On 30th November a field of 95 runners will toe the start today and 9 of these runners will be Centurion grand slam entrants, who aim to complete the last and final 100 miler of the year.

One to watch in the mens field is elite ultra runner Ed Catmur, who has had a fantastic 2013 of course records and top wins. The only runner to finish at the Saxon Shore 100 earlier in the year, then smashing a course record at NDW100 in August. Ed is set to run this race strong and very fast if the weather stays milder and dry as predicted. 

'Luke is an Enigma, and if he comes to the race with his game face on, he could race Ed hard' -James Elson

I do think finding my balance, too many marathons and a few injuries on the way, has dented my racing strength some. I am still learning my nutrition, building a base and racing on feel. 

Lucky number?

With a sensible taper and a walking holiday in northern Tenerife I feel rested and injury free to race. Although a little under trained, but confident to not let it effect my performance...

Helly Nansen Waterproof (after 50 miles)
SealSkinz socks (after 75 miles)
Merrell Trails (after 75 miles) 
Inov-8 wrag, waist pouch and cap
Karrimor and Nike running gloves

With fellow Bosh runner Shawn, having another attempt at 100 miles

Staying in nearby Reading just 20 minutes off the M4 we make it to race HQ at 8:15. Today I have Sunday with me as crew and pacer for the early hours. I am greeted by a very warm welcome from Nici and the Centurion team, after. Bag drop with Paul and kit check with Robbie, I head back to the car to finish my coffee.

Today breakfast was a wheat grass shot, a small avocado, salted water and a bulletproof coffee (made with MCT oil). I had to make do with Starbucks brew from the hotel. 

By 9:00 I have finished my coffee and head out to meet fellow runner Shawn to see how he is. He slept well and is in good spirits. I can tell he is ready to get going! 

The race brief is held inside HQ. No crew are allowed access, as the room is just too small, so Sunday waits further down the lane for the race start. I spot a few familiar faces from previous events. I wish Gran Slam entrant Wendy Shaw best of luck. Then a very polite lady introduces herself, Anja, follows my blog and we wish each other the best. She is also running her 2nd 100 miler today. 

I was ready yesterday!

I wish Shawn the best and will see him shortly at the switchbacks. I make my way closer to the front for the start. 

Miles 0-25
Passing the church and Sunday filming, we head onto the northern Thames Path route following the striped tape and trail markers. Ed Catmur and David Ross are tearing off flat out, my Garmin says 7:00min/mile so I slow down a gear and will see how I feel in a few hours. 

Lucky with the recent dry weather, the conditions are a perfect 4c with light breeze and the sun looks to shine later. The trail is dry below and I can concentrate on getting comfortable in my pace and enjoy the river view. 

Aid 1: Wallingford
(7:40min pace/mile)
Maybe heading out a little too fast, but feeling strong, and running on feel. At the first aid stop I sip some water and head straight back on the route. The course is very familiar, counting, I think this is my fourth time racing along the Thames. I didn't recce any of the route, as confident my memory serves me well. 

Typical leaf coverage in many parts

Parts of the route along the Thames start to look very familiar and eventually the sun starts to break through. Still low in the clouds, but it is pleasant to have some warmth. 

Winter sunshine 

I see Ed racing back from the next check point already, then shortly
followed by David in second. Matt Winn-Smith comes by soon enough in third. I eventually reach the end of the route. 

Aid 2: Little Wittenham
(7:40min/mile pace)
Thanking the volunteers, a cup of water and my number is recorded. Then it is back the way we came from. 

I have NUUN in my backpack water and some diluted coconut water in my carry bottle, which I just sip when needed. 

Wallingford crossing

With just a small group of runners on my tail I am pretty much alone for most of the return spur, with the front pack nowhere to be seen. I text Sunday an update, he is concerned I am speeding too fast, too soon. I slow some, and will see how I am feeling for the next section.

I exchange well wishes to the passing on-coming runners, then hi-five Shawn when we meet, he is looking strong and in good spirits.

AID 3: Wallingford
I stop in to have my number recorded and a cup of water. With help, I refill my bladder.

After 18 miles in I have a few sips of olive oil, (yes I run on oil like an engine) fat burning energy which lubricates my throat and my lips. 

Almost reaching 3 hours, I take an S!Cap salt capsule. 

Feeling good

AID 4: Streatley
(7:55min/mile pace)
I am greeted by a warm welcome. I take both headlights from my drop box, a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, seed mix, then some cherry tomatoes with water. I thank the team and head outside to my crew. After a gulp special brew (espresso, cacao, chia seeds and coconut water) and slice cheese I am set. 

Miles 25-50
Saying bye to Sunday, it is onto the high street and over the Thames following the orange tape. The route continues north, on the other side of the river, through South Stoke, before leading to the Ridgeway path towards North Stoke. A scenery of lush fields and forests. 

North Stoke Sunset

AID 5: North Stoke
My number is recorded, I have some water and head back on the route. The terrain starts to get more technical with tree stumps, rock, scattered leaves and then rolling hills. I take it easy on the climbs and start to walk for the first time today. 

The narrow, bumpy path leads through a dense wood, over styles and through more gates before another steep climb, followed by a deep drop. I can see a runner approach, and once closer I notice it is Ed. Checking my Garmin, it looks like I have another mile or so until the end of the route on this spur. 

Daylight come to an end

Once out of the woods No2 catches up, we chat before he picks up pace, he hikes through the corn fields and I stay close. We smile and thumbs up the photographer before heading through more gates and styles. Matt then David soon come back down the path on the return spur. Through a smaller wood, up a lane passing cheering spectators, then just at the top is the last aid station. 

AID 6: Swyncombe
Arriving to clapping and well wishes, James, Robbie and Paul are all here at this check point. They joke how I nearly ran straight past them, I was so focused looking ahead at the next junction. I am greeted by running friend Alma, who gives a warm welcome and some supplies of, olives, cheese and boiled eggs. I eat some but save the egg for later. I have some water and then head on back for the return leg. I thank the team and make my way back down the lane. Barry in 5th place has already left ahead of me.

Determined No2

Checking my garmin, Ed is 38 minutes in the lead. Back through the gates, passing smiling, oncoming runners through the woods. It is becoming dusk and the day is drawing to a close. I start to feel my endorphins kicking in and I am smooth and light on my feet. Although a dull ache in my quads, I am still strong and fresh. 

Tree roots hidden

Back through the tricky, narrow, section of undulating path and leaves. Eventually it is time to turn on my headlight, front cat light and rear light. I see Shawn approaching looking good. He says he has had a few lull moments, but it has passed and is feeling good. I warn him of the steep climbs and tree roots that scatter the path way ahead. We wish each other the best and carry on. 

AID 7: North Stoke
Eventually back into the familiar village and a quick stop to record my number at the check point, a cup of water, back out on the route. I head on too far, but then soon realise my error.

Soon enough it is dark and getting colder by the minute. I will need my warmer gloves and jacket for the next spur out. Glow sticks hang from trees and shrubs along the river, the still breeze and eeery quite is all that occupies the dark. Above, the stars shine bright in the clear night sky. Once into South Stoke and civilisitation, it is over the bridge, on the high street and back into base at Streatley.

AID 8: Streatley 
(9:06min/mile pace)
Reaching 50 miles and half way in a PB of 7:35. I enter base with an applause and congratulations. Taking extra batteries from my drop box, some peanut butter and seeds, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, cheese and some avocado washed down with coffee. I think I am almost set. I refill, add NUUN to my water and change into a fresh long sleeve. James checks I am well and says I ran very strong for the first part. I hope to keep it up, but I am not sure my legs will let me keep up this pace.

Sunday helps me outside change into my warmer jacket, gloves and swap batteries, as the SE07 headlight is already fading. I change carry bottles with a fresh coconut water. Helen is on her way to base, so I should see her on the return. Already 20 minutes has passed, so I say my goodbyes and head right on the high street following the pink tape this time.

Miles 50-75 
The markers direct me up the road and across, heading over then passing Goring golf course, up a small lane then eventually meeting the bumpy Ridgeway road, out into the wide, open fields of Berkshire. 

Fortunately the Ridgeway is fresh in my memory, this summer, I ran the Race to the Stones and then a year ago the Oxfordshire Ridgeway along the same path. The steep uneven climbs, then steady descents start to really test my tired legs. 

Nothing but large open fields, with a stronger wind chill blowing in, my buff is my saviour to protect my constant streaming nose. I listen to my ipod as a lift to help me through the lonely night. Feeling in the zone and running on auto-pilot. Already an hour in, the headlight is starting to dim, even on a 70% beam. I eat some nuts and check my olive oil I am carrying. It has chilled and gone too thick to drink in the cold. I have another S!Cap tablet with some coconut water. 

Once up close to the A34, the track is very muddy in sections and the route markers are not so clear in the blackness. I can still remember the route and follow the track under the road then out onto the steady incline up towards Bury Lane. The wind comes in across the valley and all that can be seen is twinkling lights from Chilton, some miles away on the horizon. 

Soon I can spot headlights approaching nearer, and it is into the marquee at the next stop. 

AID 9: Bury Lane
I drink another small coffee, eat some cherry tomatoes with some water melon, and have a cup of water. Stretching my legs and hearing more clapping, Ed races in in from his return leg, an hour ahead in the lead. He is looking tired and clammy and is struggling for words. He is still in his shorts and tee...

Thanking the team I carry on up the hill into the dark.

Shortly, further up the track, Matt passes me on his return, then followed by David and Barry. My light is getting dimmer by the minute and soon enough it flashes on and off, before finally dying. I am plunged into complete blackness and thumble for the PETZL headlight. I didn't notice but it has already drained to very low and the beam is so faint I can barely see the track below. I aim the light straight to the floor and keep my head down climbing the last hill to the last check point on this spur. I can see the monument 'Battles of Inkerman and Arms' standing high up above, so I know am on the right track.

Two bright car lights beam down the track up ahead, just another mile or so and I spot that the lights are moving and these are actually from the team at Chain Hill. I can hear calling and clapping then eventually the team come into view.

AID 10: Chain Hill
(9:39 min/mile pace)
Greeted by a warm welcome and 'Hello Luke' from Tim, a fellow ultra runner. 'What do you need' he asks. With his help he changes the dead battery on the SE07 headlight and gets me back on the road safely. No hot water here, so I make a cold coffee, which amuses the team. I eat few cherry tomatoes, nuts and refill my backpack, adding another NUUN tablet.

Thanking the support, for all the assistance. I head back down the hill, for the return back to base. The cold wind is not so bad now it is behind me. Again I find the headlight starting to fade. Within a few more miles and after the next stop at Bury Lane the light blinks, fades then dies... rather annoyed and frustrated with this, and no more power left in the PETZL, I decide to use my iphone torch, which surprisingly is very bright. Angled correctly, it guides the track very well. Luckily I always carry an ANKER back up battery with me on these events, and I still have more than half the juice left.

Soon enough, and feeling my body lifted from my beats, ironic that 'No Limit' and 'Stronger' shuffle round twice during this spur. I head down the small lane and back past Goring golf course then swing down onto the high street, where Helen is waiting with the camera, huge grin on her face!

AID 12: Streatley
(9:54 min/mile)
I head on into base after running for 12 hours and 24 minutes. I am greeted by a loud cheer and applause, Nici checks in my number and congratulates me on how I am doing. Time to change my shoes into Merrell Trails and put on the SealSkinz socks for added warmth. I eat some more seeds, peanut butter, nuts and cheese. Sip some olive oil from my box supply and have a strong coffee. Another water refill, and I think I am ready to keep moving. 

Streatley base

Miles 75-100
I see Helen and Sunday outside, thanking her for coming by and that will catch them both at Reading. This section is left again across the bridge then over the road, to the other side of the Thames Path route for the last 12.5 mile stretch before returning back again.

The path feels familiar from when I ran in the Thames Trot race and the only difference is it is the other direction. I leave the urban street lights behind me and I am plunged into darkness again. The grass is thick and frosty below, with the cloud low, creating a thick fog. I run close to a pair of runners, Eduard and David I think. We chat some before I head on, leading the way, 'Go get that sub 17 one calls back'.

The fog makes it very hard to see where to go, so the only way is to look to the ground and stay on the small track in the grass. The gates appear frequently and glow sticks are the guide. Eventually the fog lifts slightly and visibility improves.

Heading into a deep wood and then climbing over more tree roots and leaves, the terrain is tricky and the path very narrow in places. The drop by the path is steep down to the river so I stay close to the bank. I walk the hills, and really start to feel my legs crying with the stress of the day. It is the first time they really have felt tight. Starting to jog and pick up pace is very difficult after walking. My legs feel like wood... I remember the big steps when they approach, and I have to hold onto the support to walk down. 

Soon enough, the path leads back into residential areas and then eventually a guy comes running by and shows me it is the next turn, then up the hill to the Whitechurch aid station. I see the markers and follow the signs into a small cabin. It is very quiet and empty but the team are helpful. I just have some water and handful nuts before leaving. 

AID 13: Whitechurch
I head back onto the lane towards the bridge, go the wrong way, before noticing the other two runners going over the bridge, which is closed off to cars at the moment. It is a sharp left then back along the river before coming out into a housing estate. The turns to get out are here and there, and rather confusing, but it is clearly marked with tape. 
Back along the main road and over the railway, nearly at the end of the route. Sunday text, but with cold fingers it is easier to call him. Explaining they cannot get over the bridge and sorry they missed me at the last aid station. I didn't know they were trying to stop by. The pathway is a cycle lane and clearly lit by street lights. This section feels the longest of the day and I really start to slow in my pace...

I text Sunday to ask how far. I am really tired of the view and the hope that the next stop is close, when it isn't. Nearly there you done it, is his reply. I soldier on and turn up my music. I am still using my iphone torch as my guide as it is the most reliable continuous light I have. 
I can hear some cheering and 'come on Luke' called out from ahead. Finally the end of the road and time to meet my pacer...

AID 14: Reading
(10:23 min/mile)
Sunday comes down to to help me up the stairs. I see Helen inside, who greets me with a warm welcome and hug. I see running friend, and super trooper volunteer Brigitte. who welcomes me with a big grin. We swap my coconut water over, refill my backpack and finish off the remaining bulletproof coffee. I eat some nuts, (energy pate) a mix of butter, seeds, salt, raw cacao and coconut oil I made up in a dish. Which looks gross, but actually tastes good when the body needs energy. Brigitte has some boiled eggs, so I tuck in. Sunday has last few bites of cheese then packs babybel to take with us. Again I have stayed too long, I blame Bridgette for making the aid station too cosy, again, like last time. I hug her and thank all the team. Helen is already downstairs taking pictures.

At 87.5 miles and a helping hand needed from my Pacer 

Sunday has my trusty Silver Trail headtorch, so I use him as my guide. My legs are stiff as a board and it takes a good 20 minutes for them to loosen up. I am shaking like a leaf with the cold and it is a while before I feel warmed up. Sunday keeps talking to distract me from feeling the cold. I hear about the day and all the amazing support from running friends and my running group. My sister and parents have been following my Runkeeper and the live feed on Centurion. 

Once we are over the railway bridge, we pass on-coming runners, congratulating them when we meet. Back up the road then into the housing estate again. I tell Sunday we may hit some fog, but luckily it has lifted the time we get back to the river. The section is darker this time as the cloud has lifted and the glow sticks are starting to dim, however they still show up from a fair distance. Sunday is really impressed how effective they are. 

Just a quick stop into Whitechurch aid station, I have a few pieces of dark chocolate washed down with some strong coffee, it tastes good as it melts in my mouth. I am really not sure if the sugar will lift me any, this late in the race, as I am just visualising the finish in my head. My legs are done!
We reach the wood and I have help climbing the steps back up. Few more runners pass our track and we stand aside to cheer them on, keeping clear from the edge. Walking the last few climbs and eventually coming out to built up areas. 

I can see some houses and the odd light come into view. 'This is it' says Sunday, you done it. I am so pleased inside, but my quads are screaming at me to stop! The familiar bridge is nearby and we pick up some pace. I head up the road and back on the high street, Sunday is right behind me and starts to clap. Over the bridge then around the corner and back up to base. Helen is waiting and cheers us on. I walk inside to a great welcome of applause and congratulations! 

I feel great and buzzing to finish a 100 miles for the second time this year. 

I didn't quite beat my previous time, but for 3 minutes, I am just grateful to finish without any pain or stomach issues. Running completely on NSNG has helped wonders today. 

I receive my one day buckle and tee from James. Fellow Bosh runner Darren is waiting here for Shawn, to pace him out on the final spur. We chat and eat before thanking everyone for all the great support and great team work they have done to see us through to the finish.

8th position 18:17:51
I would like to pay special thanks to Sunday, Helen, my friends and family for their continuous support and encouragement. Thank you for believing in me.

A huge thanks to Nici, Brigitte, Alma, Tim, James, Robbie, Paul and all the team and volunteers for making the Winter 100 a great success.

See you next year! 

The one day Buckle


Happy with a top ten result and to finish strong and injury free. I am starting to build a base up again and since my ankle issues in the summer, I am finally getting back to how I once was. It would have been good to finish in the top three, but to get my nutrition to where it is and the fuel during the race spot on, I can look to racing harder for 2014. I had no GI issues or stomach troubles during running and my energy levels felt sustained without any crash. I kept in check my hunger and drank to thirst. Racing without the worry of feeling terrible is no more! Thanks to experimenting and living a NSNG lifestyle, the future for ultra racing looks promising...

Sharon Law first lady

Edward Catmur 16:05:10
Matt Winn-smith 16:39:52 
Barry Miller 17:14:32

Sharon Law 18:44:09
Charlotte Black 19:51:11
Wendy Shaw 20:51:56

90 runners towed the start and 69 runners completed the event. 

Check out Episode 218 from Vinnie Tortorich podcast, that features a short interview running the Winter 100 completely fueled by NSNG.

Best piece of kit for the weekend:
This has to be the most comfortable running backpack vest I have owned to date. Light, breathable material, no rub anywhere, easier to tighten if needed. So many little pockets tucked away for carrying everything of all shapes and sizes. 

Most reliable piece of kit for the weekend:
I never seem to feel much, or any hotspots or friction when wearing the Injinji socks. I only sustained a few very small blisters, the largest around the big toe. No blood blisters anywhere, unlike when I run a marathon I usually get one... Pleased I have happy feet. 

Worst piece of kit for the weekend:
Now I really had high hopes for this Lenser light with an easy USB rechargeable pack as back up. Maybe I have a faulty light or the damp cold drained the power faster, but I thought it was built for all conditions. The max light I received from the rechargeable and AAA batteries was approx 3 hours. Which, when listed as 5 minimum, is a rather poor performance. I will contact the supplier to discuss.


1 comment:

  1. You absolutely rock!! Feel very honoured to be called a friend :)
    A xx


Please add your comments here. I would like to encourage discussion on running, training and nutrition. Luke