was a lifesaver in this race, potentially there were many places where I could have gone wrong but the piece of mind this gave me to be able to check I was on the right track was amazing, a definite mandatory item for future races where getting lost is a possibility.

Onward to CP2 (Treeton) and I recall spending quite a bit of this with my ipod in and getting the miles done. The thing with this course and it was something I anticipated before the start is that the course is relatively flat so therefore even alot of the hills are runnable, which means a distinct lack of walk breaks which I am used to during ultras and allow the body a chance to do something different for a little while. I found during this leg and then from CP2 to CP3 (Harthill) that I maintained a decent pace and at the 26 mile stage I had been running for around 4 hours. 


This was when the game began to change.. I was feeling really good up until the 26 mile mark and even text my girlfriend Patrycja to tell her how good I was feeling at this point! I think at around 28 miles I started to have a bit of a low patch, my hip flexors were starting to feel it a little (a point for development I think!) and I was starting to run out of energy. Luckily enough I arrived at the 30 mile checkpoint and was greeted with warm soup, a cup of tea and paste sandwiches! (not had these since I was a kid either!) I got a bit of food into me, had a good ole stretch and was on my way again. I shuffled off down the road and within 20 mins or so the food kicked in and I was back on easy street for a while. I had a really good patch around this time and recall overtaking a few people who appeared to be suffering, I bumped in one of the Portsmouth runners Martin Bacon for a bit and we ran together for a while, passing the time chatting about this and that. Martin had taken part in the Spartathlon a few weeks ago but had to pull out due to Achilles problems and still wasn’t right so was doing the best he could. I remember being at about 43 miles and I just had to walk again so on went Martin and I plodded on for a little, experiencing another loss of energy and finding another runner to chat to for a bit who was having a bit of a tough day. I remembered I had  a pack of Skittles in my rucksack which I devoured and gave me enough energy to get me to the final checkpoint. Just 3 miles to go now and I knew I could just shuffle through this, dodgy feet, insoles, hip flexors and all, so i got my head down and got the job done.

The sun decided to show its face at this point, and actually the whole day was pretty good weather wise. We had been promised torrential rain and mud, and in fact it could be described as humid at some points and the mud was not as bad as I had anticipated.
I turned the corner into the sports centre where we had started and I saw the flags indicating the finish. My main goal was now to finish under 9 hours. I crossed the line in 8 hours 55 and in what I was told at the time was 31st place. I found out later that I was in fact 29th overall so I was pleased with a top 30 place. Not sure how many started but there were 236 finishers and I think alot of the people who finished above me were local runners who were familiar with the course. Leanne was next to cross the line in 9 hours 16 mins and Lee crossed the line in 9 hours 21, so a good day all in all for Ultra Team Jersey.
So in summary I really enjoyed the Round Rotherham 50, it was my 10th Ultra so far and my 6th Ultra this year. The entry fee was £15 and for that we got a commemorative T Shirt, a sew on patch, a certificate of completion, a meal at the end of shepherds pie and rice pudding as well as the food along the way at the checkpoints, where else do you get value like that nowadays? I found the race to be really well organised and the people running each checkpoint were helpful and encouraging. One of the things that struck me was the friendliness of the local runners taking part; they were really helpful in pointing you in the right direction along the course as well as the odd words of encouragement along the way which really helped when the going got tough!

Lee, Leanne and Myself at the finish line after a tough but satisfying day..
That day also happened to be my birthday so we made full use of the pub across the road that evening to have a few drinks and a hearty meal. We met up with the Portsmouth guys as well and had a nice fun evening :-)

Overall I was pleased with my performance in the race, I feel I gave my best in most of the
race, and I managed to avoid any stomach problems which were beginning to become a theme in my previous races. My body took a bit of a battering in this race, mainly due to dodgy insoles and the sheer amount of running, so I feel some hip flexor strengthening is in order for the winter months! I never did use any of the items bought in Aldi so if anyone needs any baby food please drop me an email :-)
I would recommend the race to anyone and I would be happy to go back and do it again. I remember reading a few blogs about the race before I took part and all who talked about the race did so in an affectionate manner, I can see why and am now one of the converted.
So I have a couple more races this year, in 4 weeks the Jersey half marathon, and then to finish off the year the Endurancelife CTS Dorset Ultra.