Learning on the job – Crewing the Robin Hood 100
So the plan this year had been to run an offroad marathon, and then 2 months later run the Thames Trot 50 miler. But as mentioned before those fell by the wayside when I had to take a month off and cut right back.
Which left me with a bit of a hole in my calendar. Whilst looking for events I’d noticed that Hobopace ran some ultras not too far from home so had them on my radar for next year and longer distances. When plans fell through for last weekend, I noticed they were running their Robin Hood 100 and were looking for crew volunteers. I dropped Ronnie (the organiser) a quick email, and got myself an 8 hour stint helping out as a roaming marshall
First stop of the day was Manton Pit Wood just outside Worksop. I got there for 10am, and whilst waiting for the first runner to come through got to work making piles of jam and peanut butter sandwiches (seperate piles, I prefer it mixed in one but that appears to be a minority view in the UK).
We managed to have quite a spread sorted out before the first runner arrived:
In this shot we have pretzels, peanuts, jam sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, malt loaf, jam wraps, peanut butter wraps, tortilla chips, jelly sweets, chocolate and cherry tomatoes. Was happy that everything there was vegan, so no having to watch what I was handing over (or snacking on while waiting either!). Jelly sweets were from Pimlico Confectioners who I’d not heard of before, but have been added to the shopping list.
Was interesting listening to the other crew chatting away. They were an experienced bunch of ultrarunners, so there were plenty of stories of past challenges and future ones (people seriously talking about doing the Spine for starters)
We were based at mile 20, with the runners having been ‘released’ at 8am we were watching them on the tracker to be ready. First runner came in about 10:45, a good 8 minute mile pace. A quick sorting of feet, topping up fluids and he was soon on his way. From then on it was a stream of runners until the last one came through about 1ish.
As we were so close to the start it had been quite hectic as a bunch had turned up. Topping up fluids was the main trick. It was at this point I learned there was a big difference between the various brands and methods of carry fluids.
Platypus style reservoirs have a large capacity but can be awkward to refill in a hurry in a car park, and some of them have quite awkward seals which adds to the time taken.
The various soft flasks are quicker, but there’s a big difference in the ease of opening and closing. The more substantial models were much easier as you could hold them securely while starting off the undo or trying to match the threads to close. Probably doesn’t mean much to the runner, but when you’re potentially got 200 of them to work with it’s a bit different 🙂
All the runners had been through checkpoint 3 by about 1pm, so we stripped it down so it could be loaded into a van until needed later that evening. I was move on to checkpoint 6 and 7
Yep, the course layout meant that runners visited twice in a row. Coming in from the East they then left for a 10 mile loop into Sherwood Forest and the Major Oak, before approaching from the West for a second visit. After which they headed West towards the next Aid Station at Creswell crags. So the first visit was at 31 miles and 41 miles. The runner would also visit it again at miles 60.5 and 70.5
With runners visiting twice it got hectic at times. Not just providing food and liquids, but making sure they left the right way, only one runner went to do the 10 mile loop again, luckily noticing 100m in.
By now runners were starting to get to the point where things weren’t quite right. So I picked up loads of little tips and tricks people were using. There was a new to me sports drink. I don’t guzzle lots of these as most of them are overly sweet but as a lover of Ginger Beer finding out that there’s a ginger flavoured drink was great news. I got to have a quick scoop of someone’s sachet of Active Root and it’s rather tasty, so think I’ll be giving that a go in the near future
With the runners passing through so often we had quite a few people here to help or resting their feet which meant there was plenty to listen to. In some cases having their feet bound up by the first aid team
There was plenty of chat about blisters, how to avoid and how to treat if you couldn’t avoid them. There seems to be no magic bullet for them. Things that may work for months will stop working for one day and you’ve got a blister. Certainly matches my experiences. Only had 2 bad blister incidents so far, but both with shoes and socks that had been good before and normal run days. One thing I did learn was that I won’t be using compeed if running. I’ve used it for walking, but the talk about cutting it out after a long run means it’ll stay in my hiking kit
While filling up bottles I got a chance to check out a lot of shoes. A whole range of styles and makes. Mostly on a more trail style given the footpath/bridleway nature of the course. Nice to see quite a few pairs of Saucony Peregrines, which happen to be my current choice of trail shoes.
A mix of views on salt tablets came up. With some quite strongly saying you don’t need extra if you’re eating properly and others saying they fixed everything. I’m still reading up on this so not too hard one way or the other, but I know on the long bike rides I didn’t feel the need to have extra salt. Seemed to get plenty from my Nuuns, and being a lover of crisps and peanuts I probably ate enough over 600km to not notice!
I clocked out just after 6pm about 10 minutes after the first person on their second loop came through.
He was 10 minutes behind and 30 miles ahead of the last runner on loop 1. 10 hours for 60.5 miles is pretty impressive!