21 Mar 13 by James Elson

2013 TP100 Flood Course Announced

With great sorrow and reluctance we have made the call to drastically alter this years TP100 course. The river is still flooded in places with flood alerts along much of its length. With heavy rain forecast Thursday night and throughout the day and night on Friday, the environment agency are predicting the river will rise again which will lead to the path being engulfed by water and hence impassable and dangerous. 

Further to yesterdays email, we can now confirm that the 2013 TP100 race will be re-routed from its planned course and replaced the flood course. All of the details of this new course including aid station locations and cut offs are listed here at this page (link).

We are in the process of extending hire periods, repacking vans and co-ordinating the relocation of 80 volunteers. As such we ask you please to keep email traffic in to essential items only over the next 48 hours. All of the information you should need is as follows:

- The first 38 miles of the course are unchanged. At Cookham you will turn around and run back to Walton (aid station 1). At Walton you will turn around and head back to Cookham. At Cookham the second time you will turn around and run back only as far as Windsor where you will finish. Examine the aid station link carefully for the precise details.
- The course distance is as close to 100 miles as we can make it, but will run very slightly long, potentially 2 - 3 miles. 
- The ONLY indoor Checkpoint is now at Wraysbury which you will visit at miles: 22, 54 and 76. As such you must be DOUBLY prepared for the cold and wet, the forecast is mostly dry across the weekend at the moment, however the temperatures will drop below freezing during the night. Mandatory gear is a minimum essential list only. 
- If you have a pacer you may have them meet you at Windsor the second time (mile 48) and they may pace you from that point through to the finish. 
- If you have a crew, your crew may ONLY get access to you at Wraysbury the first time, Windsor all times and Cookham all times. DO NOT get your crew to visit Wraysbury after the first time through or Walton at ANY STAGE OF THE RACE. We can't be any clearer on this, we will be in breach of our agreements and assessments with those venues and we will not be allowed back. Remember, your crew can meet you anywhere else you like on the course but please ask them not to do so in residential areas and to keep the noise to a minimum. The future of the race depends on this.
- Your drop bags will be available to you at Windsor only. Miles: 28, 48, 82 and the finish. 
- There is a railway station at Windsor, within walking distance of the finish line, with regular trains back to London.
- THERE ARE NO SLEEPING FACILITIES OR INDOOR SPACE AT THE FINISHING AREA. We will have shuttle buses/ cars running to Oxford for those that have accommodation or transport there that they cannot change. Windsor town centre is a short walk from the finish also, you will run through it three times during the race. 

Finally, it is important that you are aware that should the heavy rain forecast over the course of the next 48 hours, lead to flooding on this new course then it will become necessary for the race to be postponed. We do not mention it lightly and rest assured we will do everything we can to hold a safe and enjoyable event, however if at any time we deem the safety of runners to be at jeopardy, we will be forced to take the necessary action to ensure that situation is avoided. 

Thank you for your understanding and flexibility. We hope that you enjoy the race just as much on the new course. 

Essential questions can be directed to us at info@centurionrunning.com

James

16 Mar 13 by James Elson

2013 TP100 Race Preview

The second Thames Path 100 will take place this coming Saturday 23rd March. Kicking off at 10am from Richmond in London, runners will have 30 hours to reach Queens College Sports Grounds in Oxford in order to finish. 

As with all of our events, I try to post a little bit of background on the front runners of both the men's and women's field and usually get some things right and some things wildly wrong. As always, my apologies for any glaring errors, falsehoods or wildly inaccurate predictions, and all comments are gratefully received, especially those from which we can correct items. 

Overall the course looks to be in similar condition to 2012. There are one or two patches under a few inches of water and certainly some mud around, but with a trail 100 in the UK at this time of year, it's as good as could be expected. The elevation gain is so tiny it's inconsequential to the overall (less than 800 feet in 100 miles) however therein lies a different challenge, where the muscles don't get that break and change from climbing or descending. It's a runners course for sure and the faster marathoners tended to shine. We'll see if that lasts this year....

Mens Field

Well the big hole in the field is caused by the absence of first and second place from 2012. Craig Holgate who won the inaugural race with a storming 15:11 in his first ever 100 miler. As a 2:30 marathon Craig came in with months of back to back 100 mile weeks behind him and showed the field his class and strength. Robbie Britton of our Centurion Ultrarunning Team came home in 2nd in 2012, 16:02 a big PB for him on trails. Both are now focusing their efforts on running for Team GB at 100km and 24hrs respectively. 

Martin Bacon: Martin took 3rd in 2012 with a solid run that saw him come in comfortably under 18 hours (17:41). With a pedigree built on years of marathoning and trail running he's extremely strong over the longer stuff with a good finish at the NDW100, a 30 hour GUCR and a 3rd place at the Winter 100 in November to name but a few. He will be hoping to improve on his time this year. 

Dave Ross: There's only one word to describe Dave Ross: Machine. Dave is the guy you see clocking a 3hr marathon week in week out whilst casually dropping in the odd 100 miler. He is on route to his 300th marathon this summer, a career which has spanned many years and included many victories at a variety of races as well as more recently finishes at the NDW100 2011, TP100 2012 (18:48), Leadville 100 2012 and a win at the Adventure Hub Coastal 100km late last year. With his new nutrition plan and the knowledge that comes from experience Dave is out to significantly better his 2012 time. 

Jutin Montague: A name familiar to anyone running XNRG's multi-day events or indeed running the UK ultrarunning circuit, Justin is as humble as he is talented. In 2012 he won a place at the NDW100 by taking first at the Isle of Wight Race and stormed to 2nd place overall in 18:48. Capable of that time on a much more challenging course if Justin can hold a good day together on the TP he is my pick for the win. 

Richard Ashton: Richard is a wildcard for me, taking wins at a couple of shorter ultras recently, however the 100 mile distance is a huge step up and I believe this will be his first so time will tell as to whether he can hold a good pace over the long stuff. 

Wouter Hamelinck: The man who's done it all. Most will know Wouter as one of two runners to finish the inaugural Piece of String fun run, a race he dominated for all 115 miles, never knowing how far he may end up having to go. His mental strength is on a different level, he's finished everything there is to finish (except Sparta where one day I hope he'll run). If it was a race based on experience he'd win it.

Terrence Zengerink: Steady, solid, unphased, humble, Terrence's 4th place at the Winter 100 in November (19:04), his second sub 20hr 100 of 2012 stands him in stead for a big PB here.

Markus Flick: Markus joined us in 2012 for the TP100 and the W100, coming over from Germany both times. IN 2012 he ran a 20:08 and looked completely untroubled, staying on to volunteer at the finish line until we closed at the end of the race, something I'll never forget. As a multiple finisher of the Spartathlon and many other global races over 100 miles in length he has all the skills to push his 2012 time quite significantly. 

Pete Goldring: The dark horse? Pete started running ultras thanks to yours truly in 2010 and quickly stepped up to the 100 mile distance in 2011. After much advice on pacing and taking it easy your first time, he threw the rule book out of the window and ran an 18:53 at the Umstead 100. He's subsequently recorded solid efforts at Vermont 100 and SDW100 2012, but it'll be about whether he can recapture the speed he found towards the back end of that 100 mile debut out in the US.

Women

All of the above could prove irrelevant in the overall scheme as we turn to the ladies field. We are blessed with some very talented British lady ultrarunners right now and we're delighted to have such a strong ladies field racing this weekend. 

Mimi Anderson: A lady who needs no introduction. Mutliple world record holder she has completed races and self support journeys that make most shudder. She is the reigning 2012 TP100 champ having clocked an 18:50 for 8th overall. 

Debbie Martin-Consani: Debs earned a place in the race, by turning in the performance of the year in 2012, winning the GUCR (145 miles) outright in 28:01. In the process she dipped just under Mimi's previous CR. Debs has represented Team GB on multiple occassions and holds the Scottish 100 mile Record of 15:48. Need I say any more

Wendy Shaw: The top two ladies dipped under 20 hours in 2012. Wendy is capable of going well under that mark, knows the course inside out and has been training like a trooper in preparation for this event. An incredibly solid runner, she will be around to pick up any pieces towards the end. 

Slammers/ Returning Runners

It's wonderful as an organiser to see people returning to a race. This time we have a few people who stand out.

Tremayne Cowdry and the indomitable Ken Fancett, both 2012 Grand Slammers, are running. Ken is the only person to date who has compeleted all 5 Centurion 100 mile events and will be going for his 6th. 

We also have a batch of 19 Grand Slam hopefuls toeing the line, making their first step towards covering 400 miles in just 4 races in 2013. 

 

We also have a group of 10 starters who made it at least as far as abgindon in 2012 before being pulled from the course in blizzard conditions. They will be back to cross the finish line in Oxford and earn their second buckle. 

There are of course many other stories behind many other runners at this race and the list is certainly not exhaustive, simply designed to give a quick insight in to some of those taking part in the race. 

Please feel free to comment below....

James

10 Mar 13 by James Elson

Ironman NZ 2013 Race Report

All Photos courtest of Ironman, all videos courtesy of Olivia Hull. 

Ultrarunning vs ironman. Here's a subject I get asked about a lot as a race director of events for the former. 

We have had a lot of iron/ ultra distance triathlon finishers come and race Centurion 100s over the past couple of years, which is great to see. For those who aren't familiar with the terms, ultrarunning commonly refers to any non-stop running event of over 30 miles in length, or multi-day event taking in various stages of which at least one is 30 miles or more. Iron distance triathlons are always the same length and involve three disciplines, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a marathon length run completed consecutively, under the total cut off of 17 hours. Ironman is effectively a brand name, a company with events spanning every corner of the globe. Iron distance tri's exist on a similar scale but cannot use the branding or term 'Ironman'.

So after many years of Ultrarunning this past weekend I raced ironman New Zealand. The reasons for the selection of that event, about as far from home as I could go, are covered in the preceding blog post, hereI went into the race with my eyes wide open, ready to absorb everything I could without judgement or preconceptions. So here are the top things I found, some of which surprised me:

- I'm always blown away by the range of ages, shapes, sizes, colours and creeds on display at the start or finish line of an ultra. It's one of the most inspiring things about the sport. There is absolutely no standard caste. The ironman field matches the variety pound for pound. Here's some examples. In the tent getting changed in to my wet suit, I glanced over to see half a dozen Maori guys with what I can only describe as massive guts prepping for the race. I'm talking huge. I saw almost all of them on the run leg heading to the finish. There were a lot of people out on the course with things like f70 or m75 stencilled on their calves. Ironman rules dictate that each entrant display their age group on their calf/ race number, so in plain English this means a good sized field of women at least 70 years of age and men of at least 75. 

- Ironman is expensive, no doubt. Roughly 4 times the price of a standard 100 mile entry. However, the level of organisation on display at ironman New Zealdand was astounding. I couldn't possibly fathom how it was going to add up in the end but somehow it more than definitely did. The amount of logistics going in to marshalling a swim of 1400 people, closing roads for a 180km bike ride and having the necessary officials and aid stations on route, repeated again for the run, is mind blowing. I am acutely aware of how much effort is required to make an event happen, and I can't imagine an Ironman would be possible without at least a handful of full time employees working behind each event. Of course it could be cheaper and you are paying to race an Ironman branded event, but you do get a lot back for what you put in. 

- 'Chuck Norris Hasn't Done Ironman' - supporter sign on the run leg. 

As for the race....

Preparation is the key to success in endurance events, certainly to reducing the inevitable pain to a manageable level. I trained hard for Rocky Raccoon 100, which fell just 4 weeks before this event. That training had left me in a good place running wise, probably at my second fittest ever. My aim was then to recover from the 100 by cross training on the bike and in the pool, thereby getting some Ironman relevant training in too, killing two birds with one stone. Unfortunately as was predictably the case, I didn't manage to fit in what I'd hoped for, not helped by the fact that I don't actually enjoy road cycling during British winter time, or indeed swimming, period. In the end I managed two swims, one lasting 800 metres and the other 1600 metres. The Ironman swim leg was 3800 metres or 2.4 miles. Bike-wise I pulled the old turbo trainer out of the cellar, stuck the bike on it and jumped on it 6 times, once for 2 hours otherwise an hour or less. This isn't generally considered enough training, in fact my Ironman training book GOING LONG from back in the day, suggests a minimum 18 hours per week. My two racing partners Mickey Campbell and Michael Hull asked for my pre-race predictions. I gave as follows:

2.4 mile Swim: 1:55 (Cut off 2:20)
112 mile Bike: 7:30 (Cut off 8:30)
Marathon: 3:40 (Cut off 6:30)
Total Including transitions: 13 hours 30 (Cut off 17 hours)

Of course I had no idea if a. I could actually swim that far without drowning or being allowed to 'touch the side', whether I could cycle that far without destroying my quads, or how i would feel on the run and i was assured that 3:40 was somewhat ambitious.....

When we got to Lake Taupo, which by the way is a stunning setting for a race, a beautiful blue lake surrounded by hills and volanic peaks, the swim course was already laid out in the water. We would enter at one end of the lake and swim out along the length of the beach staying always about 100 metres off shore. At half way we'd turn around a pair of bouys and return to where we had started. To get to our accomodation, we had to drive up and down the waterfront road along which the swim course travelled. After a good few minutes of driving we'd still be nowhere near the end or half way, of the swim course. This did nothing for my anxiety, nor did hearing Mickey and Hully with 16 Ironman finishes between them, saying things like 'jeeeez that is a long way....' 

 

 

Swim course start. Course extends way right of camera. 

On race morning we got in to transition early, checked over our bikes which we'd parked up the night before and got in to our wetsuits. Walking down to the lake in the dark there was a weird atmosphere in the air, probably caused by a bunch of people literally peeing their pants (wetsuits). The pro start went off at 6:45am and there was no way to delay things any longer. I climbed in to the water and swam to the very back of the field. The race had approximately 1400 starters and when the gun goes everyone just starts flailing away turning the water in to a washing machine.

 

Plenty of people get punched or kicked, losing goggles and worse so I decided given my shocking abilities in the water I was probably better off giving myself some room. So there we were at the start, right at the back next to the guys in the safety canoes, me and a guy with one arm. He seemed way more comfortable with the situation than I did..... At 7am the cannon went and everyone went mental. This is what I was racing for though, to experience again that feeling of being totally out of my depth, not knowing what was going to happen or really how to deal with those eventualities either. I gave it about 30 seconds and then commenced my Iron journey. I can't explain why, but instantly I felt great. Drafting helps in swimming, so I sat behind a few people just taking it easy for the first part and trying to completely block the overall distance out of my mind. In what seemed like no time at all I looked up and could see the turn around bouys ahead. I literally couldn't believe it, I didn't dare look at my watch, all I knew was that there were loads of other people around me so I wasn't miles out of the back on my own and i felt good. I had swallowed about 2 litres of water but I figured that would be useful hydration for the bike leg. As we rounded the bouys I tried to avoid getting pounded around the head, and safely made it on to the return leg. Again I relaxed my mind and let it wander a little just plodding along and before I knew it I was looking at the turn and final 300 metres in to the shore. I actually had enough to start working harder in to the swim finish, it was astonishing. I can only really put it down to adrenaline I guess. Anyway I emerged out of the water and looked up at the big timing clock which read..... 1:28. 

I pretended like I knew what I was doing and made the 3 or 4 minute run up to transition taking my wetsuit off as I went, of course I had no idea how to do that so ended up running with one arm out and one arm still in, stuck in place by my watch and veering from barrier to barrier confused by the feeling of being upright after being in the water for so long. I dressed in transition making sure I looked like a proper triathlete, one calf guard, plenty of luminous lycra and on to the bike...

112 miles is a fairly long bike ride. Lap 1 started with a climb just a mile in. Instantly I started overtaking people and that did help with confidence. Once we'd crested the climb a few miles in, the course flattened out and the pattern for the day emerged. All the big dudes I'd just cruised past came crunching past me in massive gears, down on their tt bars all aerodynamic and stuff. My tactic was to spin at a very high cadence (turnover) burning a lot of energy but not working my untrained bike legs so much, not a great tactic unless you haven't done any training. The bike course was 45km out and back, times 2. It was hot and undulating and I felt a bit like I was getting cooked. About 30k's in to the ride a Korean guy overtook me going about 0.001mph faster than I was and immediately pulled in front of me. Almost instantanseously a technical official on a motorbike screamed up behind me and started shouting 'drafting, 4 minute penalty'. I asked her if she was joking and that the Korean guy had JUST ovetaken me, but apparently not, so I had to spend 4 minutes in the sin bin for 'my' mistake. You don't often get that happen in ultrarunning! 

Anyway I tried not to concentrate on the pain accumulating in my crotch region, ate a bunch of GU energy gels and made the first 45km in 1hr30 dead. On the way back to Taupo we got to see some of the leaders coming past the other way. The sound from their high end Time Trial bikes and disc wheels was something to behold, each in the preying mantis position cranking along up hill and down dale at an average speed of 25mph. Staggering. I satrted to feel a bit crappy as I went through 80kms, but after I'd dipped back through town and the half way mark things turned around and eventually I rounded out a fairly strong finish for a total time of 6:49. Not too bad at all, and with only one major issue, to do with the 'downstairs' department. Although I was a little disheartened too, to hear that with a marathon left to run, Bevan Docherty had already finished the entire race 15 minutes earlier. 

My run plan was simple. Take my time in transition, then appear like a bolt out of the deep blue and smash out the fastest possible time I could. That all went to plan and I ran pretty hard on to the first of the 3 x 8.7 mile run loops. Just as I began running I saw Mickey finishing his first lap. So he was 9 miles ahead of me by then. I knew that Hully was about 40 minutes ahead of me on to the run so I ran hard and caught sight of him about 6km up on me at my 5km mark. He was relaxed just enjoying the experience of his 10th Ironman finish so I still hoped to close the gap and in fact managed to do so by the half way point of both of our races. 

He urged me on, however I was more interested in enjoying the rest of the race too so we ended up jogging our way to a finish in a little over 13 hours, just before darkness descended on to the end of the race. Hully's finish was his 10th at Ironman, his first since 2005 and in a career that spanned 24 years which included almost losing his life in the Kimberleys bush fire in 2011. It was my great privilege to finish with the ol' wise one. Mickey crushed a 5:50 bike split on route to a 12 hour finish. It's easy when you know how, or when you've cycled across the USA in 12 days....

So what can I say about it overall? I had a far better race than I expected, perhaps the run was disappointing in terms of time but that was a conscious decision rather than a blow up. It goes to show I guess that the most important underlying factor is residual fitness, of which mine was ok going in. The whole Ironman show isn't very in keeping with the type of events I usually enjoy, low key, minimal fuss, minimal kit and certainly the crowd was a different one in terms of outgoing character to that which you typically see at ultra events, perhaps you could even say a little less friendly. But there is no doubting the overall experience is worth all of that extra trouble. From bike check in to registration, on the day logistics, transitions and course management/ aid stations, it's unbelievably well organised. Over 2000 volunteers were out on the day and the course was lined with local people who were obviously totally immersed in the whole race. With a Centurion hat on, it gives me something to aim for in terms of involving the local communities as much as possible in our races. 

And I guess to try to answer that age old question of which is harder, a 100 miler? A 50 miler? Ironman? Well obviously a 100 is harder and by quite some way. Ironman is very different to both, but on balance I'd say it'd be somewhere around the 50 mile run kind of level.....

Finally, my good friend and co-rd James Adams produced a video a few years ago on the relationship between ultrarunners and triathletes. Enjoy....

1 Mar 13 by James Elson

Why Ironman?

Let's start with me admitting that I am not a triathlete. I did once finish a half ironman, however to date that has been my only brush with a triathlon of any distance and that was an unmitigated disaster. 

In 2007 I ran my second desert stage race and my first in the four deserts series. When we gathered at Beijing airport to make the long journey inland to china's farthest western corner, on the border with tajikistan, we were introduced to a group of aussie runners also making their first foray in to the world of multi stage events. We later arrived in Kashgar, a market town on the silk route bordering the himalaya, we discovered we were in fact sharing a tent with those very same aussies. The first night was a wash out. Flooding had hit the valley we were scheduled to run through for the first two days and we spent the night sleeping on the floor of a local school classroom. The following day we set off on our first marathon. When we arrived at our tents, we quickly got to know the rest of the guys there, and we instantly hit it off. Pete bouquet was an Aussie with a huge heart, full of life, jokes and around for the sheer experience of pushing himself to extremes. Pete Wilson was a boxer slash endurance runner and Michael hull was the wise head of the group with years of adventure racing under his belt. We spent the week going through the usual trials of a desert race, blisters, heat stroke, dehydration, fatigue, pain and ultimately exhilarating highs of finishing at first the individual stages and later the event as a whole. The one thing the other guys all had in common was a background of racing ironman. It's what they had grown up doing and they had pushed each other countless times over numerous races all over the world. To the wide eyed endurance virgin, it was intoxicating listening. We stayed in touch once we had all departed for home. In fact more than that, our friendship seemed to grow despite the distances between us. Frank in the USA, hully and willo in sydney and bucket out in Singapore. We all committed to racing the atacama together, heading back through south America to visit the Antarctic later that year and finally in 2009, regrouping one last time in the Sahara where we completed the 4deserts series together. We definitely formed somewhat of a band of brothers. We made countless other friends along the way and when reach of us travels abroad nowadays, it's rare that we don't stay with each other or at least get together with friendly faces and catch up on the months of racing and training in between. 

In 2011, hully and bucket finally made it over as far a the uk and raced our first ever centurion event, the north downs way 100. Two days later, hully and I were on a plane to Leadville together, where he crewed me single handedly to a solid finish in a race I had no business's finishing. We travelled home on the Monday, hully back to Sydney as I went in the opposite direction back to London. 4 days later, hully lay in a western Australian hospital in critical condition and with burns to 30 percent of his body. Arriving back in sydney, he had flown almost immediately up to the kimberley region of australia to take part in a racing the planet event over 100kms in a single stage. 

What unfolded during that race has been well documented subsequently. Along with two australian girls and a South african runner, hully had been trapped by wildfire in a remote canyon midway through the race. The flames, which in the Australian outback are capable of moving with e speed of the wind, engulfed their position and the four were forced to run back through the burning grass in order to prevent being burned alive. They each suffered horrific injuries compounded by the fact that it took some considerable time for help to reach them. 

I don't want to pass comment on the why's and wherefores of what happened for those circumstances to transpire that day. I remember being at work and receiving a call from one of our mutual Australian friends explaining that hully was in a critical condition in a Perth hospital. We all race these kind of events knowing that we are moving through extreme environments where accidents can and do happen. That being said to be met with that news just a week after departing his company in Denver was a shocking experience. A few days later, hully was able to stay conscious and feel strong enough to call around us all and let us know how he was doing. Immediately it was obvious that the total energy, laid back go with the flow attitude but hard as nails composure was being employed in full as he brushed off the injuries and talked us lucidly through exactly what had happened, at least what his memory had allowed him to retain having been overloaded with a greater amount of pain than anyone could imagine. His burns were total to his legs and left arm as well as his right hand. The other two girls were in intensive care with burns to up to 70 percent of their bodies. The prognosis for hully was a long stay where he was, with multiple operations to replace his skin with magic skin and grafts in order to begin the process of healing. The exposure to infection during that time was massive and it was a while before he was 'out of the woods' and able to return home. He continued to remain upbeat and open to talking about things. After months of rehabilitation, he was left with bandages which he had to keep on at all times, covering his healing skin, he wasn't allow out during hours of bright sunshine and made countless visits back to hospitals and doctors as his condition improved. Months later he began to run slowly again albeit in a good deal of pain. The process of healing continued throughout 2012 as the endurance athlete began to emerge once again. 

Late last year I had dinner with my wife Lisa and we both agreed that it was long overdue I went out to see him. We had a long chat on Skype and of course, with a trip in the works the logical thing would be to tie in a race or two of some description. 

From the day we'd met in china, hully had talked fondly of his ironman days. He had, for all that time, been stuck on 9 ironman finishes. Every year he put his name in for the kona lottery, for a ticket to race his tenth at his dream race, the ironman world champs, but hadn't come out lucky. As I began googling races happening over the two weekends I would be out with him, ironman new Zealand suddenly popped on to the radar and instantly I knew that was the answer. Hully could race his 10th whilst I raced my first. 

So flying all this way to race ironman is very far from the real reason for this journey. It is a sideshow to spending time with some very dear friends and celebrating the thing that brought us all together in the first place. 

Whatever happens it'll be another incredible experience, but just another adventure on the journey through our lives, thankful that hully has returned in full to what he loves doing.