A few weekends ago two of our top Camino athletes took on the Centurion Autumn 100 mile classic.
For Richard this was his first ever 100 miler.
For Peter this one came off the back of an impressive Top 30 (after an early season injury threatened all races) at the South Downs Way 100 Miler in June.
So with a first timer and someone coming off the back of what we often classify as an 'A-goal' there were some interesting unknowns for both.
What was clear was that their attention to the training was first class. A full set of intentional blocks that would see them hitting some of their strongest ever weeks whilst focusing on the strategy and all the finer points which make up an ultramarathon.
So over to the intrepid Pete & Rich to see how it all squared up.
"I’d been told by several people that Autumn 100 is a great event to enter as your first 100 miler - the return to Goring every 25 miles to your drop bag, the camaraderie among runners as you see everyone on each out-and-back leg. Turns out that, for me, they were right. The leg structure compartmentalised the race into manageable sections, and my brain thrives on attainment which could be achieved through completion of these mini races within the race.
Earlier in the year I had completed Race to the Stones (100km) in a time that previously I had thought would be too bold to contemplate. This has filled me with confidence to attempt a strong time at A100, and Camino helped me with a training plan to get me to the start line. With the aim of a sub-20 hour 100 miler, I knew that I had to be careful with my pace through the early stages of the race, and that I have a tendency to get carried away. I think the best thing I did all day was talk to people! I used the first out and back to have some chats, and force myself to not overtake. Some of the paths are single file along the Thames Path - fellow runners would ask if they could let me past. No! I’m quite comfortable behind you, thank you very much. So long as we can have a chat.
I’d previously run (in one direction) all four legs of the course. This really helped with my mindset during the whole day. Nothing was unknown - nothing to be afraid of - able to visualise what was coming up, even in the dark. This also meant that there were so many sections to look forward to - and keep my spirits high about the remaining distance needed to cover. I was aware that your emotions can ebb and flow during the long amount of time needed to be out there in a hundred. I felt this abated some of the negative energy as I nearly always had something to look forward to.
The second and third legs largely passed uneventfully - just enjoying the vibes, the community, and the fact that the sun was out nearly all day. Darkness fell in the early part of leg three; and I was hoping this would mean that I could use my fellow runners’ head torches as targets to maintain my pace - ‘hunting people down’. However, I found myself basically in no man’s land between a couple of groups. Nevertheless, I had prepared for this. Out came the headphones and my preselected podcasts I had avoided catching up on during the previous fortnight, so that I had a fall back. This kept me plodding on - and I knew I had the run down the hill into Goring, and also meeting my pacer (Chris) to look forward to.
King of the pre 100 stretches - pics by legend Pierre Papet
Between each leg, runners have access to their drop bags in Goring Village Hall. I had prepared specific nutrition bags for each leg, so as to eliminate any thought needed to pack my vest for the upcoming 25 miles. This worked out great, especially for someone whose nutrition plan was very gel heavy - as I didn’t need to think about whether I had enough. Taking that thought away though, did mean that I didn’t put much thought into anything else either. I think that every time I left the Village Hall, about 1km down the path I would remember at least one thing I had forgotten to do. The most annoying of these being the neglect of my chafing precautions. I have no idea why I didn’t just keep something in my pack with me, but there you go. The easiest way to remedy this, would be to create a little checklist to go through prior to returning a drop bag. Giving no excuse to forget.
Rich looking menacing (did we teach him the Game Face) - next to Ronnie. (pic Pierre)
By the time I got to leg 4, I had been making steady progress up the field. Whilst the overtakes had dried up in the third leg for me, no one was passing me. This added to my confidence, and belief that I was still strong. For the last leg my good friend Chris was also going to be pacing me. On meeting at Goring we had a discussion about what the goal was - which remained to hit under 20 hours. From my (over-)analysis of the previous year’s race results I knew that leaving Goring with 5h45 to go was what was required - and I had 5h40. We split the last leg into two, and all Chris had to do was get me to leave Reading with 3 hours left. Having this target in place was great for my mindset, and picking off sections of the course. We hit the famous 4 mile slog from the Reading sign at Tilehurst to the turnaround, and flew down the river path to the aid station. Gaining more and more momentum as we picked off slower runners in front.
Cheeky Rich slipstreaming (It's all in the plan (Pierre Papet pics)
I just can’t fathom doing it (whilst having a target) without a pacer. It kept me moving forwards as you always needed approval to stop running - particularly desirable on this fourth leg! There was always encouragement, and reinforcement that what you are doing is amazing - which keeps the spirits up, and kept me going forwards. It also meant I could set more targets to achieve in the race within the race - catching a head torch in front, or not walking until we’d crossed the field. And possibly, most importantly, the reminder to keep drinking my tailwind.
The finish (in 19h51) was full of emotion, and a little bit of surprise that in the end I had pulled it off. Although if you looked at me at the time, you wouldn’t have been able to tell, seeing as I was too tired to do anything other than sit down. This contrasted with the following days which were just as emotional, only different feelings. What next? How do you come up with a meaningful target when you’ve just done something that seemed impossible not too long ago? What’s going to be my ‘why’ in the future? Will I ever get that same feeling of accomplishment again? What if it’s the last time?
This rather knocked me for six for a few days - something I really wasn’t expecting. Running has become such a big part of my life - the time required to train for events - the change in social groups to reflect the people i’ve met through it. And I suddenly didn’t know how to get excited about training and going to events - if i’m not going to be able to replicate the feeling of personal achievement and be able to share memories/experiences with my close friends who might contribute to it as well.
If you go down to the woods today - You will see Richard Phillips showing a masterclass on How to Run Your First 100 Miler. (Pierre catching the evidence)
I’m not saying that I have an answer to all that yet - but the current time to reflect on the event, pause and consider what’s next has helped me realise how important this actually is to me. And therefore that I should (and need) to set new goals and continue with pushing myself - at least at this point in my life."
"The Autumn 100 was my second 100-miler having completed the South Downs Way 100 in June. Whilst I was happy to complete a very hot SDW and was proud of my time, coming into this race I was wanted to see if I could push a bit harder, take a bit more risk and see if I could ‘compete’ a bit more as well as (hopefully!) complete. So, I gave myself a target time of 19 hours which based on previous years would be around the top 10% of starters. Before the race and looking at what that meant my target times for each section had to be I was nervous that it might be too much and that I might blow up but I decided it was worth the risk! Luckily, other than a muddy Thames Path, conditions on the day were amazing and I ended up crossing the line in 18 hours 25 minutes. Having reflected on what went well and what could have been better, l half-expected some things but also there were lots of things that surprised me. Here are some of the things that I think I learned:
A race plan can help but so can updates from the outside world!
I had a plan printed out and in my race vest with target paces, distances between aid stations, etc. This helped keep me disciplined, pushing for my goal pace and aware of what was coming up next. I managed to stick close to this and was bang on target time until around 80 miles. I built in a 1-hour buffer between the plan and my goal time so I knew that if I could stick to it I’d overachieve but equally that if I was a little off, I didn’t need to panic. On top of this, getting messages from David and friends and family on race positions wasn’t something I’d planned but really helped motivate me when things got harder!
Pete at the front (Good work Pete) Pic Pierre
Pacing & Terrain – stay steady but also make hay while the sun shines.
Generally, I sticked to my target paces but also adapted to go harder in the moments where I felt good and could make most of the hilly sections which I prefer. I pushed hard on the long downhills particularly in day light as I knew I wouldn’t be able to go as fast in the dark later. I was also quick at the aid stations. I was surprised though how much the 50 miles of flat took it out of my legs though so need to do more strength work here as well as more stabilising stuff for the uneven terrain.
I was much more consistent taking on calories than my previous races. Based on past experiences I settled into a plan of gels and tailwind on the move and solids at every aid station (cheese and marmite sandwiches my new dream Ultra food discovery!) I also took Salt capsules every hour even though I didn’t really feel like I was sweating much. I think this played a key role keeping me feeling consistently strong with the inevitable ups and downs of course.
PETE looking uber fresh (Pic Pierre Papet)
Did okay here didn’t need too many layers and packed fairly light but I still tend to have excess food on me on race day and other people’s packs always look smaller! I need to experiment with kit to see if I can be lighter going forward.
Pete moving through the field again (Pierre Papet beautiful pic)
4. Navigation / Pacers - my biggest area for improvement
I got lost about 85 miles in adding 4 miles to my race. Even before this I was stressed for a lot of the 4th leg as I didn’t have a pacer to help me spot markers and most of all I stupidly didn’t have the course GPX on my watch. Need to practice with this more as would have saved me 30 mins or more and been more relaxed! Overall, I’m chuffed with how this one went and am so grateful to David and the Camino coaching team for all the plans and guidance which made it possible. Definitely, lots to keep improving, particularly around navigation and specific strength work, but all in all an amazing day out and a race I’d recommend. "
We are incredibly proud of what Pete and Rich achieved over the entirety of these past few months. Real joy to work with them and to see them execute fantastic race plans.
Pete's 8th and Richard's 20th were just two stunning cherries on top of the best made cakes. Top stuff Boys x