Thursday, 23 October 2014

Fowlmead Challenge

The challenge was to complete as many or as few 2.67 mile laps as you wish in 6 hours around a pretty lake in South East Kent. The extra challenge was the weather. It was wet. Very wet.

I had decided that for this one I would do the exact opposite of what I always do and head off from the start like a bat out hell and "simply" run until the wheels fell off.

Sensible plan? Nope, that was the point.

You see my last 2 races hadn't really gone so well, with a DNF in both and both due to under pacing myself and being overly cautious. I haven't really tried to run hard for a long time because of focusing on trying to go further and further. It was time to head out with the full intention of blowing up.

Its a strange tactic I grant you but I knew the worse case scenario would be to walk it out if and when it all went wrong.

We bundled in the car just before 7am for the 2 hour drive down to Deal in Kent. The weather was awful. It was tipping it down and beginning to make Mummysaurus very nervous. I could see from her face that she was having some doubts. After all this was her first attempt at running for over 3 hours, I would say the nerves were justified.
I kept telling her everything would be fine, looking out of the window then secretly doubting it myself! It was lashing down! The closer we got, the heavier the rain got. With about 15 minutes to go to our destination we could see up ahead that the sky was blue! Huzzah!
We pulled into the car park to find the blue bit wasn't there.
While Mummysaurus wrestled with her bag trying to get changed, I headed off to find the 2 most important things, registration and the toilet.
I picked up our numbers and headed back to the car to find an increasingly nervous Mummysaurus still doing battle with some item of clothing.
I think I have discovered something interesting.
Dexterity and pre-race jitters seem to have a direct inverse relationship. The closer to race day the higher the pre-race jitters, the higher the pre-race jitters the worse the dexterity. This becomes a massive issue when you are handed your racing bib and 4 tiny little safety pins. The heart rate increases leaving you completely unable to attach the bloody thing to any item of clothing without stabbing yourself or wrecking the pins. She passed the number and top to my Fiancee Jaime.
A handy graph that is completely made up and actually might not make any sense at all
Numbers attached, toilet attended, it was time to head for the pre-race briefing! We huddled around and were told as long as we left for our last lap before 3:45pm then the lap would count even if we went over the 6 hour point.....brilliant!
We said our goodbyes to Jaime and my Dad, had a quick hug and got ready as the clock ticked over to 10am

I love this bit!

And they`re off!!

With a big cheer we bounded off down the trail. I tried to stay as relaxed as I could and get into a nice pace without doing my normal thing of be too cautious. I was on a mission. A mission to grind myself into the ground.
I realised after the first mile that my new (all be it stupid) tactic had put me somewhere near the top 20 and that just made me smile and run harder, I`ve never been in the top 20 before.
I kept switching off my natural instinct to slow down and remember I still had another 5 hours and 45 minutes to go!! I remember thinking that my pace was just suicidal, I hadn't trained to run like this......shut up and run, this was the plan!!

I continued to pass people on every downhill as I let the breaks off and enjoyed the downhill. My trusty Luna sandal and Injinji sock combo (yeah I`m that classy) working really well on the trail. This trail was different to others I have run on as the mud wasn't actually mud it was coal.
Oh well a new trail type to add to the books then! The only issue I really had was because of said coal it got between my socks and sandal quite a lot. I got around this issue by running through absolutely every bit of water I could find to help flush it out so I didnt have to stop to much to clear it out.

I continued to run at a pretty decent (for me) pace and soon caught up with Mummysaurus who was looking in great shape. The weather was still pretty rubbish and the rain was intent on sticking around for as long as it could but that didn't stop the idiots wearing sandals. Yep that's right my Mum is also a sandal runner! We had a quick natter and then she shooed me on to get on with my stupid plan.

As it turns out, the "undulating" route was a touch more than I would personally call it and I think it may have caught a few people off guard. The rain made it all the more challenging and now nearing a half marathon for myself I realised that I had not only just broken my PB but I was having a whale of a time!
For the last couple of laps I had been chatting away to a lovely lady who had the full intention of running a half marathon.......before I met her! We nattered away about running (I know, shocking eh?!) and it turned out that she was really interested in building up to doing an ultra and she was curious about the mentality behind it. I said a lot of it is trying to get over the urge to stop. Getting to that oasis known as an aid station can be the make or break of many an ultra runner. That`s when I thought it would be fun to issue a challenge.
Sandra had already told me she was doing a half marathon today so I thought I would try and change her plans a little....."If you want to find out the mentality behind doing an ultra here is what you do. When you get to that aid station at your half marathon point......(pause for maximum effect) another lap! Regardless of how you feel, good, bad, like your going to vomit, run another lap!"
She took a short breath in and just simple said "ok!" It made me laugh and I said she was an ultra runner in the making already as she didnt even blink at the idea ha ha ha good on ya Sandra! ;)

We came to the hill leading to the aid station and we could see her friends cheering her up the hill. She pointed at me and said "never let me run with him again!" ha ha ha ha! :)
To the shock of her friends she told them she was heading out for another lap and we left the aid station to big cheers. Love it!
Pushing on I was pretty sure the crash was coming soon as I started to struggle to keep up with her. I didnt want her to hang around for my tortoise ass so I said my goodbyes and let her trot away into the distance, after all I still had a looooong time to go.

The sun finally made an appearance and very quickly helped to dry some of the puddles a little. I chatted away to a few folks I kept catching then loosing for the next few laps until I came into the aid station around 18 miles in. I was really happy with what I had done so far but the pain had started. Mr Hamstring had just woken up and was not a happy bunny.......
 Ah I`ve been expecting you Mr Hamstring....
Fine, not a problem I was expecting this. I had been carrying my Body Helix quad compression sleeve (click here for what the hell one of them is) for just an occasion!

It was now time for plan B which is normally plan A - run slow and controlled and just get the job done.
I ran, I walked, I limped, I kept moving, I fully embraced plan A....erm...B.
Found Mummysaurus again looking tired but still moving along like a little steam train. It was fantastic to see her still out there. She had now switched to trail shoes after a half marathon in her sandals (great job!) and was motoring along looking pretty focused. We had a quick catch up and then off I hobbled again.
The next few laps were well....laps. Not a lot to report, they were slow and hurt a bit.

Lets move on.

I was now looking at my watch thinking "A marathon would be great, just take your time and let it run out! A marathon is very respectable. No one will think you have bailed out, it will just be a slow marathon". Unfortunately for my hamstring I still had time for another lap. Damn it.
Out I went again.
The route was feeling a pretty empty by this point and I spent what felt like an age on my own.
I finally caught up with a really nice guy and we chatted away about marathons and ultras as we made our way to the finish. He let it slip that he also is a sandal runner but has yet to complete a marathon in them even though he has completed a bunch of them.
Finally my watch was getting closer to the 6 hour mark and we could see the finish in the distance.
We made the final push up the hill and finished together just shortly after 6 hours.

Ah finally I was done. 29.7 miles. I had a maaaaaaasive medal placed around my neck and given a brilliant goody bag full of all the junk you want.............hold up! Where is Mummysaurus? I was told she was still out there......much to the confusion of the folks at the finish I said "cool, hold my stuff!" gave my medal and goody bag back, turned around and started running back down the hill.
There at the bottom I could see Jaime running (she never runs!) up the hill with the camera in here hand to get a picture of Mummysaurus finishing.
As I got closer I could see my Dad with the dog walking next to her. I trotted back down the hill with a huge grin on my face and was greeted with the beautifully simple words "Lets do this!!"
We gave it as much as we could up the hill to big cheers from everyone at the top.

Job done!

Mummysaurus clocked up an extremely impressive 21.6 miles!! Her longest run ever and I for one am mega proud of her!
My result was somewhat of a surprise 29.7 miles. That wasn't the surprising bit. The bit that caught me off guard was that I finished joint 8th overall!!!!
My first ever top 10 finish! I`m still not sure that I have taken it in yet as I`m known for pretty much finishing last in my other ultras. I`m used to finishing last. Crazy!
Guess I need to work on holding on to my stupid plan for a little longer eh?!
HUGE medal, its the size of a coaster!!
Till next time folks.....thanks for reading!!!!