Mile upon mile of canal scenery is something I am going to have to get used to if I am going to survive the GUCR. This thought crossed my mind around 20miles into the Grantham Ultra 2011....
It had been a funny week leading up to this race as I had hoped I could do 1 day of this weekend double but I was not holding out much hope. We could not get any cover for the children or the dog, and I did not fancy having to find my way back from the finish line to the car if I drove....
Added to that I had been suffering with a pain just below my right lower Ab area after my 36miler on Friday last. I did a 7 miler on Tuesday evening and the pain intensified during the run, which worried me as my first thought was a hernia.
The pain was there for the next few days and to be fair was even still there Saturday morning although it was a lot less. Anna seemed more concerned than I was, as I had been used to a lot of niggles and pains (oh the life if an Ultra runner eh) and she contacted Rory I think to persuade me to seek help....
So on Thursday I had a phone call from a Mr Coleman asking about my pain which was a bit surreal at work but nonetheless great as it got me off work for a few minutes. The crux of the conversation ended that if I came on Sat I could see a certain Dr Coleman who I had on good authority was the best in the business..
So once I had told Anna about the conversation to which she was a bit perplexed as I think she thought if I was injured then I should at least drive to see a doctor and not run 29+ miles to see one.
Any way after a bit of wrangling we ended up still needing to take 3 kids and the dog with us if I was going to run this event. Fair play to Anna she agreed to it on one condition that I ran as quick as I could to get to the finish.
That in itself is an interesting notion as I had never ran this distance in a race before, the shortest Ultra I had done before was 45miles, so pacing was going to be interesting..
Saturday came and as usual an early start 5am to be precise, after a frantic hour or so we were on the road. We got to Cotgrave shortly after 8am, and was greeted by Rory who I think had been at the Haribos already as he seemed on a sugar high ( or it could have been an Ultra high). After registering with Jen and giving the usual banter I guess she has come to expect, who should walk in but Tom. I knew he was going to be there but I guess he did not know I was going to run, it was good to catch up again.
I got myself ready and chatted with a few people, I saw Steve who I had run a portion of Day one of the Ultra 90 back in Jan with. It was good to catch up and see how his training had been going for MDeS.
Then Rory was calling us forward for the pre race talk on top of his Ultra race truck. We were told there was a diversion to look out for and if we did not come off where stickered it could put a couple of miles on to our race as we would have to back track to where the stickers were....
And then we were called to the start line so after kissing Anna and saying cheerio to the boys and Mia, I made my way to the front. I had already told Tom that I wanted to aim for a sub 4hr, but on the start line he said your serious about a sub 4hr, to which I said if possible yes. We asked Jen what the course record was which was some ridiculous time like 3hr 17.
Then we were suddenly off and we seemed to set off sprinting up the road on some 10k mission, even though our pace seemed very quick there was still 3 chaps that went sprinting off into the distance. We settled down into what seemed a manageable pace there was myself, Tom & Steve the championship leader. Tom said the pace we were maintaining was around the 7.10 pace which was far to quick but none of us felt like slowing so we kept that pace going.
The Canal was quickly reached and we seemed to just settle into the routine of driving forward although Tom was doing most of the early pace setting, there was not a lot of talking going on with the pace we were going at the concentration was required to maintain form and breathing.
We soon reached the area where the diversion was in place and the stickers were clear where we needed to go so off we went up the road. We came to a slight hill and we started powering up it, I was a bit shocked to be passed going up the hill (I have not been passed on hill for a long time) i grudgingly said good luck fella. He then replied that he had gone wrong at the diversion and I then realised he was the front runner who had gone shooting off at the start. I know I should not of but I did get a certain satisfaction in his error, very short lived I must say as he was soon disappearing again into the distance ( you have to admire the speed of these whippet like runners. I found out when I finished that he still got the course record fantastic running).
All to soon Steve had dropped of the back so it was just Tom and I left, we were caught around the 7 mile point by a couple of runners who chose to stay with us for a while. We were soon approaching CP1 where I could see Anna and the family including dog waiting at the CP. It was a welcome sight although short lived as we ran straight through the check point keeping our relentless pace going. Shortly after the checkpoint the 2 runners we were with started speeding up so we let them go happy in the pace we were maintaining.
The next few miles seemed to fly past with tom informing me that we were approaching the 1/2 marathon point I reckon it would have been a PB for me at around 1hr 35 ish... He then said we had gone through the half way point in 1hr 43. If we maintained that pace we would get in at under 3hr 30 which seemed ridiculous. Having said that I felt that our pace was slowing mainly due to the terrain, the footpaths we had mainly enjoyed in the first 10 - 12 miles had been replaced with grassy banks. On the whole these were OK but there was places where the mud was very clingy and slippy, it was quite difficult to maintain a good running form and pace through these sections..
Checkpoint 2 was soon reached and again the family was there to cheer us on, I quickly grabbed some wine gums as I did not want any thing else I carried on a slower run as I waited for Tom to catch up as he was refilling his water bladder. Once he had caught up we pushed on through another muddy section, The next couple of miles was fairly gruelling in terms of the terrain and I started to feel the affects of the earlier pace. Suddenly Tom said he was going to stop to stretch out a cramp and told me to carry on, he would catch up. I carried on at a slower pace, just before a bend in the canal I looked back and saw Tom was running again in the distance so I assumed he would catch up soon. That was the last I saw of him I looked back a couple of times and even walked for a couple of minutes but he did not catch up, so i took the decsion to push on as I knew he would have done given a role reversal.
I soon got to CP 3 and grabbed a hand full of sweets and some malt loaf, I pushed on knowing this was the final leg.
I have thought a lot about what is better running with a partner or running on your own, and now being in the position of totally on your own in an Ultra with around 100 runners it can feel a lonely place. Your mind starts playing tricks on you especially when you don't know the route so your not sure if you will be coming off the canal before it ends, and if so has some oik removed the all important UR sticker which signals this. I ended up walking every bridge section making sure I had not missed a sticker but I could not shake the feeling that I was going too far on the canal. It was a welcome sight indeed to see a couple of people stood by the side of the canal one of which I recognised having seen her at the last 2 checkpoints. They told me I had around 3 miles to go which was not such welcome news. However I gritted my teeth and pushed on, I could feel myself slowing considerably now and every bridge I came to I hoped would be the one. I looked round though and realised I was still in the middle of the country side and I needed to be near a built up area for it to be near the end.
Suddenly I could hear traffic on a road and it was fast traffic so I knew it was a main road not a country road, and as I rounded the bend I saw the start of the built up area and the path I was on seemed to veer off to the right. I thought this must be it, I had no idea how far the hotel was once we came off the canal.
I don't know what made me but at this point I looked round and saw another runner coming up fast, and I thought not today no one is catching me now I have held this position from around CP1 I am not letting this one go.
I injected a turn of pace hoping and praying that the hotel was close, I came off the canal path after telling a lady with a dog who had asked that I was in a race and I was one of the front runners ( it felt good to say that) she was not impressed as her dog was a bit of a handful.
I started up the road and saw a hotel and I thought yes, my joy was short lived as I realised it was a premier inn and not the Ramada (where the finish was).
I carried on up the road increasing the pace as I went, I turned a corner and saw the Ultra race flags, so I started sprinting I shot past the photo ladies (who were doing a great job in the rain) and turned into the drive and to the finish straight into the arms of Rory I basically could not stop, I was sprinting that fast.
I had achieved a sub 4hr by 33 seconds and had finished in 6th spot, I was chuffed to bits with this result....
More importantly my lower Ab pain I had been suffering with seemed to have disappeared. Of course I was called a fraudster by Rory but I can take that I was just happy with the result.
As I was sorting out if I could take a shower at the hotel, I saw a guy come in and realised it was Matt Beardshall, I have had the pleasure of talking to him on a running forum but had never met him, It was good to put a face to a name.
Anna then said that our daughter Mia was suffering a lot, she has not been right for a while and she was running quite a temperature. As I was waiting for Anna to get my bag I saw Tom walk through the doors, he had stopped for a while to vomit ( it was the Jelly beans) but he still managed a great time, that shows determination.
I quickly grabbed a shower (which was excellent, I must say the facilities or what I saw of them looked good) . Afterwards I chatted quickly to a couple of guys including Steve who had come in with a great time.
Then it was time to think of my family and get Mia home (via a boots visit) and dosed up. So we made our excuses to Rory & Jen who understood and saw that Mia was not well and we left. So the reason for going up there which was to see a Dr Coleman did not happen (I have seen my local GP since and he has all but rulled out a hernia, he seems to think it is a muscle strain).
It would have been nice to stop and see the runners in as I get just as much enjoyment from that as running the event itself but today it was not to be......
On reflection I have never done an Ultra this short before it borders on maintaning a marathon pace but having that extra bit to just push those extra few miles out. I enjoyed it and I defiantly want to have another crack at this event as I reckon I could crack out a sub 3hr 45..
Once again a big thanks to Anna and my family for rallying around and following me through my mad world, hope the flowers went a small way in repaying...... Thanks to my parents for having Lewis and taking him swimming.
Also thanks to Rory & Jen for putting on the event, Ultra running is growing and growing and what you are doing is bringing it to the masses......
Hope eveyone achived what they wanted from Day 2
Thanks for reading..