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Mark Bissell - Gloucester Elite 24 Hour Track Race

Mark Bissell - Gloucester Elite 24 Hour Track Race

I recently ran the Gloucester Elite 24 Hour Track race, hosted by the awesome guys at Severn Valley Events on the 23rd October, with a limited field of 24 runners accepted onto the start line. In my last outing, (at the same event last year) I was extremely happy to have posted a PB of 139.9 miles, I mean, 0.9, come on, how close can you get to 140 miles, ha ha!

This time around I was a years worth of stronger, mature, enthusiastic and reassured about my targets and the task at hand. Barry 40 in May 2021, didn't go to plan as much as I would have hoped with the best block of training I had ever had leading in to a race, but I was hopeful of taking that fitness, the adaptations my body will have made and head sure footedly into this event, my ‘A’ race as us runners like to call it.

After Barry 40, I had a complete two week break. Much needed but I found myself lethargic and picking up niggles on runs that had not been there before. This halted my initial build up for Gloucester Elite 24 but perseverance and and erm… that word erm… maturity, helped to ease my way back in both physically and mentally. Ticking off the weeks and focusing on mobility work to supplement the future running load seemed to do the trick and regular conversations with my coach, Darren Reevell, kept me in the present and not looking too far ahead, risking a mental burn out as I have found personally, overthinking the purity of our sport can have negative effects on performance.

As the mileage increased to 80, 90 and 100 miles per week, Parkruns were back on the weekly calendar and this was extremely welcome as its a chance to catch up with friends and have some friendly competition even though Parkrun isn't a race. Until it is, ha ha. This is where my training suddenly seemed to explode and bump me up a level. A standard week was as follows:

Day

Run/Session

RPE

Nutrition

Monday

6-8 miles

3/10

Precision Hydration x 1

Tuesday

12 miles

5/10

Mountain Fuel x 250ml

Wednesday

6 miles

3/10

OTE Super Carb Gel x 1

Thursday

10 miles/Fartlek/Treadmill/3x(3k/1k)

8/10

Mountain Fuel x 500ml

Friday

6-8 miles

3/10

Precision Hydration x 1

Saturday

28 miles (Parkrun in middle)

7/10

Mountain Fuel 2 x 500ml

Sunday

30 miles

5/10

Mountain Fuel 2 x 500ml, OTE Carb Powder, Precision Hydration x 1, OTE & High 5 Gel x 4

 

The above table is pretty much my entire training block from June 2021.

I’ve been running 16 years and for the first time ever, I was finding myself running 5k’s in 16:30’s and 16:40’s. For me, that is one of my lifetime goals complete. I was over the moon and confused at the same time.

Why now?

No track training and tired legs every week. I just rode this form all the way to more big weeks and a new 10 mile PB of 58:30. So, I guess I had broken a plateau or something along those lines!

A bloody long plateau if you ask me.

Then I got COVID, damn, shit hit the fan and had to play by the rules and not leave the house for 10 days.

I did nothing! No running, no strength and conditioning, nothing that would put my body under pressure. This happened to a fair few runners in their own blocks of training and it's hard to take, especially if you have improved during that time.

But, we push forwards!

10 days are up and in my mind I thought Id better get on with it, so I entered a 6 hour trail race in Masham organised by the team at It's Grimm Up North. I tested out nutrition, and pace and went for it.

The body held up well, a few niggles in the lower back but the sciatica didn't hinder me as I paced myself through the winding, undulating trails to a CR and a confidence boost to go into my final weeks of training towards Gloucester.

I was starting to focus more and more on the race now, three weeks out and in to my final week of 100 miles, including a 16:42 Parkrun, the perfect way to let the mind know that you are ready to hit the target race confidently. Two taper weeks followed of 35 miles and 8 miles, never used to lace up my shoes for anything less than 10 miles in a day so 8 miles in a week was bizarre, but I guess that's the sensible, new me talking!

Nutrition is key, and in the days leading up to Gloucester, I switched to high glycemic index (GI) foods. Simply put, swapped brown stuff, for white stuff and shovelled Jaffa Cakes in to my trap as though my life depended on it. It's my favourite part of the prep, ha ha!

Race Day, Baby!

The first 6 hours flew by and I always believe that you can mess up an event like this in the first quarter. 42 miles and comfortably consuming both food and drink every 30 minutes. The gut was now used to eating and drinking on the run and my drink mixes particularly helped with the 60g of carbs in 500ml.

Reaching 100k in 9:05 was my fastest split of this distance within a 24 hour race. Small wins and all that… But, the body was good and the mind targeted the next mini goal, 12 hours. Peanut butter sandwiches with blueberries went down a treat and solved the dry, putty-esque issue that I had come to associate with peanut butter whilst running.

12 hours, halfway, hooray!

79 miles on the board, third place at this stage and just ticking off the miles. A few niggles with the feet, more due to impact than blisters. This was another big confidence boost too, as my PB for 12 hours, set in 2018, was 83 miles. So, to run through 79 miles, relatively comfortably within a 24 hour race had me smiling. Eating and drinking well, no let up with that which was key. Receiving encouragement through social media, relayed through my wonderful crew, and wife Samantha (Missy). Fellow runners crews were also extremely supportive and offered assistance wherever needed and these are the kind of generous beings that underpin ultra running.

All in this together.

The next goal was the 100 mile mark. A major number and often a sole target for runners in these races. At the 2020 edition of this wonderful race, 16:25 was my ton split and managed to attain a 24 hour PB at the end. 15:44 was the split this year, an AQ for Spartathlon which wasn't on the mind, at all. This was relayed to me by the fantastic Mr Corderoy (RD). I then had my sit down with the wife. Big targets hit, just over 8 hours remaining and it was due to get light soon. Food was still going down well and the drink was still as delicious as that first hour.

So, why did I want to go home? Why did I think that 100 miles was enough?

I was 45 minutes up on target and wasn't injured, even the weather was perfect. This mental wobble carried on for 15 minutes before I reluctantly began moving again. I know it's a clichè but you certainly learn more from failures than success and in this case, moving my ass back on the track and overcoming the brain melt rather than literally quitting and going home was in my eyes extremely crucial and a major plus in the grand scheme of things.

133 miles was the total distance, my total distance, or should I say ‘our’ total distance as it was certainly a team effort. 5th place and 3rd male and experiences that have made me stronger. Can't be all bad in reflection.

Ultra running certainly seems to be stepping up a gear and is especially great to see the British runners nailing superb performances. Sharing the track with so many talented runners was brilliant and everyone was so humble and supportive. Every race you learn and this was no different. Watching how the other competitors executed their own races, whether they were metronomically ticking off lap after lap, or seemingly fatlecking the whole goddam event. Everyone inspired me and the next time I find myself on a 24 hour start line, I'll consider myself once again, lucky.

Kit:

  • X Bionic compression top and shorts
  • Trusted East Hull Harriers vest
  • Crazy patterned cycling hat (skin tight, didn't more an inch and breathable)
  • Hoka Rincon 3’s and Clifton 7’s
  • Stance socks x1 pair
  • Stolen Goat gilet
  • Ultimate Direction bottles 2 x 500ml and 2x 330ml
  • COROS APEX 46MM (1/1 GPS mode and used 75% battery, track mode ensured it remained accurate. see the photo. Unbelievable piece of kit)

 COROS Track Mode 24 hours

Nutrition:

Thank you again for taking the time to read my words and it's humbling that the great peeps at XMiles are willing to show my journey. The nutrition that XMiles stocks is superb, and the advice on offer is top notch. The OTE Carb Booster OTE gels and the Precision Hydration tablets are particular favourites of mine and are now an ever present in my armoury.


About the Author
MARK BISSELL
XMiles Ambassador
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