Apocalypse 100 – Conquer Conquest, Feed on Famine, Wipe out War & Defeat Death
This race come round rather fast and with it taking me out of my comfort zone and testing my body and my mind further still, I definitely felt that nervous apprehensive excitement.
I loved the concept of this race, based on the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, I found the route interesting. The four 10 mile loops represented the Horsemen, Conquest, Famine, War and Death and were joined up by a long 10 mile straight which when brought together navigated around the stunning Shropshire Hills.
The race start and finish was at Carding Mill Valley, Church Stretton, which has a majestically somewhat Jurassic feel, at this point I am now feeling quite calm and know in my heart I will keep moving forward through this 100 miles – failure is not an option.
The race registration and brief again was calm and relaxed with a little weather warning to reiterate the importance of hydration in the heat we were about to run in. For 2 days prior to race day I had increased my fluid intake considerably and also took on some Diorylite sachets throughout. I knew I was well hydrated pre-race meaning my focus during the race was to take on small amounts regularly in order to remain hydrated. My race nutrition came from a combination effort of TORQ fitness and my Mum, for the first time I decided to do as I was told (rarely happens!). At the Berghaus Trail Team Weekend, we were given an insight into the TORQ philosophy, what their products are and how to use them in order to achieve maximum performance. I know this worked for me, well, this combined with my Mum’s fantastic sweet potato savory rice anyway.
So 9am, race start and it was already feeling warm…
Conquest: I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer…
After completing the initial 10 mile climbing up from Carding Mill Valley, the Conquest loop began, its focus being the climb up to the trig point a Corndon Hill, with its amazing views you were forced to stop and take stock… I love it when that happens!
Check point 5 was amazing, it was my first sighting of Andy & Team J-Ollie my support crew, as they spotted me the pair of them came running up.
On completion of the Conquest loop, feeling fresh, it was time for the long drag up and over the Stiperstones, I would say technically the hardest stretch. It was virtually impossible to run this section, the stones are so unforgiven on the feet and ankles.
Famine: I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
Checkpoint 7, approximately 30miles in and we reached the Red Lion pub at London Common and there they were Team J-Ollie, what a lift. This was a drop bag checkpoint, at which point I was starting to get hungry. So I took on so sweet potato savory rice (thanks Mum!), a TORQ gel and cups of juice. Still feeling fresh legged and in high spirit, I was eager to get off again.
The focus of Famine was the climb to the trig point at Pontesford Hill, a short but very sharp climb and then a very intense descent before a short route back to the Red Lion pub and again a quick cuddle with my babies. This time as I reached the checkpoint it was obvious to see the impact the heat was having on some of the runners, strewn across the grass were the bodies of melting runners trying to replenish and rehydrate.
At this point the 50milers and 100milers part their ways, slightly concerned now as I am running on my own, the leaders were along way ahead and yet there was a fair distance behind me to the next 100 mile runner.
As I reached Dorrington, I had come to the end of the map as I turned it over, my heart sunk, I needed the other map but stupidly I had left it in the car at the last checkpoint. This is where my support crew was amazing, a quick phone call and within 20 minutes I had the map and I was back on track…. (Thanks Andy!)
War: I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
Reaching Checkpoint 12 I was starting to feel tired, I had run 10 miles on my own and it was starting to hit dusk. I stopped again for quick bite to eat and took on a protein shake at this point. It was time to starting thinking about the night section of this race. This I was worried about, I had been running with another 100 mile runner up until Checkpoint 11 where he decided he didn’t have enough to go the full 100 and dropped down to the 50mile instead. I was apprehensive but I got my kit together, I changed to my warmer clothes and headtorch and off I went. As the light disappeared, I became sensitive to the noises and presence around me. I am unashamed to admit I completely freaked myself out and by the time I had got lost in a corn field I was getting a little panicked. I got myself back to checkpoint 12 and considered withdrawing, everything at this point was hurting, I was tired cold and feeling vulnerable.
Within 40 minutes the next group of runners came through the checkpoint, at last someone to run with. The route along Much Wenlock Edge was great, I was running with Nick Holt, who I had met at an earlier event and he was being paced out by a friend. It was such a relief and a great pace too.
Death: I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him.
At last Checkpoint 17 the final loop of this route! We were all feeling the exhaustion now, not just exhaustion through miles but also the lack of sleep and the effects of the heat from the day but mentally reaching the 70/80 mile loop was a boost. Whilst a long loop the terrain was a little more forgiving through fields, tracks and only some minor climbing. Our pace had slowed considerably so as we reached the end of this loop I started to pull away from Nick and his pacer.
I just want to thank Nick and his team for taking me through the night as this potentially could have been the end of my race.
I made the stop at checkpoint 22 quick, back into my shorts and cap and time to off load the headtorch and jacket. Although the pace was still slow I now knew I would finish, that was until I made another navigation error at the top of Priors Holt, causing a small sense of humour failure. I had to track back about half a mile to pick up the small path forking off to the right. On this path I caught up with 2 runners which was such a relief, the day was hotting up again and I really didn’t want anymore mistakes to extend this 100 miles even further so I decided to stay with these guys for the final stretch through checkpoint 23 and back to the finish. This part of the route had potential for lots of mistakes going for short stints on road, through fields, along tracks back onto roads it was constantly changing, again there was more short sharp climbs and then a long drag back up to the top of Carding Mill Valley. As we started on the descent down to the finish I started to pull away from the other 2. I’m never quite sure what happens here, but when you know there is only a mile left the pain you have been experiencing for the last 30 miles starts to disappear, and as I came down off the descent I could now open up to finish strong.
Down on the finish, my amazing support crew were there, these guys had been with me every step of the way and I am so grateful for that. Andy, Jessie and Ollie brought a smile to my face at every checkpoint they had made it too. They saved my race on a few occasions! My folks had also made the journey to see me finish which is always nice, my Dad slightly concerned about me coming down the descent on tired legs decided to track back to help me down, as I came running down he realised there was no need and now he was struggling to keep up as I came through the finish…. Haha sorry Dad!
I am happy with a 1st and only female finish and 5th place overall, I believe there was a 30% completion rate for this race and I think that demonstrates how hard this was, no doubt as a result of the weather, distance, terrain and route or even a combination of all is why a huge number of runners dropped down to the 50 miler or had to retire from the race.
I learned so much, what I got right I was happy with, my hydration, nutrition, preparation was spot on. I made some silly mistakes like not checking I had the right map at one point and I was definitely let down by my navigation skills, once the battery on my GPS had gone it became obvious how much I rely on this.
An amazing race in the beautiful setting of the Shropshire Hills, the organisers and army of volunteers were amazing. I would love to do it again. I know it should have been quicker by a couple of hours but I think I am off to Navigation School first…
It was obvious the importance of hydration throughout this event, I believe the 2 day prep run up is was helped me here. It was also great to feel the benefit of the TORQ gels, bars and energy drink throughout, the first 60 miles I religiously took on what I should and I felt great. I will explain their philosophy in more detail on the nutrition tab on my website, you can find the information on their website www.torqfitness.co.uk
I received a fabulous medal and trophy for my efforts and a desire to enter another www.beyondmarathon.com event.
I finished and said 100 miles is not my distance but you know what? As the body recovers, I am thinking what next? In the words of Bill Bowerman “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race, it’s to test the limits of the human heart.”
The Apocalypse 100 … tested the heart!