The race strategy had been split down into 10 races (from CP to
CP), so the last 30 minutes before the start was taken up re-going through CP’s with my brother while we walked from the registering area up to the top of the Beacon.
10 minutes before it was down to business, no more talking just focus and then we were off. The plan was not to race off, I took the descent of the Beacon slowly and found myself sitting quite comfortably within a group at
the front with two out in front of us.
The first 20 minutes was getting to know the runners around you and within 30 minutes there were just three of us at the front. We kind of took it in turns to act as lead and I found myself studying both runners, how they ran, their feet placings, what they were carrying etc – it was all mental assessment of your opponent!!
Without realising it then, Mary Grace Spalton and John Millen and I were to spend a huge amount of time together, I would like to thank these two
runners for their camaraderie and later on you’ll see that Mary became a navigational angel out in the dark for me.
yelled at him, he stopped, looked, turned back to me, thanked me and was off out of sight in the right direction in no time at all – I continued on just thinking, no worries mate, I’ll catch you up when you are done in at that pace, I didn’t Dan Lawson went on to win the race after even getting lost a further 2 more times.
Just before CP1 the heavens opened and as I came into the area, everyone was huddling under the shelters and I went straight through without stopping. I had arranged to meet my support crew past this point as we thought it could be congested. It was a brief stop on the High Street in Wendover, a quick exchanging over of bottles and TORQ gels, the handing over of route map from CP1 – CP2 and “there’s one in front of you by about 2 minutes” and then I was off again.
The rain kept on coming down as I ran up and over Coombe Hill and on over towards Chequers and there were a couple of places where I could just make out Mg and John behind me.
Coming into CP2 and again it was a really slick handover from my brother of map route, drinks & gels and me asking how far in front is the lead… “your first in, he must of got loss!!!” – WTF, great news! And then I was off straight out onto CP3.
Now, I have no idea what went on over the next few minutes but put it entirely down to loss of concentration to the news that I was out in front. Straight out of CP2 you hit a road, cross it and then suppose to go off on the left track over towards another road before heading right down hill parallel to the road. I crossed the road, got to the sty – my music was blaring in my ears and I was thinking about being in the lead and just not concentrating – A guy at the sty said to me it’s down hill mate (thanks mate!!!!), I looked at the map quickly and thought ok I must be at the second road so its down hill and off I shot down hill parallel with the road (the wrong road). I was singing away to myself enjoying the run down hill thinking about being in the lead, when something inside my head started to question the track, it’s that feeling you
get when you know something is not right.
My daughter had given me a crystal as I was leaving home and had said, this is for navigation, for some reason it
jumped into my head, so I started to think, hold on this isn’t the second road, this is the first road, I looked at the map (still heading downhill) and noticed that due to my lapse in focus I had taken on board the guys direction, assumed I
was at a different point and headed off in the wrong direction away from the Ridgeway.
Panic started to creep in so I stopped, I started questioning the route. I thought am I aren’t I? am I lost? then it came to me just trust your instinct, shit, I’ve got to run all the way back up hill, was my first reaction but then I looked at the map, saw that if I ran a bit further downhill I could hang a left on another path through the woods traverse the hill and ascent back onto the Ridgeway (added on an additional 2K but what is that over a race route of 137K!). I headed off on this new route and until I got back onto the course Iwas still doubting whether I was loss or not.
This lapse of concentration cost me 15 minutes, but, more importantly it taught me a valuable lesson….
I re-hit the Ridgeway and was delighted to see other runners off in front of me, my main focus now was to creep back up to the front and for the next 3K I steadily picked off runners until I found myself back in the comfort zone with Mg and John just in front of me. Just as I was coming up to John, there he was again, “the sprinter” Dan came flying pass me again (he must of really got lost!!!) and that was the last we saw of him.
I came into CP3 with relief and was thankful that I was back on track, again a quick change over with my brother and I was out again as Mg was coming into the CP with John not too far behind.
CP3 to CP4 is a bit of a blur and a non event, I was out on my own and just focusing.
where I had two wonderful cups of black tea as I watched Mg and John come in. I was going over the route down to CP5, which is the longest leg and overheard Mg ask for a coffee so thought, ok I’ve got a few minutes. I don’t know if it was tactical but Mg was back out before the coffee was even poured. John and I just looked at each other and you could tell we just both thought, “shit, she means business”.
John was next out, while I was still talking, which rushed me and I flew out after him leaving behind the map route to CP5, I realised this as I went down into the valley, thought about going back up then decided no way, John’s got a map and Mg is out leading as long as I keep them in sight it will be fine. John was in my view but Mg had gone.
I caught up with John going up through the woods on the other side of the valley and we ran together along through Grim Ditch and along over to the Thames, even the sun started to pop out from the clouds from time to time.
As we came out of Grim Ditch and headed down to North Stoke I caught sight of Mg off in the distance so upped the pace and moved away from John, managing to catch up with Mg as we followed the Thames down into CP5 at Goring.
CP5 is just over the half way point and the strategy was to change top and socks here, sort out any medical issues with blisters etc, get some hot food inside me and have a rest.
Mg and I came in together with John 7 minutes behind us.
It was obvious from this point that the race was all about the battle for 2nd, 3rd & 4th.
I was starting to feel it, my legs were tired, I was feeling sick and I don’t think I drank enough fluids between CP4 & CP5 and some cracks were starting to show. As I came into the hall, I went straight over and got some hot black tea down me. I didn’t fancy any hot food so just sat down and went through how I was feeling with my brother while the CP staff got me some more tea.
After my second cuppa I started to feel better and got a banana down me and took the decision not to change socks as my feet were feeling in good shape. I was loving my new top – X-Bionic Effekter Power Skirt (a big thank you to Racing The Planet for getting the top out to me) so again decided not to change.
I kept my eye on both Mg & John all the time as they were eating and changing and now and again a bit of jovial banter was thrown about between the three of us.
I was just throwing a cup of strong black coffee down me when John was up and heading out of the door, Mg looked up and said, hold on for us, but he was off.
I took my time, finished my coffee, took a handful of “Jitterbeans” (Chocolate caffeine sweets), went through the map route to CP6, grabbed my gels and drink and headed back out with Mg still inside the hall.
Getting back into the rhythm was a slow process and John was a good couple of minutes out in front, the first 2K was road so I just took my time got back into the rhythm and started to catch John up, as I came up on John I felt this wave of energy flow through me (probably the 3 cups of tea, coffee and the handful of Jitterbeans giving me a real caffeine boost) and as we both started on the long hill climb out of Rectory Road and up onto the Downs I moved up a gear and left John behind (the next time I saw John was at the finish line).
From here on in it was head down and focus all the way over the Downs and along into CP6, a couple of times I looked behind but could not see anyone coming up on me.
I arrived into CP6 as the light was going, my trusty support crew were there, abundance of food was on offer (as with every other CP along the route) but all I wanted was my two cups of black tea (tasted sooo good) – again we were on a swift change over, as I drunk my tea, my water bottle was exchanged and gels were handed over with my head torch. The map was refolded and handed back to me with the route from CP6 to CP7 and from here on in I cannot express my gratitude to my brother, on arriving at the CP’s I didn’t have to think about anything.
I was just having a quick study of the route while on my second cup of tea when I heard that Mg had just come in (7mins behind me), Mg had been so slick through the previous CPs, so I decided to leave the tea and get going, had a quick conversion with my brother and moved on out in a good mood.
I was 25-30 minutes out of CP6 where I had a bit of a wobble, it was dark and my focus had dropped for some reason and as I approached over Ridgeway Downs the navigational bogey man hit me, I came to a fork in the track and I just stood there being totally indecisive and disorientated, I just could not figure out where I was. Do I go right or do I go Left?
I tried to look around and get a bearing, looking for a sign for the Ridgeway but nothing! So I just stayed calm, I looked at my situation and thought “right, if I take the wrong track I’m buggered, Mg can’t be far behind me – I looked round and saw a head torch moving towards my position and guessed she must be 2 – 3 minutes away – if I stay here and wait for Mg then head out with her then that’s good (confidence is a wonderful thing, I just thought I’ll wait, tag on with Mg and then increase pace away after I’ve got my bearing back, I’d run all this way with Mg & John, I’d worked out their pacing and most importantly, I just knew I had the legs to do it, so that’s what I did.
Mg came up on me, I just said “I can’t figure it out!!!” She just replied “left up pass the Monument” (Monument??? Shit how could I have missed that!!! - Easy my bloody thumb was covering the monument on the map!!!!) and off we went. I thanked her, I got my bearing back, re-focused and just moved on and just did not look back.
10K later I was coming into CP7 with 7 minutes on Mg and 19 minutes on John.
I cannot express it enough, but the support from local running clubs at the CPs was just bloody brilliant!!!! – A HUGE THANKYOU.
At this point we could not tell how far out Mg and John were so my support crew just got me out swiftly.
CP7 – CP8 is fairly straightforward, 8 miles 271 metres of ascent and keep the moon on your left and to be honest I was in such a deep focus picking off landmarks and timing myself to them that this stage flew by. The next thing knew I was looking up and seeing the glow of the lights of CP8 up at Foxhill. I looked over my shoulder and could see no lights chasing me as I look back and would say that this is probably where for the first time I thought to myself I could win this battle.
On talking with my support crew at the finish, they said that this was the leg of the race which sealed it. Over the last few CPs apparently there had been some good old fashion banter going on between Mg’s and my support crew and from their perspective waiting at CP8 they saw the light of one head torch come up onto the ridge going over Lammy Down (about 20 minutes out of CP8) and then dip down out of sight and then to remerge coming over to the left of Charlbury Hill as another light came into view back at the previous ridge. From this they could tell that whoever was out in front had a +10 minute ish lead on the following.
I came into CP8 (mile 70 ) amid a few howls & whoops from the support crews and CP staff, which at having been on the go for 12 hours was a moral & energy boasting experience and being told that I have stretched my lead on Mg & John just seem to re-charge the batteries so to speak.
I managed to get a hot drink down me, while head torch batteries were changed and was in a good mood while speaking to the Staff and my brother.
This is probably the one and only time I asked about the race leader, to be told, forget him he’s a freak of nature, he got lost for two and half hours between CP7 and us, but he’s still way out in front, you’ll never catch him!!
The obligatory – “how you feeling?” was asked – I think the response was “I’m F**King Tired!!!” as my brother handed me the map and just said “this is it, you’ve done it, its just 15 miles to go” (JUST didn’t seem to be the right choice of word for me!!!)
CP8 – CP9 is a 10.5 miles stage with some 290 metres of ascent and after 12 hours on your feet is taxing to say the least, I grabbed some more TORQ gels, zoning in on the banoffee ones (caffeine) and moved on out studying the map. There are quite a few twists and turns, so I knew that if I lost my focus I could quite easily take a wrong turn so I picked off landmarks and just timed myself to each one.
I differently slacked off of the pace during this stage and that’s probably a combination of knowing that first place was completely out of reach and that now it was not about getting a good time but making sure I navigated right to hold onto second place.
However, somewhere around Round Hill Downs I did speed up once, I looked round and saw this light coming towards me and just thought “shit” I’m being caught up, so I increased my pace, but I kept looking around and the light was getting closer so I tired to go faster!!! And I just could not figure it out until this person came by me on a mountain bike!!! – I just laughed to myself, quaffed a caffeine gel and just got on with picking the landmarks off.
There’s about a 4K climb into CP9 up and along Smeathe’s Ridge, where I had the wonderful company of cows, the headtorch picks out their eyes and these glowing right back at you are a menacing sight in the early hours of the morning. I found myself talking to them and on a couple of occasions asking them rather politely to move out of the F***ING way.
CP9 is hidden around the ridge so you kind of sneak up on it from behind and they only get to see you coming in from about 100 metres out – but hell, what a reception, this was a truly humbling experience to see so my support crew and staff cheering you in at two something in the morning – Another HUGE thank you for giving up your weekend to help us mad people.
I was bombarded with food and drink offers but I just wanted to get in and back out, there was so much on offer there it was such a shame.
My brother just looked at me, handed me the stage map, gave me another caffeine gel, gave me a hug and just said, you’ve done it, unless you fuck up no one will catch up on you, John’s comeback strong since CP7 and was just in front of Mg out of CP8. (I came in to CP9 at 02:12, John was next in at 02:27 and Mg at 02:29)
CP9 – Finish is 5.1 miles and as I was leaving some one at CP9 said it’s all the way down hill now – well apart from the climb going up to Hackpen Hill – Thanks!!
This last section navigational wise is pretty straight forward but what I had not accounted for was the deep rutting along the track from White Horse to the right turn down into Avebury (about 4K). This was killing me and as hard as I could I just could not keep to my pace plan, so I just sat back a bit and took my time, making sure that I didn’t twist anything. It was a shame as I was really BUZZING with caffeine from the TORQ gels and what with the adrenaline coursing through my body, I just wanted to run an run!!!
Coming into Avebury along the smooth track past the stones is where I just relaxed and smiled to myself as I coasted in to the finish. It’s a pretty low key finish at that time of night (I eventually came in at 03:30am some 15Hours and 30 minutes after the start, but it was the best!!!!!! 2nd PLACE nicely done and a huge hug from my brother – can’t get better than that.
Over the next 20 minutes we watched John come in next at 03:41 am and Mg in at 03:50 am – There was a group hug between the three of us and that was it race over.
We moved on inside and I quaffed down my TORQ banana & mango recovery shake and then my body decided to close down, it was tired, had done it’s job and now wanted some down time.
Two minutes later - game over body is shutting down!!!!!! - Have to say, I recovered pretty quickly (about 20mins) thanks to the TORQ Recovery System.