I never intended on running 12 hours this year. I hadn't ever even considered a 12 hour run a goal of mine for any year. Sometimes, though, a little box pops up on your Facebook feed that you can't help but click on... and the idea seeds itself... who am I kidding, I was sold from reading the title:
"This is EPIC 12hr run: From Sunset to Sunrise".
I entered the day before leaving to cycle-tour Iceland.
As you could probably guess, preparations for this race had been pretty meagre. I spent some time thinking about nutrition and pacing in my diary on the nights I was less exhausted in the tent when cycling Iceland. Other than that, ie. the 2 weeks after Iceland but before the race, I hardly even cast it a thought. As I hardly even thought about it, I totally forgot to tell most people I was even doing it. Not even my parents knew, and I had skype'd my dad 3 days before it. The Celtman took me 18.5 hours, so I guess I was just on autopilot about a 12 hour run - how hard could it be?! Just keep moving forward, right!?
Yeah... no. I'd take a triathlon any day over solely running for that length of time again. But I'll start from the beginning...
BUT, WHY... JUST, WHY?
Running a marathon is something, just over the last 2 years, I have built into my psyche as something that I can actually do, when I push myself to it. Year 1 was just training, all the time, from zero to train train train. This last year has been about cashing in all those gains - Ironman Barcelona, Midnight Marathon, Brighton Marathon, Celtman, Iceland... so that's why. I felt I could squeeze in just one more before leaving for Mozambique. As I said, it just landed in my lap (well, laptop (wawaah)) so I was like: Yeah. Alright then.
BEFORE THE RACE
The day of the race was a funny one - I didn't plan on getting to the castle (EPIC12 HQ) until 530pm, so spent the day just sitting in various stretches and eating small portions of various concoctions every couple of hours. I didn't chug water, I just had my usual 2 litres I always have every day (I hate needing to pee all the time in races). I didn't focus on carbohydrates either - with my departure to a life on the beach imminent, I have focussed a lot on getting fats and protein to dominate my meals rather than carbohydrates for the last couple of weeks (as I said, I've hardly thought about the 12, but getting my body to fat-burn for a couple of weeks may actually have benefitted me). On Friday I had a day of oats, rice, bread (thanks Chefan!) and potato to fill my 'glycogen tanks' again, but Saturday I went back to eating just simple meals of fruits, soup, I had a couple lettuce tortillas and that's about it. No bloating and no complaints. Let's go.
Since returning from Iceland, I have hardly been running. Or cycling. Just yoga-ing and lifting a few weights. I knew running the first 2 laps (10km per lap) ought to be back-to-back and non-stop. Even pacing works well for most, and is highly recommended by pretty much all coaches ever, but I like to think about my races as evenly pacing by 'perceived effort' rather than physically pacing my actual speed. And, as with all races, the start always feels so very, very easy. I just went with it, logging my first 10km at just under 1 hour. The next was 1 hour 4. I continued to the third lap, 1 hour 7.
This third lap was brilliant - it was the last day of the Proms on the Bay (BBC Proms Guernsey style-y) and it just so happened that I was running out towards town while the fireworks display was going on. Not only that, but Oasis' Masterplan shuffled itself into my ears. Sometimes the world just feels so very aligned. A relay runner passed me at that point, holding out his hand for a high-five. I guess he felt it too.
Third lap done. Quick 10 minute break; 1/2 an avocado wrap, stretch and onto the marathon (close enough). Fourth lap: 1 hour 12. After 40kms, I allowed myself just a bit longer of a break.
I had over-dressed drastically and was sweating far too much - sweat was dripping out of my sleeves when I swung my arms, and it was cascading down my back from under my Camelbak. My leggings were soaked from it. Yep, it was pretty gross and totally avoidable. Anyone that's worn wet pants and gone for a run knows the issues you may suffer with rubbing skin in wet clothes. Bit of an error there, my ass cheeks look like an effing baboons' by this point!
After 40km, it was unbearable - thank my brain for being just switched on enough to realise I might be needing a change of clothes. I got completely changed in a dark corner, stumbling around with my bright red beacon bum out must've been quite a sight. I have a sneaking suspicion I wasn't as subtle about this as I was hoping at the time. Ah well, I felt like a new person heading out for the fifth lap, well... for the first 5km of it.
Then it just hurt. Everything except my fingernails were complaining at me to stop (and that's only because they have a rather fancy blue varnish on them). I was checked out. I promised myself, if I kept running the whole rest of this lap (45-50km) then I would go home. I kept myself at a 'not-walking-I-swear' run pace for that 5km and hiked it up to the castle, ready to go straight to my bike (of course, I had to cycle to and from the race) and cycle home. I thought of a shower, I thought of my bed, and I was ready. 'EPIC 50km' I decided I would disguise my quitting as on Strava.
Something strange happened, though, when I got to the tent in the castle. Plenty of people were sat around, most a part of a relay team, one or two individuals having a break, and the organisers, Louise, Philip and Warren. I didn't go to my bike, as I got into conversation with Warren first, whom, in response to my "I don't know how you guys did the 48hr treadmill run" replied with something along the lines of "Yes, it was absolutely horrific. I'd much prefer to do this. Bite sized 10km chunks and just keep moving.". Warren also told me that 3 more laps was entirely achievable when I said that 70km was my personal goal. I also had an amazing massage in this break, which I actually felt a little guilty for, but it was like a padlock had been unlocked in my calves and I could actually activate them again. I chatted to Louise, too, about her triathlon year (she's absolutely exploded onto the Guernsey triathlon Olympic-distance scene, gaining a place at the Island Games in her first year competing). As I looked listlessly at my Camelbak, asking if it wanted another go, I glanced the posters around the tent. There was one especially, a simple line on the 'wall' next to the tent door: "Never give up". Guess that's it then. I'm in it for the 12 after all.
JUST. KEEP. GOING.
Russell Brand podcasts from 2008, Alan Walker - Faded, Radiohead - Just and SIA's brand-spanking new release 'The Greatest' were my absolute lifeline - I was a slothenly ghost of a human from 40km onwards, blearily focussing only on these things. SIA's song, The Greatest, goes like this:
I know. Are you kidding me! SIA just had me dialled in. 'Running out of breathe but I, I got stamina...' 'Don't give up, I wont give up...' WHAT! SIA you bloody legend, release 4 DAYS before the race. I cannot thank her enough. Plus having Maddie's dancing in my head and trying to replicate it at 3am, pitch black, on my own along Bora Bora avenue (An industrial road, hilariously dubbed 'bora-bora' as it's the polar opposite of the idillic island of Bora Bora) really does something for keeping your spirits up!
50-80KM. THE FINISH.
The final 3 subsequent laps were lifted by the aforementioned audio treats filling my every cell. Laughing and dancing to myself, pretending that absolutely nothing was wrong at all got me through. There was also this overly ambitious hunting cat that sprung out at my feet at one point, which I have no shame in saying I screamed all girly-like at, which made me crack up each time I passed that same spot. I also have this obsessive habit of counting every single step (I do the same with pedal strokes) from 100 down to 0 on one foot, then the next, forcing myself to run all the way down to the 0 step and then on the other foot to even it out. Yeah, it sounds extremely like some runner's OCD thing has manifested itself in me, but it totally works. It switches off all other 'noise' from within my body and focusses all effort into every step. I'll probably write another post on my little endurance racing tactics, but try this one. It might work for you if you have trouble motivating yourself with words, try mindlessly counting down for hours on end!
Anyways, back to the loop. I convinced myself that everything was fine, had some good chat with who ever was back at the castle, bit of a stretch, and off for another 10km. Fifth lap took 1 hour 17, sixth took 1 hour 22, seventh 1 hour 21. The final 10km loop, 70-80km, I completed in 1 hour 10.
THAT WAS EPIC
The ol' take home messages of my 12 hour silliness;
THIS IS EPIC
The 'This is EPIC' non-profit organisation truly is. These guys have done, and plan to do, so much good for not just Guernsey's small-town attitude towards endurance sport, but primarily for changing the lives of people in Uganda and The Democratic Republic of Congo. I mentioned the 'Never Give Up' poster, but the other posters hanging in the tent actually have a lot more meaning behind them. Individuals affected by This Is EPIC from these nations have had their picture imposed onto a short story about them, reminding us all, in times of relatively negligible turmoil, this is why we are doing it, why the EPIC12 exists, and all their other incredibly insane events (midnight marathon, 48hr treadmill, I think next up may be 7 Ironmen in 7 days. Bonkers, these blokes) exist. I'm so honoured and humbled to be just a very small part of your incredible efforts, thank you so much.
And some more stuff if you want it...
Average 10km pace (not including breaks): 1 hour 11
Total Running time: 9 hours 32
Total Break time: 2 hours 28
Placement: 5th Overall (of 16)
Official Result: 80km in 11hrs42
1/2 wholewheat avocado & lettuce wrap (200 cals)
3/4 wholewheat peanut butter & banana wrap (300 cals)
15g Dried mango (50 cals)
1 'Nakd' bar (150 cals)
1 '9' bar (230 cals)
1/2 Coconut 'TREK' bar (230 cals)
75g 'Moo Free' Organic Milk Chocolate (435 cals)
500ml banana & water smoothie (100 cals)
Approximate total in: 1695 cals
Approximate total out: 5500 cals
Approximate Carb/Fat/Protein divide: 50%/40%/10%
I left the wraps & smoothie in the tent, but I carried the rest in a fanny pack (LOLs, fanny). I actually carried almost twice the amount I ate in that pack, but I didn't want to force anything down, I just ate when I felt it.
I drank most of the water in the first 40km, as I was such a sweaty beast. Otherwise I just ate when I took a break or was bored. I didn't get hungry (which has only ever happened to me during races. Otherwise I'm a grazing lunatic).
A little Jenny tip: I like higher fat vegan whole-foods to munch on, as you get more 'bang for your buck' calorie-wise (9cals per 1g fat, rather than 4cals per 1g carb or protein), and whole-foods tend to digest really well, even the 'Moo Free' chocolate was mostly cacao and coconut sugar, which don't just digest well, but don't bleach your insides.... more than I can say for any of those big marketed brands that give people GI issues. I've never had any digestion issues in any of my races, and I've stuck to this type of eating for all of my races, training and life. But that's a whole other blog post, if I ever get round to writing one. But if I had more thought towards my gameplan, I'd've come armed with more almonds and cashews probably.
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Until next time, see ya in Mozambique my blog buddies!!
Jenny was born in Dorset, and now is living in Mozambique. She participates in long-distance triathlon and rowing challenges. She has a conservation degree, and is currently working toward her masters degree studying the Stingrays of Mozambique.