Saturday, 31 December 2011

Time For Reflection

Well 2011 has been a hell of a roller coaster for me.

I have experienced my Ultimate Runner highs and lows in one race the GUCR.
I have experienced the depths of despair when you get an injury which does not seem to go away no matter how much rest you throw at it....

But I guess it all pales in to insignificance when you are faced with challenges in your personal life which are effectively out of your control.

Just after the JOGLE tester weekend my wife Anna told me that she was having serious thoughts about our relationship and where it was heading. We talked and agreed to keep going with it hoping things would pick up.

We really tried to make it work but realised that we had grown apart over the last 2 years. So we agreed that things were not going to change and it would be best to separate before we ended up hating each other.
It was not an easy decision to make compounded by the fact we have 4 beautiful children to consider.
We are and will remain good friends as we get on really well with each other just not as partners any more.

To be fair I has taken me a while to comes to terms with this I (more so because not seeing the children every day took some getting used too) and certainly made this transition a lot harder than it could have been (raw emotions take you to some very dark places).

It has certainly made me think about my life though. Anna said that she has felt fairly neglected for the last 2 years and although she did not like to say at the time but my commitment to running has caused probably the majority of the break up.

That is a a big wake up call does that make us Ultra runners selfish?
I guess the simple answer is answered with another question do you see Ultra running as an addiction.
If you do then as with all addictions you become obsessed to the exclusion of everyone and everything else.

So does that make me a bad person if I was obsessed with running?
In some ways yes it does as I lost focus on the important people in my life and that is not a good way to go....

I think the crux of it is though we are/were two very different people with very different outlooks on life.
Anna had/has no real interest in my running to want to live and breath it day in day out and I guess that can become very claustrophobic.

 For me now its time to re focus myself and when I'm not looking after the children find time to rediscover me and who I am and what I want for the future, if it means less running then so be it.

One tough choice I have had to make is that I am not going to be taking part in the JOGLE 2012.
This was not an easy choice to make but I have focus on the here and now and rebuilding for the future.

So Happy New Year All

Bring on 2012 the year of discovery.......

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

JOGLE 2012 Tester Weekend

Having signed up to do the JOGLE weekend tester, my thoughts quickly turned to the logistics of getting to the start and from the finish point on Saturday morning and Sunday night.

My options were fairly limited and were going to rely heavily on the fact of friends or family being able to drop me and pick me up from train stations (the joys of having only one car). However my Brother in law kindly allowed me the use of his car for the weekend so problem solved I thought.

Then I turned my attention of finding suitable public transport from Church Stretton to Preston. Due to family commitments my somewhat limited options basically meant I would be travelling through the night.

So come Friday evening after leaving the family enjoying a  party I made my way to Church Stretton for my Train which was due to leave at 10.40PM.

Having safely negotiated a change at Crewe Station I found myself at Manchester Airport at 1.15AM Saturday Morning, my connecting train to Preston was due to leave at 4AM.

I decided that I was going to take a walk around the airport as there was no way I was going to sleep. I must admit after 3 circuits of the same deserted corridors and sky walks I got fairly bored although my Garmin (yes I know sad isn’t it) had said I had covered 3.2 miles.

Finally after negotiating some late night revellers on the Train I arrived at Preston Station at 5AM. Having some time to kill before meeting the others I decided to walk the first part of the course as the station was somewhat depressing.

It is very strange walking along unfamiliar streets carrying a hydration pack and an overnight bag being followed by a man who walked as if he had a wooden leg. I found an excuse to stop which involved a very complex method of tying my shoelace which involved a considerable amount of time. By then peg leg was in the distance and it became a role reversal.

Any way I digress I managed to cover around 1.5miles before I realised I had better head back to meet the others.


So at 6.30am I was sat outside Preston Train Station having walked over 6 miles through the night with no sleep trying to eat a pot of rice pudding  without a spoon, when I saw a chap suitably attired ready for running alight from a Taxi.

It was Ian who I had had Email correspondence with but had not met (he must of thought whose this idiot who can’t even remember a spoon).
Very soon all the other runners appeared from various directions, and after a quick phone call we met up with Rory, Jen and Dave Miles.

Soon we were off, my plan for the day was to take it easy and not get drawn into any body else’s game plan. It quickly became apparent that a few of the guys wanted to give Ian a run for his money (I knew before hand he was a quick runner therefore out of my league) so I was not tempted.

I settled into a rhythm which was comfortable and soon found I was running with Dave which was very pleasing as I was hoping to get a chance to pick his brains a bit.
So for the first 10 miles we were chatting away and to be honest that 10mile section was probably the most single important section for me out of the whole weekend. I learnt a lot of useful things from Dave (I learnt a lot of other things over the weekend but spread out and not as intense as that first 2hr section), the man is top draw totally unassuming in the achievement of completing the JOGLE.

Well we soon found ourselves at the first checkpoint at 10miles with Rory scolding us like naughty school children. I found 3 of the other guys there Tom, Tim and Sean unsurprisingly Ian was too quick for them.

When I left the CP we all seemed to fall into step, the pacing was comfortable and everyone seemed in good spirits. We had Dave’s company for a few more miles and then he left us promising to meet us later in the course to support us.

To be fair the course was easy to navigate and we had no real issues quickly navigating are way through Wigan onto the 2nd CP. A quick pit stop with the usual banter was had and we were on our way out of Wigan and onto Warrington.

To be fair I have never really been in these areas before (apart from Blackpool) and to be honest I have no desire to go back. The area is featureless and quite frankly depressing; Dave said this day on the JOGLE was the worst one in terms of scenery and frankly motivation.

We found ourselves heading out of Warrington after having a bit of an extended walking session through it; I think lethargy had set in.
We found ourselves walking up a hill to then see in the distance the Ultrarace Motor, why does he always park on the top of a hill, I suppose to catch us walking for an unflattering photo (Oh well I guess I will need to get used to walking photos). So CP3 was reached were more food was consumed I had been eating breaded products all day so I decided to have a milkshake, how stupid of me I had forgotten it had made feel rubbish on the GUCR.

So for the next 10miles I was battling with a really dodgy stomach, there was a period of around 5 miles that I really wanted to throw up and did try to force myself at one stage hoping it might help the stomach cramps. I battled through on my own for a fair bit as my pace had dropped enough for the 3 others to have gone out of sight.
Then I saw Dave in his car so had a quick chat and carried on, suddenly that seemed to pick me up because within a few minutes I had caught the other guys, ok they had stopped to talk to Dave but I will take it.

Although the pains were still there it was easier to run so we carried on and soon saw Rory again at a petrol Station to be told we had 5 miles to go, result.

The next 4 miles or so were just head down and grind it out, then with a mile to go we knew we had a bit of navigation to do.

We stuck together at this point for fear of getting lost which became apparent fairly quickly that this is exactly what happened. We consulted the paper map and i phone and phoned Rory. All did not really give us the info we wanted, where on earth were we and where was the hotel.
We stopped a couple of folks who told us where to go so we went running. Tom then had the bright idea of cutting across a golf course as it was part of the hotels (on a footpath I hasten to add), this proved to be his best idea of the day as it led down into the car park of the hotel and to a 10hr 15min finish for 47miles (with detour around 48miles).
A very satisfying day at the office. I must admit with no sleep Friday night I was looking forward to my bed.


Today was a staggered start with Katherine going off at 6am (Rory & Jen somewhat sheepishly confessed they had overslept and missed her going) 4 of us were going at 7am and Ian was going at 8am.

We set off and to be honest I felt very good considering the lack of long runs in the last 2-3 months.
My groin injury had hurt a fair bit from around 10miles through to 26 miles on Day 1 but had then gone away. Normally after a long run I would struggle to get out of bed as the injury would basically stop me standing upright I would be stooped for a while until my posture adjusts and then I could stand, but normally in considerable pain. Today this did not happen, can you actually cure a misaligned pelvis just by running 50miles?

Any how we soon found ourselves on the A49, which was the primary road yesterday and once again was going to be our main companion through out the day.

We settled into a rhythm which once again was working well eating the miles at a steady rate.

We then saw that the A49 was closed ahead and it was a bridge closure so possibly a potential issue. We consulted the map to work out where the detour would take us and decided that it added far too many miles and we thought we could blag our way through the road works if need be. I informed Rory who assured us we would be ok to get through as Katherine had gone that way. We soon came to the closure and found a sleepy watchman who let us through, to then find that Rory had blagged the watchman the other side to let him through. So CP1 was reached bang on target and feeling really good. I decided that today I was going to avoid breaded products as I had felt fairly bloated yesterday afternoon, plus I figured grab a banana and chocolate bar and you can carry on walking.

So on we went over the makeshift bridge and on our merry way to Whitechurch. One thing that was becoming fairly clear yesterday was very featureless and fairly flat, today was in stark contrast much more scenic but also a lot more hills.
Don’t get me wrong there were no monster hills to speak of just frequent hills which disrupted your running pattern a little. Inevitably there was more walking involved, ok normally I would have run a lot more of the hills but in the spirit of the whole weekend I wanted to approach it as I would if it was the event for real. Besides I wanted to see how I would wake up Monday morning, could I go running again if I wanted to or would I have crashed and burned….

We soon found ourselves heading out of Whitechurch Jen had caught and passed by then in some springy shoes called Hokas which had been dubbed the tweenie shoes. We had much discussion about these shoes over the weekend and the general consensus was negative rather than positive.

By this time the sun was out and we were really enjoying jogging along country roads, we had to keep our wits about us as the roads were narrow and the cars fast. For me I am used to this type of running as I run a fair bit down unlit country roads, I think it was an eye opener for a couple of the group though.

Soon we saw some folks wearing high viz  ahead and realised it was probably Jen and Katherine, we spotted them crossing to a car so knew CP2 had been reached.

On arrival we learnt that Katherine had been hit a glancing blow by a passing car, she was suffering a fair bit so decided to call it a day.

We gathered our sustenance and was quickly on our way munching as we walked. Jen soon passed us again running up hill and then soon followed by Ian who had caught us up from his later start.

This section for me was quite hard but this seemed to follow a trend because it was the same the day before. I found myself lagging behind the other guys, which was fine; I was sticking to my own pace and not trying to force myself to run at a pace that did not suit me. Mentally I was fine I just knew my body was going through I tired patch and providing I kept going my pace would pick up again.

The day before I had plugged myself in and had listened to music as a distraction, but today I chose not too, to see if I could manage without. To be fair I don’t think I would want to have anyway as the A49 called for full concentration and alertness.
I was amazed by the amount of road kill we had seen in the 2 days of running, one which stood out for me was badger on the side of the road fully intact but with his mouth open and teeth bared as if defiant at the very thing which had probably hit him.

Soon I was crossing a roundabout to find CP3 was the other side, I was surprised to see the other 3 guys at the cp as I assumed they were well ahead of me.
I grabbed the same food banana, chocolate bar and can of coke, it had served me well all day with no stomach issues so I was not about to change it. I headed off a bit behind the other 3; jen had decided to jog with me for a bit still in her hokas although I think they were making her feet hurt a bit by then. She left soon after as Rory was lurking on a street corner ready to pick her up.

It had been decided earlier due to the clock change and some folks not having high viz wear that we would run until 4.30pm and Rory would pick us up at whatever point we had got to.

Any way I carried on my merry way knowing we were coming to probably the trickiest bit of navigation of the day negotiating Shrewsbury. I roughly knew the direction I required and decided that broadly speaking I would head that way knowing full well the road signs would not be very useful to me.

I caught and passed Tim he said he was struggling with his knee and was going to stretch it out.
I headed into the centre getting some strange looks from shoppers, at one point I got disorientated and was unsure of the direction to take, I headed off in what I thought was the correct way. I soon spotted a Traffic Warden who I approached and he assured me I was heading in the right direction and to keep going.

So on I went the road seemed to go on for ages and I had another doubt moment, I spotted a chap clipping his hedge so I asked him for clarification. Big mistake he was very interested to know what I was doing and why, I felt obliged to tell him, after around 5 minutes I managed to get away with the knowledge that the A49 to Ludlow was just ahead.

I soon found myself on the A49 heading out towards Church Stretton, I had about an hour to cover as much ground as I could before Rory was due to pick me up.

I soon found that progress would be hampered a little as the road was fast and the verge was a little overgrown in places. As always when you’re faced with it you dig in and battle on. To be honest I started to enjoy it as it became a battle between me and the other road users and I was not going to loose. I developed a strategy that seemed to work for me I just started singing and the closer they got to me the louder I would sing. Anyone looking in must have thought I was insane!!

My phone rang it was Tom to say that they had just started down the part of the A49 with no path. I was surprised as I assumed the 2 were ahead of me as I had only passed Tim, it later transpired that they got lost badly in Shrewsbury.

Soon Rory appeared to pick me up and inform me I was around 7 miles short of Church Stretton, so 39miles covered on Day2 in 9.5 hours.

All in all it was a great weekend of consistent running at a pace which was comfortable and sustainable.

For me it is the confidence boost I needed knowing that although some of my endurance fitness has gone I have not lost too much due to my injury over the summer. More importantly I have learnt a lot off Rory, Jen & Dave which will hopefully help towards a successful completion come April 2012..

I used my UK GEAR PT1000’s for both days and I had no issues at all they performed just as I wanted them too.

Friday, 28 October 2011

pond water

Since my last update training progress has been slow well you could say stagnant to be honest. I have managed a few 20+ mile runs but nothing to get excited about.

You can always come up with what you consider to be very valid excuses to not to run but lets be fair they have no substance to them, and when you pull away the veil all your left with is an attitude of I cant be bothered.

This is not a good rut to get into and I need to snap out of it very quickly otherwise before I know it will be Christmas and 2012 will be on us. For too long I have kept using the excuse of this long term injury I am carrying but the bottom line is if I keep things slow then the pain is manageable.

So this weekend sees me joining some fellow JOGLE entrants where we will be travelling to Preston. From there we are basically running down the Country  to Church Stretton roughly covering 2 of the JOGLE days. I am hoping that this weekend will be the kick up the backside I need to get back to some regular training.

I received some great kit from Aldi my clothing sponsor for the JOGLE.  I will be testing some of it out over this weekend.
This will also be the first big test for my choice of shoes for the attempt; I am running in my UK Gear PT1000 shoes. This will be my first back to back road runs I will have done in them so hopefully they will perform well.

I will blog next week on how the weekend pans out….

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Summer That Never Was

Well it’s been a while since my last blog, a lot has happened over the summer some good some bad.

I must say congratulations to James Adams for keeping a lot of people entertained during the summer with his blog of his exploits and successful completion in the LANY2011.

For those that don’t know it was the Los Angeles to New York Footrace 3200miles in 70days, somehow I don’t think I could quite justify this one not only to my self but to my family and work.

Well after a bit of wallowing in self pity after my DNF in the Ultra100 I decided that my running was going to take a back seat during July and August (forced a little by my subsequent injury I guess)

I think my longest training run in the summer was 12miles so not ideal training for the Ultra Peaks. To be fair I was not going to do it as I felt the injury would play a significant part in this race but I felt that if I could finish then at least I would be able to complete the 9bar championship, I was certainly not looking to get a top 10 as in previous outings just a finish would be nice.

It was good to catch up with various folks before the race, and to swap running related stories. I seem to be recognising more and more faces at these events now which is all good.

I had a good chat with Dave Miles about his experience in the JOGLE 2012 which was certainly very valuable, any information or tips I can glean I am filing away as I am hoping these will prove to be invaluable.

The race itself for me was all about pain management, but the red mist descended at the start and I foolishly shot off with the front runners until we got to the first hill and I decided to walk it. Then from that point to the first CP it seemed ok I was bumbling along not fast but certainly a reasonable pace, the wheels started coming off around 12 miles when the pain was getting more intense but I was determined to not pop any pills as I wanted to experience the pain level in its raw state. By 16 miles I was reduced to a shuffle, and by 17.5 miles I was walking with no hope of running any more, I was still determined to finish but by mile 19 every step was painful.

So I took the decision to pull out at the second CP realising that it would not be a fruitful exercise to continue. Not a good day at the office, and one to quickly forget.

On the plus side from what I saw of the course it has the makings of being a true classic.

I have now had to make the difficult decision to pull out of all my races for the foreseeable future as I do not want to potentially jeopardise my JOGLE Training.

So now the kids are back at school my new 32 week training plan is kicking in.
Everything running on my plan is based on around 10min milling,  I have decided to train specifically for the JOGLE, normally my training pace even for long runs would 8min milling or less so this is certainly new territory for me, gone are the days of running 22 miles in a sub 2hr 30 time
Although my plan is based on mileage I am focusing on hours rather than actual mileage
My weekly hours spent running will range from 8hrs to 25hrs on my heaviest weeks; I think I only have 3 really heavy weeks planned the average works out at around 13hrs a week.

I am under no illusion this whole process is going to be tough to fit in around family life but if I don’t do it then I won’t have the necessary training required to complete the JOGLE.
Without the support of Anna and my family then I would be doomed to failure from the start, having said that there will still be a lot of tears and difficult choices to make of that I am sure, BUT there will be times of joy and happiness along the way also.
If there wasn’t then I would not even bother starting this journey

Some exciting news to come soon  (hopefully)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The joy of running again...

Well it’s a new month and hopefully for me a turning point for me regarding my running.

July was not a very good running month for me in fact I had 3 weeks were I did not run at all. It was all about finding out what my injury was and if I could train with it.

After a few appointments the general consensus is that I have a sports Hernia (Gilmore’s Groin). This needs to be formally diagnosed yet but I am waiting for a CT or MRI scan.

Once I had an idea what my injury was I did some research into the possibility of running with the injury until I could start a formal treatment program which potentially will be surgery.

I found out that it is possible to run with a hernia but the advice is to invest in some compression shorts (Warm Pants).

I decided to start running though without them so I could assess the level of pain without any aids. I did a couple of 10k’s and boy did the first 2-3 miles hurt on each run then it seemed to settle down. It still hurt but the pain was a more manageable level.

My warm pants dutifully arrived, I tried them on and was a little disappointed as first impressions seemed to be that although they were thicker than standard lycra shorts I could not feel or see how the compression was going to work in the lower abdominal  area.

Still not loosing faith I grabbed the dog and we went for a run, and to my surprise I did not feel the level of pain that I had been experiencing, there was still pain there but it was like having a dull ache (a bit like a used leg muscle ache after 50miles of running). For me this was the result I wanted as now it opened the door back up for me to resume my training.

I finished July with a flourish and managed a reasonable 52 miles in the final week.

While I had been inactive I had decided to look at what my major race plans would be for next year. I find that if I don’t plan ahead then I quickly loose focus and my training becomes very aimless.

I kept getting drawn to the JOGLE, but kept dismissing it as the financial outlay is huge when you have a family to consider.
Then Anna dropped a bombshell she suddenly said one evening that she had signed me up and I was in the JOGLE 2012 race, it felt like all my birthdays and Christmases had come at once. I think I am going to owe her for this one for years to come….

I am under no illusions I have a huge task ahead of me to get the right training in to give myself the best possible chance to finish this race. I am going to have to learn to go slow on all my long runs and also I need to put some solid training weekends in where I am running 60 miles a day for 2 or 3 days.

Its exciting times and I am very much looking forward to the next few months, although this hernia is a slight thorn in the side…

I have even managed to secure a sponsor to provide me with clothing for the JOGLE attempt.

This Saturday is my birthday so I intend to put a long training run in, if my warm pants can take it

More soon…..

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hip Flexors or Hernias take your pick.....

Here is a quick update on my progress after my Ultra100 DNF.

After putting the DNF firmly behind me, although I must admit I still have down moments and wonder should I have continued and finished, but hey ho whats done is done.

Any how I decided post race not to run for 2 weeks, to hopefully give my body a chance to recover and things would be back to normal.

I quickly got bored so ended up doing a lot of jobs around the house which I had neglected. Some jobs were not exactly helping the injury, such as topping some large conifers, this involved climbing the said tree complete with a chainsaw and cutting around 15ft out the top. This process was then repeated lots of times.

After the 2 weeks were up I decided to give myself a little jog test, to be honest I was not holding out much hope. I had noticed over the 2 week rest period that the pain I was experiencing had moved from the hip / groin area to the lower ab area.

Any way I decided to incorporate my test with a dog walk so I would not look too stupid if I had to stop jogging after 20paces. I did manage around 500metres (yes Jason 500metres not miles) before the pain got too much, so suitably annoyed, totally dejected I trudged home to give the news to my wife.

Practical as ever she said phone up the physio tomorrow and try to book an appointment, I knew she was right.

So appointment was booked with a chap called Tony for today.

So today I met Tony who to be fair to him looked like he could rip you apart limb from limb. However he was great and did a thorough examination and pulled me every which way especially in the groin and hip area which is his specialist area. He concluded that I had no groin or hip strains which was good news. He then turned his attention to my lower ab area, he prodded and poked for a while and came to the conclusion that he thought it was a possible hernia.

After he had let that bombshell sink in, he proceeded to tell me that I would require an MRI scan to confirm his diagnosis and then if confirmed were talking a minor op....

After I had got back to the office  and contemplated what I had been told, I realised that if it was a hernia I was looking at a long time frame for it to be fixed. As this op would have to be done on the NHS I guess I will be under there time frame so I guess I am looking at a min of 12 weeks for an op date. That is after I have had it confirmed that it is a hernia.

So on reflection  I am a little bit deflated if I'm honest tonight, still I have to look on the bright side. I am off now to research into the possibility to still maintain some training runs with a hernia.....

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ultrarace 100 - 2011

When your wife is more upset than you are that you did not manage to finish a race, says something about the effect Ultra running has not only on you personally, but also on the people close to you.

The day started with me waking up with pains in my groin area, which to be fair I have grown accustomed to and tend to blank them out when they rear there ugly head.
So I laughed them off and decided that I was going for the race regardless.

After much faffing as usual and I swear at least 5 miles walking to and fro different places including walking the dog, we got to Stratford race Course just after 11am.

I must admit I had a feeling of déjà vu as we drove up it did not seem a year ago that we were arriving to what would be my first ever organised Ultra event.

This year however the atmosphere was totally different the place was buzzing, there were loads more people about and even a hot air balloon (still on the ground and not inflated), this is a testament to the hard work Rory & Jen have been doing getting Ultrarace off the ground.

I met up with Rory & Jen and after the usual banter got my race number, and proceeded to do my usual pre race faffing, which is daft as all my stuff was sorted at home prior to starting off.

I met up with Tom and we discussed are various issues with recovery from the GUCR 25 days ago. We still decided that come what may we were going to try and do a fairly quick 50 miles and then assess our physical states then as to what pace to go for on the second half of the race, we both wanted to better our times from last year.

Chill Time
After a long drawn out pre race talk where Rory was inturupted by the guys attempting to get the hot air balloon up and failing in there attempt due to the wind (shame really it would have made a great back drop for the start), we were called to the start line.

Then suddenly we were off, after carefully negotiating some closed gates trickiest bit of navigation for the whole course, we found our selves on the disused railway happily bumbling along at a pace that was comfortable. Due to the amount of starters this year the start was completely different, (I must add for the better as it meant we did not have to dice with death down the killer A road)
We were happy to let the guys storm off, some experienced and more than capable of maintaining the pace others more than likely starting to quick unable to judge the pace for what would turn out to be a long day and night for them.

Suddenly we found ourselves onto the road but still following the changed route for a few more miles. We found that through the first 6 or 7 miles or so we were passed by a fair few people which I must admit did surprise me but as always in these races you need to have a game plan and stick to it, and hopefully these people will start coming back to you.

We were soon back onto the course proper and knew we were heading for the first CP.

We arrived bang on our target time, had a couple of photos taken with some fooling around.

As we did not require much we were soon heading off
after seeing son no1 & 2 were happily giving out water, which I happily consumed.

 We arrived the other side of Mickleton where the first testing hill starts and we saw some guys in the distance having seen no one for a while. We used the hill to chase them down knowing that our fast hill pace from last year would stand us in good stead.

By the time we had safely negotiated the hill coming out of Chipping Camden we had already picked off 4 guys. We carried on running fairly happy with no real issues; I did comment that my leg muscles were getting that used ache feeling. This does not usually manifest itself until around 50miles on a long Ultra, but I guess that was to be expected with little rest between long Ultra’s.

We arrived at the second CP 10mins ahead of schedule, so I used the time to change socks. This was Anna’s CP and she informed me that she had driven the car into a drainage ditch and ripped the front bumper off, she had called the AA and they were on there way to make sure the car was drivable.

So after grabbing some more rocket fuel (pork pies) we headed off, just round the corner we saw the AA van coming to the rescue so we carried on happy that things would be ok on the car front.

It was a couple miles further on that I started to get some alarming twinges in the groin / hip area on the up & down sections, I tried to put them to the back of my mind but they were very persistent.

I then decided that the pain was in my head and I would choose to ignore all said pain.
This seemed to work well; It might have been helped as we were joined by another runner Iveagh who had run the GUCR this year as well. We chatted away for a few miles recounting tales, until we hit a flat section and Iveagh started easing ahead.

It was at this point that my mind decided to remind me that the pain I had been ignoring was still here and was getting worse. We were at 28miles, so I decided I would use the next 3 miles to CP3 to test my hip area out on the different terrains. Knowing the route I knew that there was a big climb up to CP3 where I could make my final analysis. It was at this point that I told Tom of my problems, to which he replied that he was struggling with a knee problem.

We carried on, there was a fairly gentle down section and the pain I was getting was most definitely not muscular, and it was getting worse.

I then realised that in all probability I was facing a DNF, I did not want to think about this so again I put it to the back of my mind.
Then we were upon the hill which led to CP3, as we started up the hill I then realised I had to face reality the pain I was getting was not healthy and I knew then that it was a run stopping pain. I guess if I was experiencing this pain with 20 or even 30 miles to go the outcome would be different I would have battled through and finished.

The prospect of this pain for the next 70 miles compounded by the fact it had been getting steadily worse over the last 3 miles was the final straw and so it was I limped into CP3 totally dejected but firm in my decision to DNF.

Jen was manning the CP and she did try and get me to change my mind but once I explained the injury and the fact it was a reoccurance of an old injury which had never really gone away she reassured me that it was the right decision.

I saw Tom away and knew then that he would finish one way or another which kind off made me feel my decision to DNF was wimping out and that I should man up and get on with the task ahead. Even writing this now I still wonder was it the right thing to do.

I  phoned Anna and told her my decision and she seemed real upset that I had pulled out, but I said that if I had of continued I think inevatibly I would have binned further down the course having done more damage. Or worse still dragged my self to the finish with a time I would not be happy with and possibly looking at damage that might take months to repair. (while on the phone to Anna I enquired about the health of the car too which she replied it is drivable but will require being looked at during the following week)

Having completed this event last year in a sub 24hr I knew the course had not beaten me it was my failing body that had let me down, very frustrating but there you go
So I drew a line under that part of the race experience and moved on…….

I offered to help out where I could on the check points. I was not much help to Jen though apart from making her laugh uncontrollably when I put on her fleece she had offered me (it was a tad small). I waited around with her until she could deposit me at the 50mile check point where was Rory was manning the food stop and my drop bag with a change of clothes .

When I got there I saw a couple of guys Robbie & Andy who had just got into the CP, they recognised me and said they had been reading my race report from last year. Andy said this was the furthest he had run to which I congratulated him and they ran off in to the rain which by now was coming down hard.

I managed to change quick then it was a question of helping where I could, in all honesty I reckon I was more of a hinderance than any use. However I must admit I enjoyed the whole time there despite the rain. I saw a lot of runners in and chatted to them as they prepared themselves for a long night of running. For some it was the furthest they had ran so it was all new territory for them.

It was great seeing Tom come in to the CP and good to hear his knee problem had gone away. I lent him some wet weather gear and gave him some food as I would not be needing it and off he went.

It was sad to see some guys coming in saying this was it for them the cold wet and dark was just to much to face. To be honest I did not know what to say to them as my thought process was I would happily of traded places with you in order to continue running, however it was making me feel better about my DNF knowing it was injury related and not weather related…

Soon all the runner were through the halfway point even the wheelchair racer had come and gone. Just as we were leaving we spotted the blind runner and his crew he was feeling it a bit and looked in a bad way. Rory gave him some encouragement and instructed his crew to get some food in him or he would not see the night out.

Then we were off, Rory was going to the 90mile point to see the front runners through and he was dropping me at the 70mile point where Anna and my parents were manning the CP.

We arrived to a very soggy CP, at least at the 50 mile CP we had a trailer to shelter in, here it was out the back of the car. Still the runners were suffering more so with that in mind I helped out as best I could but to be fair everything was covered so for me it was just talking to the runners and seeing how they were holding up. Most were in good spirits and soldering on in true british style. Then suddenly Tom appeared through the rain, it was good to see that he was still going although he said he was close to quitting. So suitably plied with malt loaf we got him going again and off he went.
As it was getting light my parents left to grab a couple of hours rest before they were off to baby sit our children until we had finished.

I managed to get half an hour shuteye while there were no runners coming through, I suddenly woke to find Anna had shut her eyes, I don’t think we missed any runners phew…

I decided to get out of the car and walk around as I was doing that suddenly a group of runners appeared. It was a great to have something to do, and there seemed to be a steady flow through for a while.

One of the runners through was a guy called Quentin he had been hanging round the check point for a while with his crew (his parents). I saw him approaching our car and you could see he was suffering physically in various areas just by his stance. He told me he was thinking of quitting as he said he had been reduced to walking only, he was also worried that he would not make the cut off time at 6pm.  I reassured him by telling him he had 11 hours left and the average walking pace was 3.5mph so he was well within the cut off. Also I said Rory’s cut offs are guides only and not enforced to the letter....

He decided to give it a go and to be fair he looked like he was struggling. Sure enough 15mins later he was back saying that was it  he was quitting. So we got his parents back and I left him with them for 5 mins, when I went back over he was still un decided. It was then I realised it was not his physical condition he was battling with it was his mental state that was the stumbling block. Boy did I know where he was at, having gone through this in the GUCR so I put the call through to Rory and got him to work his magic on Quentin. Sure enough he came off the phone almost a changed man, he was ready to smash this now, I suggested a change of clothes to which he agreed and suddenly he was off and he was running. I felt quite emotional seeing the transformation and then I turned round and saw the tears in his mums eyes and somehow I knew that this finish was going to be quite emotional for them even more so as it was his 40th birthday....

Then suddenly we were down to the last couple of people left to go through the CP’s, we saw the blind runner and his crew come round the corner and the transformation in him was amazing he was full of smiles and raring to go....

We packed up the car and drove to the end to see a few folks finish, then it was off to relieve my parents of the children whom I bought back to the finish as I wanted to see Tom finish.
After what seemed an age he finally appeared looking very battered but determined as ever to run it in to the finish.

For me the adventure was ending and we said our goodbyes to Rory & Jen , happy in the knowledge that we had helped in some way to make this event run smoothly.

On reflection it was not the result I was hoping for, never the less I have learnt some valuable lessons this weekend which I will take on board and hopefully come back stronger.

Footnote: Quentin did finish well within 30hrs, unfortunately the blind runner did not make it he had to quit at 80miles (maybe next year ).

Monday, 20 June 2011

Mind Over Matter

Exactly a year ago I was experiencing a mixture of panic, fear and excitement.

That was because it was less than 4 days to my first official Ultra.

The Ultra 100 2010 or (Cotswold 100) was my first organised Ultra race, and I had picked to go straight for a 100 mile distance. I did not know if I was going to crash and burn and end up in hospital or finish in style.

I ended up finishing in style (well style for me) with a sub 24hr time and completely hooked on Ultra running.

Well a year on with less than 4 days to go to this years Ultra race 100, I am experiencing a mixture of panic, fear & excitement. Now you would have thought that I know what to expect so why worry….

Well it’s been 22 days since I finished the GUCR, having now completed 5 short  runs since ranging from    5 – 8 miles I now know that 25 days between 100+ mile races is no way near long enough rest.

Having said that since signing up for the GUCR I have always known that the rest period was going to be tight, but as long as I can walk a DNS does not come into the equation. The same for a DNF unless injured or stretchered off the course.

What adds to the pressure this time though is I have set myself a target of not only finishing but finishing with a sub 20hr time.

I know the enormity of what I am faced with as the memories of last year can still haunt me, but more importantly they can also aid me as I know roughly where the tough parts are and where I can gain ground on easier sections.

So what am I going to do different this year which will see me knock at least 3.75 hours off my time……?

Well that would be telling and very presumptuous of me if I detail it all now and then when it comes to it fail in a major fashion.

Suffice to say I have a few tricks up my sleeve the biggest battle I think though will be starting on legs which are not fresh. Usually on my previous 100+ mile races the aches in my legs don’t start appearing until the 50 mile point but I fear on this occasion they will raise there head much earlier this time which is certainly going to add to the mental battle.

As I have stated before though you can only work with what you have got at that moment in time.

Mentally I am strong and as long as I stick to my game plan then I don’t see any reason why I can’t fulfil my ambition,
I know its going to hurt I just need to block that mere inconvenience out.

Any way back to my pain blocking play list……

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Grand Union Canal Race Report (GUCR) 2011

Lying on the grass by the side of the canal at Springwell locks would have been very tranquil if I was on a picnic with the family, but I was 120miles into a 145mile race. To then be told that you only have 25miles to go was the most alien thing I had heard all weekend. Mentally I was in the bottom of a hole that had a cover on it, and I could not see any way out. My body felt spent, my ability to make simple decisions was evading me, in short I was a physical & emotional wreck.

The race start time was 6am on Saturday May 28th, but in truth this race started in November when I successfully got through the ballot. My whole training plan needed to be re written to cater for this race, I had already got a good fitness and ultra distance base. However I had not run an Ultra since June that year so I set about getting signed up for some Ultra’s as training, so I could get to the start line in the best physical position I could. Inevitably I got to the start line feeling as if my training could have gone better, but then I guess most runners probably think this, but what’s done is done, and you have to work with what you have at that moment in time.

Sat Morning  - Early

The alarm clock was due to go off at 3.30am on the Saturday morning but I was awake before it went off, having not slept well due to a mixture of excitement and fear.
I got my running gear on apart from my socks and trainers as I wanted to leave these off until the last minute.
Breakfast was the usual weetabix & honey with coffee, which I ate while doing the last checks to the kit and gear we were taking, most of which had been sorted the night before.  We had practically filled the Espace with food, spare clothes, maps and other stuff that was chucked in,  just in case we had forgotten anything.
My crew for the weekend was my good wife Anna & her friend Steph, who were crewing up to the 65mile point at Stoke Bruene. Then my brother Gerry was taking over for the night section while the others slept, to be ready for the second day.  That was the plan anyway.
My Mum & Dad dutifully turned up at 4am to look after the children for the weekend, so after a quick last minute check on what to do and when, we set off on our way to
Gas Street Birmingham
, picking up Steph on the way.
I had read so many reports about this race and watched video footage, so I knew what to expect at the start. It still does not prepare you for the sight you are greeted with though, when you drive down Gas Street and see the race organisers setting up the registration (we arrived at 5am) and then 100yards down the road are the remnants of the Friday night revellers still spilling out on to the street seeking taxis to take them home to sleep off their night of exuberance!
We parked up and I went and got my race pack, which consisted of my race number, crew 
t-shirts & the all important toilet key (which was not used).  While there I asked where the toilets were, and was told best thing to do is use the canal (which did make me chuckle I must admit, but not quite so good for 2 ladies!).
While all this was happening I had met up with Tom (we always seem to meet at these registration desks) who looked well and raring to go. I said I would catch him later as I had more pressing matters.
So we set off in the hunt for the toilet which seemed a long walk (that’s a daft statement considering what I was about to undertake).  Eventually we found our way to a shopping mall with underground parking where the toilets were found and used. I did not know it then but that was the last time I would use a proper toilet for a long time!
Back at the car I finally put my socks & running shoes on & got my other kit ready, pictures were taken and suddenly we were making our way on to the canal for the off.

The Start

Start – Catherine de Barnes (CP1) 

Dick gave us some advice warning us not to take too many painkillers and the adverse affect this could have, and then suddenly we were off.  As always with Ultras the start was fairly relaxed, Tom and I had made our way to the back at the start, as we planned to keep it very steady through day one; the broad plan was to get to Navigation Bridge (70.5 miles) by about 9pm.

We settled into a nice easy pace, which would hopefully see us through the first day comfortably. I was surprised by how quick some people were running off ahead of us. We had discussed our pace and were going to run at around 4.5 – 4.75mph, we figured with the inevitable drop in pace overnight that should see us through to a sub 35hr finish. The way some of the folks went off I figured there was going to be a lot of sub 30hr finishers this year or they had got there strategy very wrong.

We were soon heading away from the built up section of the canal which meant we were heading away from Birmingham.  I was very much looking forward to running this section through to Gayton as a lot of it is on the edge of the area where I live, places like Warwick and Leamington spa, but I have never visited them only driven through them on the way to somewhere else.

It did not seem long before we caught sight of some people loitering by the canal which we guessed were support crews, we certainly did not expect it to be Anna & Steph as they had said they would meet me at the 10mile point. It was a surprise and nice to find we were 10miles in already!  Anna showed us a dead squirrel she had found in the canal (she has an eye for spotting such things she found a dead dog later on). We quickly went on our way as we did not require anything specific and we were soon heading into the first checkpoint at Catherine – De – Barnes 10.7miles. We got there at 8am which was 15 mins ahead of the schedule we had set. We had our number taken and sailed through, not requiring anything.

CP1 – Hatton Locks (CP2)

Up to the first check point both Tom and I had commented on how congested it felt as there were around 6 runners ahead of us and about 5 just behind. One guy in particular stood out as he had a big mass of curly hair (he was immediately dubbed fuzzy head) we found out later his name was Rob. There was another guy behind us who stood out I never saw what he looked like but he was very loud and kept going on about a book he was going to write about this experience in this race (which I thought was a bit presumptuous as there was a long way to go). Once we had got through the first check point we found that the field had thinned out somewhat which suited us. I find if there are people ahead of you then you get sucked into their race strategy and end up totally forgetting your own.

The scenery by this time was looking amazing, and where ever you looked there were rolling green fields a totally tranquil setting. We quickly came across Anna & Steph again at around 17miles at around 9.15; it was there we decided we were running way too quickly ,as I think we were then half an hour up on schedule.

There were a couple of other support crews there and one guy said he had run the race 5 times so I guessed he knew what he was on about. He said “There is a great fish and chip shop at Weedon so make sure you have some”. Well he was the second person to have said that to me, Rory (who was due to run the race but pulled out due to injury) had mentioned this previously but I had decided against the idea. Now though that was 2 multi finishers saying the same, and Tom cottoned on to the idea and seemed keen so we said we would make our decision by Brauston (44 miles in).

We went on our merry way I was thoroughly enjoying the whole experience; it is what I do for a hobby, so if I did not enjoy it then I guess it would be time to give up.

We soon reached Hatton Locks at 10.30, which incidentally is a fantastic picturesque place to visit, and I thought it is a great place to bring the kids to explain the lock system to them as there are so many in close succession. This was the 22.5miles in and checkpoint 2, and we were informed that we were in around 80th place which surprised me mainly just by the pace some people had gone off at, but this race is about you and what your capable of, so placing was of no importance to me.

CP2  - Birdingbury Bridge(CP3)

We headed off away from the locks still in a very buoyant mood; it was around this time we started to pass a few people. Up to that point people had been passing us apart from one lady at around 20miles who said when I passed that she was disappointed in her failing body, I guessed she was going to retire.

We were soon at the next place that Anna & Steph were dutifully waiting 27miles in. Tom decided to go playing on the park equipment nearby, I told him he might regret that later.  I had decided for a sock change here as I did not want the shredded feet experience I had on the Ultra 100 last June. This done we headed off knowing that the next stop would be checkpoint 3.

Again we carried on picking people off as our run walk policy continued its relentless forward motion. We did not have a strategy as we both believe that you should listen to your body, some people will adopt a policy of running for 25mins and walking for 5mins or something similar which can work great. For me I tend to run the flat and down hill and power walk the hills, but in this race this proved difficult as it is predominately flat. So we adopted a policy of walking the up locks and then continuing the walk for a couple of mins. Or we would see a canal boat with a bridge around 200 yards further on and we would treat ourselves to a walk. It became a game which helped no end I guess if we were doing the timed run/walk policy it would have taken the fun out it.

We soon saw Anna & Steph sat on the side with food for me, Tom ran on as the official check point was ½ mile further on. I was treated to a pot noodle and rice pudding and coffee which all went down well; it all seemed very surreal sitting there with other crews distributing their wares to various other runners as they came in.

I was soon on my way to find Tom at checkpoint 3, and soon realised there were a series of locks that required negotiating before I got to CP3. About half way up them I came across a runner in a blue wig - we had seen him a couple of times, the last time he was with another guy on a push bike, who was giving him some food. The guy was Danish and he said that the guy on the push bike was Danish also but lived in the area, had checked the race entry, saw that there were 3 Danish guys running so had decided to come out to support them with some food. The runner was completely bowled over by this act of generosity.

I eventually arrived at Checkpoint 3 at around 1.15pm to see Tom had finished and was pretty much ready to go which was good timing, so off we went happy in our task.

CP3 – Weedon (CP4)

The next 9 miles were a bit of a drag if I’m honest, slightly monotonous and not a lot happened on the runner front, apart from we played cat and mouse with a couple of other guys. They would run on seemingly miles ahead, and then 20 mins later Tom and I would catch them again, overtake them only to be overtaken about 5-10 mins later!

We got to Braunston Marina 44 miles in by 3pm, where we were met by Anna & Steph at this point with more sustenance to keep us going.  We decided that fish and chips was a must at Weedon 9 miles further on.

Braunston Marina

We headed on looking forward to the next section as we knew we had a break from the canal, this would provide us with something to think about and a change in the muscle being used as there was a reasonable hill to encounter. We safely negotiated this section, there was even a marshal to stop the traffic on the road so we could safely cross, I have never experienced that in an Ultra before, a nice touch I must say.

We were soon back on the canal, now we had the added interest of mile markers, someone had suggested on a running forum (James Adams I think) that after Braunston there are mile markers you just have to remember to add 44 to the number on the marker for your total mileage. These were great to give you an idea where you were.  We were soon heading into Weedon having picked off a few more runners on this section.  We got to the checkpoint in around 30th position happy in the knowledge that 53 miles was complete.

Steph was there to greet us but Anna was still getting the fish & chips as the shop opened at 5 and we were there at 4.55pm. While waiting we replenished our supplies and had some more coke which was going down well (normally I don’t like coke but it seemed to be having a very good affect today). Then Anna arrived bearing the sacred fish and chips.

CP4 – Navigation Bridge (CP5)

Well we decided to walk on and eat our well earned tea on the hoof so to speak.  Every runner we encountered either looked at us as if we were mad or had that jealous look of why the hell didn’t I think of that. One runner said I have a pot noodle to look forward to; it’s not a patch on fish & chips. We passed a party of around 5 lads on a canal boat that just laughed & thought it was a fantastic idea, the food of champions so to speak. With our tea consumed we walked for around 20mins to let it settle, and then we broke out into a run which seemed comfortable so on we went.

We soon caught and passed the 2 people we had been playing cat & mouse with earlier, much to the annoyance of one who said “not you again we thought we had dropped you way back”. Well sorry for running would you like me to DNF for your benefit.

We were both looking forward to getting to Gayton Junction as we would then be on familiar territory for 40miles or so as this was the route of Rory’s Ultra 90 we had both completed in Jan.

It was soon reached and Anna & Steph were there to greet us with an unscheduled stop.  This was for a sock change which I had asked for at the 65mile point as my feet were feeling a bit sore. So Anna felt sorry for me and decided to bring them to the 60mile point.
Socks changed it was onto Blisworth Tunnel where we had another diversion, this one is not so nice as its along the road, but its still one to savour as it gives you a break from the canal, then it was on to Stoke Bruerne, where I was having some more food and getting changed into night gear, which was basically a long sleeved top and head torch.

Gerry my crew man for the night section was at Stoke Bruerne when we arrived at around 8pm, and it was nice to see that the logistics worked out 2 weeks before were working well.  Anna & Steph were heading off to Leighton Buzzard for a well earned rest; they said they might see us at Tesco.

While we were stopped we got passed by a few folks not that this bothered us as we soon were heading off chasing them back down.  This next section seemed to go on for a long time considering it was only 5 miles, but eventually we arrived at Navigation Bridge at around 9.30pm, only half an hour off target, to be fair I was pretty pleased with that effort 15.5 hours for 70.5Miles.

CP5 – Bridge 99 (CP-6)

We did not stop as Tom did not want anything so we were quickly away leaving a few folks in the checkpoint. I knew that the biggest drop out happened here and I was keen to remove myself from any potential self pity (I feel sympathetic to runners who drop out but you have to be selfish and think of your game plan and listening to someone’s drop out story would be no good for moral).

We drove ourselves forward knowing that the night section would be hard, as your body thinks it should be resting and not still working, so it becomes a mental battle with your physical self to keep going. We did not want to just walk the night section as we felt the cold would seep in and start affecting us.

Gerry was at the 74.5 mile point which we reached.  Here we had a quick stop to consume fluids, and I had my first red bull.  We both did not consume any food (this was a mistake which I was not to realise until much later).

We pushed on having agreed to meet Gerry at the next official checkpoint at 84.5miles.  This section took absolutely ages to complete. We got there eventually in around 1am and I managed to get a coffee and grabbed some more red bull off Gerry,  but again no food.

CP6 – Grand Junction Arms (CP-7)

We were keen to get to Leighton Buzzard now which was only 5 miles away, but that 5 miles went on and on and on. It was the lowest point of the race so far for us. The canal is a dark lonely place at night - I was glad I was with Tom because at times it was kind of spooky with the trees and bushes seemingly taking on unnatural shapes. We kept our head torches firmly on the ground as this section is predominately grass so there is a danger of turning your foot down a rabbit hole.

Tesco’s was reached just before 3am and we found that Gerry was there along with Anna and Steph as they were both up from their rest. I think they were all worried that we took a lot longer than we thought to get to that stage. They were giving hot drinks to Rob (Fuzzy Head).  Anna tried to get some food in me but I was refusing all food, but I did have a hot chocolate and a can of coke though.

Tesco's is a Dark place!
(in more ways than one)

We both got ourselves up and going again and we plugged ourselves into some music to hopefully give us a different dimension to this never ending night.  We trudged onto the next checkpoint which was at 99.8miles, practically 10miles away. It was at this point that I began to hate the mile markers as I am sure someone had deliberately not got the positions right. Or we thought one had been missed out and the next one we would see would be 2 miles further on, only to be bitterly disappointed when the next one came into view reading 1 mile on from the last one.

We passed Rob who had sought some aid off some people.  By this time it was getting light and we thought it could not be too far to the checkpoint.

We had a slight navigational worry which under normal circumstances would have been no bother, but at this stage even map reading was a slow process. We knew we had to cross a bridge and then the checkpoint should be close. As we approached the bridge we saw Gerry standing on it, he had come down to meet us - that was certainly a welcome sight. We decided to walk it in with him from there obviously he had to endure some banter about how far it was which he took very well (Well he gave as good as he got really).

Then suddenly we were at the checkpoint practically 100miles complete and it was just before 5.30am. Tom went and got his food while I went and got porridge, rice pudding and 2 cups of coffee which went down well.  Gerry decided to leave us here as it was going to be gone 8am before we next saw the crew so this seemed prudent

CP-7 – Springwell Bridge (CP-8)

I was keen to keep going at this stage as I knew if I stopped for to long I would start to cease up and would not want to continue. There was one guy at the checkpoint that looked in a bad way (found out later it was EPS off one of the forums I am on, he had walked practically the whole night on shot quads). So having got Tom out of the checkpoint we carried on our way.

It had got to the point now where it was mind over matter, we had to force ourselves to run (well shuffle to be fair at this stage)
The running sections were getting shorter which was a worry but there did not seem to be anything we could do about it. We even tried the policy of run walk; we ran for 20mins & then walked for 10mins and kept repeating the process. This worked up to a point, but again it was too mechanical and difficult to maintain when your body was failing physically.

I had a phone call off Anna to say they were getting us a MacDonald’s breakfast and would meet us at the 115mile point with it. At that stage we were about 3 miles away, so we tried to speed up to get there quicker just because it sounded like a treat. When they came into view we sprinted the last 200yards to them (dead heat I reckon) and arrived at 9.30am.
When I tried the food it tasted horrible and I could not get it down, I managed to force some of it down but this was becoming a real issue for me. Hydration wise I was fine it was food I could not consume and without it I was going downhill fast.

We set off knowing that the next 5 miles would bring us to 120mile checkpoint at Springwell locks. By this time Rob had decided to join us and walk/run with us, the problem was all 3 of us were at an all time low and no one had the motivation to run. Usually if one is feeling down the other can crack on and drag them through it but this was not happening. All I could think about was what valid excuse I can come up with at the check point to tell Anna that I am giving up and to phone it in.

When we finally did get to the checkpoint at about 11.15am, I flopped on the floor and said “That’s it I am done, I can’t finish in a reasonable time so it not fair on you two to be out here going into another night plus we have to think of the family”.
I thought this seemed a reasonable justification to finish here, thus the blame would be on our tight schedule as opposed to my failure.

Of course Anna saw straight through this, I had had a conversation with her some weeks previous on the quitting issue, and I had said to her that at some stage my mental state could be such that I would want to quit, but I said you have control in that situation as you will have the all important phone number to HQ.

She just said “Look get some food in you”, and like a naughty child I threw the food at her feet, so she unwrapped some chocolate gave me a piece and said just suck on that. Which I did and then finished the bar.

CP8 – Hamborough Tavern (CP-9)

She then said “Right let’s walk the next section and see how you go, its only 3 miles”, to which I agreed.  I shouted to Tom that I was walking on and that he would probably catch me up as my walk at this stage seemed more like a penguin waddle.

We set off and then Anna had a phone call, it was Rory asking her about my progress When she told him what had taken place he wanted to speak with me. I can’t tell you all  that he said but suffice to say he said all the right things to get me back in the game. It got quite emotional at one point and I thought I would cry, which certainly means my emotions were laid bare at that moment.

All I can say is that after that 3 mile section I was mentally strong and I said my thanks to Anna and carried on through onto the next section which they told me was 5 miles.

My buoyant mood carried on through this whole section and I ran walked it fairly well. I had a couple of map reading moments as my brain was finding it difficult to make small decisions even on simple map reading issues. This was all safely negotiated, and I arrived at the next stop 128.5miles in around 1.30pm.  Anna gave me some pasta but I apparently just made faces at her again, very much the spoilt kid syndrome! I did eat it although I did spit some chicken out which did not want to go down.

I was raring to go on the next section as I knew this was the section where the turn was for the Paddington branch (Bulls Junction), I was happily bumbling along when suddenly in the distance I could see what looked like a left turn and I thought this was it. It was as well, the magic turning it’s like the home stretch all be it still a long stretch.

I started running along this section thinking the checkpoint will only be just round the corner, but no it was a long way down but I carried on running and felt really strong when I reached it (I probably looked a gibbering wreck). It was the famous Henk I had heard so much about who kicks you out of his checkpoints by swearing at you. To be fair I thought he was quite polite, maybe because I was only there for about 2 mins if that. Anna & Steph were there but I did not need anything, I left at around 2.45pm

CP – 9 - Finish

So on I went to the next place where Anna and Steph were meeting me.          I was running strongly now knowing I only had 12 miles to go. I got through to 6 miles to go fairly quickly by 4pm, and met up with Anna & Steph who had a coffee waiting.

Then it was on to the last section 6 miles to go on this grand adventure. These 6 miles seemed to go on for a long time. I kept seeing runners coming the other way I was stopped by a couple of them and they said the finish line is not far about a 1.5 miles.

So I carried pushing on, then a cyclist stopped and said “You are 10 mins away mate keep going”.  After he left I thought is that 10mins walking, running, cycling what?

Then suddenly I spotted what looked like a white banner, I have seen lots of photos and videos of this finish that I figured it had to be the end. I broke into a run and just hoped it was, as I don’t think I could have broken into another run this was my last effort.

Finally the full finish line came into view I could not see individual faces I just saw the banner saying FINISH on it. I crossed it hands held aloft, where I saw Anna & Steph and then I saw Dick and he was holding the medal I had been dreaming of for the last 6 months. It almost seemed a surreal moment when he put it round my neck, but the sheer elation of what I had achieved was about to wash over me in waves. I had various pictures taken, it was then I realised that I had got 18th spot in 35hrs & 29mins which was around 5.30pm on Sunday evening, I was absolutely over the moon at that point.

The Aftermath

We did not stay long at the end as obviously we had a family to go back to, who were all itching to see the medal before they went to bed.

I was bundled into the car where I attempted to have a wet wipe wash and change into some clean clothes, and then I found a pillow closed my eyes and promptly fell asleep. I woke up properly when we were dropping Steph off, and then we were home.

I got in the house and the boys wanted to see the medal, they had made cards saying well done & we are proud which was very touching.

My Mum and Dad had done a fantastic job looking after our 4 children for the weekend. Then Gerry turned up with his wife Larysa, to offer their congratulations.

We reminisced about the whole adventure, the highs and the lows.
They all could see that I was tired and my eyes had started to droop somewhat, so they politely said their goodbyes.

So that was it my adventure was over all I needed to do was wash the grime of the last 2 days away and look forward to my next adventure in 25 days time the Ultra race 100

Will I be recovered enough by then who knows time will tell.

A number of thankyou’s are in order :-

A big shout out to Dick and the crew you put on one hell of a race.

A big thanks to my support crew Anna, Steph & Gerry without them I would not have been able to take part.
A special thanks to Anna & Rory who without their intervention and correct reading of the situation at 120miles in, I would in all honesty probably have not completed this race.

Also a big thanks to my Mum and Dad for doing the equally important job of looking after the children, which is no mean feat.

Also Last but by no means least thanks to Tom my running buddy for 120miles, I am glad you finished it mate.