Sunday, 12 July 2015

The update without the fanfare

As some of you may have noticed its been a while since I have posted anything. I think my last post was about about the Mill Hill marathon back in March? Well since then I shifted my attention to a double London Marathon attempt. After that I'm not really sure what happened, I just couldn't seem to bring myself to write a report about it.

I have tried many times to write this post and for some reason kept deleting it.

I guess maybe after London when everyone and their dog was posting reports about their experience I just felt like it was nice to take a step back and slink away into the shadows for a bit.
My London marathon experience just wasn't the same as everyone else and I didn't want it to be taken the wrong way or for it to sound like I was boasting in anyway.

My London marathon felt like it had a lot of pressure around it long before I got there. The pressure to actually finish both of them because of the fund raising behind it kind of took some of the fun out of it for me. Don`t get me wrong, it was amazing to be in a position to do something positive, it just also meant that my work life and running life had maybe got a little close together.

Running for me is a way to get away from the everyday. Its my time, my little bubble. It helps me deal with the stresses and helps me feel more human again. That feeling was not there so much in the build up as I was constantly asked if I would be OK or if I would even finish. This obviously bled into my training, so much so in fact that I even started to doubt myself.

I guess this is why after so much time in the spotlight at work that I slunk away to get back to what I loved, underground running. Doing the kind of events that don't have a lot of fanfare. I realised after London more than ever that the thing that I really loved was the camaraderie and the community that comes with ultra running. The London Marathon was just the complete opposite of everything I had been doing for the last couple of years.

On with the story...

I met up with a bunch of folks at the train station near where the marathon was due to finish. We set off to the sound of Big Ben singing in 2am, heading off around the same route only backwards.
We laughed, we talked, we had a great time. The encouragement was just brilliant. Just a bunch of people on a run around London at stupid o clock in the morning. As we neared the end of our night adventure they all wished me the best of luck for taking it on again. It was so much fun and I was a little sad it had ended already. I milled around and tried to stay warm before joining the masses in our pens.
Already this was a very different experience as I stood there surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, nervously stretching and jumping about.


No one moved.
With the volume of people it took 10 minutes to cross the start line!
The crowd were incredible, just a solid wall of sound! It was such a crazy contrast to my last 6 hours that at first it was a little overwhelming and I kind of felt like I just wanted to get away from it all.
After a little while I got used to it and it helped me along. After about 10k I felt like I was settling in a little and was starting to throw in walk breaks to keep me going as I had already done a marathon this morning. Obviously no one else around me knew this so it just looked like I was really under trained! The encouragement from the crowd was brilliant but then I started to look around at my fellow runners. Very, very few of them were speaking to other runners. They waved to the crowd or followed the hoards of earphone zombies. Mile after mile passed and no one said a word.
Brief smiles were flashed to the crowd and then back to stern faces. The further we went the more impatient people seemed to get. I tried very hard to move to the side when I needed a walk break, a common courtesy that apparently wasn't common at all. You could be right behind someone bopping along at quite a nice pace then they would just stop dead in front of you without even glancing over their shoulder!
The water stations bought on a new challenge of trying not to twist an ankle on the thousands of discarded bottles. Next was trying to get out of there without taking a flying bottle to the face. People threw them from every direction to the side of the road just narrowly missing others. So much water was wasted.
Next was the gel stations. These were odd as you could hear them long before you got there. So much of the gel was wasted and discarded on the floor that a good 100 meters of road tried to claim your footwear! It was so sticky that all you could hear was feet sticking and ripping off the floor all around you, it even drowned out the sound of the crowd!
What was really unexpected is how emotional it was at times. Crossing Tower Bridge for example.
I've lived just outside of London for my whole life and must have been over that bridge 100 times before. This time however nearly had me in tears. Crossing over that iconic bridge was amazing. The crowd were absolutely incredible, the noise was deafening!
Meeting my Mum at around mile 22 (48 for me) was maybe the happiest point in the journey so far as I knew I was nearly done.
Turning the final corner past Big Ben, I couldn't help but put in a sprint finish, I got to the line at the same time as another guy so in the spirit of hand in hand we raised ours across the line...done. I did it!
We were quickly shuffled into rows to pick up a goody bag and then ushered out the other end.
I wondered around to find the baggage drop, picked up my bag and then sat on the floor for a bit.
I text my Mum and then made my way to the pub, still not 100% sure how I felt about the whole experience.
I think I've had a while to let it sink in and analyse it and I think I can sum up my double London marathon quite simply......."a social followed by and anti-social"
With avoiding people and stepping to the side I actually clocked up a whole extra mile over the last marathon! That's a lot of sidestepping!
The medal was really nice and had a lot of really cool detail that I wasn't expecting. The tshirt I received was unfortunately an XL as they had run out of the other sizes by the time I had finished. I contacted them directly to see if they had any and was told that they simply had none left as they hadn't printed enough. Oh well.

I guess I'm just not built for the mass marathon. The whole experience for me was a little off putting with the exception of the crowd. Soooo many people around me actually made it quite hard to run and really enjoy it.
I like running not feeling like I'm on display.

So whats next?

After a nice couple of weeks off I turned my focus to the London Enduro 12 hour on the 13th/14th June. This one was a little different for me as it was 12 hours but over the night. Starting at 7pm in Wimbledon Common we all headed off to try and complete as many 10k laps as we could. There was the option for a 50k or 12 hour and you could take part as a team or solo. I was one of only 24 solo runners.


We headed off and naturally I ignored all of my own advice, headed out really hard and way beyond my pace plan, completing the first lap in 59:14 while chatting along to a really nice guy.
Lap 2 hurt a bit so I slowed it down and started taking a slightly better approach but the humidity and unexpected amount of hills were trashing me already.
Coming into the end of lap 2 I was in real trouble. I was dizzy and felt thrashed to bits. I sat down for about 10 minutes desperately trying to get myself together. My Mum did a fantastic job playing the part of my crew and I pretty much owe this race to her.
My original goal was to attempt to go for 100k. After only the second lap my plan changed to 50 miles. The humidity and hills just sapped away at my energy but as much as I could I tried to just break it into laps. One at a time.
According to the rules as long as you had set out for your last lap before 11:30 hours had elapsed then the final lap would count.
Round and round and round I went just hoping that the sun would come up soon as my head torch was running really low. Just at the point where I was wondering how much battery i had left my torch went out, plunging me into complete, solid darkness!
I had no choice but to stop dead in my tracks and take my phone out. I ran the next 3 miles on the torch from my phone! To be fair it worked bloody well!
Back at camp Mummysaurus changed the batteries for me, got me fed and water and sent me on my way.
By this point the sun was almost up and my pace had dropped right down. I was pretty much only running the downhill sections and walking everything else. Fortunately there was some really nice long bits of downhill so that helped to bring up my overall time.
I went through I really nasty point of feeling sick at around 42 miles and it was really slowing me down. I figured I would try a bit of an experiment and just head for the bushes and listen to my body.
My body didn't like the last chocolate bar I ate apparently.
Less than half a mile later I felt fantastic and I found myself running at 9 minute miles again! I hadn't been able to do that for the last few hours! Magic!
I guess I had just overloaded on the food and water. Every days a school day.

Onto the last lap.....

Most of my last lap I spent walking and chatting with a very nice lady who was on to complete 100k! Fantastic effort! She said she had spent so many laps trying to really focus that now the sun was up and she couldn't get anymore in, she was just going to enjoy her last lap and take it all in. Brilliant!
I was more than happy to trot along and have a natter.
When it came to the downhills I let the brakes off and headed off. Behind me I could hear her shouting "how are you running so fast?!" once we met up at the bottom I said to her I didn't realise i was?! Apparently I`m pretty good at downhill running. Who knew?! Well I guess its a good job that I am or I wouldn't have got away with as many laps as I did!

Getting close to the finish now and her parents had caught her up. She wished me well and headed off to the finish. I would have loved to have tagged along but honestly I was done and simply couldn't keep up. She is an amazing runner and I wouldn't doubt it for a minute to see her doing some real damage for the top places in other races. (Top running Alice :) )

Finally turning into the last corner and onto the field I can see the finishing area. It felt like it took me for ever to get there. As is now tradition (just for the camera) I set off for a sprint(ish) finish. As I got closer I could see everyone at the finish line with there back to me looking at something else. I cross the line to one person clapping and my Mum taking a video, everyone else? They were watching a guy cooking bacon. Love it!

I had a quick hug from my Mum and then took a seat on the grass, happy that I didn't have to do another loop.
What come next was kinda odd. As I sat there my Mum looked around to see if anyone had actually noticed if I had finished.............
The guy who was normally at the finish line was the same guy cooking the bacon! Mum strutted over and came back not only with a bacon roll and a coffee for me but also with a very apologetic looking race director! Ha ha ha
He rummaged around in the tent, called over another guy and continued to search. Turns out they had run out of the 12 hour finishers medals! Ooops!
He was very apologetic and offered me the 50k finishers medal and a Salomon hat by way of apologie.........fine by me!
I sat and munched on my roll during the awards and had a look through my goodie bag. Great t shirt and loads of bits to munch on....perfik.

So whats been going on since?

After London Enduro I took a nice week off and then tried to get back into training and writing. Both didn't go so well. I think to be honest I was a little tired of both. Instead I have been trying to just get my groove back. Parkrun and reading have both helped a lot.
I guess once you have done something that puts a lot of stress on your body maybe your mind needs as much of a break as your body does?
The proof is in the posting eh?

I wanted to write this post as less of a race report and more of a recap without the bells and whistles, without the fanfare. The idea being more about what goes on around the running. I guess in a way just to try and kick start the writing again.

Not my most coherent post I grant you but maybe a more honest one.
Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Love and ramblings

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