I didn't sleep much on the night before the race, I had my eyes closed and let my brain rest. It felt like forever as I scrutinized every last detail of my race prep. I was going through the smallest things that given the enormity of the race shouldn't have even been in my head. This should be chill out time, not a chance my brain was doing over time. Before I knew it 4.50am came and my alarm was firing off in my ear. I donned my gear, ate my breakfast and headed for the start.
|Probably the most exciting|
start line in the world
Eight and a half minute miles had been my default pace for months, we were a little fast to start with but I soon hit my pace. I felt so full of beans it felt sluggish almost too slow but it's pointless having a plan and not executing it. We ran through the city streets and all traffic had been halted while we passed through much to the drivers annoyance. I can't imagine London traffic being halted just before rush hour on a Friday morning just to let a load of runners through. As we left the city we hit the long steady first climb. Myself, Barry Miller and James Poole chatted away barely noticing the climb. I was however very conscious of running my own race and the pace was picking up slightly. James pulled away slightly and I had no problem in letting him go. I continued for a further mile or so with Barry along a rather unpleasant main road. I was moderately faster than my 8.30s and told Barry to pull away, he did and that was the last I saw of him.
Everyone settled into their respective paces and the passing seemed to stop. I reached CP 4 and my first drop bag I had eaten a pack of shot blocks up till this point. I grabbed my bag containing more shot blocks, gu gel, high five gel and 500ml of Tailwind. I downed half the drink and half a mile later downed the other half. Immediately feeling bloated. The feeling passed but wasn't pleasant.
|Soaking my sleeves at|
the marathon point
The heat was at its most angry during this section probably about 30 degrees but plenty hot enough. I really wasn't bothering me though the heat acclimatization had worked so had my idea of total body coverage. The only problem I was having was slightly burning cheeks, my face not my arse. The ice pocket on my hat was working a treat. There was enough fabric between my head and the ice so I didn't get brain freeze but still the cooling effect on my head was amazing and as the ice melted the water trickled down my back. The ice was lasting plenty long enough too. I was very conscious of not drinking too much fluid. I was having my 500ml of tailwind every couple of hours,at each aid station I was having one cup of coke and one of water whilst keeping my bottle topped up and just sipping it as and when needed.
I passed Terry Zengerink on this section. It was hard but I was sticking to my very strict game plan which involved not running with anyone else. I passed, said 'Hi' and carried on. My quads were quite sore and every 10 mile or so I was doing four squats to try and stay loose and it seems to work for me even though I get some funny looks. I was soon approaching the Corinth canal and the high bridge. I ran over keeping my eyes fixed forward, I bloody hate heights. On the other side I caught Martin Bacon and we ran up the busy road to the 51 mile checkpoint together, I broke my golden rule but I was happy to have a major stop coming up and was in a chatty mood.
|Raring to go in the heat of the day.|
Hat stuffed full of ice.
After the busy roads it was nice to run on some quieter roads for a while. My mind drifted as I jogged along, I had written some splits down but had no real plan for any more of the race. I was so wrapped up in getting the first 50 done that I hadn't put a lot of thought in to the next section. No dramas just keep going the way I am and everything would be fine. Crossing the magical 53 miles was great only 100 to go, yay!. Around this time I bumped into Paul Beechey and James we all chatted and exchanged positions. James was having a rough time with his stomach as was I. It was no good the energy I was getting from my tailwind was great but I was being left with a dry mouth and a bloated stomach. I had just been putting up with it but I could no more so as I ran ahead of James I stuck my fingers down my throat and projectile vomited across the road barely breaking stride. I did so a further two times. The relief was amazing, right there and then I decided tailwind wasn't working and I'd be drinking no more during this race. I've been sick 4 times during ultras and three had been in that two minute period. I actually felt great but was well aware my hydration and nutrition for the race had just taken a major blow. I quickly forced a couple of Gu down with water and an Scap. Time to focus. Martin appeared again from an adjacent field he'd got stomach issues but his were from a different exit. As much as I didn't want to run with anyone Martin was exactly my pace so we ran 4 or 5 miles into Ancient Corinth.
As we entered the village there was a pack of dogs fighting in the main centre which was an unnerving distraction also my quads hurt and my butt was sore, ring of fire type thing. I chatted with Jacque (my wife/crew) and told her I was ditching the tailwind she in turn insisted that I didn't run with Martin. He is a lovely guy but I had a strict plan and if I was to complete this race I had to stick to my plan. Again I let him go ahead as I tried to find my sudocreme, I didn't though, all I found was Gurney Goo so I slapped that round the offending area. Soon after leaving the check point I realized that the Gurney Goo was having the opposite intended effect and I was on fire. It certainly took my mind off the pain in my legs.
|That was a painful massage|
I can't remember exactly where but it was about the 85 mile mark I told Jacque that she had better drive to Sparta and check in and get some sleep. Chris Mills who was crewing John Volanthen said he would take over and Jacque could meet me in the morning with some fresh kit. I grabbed some Red Bull off her, Sudocremed my butt and jogged my way into the warm night. I had picked up a long sleeve top but certainly didn't need it yet. I started moving up hill and this was actually the start of the mountain all be it 13 miles out. I was still struggling and John caught up to me, he certainly had a similar game plan and was not in a talking mood. We spoke for a matter of seconds before he ran off. This was a bit of a kick in the balls as I'd been so strong but now I felt so weak. I could see the mountains up ahead but couldn't work out what way we were heading, either way it was a long way up. I walked and ran as best I could at one point getting stopped by an official asking if I was ok. I smiled and said of course I am, I'm 100% fine. Inside I was broken though.
|Not sure where this was taken|
but one of my fave pics ever
I put my jacket on and hiked on to the rough track up and over the mountain this bit made a nice change up from all that tarmac, the rocky switchbacks were more to my liking. I passed straight through the mountain top CP and started the decent the other side. I was expecting a treacherous downhill with life threatening drops on all sides. What I found was a scree type track that was level but steep. Not a real issue apart from the fact I was slipping, I had stiff legs and tarmac shoes on. Others were sprinting past but I just walked down the steep bits until I reached the runnable stuff.
The run into Nestani was very much a blur. I was dealing with the lack of sleep ok but energy levels were still low and I was dragging my feet but I was getting it done. I was getting increasingly paranoid of the cut offs even though I'd pretty much maintained a constant two hour buffer. Everything I'd read had told me that the cut offs get easier as the race gets into the second day also that if you cross the mountain it's done. Both statements were not ringing true with me and that was bugging me. I was expecting to gain time on the cut offs and that is most certainly not the norm. With these thoughts some serious doubt had entered my head about actually finishing. 50 miles to go, not gaining time, feeling knackered, being passed by so many Brits, I nearly cried at the thought of failing again. This was a real mental low. There is little rationale at this stage in a race I was pushing forward but belief had left me.
|I couldn't stop smiling. John always looks like that.|
I ran into CP57 it was 7.30 am and 115 miles in, 38 miles to go in 11 and half hours. Jacque had arrived with my day gear, I ditched my head torch and coat. She complemented me on how well I was doing but I wasn't feeling fluffy. No I said now's the time to knuckle down and get this done. John left but I had a pot of porridge which I watered down to a drink and promptly downed. I soon caught John. About a mile up the road the call of nature came on all of a sudden and I had to sacrifice a GB buff because I'd used my toilet roll elsewhere. A little gift for the farmer.
|Carl and I at the finish|
We eventually crested the hill and I bumped into some Brit supporters at a CP who explained that it was down hill from here and roughly thirteen miles to go. I was pulling away from John slightly and feeling good so I decided to just roll with it and try and run it in. It was 1.45pm I had about 12 miles to go and 5hrs 15 mins to do it. It was hot but the heat wasn't troubling me. As I continued down the road every car was honking their horns and Sparta soon came into view it was at that moment I knew I was going to do it. My lip quivered and a tear came to my eye it was almost done.
I had managed to jog right the way to the outskirts of town, I was shuffling but sort of running. A car swerved to a halt in front of me and a race official jumped out. 'Are you ok?' she asked. I was busted, in pain, incoherent, seizing legs but I smiled and enthusiastically said 'Of course I am!' You are not pulling me now I thought. I continued to jog along and bumped into Carl Howells I stopped briefly and spoke, as I went to run off my body said no, it was revolting, there would be no more running today.
|Yes I am.|
I was ushered to the medical area and had my blisters drained and drank an ice cold water. At that moment I seized up totally and couldn't get out the chair. After much negotiation I managed to get a wheel chair and was pushed over to the British supporters by a rather drunk Rob Pinnington. As soon as I was there I felt ill and started shaking uncontrollably. I so wanted to sit with the guys and celebrate but I couldn't, I needed to lie down. I got helped to my hotel by John Steele and eventually reached my bed. I crashed out. In pain but happy.
|Me and the foot!|