Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Cotswold Century - part 1

On the weekend of the 26th September I completed the Cotswold Century, my first 100 mile event. This, even for me, has turned into a bit of a massive post so I've split it into 2. First my preparations for the event and then the race itself, so if you just want to skip to the good bit its here. Otherwise read on:

After running Lakeland 50 and with planning permission granted for our house (re)build next year effectively cutting out any chance of long distance racing in 2016 I was keen for a last big race. Looking through the list of events that took my fancy in Autumn I came up with a list , containing several more Lake district races, the VOTWO Atlantic Coastal Challenge and the Cotswold Century. Hannah wasn't keen on my travelling to the Lakes again and the associated costs so we narrowed it down quickly to the ACC or the Cotswold century. The former is a 3 day 3 marathon affair on the North Cornwall coast path. I've never run a multi stage event so that would be a challenge in its own right; the latter a 100 mile race along the Cotswold Way. The Cotswold Way had piqued my interest when I was lucky to run a section of it a few years back and has been on my wish list ever since.

Hannah asked which I'd prefer to do and, without hesitation I said the Cotswold Century. Not wanting a change of heart from either of us to scupper my plans I signed up for the race, boooked the youth hostel and the train tickets all before bed that night. Now I was committed.

I had 9 weeks from completing Lakeland 50 to race day at the Cotswold Century. Here's how that broke down in training:

Week 1 : no running
Week 2 : 21 miles - no running for the first 4 days then 3 runs over the weekend
Week 3 : 32 miles - build up week, no hard workouts and a long run of 16 miles
week 4 : 50 miles including 20 mile long run
Week 5 : 54 miles with a (not quite) 20 mile long run
Week 6 : 56 miles and a 29 mile long run
Week 7 : 35 miles - starting to taper - 16 mile long run
Week 8 : 20 miles - tapering right off; no long run
Week 9 : Race week, no running in the 5 days prior to the race

This was as good a lead up as could be expected for me. I needed a goood rest after Lakeland and reverse tapered back up to peak mileage. In the three peak weeks I ran a hard workout each Tuesday - hill sprints or speed work. On the Thursdays I ran to and from work as well as my normal lunchtime run - this would make a 20+ mile day and, combined with running home with my laptop in my rucksack, gave me some good mental preparation for running on tired legs. My weekend long runs as usual were done at a very slow pace carrying all manadatory kit and fuelling as per race day.

The Coswold Century is a self navigation event following the Cotswold Way National Trail. Previous competitors have reported that route finding can be difficult in places; there are no additional course markings bar the existing National trail signs and with 12 hours of darkness to contend with this was a real concern. I'd got myself a copy of the Harvey map that accompanies the trail. With it being such a long course I'd have needed numerous OS maps whereas the Harvey map covers the entire trail all condensed onto one double sided map. Of course the downside to this is that the map, at 1:40,000 would not offer too much detail such as field boundaries, etc. So at the last minute I downloaded an app for my phone called back country pro (Android, £8.99). This allowed me to download all the relevant OS maps I needed and I was also able to overlay the route gpx. Although it wouldn't allow me to folllow a track with appropriate warnings it would at least serve as a backup to verify my location on the map if needed.

The usual tapering unpleasantness of achy legs and lethargy accompanied the build up to race day, plus I was panicking about travelling to and from the event since I would be alone and at the mercy of public transport. While travelling by train isn't my normal form of transport I arrived at Bath YHA  in good time and well rested.

Bedding down in the YHA I noticed another bloke in my dorm was sporting a Plague t shirt and introduced myself. It was Paul Reeve, from Portreath, just up the road from home! Turned out he and Sharon Sullivan were up from Cornwall and staying there. We've never really met before but all recognised each other from around about the various events we've been at. We met at breakfast and they kindly gave me a lift up to the park and ride where we would catch the bus to the start line at Chipping Campden. There's nothing like an hour in a bus to press home exactly how long you will be running! Chatting on the bus to those around me took my mind off the impending race but soon we were there and piling through regsitration at the school.

Kurt's briefing left is in illusions about the challenge that lay ahead. There was nothing left now but to run the race; 102 miles or there abouts of rolling British countryside awaited us. We were escorted into the center of the village and hung around nervously in the market place waiting for the off.

In part 2 I'll describe the race itself.....

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