A very hard race, not only due to the distance (45 miles) but also down to the lack of training and underfoot conditions. Both the latter were a result of the recent snow and laying ice which had completely destroyed my training plans, leaving me only a treadmill to run on safely, which in turn led to a serious amount of under-training - still at least I felt fresh for the run.
The race started at Wendover in Buckinghamshire and after 20 miles of trails and roads joined the Grand Union Canal footpath at Denham Lock at Uxbridge and followed this path to the finish at Little Venice in London. An 8.30am start meant I had to catch a train at 4:50 that morning, travel to London and meet up with Alex, before the onward trip to the start. Once there, as the rain started to fall, we registered and with a light pack, carrying only a top, cap, socks and Sports Beans, we set off with approximately 120 others.
The weather was poor to say the least, raining constantly for 5 hours and very chilly so the addition of a pair of gloves and a Polar Buff were the order of the day, and with an extra layer under my jacket I felt warm enough without over heating. Bladder was full (camelbak in the back-pack I mean) and so we set off at a stead pace (10 min miles) and settled down to enjoy the run. An enjoyment that started to wane after about 3 miles as rain soaked gloves (must get some waterproof ones) started to become very cold and feeling in my hands started to go. Still my feet were dry due to the Hedgehogs Gore-Tex uppers and everything else felt fine.
A slight detour then at Ballinger, as a group of 15 missed the bridleway path meant an extra spell on the roads, but we were all at CP1 (8 miles in 1hr 40min) in Chesham only a mile later, and with the famous Go Beyond fruit cake available, as well as water and Jelly babies, we quickly refuelled and continued Southwards. The route was still mainly trails and bridleways but as we passed Chorleywood West, Alex started to suffer from pain in the outside of his right knee, which grew progressively worse as we ran. Just to make things worse we hit a large flood road ½ mile form CP2 and my feet got soaked as the water went in over the top of the shoes.
Adopting a run walk strategy meant we could carry on at a good pace but after CP2 at Horn Hill, after I emptied my shoes, we slowed to walking pace for the rest of the race. Alex could only manage 10 yards of running before having to stop and stretch out. So with me on point dictating the pace we marched onwards, covering about 4½ each hour, which reduced the strain on his knee. After 5 hours on the go we hit the Grand Union Canal, our home for the next 6 hours, and with more snacks and cake at CP3 in Cowley Peachy we could do nothing more than march, talk and set the world to rights.
The canal split in 2 directions so we turned northwards, at a welcoming sign of "Paddington 13½ mile", only a ½ marathon to do and we would be home, however now, as we let CP4 at Greenford 3 miles later, I was suffering as well. A large blister had formed under my left foot and the walking and change of gait wasn’t suited for the Hedgehogs and shin muscles were expanding at a painful rate of knots, still we had only a short distance to go and weren't going to stop.
Headtorches now on we stopped briefly at CP5 (Alperton) knowing that there were only 6 miles left and headed for home, at a pace dropping to almost 3 mile per hour. Every climb on bridges and locks had me gritting my teeth in pain, but the relief of finally reaching the finish, amidst warm applause from the organisers and others was joy in itself and with a warm cup of tea inside, a sudden dash to the toilet (well shuffle) Alex and I made for the station and wound our ways home.
We finished in 10 hours and 51 mins, 86th & 87th, and with 30 others pulling out/not starting could be pleased with our efforts. Also we now have another 69,200 metres under our belts and can progress knowing that we need to improve fitness but that our endurance is good, despite injuries.
My Kit consisted of
The North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR
Mizuno Performance Tights
1000 Mile All Terrain Socks
X-Bionic Accumulator L/S Top
Ronhill Lite Jacket + Gloves
Buffwear Camuflaje Polar Buff
Polaroid 7007 Glasses
Next race is only in 3 weeks time, again organised by Go Beyond Ultra http://www.gobeyondultra.co.uk/, which is the Thames Trot, starting from Oxford and finishing in Alex's home town, Henley-on-Thames, so I have a few days rest, and then back on the road again, with gentle training rather than high intensity, although the shins ands left knee will need to recover suitably first.
Til then - Safe running all.
Disastrous Treadmill Fails! - In this ultimate collection of Treadmill Fails you have to wonder what possessed these runners to workout in high heels, socks & whilst getting dressed!!
3 weeks ago