Monday, 28 July 2014

The Adidas TR24 Thunder Run 2014

26/07/2014 - 27/07/2014 - I list the Adidas Thunder run as one of the permanent races in my yearly calender so was frustrated that I could not get a team in this year due to the race filling up within a day. Not wanting to risk missing it I decided to go solo instead so duly booked my place. So here I was on the Friday before the race camping in the soloists camping section of the campsite at Catton Park.

Settled in.
Arriving shortly after me was a friend I'd previously ran in a team with who was also running solo. As you can see from the size of his tent compared to mine, his is on the right, he came a lot more prepared than me. This was typified by the fact that I turned up with all of my food having been brought from a garage on the way and was mainly microwavable food. In fact he was prepared much more physically as well as I'd not done too much running since the London Marathon. Anyway making the best of things I cracked a beer and hoped that the weather would cool down a bit for the race as it was very hot. A couple of beers later and having beautifully cooked my microwave cottage pie into a hot soup I decided that I'd need an early night.

Surprised how well I slept and although I was awoken at 5 am by a wood pigeon making a racket but I dozed off again and did not rise until 07:30. Decided not to fry up any of the microwave food I'd brought so went and had a bacon roll and a coffee at the food court. It was early but it was already getting very warm in the sun. As is the way of these things time marched on quickly and within seemingly no time I'd put my kit on and was at the start line awaiting the start.

We were off and immediately showed the other proper ultrarunners my novice credentials by running off with the team runners. The atmosphere and seeing a couple of friends on the way got the better of me and my plans to take it very easy was forgotten. About half way through the first lap and my second stupid mistake made itself apparent. After the rains of last years TR24 I'd bought myself a pair of trail shoes to use should similar rains occur again, stupidly I'd decide to that the first time I'd wear them was the first lap to see how they'd be. Well they were not good. I could feel hot spots on outside of the ball of the foot on both feet so cursing myself for being such an idiot determined to swap them with my trusty Lunar glides as soon I this lap was done. Ignoring the issue I carried on having fun. At the finish of the lap I ran into the solo area and to my tent and pulled off my trail shoes and could feel large blisters had already formed. "Sod it" I thought, put on my newest Lunarglides and headed out for my second lap.

Out on the course.

Second lap was much like my first really good fun and going way too fast in the heat considering how many hours I hoped to be running. Lap done and feeling good I headed in to take a short break and to take a look at the feet. Oh dear. Huge blisters. Fortunately my friends wife Lisa, who was there as his backup crew, came to my rescue. Blisters popped and Compeed plasters applied (brilliant things) I grabbed a drink and a bag of crisps and headed out.

Just one of my blisters.
Lap three and I was still feeling great if rather hot, the sun had been beating down and according to my car had hit 30 degrees C. Then as if someone had flicked a switch, about half way round the lap I suddenly felt terrible. I struggled round and crossed the line and got back to the tent where I sat down for a minute feeling dizzy and with a banging headache. I stood up to make cup of tea and started to shiver uncontrollably. I was freezing so grabbed a warm hoodie and made that tea. That calmed things down a bit so deciding I might have a touch of heatstroke and dehydration I went over to the concession stalls and got a large fruit smoothie and an ice lolly. Followed that up with a can of coke and a bottle of an electrolyte drink. I then retired to the tent and still shivering wrapped myself up in my sleeping bag. It took about half an hour to stop moving from shivering cold to unbearably hot and to feel well enough to leave the tent.

My left knee was giving me jip so I strapped it up and headed out. Fourth lap felt really good, I guess all the fluids I'd taken after lap 3 had done their job and like an idiot I took that as permission to run for fun again. Lap four done I topped up my drink bottles and met with Pete, my mate in the tent next door, and we decided to do a lap together so we went straight out for lap 5. Pete set a good pace and I had to work to keep up. Once I hit the 26.2 marathon distance I got Pete to take a picture for me.

26.2 miles completed.
Fifth lap complete and back in the tent was hit by another round violent shivering -  I suspect a combination of heat, dehydration and a lack of food had worked against me. Same procedure as last time, fruit smoothie and as many fluids as I could. I was struggling to eat anything. Even crisps were proving tough to eat, everything was tasteless and dry and had to be eaten with a drink to stop it catching in my throat. Managed to get a bag of crisps and a few chicken strips before heading into the tent wrapping up in the sleeping bag and feeling appalling. Went through the process of shivering cold followed by sweating heat. Some time later Suddenly I realised I felt, apart from my feet, sort of OK, and exited the tent. Standing outside in the dark I thought "well I better get going then" and head torch on set off for lap 6.

Lap 6 felt pretty good, running smoothly, the left knee had settled so I was hoping I'd manage the ten laps I had arbitrarily set myself as a goal. I felt so good at the end of lap 6 I refilled my bottles and headed out onto lap 7. I was feeling pretty confident that I would be hitting my target of ten laps and throughout lap seven, even though I was going slowly, I felt OK....ish, sure the last 5k was hard but that lap 8 was a shoe in.

Finishing the lap I was tired and went over to the concession shops to find them closed - damn no fruit smoothie. Back at the tent I had a cup of tea and tried to eat. Unable to eat I drunk as much water as I could I started to get cold and the violent shivering started again. I wrapped up in a jumper, coat and leggings but still could not get warm. So knowing I had time in the bag I decide to get back into the sleeping bag and get my head down. I woke up a while later and could hardly move my legs. I'd fallen prey to yet another rookie mistake - stopping. I contemplated another lap, could I do it, sure it would be a stagger round but just maybe. But then I a bit of sanity crept in and as I had no support crew I'd be driving myself home after the race and could not afford to end up in the back of an ambulance on a drip. A young chap in the tent next to me had had to drop out at lap 6 with dehydration and heatstroke so it seems a lot of people were suffering.

So a little down I decided to call it a day. It took a while for me to stop feeling like I'd failed and start thinking that I'd completed 70 kilometers (43.4 miles), something I'd have thought impossible a couple of years ago. I also knew that I'd learnt so much that if I ever did an ultra run again I'd be much better prepared and better able to implement the race. So I decided to treat this race as a successful learning exercise.

One last thing - the support runners get from the spectators, soloists in particular, is simply amazing. One group of spectators were making a list of all of the soloists numbers and their names so that they could encourage you by name as you went past - brilliant. Kids were spraying runners with water pistols, great fun for the kids and lovely for the overheating runners. Support for soloists from the other runners was so good that on lap 7 I put a coat on so that my "solo" sign was covered because my throat was so dry I did not want to say thanks to the shear number of people clapping me on the back and encouraging me on. Thank you everyone who encouraged me and called me an inspiration for making me feel special inside even if I felt like crap outside. See you all next year when maybe I'll live up to the praise I was getting as I did feel  bit of a fraud. Having said that the course is a tough one, there's not a single flat piece of earth on the entire run, it's all hill, cambers, roots and tree stumps, all rather technical.

My 70k Medal
Oh and my mate Pete completed 10 laps and only stopped because of blisters - next year Pete I'll hit the 100 club :).

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