GUCR website info....Garscube Harriers' Debbie Martin-Consani wins the 'triple crown' this Jubilee weekend - 1st Finisher; 1st Lady; and recipient of the Steve Philips 'Run for your Life' Trophy (awarded to the first first-time finisher) in a new ladies' record time of 28 hours 1 minute.
The competition: My main competitor was Emily Gelder. I ran with her - well, when she was lapping me! - at the 24 hour race in September. She's amazingly talented and I had her down as a sure-fire win. I wasn't there to challenge anyway, I was there to challenge myself. I never chased and if anyone was chasing me, I wasn't aware.
Support points: There were 47 support points in the race - probably lots more if you know the route - but I'd arrange to meet Sonic every 10 miles. For the first 70 miles of the race, each runners is given a support point colour according to race number - green for odd and yellow for even - to ease congestion in the early stages of the race.
I'd love to give you a mile-by-mile breakdown, which I'm sure you would love, love (!?) to read, but it's all very vague. I could tell you who I passed - as in, I could describe what they looked like - but I'm not sure when it happened. I know I was picking my way through - running approx 9:30m/m - and the second lady was just in front when I met Sonic at mile 20.
|Pic by Ross Langton|
I'll spare you the graphics, but my stomach was really playing up and it was a bit stop-start for the next 10 miles. I phoned ahead and asked Sonic to mix up some Resolve for me meeting him at 30 (or it could have been 40) miles. When I got there, he told me I'd moved up to 11th position. Then it was 10th, as someone had retired as I was leaving.
Sonic was keeping me posted on where I was in the race. To me, it was way too early to bother, but I know he loves the analytical/tactical side to racing. He did keep a note of how things were panning out, but unfortunately he didn't tell me and I threw it out with all the rubbish after the race. So...this is all from memory...Sonic informed me I was closing the gap on Emily Gelder and was in 8th position when I met him at 45 miles.
It wasn't long before I saw Emily with her crew. She was standing off-course eating jelly babies and I stopped to see how she was. She was having issues with a sciatic nerve but was going to keep going. We exchanged niceties - god, ultrarunning is so pleasant - and I moved on to meet Sonic at our next meeting place.
The kit: I'm glad I wore my HOKA. Only problem was when the towpath sloped, having the extra height played havoc with my ankles. I started in my shorts, but change into long Skins at 65 miles as I couldn't take any more nettles stings and overgrown flora. I had the new range lightweight Injiniji socks on, which I has to order from the States. I love these socks, but when your feet are wet nothing is going to save them. Ignorance is bliss though, so there was to be no sock changing until the end of the race.
|Picture by Ross Langton|
I don't make secrets of the fact that I'm not comfortable in the dark - ever. Running in a strange place in a the dark, freaked me out somewhat. The hours of darkness really are all a bit of a mish-mash for me. I was a bit highly strung when I was traipsing through thick grass. I was running alongside the canal, but I was never sure it was the right canal. I lost a lot of time faffing about with maps and dealing with my emotions. My legs were great, but my head was all over the place. The combination of slowing pace and torrential race, meant by body temperature was dropping.
It was quite eerie being out there alone - especially when four burly men appeared with their 10-stone rottweiler. To be honest, they were lovely and seemed genuinely concerned about my safety. I called Sonic to see if he could come out and meet me - with layers, waterproofs and gloves.
When I saw two head torches behind me - and I knew it was Cliff and his support runner, Matt - I think it's the only time I'll ever be as happy to be caught in a race. We chatted for a bit and Cliff was going to the 100 mile checkpoint to pick up another runner, Richard Galbraith. Who I know from WHW training runs and races! Small world, isn't it.
I had to stop to sort out my race number and pick up some supplies and the boys were off. I was alone again, frantically trying to keep sight of their head torches.
Now, this is where is all goes ridiculously wrong! There are quite a few bridges to cross over the next few miles. In daylight, the directions will be quite intuitive, but in darkness the paranoia sets in.
It all happened so quickly. Before I knew it I was wadding about in the water - in the dark - trying to find the water bottle that had popped out of my belt.
Ironically, someone had mentioned earlier in the race about someone in this race who's falling in the water during a Thames race and in my head I was thinking: "what a t*t". ha ha. How much did that come back and sting me in the a*s?!
Of course when I went for my mid-race swim, my iPhone and iPod came with me. Joy! I was out of the water as quickly as I got in and in a blind panic tried to call Sonic with said wet phone. Not surprisingly, it wasn't playing ball and all Sonic heard was gurgling water before it switched off.
I started running again, trying to rationalise the situation. Really I was just as wet as I was before I got in the water and as long as I kept moving I wouldn't freeze. I made the decision there that I wasn't going to tell Sonic about my mishap. I was just a silly accident, and I thought he would use that and my scattiness earlier to pull me from the race.
A while later - it could have been minutes or an hour - I saw a head torch bopping towards me and then Sonic shrieking my name. He was quite frantic when he got to me, as he had been trying to call me and thought I was "face down in a water or raped and face down in the water or something". I may have made noises to suggest that was a ludicrous suggestion and made the excuse that my phone got soaked in the rain.
I moved on and managed to get myself in a tizzy trying to find bridge 139. I kept coming to a dead end at bridge 153. If I had half a brain at that point, I would have realised that the sequence of bridges to follow were 154 and 155 and therefore the map I had was marked wrong. It took a bit of to-ing and fro-ing before the penny drop.
Of course, everything comes in threes. Oh yes, there's more! After falling in the canal, I managed to fall splat out three times after that. I really needed to keep my wits about me and I'd left my wits somewhere in the hours of daylight. Plus, with wearing Hoka, if you don't pick up your feet properly, you trip. Thankfully I was falling onto "dry" land though. On the third tumble though, I managed to crack the screen of Sonic's Garmin. So far, I was an iPhone, iPod and Garmin down. If anything the expense has got to be the best incentive not to DNF.
I decided to change clothes, as the cold was wearing me down. I kept my shoes and socks on, but striped off and piled on top layers. In hindsight, the ensemble was an absolute travesty! Black and pink Skins, grey Montane long sleeve, blue WHW jacket and a maroon Montane waterproof. But just having dry clothes and gloves made a massive difference
Around 1am, Sonic came out to meet prior to our next arrange meeting point to tell me I was just about to overtook the Richard Quennell who had been leading the whole way. It wasn't until I saw the race pictures, that I realised I ran the 24 hour with him! Sorry, Richard, it was dark and we probably weren't at our chattiest. Richard had by that point moved into second, as Cliff was in the lead. He didn't look in a great way, reduced to shuffling, and I felt quite bad running passed him.
An hour later (say, around 2am) Sonic informed me that Cliff had pulled out and I was in the lead. After passing Cliff walking at 50+ miles, I was surprised he'd picked it back up. He lives near mile 115 (ish) of the course and we heard he had stopped into his house to pick up dry clothes and when he got there his house had been broken. Then we heard he'd locked himself out, so I don't know what the story was.
Brother Sonic was going to run the next five miles with me, until it got light. It was a huge weight off my shoulders when Sonic took the maps off me. Brother Sonic even offered to carry my bottle belt for me, but that had already become part of my DNA and might unbalance me.
We moved on. Although I was adopting a walk/jog strategy, I was still moving quite strongly and was still in high spirits. And it was so nice to have someone to talk too!! Other than the imaginary people I'd been seeing along the way :-) The fisherman who turned out to be a tree and the little fat lady in the red coat who was in fact a bin for dog waste...
Nutrition/Hydration: I would say my eating was better than usual, but Sonic might disagree. On the Friday evening, we'd gone to Asda and stocked up on the usual rubbish. Two of everything, just to be sure. I drank mostly energy drink, water with Nunn and Nourishment milk drinks. I was saving my beloved flat Coke for later in the race, but even then only took a couple of small bottles. Eating wise, I had a few sandwiches, Mrs Tilly's fudge, sweets, banana...and I think that's about it. Surprisingly (well, for me) I had about 10 gels. Usually I save these for emergencies, but I bought the water-based SIS GO gels and they went down fairly easy.
For the next 10+ miles, I played a bit fartlek. I would walk for a bit and then run to the next bridge/corner/sticky-out-tree. And this got me through to Bell's Bridge, where I turned off the Grand Union Canal and started heading towards Paddington.
I saw the sign for 13 miles to go and started working out times in my head. The night antics and the walk/jog had slowed me down, but I was still feeling pretty good. My legs were fine. Tired, but not sore at all. I had well over two hours to do a half marathon. Fine on normal circumstances, but not so great after 25+ hours of running.
If I wanted to break the record, I'd need to up the anti. It was like someone switched on the light and I just kept going. I heard Adrian Stott say to me "If you want something bad enough, you'll find away" like he said to me in Llandudno. Sonic and Gillian were waiting at the final support point at H'Brough Tavern. Sonic has clearly just woken up and looked a bit startled and bleary eyed when I passed through. Even the poor marshall had to dart out of his van to come and get my number.
I was on a mission! I needed to get to Little Venice by 28:11 to break the ladies' record. In my head I was flying. In reality I was doing 10m/m. I was practically tapping the screen of the Garmin, as I thought I must have really broke it in the tumble :-)
I never really knew how far behind the next runner was. We were just using hear say. I just presumed it was a male runner and hell hath no fury like a man being "chicked"!
As it was now normal morning time, the path was getting busier with dog walkers/cyclists/runners. I just hoped they would see the race number and not think I'd escaped from an institution.
As the countdown signs for Paddington were getting closer, I could see lines of barges. Of course, I knew it had to be Little Venice, but I stopped a runner to ask just to be sure. Even though there's nothing more irritating than being stopped mid-Zone to give directions!
Click here for the Scottish Athletics, the Ultra Running World report and the Scottish Running Guide report. Not surprisingly that they all say the same thing though :-)
Click here for full results
1st: Debbie Martin-Consani 28:01
2nd: Iveagh Jameson 28:53
3rd: Pete Summers 30:03
4th: Steve Charleston 30:38
2nd female Sarah Thorne 34:56