Monday, 30 July 2012

Where have I been - the Mauritius, Olympic and TR24 post

30/07/2012 - God I ache, but more of the later. I have loads to tell so I should do this it correct date order so as not to confuse. I've been a bit lacking posting here because I got a bit depressed having had to call off the Milton Keynes marathon and being just too busy with life. So to catch us up to the present I'll say a little about my holiday to Mauritius, then I'll tell you all about my attendance of the Olympic Opening Ceremony and then I'll fill you in on my race at the TR24 (Adidas Thunder Run).

Firstly my holiday. My family and I love Mauritius so took the chance of two weeks sitting on a Mauritian beach after my daughter had finished her GCSE's and before I was unable to take holiday because of the Olympics. So off we went and it was as good as always, hot sun, beautiful blue seas, lovely food and friendly hotel staff.

Getting ready for some snorkling
Apart from the usual things we also spent a day at the races in a box overlooking the race course in St Louis. It was a fab day out and I won on one of the races; sadly I also lost on the other seven (came 2nd in 4 of them though - lot of good it did me lol). Also took the family on a quad bike adventure through the sugar cane fields and up a mountain which proved to be one of the highlights of the holiday. 

I'll smack anyone that says "Poncherello"
Back home and we had one week to get excited about the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. We'd managed to purchase tickets for the canoe sprint and the equestrian (para-olympics) but had failed to get the opening ceremony when a damn good friend call round to surprise me and my family with tickets.

The golden tickets
Friday the 27th of July 2012 and we jumped on the train into London, four suitably excited people clutching our tickets like they were lottery winning ones. We got into London nice and early so headed over to Covent Garden for a bite to eat and a look round. Found a lovely restaurant in the middle of the market in the center of Covent Garden called the Crusting Pipe. It was an inspired choice as we ate some lovely grub, drank a few glasses of Prosecco and were entertained first by an opera singer then by a five piece string orchestra. Could the day have started any better - short of winning the lottery no.

The Crusting Pipe - lovely
After lunch we headed back to St Pancras and boarded the Javelin Train to Stratford and the Olympic park. No problems with queues etc and when we got seated we shared the cabin with the Tunisian basketball team - damn those guys are tall. The we arrived at Stratford station and made our way past security and into the very smart new shopping centre Westfield. It was busy and so rather than try to eat there we elected to go into the Olympic park instead. A short wait at the entrance and we were allowed in, through bag checks done very efficiently by our army lads and lasses (please contribute to Help for Heroes via my just giving page). Once in we go on the hunt for a place to sit and a bite to eat and drink. Quick reactions on my part secure us a table and, my wife and daughter fighting off anyone seeking to take the table from us, myself and Alison (brilliant mate who got the tickets - love you x) went seeking beer. After about an hour of faffing between us all we managed to secure both the beer and suitably nice grub to tuck into.


Suitably filled we made our way into the Olympic stadium as the show would start at 19:30 before going live on the BBC at 21:00. First thing you notice when you get in is just how big it is, it's frigging huge, second thing you notice is the noise - it rattles the bones. We found our seats and got settled in for the duration.

Atmosphere building nicely
Even before the 21:00 official start they kept us entertained with a three song set from Frank Turner and getting us to do various things in preparation of the main event. The crowd was buzzing, the noise was tremendous as we counted down the seconds till it all kicked off.


You can see it all on the BBC but what I will say is WOW, being there was simply incredible. Visually amazing, aurally stunning, the scale monumental, moments where your jaw hit the floor, moments that made you laugh, times when your heart filled with pride and tears formed in your eyes.


The music section had me singing like mad and dancing about in my seat - I've made sure to pre-order the music CD. At the end I sung myself hoarse to Hey Jude and marveled at the fireworks. I don't think I'll be there to see anything like it again. Bravo Danny Boyle.

Fireworks !!!
Getting out of the Olympic Park wasn't too bad and we got the last train home and we in the house by 03:00 am. After sorting out a few bits I got about an hour and a half of sleep before heading off to Catton Park in Derbyshire for the Adidas Thunder run - the TR24.

I arrived at the camp site at Catton Park in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside about 08:30ish and set about putting up my tent in the Thunder Re-Runners VIP area the guys had set up in my absence and prepared for the race. Pete had arranged team t-shirts for the race and I was presented mine which I must say is very nice indeed - well done Pete.

The Thunder Re-Runners 2012
The other team members kindly arranged to go out and do laps before me giving me at least some chance to grab a couple of hours kip; which after a lovely bacon sarnie cooked by Pete I did, though I was not going to miss the start. For the second year running Pete had agreed to start us off in the race. About 15 minutes to 12 we all walked over to the start/finish line.  Pete made his way onto the track and took position in the gathered herd. Five seconds to go and counted down 5,4,3,2,1 and the race began, runners streaming past at a fair lick.

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Race started the rest of the team headed back to camp to chill until called upon to run.

Pete in the crowd
Rakesh is next up next and a short while after he heads of to the transition area Pete returns having completed the opening lap in 55:51 and declared the course "Fecking hard!". They had changed to course from the previous year and it would appear that it has been made a lot harder. Throughout the day other runners I met with all agreed that this was the toughest course so far.

Rakesh on a flyer
Finley, our team coordinator and Pete and Lisa's son, entered the time into the computer and confidently predicted that we'd get 26 to 27 laps - the optimism of youth.

Lisa's reaction to our predicted laps
Chris was next and set out to the transition area to take the baton from Rekesh. Returning Rakesh backed up Pete's claim on the toughness of the new course; it may not be quite as hot as last year but it was harder going and Rakesh came in with a very respectable 57:02.

Chris - AKA The Machine
After Chris it was my turn so I got to the transition area ahead of time and waited for his arrival. Chris had banged in a damn good 53:29. I set of in the heat, the sun was by now blazing away, and soon came to the first of many many up hill climbs. Up through the woods, an almost never ending climb. The first 5k seemed to be all up hill with the very few downs being so short and steep that you got no benefit from them and in fact struggled not to lose your footing.

The second 5k was a little, and I mean a little, easier on he legs but was full of very technical areas (in this sense technical means "likely to have you falling flat on your face or into a tree").  Last 2 kilometers were actually rather nice, well except that new evil climb a couple of hundred meters before the finish. I ran across the finish line in a sprint hoping that the spectators would think that that was how I'd completed the entire 10k. My time was 59:05, a fully 3 minutes down on last year which considering it was cooler this year I think shows how much harder the course was.

You put your left leg in ...
Waiting at the transition area ready to be handed the baton was Lisa, Pete's wife and emergency stand in for Stephen who was unable to compete this year (don't feel sorry for him he's an Olympic helper dude instead and having a great time at the Olympic Park). We sort of shanghaied Lisa into running in Stephens place with the promise that she only need do one lap and even insisted that she bring cake. I handed over the baton and tried not to let on the sheer horror of the lap I'd just run.

Lisa smiling, we did tell her about the hills didn't we??
After Lisa it was back to Pete so of he went to the transition area and took the baton off the returning Lisa who had put in a brilliant 1:22:24 for her first ever TR24 lap. From then on and over night it was a case of cycling the laps between Pete, Rakesh, Chris and myself. Pete's second lap was a 55:45 - Mr Consistent. Rakesh banged in a 1:01:23. Chris did as expected another excellent lap of 55:12.

As I set off on my second lap instantly I felt a lot of discomfort at the back of my right knee. Luckily I'd asked Chris if he could have a change of t-shirt ready for me at the 3k mark which was right near our tents so when I got there, hobbling and having lost a lot of time, I asked if someone could get me one of my knee straps. Knee strapped up tightly I set off and within a few minutes the extra stability afforded to the knee by the support strap, the massaging effect it was having on the back of the knee and the warmth it created were all combining to make running on it bearable. I did the first 5k in 41 minutes but, apart for the hills, the knee was holding out and certainly not getting any worse and I was able to largely ignore it. The second 5k progressed much better and I managed it in 29 minutes, finishing in a total time for the 10k of 1:10:53. I was not too upset with the time and thought I'd be able to carry on but I was a bit pissed that I would be running in pain from now on which would lessen my enjoyment of the race.

Another round of laps saw Pete do a 59:05. Rekesh did 1:20:27 - the toughness of the course and the dark night having an impact. Chris, the machine, had to be packed and away by 08:00 to collect his wife so decided to do a double lap. Now he did not need to but he decided that by doing so my knee would get an extra hour or so's extra rest.  For that I was very grateful. His first of the back to back laps and his third lap overall came in at 1:05.04, the second 1:29:09 and boy did he look knackered after this forth lap.

My third lap was 1:10:41, Pete's forth 1:03:43 and he declared it his last, Rakesh's fourth and final lap was 01:31:12 - it was a sensible decision as he would be needing his legs in the following days as he's a professional martial arts instructor. My forth followed, 1:24:13, then Lisa stepped up to do a second lap and came home in 1:22:11 - 13 second faster than her first lap.

Pete changed his mind and decided to do a 5th lap and got round in 1:27:08. The last lap was to be mine so off I set taking it easy and enjoying the final lap of the weekend. I crossed the line in 1:25:00 dead - over the moon to have completed 50k in 24 hours; I can now officially claim to be an Ultra Runner!!!

Popping the champagne cork after another great TR24
Medals collected and hung about the neck, champagne de-corked and hands shaken we all took a moment to congratulate each other and make promises to be there in 2013. It was a great race, we'd each given what we could over the 24 hours and achieved our revised goal of 20 laps. In the end we came 54th out of 70 teams in the mixed team of five category but it was much more about each of our own personal achievements and enjoyment of the event than team position.
The winning team - in our hearts anyway
So all in all what with the Olympic Opening Ceremony and a fabulous weekend running probably one of my best weekends ever and after a long and difficult journey home (only ProPlus and coffee kept me awake) I treated myself to a nice hot bath. Today, Monday, I'm a little sore but not too bad and I even managed a short ride out on my bike to loosen the legs a bit.

Last thing I want to do is thank the team, Pete, Lisa, Chris and Rakesh for running hard but never forgetting to have fun. Special thanks to Pete for the brilliant t-shirts, and the bacon sarnie just when I needed it and to Lisa for stepping into the team when we needed her.

Until next year.

p.s. If you can please donate a little something towards Help for Heroes via my justgiving page and show your support for our troups and the job they do.

Here's a video I took of Team GB entering the Olympic statium in exchange for your donation ;-) (Sorry if it shakes a bit, I was filming and watching at the same time - it gets better from the middle onwards :-).)

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