An Escape too far!

Escape from Meriden 2016

I’ve started races before not entirely fit but only short ones, I’ve hobbled and stumbled around a few 10k’s in the past knowing that if any pain came it would be over in about an hour or so.  I’ve usually run those even when slightly injured as it was for Charity.  But I’ve never before taken on a long run when not completely fit and ready.  Ten days before this race my IT Band went and despite a lot of rest, foam rolling and massage I knew it was a case of when it would go on this run not if it would go.  All I could do was adopt a run/walk strategy and try not to push at all.

I traveled up by train, first to Coventry and then to Hampton in Arden, a small village 3 miles from Meriden.  I had expected to find a taxi company at the station but nothing.  After a quick check on my GPS I set off walking to Meriden, already slipping and sliding on the frost covered pavements.  As I got to Meriden another runner stopped to ask directions and then gave me a lift for the last 4oo metres.

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Race HQ was in a community hall and possibly the strangest I have ever been in.  An amazing collection of runners all who looked both calm and almost bewildered to why they were there and what they had gotten themselves into.  I checked in and was given my number and race drone tracker.  Everyone was in really chatty moods and I had great conversations with many of the runners.  A few words from the Race Director and we left as a group to walk up to the start line.  With temperatures at just above freezing there seemed to be some nervous tension as people discussed plans for their race.  After five or so minutes and a quick countdown we were off.

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A large number of runners headed off in the same direction as me and for the first twenty minutes it was like running in a fire parade with all the twinkling lights ahead, around and behind me.  Spirits were high but the temperature remained low and I ran in a small group for about forty minutes.  At this point I experienced the first sign of my IT band going and decided to walk for a while.  I stopped at a garage for drinks and had a great conversation with the attendant who had seen other runners passing by.  Her look of incredulity as I explained what the race was all about was amusing and I was soon off and moving again.

Two more hours of run/walk that was turning more into walk/run as I went along and then I slipped on a patch of frosty road and down I went.  As I lay on the road I knew I’d damaged my knee but the one thing I’ve learned is that I can deal with pain to a certain degree so I got up planning to just continue.  The pain was so bad plus with the muscles around my knee already misbehaving I knew my race was over.

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And this is where Escape from Meriden differs from all other races I’ve been in.  There was no Aid station a few miles away, going forward or backward, there was no-one I knew who would come out at 3am to pick me up.  I knew all this before the race so it helped in making the decision I did.  It helped mentally anyway, and running long distance is so much of a mental game.  I did have a SOS button on the tracker but, to be honest, it didn’t cross my mind until just before I got on the train and I went to turn the tracker off.

So I did what I knew I had to do, I walked to the nearest train station so I could get home.  I walked through the night and into the glorious sun rise.  According to my tracker I walked for six hours and eight minutes after falling at an average speed of 3.5 mph.  I knew Banbury was on the London line and would be both the closest and best station to head for.  I had no idea how far it was and that was immaterial really, I just had to get there.  I wasn’t helped by the fact that the route I had chosen may have been the most direct but it didn’t pass through any towns or villages almost at all.  The last 3 miles into Banbury were by far the slowest and the most painful but I had all the time in the world to make it.  🙂  I bought out half of a Greggs bakery on arrival and after a small wait started my multiple train journey home.  Three hours later I arrived home, sank into a hot bath, ate and slept.

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Total distance 53km in about 9 hours so not fast at all.

Injury is something that happens and I’ve learned to deal with it.  I had trained well over the previous three months and I have suffered from IT Band failure before.  I knew it would go but had convinced myself that I would be okay.  I didn’t want to miss out on such an intriguing race after all.

I’ve learned from this race as I’ve learned from them all.  I’ve learned a bit more about my capacity to deal with pain and next time I might do things a little differently but I doubt it.  🙂

I will come back and do another one like this, I loved the format and the organisation was spot on.

Sports Massage?

For months people have been extolling to me the benefits of having a sports massage.  So I did some research and went along to a highly recommended physio pretty close to where I live.  I have the big race this weekend and having a massage five days before seemed about right.

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I met Anna, my masseuse, and after a quick chat I lay down on the massage table.  It all started quite gentle as she felt my muscles to see what needed doing.  She explained everything quite clearly as she went along and I started to relax.  And then it began.

“Try to relax” Anna said.  “I may be able to if you take that knife out of my calf”  I thought to myself while willing my body to relax.  This lady had fingers of steel and time after time they thrust into my legs.  “Try to relax” became a mantra and momentarily I think I managed it a bit. At times I was actually unable to talk through the pain but I knew from what I’d been told that the pain would reduce as my muscles relaxed.  And slowly the pain did go but of course that just meant moving those fingers onto the next area.

Calf, Calf, Hamstring, Hamstring and Glutes.  Each area received the fingers of steel treatment and survived.  My IT band had been bothering me over the last few weeks so she worked on that too.

30 minutes later and it stopped. The fingers of steel stopped prodding me and it was all over.  I stood up on shaking legs, put my trousers back on and stumbled out.

As I write this 3 hours afterwards my legs still hurt, as I was told they would do, but it’s a warm kind of pain, I sincerely hope that this helps a little bit at the weekend.  The last time I had a massage this painful was in Thailand 20 years ago when a Thai lady walked up and down my back but I think that was more about being drunk than for any therapeutic value.

I won’t know whether this massage has done any good until after this weekend but it has put me in a great state of mind which may help me through 24 hours non stop racing, 15 hours of which will be in the dark.

Escape from Meriden Kit Check

It’s been a month since my last post and that’s because I haven’t really done much.  Sure I’ve put in the miles but I’ve also been listening carefully to my body and my body kept on saying rest.  So, for probably the first time, I listened and I feel great because of it.

I’ve also been planning for my next big race.  The Escape from Meriden in a couple of weeks time.  It’s just too far and crazy a distance for my mind to understand which is perfect as it hopefully will mean no pre race nerves.  I’ve planned my route from the start to my finish point and apart from a few small sections it looks good for running on.  I’m a road runner so the route was always going to be a tarmac one, less chance of mud as I really hate mud.  People keep asking me how far I think I will get and the answer is always the same.  I will run 105 miles to get home.  How much of that I manage in the 24 hours of the race is a different matter, I’m hoping for 90 miles, as the race finishes at midnight Saturday night and I still have to get home.  Of course after midnight I do have the option of public transport or a taxi or any friend who is foolish enough to have their phone on, doesn’t drink and has a car.

Laid all my kit out on Sunday just so I can see it all and so I could take photos for Addey.  It looks so much when you lay it out but in reality it all squishes down in size.

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I’ve decided to do away with the bladder for this run and go with a water bottle belt instead.  It allows me to pack more equipment in the back pack but without increasing the weight that I’m used to carrying.  Whether that decision is a wise one only time will tell.  I’ve also doubled the front and back safety lights I wear: Be seen. Be safe.

The Charity vest is not a vital piece of my kit but I’ve always run with it from my very first race and it’s like a comfort blanket.  I’ve also found that people are more willing to help you if they know what you are doing is helping others, and that includes use of toilets, filling up water bottles and cake.

I normally don’t taper well at all but this time it’s different.  This time there’s no back up, no aid stations, no 1st aid help on the race.  I have to get to the start line in the best possible physical shape, I’m even having my first sports massage next week.  Mentally I’m already there waiting to set off, hoping there is a toilet near to the start.

How do I choose races?

Sometimes you choose races and sometimes races choose you.  Great examples of this are my next two races:  Great North Run and Escape from Meriden.

The Great North Run on Sept 11th is one of those iconic races, never good for a PB but for me it is a “tick it off your running bucket list” kind of race.  57,000 people can make a great atmosphere  but I can imagine it will be terrible for running it.  Too many people to be able to keep a nice pace especially for the first few miles, but it’s a race about fun and charity and I’ll be going up there just to have some fun.  It’s also one of the races that non runners have heard of.  🙂

On the other hand, Escape from Meriden, 19th November, flashed up on my Facebook feed and immediately I had to book it.  This is a race as far from GNR as it is possible to go and fits more with my style of running.  So what is it?

Escape from Meriden is a simple ultra race, Meriden is the traditional centre of England by the way, 100 runners start the race and have 24 hours to get as far away as possible.  There is no route, no plan, no aid stations, in fact there is nothing at all.  There is bling though and what you get depends on how far you manage to escape in the 24 hours.

Meriden to my house is 104 miles so even if I didn’t make it all the way there at least I would know that every step would be taking me closer.  All you mathematicians out there very quickly worked out that if I ran 0.8 miles more it would be 4 marathons.  🙂   4 marathons in 24 hours?  Why not?

Of course with this race being different, it comes with its own obstacles; no aid stations so food has to be bought along the route, the same goes for water.  Everything you need has to be carried, there’s nothing in the rules about not being allowed a crew but I can’t imagine any of my friends coming out for a 24 hour crew as none of them are runners.  One major thought:  If I have to stop through injury there’s no backup at all.  I bet all my friends and family turn their phones off that night.  🙂

24 hours on your own.

Not many people ever do that by choice, you have to be extremely at peace with yourself to want to be on your own for that length of time or extremely pissed off at the world.

24 hours running on your own. 

Very few people want to do that.  It’s a physical thing but it’s also a mental thing.  The desire to stop can become overwhelming and you need a reason to continue.  Running that kind of distance can hurt, I know that all too well and there’s not much you can do to stop it hurting.  Sucking it up is part and parcel of Ultra running.

2 races in 3 months, totally different but the same really, I mean it’s just running.  🙂