Thoughts pre race
Help! What have I done!!! I’m doing a 24 hour track race later today – and will feel completely under the spotlight – and legs and feet are wrecked before I start. Rather than planning and training properly, I’ve done zero training since mid April and have just completed 3 Ultras in August including a 100 miler and 130 mile Liverpool to Leeds Canal Race.. What a twonk 😠.
To further complicate it, my ‘go to’ flat ultra shoes of Hoka Stinsons have changed their design/ fit a bit and they now make my feet bleed in various places after 1/2 mile so I’ve had to last minute panic buy a brand of shoe I’ve never worn before as it was the only pair in my rough size in only running shop open the evening before the race.
Oh and did I mention that the marvellous Mimi Anderson is coming to crew for me too! Less than a week before her double Spartathlon attempt too – she is such an inspiring motivational ultra runner and so generous to offer to come along and help crew and support too.
I feel so so guilty for not being able to focus and train properly for this race.
But then again that’s probably how I feel about most races 😀. After all, how do you prepare properly for Ultras when you’ve not got the life that enables you the freedom to train at will / when a plan tells you, you should train. The rest of us just have to blag it as best we can. I’m lucky that I possess an oversized idiot chip that comes along on race day and forgets ignores the state of my body and lack of prep. :-).
I left home at 5.30am and staggered off to catch the 6.30 am train to London… then 3 tube changes later, I’d arrived at Tooting. My useful downfall at races is navigation so it was a strange to think that for once navigation wouldn’t be my main concern. However it was thick fog outside during the journey and I suddenly began to worry that I might actually get lost due to visibility issues after all… At Tooting Bec underground I saw another obvious ultra runner lurking around – We’d not met before but you can kind of spot ultra runners a mile off – it was Johnny Hallneby from Stockholm. I walked over to Tooting Bec and signed in with Shankara (one of the Race Directors) – I think I was one of the first to arrive, but others soon appeared. I looked at the programme which listed the biogs of all the other runners.. gulp.. I began to feel a bit out of place and wished I wasn’t quite so broken. I also read my biog in the programme and felt a bit better as it made me sound like a proper ultra runner – so I just had to assume that all the others were blagging it a bit too.
Mimi arrived soon and I was so nervous to be in such running royalty presence I garbled on in a highly caffeinated way. Jon Fielden was running too and had Nici / Natasha and Ashok crewing him so Mimi soon joined up with them to have a Glover/Fielden camp. Stu was due to arrive much later in the day as he was running a marathon in Birmingham first.
Ok.. I fess up.. I completely forgot to finish this blog and am now finishing it months later. In a nutshell my accumulative fatigue/foot damage from NDW100 and LLC130 a few weeks earlier and various muscle injuries (and lack of lung power) were evident from early on in the race and around 4 hours in I was down in 36th place (out of about 45 runners).. but there’s an art form to 24 hour races around pacing yourself.. and I’m the queen of just gritting it out (albeit very slowly) and as the hours ticked a way I slowly but surely worked my way up the leaderboard. This wasn’t through any skill or particular hard work on my part, all I needed to do was to keep moving and try to ignore the pain and tiredness – going the wrong way wasn’t an issue as even I can find my way around a track. I watched the event unfold around me and saw others suffering (some even more than me). It was hard to watch when someone had to drop out completely due to injury / collapse – especially as I guiltily would think ‘hey, I’ve moved up another place on board now..’. I had one bad spot for a couple of hours where I felt I wanted to quit – I was just so tired and remembered I had Autumn 100 in a few weeks and I really needed to finish it as it was the last GrandSlam race and I needed the buckle.. – but I know that it would have been the wrong thing to do to quit so I just carried on – I think I mentioned to Mimi, Stu and Ashok when they asked if I needed anything that I was just thinking of quitting etc., but they wisely didn’t say anything and just let me slowly think about it when I went around. I mentally slapped myself around a bit and decided to just gut it out.
I was getting a few tiredness hallucinations – just minor ones e.g. the Steeplechase jump had black and white stripes across it and someone had hung a jumper off one end and it reminded me somehow of a giant cow so everytime I went around the track, this giant cow was staring at me and threatening to come on the track. I had an ace time trying to race down Ann Bath. I’d seen Ann at lots of races this year (with her volunteering at TP100, GUCR and NDW100) and this was the first time I’d run in same race with her.. she was rocking a nice pair of 2XUs too. She was well ahead of me at some point as she’d zoomed out at the start whizzing around the track so fast I felt sorry for her lap counters, but later she’d gone for a rest in her tent and I’d crept back up the leaderboard and was closing in on her. When she came back on the track we were very close and I ‘raced’ her (very slowly) for a bit and was delighted to just creep past… it was hard though because I just wanted to walk at the time and we were both doing a bit of walk/run type thing and I’d get ahead and would be walking around the track and I’d hear someone behind me say ‘well done Ann’ and I’d have to start running again ;-). I finished 12th (or 13th) which was 5th lady and managed just over 107 miles. Before the race, I knew that if I was fresh and nicely trained up and tapered I’d probably be capable of between 112 and 115 miles so 107 wasn’t that bad and my goal had been 106.73 so I was happy enough with this, at the same time as being slightly cross with myself for not preparing properly for this one. That said, a lot of people had prepared properly and were unlucky to get injuries happening during the race itself, so it might have been that being slightly wrecked to start with so not able to go fast had paid off.. who knows? I’ll just have to do it properly another year and see what happens then :-).
There were some amazing performances to watch at the track, especially between Beth Pascal and Ali Young who came 1st and 2nd. Originally I’d wondered if a track race would be boring but it’s so far from boring. It was so much fun. Mimi, Nici and Natasha kept all the racers entertained with pub quiz / plank off competitions and various karaoke. And just being able to watch every runner out there and follow the whole race was great too – normally on a 100 mile point to point, I’ll just find out what happened at the very end. But here I could see the whole race unfold as it happened.
It was only really at the end, listening to the speeches by the Race Directors afterwards, when I took on board what the whole event was about – it wasn’t a race against each other but we were all running together racing against ourselves. When I get the chance next year, I will make sure that this is what I do i.e. ignore the leaderboard and just put everything I can myself into doing as many miles as possible in the 24 hours.