|The view that brought me round after my temper tantrum|
|The footbridge over dole brook|
On Friday evening I had a curry and a couple of beers and a late night.doc
Katja and James dropped me off on Saturday morning at about 5:35. I wasn't well prepared; due to the uncertainty with the weather I'd packed way too much stuff and two different sized bags so I could decide what to take on the day.
Due to the curry I missed my 6am start (gingerbread man in process) so I set of at 6:07 all on my own. Obviously that meant I had no one to talk to but it also meant I had no external influence on my pace.
It wasn't ling before I realized I'd forgotten to take my tracky bottoms off so I had to stop and stash them in a hedge. It wasn't long after that when I realized I'd forgotten to hand in my drop bag - going well then. If I hadn't arrived in such a negative mindset I don't think I'd have made these mistakes.
I had nothing to tell me what kind of pace I was running but I think I was about 9:45 or 10 minutes which was right where I wanted to be considering my heavy pack. I got to the first checkpoint ahead of the time I expected but that was mainly because I'd not walked yet. I had intended to walk early but the terrain was very easy.
I'd already started eating, mainly because I was starving for some reason, but I was glad to see some food at the checkpoint. I'd taken an extra mid-layer for if it dropped cold but I left this at the checkpoint which turned out to be a good call. Setting off I quickly made a small navigation error which I had to stop and check but I was soon cracking on again. The route turned off the canal to go to the first checkpoint and as I turned to head back to the canal I gave Katja a call. It was nice to talk and it put her mind at rest given my negative attitude at the start.
As I was talking I saw to runners in the distance and I was sure they were in the race. As I caught them it was obvious they were. Two women running 50 mipes for the first time. They'd made contact with each other before the race because they were both looking at 12 hours. They were walking quite a lot and I had a couple of walk breaks while I chatted with them. One woman had the strip maps but really they were relying on the course knowledge of Rachel: a long Eaton club member who'd reccied the course and sent some beta round to all runners.
After a few walks with the girls I said cheerio and went on. I gave my dad a call just let him know that he hadn't managed to put me off. He was just off to the gym and I was reminded of a comment that Mark Thatcher once made whilst on a running break in the Lakes "think of all those people sat in traffic driving to the gym to sit on a stationary bike"
Once the route left the canal path for the second time the navigation started properly. Having tried to do the Doevdale dipper off a route description I'd ordered one of the OS custom maps and marked on the route. It was a good call and navigation wasn’t really a problem: I made one or two school boy errors but nothing major.
Just before leaving the canal path I made a school boy nav error; I missed the point to cross the canal but luckily a walker had seen some guys on the opposite side and told me. As I came out onto an estate there was a guy there to guide me through the estate and point me in the right direction. I was very glad of this because I had expected to struggle with navigation on the estates.
Back on to trails and I had to cross Dole Brook. The footbridge was a very wobbly railway sleeper thrown i the brook, I got across no problem but a spot of balance training after 16 miles is not ideal.
I knew I wasn’t far behind some other runners because of what the walkers said as was leaving the canal and it wasn't long before I saw three ahead. Having studied the stage times I think I can work out that they were Jeremy Nottingham, Justin Eveleigh, and Mick Walker. I must have passed Takaaki Yamamiya at some point round here but I didn't see him (he'd run the first stage very quick and must have detonated big time eventually dropping at cp4)
On seeing the three fellows I quickly caught them mainly because they were navigating and I just followed them. Once we were together I was navigating qiickest so I pulled ahead to get a bit of extra time in the checkpoint.
I'd already had my first twinge of cramp so I got out the salt tablets. A couple of days before I'd posted on their facebook page asking how to take it but, unhelpfully, had no reply. I asked at the checkpoint if I should just swallow it or crunch it but no one knew. The other runners were saying that if I hadn't used them before then I didn't ought to make this the first time - good advice but cramp seemed worse than a dodgy stomach and anyway my stomach is usually fairly bomb-proof. I swallowed it with water took some pretzels, flap jack and took a banana to have as I went.
Me Jeremy and Justin left the checkpoint together before Mick and I ran with them for most of the next stage. We set off on a road section, I was worried that this would aggravated my cramp feeling but the salt must have done the trick. The road section was 2-3 miles and we were passed by a guy looking super fresh. I asked if he'd set off at 6:30 but actually he'd left at seven. That meant he'd put 53 minutes on me in about 23 miles and he was running really easy. It was Pete Stockdale the eventual winner in 8:43. We got on a long boring cycle path still chatting and we were passed by another runner who'd set off at 7. I think it was Tim Earl who eventually took 4th in 9:43 his splits show he'd run with Pete Stockdale until slowing when the navigation got tricky.
Turning off the cycle path navigation got really tricky and it was good that we had the combination of my map with the route description. We still managed to go wrong at one point and probably lost 5 minutes in a wondering round a field. We got there though and once right I started to move ahead of the others. Just after this I was passed first by Tom Adams who took 2nd in 8:46 - unlike Stockdale he was navigating (Stockdale knew the course) which makes his time super impressive and on the stages with easier navigation he took the fastest times.
I was then caught by Paul who'd set off at 6:30. He'd done the race last year and had the route on his garmin. I ran with him till cp 4 and we left Jeremy and Justin. I thought they'd catch me but O didn’t see them again. I don't think me and Paul were running any faster but we were navigating faster although the two of them must have slowed a bit to come in in 12:30.
I was moving better than Paul and entered the checkpoint earlier but stayed about a minute longer. My hydration pouch was harder to fill than his bottle and I also took a bit of time to neck another salt tablet. Paul stayed ahead pf me and I think I was catching him but staying in the aid stations longer - I crossed the line about v5 seconds after him so his time was about 24 minutes better than mine.
It was good to talk with Paul and we talked about shoes and gear and also the many races he'd done including 100 milers plus some that we'd both done. We're both doing the Dovedale dipper this year so I may see him there.
From here the order of things get a bit hazy although there are some experiences I had which really stand out and will stay with me forever. I made a few audio diaries as I went so from those I'll be able to piece together what happened.
I was still really happy with my pace. I don't think my running pace slowed at all during any of it. My average pace was slower during this middle 20 miles or so but mainly because of navigation and also because of the bushwhacking; many fields had no path and in those that did it was obscured because the crops had been blown over it. In those fields I struggled because I kept getting things stuck between my toes which tripped me up a bit. There were also quite a few gates and stiles which were swamped too.
At around 35 miles I had my first emotional moment. I wasn’t feeling good and this greyhound came taring passed me and I just lost it it ran back and I was shouting and screaming at the top of my voice and really aggressive. I was swearing and cursing the owner and then the dog came and did it again and shout at it “come here I’ll rip your ####### jaw off”. Its really unlike me to lose my temper or do anything aggressive but I just lost it. Only minuets later I came out on one of the best views of the route and I took some photos and it really lifted my spirits.
I had another dog related emotional turn experience later although I can’t remember when. I went through a really tearful patch I think it was between about mile 38 - 44 so it lasted quite a while. There was a woman walking a dog and it was really well behaved and nothing happened but I just thought to myself if that dog does anything out of the ordinary I’ll probably just cry and demand to know why me?
I’m not sure if that was before or after checkpoint four. I made a silly navigational error before checkpoint four which anoyed me. The checkpoint was great; another slat tablet, more food and water, good encouragement. Straight after this there was this big uphill section. A bit of uphill on the road before turning up a track which had these big steps built into it - I bet they were nearly a foot high and they were a beast to climb. I think this marked the start of my tearful phase. I think it was shortly after this that there were some fields mith no paths which put more of a downer on me. At one point there was a gateway which was swamped and I just looked at it as if it was an impassable obstacle. There was probably only a second or two before I just got on with it but these thoughts have a big impact.
At around 45 miles I was running up a track towards a farm and two women were just setting off for a walk. I was starting to really struggle. Even my running pace had slowed and I took a few walking steps up a hill that was in reality so pathetic that it was really more of a gentle slope. They shouted some typical banter “knees up don’t slow down”. I thought they must have known what I was doing and I told them (in a friendly way) to shut up. I told them I’d only got six and a half miles to go and they were clearly impressed by that distance. I twigged that they didn’t know what I was doing so I said “I’ve done 45” and they were just staggered.
I called Katja again, I don’t know when, and I pressed the speed dial on my home screen which goes to her mobile. She had bad signal and couldn’t hear what I was saying. Then she started saying “this is my husband’s phone”; I realised she thought it wasn’t me so called her on the landline and she was really upset.
At checkpoint five I told them I was really struggling and it took me a while to get moving again. But my one real goal coming into this race was to run the last stage strong. And I did. I still walked some uphill sections but I walked probably less than 800 meters. It was a really nice run across a picturesque golf course. Over the last 10 miles I’d caught the odd glimpse of Paul up ahead but turning onto the last bike-path section I saw him and gave chase. I closed quite a distance on him. If the race had been 400 meters longer I’d have caught him - not that it would have mattered because I started 24 minutes in front of him and so, although I nearly caught him, his time spanked mine.
The finish line was great. Approaching it I thought about Katja and James waiting for me there and nearly cried but then as I saw then line (and heard the cheers which of course were for Paul) I just felt so euphoric: I punched the air (probably feebly) and shouted a bit, and (I think) smiled for the finish line photo.
So I had a great day and learned things about myself. The race was a great event with excellent organisation and pre-race communication. The aid stations were really well stocked, plentiful and well timed. I’m glad I chose this as my first 50 miler and would recommend it to anyone.
If you read this and spot mistakes in the information then please let me know.