Friday, 12 August 2016

Race report: Centurion NDW100 2016

Since I read Confessions Of An All-Night Runner, I wanted to run ultra distance events.  Having winged the first few at London and Rotherham, I got a coach because I really wanted to run Land's End to John O'Groats (a multi-stage event with an average of 50 miles per day).

James, the ever wise coach, steered me away from 17 days of 50 miles average per day.  And we explored some other multi-day events as I wanted to see whether that suited me more than longer single-stage events.  And that went well and I enjoyed it.  But the time came when I really wanted to pop my 100 mile cherry and see how that might go.  So, originally we targeted SDW100, with SDW50 first as I kinda wanted to do the Centurion 50 mile Grand Slam in 2016 anyway.

To cut it short, the SDW50 didn't go well for me.  I did NDW50 and loved it. So, having DNFed on SDW50 and not being quite happy about the prospect of the 100 along the same route, James & I decided to cut losses and shift focus to NDW100 instead.

NDW100 (2016) route

Much better!  And MrTOTKat and I had decided to run the whole length of the North Downs Way National Trail (all 153 miles of it all the way to Dover and back to Ashford again) a couple of weeks before the 100 race as a 6 day multi-stage jog/hiking holiday.  (we loved it, might get around to posting about it later).

NDW (2016) elevation profile
I came into the weekend of the race a little unsure of how I'd fare with a week of taper (1x 3 mile run!) and my second biggest mileage week ever (167 miles with the holiday, including extra mileage to and from the route/accommodation each night/morning) the week before that.  But otherwise pretty relaxed and confident that whatever happened on the day, I deserved to finish with the work and preparation that I'd put in.

James, the RD, showing the (highly reflective!) marking tape at the race briefing
With an 05:30 race briefing on Saturday, before the 06:00 race start, we (MrTOTKat and I) decided to book a hotel nearby on Friday night to maximise sleep.  And that went pretty well apart from the fire alarm at god knows what time in the night.  I'd registered on Friday, dropped off my drop bags for the 50 (head torches and foot care kit) and 82 (extra snacks in case, plus foot care) mile aid stations, finish bag (warm, clean clothes and shoes for afterwards) and picked up my race number.

After the briefing, which included some sage advice about keeping things sensible during the coming heat of the day and enjoying the cool of the evening, we all ambled down to the head of the trail for the start.

It's pretty narrow at that point and, given the distance of the day ahead, I was happy to not rush to the front to sprint off from the start.  I was also happy that the first 25 miles or so I knew pretty well having run it 4 times already as far as Merstham, so while I had little idea of exactly where the aid stations were or what some of them were called it was no bother.

Of course, being a bit blase about the first 25 miles routing meant that I was daydreaming a bit and within the first 4 miles I'd gone over, tripping on a tree root, and smacked my elbow so hard it immediately came up with a bump the size of half a boiled egg.  Yay!

Around 6 miles in I rescued a couple of guys from going completely the wrong way as we came up to a t-junction they blissfully turned left ahead of me and I knew it was right so yelled "THE OTHER WAY!  TURN RIGHT!" at them as I approached the junction and managed to set them right.  They had been pretty much daydreaming too, there was a lot of it about.  Enough of it about that a few other folks around within the first 10 miles managed to trip over, bang things and twist things but everyone was OK in the end.

The day was going to be hot, so I was keeping an eye on water consumption so I didn't actually end up drinking too much rather than not enough.  As I came to the first aid station at Puttenham, just under 7 miles in, I'd barely touched my water bottles so I made sure my number was checked and sailed straight through without stopping and trucked on through towards the next one.

Aid station locations along the course
20 miles in, I remembered James' words about people feeling mentally bad at around 20 miles because they're tired and they get into a spiral about it so the other 80 miles seem insurmountable, but you're going to be tired at 20 miles because YOU JUST RAN 20 MILES AND THAT'S A LONG WAY!  And I smiled.  I was feeling like I'd run 20 miles, but that was OK.  Everything was as it should be.

Except for one thing.

About 6 miles in, I'd needed to step into the bushes for a "wild poo".  And I'd sat down pretty much right on some nettles I'd not seen and stung my bum.  Which was not the most fun experience I've ever had, I must say.  And though it was the first wild poo of the day, it was certainly not going to be the last.

It is said that the way to get through an ultra, particularly the longer ones, is to break it up into getting from one aid station to the next.  I didn't really do that until the last aid station and the finish, it just didn't turn out to be necessary and I wasn't craving them or getting whiney with myself about "where's the next aid statiooooon!?" like I have in the past.  Today was really Zen and there was none of that going on at all.

The AllezNutrition van at West Hanger car park was back!
The next *mumblety* miles went pretty uneventfully for me.  I kept a lid on things as it was getting warm and for a while when it was pretty warm for me, I felt a bit ill so slowed things down a bit to reduce my core temperature and that really helped.  I sailed through the miles and the aid stations, up and down the hills and steps, not stopping any longer than it took to fill up bottles and drinking increasing amounts of Pepsi/Coke each time as well as the odd 1/4 ham sandwich and handfuls of cherry tomatoes and orange segments; each time taking most of the food I wanted and a last cup of Pepsi with me so I kept moving while eating/drinking.

Trotting through Newlands Corner aid station
This was the formula all the way to Botley Hill (with a couple more wild poos thrown in - ow, nettle sting!) where the first of the familiar faces was going to be in the form of Stephanie(theMagpie) and Cat Simpson (who I'd not yet met).  Cat fed me some awesome fruit and made sure my bottles were refilled, but no sign of Stephanie!   I trotted out to the road crossing outside the aid station and there she was - making sure folks got safely across the junction.  She gave a quick passing hug and said that MrTOTKat sent his love and she'd let him know I was safely through.  Thanks Stephanie!

About 2 miles out from Knockholt, I and a couple of other runners came across a poor chap who had extreme chafing in his nethers and his race was pretty much over whether he took up my offer of additional lube I was carrying or not.  I felt bad for him as he was doing really fine otherwise.

Coming into Knockholt aid station - perky perky!
Time came for the mid-way checkpoint at Knockholt and a very familiar and reassuring face in the form of the aid station manager @abradypus (Centurion 100 mile Grand Slammer in 2015 - we both ran our first ultra at the same time in February 2013), and MrTOTKat, as well as my first drop bag with the essential lighting for the overnight section.  This time I stopped for a little while - around 14 minutes in all - as I wanted some tea and chicken soup as well as the gallons of Pepsi I'd started to really look forward to.  I felt a bit sick, so decided to give in and sit down for a few minutes for the first time in 51 miles.  That and the Marmite sandwiches @abradypus had saved for me really really helped!  The sick feeling subsided and I trotted out with a handful of Marmite sandwiches, a cup of tea and a fist full of orange segments which I stuffed into my mouth as I stumped out purposefully.

In my happy place with a plate of Marmite sandwiches!
Everything felt fine and as it should do at this stage.  Yep, I'd run 51 miles so there were some sore bits but even then they weren't as sore as I'd expect for this stage.  MrTOTKat helped out by stuffing my lights into my pack and taking out the collection of paper cups I'd amassed over the previous aid stations.

As dusk was falling a little, I came across some red glow sticks in the trees which I thought someone was putting out as way marking a bit early and saw ahead a couple of guys one of whom looked really handy, fit, tallish, covered in tattoos but moving pretty slowly so I thought he was route marking for the night.  Until I, and the other guy, got closer at which point the tattooed chap bent over and vomited profusely.  We stopped and asked if he was OK and the chap behind did too - he had lots of stuff in his pack and offered bitter things, tangy things, salty things to help so the other two of us carried on trotting onwards knowing this guy was better equipped to help than we were.  As we went onwards we could hear pretty horrific vomiting for another 15 minutes or so - I felt so sorry for him; that was violent and unrelenting vomiting and he was about 4-5 miles away from the next aid station.  The guy who was helping him caught up with us pretty quickly and said he'd left him with some anti-sickness pills and that was that.

Dusk was well and truly happening, the next aid station would be Wrotham and time to get the head torch on.  MrTOTKat said he'd see me there and then head to bed for the night to see me again in the morning.  And it turned out that was really very very lucky.

I fished out my head torch and stuck it on my head while I drank even more Pepsi and had a quick chat with MrTOTKat.  I tried not to waste too much time at the aid station and made to leave, gave MrTOTKat a hug and started to head out, then paused to turn on my head torch so I could see where I was going.

Hah.  Nothing happened.  Torch no turny on.  So I called at MrTOTKat that something wasn't right.  The next 20 minutes were spent fiddling, trying stuff out and coming to the conclusion that the battery was totally dead.  We tried to charge it from the battery pack but the drain was so low it kept turning off the charging.  I put on my backup light - which is pretty bloody good really - and we agreed that MrTOTKat would take the battery and find somewhere with mains power to charge it and bring it to me at the next allowed crew point (16.2 miles away at Bluebell Hill) and that was that.   There were no worries really as the night was pretty short and I had my backup light (which is awesome and I'd happily use it as a main light), my phone with a torch in it and a portable battery pack I'd been using to recharge my GPS watch on the go with a ton of charge left in it.  Worst case we'd not get the main battery charged and I'd run out of light going into the dawn or earlier and I'd have to pull out at a coming check point.  Not ideal but not the end of the world.

The next section was a mix of a small amount of street-lit road, moonlit/twilit fields and totally dark bits so I turned off my backup light to conserve that battery when I really didn't need it and when I was running with other folks who had super bright torches on.  It was incredibly beautiful crossing fields under the clear skies with so much ambient light I could see where my feet were going and being able to look up at the stars without my light getting in the way.  Absolutely stunning!

@abradypus came to the rescue at Holly Hill - I pitched into the aid station which was covered in lovely pink glow sticks and went to get my bottles refilled and heard a "Mrs Driskell!" from the darkness to one side of the aid station.  It was @abradypus with her own head torches, one of which was the exact same model as mine so she lent me her battery which had plenty enough charge in it and I swapped my backup light back into my pack and went onwards, at around 11pm at this stage, with my intended main light on which was utterly awesome on the lowest intensity and adaptive lighting mode.

"Sickening.....!!!! Ly brilliant!!!" - thanks James!
Bluebell Hill was the next aid station and a super speedy tactical hit on water, Pepsi and some orange segments.  The exit was marked with a line of glow bracelets that looked like a fairy landing strip - so cute - and the comment "that was the fastest in and out of this aid station today!".  Yep, no time to be wasted now, onwards to Detling!  ...where I came across @abradypus again (thanks for the great photo)!  Feeling still pretty good, but feet getting more sore than I would have liked, my spirits were still high and I'd had not one single dark moment in 82 miles!  (Not mentioning the growing number of wild poos that were going on, likely due to a combination of heat, running and Pepsi - my bum was getting quite sore!)

Two more aid stations to go and I finally started to mark progress by aid stations and getting to the next one.  The trail surface was pretty harsh on my feet, with rare and only short sections that were not covered in rocks and stones for a good number of miles so far and continuing that way to the end.

The dawn came and Lenham aid station - I checked in with the volunteers "theoretically how many miles are we at here?" being told 91, my watch said 90.45 - I needed to know where we were in relation to the end rather than where my watch *thought* we were.  So. With about 12 miles to go I decided to have a tactical cry about the soreness of my feet on the stones and the fact the stones were not letting up in the slightest.  I kinda didn't want to have ugly happy/crying face when I got over the line and there was a build up of annoyance at the stones being *everywhere*.

This was a great idea.  There was nobody around so I could really let rip with some swearing and snotting, singing loudly a made-up song about hating rocks, and sobbing, and felt loads better after about 15 minutes of that.  OK, my feet were still sore but the only way that was going to stop was if I got myself to the end.  It also helped if I trotted rather than walking - hah! It hurt *less* to "run" than walk!

This was where I was aiming for - hot dogs and tea!
The guys at Dunn Street aid station were great.  As runners approached, they'd take the number check and ask if we needed any food or drink and if we didn't they'd wave us onwards rather than into the aid station.  Good work!  I didn't even see what the aid station looked like and trucked onwards with two almost full water bottles still and only 6.5 miles left to cover.

The awesome sight of the finish arch
It's amazing how long it can take to cover 6.5 miles.  When I ran the Rowbotham's Rotherham Round back in 2013 I was stunned that it took around an hour to cover the last 3.1 miles, so since then I've been well prepared for distances to take shockingly longer than you'd expect.  Today was no exception.

Despite the fact I was jogging everything but the steeper inclines, it took an hour and 40 minutes to cover that last 6.5 miles.  The last 3 miles of it being a deviation from the North Downs National Trail to the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford, and so on road mostly which was a blessed relief for my poor feet.

Rounding the final corner, I could see the running track and expecting to run a whole lap to finish, I was pleasantly surprised by there being only a segment to do.  There was cheering and clapping and shouting encouragement.  I could see MrTOTKat and it was good.  Then I spotted James just beyond the finish line and a huge grin spread across my face.  I'd only gone and actually done it.  And it already started to feel like the whole thing was a dream.

James and (the awesome) Nici dished out the hugs, braving the distinct hum of stink rising off me and I don't even remember which of them gave me the buckle I had been coveting for quite some time.  But I do remember the first thing that came out of my mouth to James was "stuff Ironman!" which I won't retract even now.  28 and a half hours of actually enjoying what I was doing, and though it was tough and stuff hurt, I'd had a tactical cry, and there was a brief period of feeling a bit sick, there was not a single dark moment in the entire race.

Honest guv', this is my happy face!
@abradypus brought fabulous tea; MrTOTKat brought me shoes and warm clothes to put on; and a long time old friend turned up utterly delightfully unexpectedly and found me a hotdog!  I had many happy, stinky hugs, many cups of tea and worked my way through the rather unexpectedly tasty hotdog (proper sausage, not a frankfurter!).  We clapped and cheered the final runners over the line and waited with bated breath for the last 20 who'd made the cutoff at Lenham to get themselves across the line under the 30 hour limit. And they all did!  Wonderful stuff!

Thank you Nici!

Overall I think I'd say there were two things I could have done better in this race.  1 - made sure I had the correct and fully charged torch battery the night before and if not, charge the damned thing.  2 - shoes with a rock plate.  I'd deliberately worn my trusty Asics Gel Fuji Attack rather than the lovely La Sportiva Helios SR as the Asics had a lot more protection for the soles of my feet and having covered the whole of the North Downs National Trail a couple of weeks before, I was aware of the harshness of the surface over the 100 mile route.  But 100 miles in one go is apparently a bit much for me in those shoes; they don't have a rock plate.

Still.  I genuinely think the race could not have gone any better than it did given the main mistake I'd made.  I am really pleased with the result and still can't really articulate what happened, but I did it.  My first 100 mile race.  And I'm wearing that buckle with pride.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

NDW100: One month to go...

It's one month until my first attempt at the 100 mile distance.  Having absolutely loved North Downs Way 50, and the South Downs much less so, the choice was to go for North Downs Way 100.

The North Downs Way is simply gorgeous.  And it's a bit hilly.  So for annual holiday this year, we decided to spend a couple of weeks in the Lake District, which would give me lots of mountain trails to get into my legs as a bit of conditioning.

Mmm, contour lines.
Elevation... ooo...elevation...
It was the most glorious fortnight.  Sunny and mild for the first week.

Glorious views, climbs over rocks...

And fun little descents in the sunshine.

Did I mention the steps yet?

Then in the second week it got a bit more serious, I ran more by myself and the rain came in.

Sometimes we got wet, sometimes we didn't.

Sometimes it was pretty much scrambling, never mind hiking.

And more steps.  Good practice for North Downs Way!

So, all in all some pretty good endurance gains, hiking and steps practice and testing out wet weather gear pretty seriously (I got drenched for hours and had a tantrum when I got back to the cottage from one particular solo run - turned around and went straight back out to the shops and bought new stuff!)

Now it's 4 weeks out from the race and the nerves are already closing in.  Am I fit enough?  Am I too heavy for my strength capabilities?  Will I get blisters from shoes I want to run in?  I've never run further than 52 miles in one day, what will happen to me after 60, 70, 80 miles?  How will I cope with sleep deprivation?  Some of the answers are obvious and nothing to be worried about, but some need more thinking about and discussion with CoachJames.

I've already sorted out the pack/kit I will be carrying on the day (after freaking out on a test run home with 2.5kg pack) and I'm happy with the weight.

Full pack & kit inside the dry sack I'll be using to keep it dry (even if it doesn't rain, I'll sweat through my pack and get things wet).  Add 1kg water to take it up to 1.9kg at a maximum, add ~150g for a base layer and I'm happy.

Especially when I get to not carry this for the first 50 miles, so I can deduct 200g from the pack for the first half.

Some of the worries are diminishing, but some are still there and new ones will come up I'm sure - human brains are great at sabotaging themselves.

I've still got work to do before 6am on race day - a 16 mile run with full kit on a hilly route tomorrow (so, hey, why not the North Downs Way!?), 38 miles next week, 46 miles the week after that, 142 miles the week after that (because I'm an idiot, but it'll be at *super* easy effort), and 6 miles in the week leading up to the Saturday of the race.  I'll have run the first 25 miles of the route 3x before race day, the next 10 miles 4x, the first 50 miles of it twice and the rest once.  I'm not so great at remembering routes, so recce runs can be quite lost on me, but I'm sure it can do nothing but help in this case.  Having run one of the hills twice already, it was way less horrible the second time and I knew it was coming.

So, yes, I need to keep focused and keep trucking with the sessions and the mileage and not get stressy, bored, distracted or lazy just yet.  And see how I feel in the huge mileage week.  It could wreck everything, but I'm taking measures as best I can to see that it doesn't.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Memories of being fat: 10 years on...

On May 8th 2006 I came out of a GP appointment for a chest infection with more than just anti-biotics. I came out shocked and with my bum well and truly kicked. The doctor also said "you're rather overweight aren't you?", plopped me on the scales and I was horrified to see it saying 94kg, then she took my blood pressure and said I needed to be monitored as it was quite high.

Packed off with a prescription for anti-biotics and an appointment for a follow-up blood pressure appointment in a month with the nurse, I left with a switch in my head flipped. I didn't know it at the time, but this was a huge turning point in my life and instrumental in completely changing my life.

Over the coming months, I took positive action by keeping a food diary and learning about the nutritional content of the food I was eating. I pretty much always had cooked everything from scratch, but portion sizes had crept upwards and with the proportion of carbs in the meals, I was "happily" eating more than I needed.  Though I ate little sugar, I ate a lot of pasta, rice, potatoes and tons of bread.

After 3 months of focused effort, which involved a dramatic cut in the amount of starchy foods (Restricting myself to 50g bread per week! One chunk of crusty baguette at the weekend.), I hit my first weight target of "healthy BMI" (for me that was 72kg). OK there were a few tantrums and tears along the way (mostly because I was missing bread), but compared with a lot of people I had a pretty easy ride with no real plateaus.  Much frustration came from "knowing" that fat was fattening yet not wanting to eat synthetic or highly processed foods instead and not having the knowledge to tackle that.  And just skimming a healthy BMI, especially being very inactive (OK I walked a lot, but that's it), didn't mean I felt (or in my opinion) looked great. So I set a new goal of 67kg which was right in the middle of the "healthy BMI" range and reached that a couple of months later.  Then down to about 64kg shortly after that, in late 2007.

Skip forward to 2009 and I was happy that I felt so slim and could buy clothes in pretty much any shop I fancied, but was "weak like kitten" and wasn't happy about that.  So took up weight training and did that for a while, loved it and, having taken up a bit of light cycling in 2007 and being a swimmer as a child, started to run a bit so I could do triathlons and did my first in 2010.  But still calorie counting to keep my weight in check.


This culminated in 2012 with a bunch of Ironman races and a great time of it.  But one of the important things I learned from Ironman was that I did not want to be stuffing bars and gels down me to get through a race and I put a few pounds back on too - up to 67kg.  Calorie counting seemed to be how it would have to be for the rest of my life and that didn't seem like a great prospect, nor like it should be right.

Cue an un-prompted intervention from Dr Tamsin Lewis, who recommended "Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It", by Gary Taubes and that changed my life even more.  I devoured many more books on the topic, grabbed some practical help on recipes from a couple of books (like Raising Superheroes, by Prof Tim Noakes) and changed my diet pretty much overnight.  No more calorie counting and messing about figuring out how much I needed for a ride or a run or how much I could have when I was starving, because I stopped getting the ridiculous hunger and the weight dropped off a bit again too.

I ended up being featured in a few "inspirational" articles...

Then I dropped triathlon at the end of 2013, despite having had a great year that year as part of a fantastic amateur triathlon team.  Everyone else on the team was an elite athlete, winners of all sorts of incredible races like Norseman and age group podium places at the Ironman World Championships.

Triathlon was making me put too much pressure on myself.  Seriously, I was better than average but no more than that and surrounded by so many high performing athletes a lot of the time. I was enjoying doing quite well (i.e. better than average), but the process was draining me mentally and needed more time than I was happy giving to get better.

So, I took up ultra marathons ('cause yeah, why not focus on the one discipline of triathlon you're worst at :o) ) and haven't looked back.  

Keeping mostly Low Carb, High Fat with excursions every now and then - some really good fresh bread with a special meal, a dessert a few times in the year etc. and whatever I feel like *during* ultras.  I had blood work done to validate that everything was in a good place on the insides - and it is.

Now it's 2016 and aside from a little more wine than I probably should have, I'm still Low Carb living, still running ultra marathons and still maintaining 30kg of weight loss since that day in 2006.

It *is* possible to be a healthy weight, have a healthy body in terms of fitness and wellness, and not be hungry or have cravings and it *is* possible to keep it like that. But it takes some education and a lifestyle change if you didn't start out that way.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Race Report: NDW50 2016

I couldn't have a better topic for my 800th post in this iteration of my blog. (Thanks to James Craig Simpson, Ben Pine and Steve Wellsted from the Centurion Facebook group for the photos I didn't take in this post.)

Thanks for the day go to: James Elson (for being a great coach, a brilliant race director and finding such a stunning route for this race), Nici Griffin (for lots of things, especially threatening to charge me for transporting my race number if I didn't end up using it all the way to the end!), every single volunteer (you guys make this special and you work so hard), Louise Ayling (for being there, popping up at unexpected places, being encouraging and, though she'd hate it, inspiring!) and MrTOTKat (for driving me around and burbling at me via texts).

The North Downs Way 50 is the best ultra I have run. The course is stunningly beautiful...

Most of it is in woodlands along woodland trails (go look at the Google Street View images - it's the first National Trail that's been covered by the trekker cameras).  I can't describe how perfect that is for me.  It's the vision I have of ultras and so many don't deliver that.  So many end up along the side of main roads for a large proportion, through industrial estates, down the back of chemical/power plants, through the local area where everyone seems to fly tip, etc.  But this route is almost all woodlands, with some open expanses where you have views down from the hill you just climbed and a few trots through pretty little villages.

After the first 24-25 miles of undulating/rolling trail and a little switchback to cross under the A24 so you don't die crossing it; you come to the bottom of Box Hill and the stepping stones.

The organisation is so slick and friendly...

Useful info at the checkpoints.

Easy to spot and welcoming!

And just look at that spread!  Cherry tomatoes are perfect and there was fresh pineapple at a later station - soooo good to perk things up.

Where else would there be a "bacon boat"? With the Centurion Running "Naval Division" and a Stormtrooper handing out bacon sandwiches! It was absolutely perfect, unexpected and not only a needed salty hit but a good giggle at the sight of a Stormtrooper.

You cannot possibly get lost - you'd have to try really hard!  The whole route is on the North Downs Way National Trail which is well marked with the usual little acorn symbol, but on top of that there are bright orange chalk paint arrows and lots of red & white stripy tape to give you the confidence you're on the right track (all removed by sweeper runners following the cut-off times).

And the profile is nicely challenging without being so tough it makes you cry (but the *steps*!)

There are quite a lot of steps. Many many up, and later on when legs are getting a bit used, lots down too (ow!).

The day was perfect; weather was 6-12 degrees, sunny and light breezes every now and then.  The shade of the trees kept the sunburn at bay though I am a little pink in places the morning after.  I did manage to throw myself down a couple of descents onto hands & knees so they got a bit scraped up.

The second trip and fall was the only time I had a dark moment in the whole run - which is phenomenal.  No thoughts at all of "why am I bothering?" etc. apart from 15 seconds or so after the second fall.  And then in the last 3 miles, I tripped AGAIN! But this time, I yelled "seriously!", recovered it without hitting the deck. Yay!

The first half, as I said, is undulating/rolling and the second half is pretty lumpy.  This means you get to half way in much less than half of the total time.  Which can be a bit difficult to mentally deal with unless you're really ready for it.  Having gone out and recced the lumpiest bit of the route by chance, I was pretty ready for it.  And James had prepared me for it well too.  5 hours for the first half, but 6 and a half for the second half.  Yes you're more fatigued in the second half, but there's a lot more up and down in that half.

As the National Trail guide says... "more challenging" (a little understated for a run rather than a walk).

Overall I really enjoyed myself. I had a great day out. Yes stuff hurts at the end and there are aches the next day, but it was beautiful, safe, challenging and really spirit-lifting stuff! I can see why it's the race with the highest return rate. Thank you Centurion Running! (and thank you to all of the volunteers!)