Sunday, November 14, 2010

100K World & European Championships. The Race.

The Team
(John Byrne, Michael Collins, Aisling Coppinger & John O'Regan)

I wasn’t expecting to be running this race but found it hard to refuse when given the opportunity.  Being so soon after the Spartathlon I knew it was going to be tough both mentally and physically but having done the Anglo Celtic Plate shortly after the 24-hr World Championship earlier this year I knew it was in me and I just needed to approach with caution.  I looked back over my training diary for the weeks leading up to the ACP and followed the same plan but corrected the mistakes.  This meant forgetting about speed work and instead focus on maintaining my endurance with long slow runs and include 1-2 Tempo runs to keep the legs loose.
Yet again Tony was traveling with the Team but this time his role was as Team Manager but luckily enough he would also be able to crew for me during the race.  We met with Aisling Coppinger & Rob Cummins at Dublin Airport both of whom I know quite well and for the first time I met John Byrne & Sarah Syron from Mayo A.C and a new addition to the Team.  John Byrne was the first Irish person home in the recent World 50K held in Galway during the Galway City Marathon and this was his first time running 100K.
We flew to Malaga and Tony drove us by mini bus to Gibraltar via the Costa Del Sol and it seemed wrong to be traveling through the seaside resorts without stopping but then again we weren’t here for a sun tan.  Less than 2 hours later we arrive into Gibraltar and after passing through customs we head for the docks and the cruise liner that’s serving as the Athletes Village for the weekend.  Driving through Gibraltar we see the obvious signs that there’s a race in town as we pass small groups out running in their national colours and on the approach to the ship we meet Michael Collins for the first time.  Michael has represented Ireland on a few occasions at 100K and this time he’s our Team Captain and he’s running with a new Team.  Almost straight away it was down to business with race registration and we were given a schedule for the weekend which included details of the opening and closing ceremony which meant we weren’t going to have much free time.  The food was fantastic but that’s not a good thing in advance of a race and it was hard work staying disciplined at meal times...In between meals and meetings on Saturday I went for an easy run with John Byrne and that was the extent of my sight seeing.

I didn’t sleep too well on the night before the race even though I’d ran this distance so many times before. Strangely enough I don’t think I was worrying about the race and woke up ahead of my alarm at 4:30 am feeling well rested and looking forward to breakfast, I had packed my own but this time it wasn't needed.

My race kit was prepared the night before and all my food and other items were packed in advance to ensure a hassle free start to the day.  Shortly after 6 am we leave the ship in darkness and make our way towards the start line and it’s pleasantly warm outside.  Although it’s nice waiting around without freezing I know it will only get warmer and this gives me an indication of how warm it’s going to get.  I was expecting to wear a hat and gloves for the first part of the race but they weren’t necessary.
Almost time.
Usually I try visualise the race before I arrive so I know what kind of terrain and gradient to expect. I also like to break the race into manageable segments and plan what I am going to achieve in each segment of the race and I don't think of the finish line until its well within reach. Based on the detailed course description I came up with the following:
My plan was simple, run the first 10K on what I had for breakfast and then start to refuel as I passed the support crew at the start of the 5k loop and continue in that fashion for the next 18 laps.  Passing the support crew for the first time I picked up a Powerbar fuel belt with 2 small bottles of a carb drink which I drank while completing the 5k loop.  Next time round I dropped the bottles and collected 2 more and for the third lap I took 2 small bottles of Nuun with a gel and this was repeated for the duration of the race.  To pace myself I ran according to my heart rate and pre planned to keep my heart rate between 135-145 bpm.  
This gave a lap split of 24 minutes plus a few seconds which remained fairly consistent for the first half of the race.  I went through the Marathon distance quite comfortably in 3hrs16 and covered 50K in around 3hrs55 but shortly after halfway my heart rate began to climb and I cautiously started to ease back as there was still a long way to go.  It then dawned on me that I'd hardly stopped for a toilet break and decided to take a chance and stop for a moment and it was then I realised that I was becoming dehydrated.  With over 4-hrs of running still ahead I knew I'd need to start increasing my fluid intake so I began to drink water and powerade whenever I passed an aid station supplementing my own supplies.  My heart rate soon returned to normal but my lap times slowed by 3 minutes which meant I was still mildly dehydrated.  I ran a few more laps and the times were again fairly consistent even though they were slower but I knew from experience that I was still running comfortably enough to finish.  In my mind I always break the race into manageable chunks and for this 18 lap 100K I worked towards the Marathon distance then halfway in total distance at 50K and halfway in effort at 12 laps.  Having completed the 12 laps I try relax for the next 2-3 laps and do my best to ignore and not think about them.  I ask Tony for a lap count and he tells me I've 4 left including the one I'm running.  It doesn't sound right so I get him to double check and next time we meet he confirms what he had said said but now I've only 3 laps to go.  With just over 15K to go I try to increase the pace but soon develop a severe pain in my stomach which I'm guessing was caused by an anti-inflammatory I had taken earlier.  I was forced to slow down and tried leaning my upper body into all different positions to ease the pain and prevent me from stopping.  It eventually passed and I crossed the line in 8hrs28.10.  The support crew did an excellent job and I seldom had to stop and if I did it was for less than 10 seconds.

My finish time is less than world class but having come to this race so soon after the Spartathlon I’m delighted with the result and for me it’s a great end to the year.  I knocked almost 10 minutes off my previous best for this distance and finished with a hunger to go back and do it again.  I learnt a lot during this race and look forward to improving on it next year.

During the race I wore Saucony Fastwitch running shoes and Teko socks.  Thanks to Neil in Great Outdoors for the Saucony recommendation.


  1. Another great report John. Big fan of the fastwitch myself. Haven't braved them in distances over 13 miles yet though...

  2. Hi Medbh, wasn't too sure about them myself over that distance especially since I've put on 4Kg since the Spartathlon. Carried a pair of Saucony Pro Grid Guide just in case I had any problems but they worked out fine.


  3. Great job on the race, especially with such a busy season. Very inspiring. Cheers!

  4. Great report and brave running John so soon after your previous exertions, well done.

  5. John

    Well done again and thanks for another great report. You've done alot this year so enjoy the christmas and take a well deserved rest. Looking forward to your further adventures in 2011!!!