NDW 100 Race Report
Or how I tamed my Nemesis and still got bitten in the arse.
Well, this was it, the race that so nearly ended in tragedy for me last year was here again but this time I was going to put it to bed without any dramas. A quick recap if you don’t know why its my Nemesis. I took part in this race last year, it was Centurion Running’s first race & I’d eagerly signed up for it as I train a lot over the NDW & was looking forward to testing myself in a proper 100 mile race environment. Suffice to say that it didn’t end well but thanks to the quick action of another runner Matt Dunn & the Race Director James Elson I was rushed off to hospital in the back of an ambulance suffering from Rhabdomyolsis. I was fairly delirious but thankfully Matt & James recognised how bad I was & their action saved me from at the worst Kidney Failure.
So here I was again, this time with the added incentive of going sub 24 & maintaining my push towards the Centurion Grand Slam. I didn’t have to worry about getting there in the morning as my mate Spencer, another Ultra runner who was crewing the race this time said that he would give me a lift to the start. Great, that’s one problem solved then. We made it to the start with about 40mins to go having suffered what was thankfully the only navigation issue I was to suffer during the whole race. I signed in & said hello to Neil who was registering the runners, he’s now off on an epic adventure running across Europe! Met up with quite a few other runners I know including Leila Rose who was going for her first 100mile finish. All prepped & lubed up we took the 5min walk down to the start & I had a quick chat with James about the race & the general course condition. I knew it was going to be overgrown in places but didn’t realise just how bad it was going to be.
6am & we were off, nice & steady start but with my target time of 21hrs firmly fixed in my mind. I hit the first CP at Puttenham quite comfortably & was just about to grab some water when I heard “Hey Allan, get your drink here you dickhead”! Yes, it was Henks CP. You’ve just got to love that bloke. Quick drink, quick chat & I was off. I was determined to stay at each CP for the minimum time possible, I knew that later in the race it would be harder & harder but for now, let’s just get in & out. Onwards towards the next CP & my local knowledge was proving invaluable as I could just switch off & go onto autopilot, it’s a massive boost when you can run a trail & not worry about which turn to take or be looking out for signs the whole route. Straight through St Marthas CP, still well on schedule & feeling strong although the sun was now well & truly out & it was starting to get hot.
Boxhill Stepping Stones
Next CP was at the notorious Boxhill Stepping Stones, where I met up with Claire & Janey, who had a real good laugh at my little drop bag of food, it would’ve been fuller but for the fact id overslept, had no breakfast & nicked a load of food from it just to keep me going. Mind you it was a funny sight, a couple of cereal bars in a blinking Tupperware box! Over the stepping stones & then up the steps, my GOD, they love a few steps on the NDW, reached the top of the steps absolutely knackered as usual, quick walk at the top & then straight back into running, within a minute I’d passed the Olympic rings which were still in place after the cycling events around the area during the previous couple of weeks, pretty damn inspiring running towards them as it goes. I was still moving quite well & was very glad of all the tree cover that the area has to offer, through Boxhill itself, a quick walk along the road & then back on the trail towards Reigate Hill, I know this area well & so could motor along quite comfortably. Kept up a good pace until Colley Hill, just before Reigate Hill & had to walk up it, too damn steep to do anything else! Reached the top, & back running again. Thankfully the cows who are in the field were sheltering under some trees which after my experience at the Hardmoors was a pleasant surprise.
Reigate Hill Trig point
Past the Trig point & into the CP which was quite an experience as the car park was full of folk enjoying the views & they were cheering & clapping the runners as they came in. Almost felt like the end of a race, just a shame there was 70 odd miles to go! Again, in & out as quickly as possible & on my way towards Caterham. Through Merstham & again another climb, looking up though I saw a couple of people I thought I recognised, another glance & yes it was Josh & Cat from my running club. Whilst we have a great membership & a very supportive club, although they’ll all come out to support a 5km race, I don’t think they realise what Ultrarunners actually put themselves through so they never support an Ultra race, so seeing them was a massive boost. Actually it buoyed me so much that I stayed & chatted to them for about 10mins. I said my good byes & raced on towards the next CP, Spencer was crewing this one & it was just a water stop only. Thankfully he’d grabbed me a cold can of coke as well so this was very refreshing & was a much needed massive sugar boost.
I was still on schedule but could feel my race slowly starting to unravel as I was feeling the heat or lack of fitness or a combination of both, all I could do was to make sure I ate & hydrated really well, run the runnable sections & walk where I had too. I made it too the next CP without any drama where one of the volunteers said that she recognised me from somewhere. I said probably from a race but she put two & two together & asked if I had done this race the year before, I said that I’d had a go but dnf’d. Turns out she was Matt’s pacer when they came across me the previous year & had helped him pinpoint my position for the ambulance to get me. Small world eh?!
Made it to the halfway point at Knockholt Pound but was feeling decidedly dodgy at this point, met up with my wife here which was another great boost & she looked after me really well, getting me a hot dog & a coffee. Drew & Claire were also there, with Drew just having DNF’d & all three of them were telling me about how folk were suffering in the heat, thankfully the worst thing that had happened to me so far was getting a nettle sting in the face & on the ear. Yes, I was stung on the EAR ffs. That’s how tall the nettles were in places.
Halfway through & onwards again, I’d just recced this part of the route a couple a weeks before so was fairly confident of not getting lost, well at least for a few more miles anyway. Well hydrated & fed I was having another good spell so put my head down & cracked on as best I could towards the next CP at 60miles. Had a fairly uneventful run to Wrotham but was really feeling the race now, absolutely worn out & very warm & got to the CP where I met up with Sam Robson & Dick Kearn who were crewing there. I said my congratulations to Sam on his impending fatherhood & we all had a good laugh when he said he’d been up early & was feeling tired, I said to wait until the baby comes & see how tired he’d get then. Leaving the CP, Sam told me that he’d marked the route for the next 15miles & if anything it was overmarked. Excellent news as I was dog tired & didn’t know this bit of the route at all.
I cracked on as best I could, feeling really tired but trying to maintain my discipline with keeping a run/walk routine where I could. I made it to the next CP at Holly Hill about 25mins early so stuffed my face with doughnuts whilst I worked out that it was actually 5 miles & not 7 that I’d travelled from Wrotham, not a problem, just made sure I that I filled up my camelback & prepped myself for a 12mile run instead of 10. These things happen in a race & it’s best just to not worry about anything & just get on with it. Was in & out of this CP in about 5mins, once I’d cleared it I stopped to put my headtorch on, would rather do this en-route than at a CP as it can get a bit distracting sorting your gear out while talking to the Crews & other runners. Headtorch on & I was off again, 12miles to the next CP It was on a stretch that I’d recced a couple of weeks earlier with Drew. This wasn’t the nicest stretch of the course, as it goes it was quite bad. Way too much road for my liking but at least it gave me the chance to keep up my momentum. Ran alongside the M2 Motorway as it crossed the Medway at Rochester was pretty glad that it was late at night & that the traffic was fairly light as the noise was pretty horrendous, could’ve tolerated it a lot more but was so tired I was getting grumpy with it. Made it to the Blue Bell Hill CP relatively comfortably & was really glad to see Lindley & his missus Sue crewing there. Another quick can of coke, scoff of some food & I was on my way again. I knew that the 21hr target was off now but was still hopeful of a sub 24 but that depended on me not walking too much & keeping a good running pace up. After I left the CP I kept my eye out for Kits Coty House, having seen it in daylight with Drew, I was keen to see it at night. Nothing much to see really but seeing things like this gives my running a little lift when I’m down.
Kits Coty House in Daylight.
Cracking on to Detling & an unknown CP, I knew where the CP was supposed to be to it was moved from the village hall to Detling Cricket club. I was told it was about 300metres further along from Detling Village hall & so after I’d run what I thought was about 600metres I was thinking that I’d missed it. Never mind, just crack on towards the next CP & explain there that I couldn’t find it. “Thought to myself that I wouldn’t be the only one”. Once that was decided I actually ran across the gate of the Cricket club but it looked closed! Bugger, keep going then. Round the corner & there was a stile nicely decorated with red tape & glowsticks. Aha, here we are then, climbed the stile & headed towards the building with a tiny bit of light coming out of it. Made it into the clubhouse & found out that they had no electricity! They were having to make do with glowsticks & torches but by heck, they were certainly making the best of it with hot soup, tea & Coffee & various snacks all on offer. I think they had a surplus of Minestrone soup as Yin-Hai kept asking me if I wanted some. Whilst this was a great spread, I just filled up my water, grabbed my drop bag & was on my way as quickly as possible.
Out of the CP & into what is best described as a jungle! No idea how anybody could actually run on some of these trails, they were that overgrown I could hardly get through them. 18miles to go now & I was suffering pretty badly with tiredness & starting to get a few stomach issues as well. It was just a case of keeping going now, my sub24hr time was gone & I was readjusting all the time, not really able to work out how long I’d be but still moving forward as best as I could. The next couple of hours were just a blur as I dug in & concentrated on getting the job done. I can’t even remember hitting the Lenham CP, just glad that I was on course & still moving. The next CP was at Dunn Street which was supposed to be 97 miles but they told me it was more like 4.5miles to the finish. Bugger, that meant I really had to pull my finger out to get a sub 26hr finish! Was out of the CP like a scalded cat & running up the road faster than I had for the last couple of hours. I just kept pushing on as best I could & finally came to the train station! Fantastic, that meant I was minutes away from the finish. Two minutes later I was crossing the line in a time of 25hrs, 45mins & 8seconds to the sound of a bloke moaning to James about the clapping at the finish line! Sort of took my moment away to be honest, but Neil & Sam were there to give me my Medal & my Buckle, not quite the sub 24 I wanted to maintain my sub 96hr grand Slam Quest, but at least I finished this time round & tamed my Nemesis in the process.
This wasn’t to be the end of it though! Although I’d taken on & beaten the NDW 100 this time round & finally claimed my NDW Buckle & medal after a 12month wait, my house was burgled two days later & they were both stolen! It seems the NDW wasn’t going to let get away without biting me in the arse after all.