So there I was, 25km into the biggest Ultra race of my life – sat in a pitch black port-a-loo listening to the World 100km champs charge past the door….. pretty certain that wasn’t in the race plan!!
Rewind a couple of hours and things were looking a lot rosier, lined up on the start line I was confident that my hamstring niggle had improved enough not to cause me any serious trouble and the weather conditions were a lot better than expected. It was a little windy and humid but the temperature was well within acceptable limits.
There was a great atmosphere on the start line with so may quality athletes from around the world lined up to take on the 100km challenge and I couldn’t wait to get going.
The race kicked off and very quickly I settled in with a big group of runners that I was comfortable would eventually contain the winner of the race even though there were a number of runners that had shot off the front of the pack.
With the likes of Max King and Jonas Buud in the pack, my assumption was correct although unfortunately I would have very little part to play in this clash of ultra superstars!
The first 5k lap went through in 19:00 dead, a little faster than my planned 19:30 target but I was feeling comfortable and knew that this was the group I needed to stick with. I assumed we would also slow down into a good rhythm after that which we did with the next 3 laps all coming in at around 19:20…. perfect I thought. At this time things were going well and I was comfortable enough that there was even time for some banter with the USA guys and Jonas in the group, discussing how foolish some of the guys up ahead were with their ambitious pacing!
……and then my stomach decided to spoil the party. It was towards the end of lap 5 that I realised that all was not right. Quite a surprise as my stomach had felt great pre-race and I had taken all my nutrition up to that point as planned. I had decided because of the predicted heat and humidity I would stick to Clif shot bloks during the race as they dissolve very nicely in the mouth when they are hot. These had gone down well but then suddenly at around 24km I realised I would need to pay a visit to the portaloo. The pit-stop including slow down and speed up lost me around 1min 40sec and so I then found myself running on my own a way back from the main group.
I didn’t panic and assuming it would just a one off I got back into my rhythm with the next 5km lap coming in at 19:14, all was not lost I thought…..until lap 7 came and I had to make another stop losing another minute or so.
Basically from then on until lap 15 I was in a constant battle to get from one portaloo to the next! Sarah had managed to get some Imodium to me on one of my pick ups but it wasn’t doing me much good, for a while every time I came out of the loo I was able to get my pace back to low 6min mile’ing but each time it got harder and harder as I felt more and more drained. There were a couple of occasions where I didn’t think I was going to make it to the next loo in time but thankfully just about managed it!
I had given up trying to take on any more food and so in a change for my planned nutrition I requested some “flat coke” from Sarah. This became my drink of choice for the whole rest of the race as I was able to get this down me and it even seemed to be settling my stomach a bit. This made me a little happier as I assumed I was at least getting a few calories in me and it wasn’t until after the race that I found out that I had actually been drinking Diet Pepsi for 60km as this was what Sarah thought I was asking for and it was all we had….. proof that a little placebo goes a long way!
That middle 50km was probably some of the darkest running hours of my life, there were a couple of occasions when I had some serious “I can’t do this” moments and the novelty of re-passing the same runners over and over again as I returned to the race course lost it’s amusement factor!
Thankfully at around 75km my stomach calmed down sufficiently that I was able to get back into a steady rhythm. I was too drained to do anything spectacular but I knew that if I was able to keep my pace under 7m/m pace then I would still break 7 hours.
Even though my Garmin battery died with about 10 miles to go, (I had the back light on permanently due to the lack of light) I was able to just lock into this pace and my last 5 laps were all within a few seconds of each other around 21:30, nothing special but it was good enough to start pulling in a few places as people started to fade considerably. I had been getting shouts from the team that we still had a chance of a mens team medal and that really helped to keep me going. With teammate Paul Giblin having the race of his life a couple of minutes up the road and Craig and Marders just behind me everything was still to play for on that front and we all gave it 100% to the line.
I crossed the finish line in 6:57:23 for 13th place and 3rd Vet 40, possibly the hardest 7 hours of my life and I think it showed as I fell into Sarahs arms….
My trusty support crew then had to carry me back to the hotel, I’ve looked better!
If someone had told me before the race I was only just going to break 7 hours and would be 13th I would have been pretty gutted, as it was and considering how I felt at 40km (in around 20th place) I just had a real sense of relief at the end that I had made it! There was also the great satisfaction of knowing that I played a part in getting the team bronze with the rest of the boys with some fantastic performances by Paul G and Craig (both with PB’s) and Marders showing some real grit and determination when it wasn’t his day either.
Massive congratulations also have to go to our ladies who basically dominated the race, lead home by a stunning performance from Ellie who looked like she could do it all again if necessary at the end!
So that’s my year done then, not quite the finish I was hoping for but in a 2014 with plenty of successes I mustn’t get too greedy 😉
A few much deserved thank you’s…..
Sarah for all her support and crew work – she worked very hard on Friday night!
Trev (#BigTrev #TwitterTrev),Bridget,Paul and Matt who turned up in the middle-east to watch a bunch of mad people run round a hotel for 7 hours!
And a big thank you to my sponsors – Adidas, Garmin, EastCliff Physio , ChiaCharge and SturFit Gym
Full 5k splits for me below (The position details after each lap are the time ranking for that particular lap, not overall position)
Garmin splits below (Up to 53 miles)