Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Time to run and run and run and run......

I have now recovered enough to give a little description of the toughest and some of the best running of my life in my first ultra-marathon, the Ring O' Fire.

The start
It all started Thursday afternoon when myself and my support crew (my dad and fellow Run-Fast employee Shavaun Henry) travelled up from London to Anglesey where I had booked us into a hotel in Holyhead not far from the start. We arrived at around 7p.m. just in time to catch a few races of the Diamond League in Zurich. After this we headed out to a local Chinese restaurant so I could load up on calories.

The race started at 1p.m. on Friday so I had plenty of time in the morning to have a good breakfast, make sure I had everything ready for the day and relax before heading down to the start to register. As this was my first race for quite a while I had a really good balance of nerves and excitement, I just wanted to get started. The vibe at the start of the race was so different from any other race I had ever experienced, normally the elite athletes are in a world of their own, focusing on the race not talking to the other competitors, but here everyone was chatting and there was a real buzz of excitement for what lay ahead!! It truly was a gathering of like minded nutters!

We had a short race briefing, a rendition of "The Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash and then we were off. The first stage was 32 miles so my tactics were to stick with the leaders up to around halfway and then if I felt good to push on. What I didn't know was that one of my competitors was a top Ultramarathon runner named Stuart Mills, and after about half a mile he went flying off, we probably did the next mile in sub 6 minutes which I definitely wasn't expecting!

Only 130miles left to run. Leading the Ring O' Fire along side "Ultra Stu"
I obviously forgot my tactics and after maybe three miles hit the front and pulled a lead of a few hundred meters before my first wrong turning of the day, this one only lost me seconds. At 5 miles we had to cross an estuary, at this point I removed my shoes and slowly waded across without any problems, as I was drying my feet and putting my socks and shoes back on Stuart went flying by having run straight through without taking his shoes off, this guy was serious! I set off in hot pursuit catching him up a mile or so later. We then ran together through the half way check point only stopping briefly to get some fluids. Just after the marathon mark I was feeling good so pushed on getting a decent lead but this was my first big mistake as I took a wrong turning! after running down a footpath I came to a cliff on one side and the barrier wall of Wylfa Power station on the other, I quickly turned back and found my way back on the coastal path. We were very near a checkpoint at this time but my diversion had made me miss it, due to this my Dad and Shavaun were very worried thinking I was injured or lost. I was very down heartened by this detour and it took the wind out of my sails slightly. I obviously kept running and the terrain got really tough, knee deep mud in places, seriously steep hills to climb and the weather started to turn for the worse. When I thought it couldn't get much worse I was confronted with a herd of cows blocking my path, as they had calf's in tow I wasn't prepared to risk getting charged at so I had to wait for a good five minutes until some walkers came through to help me move the cows along.

I finally bumped into Q (one of the race organisers) who told me there was only half a mile to go and when I finished I found I was only ten minuted behind Stuart but I had run two miles further!! If I had only kept my map in hand and not gone the wrong way I would have been leading!! Luckily due to the reading on my Garmin proving I had run further than needed I didn't get disqualified!! After a beautiful hot shower and a good bowl of pasta in a local Italian I bedded down for the night in the local village hall ready for the toughest days running of my life, 64miles of hell!!

Day 2 tomorrow......

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