Archive for 21/10/2011

In the Cruel Light of Day

Dawn did indeed lift my spirits, but it also brought with it the realisation that I no longer had the ample lead I had had the day before. We had lost a lot of time with the route problems, and this situation didn’t seem to be showing any signs of changing.

As I ran into the dawn with Vilaprat beside me on the bike, we went through a strategy plan. I was to try and pick up my pace somewhat, and the team was going to try to prevent any further delays with the route – though I had doubts as to whether this would be possible. Actually I had serious doubts as to whether I would be able to arrive on time. I was certain that I would arrive, but there was no certainty at all as to if I would be able to run the 315 km and arrive at half time. This worry would plague me throughout the day and into the following night, and would continue until well into Saturday. It was definitely becoming a true challenge…

This meant that from this stage on I was to run with a high level of stress, on top of all the other problems. The good part was that I had survived the cold of the night – my clothing from Distance running store had actually done its job. I seem to have been the one who suffered least from the cold; the team had had a tough time of it.

..A welcome break in the stress was a visit from an old school friend of mine, Eamonn Canning, who had driven out to find me before work that day. After he caught me totally by surprise, his visit helped buoy my spirits enough to allow me to pick up my pace.

I managed to keep my pace for several hours – I fought on along increasingly dangerous roads up and down hills.  The relative flat of the night had once again given way to rolling landscape, and I found myself struggling up many long hills. The down hills served little in the way of relaxation, as that was when I made up for my slower pace on the up hills – I had to push hard on the down hills so as not to lose more time.

My left gluteus began bothering me again; I had had to stop for a massage during the night, and found I needed to stop again around midday. Following my 10 minute massage in the back of the van, my gluteus and subsequently my whole leg became increasingly painful, particularly on the relentless up hills. My pace dropped considerably along with my spirits, and by mid afternoon I was truly miserable, crying from time to time in pain, and less certain than ever that I would be able to arrive for the half-time whistle…

More tomorrow!

This time last week I was right in the middle of the challenge – It’s wonderful writing this from the comfort of my sofa, knowing that this evening, instead of battling exhaustion along the UK roads I’ll be happily being interviewed on Canal Teledeportes by Moisés Rodriguez on his show “Conexiión Teledeportes” at 7.30 pm CET.


The Darkness of the Night

Anyone who’s ever run a night race or a 24 hours race knows that the night can be very long indeed, and can stretch out much longer then the 12 hours of real time. That first night was no different, it seemed to stretch out endlessly, marked only by towns and villages. These urban areas at least gave me short lived havens of streetlights – illuminating the dark cold blanket of my nocturnal existence.

During the day my route had taken me up and down a never ending series of hills – much more than expected – and had exhausted me before I had expected it. The onset of night at least brought some relatively flat kilometres, which somewhat relieved my tired legs. It also brought on a series of problems with the route which would plague the team and me all the way through the challenge. During that night we had no less than 5 very problematic areas, which resulted in my losing over half an hour of time. While the team searched for the correct route, I would remain waiting, or else I would join them running up and down the road searching out the correct way. It was a soul destroying night in terms of the route. Each time I had to stop I’d begin to freeze as the temperatures had dropped low, and each time I set off again, it would be with a sinking feeling, as I knew that valuable time had been lost.

I was still well ahead of schedule, but knowing that well over a day and a half of running still awaited me, including a whole night more, and that in that time, any number of problems could arise, physical, mental or due to outside factors. Time was precious, and the frequent stops were very worrying for us all.

The route is often a problem during my challenges; lack of decently detailed and precise maps and inconsistencies between internet maps and paper ones can lead to all sorts of problems. Details of this will come later in the book, but suffice it to say that for us all the night was fraught with stress as the cold crept deeper into our bones.

But we kept pressing onwards and we kept our smiles intact despite the adverse conditions. My stomach was to provide more problems from this point onwards – I was to suffer the whole way through the challenge, and would find it increasingly difficult to eat.

By dawn we had progressed considerably despite the route, the cold, the darkness and my stomach, and as the sky suddenly seemed to shrug off her dark mantle, and allow the sun’s light to smile upon us, we all felt a rush of optimism. We had survived the night and were still ahead of schedule, though we had lost 2 hours of our lead during the night.

And so the chronicles continue – I’ll have more tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’ll be going on Spanish TV in the evening. For those of you who can get it via satellite, it’s TVE deporte and the program is “Conexión TDP” With Moisés Rodríguez. It starts at 7.30 pm and lasts for an hour. We’ll be showing video clips from this challenge, so it should be very exciting!


The send-off from Choristers Green

As I shook hands with the Mayor of Salisbury one last time, he took off his hat and waved me away, I felt marvellous, in high spirits and ready to face this new adventure. What I didn’t know was that it would test me more than I had been tested before; it would require every last drop of determination and inner strength for me to achieve this challenge.

Not once during the 50 hours that I ran did I doubt that I could complete the 315 kilometres and arrive in Norwich, but I did have doubts during many hours that I would be able to arrive on time. The window of opportunity for my arrival in NCFC’s Carrow road stadium was very narrow indeed – I had 5 minutes during which I was to arrive.

But this worry wasn’t foremost in my mind as I set out – I felt strong, ready for a challenge, and inspired by the Trussell Trust Foodbank network to run my best. I always give my best effort, demand personal excellence from myself, and this time wasn’t going to be any different. But it was going to be much more difficult to achieve.

What surprised me most was how early on I began to feel tired. I had prepared extremely well for the run, better than ever before, and the fact that after only 40 something kilometres I began to feel the tiredness creeping in, worried me. It also worried the team. Frank had expected me to sail through about 150 or 200 kilometres before facing my Goliath. But this wasn’t to be the case.

By nightfall on Thursday I was already tired, and was having a hard time psychologically. The enormity of what was facing me weighed heavily on me. As the darkness fell and lights began to be turned on in the roadside cottages and pubs, my spirits sank along with the setting sun. I wondered how I’d be able to make it through that night and still continue running for a day and a half more after that.

7pm and the night loomed ahead of me. I had to run a full 12 hours before I would see the light again. I wanted to just leap ahead and find myself once again in daylight. But leaping ahead was out of the question; my only option was just to plod on one foot in front of the other…

Over the next few days I’ll be writing a very brief chronicle of the challenge – brief as I plan to begin work immediately on a book. It was a challenge so rich in obstacles, to tough physically and mentally and such a wonderful example of team work that I feel it deserves it’s own book. I will put my present Ultra Pyrene book on hold and will begin writing this one immediately, before it gets lost from memory in a fog of pain and exhaustion.


Alex Living Excellence
Alex Living Excellence
Alex Living Excellence
Alex Living Excellence
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