2015 Round Rotherham 50

Time: 7 hours 23 mins

Position: 5th

Pre-Race

This was my second Round Rotherham 50, having done the race in 2012.  I finished 5th that year in 7 hours 19 minutes, despite being slowed by a gashed hand after 13 miles, which required 10 stitches after the race.  My training had gone really well, and I had built strongly from my Lakeland 50 training.  I was confident and believed I had a realistic chance of a top 3 place and completing in under 7 hours.  However I knew the competition would be tough – I didn’t know all the top runners but I did know that Kev Hoult and Kev Doyle, the winners in the last 2 years (both years in 6 hours 52 mins) were both running.

In the build up to the race my tapering seem to have gone well – always the hardest part of training.  But other aspects of my preparation in the week of the race hadn’t been great.  I slept really badly all week, and had a really busy week at work and at home.

Race morning began with a 4am alarm call.  After some porridge I set off and arrived at Dearne Valley College just before 6am.  That left plenty of time to register and sort myself out ahead of the 7am race start.

My race plan was to run the first half (which is faster and more runnable) in just under 3 hours 20 mins, allowing for an expected slow down in the second half.  That meant running the first half at around 8 mins per mile pace, although I would allow myself 7.30-7.45 min/miles for the first 5 miles which are flat and fast.

Leg 1: Start to Grange Park

10.9 miles

Time: 1 hour 27 mins

Mile splits:

1          7.00 mins

2          7.05 mins

3          7.04 mins

4          7.20 mins

5          7.37 mins

6          7.40 mins

7          8.29 mins

8          7.36 mins

9          8.10 mins

10       8.05 mins

11       8.22 mins

 

We gathered at the start and the organiser gave some final instructions.  For some reason I didn’t feel settled – my head was spinning a bit.  I don’t know why, but my head just wasn’t in the right place.  It was probably nerves but I hadn’t felt like this at the start of a race before.  I just needed to get going.

Soon we were off.  We ran along the road for the first mile.  I was in 3rd place, with the first 2 runners going off at a crazy speed and already out of sight.  At the start you go past 4 roundabouts and then go off left to cross a bridge and head on to the track to Elsecar.  I just needed to count the roundabouts, but I wasn’t concentrating properly and I didn’t count them.  Having crossed another roundabout I turned and, to my horror, realised that no one was behind me.  I’d run straight past the bridge and carried on for over 500m.  I ran back quickly.  I got back to the bridge having run over 1km extra.  For the next couple of miles I worked my way back up through the field.  I tried to keep calm and not to push too hard.  But I knew my heart rate was too high and I was working too hard.   I ran the first 3 miles at around 7 mins/mile – way too fast.  I then started to slow myself a bit more, but I feared the damage was done – not really by the extra 1km, but more by the effort put in to catch up.  Of course that was stupid – I had 50 miles to work my way through the field, but I’d got myself back into the top 8 after 3 miles….

Before Elsecar I caught up with Kev Hoult, the 2013 winner.  Kev was running at a nice steady pace and we started running together.  This got me back on track.  We ran and chatted, settling into a nice pace around 8 minutes per mile.

We arrived at the first checkpoint, almost 11 miles in, in 7th and 8th place.  I felt OK, my pace was now fine – but would my fraught start  come back to haunt me??

Leg 2: Grange to Treeton

6.3 miles

Time 50 mins

Cumulative: 2 hours 18 mins

Mile splits:

12       8.08 mile

13       8.02 mile

14       8.01 mile

15       7.50 mile

16       7.41 mile

17       7.47 mile

 

I continued to run with Kev throughout this section.  We maintained a nice steady pace, picking it up a little as the section went on.  There were no navigational issues – my reccies had paid off(after mile 1 at least!).  We came into the next CP with an average pace of 8 mins/mile, now in 6th and 7th place.  I felt OK, but my legs were aching a bit – not badly but more than I would want with 33 miles to go.  I sensed that I would have to dig deep later on.

Leg 3: Treeton to Harthill

7.5 miles

Time: 57 mins

Cumulative: 3 hours 16 mins

Mile splits:

18       7.56 mile

19       7.42 mile

20       7.18 mile

21       7.22 mile

22       7.11 mile

23       7.38 mile

24       8.00 mile

25       7.46 mile

After the Treeton CP, Kev and I caught up with Adam Worrallo from Bingley.  We ran and chatted with him for a few miles before pressing ahead in Rother Valley Park – now in 5th and 6th place.  It wasn’t a conscious move but I picked up the pace quite a bit in this section, running a few sub 7.30 miles.  The pace felt OK, but I was aware that my legs were a little tired.  I probably should have eased off, with hindsight, but I had good momentum and was enjoying running with Kev.

Soon after RotherValley we passed another 2 runners taking us into 3rd and 4th place.  Then having gone under the M1 and heading up through the fields we saw a yellow Kimberworth vest – it was Kev Doyle.  He had gone off like a train at the start, along with another guy, and we thought he was way ahead. – but he looked to be struggling.  We made good ground on him as we got closer to the checkpoint and I thought we would pass him.  However he must have been digging deep and managed to keep just ahead of us.  We did catch him just as we reached Harthill and the 25 mile checkpoint, the 3 of us running in together in joint 2nd place.

I got to the halfway mark in 3 hours 16 mins.  My target had been just under 3.20, and I had run an additional 1km due to me missing that early turning.  Had I gone too fast?  I was a bit concerned.  However I was in racing mode.  I was with the 2 previous winners, and with Kev Doyle seemingly struggling, I sensed a great opportunity to achieve my top 3 goal.

Leg 4: Treeton to Woodsetts

5.8 miles

Time: 49 mins

Cumulative: 4 hours 5 mins

Mile  splits

26       8.59 mile

27       7.52 mile

28       7.48 mile

29       7.55 mile

30       8.18 mile

I made 2 big tactical errors in the section between miles 20-30.

My eating had been good in the first 20 miles, having 4 pieces of home made energy flapjack.  After mile 20 with my legs a little tired I decided that instead of more flapjack, I would have an energy drink which I would fill up at the 25 mile checkpoint.  With hindsight this was a mistake.  The drink did little to boost me, and at that stage in the race I still needed  proper food – which had been successfully fuelling me till then.  I started to flag in the next few miles due to lack of food.

The other big mistake was that I needed to fill up my energy drink in the checkpoint.  This took a couple of minutes.  By the time I got going again the 2 Kevs were about ¼ mile ahead.  I continued on, keeping them in sight.  But I’d missed my opportunity.  Having come into the checkpoint with them, I should have pressed on.  Running with them would have helped me, energy wise…..and it would have given me racing momentum and the chance to push on and try and secure a top 3 place.  Instead I was running alone, feeling tired, and I ran alone for the next 25 miles.  I’m so annoyed at myself about this from both the fuelling and racing perspective.

I continued at a decent sub 8 minute pace, but feeling progressively more tired.  Despite that, as I headed up the road to the Woodsetts checkpoint I gained on Kev Doyle (with Kev Hoult presumably running ahead on his own in 2nd place).  I was less than 50m behind him as I reached the checkpoint.

Leg 5: Woodsetts to Firbeck

5.6 miles

Time:  54 mins

Cumulative: 4 hours 59 mins

Mile splits

31       8.27 mile

32       7.54 mile

33       8.11 mile

34       8.29 mile

35       8.34 mile

36       9.53 mile

37       9.09 mile

I picked up my drop bag at this Woodsetts CP, and packed some more food into my flipbelt.  I then headed off alone.  Kev Doyle was in and out of the CP quickly and so established a bigger lead on me again.  But having gained on him on the last leg, I hoped to catch him if I could continue at a reasonable pace.

I ran OK for the next couple of miles.  I was feeling increasingly tired, but the miles were gradually being ticked off.  Then at around 32 miles I took another wrong turn.  It was such a stupid mistake but I ended up running a couple of hundred yards down a private road.  I was gutted as I turned round.  More time lost, more extra distance, but most importantly I lost all momentum.  Despite my tiredness I had been trying to push on and keep racing – but as I retraced my steps I felt all remaining energy leaving my body.  I knew now that Kev would be very hard to catch, and I had to just try and grind out the miles and protect 4th place.

I somehow managed to push out a reasonable paced next mile (8.11 mins) but it was a real effort.  After that my speed deteriorated and by the time I dragged myself into Firbeck after 37 miles I was really struggling.  On the way through the woods before Firbeck, a relay runner passed me and told me that the 5th placed runner was a long way back.  That gave me something to cling on to – could I manage to move forward for another 13-14 miles and hang on to 4th place?  It felt unlikely.

Leg 6: Firbeck to Maltby

4 miles

Time:  41 mins

Cumulative: 5 hours 40 mins

Mile Splits

38       9.58 mile

39       9.34 mile

40       11.06 mile

41       11.30 mile

I like this section of the route, but this time it was incredibly hard.  I just about managed to stay under 10 min/mile speed as I worked my way through the zig zag section of fields after Firbeck, and down the hill towards Roach Abbey.  But the section past the Abbey and into Maltby was a real struggle and felt never ending.  Soon after Roach Abbey I heard another runner approaching – the 5th place guy was overtaking me.  He was a nice guy and tried to get me to run with him for a bit, to keep me going.  But I couldn’t pick up my pace at all.  Being passed further knocked the stuffing out of me.  As the mile splits show, I was getting slower and slower as I dragged myself towards Maltby.

At this stage I was giving serious thought to dropping out.  The thought of another 10 miles feeling like this, and getting slower and slower, was not at all appealing.  I had finished 5th back in 2012, finishing strongly.  Maybe I was better just retaining that memory and drawing a line under today….

Leg 7: Maltby to Old Denaby

7 miles

Time: 1 hour 14 mins

Cumulative: 6 hours 55 mins

Mile Splits

42       10.44 mile

43       10.11 mile

44       9.30 mile

45       10.02 mile

46       10.49 mile

47       9.59 mile

48       10.49 mile

By the time I reached the checkpoint my mood had lifted just a little.  I talked to the checkpoint staff about dropping out, but in the end I decided to press on and try and grind it out.

I walked up the hill through Maltby, sorted out my ipod and put on some music to try and lift me.  It worked to some extent.  I generally managed to keep running at around 10 min/mile pace.  It was hard but it wasn’t getting any worse.  I allowed myself to walk the occasional inclines but otherwise kept running.  This is quite a long leg, but after a seemingly long slog uphill over a ploughed farm field before Hooton Roberts, I started to smell the finish!  No one else had passed me so far, and I was only a mile or so from the next CP at Old Denaby.  That last mile to the CP was hard, with some more uphills that I hadn’t even noticed in the reccy – but eventually I was running down the hill and passing through the final Checkpoint.

Leg 8: Old Denaby to Finish

3.2 miles

Time: 28 mins

Finish time: 7 hours 23 mins

Mile splits

49       8.49 mile

50       8.39 mile

51       8.29 mile

In those couple of miles before the last checkpoint I had been unaware that the 6th place runner was only a few hundred yards (less than 1 minute) behind me, and 7th place wasn’t much further behind.  If I’d carried on at the same speed then I would have lost a further 2 places.  However I found some new reserves from somewhere and I managed to pick up the pace for the final 3 miles.  It almost felt that I was running normally again.  It still hurt a lot, but I was under 9 mins/mile and getting a bit faster mile by mile.  Only the race winner ran a faster final leg than me, and I put about 5 minutes gap on the 2 runners behind me, to finish a “comfortable” 5th.

The final mile felt like it went on forever.  I was on my last legs and didn’t think I could keep going much further.  Eventually the college sports centre came into sight.  I turned into the sportshall and checked in my dibber for a final time.  Upon stopping I almost collapsed to the floor and the other finishers came and dragged me to a seat!

Reflections

I’ve got mixed emotions about this race.

I am really pleased that I stuck at it, came through those really hard miles and finished quite strongly, and that I held on to 5th place despite feeling so weak.  I will be stronger for that going forward.

I’m also pleased I finished because I love this race.  I will be back for more.

I gave it a real go, raced it and was up there with the leaders at half way.  It didn’t quite work out, but I’m glad I went for it.  Sometimes that’s the way it goes when you go for the win, and so much can go wrong over this type of distance.

That said, I am incredibly frustrated about a missed opportunity.  I was in great shape for this race and really believe I could have run well under 7 hours.  The race was there for the taking – at half way I was joint second and with one of the other guys struggling.  I don’t think I would have won, but I reckon I could have got second place.  But I paid for 2 big mistakes:

i) Missing the first turning on the course was stupid.  But the real mistake was pushing too hard to get back up through the field.  I had 49 miles to recover but I tried to regain my position over about 2 miles.  My stress levels and heart rate were way too high.  I knew what was happening and tried to slow myself, but I think I did a lot of damage in that first 5 miles.

The first half overall was too fast in 3 hours 16 mins.  I would have liked to have run 3.19, and without the extra 1km from my wrong turning.  From mile 5 to mile 25 I was very happy with my pace, and really benefited from running with Kev for 20 miles.  But I ran that first 5 miles about 3 minutes too fast.  I definitely paid for that.

ii) My decision not to eat real food between miles 20-30 was also disastrous.  But probably even worse was the loss of momentum and falling behind the 2 Kevs, when I stopped to prepare my energy drink.  I feel as though that was the biggest mistake of the lot.  I was in a great race position and needed to exploit that, and benefit from running with Kev Hoult for  bit longer.

So, a lot of lessons learnt.  A lot of disappointment.  But some pride in getting through a really tough few hours to still finish.  I hope I’ll be back next year!

 

 

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