Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Event Review : Endure 12/50

After Equinox24 last year, my team mates and I discussed taking part in the Ultra12 event. With options to tackle 50 miles, 50k or as far as you could go in 12 hours either solo or in a team, there was something that appealed to all of us. When it came to it, only myself and one other former team mate signed up, both opting for the 12 hour solo event.
The name of the event got changed to Endure 12/50 and it occupied very few of my thoughts until about a month ago at which point I started to fret. You see I didn't really have a plan. The event was held at Beale Park in Pangbourne which is quite local and a place I'm familiar with, having run several 10ks there. The start time was a very respectable 7pm on Saturday, giving us 6 hours of daylight and 6 hours of darkness on the 5 mile course. So as I didn't have to travel far or get there early and was familiar with the terrain there was a certain sense of security about it all.

But of course this was completely new territory for me. I've taken part in 24 hours events as a team but that's very different to doing 12 hours on your own. Was I going to camp or sleep? What food and drink was going to work for me? What was my goal going to be? In a bit of a flap I voiced my concern on the Team Bear Facebook page and the lovely Rach unknowingly helped me to form my plan by asking my lots of questions. So my strategy was: aim for 40 miles (longest distance I'd ever have covered), pausing after each lap to re-fuel but essentially keep going without sleep. I would live out of my car rather than camp. I planned to get to site around 5pm, giving me enough to register but not too long to hang around on my own and my friend Debbie arranged to stop by to wish me luck and loan me her Dryrobe for keeping warm between laps.

On Friday night a cool bag was packed with sandwiches, pasties, fruit, protein shakes and an assortment of bars and gels. A kit bag was packed with iPod, a mini wash kit, head torches, three changes of kit and warm clothes for afterwards. I threw in my ultra vest and a spare pair of trainers for good measure. I planned to sleep, doze or just rest as much as possible on Saturday before heading over... until mid morning when I got a text from Alexa saying that when I got there I should come find her... SURPRISE! She'd gotten an entry to the race and had driven down from Edinburgh almost on a whim. So I found myself lazing in a sunny field in the early afternoon chatting to my friend instead of on my sofa. We'd nabbed a parking spot in the solo camp, next to the route just around the corner from the start/finish line which meant we could to pick up food and drink on the way past rather than carry things with us - a big plus!
The race village was small but contained all the essentials, a bank of loos, a food tent (which ran out of falafel burgers - we'd been planning a 1am burger-fest), massage area, solo runner support tent and retailers ashmei and CEP were in attendance. The CEP guys were loaning out compression sleeves and socks for runners to try for free so disregarding the "nothing new on race day" rule I got measured and was kitted out with a pair of lovely blue calf sleeves. More on that later.
All too soon it was time for the race briefing and we were lining up at the start. There was a moment of hilarity where Alexa and I realised that we had put each other down as emergency contacts on our race numbers but had both left our phones in our respective cars - doh! Luckily there were no incidents for either of us but I was checking my phone each time I passed the car, just in case. A slight delay while marshals were scrambled to their stations and we were off around 7:10pm.

After two laps
I deliberately put myself near the back of the pack and tried to take it easy on the first lap. It was hard to stay really slow and my speed crept up but I was enjoying it and it felt comfortable. The course was off road and flat save for two inclines around the 6k mark. It was also easy to break it into lots of sections. There was the first km around a field, the 2km marker, then the lovely lady marshals at check point 1. Out of the park and around "cow corner" you found "club camper" at the 3km mark - a VW pumping out house music. Then you were running along the river. As I passed the boats moored up I wondered if they knew this was taking place and what they made of it all. After 4km there was a water station, then a bridge followed by CP3 at the entrance back into the park. I loved this part as there's a menagerie of animal statues to look at. After the inclines and the 6km marker it was into the woods. I found this section toughest because there wasn't much to break it up and the ground was most uneven here. But after 7km there were two sections of trees strung with fairy lights before you popped out onto a track and you rounded a corner back up towards the start/finish line.
Supportive messages from mum and dad made regular appearance on my phone.
Thinking about the course this way made it easier for me, mentally. Not only was my goal broken down into laps but each lap had it's own sub-sections to tick off. I ran my first three laps then power walked my fourth. Back to a jog for lap five, power walk in lap six and then hobbled around lap seven.
Celebratory sandwich after 20 miles
I'd stuck with the plan of stopped of 5-10 minutes at the car after each lap but after lap seven I wasn't sure I was going back out. It had been painful, tiring, tedious and seemed to have taken forever. I hadn't eaten enough and was colder than I realised. Alexa, who had been napping, gave me a talking to and some hand warmers, bossed me into the dry robe and gave me a pep talk whilst I forced down pizza. Warmer, fed, revived and psyched up I sucked down a gel set off to hit my 40 mile goal at a pace you could conceivably call jogging. I'd enjoyed the night running but after a tough lap it was a relief for the sky to lighten and for me to be more sure of my footing.
Recovery pizza. Psyching myself up for the final lap
After eight laps and 10 hours and six minutes on the course I crossed the line having reached my target and happy to hand over my timing chip in return for a medal. The rain had started in my last kilometer and although I had time to go out for at least one more lap I didn't feel the need. I was done. I'd run further than I'd ever run before. 40 miles over night on no sleep and I was still coherent. Perfectly respectable.
Still managed a smile
On my way to get warm clothes I booked in for a massage. My legs felt pretty shredded, except for my calves... thanks to the compression sleeves they were the only part of my legs that felt fresh! So, Reader, I bought some. Not the blue ones I'd been running in but a pair of turquoise and green ones... RunFitUK colours!

In all honesty I thoroughly enjoyed the event. Staying awake wasn't an issue, the course was great and the medal suitably hefty. The organisation in general was very good. I'm sure some people may have wished for showers but I can't think of any other major change that could be made to improve it. All the marshals were WONDERFUL, they all seemed to have just the right things to say; encouraging without being patronising. Special mention to the first shift of ladies at CP1 who seemed to think I was "amazing" for some reason. Thank you to the chap I ran lap three with; I'm sorry I didn't ask your name. Thank you to the little boy on the river stretch who gave me high fives. Thank you to the spectator who kept commenting on my posture, which was apparently good, you made me laugh. Thank you to Martin for my massage and for still laughing, joking and having intelligent conversation after no sleep either. Thank you to everyone who sent me a supportive message and especially to Alexa - it would have been very different without you.

Would I do Endure 12/50 again? Maybe. And it's only a maybe because there are so many other events out there to try! After all, now I have a bench mark... And one day I will go back to visit the park at a slower pace.
Some stats and info for those of you who are interested in such things. I finished 12th out of 37 in my category (12 hour solo females) and ran eight laps. the winner of my category ran 14 laps breaking last year's record of 13. I didn't sleep and I didn't change kit, save for adding a base layer for lap 6 onwards.

My lap times (which include rest time taken at the start of each lap) and what I ate after each are as follows:
Pre-race - pasty, tomatoes, half cheese and marmite sandwich, nuun, coffee

1 - 00:52:46 - strawberry protein shake, banana
2 - 00:55:01 - vanilla protein shake, nakd bar
3 - 00:57:49 - chocolate protein shake, Chia charge bar
4 - 01:23:21 - nuun, cheese and marmite sandwich
5 - 01:14:23 - chocolate protein shake, apple alpen bar
6 - 01:20:59 - nuun, three biscuits
7 - 01:28:28 - pizza, strawberry protein shake, nuun, gel
8 - 01:54:09 

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