Editor’s intro: because Scott is a freak of nature, working around the clock in the summer isn’t quite enough for him. No, he also needs to run a silly distance in mountains in order to relax. Just as a disclaimer, not all of us at New Ing Lodge are like that. Some of us are quite content with a good book and a glass of wine for a downtime with maybe a nice stroll around the block. But not Scott. He decided to challenge himself in December on a 100 mile run in Wales across the Brecon Beacons. Below are his (heavily edited) thoughts on the race.
I hadn’t run as much as I would have liked to over the summer months. After the Welsh 3000ers in August and the three 50-mile runs within 5 weeks from mid-September, I couldn’t shift the feeling that I had over done it. Finding a balance is something that I struggle with in all aspects of my life, not just my running. I had 8 weeks from 13th October until 7th December to get myself into gear for a run in a part of the country I have never been to. The start of the race was at 7pm on a winter night, which is something I have never done before.
Since Lakes in a Day, I have spent about 5 hours a week taking part in yoga classes that my wife runs. I have been using these for recovery but also as a method to build strength that I would struggle to do whilst running. These classes put my head in the space it needs to be, which for this run I really thought that’s what was needed. Over the last couple of years, since I started taking part in yoga, I have found that my body recovers quicker than ever before and I have not really suffered any major injuries, touch wood. It has also helped massively with hip flexion issues, which I have had for years. I also went for a sports massage, which not only releases any aches and pains but leaves me feeling hugely grateful to have listened to the fell running legend that is Phil Davis.
The first week in December had me panicking a little: 100 miles is about 30 miles further than I have ever run before. Someone suggested poles, why hadn’t I thought of this before… I had used them on Leg 3 of my BG and felt that they had worked wonders. I borrowed a pair from Neild who supported me on the BG and came to my aid once again and lent me his poles!
I had planned on sleeping extra on the build up, but the reality was that I was like a kid on Christmas morning every day over the weeks building up to the start. I definitely missed out on sleep as I was getting more and more excited about the start, not ideal but it was what it was. It is also not advised to have your wife and a couple of close friends’ birthdays, which you celebrate into the early hours of the morning, before such an event.
Leigh-ann and I talked over the details of the race weekend on the drive down to Llangadog on Friday morning. If I stuck to my schedule, I would be out for about 30 hours, 22 of those in darkness. The torches I had borrowed from a friend from Lyon were all charged up and we arrived exactly at 3pm when registration opened and we were the first ones there. This is pretty impressive from a couple who are never anywhere on time. The reality of daylight, or the lack of it, hit me when I went back to the van to try and get a little shut eye at 4pm when it was almost pitch dark. After an hour or so of dosing, we ate falafels and humous and listened to the safety briefing. I steadied my nerves, which I never really get, but reality hit home when we were walking to the start line about a 1km from the village hall. My blood sugars were at 15 and climbing, obviously not ideal. I had put my torch on lock to travel with, which I never do, and was panicking as I could not turn the bloody thing on! Airhorn was sounded and off we went, I got my torch turned on within the first few seconds – what a novice!
Ready to conquer the hills
I had been told by everyone that has run 100 miles, and even by those that haven’t, to go out slow. This was obviously my intention. However, I didn’t. This style of the event felt like it was working for me: loads of tricky navigation, lumpy and shit conditions. There were 3 checkpoints: at 22 miles, 47 miles, 77 miles and then the finish. I felt strong, which lasted the whole of the first leg up until about a mile before reaching the first CP. A group of 5 of us arrived into the first CP at the same time, from 3rd to 7th. I had managed to get my sugars into some sort of order after a couple of hours since starting after being high to start with and low a couple of times during the first 22 miles. I had completely knocked off my basal insulin which is my usual approach for anything fell based for more than an hour. This of course was no obvious race. I felt like I had done a couple of rounds in a boxing ring, I needed a sleep. The highs and lows within the first 6 hours had paid its toll and so had navigating in some difficult conditions.
I had planned on not sleeping at all but I lay my tired head down for 2 hours 30 mins and spent 30 minutes professionally faffing. I set off heading towards CP 2 like I hadn’t covered any miles. My legs felt fresh and so did my head after 3 hours off after only being out for 6 hours. I was flying up until my GPS died for about 30 minutes, so I took a bearing and ran on that. I must have been a degree or two out and ended up where I shouldn’t. I readjusted, got back on track after checking and re-checking that I was where I should have been. I had borrowed a GPS, I am not afraid to say I’m a bit of a technophobe and don’t ever use one when out on my own. I should have taken Andy’s advise and practiced using it before the day. Not recceing this route felt like it added another level of excitement and was part of the challenge for my first 100. I wanted to run this blind and I wanted to find it difficult. The Brecons where proving to be formidable – I definitely wasn’t finding loads of tricky navigation, the lumpiness and shit conditions easy by any stretch.
I was running strong and passing a few runners every couple of hours. The sunrise on Saturday morning was uplifting and for almost an hour it didn’t rain. I had run about 38 miles when I ran into a couple of other runners, Alister and Gethin, who were walking. Alister was having breathing difficulties and between the 3 of us, I was the only one with reception on my phone. I called the ambulance and stayed to wait with Alister and let Gethin get on while it wasn’t raining. Once the paramedics turned up in about an hour, I got on my way, pleased to get Alister to hospital.
My race had started well, a bit too fast though, then I had stopped for 3 hours, then set off fast again, then stopped for an hour while the ambulance came, then set off again trying to make up for some lost time, knowing I was about 4 hours behind where I would like to have been. I had also lost an hour of daylight and did get one of the worst coffees I have ever drunk but Alister had got off safely, so that’s what counts! I set off with 9 miles to make it into CP2. “Wow,” I was thinking that this felt like the longest 25 miles of my life. I had planned on being there between 9-10 am and it was 12, 12.30 by the time I left. My bloods again had been a bit all over the place, because when I had stopped with Alister, I hadn’t turned my basal back up, neither did I alter it at the CP when I stopped for 30 minutes to refuel. I was going to be running into the early morning if I was going to make it to the finish.
I set off fast again and when I say fast, I mean it felt fast and I was looking forward to getting into the mountains. I set off with the borrowed poles and felt like I flew up Corn Du and Pen Y Fan. When running the lower route due to high winds, I looked at my watch, which was still working at that point, and I was running 6 min/km at 55 miles in. I kept this up for about 5 more miles until it started to climb again. The running felt enjoyable, no one said it was supposed to be fun at this distance. The time must have been about 4.30-5pm and I arrived in Llangynidr. I had a few hundred yards of canal towpaths before it climbed up again.
After such fast and easy running over the previous 8 miles or so, I think I had over done it. I was emotionally drained, I hadn’t run with anyone for the best part of 45 miles. Concentrating on navigating, eating and placing one foot in front of the other was starting to pay its toll in my head. It had also turned from heavy to torrential rain again, as I sat on a salt bin feeling sorry for myself and eating a bacon butty Leigh-ann had brought me at CP2. A Welsh fella who looked like of Tongan descent asked if I was alright? I had to try really hard to tell him I was fine and that I was running to Abergavenny and no thank you, I didn’t want a lift. It wasn’t until this point that I thought there was still a long way to go…
My feet were wet, they had been since I started. The novice in me was shining through when I didn’t change my socks at CP2, I was beginning to think on mile 70 or so that this had been a bad idea. My feet where starting to sting. I wondered if I had stepped on something. The whole of the bottom of my left foot was starting to tingle and with that both feet started to become sore to even walk on. This happened super quick, again like at CP1, just a mile or so before CP3 at mile 76. As my GPS died only a couple of hundred yards from the village hall, I spent 10 minutes longer on my feet trying to find the entrance. Leigh-ann again came to my rescue. I got into the hall, feet raised, dried, stuck in front of a heater and assessed the situation myself. I had what looked like inch like deep lacerations over both feet. I was told I had trench foot. And so, 24 hours after I had started, my race was over.
In previous races, I have thought that being a diabetic was beneficial: being able to watch your blood glucose continuously was only a benefit. That Saturday, on the other hand, I had the ringing voice of my mother in the head saying that as a diabetic I need to take care of my feet. I have heard this throughout all of my childhood growing up and now it started to ring true and I took my mother’s advice. I didn’t fancy the idea of having foot problems later in life because I pigheadedly continued to run in a race for fun.
My first ever DNF, it’s was challenging and an experience I will never forget. I felt like I learnt more about myself in 24 hours than during any other run ever. If I can put into practice what I have learnt over the next 7 months until my next 100 miles, I should have a decent chance of finishing the Lakeland 100.
take your time; you don’t need to sleep for almost 3 hours, 30 minutes will do.
keep your feet dry and change your socks;
properly learn how to use a GPS, even if you’re not going to buy one;
your insulin intake for a race that is much further than you have ever run before might actually be higher than if you’re running a 50-miler.