After completing just four relatively short fell races, I found myself with a strange desire to do a hundred miler. Although I’ve completed the Death March 100km in Belgium, a hundred miles is another distance in itself, and not to be tackled lightly. The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) organizes a hundred mile every year, and the route always moves to a different part of the country. This year it was in Scotland, and although the race was full and I wasn’t in shape, that weekend in May passed with my distinct longing to be there in some capacity. Which led me to the realization that one must qualify to earn the right to enter the LDWA hundred by doing a 50 miler the year before. So if I wanted to aim to do the Housman 100 in 2011, this year I would need to find a 50 mile and get ready for it quickly.Which is why I found myself on the 33 mile course of the Phoenix, on a clear blue day in warm temps running in just shorts and a t-shirt. The course, which followed the Cleveland Way for almost half the total distance, made for easy navigation and beautiful views of the North Yorkshire Moors. I had adjusted the new pack and liked the results, packed plenty of food for the long course, and come well hydrated with a mission of staying loose and relaxed this time. I resolved to take my time, rest and eat more than normal, and had no times goals for a distance I hadn’t covered for a full two years. I met Nick Ham by chance in the parking lot, and together we did the long walk (almost a mile?) up to the start hall.
Before the start of the course, I had volunteers to be a test subject for a student research project on the effects of hydration. They were thorough, and I provide all sorts of details, a urine sample, did some simple cognition tests, and wrote down everything I had eaten the day before and the day of the race. The race was full, and almost 500 people toed the line for the 33, 26, and 17 mile distances. I lost sight of Nick within minutes of the start, but figured that trying to go his pace was insanity at the moment. Once on the route, I followed a whole line of people until the 17 mile course branched off and bodies became scarcer. The route only had one tricky section through fields and some woods, and as I drew near it I didn’t have anyone around me but had route description in hand. At the checkpoint just before, I passed the secret kit check, then was told by a volunteer that a group of women had gone through just minutes before me. I managed to catch up with them quickly on tired legs, and told myself that if I could stay with them for the next five miles or so, then the rest of the way would be simple to do on my own. The women welcomed a new face and their pace was manageable, so we all double checked the route through many, many stone walls and pastures, in a narrow valley lined with trees. We even stopped for a short break while one of them tended a tender foot, a welcome break for all of us in the heat.
Once at the final checkpoint, I filled up my water bottles again, waved the women off down the trail, and guzzled liquid with my feet propped up for a few minutes. It was quite hot where the wind was blocked, and on open moorland the wind dehydrated us all much quicker than we realized. Knowing I would have another urine test for the researchers after the run, I wasn’t worried what color it would be, but if I would have any at all to donate! I topped up again and set off on the last 9 miles alone with a straightforward path to follow over the moors. It was now difficult to run at all, but walking wasn’t too bad even if it was slower than running. I finished knowing that I didn’t want to go any farther (oh, that mile back to the car, ouch!), but that if I needed to, I probably could. Which is what I’ll be asking my legs to do in a few months on a 50…?
Time: 8 hours 41 minutes.