Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sorry but `The Beatles` were wrong - it should have been "with a lot help from my friends…."

What can I say about the Endure24 - a 24 hour solo running race and just to recap - I had `dreamt` about competing in a 24 hrs running race almost since I started running - I thought how can runners do that, if they can do it why can`t I?? Is it just mind over matter stuff (read stubborn) - Thank goodness I don`t ask these questions about running a sub 17 minute 5Km (dodged one there I think !!)            Anyway I was meant to take part in a 24 hrs race last year but due to injury I pulled out from that attempt fairly early on in my training - the `itch` was still there - so when I saw this particular event I entered straight away as it ticked so many boxes & then set up a 6 month training plan - why 6 month - well mainly to get my head around the idea of ME running for a whole day & it was for real…………..

To those that don`t know the set-up of the Endure24; it is a 24 hour race, where teams can be of solo runners, pairs, 5`s & 8`s & how many laps you do is completely up to you. A lap measures 5 miles and is a bit of road, stony track & grass. It is a lot of fun esp. if you are in `rival` teams..(hint hint Club mates & Frimley Lodge parkrunners.. J )

Despite a 6 month training plan it came around very quickly, the last few weeks just seemed to merge into days - even on the Wednesday night at the Yateley 10Km it didn`t like only 3 days away that I would be attempting my first 24 hour run - I did feel very relaxed about the whole thing – confidence or `head in the sand` approach???            Training wise I had chalked out a plan – I had some fun along the way, ran many miles with a smile, pushed my so called `limits` - clocked up PB`s in the Mile, 5Km, 10Km, Half, 20 Mile, Marathon, 50Km, 32.75 Mile distances. I dealt with the couple of problems that had come up, skipped a few sessions but I kept positive & believed in myself.      If race day worked out well then fantastic / brilliant / excellent but if not, then my attitude was yes disappointment it wasn`t my day & pick myself up, dust myself down, hold my head up high, learn from it & come out better another day…...  

To quickly mention the Yateley 10Km – I do like these races - I like the course, I see so many friends, seeing Peter on the crossroads & it close enough so I can cycle. Nice new design of medal. It`s a good `Cove Jogger` turn out & everyone from the club did well. I ran a cheeky but relaxed  45:45 – pleased with that…..roll on race II in July.
The weekend plan was, & seeing as the location of the event (Wasing Park, Reading) was only 45 minutes away I thought it would set up `camp` on Friday afternoon then go home to chill out & have an early night etc & come back early the next morning. So with Dennis in tow we went over and set up on Friday - we found a brilliant spot - about 100 metres or so from the Start / Finish line, almost on the `racing line` so the access was really good. I do have to say the purple gazebo not only looked good but came in very handy for shade the next day. I did also put up my 3 man tent c/w camp bed - not that I had any real intention to use these to any great extent over the weekend but better safe than sorry. We left about 6.30pm, that surprising I did sleep `ok but still up awake at `silly o`clock`.

We arrived & wandered the site saying hello to the fellow campers err I mean runners - with a couple of hours to go I had breakfast No. 2 You could feel the excitement grow as race time grew closer & closer. My Crew / Support plans were very causal - drop in whenever really. I knew Dennis would be there till about 6.00pm on Saturday, team `Harvey's` would be coming along later on & then Richard would be covering the night shift.
The race started at twelve noon & the last hour came around very quickly - as we formed right at the back. I remembered looking up & thinking "Next stop tomorrow – blimey no turning back now !!! "  The hooter went off & the support & cheers as we started was just amazing. On events I like this I do like the first lap - you get to know the course. I had expected (hoped) the course to have a few more inclines in as I could use these as walk breaks but as we went round there was only really 3 places I guess you walk a good distance – odd as that sounds it was. The first walk break came about 1/2 mile in & lasted about 800 metres or so, then over a cattle grid which was my point every lap to start running, along a up & down ridge path to the 1st marshal point. Then into the woods - this was actually quite good as it offered shade in the Midday sun (it was getting quite warm) – I had figured it might be warm so my plan was to wear my club vest on the 1st lap & then change into a short sleeved top & maybe even break out the sunhat & keep cool..

I always like the first lap of a lapped event - I saw Dennis just by the 6Km mark (3.7M) mark cheering away – I think he was having more fun than me !!! Then we headed towards in the `in-field` - basically the last mile or so was all on cut grass tracks that went around the tented village. I have to say I loved this part of the course - the support throughout the day was amazing esp. when they realised you were a solo runner (the different coloured race numbers gave it away). I completed the first lap in 57 minutes and thought “Yeap I`m liking this course”. I had a small stop this go. Like the Lightning 12 event I would be stopping each lap to change (Clean socks & t-shirt every two laps), eat (every other lap), wash my face, have a natter etc….
Video - Jon

This pretty much was the pattern for the first 5 or 6 laps - running at about 10 / 13 minute milling & then stopping at the tent – my 5th miles were 19, 24, 24, 27, 31, 31, 37, 38, 56, 37, 1:41, 38, 25, 18, 31, 11, 24. As the day grew on more visitors from the club & from Frimley Lodge parkrun arrived - which was just fantastic - a total surprise…and hopefully I haven`t missed anyone…..Hannah & Chris, Margaret & Colin, Elaine & Colin, my Mum, The `Harvey` gang (Susan, Simon, Phoebe, Leonie) turned up & bringing excellent supportive posters. Later on Alison & David turned up. Richard, Karen B, David & Andrew & Louise - it was brilliant the support I was getting - I am sure it made me go around the course quicker just to see them all again or to see who turned up now. It also give me a longer break chatting to them. I think the one of the best hours was around 7 – 8 pm as the sun was setting, I almost wanted someone to set up a BBQ & I`ll join them every hour or so. Soon enough 8:00pm came along – the time where we had to dig out the torches & it was just myself & Richard for the night shift.

Just for some time / distance pointers,
Lap 1 - 00:57:38
Lap 2 - 01:02:50
Lap 3 - 01:11:06
Lap 4 - 01:09:04
Lap 5 - 01:13:26
Lap 6 - 01:16:16
Lap 7 - 01:18:04
Lap 8 - 01:24:46
Lap 9 – 01:30:30

At the 45 miles point I had a planned extended break - new clothes, feet sorted, a decent amount of hot drinks & warm food. This was a big milestone. I think it was around this time Karen B. turned up – day or night they kept turning up - I thought was just amazing & so nice. The next lap I did ok – still 11 / 13 min miling. I was just into the next lap (11th lap) I started to feel quite rough - stomach was churning, I had a headache, vision became a bit tunnelled & getting quite cold !!          I started to walk - each mile taking about 20 minutes. I used this time to listen to some motivating books on the iPod. One of my `no-no`s` & I say `my` as it was fascinating to see the various race strategies being used by the soloists and it just goes to prove – what works for one may not work for another – it was just me that I didn`t really want my race to become a `death march` so I took, what turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during the day & that was to have a `sleep` break. It was about 03:15am, Richard & I talked about this - I would sleep for 60 minutes & then assess from there how I felt – I stretched out on the camp bed, threw the unfolded sleeping bag over me & I think I was asleep before it landed on me…….

I awoke about 45 minutes later feeling a lot better – still a bit cold. I got up, had a wash, got changed in compression gear, warm long sleeved top & put on a jacket - I woke Richard saying I`m off in a moment. I guess it was about 04:30am when I finally went out…. I wanted to jog out this lap & see the sun fully come up. Soon in I regretted bringing out a jacket & such a warm top - never mind at least I couldn`t go too fast. Good news was that felt a lot better by the minute.

On my `2nd` post kip lap I felt back to `normal`. I had a `normal` breakfast & importantly I was in the last quarter of the race, in fact I had only 5 hours left. Richard now had gone – after doing a brilliant job of crewing through the night.    I was working out my estimated finishing mileage if I kept moving – not only did I want a certain mileage but I wanted to finish the race within a certain time window (between 12:15pm & 12:45pm). I knew my target mileage was `do-able` I just needed to pick up the pace a bit & cut down the breaks – the risk was that I would come to a grinding halt – cramp or injury. I looked at those two posters the girls had done & looked at my hand written note on the white board – it said - “How much do you want this???” I wanted this…it was there...I just needed to do it.
I had done about another lap when out on the course were Andy Carter & Dave Bush (from Frimley Lodge parkrun) - I hadn`t expected this at all - I shared a coffee with them as I completed another lap. They supported me for another lap then had to go. I did one more lap then Louise turned up amazing. I didn`t expect all this support from my friends - I was feeling really emotional now  - I didn`t let on - thanks goodness for sun glasses that`s what I say

I picked up the pace - I remember coming around the campsite / grass area with just short of 80 miles in my legs running
just over 8.00 minute milling - thinking "WTF are you doing??" I didn`t care really I wanted my target distance!  I didn`t have too much of a stop in fact I think I just changed into my club vest (just in case I didn`t complete one more lap for any reason - I wanted to start & finish this race wearing my club vest). I didn`t walk too much of this lap - I couldn`t believe it when I saw the time later on - it was my fastest lap by 7 whole minutes – 50:32 including that 8:13 grass mile.
I got through the start / finish & unto my last lap - I took a break enjoying the moment, knowing I could walk it & still hit my target mileage - 90 miles – I could not believe it. I had thought about this moment & trained for it for 6 months & I was now within 5 miles of achieving it.      Strange as it sounds I didn't want to go out – I eventually set off - walking maybe the 1st full mile (till the cattle grid), then jogging, then getting quicker & quicker. I thanked every single marshal during this last lap esp. the one at the half way hut. Soon enough I heard the loud speaker as I neared campsite & the 6Km marker (I loved that point of the course) I could hear the cheers of teams & the runners coming through the finish line. Louise came out to run with me – I just about held it together. We entered the campsite field - less than one mile to go – Louise left me to finish the lap – what a feeling. Words fail me but I know I was loving the feeling - despite running all that time & all those miles I felt amazing.
Throughout most of my build up races I had thought about this finishing moment and how I would celebrate crossing the line.  Of course I didn`t do anything of the things I planned. I just crossed the line, stopped & placed my hands on my knees & leaned forward & looked down & closed my eyes for a moment or two & thought about what I`d done – I`d achieved something I had first thought about when I was sitting on a Greek beach in August 2008 – I couldn`t believe it….I had done it.
Lap 10 - 01:46:50
Lap 11 - 01:58:21
Lap 12 - 02:48:36
Lap 13 - 01:23:53
Lap 14 - 01:09:01
Lap 15 - 01:01:49
Lap 16 - 01:14:16
Lap 17 - 00:50:32
Lap 18 - 01:14:11
26.2 Miles in 5hrs 50mins (approx..)
50 Km (31 miles) in 7hrs 00mins (approx..)
45 Miles in 11hrs 3mins 40sec                   
50 Miles in  12hrs 50mins 30sec - New PB
52.4 Miles in 13hrs 30mins (approx.)
100 Km (62 miles) in 18hrs 00mins (approx.)
78.6 Miles in 21hrs 46mins (approx.)

90 Miles in 24:31:09

Full Results -  LINK - Full Results
This, of course has led to ask myself two questions……
  1.     How far can I go in 24hrs???
  2.     How far can I go – full stop???
A really big thanks to the Endure24 team they put on a really great event & a bigger thank you to my friends for supporting me during my training & build up to this but also everyone who turned & cheered me on & a big thanks to the solo crew members – Richard for doing so well in the night shift & Louise doing the last shift when my emotions were up & down & when it could have easily been so different – I really cannot express my thanks in you two.                      Also a special mention to Karen M. who has helped me so much over the 8 months or so in helping me regained my self-belief again. Thank you all – I feel so very fortunate. 

I did help raise some funds for a local charity – I am so pleased with the amount raised. They will really appreciate it. Here`s the link Link to My Charity Page
Next up – After nearly two weeks off it`s time to concentrate on the shorter stuff (gulp), having some fun at the Thunder Run (chasing down those mad soloists) all before ramping up for the Farnham Marathon, JW Ultra, Bournemouth Marathon & Caesars Camp 50 later in the year.
#Want It Get It

Saturday, 1 June 2013

A pre-race blog….....`What next weekend means to me"

Well here I am – less than a week to go before I toe the line in a race that I`ve thought about since I really began running…

Let me explain. In August 2008 I went on a yoga holiday on a small & peaceful island called Paros in Greece (website 
LINK ) anyway we had the afternoon off so instead of going into town with the some of the class I sat down on the beach & started to read a book. This book I guess has changed my life – I know that`s a big thing to say – I honestly believe it did & for the better too – this book was `Ultra Marathon Man ~ Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes (& is available from all good book shops :-) )

I couldn`t put it down, I stayed on that beach reading away long after they back from town (& that` is saying something as the bus schedule wasn`t up to much). I stayed long after the last of the sunseekers went. I stayed as it was getting dark (see photo above - yes it`s my twitter background pic).    I thought it was fascinating – Why would someone do that? How can you do that? Why would you enter a relay race with a team of one??  

I read that book from cover to cover in less than two days. I wanted this book to give me motivation for my forthcoming first half marathon – the Great North Run – but instead it planted a seed that has been growing away inside my head. I still take that book when I`m staying overnight for a race.
I was lucky enough to meet Dean at a North Face shop in London in 2011, I told him this story & armed with the book he kindly signed it – it is one of my prized procession. He also signed my `crib sheet` that I was wearing during my first Ultra (this hangs up next to my PB`s race numbers).

This book, along with many others books & various folks in the running community has opened my eyes to what is possible if you only try – people can do amazing things when they say to themselves “I CAN” & follow their DREAMS -


Yes I will be apprehensive next Saturday but isn`t that the point of a good challenge……

Charity - LINK