Thursday, 13 March 2014

Grand Union Canal Race 2013

I wrote a race report last year for this race before I started my blog so I thought I'd throw it in here as it's my biggest race to date.

Well that was fun, wasn't it?
We travelled up Friday to get settled in plenty of time. On arrival at the rather shabby Travelodge I checked in with Race control,chucked my bags in and went to O'Neils across the rd where i had a pint with some of the other competitors everyone seemed excited about the days ahead and some looked like they were having more than one pint. So to resist temptation I left early and had a walk to the start in Gas street.
If you ever decide to do this race do NOT stay in the Travelodge. I had the worst nights sleep ever! The night clubs feel like they are in your room constantly banging bass till gone 2am and then from then you get a steady flow of piss heads going back to their rooms and shouting like they are still in the clubs. So I probably got 2 hours kip.
We was up at 4.30 quick cuppa and some porridge then the short walk to the start. It was very busy in Gas street and all the usual suspects were there. Everyone was so preoccupied chatting that before we knew it we were ushered to the start and most of Dicks speech was cut short for a prompt 6am start. With a loud ready, steady, Go we were off.
The run out of Birmingham was nice enough and although a few chatted I kept myself to myself trying to get my head around what lay ahead. Once out of the brick paths of Birmingham it soon turned into a lovely trail. The miles soon ticked by and before I knew it we were at the first check point which I ran straight through. I always have a rough patch around 18 mile and true to form I had it but soon got over that. My plan was to run straight to Hatton locks (22.5 mile)and meet my crew. I arrived there in 3 hrs 40 but had run out of water a few miles previous so not perfect. I then agreed to meet my crew every 10 miles.
We met again at Stockton bridge (35 mile) and again I had run out of water it was really getting hot. I reached here in Just under 6 and a half hours and was running well. Just after this point Paul Ali caught me up and we ran together for a while just chatting the miles away often leap frogging but still not far from each other. The next 20 mile went really well I was running good, eating right and staying hydrated in the hot sun. I had one stop and reached my crew at 55 mile in 10 and a half hours. I can't remember exactly what running surface was where during the race but it was a fair mix of town pathways, good runnable trail and long and short grass. I don't particularly like running on grass but there was a substantial amount of it to come.
My next main stop was to be Navigation Bridge at mile 70.5 where I intended changing into my night gear but it was still light and warm when I arrived there so decided to hold on. I did have my pasta dinner though which was lovely if not a bit filling. I also cleaned and re-creamed my feet I stopped for about 20 mins my longest stop in all.  It was 8.20pm and I had been on the go for over 14 hours. I decided to meet my crew in 5 more miles to have a quick change ready for the night. My wife was crewing me on her own so after this meet I told her to go to mile 99.8 have a kip and we would start again from there. I put on my long sleeve t, hat and gloves. Picked up 2 cans of red bull, lots of gel and two bottles of water knowing I could get more water at the next official checkpoint and off I went.
The next 9 mile to the Bridge 99 were pretty non descript apart from a pain developing on my shin very similar to shin splints. It very quickly became quite painful. Bridge 99 checkpoint didn't go well I had half a bottle of water and needed two bottles to get to the 100 mile point but the aid station guy said I should have got my crew to meet me for water and I could only top up my half bottle. That really peed me off so I trudged off with the hump. This was mile 84.5.

The next section broke me, it was an absolutely freezing evening and I was walking due to the pain in my leg. I think Paul was behind me but I didn't see him during the night so it was lonely. It was long dew covered grass under foot so my feet were getting wet. I was also falling asleep on my feet despite the red bull. Thirsty due to the lack of water and to top it off it was the most boring piece of trail I have ever had the displeasure to run on. I reached mile 99.8 at 4am so had run a 22 hour 100 mile but was ready to quit. I woke my wife and said I was thinking of quitting and her explaining how I would regret it and me thinking I didn't want to have to do this again was enough to get me going again plus I had my pacer turning up soon.
I left her at 4.15 and agreed to meet her at Boxmoor mile 108. Soon after leaving I was in real trouble again it was now light but even with the pain I could not stay awake. I stumbled and almost fell in the canal so decided to ring my crew to get me coffee asap. I met my crew after about a mile and drunk the coffee. I started walking again and promptly threw it all back up. I was now slapping my face to try and stay awake. It took me a few miles to shake off the tiredness but I did now it was just the pain to deal with.
As I was running early my pacer wasn't there to meet me at Boxmoor and the urge to pack it all in was now strong again. I was now walking all the way because of the pain but it was about 6.45 and the chill had gone so it was just bearable.
I was now re-signed to the fact that Gary (GKD) my pacer was not coming and was totally despondent. Then from behind Gary came running up the trail at quite a clip. It was like a breath of fresh air he had painkillers for my leg, ibruprofen gel and got my food back on track even though I felt really sick. I then explained how much pain I was in and he explained what a pussy I was and we would be running again soon. We did indeed run into the Springwell checkpoint. Running was now a very painful experience and my grunts, screams and grimaces did nothing but amuse Gary.
We saw Alan Rumbles and Paul Stout at Springwell who made it clear the job was almost done and I would be finishing. So off we went with 25 miles to go and a new found clarity about the job in hand. We carried on running,walking and chatting and the miles started to tick by again. Gary shot off at about mile 130 and came back with a cold can of coke and an ice cream. That was the best ice cream I have ever tasted. I was now feeling ok apart from the excruciating pain in my leg and now my feet,my anti blister techniques were starting to fail.
I was running as much as I could muster and Gary wasn't taking no for an answer. I briefly met my crew at Cowley lock (mile 127.5) but only stopped for water, a shirt change and a last bit of cream on my feet. I had it in my mind to get to the last checkpoint grab some water and crack on. It was now midday and we were 30 hours in.
Soon after Cowley lock we reached the last major junction and turned into the home stretch the Paddington Arm. Within no time at all we met one of the crew members from the last checkpoint who saw I was in agony and ran with us for about the half mile to the check point. This was Henks checkpoint and after the young lady had dispensed with the niceties Henk promptly told me to f**k off.
This was it I knew I would finish now. One path, 12 miles and it would be over. We had one last water stop at 133 miles and carried on. With about 4 miles to go my leg gave up totally. I told Gary that was it for running the pain was just unbearable and I would have to walk this one out. I even had to pause every so often just to compose myself before carrying on. I could have cried. Literally.
Before I knew it the finish was upon us. I had that feeling of uncontrollable emotion but managed to reel it in and shuffled across the line in 35 hrs and 3 mins, 15th place overall. Dick shook my hand and put the medal round my neck.  A kiss for my wife, a shake of Garys hand and it was over.
My final thoughts are that without my wife/crew these things would be a whole lot harder. A pacer is a great thing especially one that puts so much into it. 145 miles is a bloody long way. I personally thought in places the route was astoundingly beautiful and apart from it's flatness can't understand why any ultra runner wouldn't have a go. My feet are still my downfall. Given how well the first hundred went I reckon I've got a sub 21 100 in there somewhere. The bruise on my shin looks like I've been run over not a running injury.
The big question is would I do it again? Well yesterday it would have been a no but today i'm thinking without the injury I could have smashed hours from my time so maybe. Like I said to Gary the only bit I didn't like was the bit by the canal.
Thanks to all the volunteers and especially Dick who puts on a cracking event. Just hope when he retires someone just as capable takes over.

No comments:

Post a Comment