Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Thames Path 100 the ultimate DNF

Th ultimate DNF is how I have taken to describing the experience this weekend at the Centurion Running Thames Path 100 mile Ultra marathon. it was supposed to be flat, easy, a little bit muddy in places and all that other stuff you read about in other reports and actually trust.

The reality was a little different......

The first 50-60 miles are very runnable and I was glad to be using road shoes as this helped me in getting a great start at hitting the 50 mile point in 10.00 which gave me loads of time to do the 2nd half or so I thought.

Training had not been ideal for this race. I had concentrated too much on my athletes and getting them to a finish in Barcelona Marathon. It wasn't anyone's fault except my own and I knew deep down I hadn't respected the distance as much as I should have. Having completed the South Downs Way 100 in 2012 in 24.08 I had an idea of what it would take to finish sub 24 hours and I believed I had it in me.

I would rely on my stupidity, stubbornness and a sprinkling of Irish lunacy to get me there. I had trained for 2 years at heart rate and knew I would be in good shape in terms of speed without causing myself any trauma.

A little too much wine, cheese, crisps etc in the weeks and months leading up to the race meant I was over my ideal weight but not that bad.

I had learn to use fat as fuel and had many 3-4 hour runs on nothing but a cup of coffee prior to the run and a few sips of water during the run so I knew how to tap into my Chateauneuf du pape gut and use that vital fat to fuel me.

I ran the first 50 on a few hand full's of nuts and seeds and a few sips of water. I later realised that I was getting dehydrated as the sun was out a bit and my lovely Irish skin was burning, mixed with some red urine I knew I had to start hydrating and fast. The hell with Tim Noakes and drink to thirst, I had done that and was now having issues. Maybe I wasn't hydrated enough before the race and a few beers the night before and a bottle of wine two nights before probably didn't help. Getting lost a few times didn't help the mindset but It was under control and I only ran around 2-3 bonus miles.

I picked up my first pacer Lisa at the 50 mile point and we had a good laugh as we took off. I was now on the run 25 and walk 5 mins strategy and we used this to good effect. The pace was fine and I still felt good apart from a sore right knee and a very strange feeling in what I thought was my left adductor. It was causing me pain when running and walking which was odd.

Pacer No.2 2 was Donna and under my orders of just talk shit to me and don't expect conversation she did a great job. We learnt a lot about each other and had a real laugh.

Pacer No.3 was Tina who is a bit like a female James Bond but I can't tell you any more than that. Needless to say the conversations was really interesting and kept my mind off the growing pain in my left adductor and groin area.

Pacer No.4 was Dave and unfortunately for him we got lost, we missed a fecking bridge near Reading and carried on right through the town centre through the main restaurant areas and beyond. I didn't worry at this stage about lack of markers as the river was on our right the whole way so assumed they had been removed. There was also a couple of other runners behind us so they were either following us or we were on the right track.

Big mistake

We ran around 2-3 miles before I took stock and said we have to turn back. I was kicking myself for being so dumb. The runners behind us had gone and we set back off through the pubs, restaurants and clubs checking every turning or gap along the way. My mind was getting aggitated and I was really pissed off at this stage.

Finally we came back to a fucking bridge I had mentioned as we passed it earlier and there was a bastard little bit of tape hidden away in the dark. I love centurion Running but some of the markings were poor at best. James and I have discussed this and i'm not being critical more an observation for future events. It messes with your mind when you get lost and running 100 miler's is tough enough. Poor Dave had to put up with me swearing for ages until I have vented my spleen enough to move on.

Pacer No.5 was Stuart, the partner of Tina and another secret squirrel. I mentioned what had happened in the previous section and we started off with enthusiasm.

Fuck me we only got lost again......and again, these bonus bastard miles were really beginning to piss me off now. The safe time I had for a sub 24 hour finish had now gone and I was against the clock now.

Stuart did his best to keep my spirits up and encourage me to keep moving. The problem was that my leg was now in serious pain, walking and running hurt s I couldn't do either very well and whatever I did was slow.

Pacer no.6 was my long suffering wife Julie, it was her birthday and I was gifting her with a pacing mission with a sweary, Irish lunatic who was in a bad way and really pissed off with life. the universe and markers. Julie knows my pain tolerance level is up there with the best and she has seen me complete races I should never have done and DNF in a race I should never have entered. She was sure I would be fine and kept encouraging me.

This was where the meltdown started to happen. Somewhere between mile 85 and mile 90 things went rapidly downhill. My left leg was now in a mess. The terrain was now a mud fest, the rain was annoying and the distances between aid stations seemed to be all wrong. I couldn't lift my leg, it was like someone had snapped a tendon in my groin area. I still thought it was adductors and kept massaging the area as I shuffled along.

Some quick maths confirmed I could finish if I could maintain my 30 mins per mile pace.

30 minute fucking miling.....WTF!

I was when I realised we had less than a mile to get to the sub aid station at 95 miles and it had taken me over 2 hours to do the last mile that  knew I was fucked. We asked someone how far to the aid station and they confirmed a mile. Slipping and sliding, cursing and crying it took nearly 3 hours to get to the road to crawl into the ambulance that had been arranged for me.

Two Volunteers from the Streatey Check point had come to my assistance, Ian and Mark acted and crutches as we moved along an inch at a time. Ian suggested I swear as that helps, being a loon I didn't need asking any more and a tsunami of expletives spilled from my frustrated mouth as the futility of my situation hit home. Those two guys epitomised everything that is great about centurion events and I would help them out any time they need me.

I have to thank my wonderful support crew and pacing team for everything they endured. They are all part of my family and my athletes. For some strange reason all wanted to be part of this journey. I think it's safe to say that they may stick to marathons now!

By the way it was all my fault for getting lost as it's my race and I should have been more aware so don't beat yourselves up or else I'll kick your arses in training this week.

So why the ultimate DNF?

I think when you have given everything to a race, when you leave a part of your soul on the course, the you know you have tried your absolute best. In my previous DNF at the TDS I had a mental breakdown but my body was ok.

In this race my mind was fine, no sleep demons, no hallucinations, spot on nutrition and eventual hydration. It was like a car with a flat tire, then the 2nd one goes bang, then the 3rd busts and you know any moment the 4th will explode in spectacular pain.

I have no bad feelings about not finishing as I learnt a lot from the experience. One of the main lessons is that I can't make my wife suffer like this any more. I can't let my athletes, friends and pacers see me in such a sorry state. The trauma for them is too much and they are not used to it. I will ensure any future races are not done on Julie's birthday and may even ban her from being there if it's a long, stupid event. Mind you I've been told in no uncertain terms


We will see about that my lovely.

I did say I was stubborn and stupid.

No comments:

Post a Comment