SDW100 – Definitely a very long way!

Michelle Maxwell Coaching, Marathon, Nutrition, Psychology, Racing, Ultra Marathon

Ok so nearly 48 hours since I finished and finally starting to feel ok-ish. Two days of πŸ›ŒπŸ’€πŸ€’πŸ€• but it was definitely all worth it. This is a big post be warned πŸ€—

The South Downs Way πŸ’―- my first 100 mile ultra. It’s been a long time coming, exactly 5 years since my first ultra the Classic Quarter, and after Saturday I know I waited until the right time to go for it. As many of you know I very badly fractured my wrist into 3 pieces at Christmas, my 2019 journey has been a tough one. I’ve had so many knock on niggles mainly in my shoulders, thoracic spine and lower back, causing knee and calf niggles. Amazing how connected the human body is πŸ€“. The mileage has therefore been lower than I’d like and back to back runs didn’t really happen either.

Still I was on the start line 🀞The wind and rain had been ferocious all night. We camped in the vdub at the start. I didn’t sleep much at all πŸ’€. The rain held off for the actual start but the wind and rain built up gradually through the day and on the ridges it was hard to stay on the tracks at times. I’m so bloody small I just get blown around πŸ™„. For the most part it was kind of behind but of course the trail doesn’t actually run in a straight line does it!! The South Downs Way 100 is a Centurion Running event of, you guessed it, 100 miles along the South Downs Way starting in Winchester and finishing in Eastbourne with 4,000m of lovely hills.

Early miles

I settled into a relaxed pace early on. Stuck to my pre calculated plan but that didn’t take into account mud and wind. I started in my Hoka Torrent for more grip but they started to hurt pretty quickly πŸ€” I stupidly followed a group early on and went the wrong way adding on about 1/2 mile. Always have to go wrong somewhere πŸ™„. I was back on track quickly though and settled running with a lovely chap Jack Galliway. I was in 3rd place around 12 miles which worried me a bit. I knew Ingrid was up front and Sarah just ahead and was convinced that Eddie would come past at any point. Jack and I talked about everything for 30 miles and the miles went by very quickly. The weather was very varied, super windy, big downpours followed by hot sunshine. Jacket on, jacket off weather! So fabulous to see Cat Simpson, David Harvey and Heather Neal in QE2P (22 miles). My amazing crew also on hand at every point they were allowed to crew. I changed my shoes at 49 miles and socks as they were soaked from the puddles. My pack was really starting to hurt my ribs from about 30 miles. I was using the wider lid bottles with straws and the lids have caused proper bruising. Very keen to get advice on this as it has never happened before in ultras. I used the same bottles in the CCC πŸ€”. I lost my running pal Jack just before Washington (54 miles) and he zoomed out of the CP with his pacer just as I arrived. I spent too long here. I was feeling very sick 🀒, tried a few things but decided I just needed to woman up. I’ve had a funny tummy all week pre race so I assume just a side affect of that. I often feel a bit bleurgh in ultras but this was proper 🀒🀒🀒. The CPs had very limited GF options so something for me to think about next time. I’d assumed from facebook posts that there would be more GF options. 

Coming into Washington CP 54 miles

So off up the next hill. My ribs were killing me and when I got to the Botolphs CP I was pretty much in tears from the pain. The amazing Dan Lawson was volunteering here and suggested I ran with a bottle in my hand and one in the back. That helped A LOT. He suggested I get some paracetamol into me at the next CP too. 

Struggling to fuel

I was feeling very low for the next 10 miles. There seemed to be no one around. It was so windy and exposed and I felt suddenly very lonely πŸ˜”. Several times I wondered if I’d gone wrong, but then came across a runner or was overtaken. Then in the distance I spotted my fabulous twin boys and hubbie. They’d been for an adventure around Devils Dyke and this cheered me up no end πŸ€— I was smiling again and only 4 miles until I’d get my pacer, the fabulous James Warren.

Devil’s Dyke

James offered to pace me last year when he found out I’d entered the race. We ran together for much of the North Downs Way 50 in 2017. I love the ultra running community and the friendships it creates. Road running is definitely not the same.

70 miles done and James joins me

I was feeling very rough again by the time James met me at 70 miles. I was running everything flat, downhill and even slight hills. But definitely walking all the big hills now. James, like my crew and all the staff and volunteers were absolutely critical to my race. James fed me 1/8 chunks of ginger biscuits, Tailwind, cola and ginger beer. I was starting to feel a bit better. He encouraged me to run everything, kept me updated on the front runners and kept watch while I had to use the outdoor ladies loo πŸ˜†. Great to get hugs with Michelle Blower too, I think it was Housedean but to be honest I’m not sure! Southease station and those pesky steps. Oh how that Marshall must have chuckled πŸ™„. I put on more clothes at the Southease CP as I was feeling cold and knew we had several more ridges and windy conditions to deal with. Headtorches on too with darkness descending.

Sunset over the South Downs Way

I was thinking about the winners finishing in the light and how nice that must be. I’ve never been a huge fan of running at night. The sunset however was amazing and definitely a highlight in a tricky part of the day. But with James constantly talking to me and feeding me with fluids we were soon at Bo Peep to see Chris and the boys again. A bit of a waste of their time as I was literally surviving on Tailwind and Cola by this point. Such a dark place up there πŸ‘€πŸ‘€πŸ‘€πŸ‘€ Loads of sheep eyes everywhere!

Down the hill from there and some pretty good running from my part we arrived in the pretty village of Alfriston just 9 miles to go 😊. The crew team here were amazing. Clearly I was feeling rough. I must have looked rough. They had GF bread and a few bites of a GF sandwich I think saved my day from here. Literally only two bites but possibly enough to stop the next nausea tide wave. We marched on through some gnarly terrain towards Jevington. Up, up, up, down, down, down. I don’t remember a lot from these sections apart from it looked pretty similar. I’m keen to run the SDW50 so I can see this section in the light. The wind had finally started to drop so we warmed up a bit but not enough to take my jacket off. We didn’t go in the last CP just plodded on past as the finish was in reach. Just the trig point to get too and the gnarly descent from there into Eastbourne. This last climb went on forever. I was desperate for it to end so tried to run a few steps and walk a few steps to keep my pecker up. James was amazing at keeping me going, but he really does need to learn exactly how far β€œa couple of 100 metres” actually is πŸ˜†. I might have sworn a few times at this point!!

Finally the Trig point and fabulous Marshall came into view. The section down from here was another low point. I literally lost my eyesight and couldn’t see for a stretch of it. The undergrowth was so wet and the ground very rocky and rooty. My eyes hurt so much, but suddenly we popped out at the bottom, only to turn off the lovely bright tarmac onto more overgrown behind gardens trail πŸ˜” My heart sank a tiny bit. I’d forgotten about this bit. It was over soon enough though and then the last section went pretty quickly. We were definitely running now and I was feeling excited to see the boys and Chris and that glorious finish line. Finally it came into view after another of James’ 200m stints on the cycle track πŸ˜† We were there. Just 400m of the track to go. Probably my slowest ever lap of a track!!

100 miles – 2nd lady – 19 hours and 31 minutes