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Wednesday 4 July 2012

Run 24

Set alarm for 6am and dragged myself out of bed for breakfast of porridge and dried fruit but didn't leave until 7.15. Early morning organisation is not my strong point. Roads were clear so got to Wasing Park well before 9am. The event was signposted and the marshalls were on the ball and even let me pull up to the portaloos before setting up camp! Definitely impressed with THAT!

Field was marked out with tape for team camping so set up at the end near the changeover point. PA system already blasting out Fatboy Slim ... a loop which continued for about 8 hours! Set up tent then faffed about moving car and trying to work out where 6 other tents and a camper van were going to go ...

I was nominated to do the first lap as I was one of the 4 wanting to do 4+ laps. The excitement was intense and the whole team was around me wishing me luck and getting all jittery on my behalf! I started off too fast, caught up in the enthusiasm and pelted up the first hill at between 6 and 7 minute mile but as the first 2 miles were uphill this didn’t last long. I didn’t have a clue what to expect from a 24 hour event so wanted to do the first lap slowly to get a feel for the course and not tire my legs out.

The route started off in a field and then moved onto a road which gradually moved uphill and into woods, over a cattle grid and past a sign for a cottage and walled garden. Staying on a road, the hill sharpened and past a field of cows on the right and a view across fields on the left.  Around a cattle grid and under some trees and past a skittish pony on the right who wanted to get out of the field and show these crazy people how to REALLY run.

Around a cattle grid and onto a grassed path which was only narrow enough to run in single file. Down a hill which was grassy and fun to run on and a nice recovery from the hills so far! Under trees and between high shrubs and up a hill and up to mile 1 sign which my body felt I should have passed half a mile ago! The path was stones and grass and occasional mud and puddles. A proper trail run – lovely! The route undulated with some sharp but small up and down hills into a more intense hill about mile 2 – the top of which was marked by a deflated foil balloon and a line across the trail then a lovely long downhill all the way to and slightly past mile 3. Past lakes with waterlilies and under trees with the sun slanting through. It was very hot in the parts where the trees thinned out and I tried to run in the shade as much as possible.

Mile 3 was flat until about 3.20 then you turn right and up a small incline which gradually gets steeper and steeper. Past logs and trees piled up and what looked like a strange anthill, up and over the trails which were uneven and puddly and with lumps of wood littered throughout. The incline flattened a bit to lull you into a false sense of security, then it sharpened and a long, steep drag up to the top and a marshall tent, then a blissful downhill past a sign which warned you about an uneven surface (why warn me NOW?) and a long blissful steep downhill through a field of long grass, past the mile 4 sign and through the gateway into a field.

The finish was visible as you come through the gateway but you still have about ¾ of a mile of flat running looping across the field between tape which clattered like applause as you ran between it. Past the tents of the campsite, under oak trees and on the last straight to the blow up blue finish and your team mate waiting for the yellow wristband!

It was laps that mattered, not timing but I felt justified being the 3rd woman across the lap finish line to hand over to my team mate. The handover was smooth and I tried to collapse for a breather but I was surrounded by anxious team mates wanting an update on the course and all asking about the hills and where the water points were. Lovely to have the support, but I just wanted 2 minutes to catch my breath!

The 2nd lap much quieter and lonelier – there didn’t seem to be as many people on the course as we didn’t all start in a big rush like my first lap. I kept myself motivated by counting people I overtook and trying to catch up as many people as possible. Managed 19 people. Followed someone for a mile or so who gave up and started walking on the hill. I told him that according to my Garmin we had 0.08miles before the top so he started running again. I overtook him at the top and heard him coming up behind me on the field by the finish in an overtake attempt but I moved up a gear. A few people tried to overtake me but no one managed it. It’s the little victories that keep you going. I was only 30 seconds slower than first lap so I was happy about that. It isn’t like a 20 mile run, but several separate races and I didn’t want to slow down too much for each.

Lyn cooked me a massive fry up with 4 bits of bacon 4 sausages and beans. Tasted AMAZING. Thank you Lyn!!

Watched everyone come in from their laps and cheered them as they came into the field and up to the changeover point! Really great team spirit and a olot of camaraderie between all of the runners and campers.

In the evening, it got very cold and I felt very chilled so sat in the car charging the Garmin and Ipod and with the heating on. I couldn't sleep as had a lap at around 2.15am but I didn’t get tired until 9ish and I was worried about feeling groggy if I slept in between.

1.20am ... Currently waiting in car with all kit on waiting for Heather to come back and Julian to go then it's my turn. Looking forward to running in the dark. I'll go a lot slower though as it’s a VERY dark night. There was a bright moon earlier but everything is clouded over now. Very dark. Have been to loos about 12 times as have been drinking so much coffee and water. Getting very cold waiting around for next lap.

I did the 3rd lap in the dark at about 2.15am. I overtook 17 people and was overtaken by 1 person who was running very fast and waving his torch around like he was doing the lighting for a disco! Couldn't find any more people to overtake. I got very muddy and managed to get both feet wet going through puddles I missed in the dark. It was nice running in the dark and seeing the headtorches bobbing towards me. Counting my overtakes. Counting towards my sleeping bag and snooze. Bliss! Settled at a nice pace just over 8m/mile. I didn't turn my ankles in potholes but put both feet in a puddle!

My headtorch was fantastic and it was surprising how much more of the route felt downhill in the dark. There were a few animal eyes peering at me from hedges although not as many as I expected and there were a few owl screeches and bats around. Overtook 8 people - there didn't seem to be many people on the course and there were a lot of people walking, probably the Ultra Runners notching up some night time mileage. Last stretch of hill on mile 3.65 seemed to last a long time. The route was all different in the dark and I was alone but not lonely.

It was a sloppy handover to Aurian but I put a sprint on for the finish and ended up with a night time lap of 41:32.

Did some quick stretches and had some cheese and changed into compression tights and pjs and got into my sleeping bag. Absolute bliss! Was complete and utter bliss. Absolutely wonderful moment. So relieved to be there after spending last 6 hours thinking about it! Even updated twitter with my relief! My Twitter guys being fantastic keeping me going!

Woke after 2.5hrs feeling like I'd had 8 hours sleep. Bliss! Couldn't get back to sleep very well though and got up about 7.30am as I heard Heather leave for her changeover as I knew it was her then Julian then me. Got up and into running gear and had a banana and snickers for breakfast. Lap seemed to come around quickly. Absolutely gorgeous morning and very warm.

The first hill was tough and I resisted urge to look at my Garmin as I knew it was a slow one. Started overtaking people and started counting them. Most people seemed to be walking or running very slowly as no one overtook me. Tucked in behind a runner and paced him up mile 2 hill then overtook him. Mile 3.65 hill was hard but I just ran it slowly and enjoyed the long downhill. Overtook Mr 29 halfway down and no one in front of me! Found Mr ultra walker just before funnel for line who became my Mr 30. Managed a strong finish and I was sorry that it was my last lap.

Lyn made me a wonderful cooked breakfast with fried eggs, bacon and beans. Sounded as though Reuben might end up with a 4th lap which he wasn't too keen about so offered to take it which was accepted! Woo - chance for lap 5. Simon and Peter would have to keep their times about the same for me to fit it in!

The suspense was building but the last runner arrived at finish at 12:03 which was too late for a handover so we missed out on a final lap. Oh well. We all ran across the finish line together as a team and got our medals at the end.

It was very rainy putting the tent down and the wind started up. Watched the presentation ceremony. There were some very impressive distances from both the teams and the Ultras and there seemed to be a fair amount of people who had notched up 100 miles. That’s a LONG way.

38:10 lap 1. 3rd woman home. 12 midday
38:45 lap 2. overtakes - 19 people. 7.15pm
41:30 Lap 3. overtakes - 8 people. 2.15am
40:49 Lap 4. overtakes - 30 people. 9.30am

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