Shuffling Along . . . . .

1st Training Weekend [1st-2nd August 2009; Days 11 and 12 of the actual JOGLE Ultra]

by on Aug.01, 2009, under Training

After over 12 months out from running due to other commitments & injury I decided to do the new years resolution thing & start getting myself fit again. I started running a mile every night and built it up to 3-4 miles a night. After a few months of this I was getting very jaded with running & decided to find something different & started going mountain biking with Simon Fox. This was when I realised how unfit I was. The bike which I’d built for the real ale wobble a few years ago was still like new having been left hung in the garage for ages & never used. I hated the bloody thing which at the time was known as the triangle of doom because every time I got on it threw me off. After a few weeks of Simon killing me on the hills around Darwen it suddenly dawned on me that I was starting to enjoy it! Though probably not as much as Simon & Dave enjoyed me falling off, oh how they laughed!

day one Wigmore to Severn Bridge 58 miles

day 1 Wigmore to Severn Bridge 58 miles

With the nights getting warmer I was now doing 5 miles a night running. It was time to find a goal! My favourite distance has always been the ultra marathon so one club night someone mentioned a spare number going for the Edinburgh Marathon, this would be a good first goal to aim for but with only two weeks to train it wasn’t really enough. The miles were upped to 10 per night and one long 20+ mile run a couple of days before the race. I did it in 4:18 including a walk near the end which was OK. The week after I did Freckleton Half Marathon in 1:58.

It was then time to look for something a bit more up my street, an ultra-marathon. The first race I looked at was the Grand Union Canal 145 mile race. I almost entered that one until something bigger caught my eye. Ultra-distance runner Rory Coleman had decided to have a go at running the JOGLE which is quite a famous cycle ride from John O’Groats to Lands End, this sounded too good an opportunity to let go, a once in a lifetime thing. Rory is famous for his exploits in the Marathon De Sables & training Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton to run the 78 mile Marrakesh Desert Marathon he’s also done 619 marathons, including 162 ultra marathons! I rang him right away & asked if I could be one of the twelve runners to take part. He said he was sorry but they already had 21 runners names on the list & asked what experience I’d had of doing this type of thing. We left it where I had agreed to be added to this list at number 22 & wait to see if anyone dropped out, but I would still need to do a time test to make sure I could keep up & get enough sleep to do day after day of the run.

As the weeks past Rory would email or ring me to say someone else had been injured in training and eventually I got the email I’d been waiting for, I was in! All I had to do now was do the trial run, which was still unknown. I thought it’s about time I started to do some serious miles just in case. Training plans have never been my thing so I just did what could be done in the free time between running a business, family life etc.
Two weeks before the trial I did the Moors The Merrier 26 mile fell race as a training run & got lost in the last 2 miles, going from 15th place down to 30th after completing 34 miles in 7 hours 24 minutes. It got to 180 miles a week before the trial & 300 sit ups a day for core stability & 40 miles off road on the mountain bike, that would have to be enough!

DAY ONE

1st of August 2009

Only six runners would be doing the trial as the others were doing the Lakeland 100 as a training run. We started at Wigmore in Wales and ran down to Taunton in Somerset. This would mean us running 58.3 miles on Saturday plus the length of the Severn bridge & 55.3 miles on Sunday. We set off for the hotel on the Friday night and got there at 10pm, by the time I’d got my stuff ready for the run & got to sleep it was 1:30am. The alarm went off at 2am, we had to be in the car heading for Wigmore by 3am.

This was the first time I’d met the other 5 runners, four men and a woman. They all looked a lot fitter than me, we got into the people carrier & set off for Wales in the dark. When we got there it was 4:45am and pouring with rain. At 5am we were counted down and off we went, I was surprised how slow we ran at first but after a few hours running it got harder & harder to keep going. As we talked I soon realised that I was by far the least experienced runner there. One of them Mark ran the double Badwater ultra in Death Valley which has only been done by 20 people in the world. The lady who ran with us had completed a famous walk on the Isle of Man where she lives called The Parish Walk not once but twice in one go, a total distance of 170 miles! Between them they’d done 100’s of ultras. It was a very humbling experience being with such great runners. I felt like a jogger running with Paula Radcliffe

As we chatted I asked a lot of questions and got some really good tips which I wish I’d known before the run! As the run went on the miles rolled by and before long we had covered 40 miles & had reached the water station (Rory’s Car). I had noticed a hot point on my left foot earlier & decided to change my trainers for some dry ones. When I removed them I had a big blister on my toe under my nail which was pushing my nail off. Luckily I had a medical kit with me and did the best I could with it in the short time we had before setting off again. I really needed to stay with the others as they knew what the best pace was and also how to read a map! Rory also told us that one of the other runners (Justin) had to call it a day with a stress fracture of the shin after 31 miles. He was going to stay in the car with Rory to assist at the aid stations together with Jen. It was sad news and dampened the mood among the runners who were left.

By 45 miles their better fitness started to take it’s toll on me & I was slowly starting to fall back. By the time we reached 50 miles they were out of sight and I was running alone. This is when it’s gets hard, your mind keeps telling you to stop but you’re battling to keep going. I was just in sight of the cycle path which leads to the Severn bridge & it seemed to go on forever. This bit was made harder by dog walkers with long leads who just left the dog to run round and at one point nearly trip me up. In the distance I could see the bridge and it didn’t seem to be getting any nearer. Then it stopped raining and I was on the bridge with a refreshing breeze to cool me down. I’d never been over the bridge in the light so couldn’t remember how long it was. Eventually I saw three dots in the distance & it was Rory & his welcoming crew Justin & Jen. Day one was almost over, the relief of stopping running was overwhelming, so much so I almost fell over with the strange new feeling of being still. We got back to the hotel to find my wife and kids waiting outside to cheer me in which was great. That night I didn’t feel hungry at all but managed to force down the best part of a mixed grill as protein to recover for the next day.

DAY TWO

2nd of August 2009

After a tormented sleep with constant twitching from my legs I was woken up by my alarm on Sunday morning at 3:30am to prepare for the 5am start. I just couldn’t face food, just the thought made me feel sick. I got my running gear on & hobbled to the start. We left the hotel car park in the dark but this time it was fine, the forecast said sunshine so I put on some sunblock. We ran together for about 10-15 miles then slowly drifted apart, I found my groove and settled into my stride. The miles seemed to tick by more slowly on the second day due to the constant pain from my feet & legs.

I reached mile 20 and noticed my left leg was starting to bruise around the shin & my ankle was swelling. By mile 28 this had developed into a lump and it felt like my tendon was rubbing on it when running down any sort of hill, ouch! I don’t know if it was the pain or I’d got my food, water or electrolytes wrong but my stomach started to spasm. It felt like a very lonely place at the side of the road throwing up everything in my stomach. I leant on a railing at the side of the road and tried to get my head back together. A moment later Rory turned up with Jen & Justin, Jen asked how I was feeling “hideous” I replied with a smile. We both laughed & Rory came over to make sure I was well enough to carry on. I told him about not being able to hold down any fluids or food & about the lump on my shin bone. He asked me to sit down on the floor to stop the spasms but my legs were so stiff I couldn’t bend down! I sat in a deck chair & Rory had a look at the lump. He said it didn’t look good and mentioned stopping, how could I stop with only 30 miles to go? I took some pain killers & Rory adjusted my laces to stop my trainers rubbing on my shin and off I hobbled. After 4 miles it dawned on me that I still had a marathon left.

Day 2 JOGLE ultra from Severn Bridge to Taunton 55 miles

Day 2 JOGLE ultra from Severn Bridge to Taunton 55 miles

By this time my quads were so sore it was more painful to stop & then get started again than it was to run. As I reached the outskirts of Bridgewater the heavens opened again and it started to throw it down & I’d left my coat at the hotel. My maps were soaked and I took a wrong turn, not realising I carried on for about three miles off course. Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse the battery failed on my Garmin & I’d lost my mileage. Luckily I still had an iPhone with mapping so managed to get myself back on course. I was back on the right road, things were looking up, must stay positive. I consoled myself with the fact that I could use the maps as loo roll now!!

I hobbled down another dual carriageway and by now one looked much like another, in the distance I could see flashing lights & wondered if they were going to an accident. The car came towards me in the dark and slowed down, it was the police. He opened the window and asked what I was doing, I told him I was in the final stages of an ultra-distance marathon & he said he thought I’d broke down up the road & was going to ask if I wanted a lift! Oh that would have been sooooo easy to just get into the warm car but I resisted the temptation. He told me he was thinking one day he’d like to do an ultra so I gave him Rory’s web address. He shook my hand and wished me well, telling me I only had a few miles to go before reaching the finish at Taunton railway station. It was the longest few miles I’ve EVER run. Crossing the dual carriageway made me realise how hedgehogs must feel when they try to cross the road, which made me chuckle to myself. One steep hill after another was starting to wear me down, trucks passed by every few seconds and sprayed me with water & grit from the road. I got confused and couldn’t find the right road into Taunton and it seemed to take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to make my way to the finish. I got it into my head that I was just going round in circles. Mentally as soon as I thought the last mile had come my body just started to shut down. I’d run 120+ miles & my body just wanted to sleep. I shuffled past groups of drunks outside pubs & they shouted stuff to me, at one point I had three drunks behind me copying the way I ran but I was too tired to care at this point. They were probably thinking “look at that old fella shuffling his way round a 2 mile loop” This made me smile to myself. As the last half mile came I suddenly got a new lease of life and finished quite strong.

My wife & three kids were there as always to support me and as I stopped I almost fell over again. It took me ages to get into the car but I’d done it. I was so glad to see them, it was a very emotional moment & I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The thing I took away from this is just how lucky I am to have a great family who support me to the end in everything I ever do, no matter how stupid!


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