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100 miles…all at once ? taking the spirit of Forest Gump a bit far !
Kit checked today, food prepped, head torch tweaked, lycra ironed and socks out the freezer. Its the final countdown. Im more nervous about this than the Amazon Jungle Marathon (which Ive done twice (double hard bastard me)). Its 100 miles. Not a marathan, not on a straight road, but 100 miles of undulating coastal terrain. Dont get me wrong, I cant wait to see the sunrise Saturday morning having been running for approx 9-10 hours, admittedly probably hallucinating a bit but come rain or shine, itll be amazing. Who starts a race at 7pm on Friday night ??? Whats the worst that can happen ? More concerned about running through Newquay on a Saturday night, maybe stop off for a quick half in town ??
Trainings done, final preparation and food check and most of all, dont forget to download the Hope Relay app. Because kids, in addition to raising money for Walking with the Wounded, every mile I run, Samsung donate £1 to charity through the app. Simple, easy and a good way – try it !
A recent lecture by ultra athlete, adventurer and physiologist Mark Hines was a treat. Hadnt seen Mark since my pre-Jungle physiology testing in 2009 so it was great to get tips, tricks and advice on training and running in extreme conditions. However it did put me into a bit of a panic about the next race.
The Ultra Trail South West. The enormity of it all suddenly dawned on me with a mighty whoomph as I realised looking around the room at Marathon des Sables veterans, Everest racers, fellow Junglers Jim Binks and Jamie Kellett, people were fit. Fitter than me. Training definitely needs to move up a notch.
The added panic and confusion was amplified by a call from Channel 4 who were keen to talk to me about a documentary on ‘Midlife Adventurers’. The initial concern from them was I was too young for the programme. At a sprightly 38 years old and having gone through significant change in the last few years both personally, professionally and health – my story didn’t really seem that engaging to delve deeper into. However they do still seem a bit keen so lets see what happens. Not sure I want the nation to see me training in lycra or bursting into tears about life changing moments. NQOC my darlings.
Anyhoo back to the race fear and having spoken also to fellow athlete Ed Vincent from the Amazon 2009, who is also competing in the UTSW along with Mark Hines and the S4C ultra queen of endurance Lowri Morgan. Ed had been reading about 100 mile races and that in reality, the actual halfway mark is 80 miles, not 50 which some people would assume. This is for a number of reasons, the key one is – its frickin tough and your body and brain shuts down. Sounds like fun. Training up a notch and more info to follow.
3 weeks to go ! Suck it up kids. Train Harder.
As the training builds up, the need for sponsorship increases at www.justgiving.com/iamtombird100miler.
Running across the Norfolk beaches provides a welcome change from ‘ol London town. The clear air, the blue skies, the lapping of the waves. Pure running poetry.
With 7 weeks until the London Marthon, I am on track for a sub 330. However as with all these things, the right training, nutrition and planning – it can all go wrong.
More nightime running required during the week on Hampstead Heath (occasionally bumping into Ricky Gevais on the trails (running also)). This week will involve some speed sessions, leg weights to improve these little chicken legs and ensure the right diet continues.
A few 20 milers planned over the next few weeks to get the stamina back where it should be.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a morning run around the sun drenched beaches of Costa Rica. Having shaken off severe man-flu and suspected malaria I have got back in the training seat in preparation for the big 100 in June. The coastal paths, the hilltops with amazing views. Makes London a distant memory. New Years may cause a slight blip in the training regime but just being here is heaven!
Having been trying to shake of the flu, new job, moving flat its started to take its toll on my running. I.e. nothing for 2 weeks !
So what better race to train for than the UTSW 100 miler, the UK’s Toughest Footrace.
As the final runners rose in full spirits, yet hobbling around, it was another early start as we watched them get ready as the sun rose over the river. An amazing setting for the final stage. A few kit checks, feet checks and the runners were off. The rest of us hobbling around inspecting each others wounded legs and all relieved we were still in one piece. It was on the sweat bus to the finish, the pleasant fish smelling beach front with a beautiful view of a massive tanker. as the medics set up shop, the finish line was set up (after a few attempts), Katie and I headed to the river edge and found a table to sit and order some well earned fish and chips and some beer, it was 9am after all…
As the first runners came in we cheered from the side lines, finished our breakfast and limped to greet them at the finish line restaurant. Everyone was in high spirits at the end of an amazing week. It was all over. Bags returned, back on the sweat bus and to Hotel Bagdad, also known as Hotel Paradiso…a dip in the pool to ease the feet and some make up and hair gel to prepare for the prize giving party.
A shakey bus ride to the beautiful setting looking at the sunset across the Amazon with all our new friends. A few miffed words from some at the events misgivings but after a few beers and some hearty grub, Shirley returned to present the prizes. As Dan Dillon picked up his 1st place, he grabbed the mic and said a few eloquent Glaswegian words. In a nutshell, he backed up the race, it is what it is, a tough race in an amazing location and if it wasnt for Shirley, none of us would be there. That said and done, everyone was on their way, some onward to a local bar, some of us to bed for the 3am rise to get home !
As the tired and weary, some of which hadnt been to bed, got back on the bus to the airport, everyone was ready to go home. With a long journey ahead of us and some ankle swelling to come, everyone was exhausted yet all seemed happy.
On returning to the UK and the facebook frenzy that has followed with new friends, photos of the event, you cant really explain the ‘jungle comedown’. It was such a magical, mystical, obliteration of the mind and body that you miss it, strangely.
As a new career is planned, a new race is searched I can only thank my fellow runners and medics for their support throughout the week – and to my Katie who came with me to support through heaven and hell. Without her, I wouldnt even have got to the start line.
Until next time, obrigada !
Up at 3am, had a coffee and some porridge which was difficult to keep down. Pondering whether I should really attempt 105km with my feet the way they were and general feeling of weakness. But a few of us who were feeling a bit down decided to go for it. As the countdown to the 5am start began, still dark, all head torches on. We went for it…straight into a water crossing which would have impacted on my beautifully taped feet and then into the night. Watching the sun rise over the jungle canopy cannot be replicated by video (lots of it to follow) or pictures. the eerie silence and then the jungle sounds. Picking out a few eyes with the head torches, the pace picked up and we all marched on. Approx 2 hours into it, we came across the first checkpoint. Becky provided some much needed dressing for my chafed inner thigh which had started to leak…some friars balsam to make we weep like a girl was needed to stop and infection and then it was off down the path. The dressing fell off my insect infected leg within seconds.
As the sun started to rise the beautful beach run led into villages and then back into the jungle. Checkpoint 2 came along quite quickly and followed by a very long 9km. By this point I was going a bit loopy, seeing giant frogs the size of humans and then getting lost. I wasnt sick but felt it. The hills came again, more water and my legs and chafing became unbearable. I had a choice, end now and recover before I go home, or push through in agony and pain. as I stumbled into checkpoint 3, after a week of pain and deleriousness I decided at 150km that I should sensibly throw in the towel. The jungle had beaten me fair and square – i had got lost and I had stopped having fun. After some persuasion by the medical team, I managed to firmly say no more and sit back and get nibbled by tics and spiders as I waited for whatever was to happen next.
As more competitors tickled in, the delightfully American Juli Goldstein (who had ABC news with her) and Jacob came through, topped up and carried on. Followed by Kato and Rahim. A few hours later, Craig, Sally and Guy came through after their 5 hour battle and also called it a day. as another chap John came through (he had gunned it for the first few days) he was suffering big time from dehydration and overheating, as the medics tried to revive him, he was starting to shake so the put an IV drop in, sliced off his clothes (i turned away at this point) and threw ice on him to maintain his temp. As he shivered his temp spiked and started to cause a few problems, but the medical team were in control and bought him back round. An ambulance was called (a van) and he was taken off to the hospital an hour or so away.
As the reality set in of what I had done, in terms of distance and survival I waited patiently for my instructions on what to do next. We waited for the medical team to pack up their kit and made our way on the dusty sweat bus to the next checkpoint a few miles down the track where we caught up with some fed up competitors who had done the 9km stage in 4 hours which asks the question, how long is it really ! people were running out of water and starting to look a bit worse for wear. I was feeling rather happy at the prospect of just letting my feet recover and helping out where I could with the other runners. As a few more people came in, they all had to wait until the track was safe – the course had to change as it was now dark and too dangerous to do the jungle section at night. So it was head torches on for the rest of the and head along the village tracks to the next checkpoint. For the rest of us, it was back on the bus to the next checkpoint. Dont really know what happened next as by this point, approx midnight I fell asleep and woke up at the finish of the stage at a very picturesque village/ Amazon beach front where we set up hammocks at 7am amongst the tables and chairs of the restaurants. We rested, recovered and had some proper food. Matt shouted us some piranna, chips and beer which was a welcome change to the freeze dried wallpaper paste we had been getting so used to.
Then as rumours of the race being cancelled, more people pulling out and forest fires, jaguar stories, people getting lost, the ever graceful yet delicate specimen of a man, Daniel Dillon stormed across the beach doing press ups before he hit the finish line. A true inspiration of a runner and looking as effortless as the last few days. as a few more followed later, the race was back in full flow with the ever amazing Jim Binks appearing over the horizon to the cross the line. Only about 12 people finished the 105km stage – inspired.
Katie returned from her checkpoint (paradise by name) and a couple more beers, some Amazonian chicken and more chips to take away the pain in my feet and return my state to a more normal one.
and early night and an early rise to see off the remaining runners finish off their race.