Technically, an ultra marathon is any race
longer than a normal marathon: 42.2 kilometers or 26.2 miles. I had run plenty of shorter ultra marathons this season, but I wanted to test myself on a real ultra marathon. I wanted to run a 100-mile ultra marathon. Sometimes known as a “century”, a hundred mile race is a huge leap outside of anyone’s comfort zone. this is almost as long as four full marathons, run back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I wanted to relive the uncertainty and
curiosity of running my first ultra marathon again. I entered the Cotswold Way Century. This was a hundred and two mile race along the entire length of the
Cotswold Way National Trail, from chipping Camden to Bath. there was a 30 hour cut-off time to finish, but I wanted to do under 24 hours. 1 day: 100 miles.
Actually, 102 miles. Whoa. I thought I had enough confidence to finish, so I didn’t do much training over the summer. My confidence had actually fermented
into arrogance. Instead of working hard over the summer to build more confidence. I just relaxed and took it easy. My last ultra marathon was 3 months ago. I made a dumb mistake and forgot my salt pills, then I didn’t make an effort to beg, borrow or steal salt supplements from other runners. This resulted in a DNF and I was annoyed. For weeks afterwards, I gave in to feel good. Working hard would have been the best way to feel better about myself. Planning for a race like this took effort. There were three drop bags along the course, so I could change gear, replenish supplies, or discard unnecessary equipment. This meant I didn’t have to carry everything needed for the entire race. I estimated my fuel requirements and split this into equal portions for my running vest, which
I would start the race in, and for the 3 drop bags. I packed fresh shirts, shorts, socks and a towel in each drop bag for a gear change at the drop bag points. The drop bags would be collected and brought to the finish, so I could leave my wet, dirty clothes in
each bag as I changed. I worked out my target times for reaching each checkpoint. To finish in 24 hours, I needed to run at an average of
8:46 per km (14:07 per mile). This was relatively slow, but it included power hiking up hills, stops at checkpoints to refuel, and longer periods at drop bag
areas to change. I use this average pace to work out what time I would need to reach each checkpoint. At the start of the Cotswold Way Century I was feeling good and my pace was fast. Actually, it was too fast. I reached the first drop bag area more than 1 hour earlier than scheduled. Irina and the boys came to meet me at the drop back area while I changed. It was such a great boost to see them. I had finished running more than a full marathon, but I still had about
three more full marathons to go. My previous ultra marathon race resulted in a DNF due to lack of salt supplements. I was not gonna make that mistake again I didn’t realize it, but I had already made an entirely different mistake. while preparing gear for the race, I found salt pills which had caffeine in them. Wow, that sounded like the extra edge I needed to get me through a race I had
not properly trained for. I was taking the salt pill every 30 minutes. Each time, I was consuming more caffeine. Some of the gels I was taking every 45 minutes also contained caffeine. I don’t usually drink coffee. This was way too much
caffeine for me. I think my body was prepared to accept a diet of chemical
gels and caffeine for a while, but my stomach has a limit. Coming into the halfway point I was feeling rough. My stomach hurts. I was slow to get out of the halfway checkpoint, but I wanted to avoid getting stuck there. Maybe I just needed to keep moving. Back on the course, my stomach was feeling worse. It was 11:00 p.m. and very dark on the trail. The only light came from my head torch. The vibration from running made my guts feel sore. Eventually the stomach pain was unbearable and I slowed to a walk. There were minimal course markings on the Cotswold Way besides the trail markings This was a trail most people walk during
the day with a map. I was trying to run
it in the dark using just the GPS device. I did manage to download the course
data into my watch ahead of time, so I would get an alert if I went off course. But it was still hard to navigate sections
through forests or open fields. I could not see much beyond my immediate head torch. I got lost, more than a few times. Then it started to rain. I put my rain jacket on. My stomach was still too sore to run. It felt like someone had beaten my guts with a stick. I was only able to
walk so my body temperature was dropping. Then the situation got worse. My GPS watch started beeping. Low battery. Oops. Usually my watch can go for
2 to 3 days without a charge, but I didn’t realize how much using the GPS would reduce the battery life. I’d never used the GPS for more than 9.5 hours, so I didn’t know its limits. Now I do. My confidence was rapidly diminishing. I assessed the situation. My stomach was too sore to run so I’d have to walk. The weather was getting wetter and windier. I was cold and feeling colder. Soon my GPS watch battery would die. Maybe I could navigate the course using the GPS on my mobile phone? maybe I could grind out the
remaining 47 miles in a slow walk through the dark, rainy night? No, it was time to be realistic. I decided to drop out the race while I could
still get back to the halfway checkpoint. My GPS watch died while I was walking back, so I had to use my phone GPS to figure out where I was. Reaching a small village,
I called and got a ride back to the hotel. It was very late. I was hungry but I was able to eat food, so I really do think it was just too
much caffeine and chemical gels, not enough real food during the race. Despite my sore stomach, my legs felt fine after more than 55 miles of running. this was the most annoying part. I could have kept running if I had not made the bad decision about taking salt pills with caffeine. However, the GPS watch battery
issue would have caused serious problems if I hadn’t dropped out when I did. It’s amazing how small bad decisions can gradually result in depleting all your confidence. My confidence was gone, so I dropped out. My body had been producing
endorphins for more than 13 hours, but not anymore The next day I suffered withdrawal
symptoms and felt depressed. This is known as “Runner’s Blues”. It’s real. The longer the race the deeper shade of blue. The sense of accomplishment achieved from finishing the race is a great cushion against the blues, but of course. I didn’t finish the race. I had no emotional cushion. I felt like I spent more confidence during the race
than I had accumulated. It was like I had taken a confidence loan which I needed
to pay back with interest. The problem was I didn’t have the credit of finishing my first 100 mile race to cover the debt. I’ve vowed to quit ultra marathons. I felt embarrassed by the failed effort. Then I made the biggest mistake possible
after running a long race. I stopped running entirely. Physically I needed to get my legs working again and mentally I needed the therapy. There was no way for me to pay back the confidence loan. I had to declare confidence bankruptcy to start over again, but I didn’t give myself permission. This meant it became harder and harder to get back into running. I wanted to find my running limits, but I was surprised they were mental and emotional. It took me months to rebuild my confidence, and there were many set-backs. The cost in confidence was huge, and I wanted to make sure this would never happen again.