Following on from the Q&A with our mens TP100 winner Craig Holgate below are answers to the very same questions from our ladies champion Mimi Anderson. Mimi's experience in ultras is vast and if you have the chance to take a look at her blog you can read about some of the other epic adventures she has undertaken in the name of endurance running.
Can you give us a brief summary of your running background and previous ultra experience?
I started running at 36 because I wanted thinner legs and as I had never run before I taught myself to run on a treadmill.
Over the last 12 years I have been extremely privileged and have raced in some stunning locations around the world. My main achievements to date are:
Female World Record Holder John O'Groats to Lands End - 840 miles
Course record holder for 6633 Extreme Ultra Marathon - 352 miles non-stop in the Arctic
1st and only woman to have done Back to Back Comrades in South Africa.
Fastest Female to run Double Badwater - 292 miles
3rd Female in Spartathlon - 153 miles non-stop
Female Course Record Holder for the Grand Union Canal Race - 145 miles
What was your average training mpw coming in to the TP100?
My average training week is less than 100 miles per week. I find this distance works well for me and helps prevent injuries.
What do you think is the most important element of running to include in training towards a 100 mile race?
The most important element for my weekly training is the long run, its time on your feet and gets you used to running for hours on end. However, unless I'm racing my longest weekly run is no more than 30 miles. I also do double sessions which are tough. An example of this might be that I run 30k in the morning and then 20k in the afternoon.
What was your pre-race plan and did you manage to execute on race day?
I always have a time that I work towards and will work out my pace between checkpoints, but I never tell anyone what my goal time is as it puts me under too much pressure and I do enough of that by myself!! Did I execute my plan on race day - no! I was pleased with my time, although I had aimed for 18 1/2 hrs. I went off too fast at the start which wasn't the plan, but as I felt good I just kept going. Perhaps if I had gone out slightly slower I might have managed a better pace at the end, but who knows!
During the race did you have any particular low points and if so when/ where?
My first low point was at about 30 miles when I was feeling dehydrated as I hadn't been drinking enough, but after popping a Nuun into my water I recovered quite quickly.
The second low point was coming into Streatley. During races I really struggle to eat as everything tastes so revolting, so basically I was running out of steam, forced some food down me, some more at the next CP and a gel and was fine again.
What was your nutrition/ hydration plan for the TP100 and did you stick to it?
I never have a nutrition plan as I find eating difficult. I had taken some food with me which I ate and nibbled at a few things at the Check Points, mainly bananas as I can eat these without being sick. My hydration plan was to put a Nuun tablet into my bottle every other Check Point, this I did, but didn't drink enough going through the first few checkpoints.
What has been your proudest running achievement to date?
This is such a difficult question to answer, I am extremely proud of all my achievements for lots of different reasons and still can't believe what I have done.
My World Record has to be one of my proudest moments and even now when I talk about it I can still feel the emotions I felt finishing my 840 mile journey and it still brings tears to my eye. Double Badwater and Spartathlon also rank pretty highly!
Where will you be racing next and which key races do you have planned for the remainder of 2012?
On the Easter weekend I will be taking part in the Viking Way Ultra, 147.9 miles non-stop along the Viking Way which I'm looking forward to, then the Highland Fling; in May I go to the Jungles of Peru for a 7 day staged race which will be just amazing and on my return hopefully run the West Highland Way Race.
I have a big event planned towards the end of the year but I am still finalising the plans so this will be announced later in the year! Watch this space!!
I asked Craig Holgate if he'd be kind enough to answer a few questions for us following his 15:11 winning time at the inaugural 2012 Thames Path 100. His responses are listed, un-edited below. Hopefully a great insight into running at the pointy end of a 100 mile race and proof that hard work leads to success.
I hope we'll see Craig back in 2013 to defend his crown and significantly better his own time, there is no doubt that that is possible reading through some of his answers.
Can you give us a brief summary of your running background and previous ultra experience?
As I sit here just finishing manually editing 1400 split times the fog is lifting a little and the real highs and lows of the race are a bit more clear. So much happens behind the scenes by the volunteers and race construction crew that I thought it would be good to share a few of those things and highlight some of the stuff that happened in my weekend.
I've said it before but directing a 100 is as hard as running it, I feel just as tired this week as I did post Rocky Raccoon 100 in February, just minus the leg pain which is nice.
So here some highs and lows from behind the scenes:
1. Reversing the truck containing all of the aid station construction equipment, hard into a wall down a very long private drive as we took a wrong turn on route to Little Wittenham. The runners might be aware that the Little Wit aid station was extremely remote and everything had to be carried in about 500 yards over two bridges at the end of a very narrow lane. Time was catching up at that point and putting the truck into a wall was quite bad.
2. Awaiting Craig for the win, three of us went out and heavily glowsticked/ taped/ marked the final miles of the course. When we got back to the finish line and received Craig and Robbie, our first two runners, it became apparent that somebody had decided to chuck all of our markings into the Thames. Undeterred, I ran back down the course with bundles of stuff and repeated the process. On my way back to the finish a second time, I saw some lights coming down the river towards me and stood in the centre of the path as 20 glowticks drifted silently by. My thoughts at that time are unrepeatable. I also saw another bunch of glowsticks over the other side of the river in bushes. Alas I couldn't see the culprit, but grabbed the downed sticks and re-hung them. Thankfully they seemed to stay there the third time.
3. Having to cancel the race has to be the lowest moment of any race director weekend. I have spoken to quite a few people about other races forced into doing the same, Badwater in 2009 with the fires stopped at 122 instead of 135. West Highland Way stopped a few years ago at mile 90 just before the final 5 miles. Six Foot Track in Australia abandoned this weekend also. It isn't something I hope I ever have to decide to do again. I am confident as I was at the time that we made the right call however and the response subsequent to the race has been overwhelming in supporting that decision. Still seeing the look of disappointment on the face of a few runners including good friends at mile 95 when they learned of the decision was not a highlight.
4. Once we had packed all the aid station kit into the two large vans, we head down the motorway late on Friday for our final stop at Costco, to buy the remaining 500 bananas and 250 bottles of coke. When we lifted up the back shutter to the truck, we discovered that everything had fallen in on the narrow corridor we had left to get access to stuff and completely destroyed quite a number of items. Re-arranging it took us hours in Costco car park - luckily it all stayed put after that.
5. We narrowly avoided a crisis before we'd even begun when we parked one of the trucks on the hotel forecourt in richmond - and watched it rolling slowly towards the front of the building as the handbrake buckled under the strain of the load and hill. I jumped in the truck and managed to engage reverse just before it cruised through the front window. Hobart Hall would not have been the same place if it had continued on its journey.
1. Seeing runners make that finish line. Good friends, first time 100 milers, emotional finishes, happy finishers it's what we do it for. You can't put on these races unless you love running, it's just too time consuming, stressful and downright hard to continue if you don't really want to. I know lots of race directors in ultra land who are thinking 'should I just bin the race I can't carry on like this'. They make up their minds to do it and have one last go round, then they see the finishers faces and say.... 'Oh well just one more year then'. One old friend Paul Brackett cross the line in just under 24 hours. Years and years ago Paul and I were strolling around an LDWA event called Valleys and Views and he mentioned that one day he might try a 100. We spoke about a few different ones but at that time Centurion wasn't even a twinkle in my eye. Paul didn't get around to it and I was shocked to see him at the start line in Richmond as I had totally overlooked his name on the entrant list. Being able to hand him a 100 Miles - One Day buckle was a great feeling.
2. Seeing all the friends and family ammassed on the banks of the Thames for the start. It was great to finally get the race underway and obviously it was a moment we had been envisioning for over a year. It turned out to be a great starting point and one we will definitely use again.
3. People who I had never met before and who had volunteered only last minute going totally above and beyond the call of duty, running around in the freezing cold and driving rain to do things like pick litter up, build the finish line marquee, move drop bags around to ensure they were kept dry, wander out on the course to help runners in to safety, the list goes on and on. It's totally heartwarming to see someone show up out of their own good will and just say 'what can i do to help'. Imagine the world was full of people from the ultrarunning community - the stuff that'd get done!!!!!
4. Seeing Batman and Robin emerge out onto the final field. It was so good to see all the runners make the turn and climpse the finish line for the first time, but watching the caped pair appear one after the other, a few minutes between them, out of the worsening conditions was awesome.
5. Finally parking the vans back in the timber yard where I do my day job and getting the stuff unloaded. Sitting down with a drink and finally being able to relax after 40 hours of going pedal to the metal with no sleep. However great a race is it is nice when it is in the can!
Before a full post race report is written I wanted to make sure we got a message out about the late abandonment of the race, why we made the impossible decision to pull runners out so late in the day and the events that led to that decision. There are no doubt a lot of questions as to why a race going perfectly smoothly up until that point was pulled during what were harsh but not abnormal conditions for a March day in Southern England.
Each of the runners who were stopped at the final 2 checkpoints have been contacted. I want to thank each and every one of the people that were stopped, for the unbelievable level of understanding and co-operation they displayed on Sunday once they learned of our decision to pull the race. I have personal experience of being pulled from a 100 mile race against my own wishes and whilst my experience did not come as late as 91 or 95 miles (just 57) it is an extremely bitter pill to swallow. All of those runners who were pulled will have a chance to race again next year and finish but they will each be listed as official finishers of this race.
A brief timeline of events:
The rain began at the finish line at 6am or just before first light on Sunday but the wind (10mph) and temperature (8 Degrees) were not significant factors at that time. During the morning, the temperature dropped to 1 degree celcius, it began to sleet and then snow and the wind speed raised significantly which gave a wind chill temperature of -4 degrees. That change occurred dramatically quickly - in a period of just 2 hours. We began to receive calls reporting very cold/ shivering runners from some of the aid stations, it was to my bitter disappointment that Little Wittenham and Lower Radley had both gotten through all of their butane canisters by that stage. Neither were slated for hot food or drink prior to the race, but we endeavored to make sure that every aid station from Cookham (mile 38) onwards had access to hot water or facilities for making it for both safety and runner comfort reasons and this was mentioned to runners at the briefing. Between 10am and 12 noon on Sunday we started receiving runners that were suffering from cold related illnesses in at the finish, and reports from both Abingdon, Lower Radley and the course sweepers that runners were in great difficulty. Clearly the issue was that the ground was being soaked through and going was extremely slow in thick mud and water making un-runnable for anyone left on the course. The slower going reduced runners' ability to retain core temperature and that led to a very dangerous situation. We included survival blankets in the mandatory equipment for this very reason, but the conditions deteriorated so much that this measure was clearly insignificant. Many did not have wet weather gear because the conditions to that point had been relatively moderate.
Between 11am and noon we had two runners collapse with severe hypothermia, requiring immediate assistance from two of our three ambulance crews and both were taken to hospital due to the severity of their condition. Both runners are now ok and recovering at home. One in particular was extremely disappointed having had to seek medical help just 2 miles from the finish. The finish line medical team treated or helped over a dozen runners suffering cold related injuries.
I would personally like to thank any runners that remained with those suffering from the cold and staying with them in very very tough conditions, sacrificing their own finish time and energy in the process. Stuart Shipley is the only name I have of somebody who did this, but I know that there are more out there and I would love to hear from you if you were one of those people.
By 12 noon we had received another dozen runners who had been moving through the very worst of the conditions we saw and each one finished wrapped in as much clothing as they had access to/ bin bags and or survival blankets. Some runners were quite incoherent on finishing and had to be immediately escorted inside Oxford Ice Rink whom had opened a warm bar for us, given access through the emergency doors and made provision for us in the way of hot drinks and survival blankets beyond those that we had at the finish line tents.
At 12:05pm we made the decision that any runners still on course were in critical danger of suffering from hypothermia/ cold related illness. At that point 48 runners were still out on course. Our decision was to stop all remaining runners at the next aid station and to get any others that could get off of the course more quickly elsewhere, to do so. Of those 48 runners, everyone was brought in to safety by 2:26pm when the race was closed.
The key factor in the reason for the abandonment, was the speed in the change in conditions. Because runners had been treated to warmer temperatures and dry conditions throughout the day and night on Saturday 3rd March, the huge drop in temperature, increase in wind speed and heavy rain/ sleet caused many to be caught off guard, short of necessary waterproof gear. Drop bags were available at Abingdon (mile 91) but things changed so fast that many simply couldn't get access quickly enough to sufficient extra clothing, or had passed the point where they could have picked up extra clothing to stay warm enough. We felt that the risk of somebody becoming dangerously ill on an inaccesible part of the course, leading to collapse and potentially a fatal situation had reached critical. At that point we had to make the extremely difficult decision to abandon the race with our sole remaining aim, to bring all runners in to warmth and safety as soon as possible.
Of the 48 runners on course when the race was abandoned, 32 were between Lower Radley (95) and the finish (100), 8 between Abingdon (91) and Lower Radley (95) and 6 between Little Wittenham (82.5) and Abingdon (91). In total 114 runners finished the full course including those between Lower Radley and the finish and 14 runners were stopped by race officials - 8 at Lower Radley and 6 at Abingdon. Each of those runners would have gone on to finish the race under their own steam and will therefore be listed as official finishers of the race and be given awards as such. The inaugural Thames Path 100 therefore had 128 finishers.
I would like to thank the Aid Station Teams at Abgindon and Lower Radley for dealing so efficiently with the situation and for heading out on to the course in atrocious conditions to help runners to safety. To GB Emergency Medical Services and Dave Weeks our medical director for managing runners requiring medical support so well. To Sarah Thorne our course sweeper from Streatley to Abingdon who assisted the final runners to safety. To Lower Radley College for opening the boathouse up to us and to Oxford Ice Rink and the management there who acted so quickly to allow us into their bar area open up their doors to runners at the finish. Our number one priority will always be runner safety. Given the situation in the future, we will make the same call once again. The two big changes we will likely make for 2013 are that we will insist on wet weather gear as mandatory equipment, and that any outdoor aid stations in the final quarter of the race (Little Wit and Lower Radley) have a more extensive supply of butane for hot drinks.
My biggest thanks of all go to the 14 pulled runners for their understanding and support of the decision we made.
A full race report will be posted shortly.
Any issues or questions regarding the abandonment decision can be sent directly to me at email@example.com