So the upside of last week's DNF is that I've already been running this week, and will be out with the SWAC mob for the usual Sunday morning run tomorrow. Still had some time to fill though, and have spent most of the week plotting my route to Berlin in August, working up a plan, and slotting in races to keep things focused and interesting. The main races look like: Greater Manchester Marathon, not especially inspiring but timing is good and it's local; Liverpool Spring 10k, running with some of the guys from work; Dukeries Ultra 30 miler, ran the 40 miler last year and had a blast, timing's perfect to be hitting 30 mile; LLLR 6 Hour Challenge, loved this 2 years ago when I placed 3rd, and should be my last long run before Berlin; Round Reservoir Marathons, 2 back to back marathons 3 weeks before Berlin - perfect! Having just gotten that lot sorted, I got an interesting email from the organisers of the Bolton Hill Marathon this morning. They're putting on a 5 day sufferfest of 5 marathons, involving going up and down Rivington Pike 40-odd times for 30,000ft of climbing - equivalent to Mount Everest. In November. Thought about it for 5 minutes and signed up - gonna be hellish and will be tricky childcare-wise running the first 3 of them Wed-Fri, but figured there's some time to get that sorted:-)
Well it had to happen sometime I guess, and this weekend I scored my first DNF, 48 miles and 10.5 hours into the Thames Path 100. I'd had a bit of a dodgy stomach the morning of the race which I put down to nerves, magnified by the freezing cold weather and switch to the "B" course due to flooding on the second half of the route. I didn't feel comfortable right from the off, in fact the first 22 miles were WAY tougher than they should have been. I managed to take some food in at the first two checkpoints, but was feeling increasingly weak and nauseous as the day went on, and when I hit the 38 mile checkpoint and couldn't face eating anything at all I knew I was in trouble. I spent most of the last 10 miles running into the bushes, and when I hit the 48 mile CP I dropped. It was definitely the right thing to do, I spent the next 12 hours on the toilet trying to crap myself inside out and wishing I was dead - I barely made it through the night in the Holiday Inn so there's no way I'd have gotten through another 52 miles. The weird thing is, apart from getting spectacularly and explosively ill, everything else went really well. Despite really heavy going through the muddy sections I hit my 5 and 10 hour targets, dealt fine with the snowy conditions, managed the regular transitions between tarmac and boggy mud stretches, and my legs and feet were holding up great - all of which makes it more frustrating to have had to quit. I'm gutted not to have been in a position to tough it out in the horrible conditions, especially after James and the guys at Centurion worked so hard to keep the race on in gruesome conditions, supporting all the runners out there for the duration. I'm looking forward to seeing them all again in June when I'm volunteering at the SDW100 with my brother Dan.
All in all I suppose I've been lucky never getting ill on a race day before, and there are a few silver clouds. As I "only" ran 48 miles, training for the next 100 (Berlin Mauerweglauf in August) can start sooner, with some easy running this week rather than the two week lay-off I was expecting to need. The extra bonus is that I should be able to hit the Dukeries Ultra (fast, flat, scenic 40 miler) in a reasonable state in May, giving me a better chance of scraping a second podium finish at the LLLR 6 Hour Challenge in June:-)
Woke up feeling pretty good after the Groundhog, not quite raring to go, but no real aches or pains. Got to the start area, and on the walk down to register quickly realised wearing shorts was a big mistake, it was absolutely freezing! A quick car park change later I had my tracksters on and another top layer, plus hat and gloves, ready to run up and down Winter Hill a couple of times. It was really cold on the first climb, the windchill was something else, but once that bit was over and I picked the pace up a bit it wasn't too bad. The plan was to walk up the two major climbs, and take everything else pretty easy, aiming for somewhere around 5:30, which was enough to keep warm, but not so much it was going to cause me any problems later on. All in all it was a pretty good run, had a few good chats, bumped into a guy Dave I'd spoken to at the Liverbird Double who's training for Comrades, and Michael who had run at the Groundhog the day before. Scenery was lovely, especially after all those laps on Saturday, and pretty much coasted around without any real effort. The terrain wasn't too bad, quite a bit of road, lots of rocky paths which were tricky in the snowy parts and a little mud, but my Mizuno Taraweras coped brilliantly. The marshals and checkpoint folks were amazing, really friendly and in great spirits despite the cold (they must have been frozen solid) and the route marking was excellent - didn't even take my map out of my bag, which all made it more enjoyable than it might have been in the conditions. Couple days rest now, and then an easy couple of weeks during which I'll need to decide once and for all which pack I'm using for the Thames Path.
With two weeks to go until the Thames Path 100, this was my last biggish weekend before I start to taper a bit. Saturday was the Groundhog Track Marathon, put on by COD Running Club in Telford. I'd planned on running an easy 4:30 or so, knowing that Bolton Hill would be a tough challenge the next day, but with a pretty easy week leading up to it struggled to keep the pace down. Had fun chatting to people along the way - recognised loads of faces from the Liverbird Double which was cool, and ran a bit with Denzil the race organiser who is also running Thames Path. As far as the race goes it was everything I expected, 105.5 times in a row. The lap counting was by chip, with 5 lap updates on a whiteboard, although thought I was going mad a couple of times when my 35 and 85 lap updates didn't appear. The boost when my numbers jumped by ten laps was worth the confusion though. At the end I was so busy chatting away with Denzil I was well on my way for another lap when they shouted me to stop as I'd finished, so the photographer got this pic instead of one of me finishing! All in all felt pretty good at the end, and wasn't dreading Bolton Hill which was the objective, although could've done without the SatNav taking me home the back way and through Runcorn.