Run another day

Run Another Day
3rd of July, mid morning and I'm heading down the the K2 running track in Crawley for a second attempt at a 24 track run after the first unsuccessful try in 2019.

The failure in 2019 wasn't a complete surprise since (as I've mentioned in other posts) I hadn't started with the intention on completing I was just pleased to be able to get to the start line and simply intended to 'go as far as I could' on the day.

However, I had multiple different goals to target this time - A, B and C. Goal A was to achieve a Spartathlon auto-qualifying time (~140 miles) goal B was to get a Spartathlon ballot eligibility time (~112 miles) and goal C was to complete the 24 hours. I had it all worked out on a spreadsheet and had a plan.

The race start is at mid-day so this is a relatively relaxed and leisurely start compared to most races, with time to setup a track-side gazebo with supplies and settle in.

Tent town

Base station

Pre-race briefing and lots of familiar faces around, inevitable I guess in such a niche area of such a niche sport.

Ready...
.
..and go.









As planned, I started off at a comfortable ~2:15 per lap, and got into a rhythm and routine, tapping around the track keeping to the side, moving aside for the faster runners.

After four hours and it's excitement time, time for the regular change of direction turn!

It's hilarious that after running for four hours, left, left, left, left, it feels so weird going in the other direction and I keep finding myself automatically drifting out to the left, but after a few laps back into the groove...

After five hours though I'm starting to feel nauseous and my stomach is slushing which is making running feel incredibly uncomfortable so I slow down and then keep needing walking breaks, but still, always moving forwards and counting up the laps.

This had coincided with the temperature climbing and seems to be something that always affects me really badly (perhaps not a good omen for someone planning on racing Spartathlon).

I switch outfits into my Bad Boy running vest which garners a handful of (as expected) sarcastic comments. 

Bad boy, bad boy, whatcha gonna do...

For a few hours I've been feeling pain in my right foot, it felt like the skin had been ripped raw (I was convinced it was), but on stopping to check it doesn't look too bad, just some blistering, so we smother in Vaseline and switch socks which sorted everything and was fine from then on.

Starting to feel real pain and tightness in my legs now so (cautiously) pop a couple of ibuprofen to help with the soreness.

7 hours in and the nausea is really bad and annoying now, I'm retching a few times but not properly sick. Anything I eat or drink makes it worse so I've been avoiding anything for a while although this has been annoying my support crew. I'm not feeling low on energy though, but the nausea is forcing me to walk more frequently.


I start taking small cups of milk (just to cause more chaos and trouble for my crew) and this seems to really help settle everything.

Tried some malt loaf to get some food in, but it takes me four laps to be able to swallow it.

Thankfully by now they'd helpfully distributed waste bins around the track perimeter, so when I failed to manage to each a sandwich I could discretely dispose of it without getting any grief.

Stuck to the walk occasionally and run strategy, going for a few hours hoping at some point I'd be able to increase the running until it was consistent but that still didn't happen.


After 11 hours, macaroni cheese was available which worked wonders, it tasted superb and sat comfortably on my stomach so started to feel much better now, tried lots of different foods through the night to try to get some  more carbs in (crisps, doritos, peanuts, pork pies etc) but still just plodding, walking, little run, and repeat.

Cara returns at 17 hours (Hugo had been manning the night shift for a couple of hours to give her some rest), so I can't just say ***** off to a my crew anymore when I'm being plied with food.

I planned on having a little "reset" and announced I was going to sit down for 5 minutes, but I'm being hassled to get going again despite not having had my 5 minutes. I get up, run around to the portal... generic portable toilet and sit in that for a minute in peace.

After a couple more hours of plodding..... the heavens open with an absolute torrential downpour.

Bucketing down

Suddenly I feel amazing, I start running and seem to be able to breath really well. The fact everyone else looks pissed of gives me a real buzz and I start hurtling around the track. Some of my fastest splits so far are during in this period. I worry that I'm going too fast (I actually lap both Alex and Damian once during this spell!) but I'm encouraged to push on, so I do.

They start to bring out pots of porridge for breakfast and I grab one... oh that's superb... I grab another a few laps later but it needs a little rejuvenating with fresh milk and water.

After an hour the rain stops, it starts to heat up and I start to feel like shit again. I keep asking if it's going to rain again, but the forecast is "inconclusive" (it doesn't).

Early in the morning I'd seen a few people eating Callipo's... argh I need one! where did they get those from?
Magically one appears as Cara has the same idea and hunts them down and presents me with one a short time later. Perfect, all ultra's need to have a Callipo, fact.

Happy! Have Callipo!

I haven't been paying attention to my times/position or anything up to this point, but each lap I glance at the leader board and notice that of the people above me only Alex and Damian are still moving. oh. ok.

Quick bit of mental arithmetic (OK it takes me many laps to actually work out the maths) but if I cover 30 laps in the next three hours I'll move up... 

At the same time I work out that I'm only 13 laps in front of Bryan and he's just put a spurt on, I guess he's also just done the same mental calculations I have. bugger.

Time to really squeeze the pips out and I push hard (relatively speaking) he has a couple of good spells and unlaps me a few times, but then also seems to hit a few bad patches and I pull them back.

This is actually really good fun (in a brutal painful sort of way)... a race 21 hours in.


Finally I work out we've run out of available laps and it's mathematically impossible for him to unlap me enough times and I relax.... 

Finally 15 minutes before the end I'm handed my finishing bean bag (you drop it onto the track when the 24 hour horn goes to mark where you got to), but this seems to be a psychological wall, suddenly I can't find the will to keep running so walk on, I keep mentally kicking myself, but still I'm walking.

Then we're into the final 3 minutes and I tell myself I will run to the finish, I decide to see if I can run a complete lap before the bell - I almost make it - and end up finishing just before the line.

Where I stop I notice than I'm next to a small white bag that had been discarded or blown onto the track.... this bag had been winding me up and pissing me off. for the past 5 hours. Each time I saw it I thought shall I try to kick that, or will I slip, fall and end up with the most embarrassing DNF ever. Should I stop and pick it up. etc. for. five. hours.

Done, and beanbag dropped

In the end I ran just a whisker short of 119 miles, although with all my weaving about and toilet and aid station stops I've got a few more miles than that on my Garmin, (another goal there - be more efficient).

Happy face

So I'm happy with that and learnt a lot. I didn't hit my A goal but comfortably managed my B. As a bonus picking up a *third place prize* was amazing!

Prize

A picture paints a 1000 words*, so... the average hourly lap times graph for the day showing the gradual decline, then the 20 hour Lazarus recovery.
(*but I still wrote 1000 words anyway)


I need to try again now, I think I can do that better.

*Update* Some more random thoughts I should have included....
Just to add it was an amazing and unique experience to run on the track with some top class runners going for amazing goals. Both Damian (1st) and Alex (2nd) achieved top 10 all-time UK 24 hour performances. 🤯

Watching Damian and Alex battling together for hour after hour and having the chance to witness so many gutsy performances from so many and to chat (however briefly) to so many people was a delightful experience. As I've mentioned before -when asked "doesn't it get boring" - it's still surprising to me that at no time was I bored even though there's no scenery or different terrain, it was a fascinating and enjoyable experience from start to finish.

It's hard to do justice to the so many volunteers, helpers and crews who work so hard to make an (lets face it, very indulgent enterprise) event like this actually happen at all - especially in the current environment with all the problems we've experienced through COVID. I'd list everyone's name... but I'm utterly hopeless remembering names at all, so I'll just say Pam Storey and 'crew' you were all amazing. Thank you!

The Strava activity. The results link.

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