A short look at the Portsmouth 50k and Look Back at 2019
That time of year. Again. Geez it goes quicker and quicker with each rotation of the sun. I can almost remember myself typing the report from last years Portsmouth marathon (and I can’t remember a lot at all these days). As it had been such a big year of running, with over 3000 miles logged in Strava, I went into the Portsmouth 50k with no pressure at all for any kind of time or result. However we all know what happens the closer we get to the date of an event don’t we? For me it goes one of two ways – I question my ability when I’m fit and think there’s no way I could possibly do well, OR, I think I can go faster when I am clearly not ready to do so at all. Why is that? What a backwards combination of either over confidence or unecessary fear? I believe the closer you get to an event, the more pressure there is to perform IF you have set yourself a goal. When there is no goal, there is no expectation at all, and so your mind decides it is ok to aim higher than it may be ready for. Of course we often mix these two up as well, once we start a race and end up going too fast, but in terms of where the mind sits before a race I always find this happens.
I divert too much. Bak to the run. We had a LOT of rain and wind leading up to the race this year. It dried up for the day however. Lovely conditions overhead, but the scars of the bad weather the week leading up to the race left the ground torn up and bloodied with rain water. Did you guys see that MAHOOSIVE puddle on the Billy Line before the race? Lots said they avoided it on the way out but on the way back didn’t bother with the two way traffic going on. Awesome. Sometimes you miss all the fun by avoiding what you think will do you harm. Going through the puddles is revitalising. Or so I keep telling myself. Not sure my feet feel the same way. If feet could feel.
Before the race a few of us met up inside the Pyramids. This is a well practiced pre Portsmouth race routine now. This is something I never try on Great South Run day because at the Portsmouth races it is already too full of resting bodies. Can you imagine it at Great South Run day?!!? I spent a good hour inside lent up against a wall. I just wanted to chill this year and just sit and relax before the race. I hadn’t prepared anything much this year and decided to just take a bottle and try the new Hoka belt which was kindly posted to me a month before the race (thanks Hoka!). Normally I’d go into a 50k and even a marathon with some kind of simple nutrition plan, but I didn’t spend too much time worrying. Through the race that day I ended up drinking mostly water from the stations and a few jelly beans. Terrible idea. I am destined to continually make bad nutrition choices, close to race day. I shall accept this fate. For now….
For most of the race I was actually ok, but the final 10k was hellish. Although I didn’t feel hungry I think my energy levels were drained. It had been leaked out of me over the first 25 miles of the route through my nonchelant ways leading up to the day.
Jason and I ran together from the start, saluting Jalfrezzi Jungle on the way out. For those who don’t know what or where Jalfrezzi Jungle is, here goes the explanation – hot curry the night before a training run, can have adverse effects on the body. Jalfrezzi Jungle is almost a ‘last minute’ stop point potential, before you hit the Eastern road going out of town, or – it could be the first point you hit heading back into town where you can no longer hold it in. Jalfrezzi Jungle is the small bit of trees at the end of the path by the flags, closest to the boat station. The jungle grows strong there. Well fed plant life. Again, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Jason peeled off for a toilet break near the Eastern road bridge and I carried on pacing the start (too quickly as always). I expected Jason to catch me up sooner, but he did not. Turns out later he paced it well and over took me with a mile or so to go before the finish. Just before the 13.1 mile point I caught up with a friend Dave who could no longer carry on after having a speedy start. He had already called home for a pick up as he wasn’t feeling great. After a quick check at the feed station, and some water I headed down to the seafront where it was a pebble dash until we almost got back to the same point. The additional 5 miles you do is mostly on pebbles and paths. This takes it out of the legs considering the distance being run. Although the 5 miles isn’t a lot by itself, the bite comes back later on. This goes for all the mud and puddles and slipping and sliding being done all across the route.
I saw Jason on the return journey after the half way turn. He wasn’t far behind. The return journey was very different along the Billy line. I was paced a lot of the time by the person in front, or the oncoming traffic. It really isn’t a bad thing though. It’s nice to be suddenly surrounded by lots of runner and recognisable faces. Because the 50k starts earlier than the other races we didn’t get to see many others out. I ran in the top 15 or so 50k group and so it was very quiet. The wasy back was great though. High fives. Dodging. Splashing. Slipping. Laughing. Chatting. Being ignored. It was a real mix of great stuff. It’s great to hear your name being called out as someone you missed shouts out. I love seeing the faces of friends and calling out to them when they are trying to concentrate on dodging a puddle or person. SO funny. For a mile or so I ran with a guy I’d heard with a South African accent, David Ross, who was running the marathon. We had a mutual friend and got chatting about ultra running. It turned out that David had won the Centurion 100 Grand Slam one year and also holds the ambassador role for looking after UK runners doing Comrades. Enjoyed chatting with him before he headed off to catch someone he’d had a bet with. That’s when things got hard. Energy depletion alerts were going off all over the place. At that stage it’s too late to react. It’s a case of hold it together at some kind of stead pace and get to the finish. To eat at that point would be a waste.
About a mile before the finish Jason came up from behind. It was lovely to see him and he was bounding with energy. This man is an ultra running machine. He crossed the line shortly before me, giving us position 16th and 17th. A top 20 finish was a surprise really. I was slower than I originally wanted, but really pleased once I found that out later. The winners and even the top 10 were just amazing with their times. Another running friend George ran a negative split for the race! Amazing. I normally love hanging around the finish line at races, but for some reason I just wanted to get away from everyone and lay down in inside. I wanted to get my bag, get some kit off and just relax. I had to go and do that, and called a quick goodbye to friends and families. Once inside I quickly recovered. It’s a lovely feeling once you know the hard work is done. I had a lovely quick chat to a lady who was selling vegan health products next to the Runr guys. Craig and the guys at Runr had looked after my bag during the race which was really good of them – thanks guys. My mate Dave kindly gave me a ride home which was a relief as I was cold and tired. A walk may have done me good, but the lift was candy like. Had to take it. Thank you Dave!
Once home it was a soak in the bath. Then out. Then dressed and off to the pub for an early Sunday roast with friends and family at the Eastney Tavern. It was wonderful. Lots of race chat and checking results and sharing photos. That’s when Jason and I both realised we’d placed in the top 20 finishers. I don’t drink a lot, but two and a half strong ales were lovely but were all I could handle. Anymore would have been good night. I’m such a cheap date. Which is great cause I paid for it 🙂
The 2019 Recap Bit
2019 has been challenging and rewarding. Most years are. Challenging as I decided to enter a lot of big mile races and face distances and terrain that really put me out of my comfort zone. Surprisingly, the race I thought I’d mostly struggle to finish was the one I did finish, but not without learning the most about myself ever. I learned that when faced with mountains (literally! multiple!) of struggle – a finish can still be achieved. And not just a finish either. You can reach your goals by adjusting your plans on route and taking the time to recover when needed. When you feel your worst and decide it’s time to quit, turn off for a short while. Eat. Drink. Recover and when you gather the strength back to decide to take just 1 step more …. then it’s time to hit the route again. I learned too that a DNF is not failure although I had to go through the feeling of failure itself to work that out. Yes it was horrible and yes it was depressing and no I wouldn’t want it to happen all the time. But here I type now, with new goals for 2020 which include going back to a race I failed to finish, with more incentive to get through it. More incentive and more knowledge and tons more experience. In a roundabout way, your failures are just more ammunition for future success. They are part of the bigger picture and journey we are all on which will be revealed as an epic masterpiece when we are no longer able to run one day. It’s hard sometimes to see what an important stroke of a brush adds to a masterpiece but one day it will all make sense. I am sure of it. I’m going down a rabbit hole here.
2019 was very kind to me. When I was at a real low after my first DNF, Hoka contacted me and invited me to join the family as a Hoka Racer. Me? I really was blown away and very much appreciated their support from them on. I may not be the fastest runner, but what I lack in speed I make up for in love for the sport, and for Hoka shoes. 2019 has been another good year for the legs and have avoided all those horrid lower leg issues like stress fracture, and I believe my choice of awesome footwear has been the major reason there. Hoka One One shoes are my go to shoe for all terrain, and now even just wearing around casually as well. Superior cushioning works for me. Fantastic shoe and their moto #timetofly or ‘flying over the land’ really resonates within me. The love of the trails, the mountains and hills, the fresh air and freedom. The good company and seeing people grow and enjoy running. It’s all like this really positive force in the world. I wish more would take it up and see for themselves. Thank you to everyone at Hoka for the support and belief in my own running and everyone elses too.
And the year finished on another high. A project I’ve been wanting to do for ages now. A podcast. Portsmouth is a city that has a high concentration of runners. Those runners are all awesome and each person has a story to tell. Those stories sometimes seem boring to the owners who have lived them, but infact they are super interesting and full of little gems of information and wisdom. The podcast has been started to capture, save and store those stories and experiences and share them with other runners. It’s a simple set up to start with, but enough to start and get going and reach a goal I’ve set myself for 2020. If it all takes well and people enjoy them I will get a better set up and grow the show. If you haven’t heard any yet, please do visit – portsmouthrunningpodcast.co.uk , or search for them on iTunes, or Google podcasts. I am super excited to really dig deep into the line up of interviews I’ve got planned this year so please look out for them all.
Lastly, well done to you all. The running community here (and everywhere) is a great one. It really does improve peoples lives and the way people interact and communicate with each other. It’s a force for good. Once again, happy miles everyone! See you out and about….x