Meeting up with 'Team England'
We arrived by train into Perth at about 16:00 - a very easy journey and actually felt reasonably relaxed. On the platform we bumped into one of the England team, Nathan, then saw him again about an hour later when we were both out for a quick 3 miles to shake the legs out after the long journey. So, out for dinner and a planned early night, however plans don't always work especially before a big race and I managed only two hours sleep!
Saturday was the first chance to officially meet the other members of the team at the 'ACP Race Briefing' which was followed by the 'England Team' meeting at 17:00, then onto the team meal and an early night. I had the pleasure of sharing a room with Paul and we were both all done and in bed by 21:00.
With the added challenge of the clocks going forward for British Summer Time we were up and having breakfast by 05:00, then headed off to Perth's North Inch park to set up our race nutrition at the England tent, a very quick pre-race brief at 06:50 before the 07:00 start.
My race plan
With good conditions, both physical and meteorological, my plan was to run at 07:00 m/m pace for a target 07:15:00 finish. I had always thought that if I could debut at 100k in sub 07:25:00 and top 10 finish it would be a very successful day.
It was important to me that I stuck to my race plan, focussed on staying at my planned pace and not getting caught up in anybody else's race. This was backed up from advice given to me by fellow Bournemouth AC teammates and experienced ACP runners Jon Sharkey, Steve Way and Jez Bragg.
The race started well and keeping my planned 7 m/m pace I was quickly round lap 1 of 42. It is worth mentioning about the conditions on the day, that even though it was dry and not too cold and certainly better than had been forecast, there was still a strong easterly wind reported at up to 15 mph during the day, meaning that for 1km of the 2.381km loop we were running into a chilly headwind that over the 42 laps varied in strength but never dropped off. Over the first few laps the Scottish team went off in a pack, faster than my pace but behind England's on- form Paul Navesey who was my pre-race favourite. I had settled into my running with teammate Chris Singleton and started to knock off the laps. After about 10 miles Chris too increased his pace, so I let him go and continued with 7 m/m, running in 8th position.
The big difference between running a fast 100k race over a marathon is the need to fuel with a steady intake of energy to keep you strong throughout. For me this consisted of energy bars, chews or gels every 3 laps (approx. 30 minutes). For the first 9 laps I would say it felt like I was always eating, but it did help me to focus on something apart from counting down miles.
Then, my worst fear appeared to come to light. At approximately 13 miles my stomach seemed to be having issues and at mile 15 I had to make the first of two unplanned stops, resulting in a 8 m/m. But it had the desired effect and I felt the best I had since the start of the race. At about mile 27 it happened again and for the second time I dived into the porter loos. Again I felt much better and I was able to continue running this time only losing 45 seconds. The only issue was, I was starting to think this was going to continue and really affect my race. I am very pleased to report that this was not the case and in-fact I had no other stomach issues following mile 27 and was able to stick to my nutrition and race plan.
The race ticked along nicely and it was great to focus on laps rather than km’s or miles, and having a few milestones to hit mentally I seemed to be on good course. The first milestone was passing 40 miles. This is the distance I had maxed out at in training and also the furthest I had previously raced. Between 40 to 50 miles I focussed on running a relaxed 10 miles, whilst still maintaining my 7m/m pace, to keep the effort low. This worked well for me and the 50 mile point came without any real effort. The next big one switched to a lap target of '6 laps to go' and was at 53 miles. At this point you are counted down, by race officials, on each lap when you cross the start-finish line. Over these last miles I had picked up a couple more places and was now sitting in 6th place with no change in my pacing.
When the race started
I had been told that a 100k race could be won or lost in the last third! And with 6 laps to go (10 miles) I felt like I could start making my way up the field from 6th place. England Team manager Walter Hill had positioned himself on the course to give me instructions. With Paul comfortably in the lead I was the next England runner to place. Walter's focus on splits and gap times made the laps quickly fall and while being instructed to 'run easy' whilst the gaps reduced we were approaching lap 39 before I took 5th place. As we started the penultimate lap I was told I was 1 minute 20 seconds off 4th and by the end of the lap this was down to 23 seconds. I hit the start/finish line of my last lap and discarded my hat and gloves, ready for a big push. I put the hammer down and by the first corner I was in 4th and my only focus was to try and get away into the wind as I knew I could finish strong. Third place was over 1 minute ahead of 4th so it was all about keeping 4th place. By the midway lap point I had a 150 metre gap and this only increase as I approached the line and only 30 seconds behind 3rd place.
4th Anthony Clark (07:17:43)
The feeling, the buzz and emotion of running for your country, having a great race and finishing as the chaser and not the chased only added to what is one of the proudest moments of my life and definitely my proudest sporting achievement.
I'm now thinking about doing it again... with NEW TARGETS.
I don’t really know what I can say about our amazing team to justify our performance. I have had the ultimate pleasure to be in an England team with great people and without doubt fantastic runners: Paul Navesey, Nathan Montague, Chris Singleton, Gemma Carter, Katie Samuelson, Melissa Venables and Edwina Sutton. A team picked by team manager Walter Hill and assisted by England coach Rob Griffiths. The 'team' however, extended to all the support crews and friends and family that were out in force keeping us all going, focused and feeling amazing.
My Support Team
I never really appreciated the amount a runner relies on their support crew until running 100k over 42 laps. Part of my preparation for the race was building a full nutrition plan of when I wanted bars, bloks, gels or drinks, all marked out for laps so there was no room for error. This is all well and good but if you don't have a 100% focused support crew it is useless. I however, was very lucky to have my amazing wife Nicki in my corner, not just for the day but for the months of build-up and training.
Nicki also had to be up at 5am for pre-race preparation, she then stood in the cold for lap after lap over 7 hours handing me my fuel and just being there for me to see. What I hadn’t realised was that she would stay in position for the whole race, not breaking even for a toilet stop. In her words 'I didn’t want you to come through and me not be there'. And then my parents, who not only cheered me and the whole England team on, with my dad being out at 7am before helping my mum look after our children, Jasper and Florence, whilst Daddy was running in circles and Mummy was looking after him. THANK YOU x
Anglo Celtic Plate 'Males and Female' Team wins for England
Men (Paul Navesey, Anthony Clark & Chris Singleton)
Ladies (Melissa Venables, Edwina Sutton) NEW RECORD TIME
National Champions for England - Mens Paul Navesey (06:58:52) - Ladies Melissa Venables (08:15:54)
Laps 1 - 10 - 10:18, 10:19, 10:22, 10:18, 10:16, 10:15, 10:18, 10:13, 10:21, 10:26
Laps 11 - 20 - 10:10, 11:19, 10:01, 10:19, 10:01, 10:09, 10:19, 10:28, 10:08, 10:51
Laps 21 - 30 - 10:11, 10:17, 10:15, 10:18, 10:22, 10:37, 10:29, 10:32, 10:32, 10:29
Laps 31 - 40 - 10:20, 10:14, 10:14, 10:25, 10:42, 10:43, 10:46, 10:52, 10:48, 10:47
Laps 41 - 42 - 10:33, 10:04
Anglo Celtic Plate - Full Results
Anthony is an England International Ultra Runner and part of the XMiles team, with a marathon PB of 02:30:06. He represents Bournemouth AC.
Follow Anthony on Twitter @fragilerunner and Power of 10