Thursday, 12 February 2009
A couple of days before the race I booked a hire car from Houston airport and a hotel just off of the side of the I-45 freeway, packed a lot of mars bars and flew to Texas. It felt strange going off to take on a big race knowing that I wouldn't be meeting up with the rest of the Endurance Heroes. RR100 is widely renowned as one of the easier 100's as it takes in only 5500 feet of climb and is largely on nice soft woodland trail around Huntsville State Park. I've got to say that the scenery was stunning but I doubt i'll ever run a race with 5 x 20 mile loops again. This time it made sense, I had no crew, no pacers and had to drive straight back to the airport after the race so needed to be back at the car immediately at the end, not 100 miles away from it.
I got to Texas on the Thursday night had a Mcdonalds which was just great. The nuggets were good & the burger was dripping grease much more so than in the UK. The next morning I went to Wal Mart, bought some food and drove to the park to give in my drop bag which was going to be taken out to the aid station at the 6.4 mile and 12.4 mile point. This was a waste of time as I actually never got anything out of it and had to leave so soon after the end of the race that I didn't have time to get it back! I tried not to change my body clock for this race as it was a 6am start on the Saturday so I went to bed at 7pm and got up at 3am, ate a lasagne and then spaghetti with Meat Balls from the microwave, got in the car and drove down to the start line. I put my bag behind a tree near the finish line tent and lined up with everyone else. Before the start I looked at the 10 people around me and thought to myself 'at least 3 of us aren't gonna finish this' and told myself there was no way I would come all this way and DNF....
The first hour we jogged around in the woods following each others headlamps. The light came through around 7 30 and most of the trail was good. The 6 mile out and back section at the top of the course was long, undulating and littered with thick roots and was going to be difficult to negotiate in the dark of the night but it was good in the daylight. I managed to cover the first 20 miles in 3:34 which was right on for the schedule I had written across the front of my pack. The next 20 were mentally the hardest. I was enjoying running but had that slightly sickening sensation that 80 miles to the finish line was a long way. There were around 250 x 100 milers and 200 x 50 milers so with the loop format you saw people all the way around. Loop 3 luckily went like a dream. Haruki Makayami writes in his book 'What I talk about when I talk about running' which describes ruising through some miles, how I felt for this middle 20: 'As I run I tell myself to think of a river. But essentially I am not thinking of a thing. All I do is keep on running in my cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.' I came back to the start finish in 11:36 & that is where it all started going wrong.
I went for a sit down on the loo near my bag and for want a nicer way of describing this, ended up wiping half of the skin of my rear end off in the process. When i came out every step felt like someone had been rubbing at it with sandpaper for an hour. I tried to address the issue with vaseline but it was barely covering the problem. The next three miles it got dark and i started tripping over the roots. There seemed a lot in the day time but now they were everywhere. I went down quite hard twice and with the pain of my rear end, the slowly depleting energy reserves and lack of daylight I got a bit low. In the end I got to the turn around aid station and sat in a chair for 1 minute. Frank had spoken at length to before hand about how he had not sat down, not stopped, not changed clothes in the entire of his journey through the 2008 Leadville Trail 100, and I liked that. Very impressive. It seemed that i needed 60 seconds of 'personal time' here though just to remind myself that this was all a good experience & relatively speaking I was still fine. I stood up again and pressed on up the hill with short but quick steps and two guys coming the other way doing the last stretch of the 50 stopped and give me a round of applause with the comment of 'nice peppy step brother very inspirational.' This made me burst out laughing & helped me to start to refocus.
I got back round to 80 miles in 16 something and with my rear end still on fire reapplied a large amount of vaseline. It was at this point that the winner Andy Jones Wilkins carried himself over the line, just a massive performance, but I had for the first time EVER succesfully paced myself to within my target time of sub 24 hours and felt reasonably comfortable on the last loop. I ran out of the aid station and pushed through it as best i could hitting mars bars every 30 minutes, stumbling a lot, falling a bit but always moving forward. In the end I got round the last lap in a horrible time but crossed the 100 mile mark in 22:54. I was delighted but knew that I had to focus on the other endurance element of the trip, getting home.
I drove to the hotel got my stuff and drove straight to the airport. I was in such a rush a didn't have time to properly tend to the chaffed areas which therefore remained fairly exposed. I must have heard 'good job' 1000 times on the run but I was now making a decidedly POOR job of conducting myself in an honourable fashion. My legs were locking up so I was shuffling around and wincing. People were staring and i felt paranoid that they were trying to move away from me. I found a diner and waded into a cheese and bacon burger with fries and onion rings. Then I made my way to the Seafood restaurant next to our departure gate and had some pasta. I was so hungry it was unreal. I basically ate 20 mars bars on the run, a couple of small cups of pasta at the aid stations but that was it. I had to sit cramped up next to the window for 10 hours, got off the other end and literally couldn't walk. When I got home Monday lunchtime I found a gas man in the road outside and all of the pavement around the front door dug up. I knew what he was going to say before I even asked and I was pretty annoyed about it. No gas. No Heating. No Cooker. No Hot Water. I bought 3 packs of sandwiches from the shop over the road got in a sleeping bag, got under the duvet, ate all the sandwiches and went to sleep until it was time for work the next morning. Still I am now the proud owner of a sub 24 buckle for a 100 mile race. I am happy about that.