Written by Victoria Mousley - http://viccimo.blogspot.co.uk/

Two years since my last ultra-marathon. With being injured for a year and having a baby, marathon distance was the furthest I had ran since the Frostbite in December 2012.
 
I decided to give Frostbite a go as I know the RO well and it's always good to catch up with Rob and his family and friends. 30 miles also was quite a nice distance, one that has never given me problems in the past, also 9Bar sponsor the event so that is always a good reason to go.
 
I haven't run further than 17 miles since April so I was a somewhat unhappy to learn that the route was actually around 33 miles.....but hey too late now.
 
As always a frosty start with my car saying minus 7, so plenty of warm clothes packed and a 5.30 start. The usual tea, coffee, flapjack and 9bars were on offer and it was great to catch up with lots of people from Trawden who were doing the event and my friend and physio Tim was about to embark on his first Ultra marathon too.
 
I was feeling apprehensive, I faffed about lots at the start and seemed to have forgotten basics like what kit I needed etc. Anyway off we went up into the frost hills on the first 10 mile hilly loop. It was great running along and chatting to people in the early stages and great to meet Sally Fawcett and have a good natter with her, although I knew she would be zooming off into the distance soon. I settled into a pace with A guy called Simon from Dark Peak and another guy who had just completed all the Hardmoors events and we had a good time churning out some miles. It was really nice to find Dave from Sportsunday hiding in the moorland taking super photos of us all and encouraging us along as always.

About 8 miles in we got the sense that we had missed a marker somewhere and we didnt seem to be quite on course, we looked at the map and also managed to spot a marker down the gully on the other side of the stream where we were meant to be. Encouraged by Simon we did a spot of" heather bashing" to a stile and picked up the right route. When we returned to registration to start the second loop we clocked the distance at 10.7 miles so not too far wrong.
 
We separated at the start of the second loop and started the next 23 miles of the course. There was quite a bit of ice and the tracks were hard packed. At 12 miles Sally appeared from behind me and it appeared they had gone wrong too, so we had a natter and continued on the route. It was cold but the scenery was stunning and the sun was starting to make an appearance. By this point I had eaten a Gel and a few jelly snakes and had started to eat a little bit of a 9bar Breakfast Bar too. I was drinking Biosteel ...I have one weak one and one strong one made up and find that this seems to work well for me,
 
By 15 miles I was struggling with aching hips, due to the hard track and the neuroma in my left foot was giving me grief every step but I just had to ignore it. I would say I honestly struggled from 16 miles in this event. A lovely chap caught up with me at 16 miles and was really nice in helping me crack on as I was honestly thinking about pulling out. When I got to mile 20 though everything started to feel better.more of a mental thing knowing that there is only 13 or so to go. I think it was around this point when I saw Laura from Sportsunday in the mist asking how I was feeling...."Tired!"I think was my response!

The checkpoints were well stocked with 9bars, Jelly babies, Freddo frogs and Jägermeister which I decided to pass on. I was in third position till about 30 miles when I spat my dummy and got really mardy! I didnt quite cry but had got to whimper stages and was quite fed up. Rob Jarman I was cursing you at this point and wishing it was 30 miles.
 
The track along the ridge was misty and very very cold, I put my jacket on at 16 miles and it never came off. The track heading home from the B and B must be about 3 miles but I hated every step of it. I was grumpy and tired and had been running for over five and a half hours.double what I had done in training.
 
But I had to finish as I need to start getting back to the ultras and they are going to be hard so it was time to put my head down stop moaning and get on with it.
 
I finished on 5.55 and clocked the distance at 34.5miles.
 
I will link to results when they are published.
All the wonderful Photos here were provided by Dave and Laura at Sportsunday www.sportssunday.co.uk so thank you very much for that and for your smiles and encouragement throughout the route.
 
Super well done to Tim Pigott who actually told me he hated me when he finished but after a cup of tea and cake he seemed to forget that! First Ultra for him and I will see what I can talk him into next!
 
Chris Crabtree and the Trawden lot ---Super well done to you especially the Ultra Virgins!

Thanks to Rob for a great event....but please change the name to Frostbite 34!

As always Salomon was my kit of choice...can't beat it!
 
Finally a big thank you to Duncan at www.athletematters.co.uk for taping my ankles so I didnt roll them and for the general maintenance physio on Wednesday which got me through this.
 

http://www.movescount.com/moves/move47033837

Onwards and Upwards......

Written by Richard Martin - http://theviewsfromtheback.blogspot.co.uk

Ultra No. 3

Let’s do an Ultra in December! Why not, I’m a runner now I said so in my last blog

The Alarm goes off at 5 am ……….. Why do I do this to my self? I prise my self out of bed and pull on my clothes throw the bags in to the car and scrape the frost of the window. Feeling groggy I point the car in the Direction of the A1 and off we head. The drive up to Patley Bridge is actually a joy on a clear crisp morning with a huge full moon; it was greatly improved by a large coffee and a flapjack at the services. Heading in to Nidderdale as dawn is breaking and there are some stunning views over the frozen valley, as the road winds its way through picturesque villages where pubs and business are still sporting their yellow bikes from the summers Tour De France Grande depart. The low sun twinkles off the hard frost and the new world symphony plays and a boy pushes his Hovis bike up a steep hill. Ahem sorry where were we, ah yes Patley Bridge.

Having successfully found Pately Bridge and then the Riverside car park I make my way to registration, Jack Frost is very much nipping at my ears. Registration is in the local Scout hut and with the form completed and number issued it was time for some monumental kit faffing. Mid Layer in other mid layer out, Extra Buff in etc. etc. and finally number attached. I think this may have been nerves but after 3 trips back to the car I was sorted well sort of. I had a chance meeting with the marshal of omni presence from the Goathland Marathon who turns out to be Rob Collier who is running this time. As I mill round the hall there are some recognizable faces including Mr. & Mrs. Hardmoors Jon & Shirley Steele. I think Jon and the frostbite race director Rob Jarman must be friends as Jon appears to have leant Rob his stretchy tape measure, the Frostbite 30 having 11% extra free at 33.7miles well I do like good value and will manage to create even more before the days out. Finally we are called for the race briefing some extra rules about shutting gates and violent sheep are added to the usual. And we head out for the start.

The Horn goes and we’re off! No were not, yes we are! No were not, oh we are. It’s a bit stop start as 200 runners vie for space as the route is funnelled along the narrow paths of Patley’s Millennium Green, and even narrower ally ways reduce us to single file before we are spat out on the Bridge. Not the most grand of starts but we are soon away, on a good track leading down the River Nidd to Glasshouses. This section has lots of old industrial looking water features all of which are covered by what looks a quite substantial layer of Ice. Crossing the river we start up the steep side of the valley the climb up to Guise cliff and it’s a good one, the type that sorts the men from the boys and as I was keeping up with Jon Steele and Co I consider I may have graduated (we’ll gloss over the fact he’s injured) at the top I adjust my School cap and Satchel and carry on. Once on the top of there are some superb views but the occasional Ice patch, narrow technical single track, over hanging branches and the odd big drop to the right keep the mind focused on the way forward, winding past the remains of the folly of Yorke’s Tower there is nearly a pile up. Were all running in close order and some one at the front goes down, they’re OK. The bloke behind me asks if it’s a broken ankle which I think is a rather odd thing to say, their trying to run it off if it is I respond. Mr Sport Sunday appears Say Cheese. I feel quick down the technical decent to a road crossing enjoying the solid ground and avoiding the Ice patches through the woods down to Shrike Farm. The next section was through some picturesque farm land and before picking up a long road climb and undulating track section over Ladies Rigg. Here the wind starts to make its presence felt and Gloves and extra Buffs are don’d before the road becomes track and descends to the old lead mines and an interesting decent picking my way over the frozen old spoil heaps and a rickety tin bridge down to the stream and up on to a track down to Spring house caravan park. The Route then takes the river back to the Start at Patley Bridge Scout Hut or Checkpoint one as it’s now known. I completed “Part1” in about 1:48ish which was quick considering I had tried to pace my self at the start and it’s safely under the 3 hour cut off. Time for a quick foot sort out as my little toe was feeling odd fortunately on removal of shoe and first sock I found its just my injinjis are not sitting right, a quick inspection reveals no major problems and two mins faffing I decide that my toes aren’t going back in to their little pockets so I whip that one off and replace the other sock. Not quite running with one sock on and one sock off. I finally remember to clock in grab some snacks and a shot of Jagermister to warm the cockles apparently and head off up the river. You’ll notice I didn’t mention refilling my water bottles there …… I didn’t ……………. This was pretty stupid for someone who sweats like a Gordie in a spelling test. I had a bottle and a half left which tell you something in is self. So I thought would be fine but I would spend quite abit of the rest of the race spitting feathers. Lesson learnt. Drink more!

The lollipop stick for the begging of “Part 2” was a along the River Nidd East towards the hamlet of Wath. Things are starting to thaw and the ground is softening up and after the climb past the Dam of Gouthwaite Res the Track has some exceedingly large lagoons of very wet mud. I started to over take a few people on this stretch. My passing more akin to lorries over taking on the motorway than a speedy F1 pass but I am creeping up the field. Grouping up with a couple of other runners some ignorant people who happen to be on mountain bikes let us pass by oh no they cycled straight at us, that was right. Without a word of greeting, apology or even acknowledgement. Come the revolution brothers and sisters the ignorant will be first against the wall or maybe second after the spatially unaware shoppers…. Sorry where were we

Ah Bouthwaite, Having successfully avoided being mown down I arrive at Bouthwaite to find Mr Jarman himself marshalling us through and 500m down the road there is a mini checkpoint taking our numbers and offering some water. Afterwards it is over an old stone bridge and along the valley before we head on a long steady climb. I start to struggle a bit with motivation as the wind picks up again. I check my phone for my distance and find I have done 16 miles in 3:14 good pace and I will end the Day with a half marathon PB. I seam to have a bit of a low around the 15/16 mile mark in most races, but walking this long climb and munching a cliff bar seams to give me a rest enough to get some mojo back. As the route heads downwards again I muster a jog and pick off a few more of the runners ahead on the way down to How Stean Gorge, and a first meeting with a mysterious photograph (run faster!) and the post van which wins and I let it past on the narrow road. Once past here we start the climb. About 3 miles of steady up some of which is very steep first climbing up to Middlemoor. Which I had seen from further down the valley perched on a spur looking impossibly high up for a village with an impressive church dominating the view, the road in very steep. I manage to keep my steady march going which means I am starting to drop people as we clear the village, a Marshall gives encouragement and says its two miles to check point 2 ah water at last! Heading up In Moor Lane towards the summit of Rain Stang a group of Tossers motor crossers pass leaving me coughing on their fumes as they tear lumps out of the partially frozen track. Up and Up we go until finally the track levels off and then drops down to scars house res on a track that is fairly brutal covered in patches of Ice and loose rocks, I catch up with a chap with a freshly bloodied knee as we hit the bottom and head in to check point 2 with a little acceleration for the Mystery photograph. I fill my bottles and take a few moments to enjoy 2 cups of hot squash I think I babble some rubbish about moral in a cup. Moral is indeed much improved the hot drink being just what the doctor ordered. The weather had been fine up to Middlemoor but had started to deteriorate since. Cloud had been coming in with some ominous looking mist further down the valley and winds starting to really pick up. The big climb before the checkpoint had been exposed to the full force and was increasing chilly. I have a quick chat with a marshal discussing the home leg it’s only 13 miles left just a half marathon then…… I love ultra running I am almost home I only have a half marathon to run first. Yeah fine let’s go. And I do with a hand full of wine gums.

I leave just as big group of runners arrive most of who were the runners I was leap frogging with prior to Middlemoor at I am quite pleased to say it’s the last time I see most of them till the finish. I cross Scars House dam with Mr Bloody knee we dodge the postman again on the dam top road. Mr Sports Sunday appears, takes a seat in the middle of the road and suggests we have to hurdle him brave man! He snaps away as we jog past once over the dam we climb out of the valley on the far side I pull away from him as the route drops in and out of a deep re-entrant on a rough Landover track. I manage to reel in another couple of runners one of whom is really struggling up the steep climb. As the route climbs it hits a track that follows the edge of the high ground along Brown Ridge and becomes fully exposed to the wind which is now getting quite strong. This provides ample motivation to get a shift on I also can see some runners ahead and with the racing head also starting to kick in I am making good progress and I close in on and pass Mr Green Jacket over the course of the next km or so, and Start to chase down Mr Fluro Jacket. Just after a superbly sited Shooting Lodge the route cuts back and heads to a road crossing, there is another Mini Check Point proffering chocolates and Cheerful Marshals. A short climb after the road leads to a long steady decent on which I pass Mr Fluro with Mr Green now no where to be seen. There have been good views back along the ridge we appear to be well clear of anyone else. I open up a bit of a gap but towards the bottom I start to struggle again, but keep plodding but on the short climb out of a Beck I look back to see Mr Green Jacket has reappeared and he’s shifting. Shortly after he passes me like I am stood still. Mr Fluro has also closed the gap and as we descend back to Bouthwaite to close the lolly pop I have just managed to hold him off, seeing him appear just as I close the numerous gates that cross the track but as I start back on the Stick the l don’t see him again! And there are 2 reasons for that! As I approach Covill Grange Farm I hear foot steps and turn back expecting to see a refreshed challenge from Mr Fluro but I am passed by Mr Orange where did he come from? I can see two more runners catching me in the gathering gloom and I muster another run along the tarmac and try to stay with Mr Orange which I manage for a bit I am still managing to stay suitably in front of Mr Fluro that he isn’t appearing in the rear view but Mr and Mrs OMM jackets have appeared out of the gloom I keep them a suitable distance behind and Mr Orange a suitable distance in front until in the Near Dark I follow the wrong fork and only realise when I see Mr Orange on the Track Below arse! Mr and Mrs OMM have followed me so we double back and plough on through the now thoroughly defrosted lagoons of mud that form the Track no one appears behind us Mr OMM is struggling feeling sick and dizzy but I can only manage to keep up at this point. As we continue we realise that were climbing a bit too much and realise that were on the wrong track Mr & Mrs OMM jackets decide just to plough on that the track will finally come out in the right place. I decide on checking the map and as I am carrying a head torch I might as well use the thing (if I had done that 15 minutes ago? ……..) Quick check of the Map and yes this track will get us back to Wath. Then in Typical French fashion the head torch goes on strike. After some negotiation it lights our way back. We rejoin the route and I have to break the news that were not there yet as Mrs OMM thought this was the end. I point them on the right route and with lights coming down the route that competitive streak I spent 2 blogs denying I had kicks in and I start to run the final 2.5km worth of muddy fields, no one catches me. Soon I am back to Pately, a short loop of the millennium green and finish I give my number and receive my finishers Cowbell! I have my usual post finish Oh what am I doing moment and finally gather my self remember to turn off Strava on my phone. Shoes off and head in to the scout hut for home made soup and tea!

Strava Says 7:28:00 for 35 miles my official time is 7:26:12 pretty pleased with that all in. I’ve achieved a half marathon PB in to the bargain! 4:53:00 Won it and Last man in was 9:12:28 so I was comfortable in my mid-table mediocrity. Mr Fluro finished 2 minutes ahead of me ….. Bugger.

So all that was left to do was to stagger stiff legged back to the car sort out my kit and Freeze as is the tradition then go and find my B&B why are single rooms always on the second floor? The evening’s food certainly deserves a mention the stake & ale pie from the Royal Oak was immense! A piece of pie the size of a Hardback book was delivered with a mountain of chips and veg. So enormous was it that it defeated me despite having run 35 miles! Epic Pie!    

My name if Richard Martin I am a pie filled ultra runner

http://theviewsfromtheback.blogspot.co.uk/

Written by Telma Altoon

My background:
 
I have been running and competing since I was a child. This includes competitions through high school and college in the PAC 10 at
that time. I am the only Armenian ultramarathoner on record so far entering these events and completing them. The boredom of road racing has catapulted me into ultras 30 miles and longer. Grand to Grand is my first multi day experience and has left an incredible
impression on me as a first stage race particularly because of the directors, the organization and staff. I also love nature and the outdoors and love to explore the places where some of these stage races take place.
 
Grand to Grand Experience :
 
The social aspects of G2G are indescribable. You are thrown together with a bunch of strangers and instantly bond and attract while
exploring and going through the process and the grueling challenge together. I would describe the social aspect as wonderful, exciting, intimate, rewarding and surprising.
 
The emotional aspects of the race are intense. Each athlete is initially there to satisfy their own personal need and reasons as
to why they are there, however, during the process, the emotional intensity of the challenge and rewards give you completely different reasons as to why you are there. The emotional bonds formed between tent mates or other athletes that you end up spending
hours with on the road is indescribable as well.  When humans are faced with such arduous tasks, they bond for either physical survival or emotional survival.   I felt both took place in high intensity at Grand to Grand. During the process, the assistance
of any kind that you get from staff and volunteers also impacts you probably forever. Kindness and compassion seen even for a minute or two at the aid stations lasts a life time.
 
The physical aspects of the race are very difficult. The athletic challenge of each course and terrain is difficult but if trained
properly, it should be very doable. The hardest part of the physical challenge for me is the nutrition in a self-sustaining race. Having to survive on freeze dried food and having your body pushed to its limits with that limited resource was very difficult
for me but I did love the challenge of it. However, for this reason I may look for and try multi day ultras wherein some food is supplied, such as, Al Andalus Ultimate in Spain or Transrockies in Colorado. For many the physical aspect of the race makes or breaks the event especially when dealing with serious injuries. For me personally, injuries were not an issue
but for one or two small blisters.
 
The course was marked real well and thoroughly from beginning to end of all 170 miles. Although this event is a self-sustaining event
and aid stations are not stocked with food and supplies, the volunteers and their assistance at the stations with just water made up any necessity you could want or need. Each aid station was a boost and a joy to run to and through. The volunteers boosted
and raised our spirits and really pumped each athlete.
The Terrain at the grand canyon was of course breathtaking and beautiful and each sight was a postcard.
 
My Training for Grand to Grand :
 
My training consisted of the traditional ultra-marathon training. Two weekly long runs back to back, usually exceeding more than
12 miles each. Or 25-30 miler once weekly for the weekly long run. One day of speed work averaging 4-5  miles. The rest of the days averaging 4-10 miles with one day rest. Of course competitions through-out the year in training for the major event. I also
included hill repeats 4 weeks prior to the event. What I would recommend to others that I do not do, is weight training and upper body as well as core work. I believe part of the terrain required that sort of strength and those who were thicker and stronger
benefited from it as opposed to a traditional road runner like me.
 
The Equipment:
 
Overall, the equipment is crucial to survival of the self-sustaining portion of the Grand to Grand. And having the lightest and some
of the best equipment also is a benefit. Some of the equipment I personally already had from other ultras and training in the cold or being outdoors. I do recommend purchasing the items months prior and allowing comfort and use to set in with each item. I personally spent well over a $1,000 on the equipment and it served me real well.
 

I placed 15 th in women’s ranking and I believe 4 th in my age group. (have to double check the official results)
I have walked away with such an immense experience from Grand to Grand that I cannot wait to go back and either run it again and improve my
total standing and time and/or go there to assist and volunteer.

Written by Tobias Lindström - http://lindstroms.be

Full Moon Race 50M at Österlens shore in Skåne, from Haväng down to Ystad, an adventure at the beautiful shore with beaches, apple trees and nice small towns.

This summer have bin cold weather most of the time but this weekend it where a different story, the warm weather got to us big time. From almost no where we got smashed with a sledgehammer if I say my opinion. It become almost as last year at 24h nationals in Borås. How can I handle this as I like to run in colder weather and handle the heat pretty bad.

For the 100Miles runners at GAX they had a hard time under the day with 31 degrees of blasting sun without any wind to talk about. A lot of runners had to work hard to get half way mark at Haväng. For myself I had a good sitesingday in our car with aircondition and to our advantage at FMR we started the race 20.00. But me, Evelina and Liv where there in good time helping out at the aidstation for GAX, changing clothes, talking with friends and cheering runners.

We started out 20.00 for beatchrunning along the shores. I hade in mind to pace up 5:20/km at start to hold as long as I could, the shape where good and I hade a lot of running in my legs. My pack where around 5kg in the beginning of the race because all water. This race where a test for Tor des Geants with equipment as backpack, GPS, torch etc. Will the Raidlight Olmo12 work good? give blisters? How to use all small pockets? Questions like this are good to workout before the main event and 8-9hours running doesn’t happened everyday.
I tried to follow the leader but his tempo where high and I slowed down for some km to Kivik there I joined up with Martin from Malmö, we had around 100m between us, so I could wait and have a chat instead, easier to find the route that could be a bit tricky sometimes in the small villages. But still I followed my plan, to drink my bladder of 2l water before Simrishamn that where 27k into the race. The evening where perfect, I handled the heat good and my plan worked perfect. At stenenshuvud we run at one of the best beaches I have seen in Sweden, absolutely perfect. You can see this into my movie clip, golden sand, crystal water, trees are hanging over the sides, a true joy to see this place. We had some hours left before the night where falling, I like to run at night, with headlamp and all. The track where harder to find at night but still manageable with help of the GPS. After the official aidstation it where tricky and the GPS worked us thru the maze of trails. My battery both in the Petzl NAO2 and Garmin Oregon 650 started to get powerless. Guess I have to look in to it at home and play with the setups before TDG.

Most of the run it where on gravel and tarmac, I say around 60% of the race so my light xtailon didn’t work well as I thought before. With the facts I would taken my Tecnica Rush E-light instead for grip and comfort. We had a 3k section with hard work stone path we walked thru to get to one of the best parts at meadow running just before the pace up from my side to try go under 9 hours and tarmac running for 15k. I felt strong, the pack where light, gels where working good and it where slightly downhill. Paced up to 5:30 at first then closer to Ystad it become more likely 4:30 to the last 2km, where I got a small cramp and had to stop running for some time. Niels Holm a Danish runner kept going with Colette Coumans. I got almost up to them again just before the finish.

A 3rd place and 4th in total at 9h2m30s Im happy with the result and adventure. The track where stunning, good company all the time and nice arranged from the RD. I have to say thanks to Evelina as it where her Idée as a 35y present to run this race. To let my go at all adventures and supporting my running. Will also say thanks to FMR:s RD and Voluntaries without you it have bin hard to do this. For all warriors at GAX that where cheering and inspireing around the track and also there RD/voluntaries. Also a big thanks to Scantrade for Tecnica shoes and 32Gi for energy, and last to Neils Holm, Colette Coumans and Martin Carlsson for the company and long nice chats.

Written by Billy Holden - https://redultrarunner.wordpress.com

The Spartathlon journey for me started with the application in January. I had half heartedly applied as I did the year before, this year I had lost so much fittness I hadn’t run since September 2015 and had gained a lot of extra weight. Christine was pregnant after 6 cycles of complicated IVF treatment and my focus was with her and our baby as we went from week to week with growing concerns for a safe and healthy delivery. By the time the list had been drawn by the international Spartathlon committee, we were preparing to bring baby Luke into the world, 5 weeks ahead of schedule, he had been under weight since his 20 week scan and it was decided he would be safer outside where we could give him better care. Luke arrived on 24th of March but due to a few complications he spent a few extra weeks in hospital. So my Spartathlon training really begin about mid April, I was at that stage about 8 months without running, 3.5 stone over race weight, and a new dad as well so I had a bit of a tighter schedule with training and sleeping.

I always thought that even from an unfit state I could run a marathon, and although you might laugh….even from an unfit state I could run 100 miles. Granted I had run a few before and they are not as daunting to me now, my body knows what to expect and my mind knows where to go, of course the times would not be good and it would break the body up during it, but I believe it’s possible on mental strength alone…..but fittness also helps, and of course being in that place before my body would know how to get there. Two weeks into training on April 26th I turned 40, I have a bit of a tradition these past few years of running my age in miles on my birthday, in 2015 I ran 39 easy in 5:11, this year I had a big lapse in fittness and 3.5 stone extra to carry around. Christine and Luke had been back in hospital so the night before my birthday I drove home got my gear on, and took the celebration to the roads & trails…it was slow and tough but I chipped away at it and hit 40 miles in 6:42, not too bad considering the circumstances. Then back to hospital to clean nappies and vomit for the day…I guess real life does begin at 40, with the weight gain I could only base train at the start, I decided to leave any kind of speed work for the two months before Sparthlon, next up was going to be the national 24hr championships in Belfast.  I would be only after doing 8 weeks base training at that stage but I could use it as a gauge for how my fittness was progressing, and I had it booked from the previous year along with a hotel break for the family. The world championships are to be held in this venue for 2017 so it would also double as a recci for that event. I had hoped in previous years to get the qualifying time needed to gain selection to the national team but that seems so so far beyond my grasp right now, still I’d at least like to get an entry into the open race that year.

We arrive for the 24hr race and I am beeming with pride to introduce Christine and Luke to the rest of the competitors. It’s a real tight ultra community in Ireland and it had been a long time since I’d seen and chatted to other runners. My plan was to get regular physio (every 2 weeks at least) to keep my muscles right. My Physio had told me that my fittness and muscle memory had returned quiet quickly but to be careful, my body would take a while longer to catch up. So with those words in mind I decided that I’d drop out at 100 miles or if things did not feel right at any stage during the race… naturally if I was feeling good and had the chance of a pb distance I’d keep going for the 24hours…but that was very unlikely. I started with a conservative 7:30 mile pace….(the year before I started at 6:10 pace and almost went sub 3 for the marathon) ….I was still leading the field this year, still too fast but I had to run with what was comfortable and felt right, the track was concrete and I had brought some pretty light shoes to the race…I had a few concerns about how long my legs would take the pounding in what we’re almost racing flats…a lot of other runners were using hoka’s…mine were new balance zante 2’s. At the 12 hour mark I had covered 67 miles and felt a pull on my left ankle and shin, ….time to DNF, it was only a practice run but it still leaves a sour taste in your mouth. I struggle with trying to do the smart thing when it comes to training and races but Spartathlon was this years goal and it would be foolish to jeprodise that. Still not a bad run with 67 miles in the legs.

For the next week I decided not to run to let the injury heel. Lucky I stopped when I did, the physio worked twice a week over the next 3 weeks with dry needles, and heat therapy, all together it took me 3 weeks, up until mid July to resume training, I base trained again for a few weeks and then started to add the odd speed session. I ran a 40 mile ultra to test myself a month before Spartathlon and lead it for the first 32 miles eventually holding on for 2nd place. I was showing something of my former self and the 153 mile distance did not phase me now….I was ready for that, ….what did cause me some concern was the heat factor, by now I had read every race report about the Spartathlon and it was clear that  to a fella with red hair (and beard) and fair skin this was not going to suit me at all. Even on a summers day in Ireland reaching 22 degrees I’d struggle on a 20 mile run. My fellow spartathlete and former Spartathlon finisher (Anto) sent me a heat training plan used a lot for badwater. It involves jogging on the spot for 3×20 mins with an adjusted recovery times in between. The goal is to do this for an hour with 2×5 minute breaks on the final week before the race. I started this training at 4am 3 times a week, running a hard 8 miles on the road before it to work up a good sweat, On the last 10 days I did this every day, I felt it was working really well, the training in general had gone really well. The only flaw in it was the 4am starts…this is the only time I could get to do my training with a new baby and as well as double run days…. Wednesday’s had become quadruple run days finishing with a speedy track session and a soak in the tub before bed. As an ultra runner we should be getting 10.5 hours sleep for recovery (ideally) I was getting 4-5 hours at best, always aware that the next injury could come at any time, my saving grace was that I was getting regular physio and I was foam rolling religiously every night before bed.

Race week came and I did my last hard run at 4am on the Monday before my sauna session, it rained fairly heavy during this run and I got a bad feeling about it. Christine had a cold and so did Luke and some other family members. I dose’d up on plenty of Vit C and tryed to put it to the back of my mind, the next day (Tuesday) I could stay in the sauna for a full hour without a break….I felt ready and was happy with the way everything had gone in a short space of time, I even started to calculate a sub 30 hour time to push for. I flew to Athens on Wednesday night and felt a bit weak and off form, I put this down to nerves and tiredness from the flight and journey, when I arrived at the hotel it was late, I tried to get some sleep but that night I could only manage a few hours at a time, again I put it down to excitement and nerves leading up to race day. The next morning I woke with a bit of a head cold…I still felt pretty good so I thought it would pass and maybe was one of those 24 hour things. Surly fate wouldn’t be so cruel as to  inflict me with anything serious the day before Spartathlon. By 11am it was clear that this was no head cold and I was on route to the nearest pharmacy…all I could take was Vit C to try to keep my immune system topped up. As the day went on the bloody thing got worse and by night time I couldn’t breath through my nose, so every time I tryed to lie down and sleep I would start gagging on my siliva…this ment absolutely no sleep on Thursday night as I had to be up at 3:30 to prepare for the race. I had thought about pulling out of the race the next morning but this was my A race for the year. some runners that were trying to reassure me told me not to worry that I wouldn’t be long sweating it Out of me once I started running. I remember the walk from the lobby of the hotel feeling so weak I didn’t think I’d make it onto the bus, how was I going to even run a mile let alone 153 of them. I have to say the setting at the Acropolis is pretty special and that did give me a bit of a lift…along with the usual rush of adrenaline. Slow down was the advice for this race, from people who knew my eagerness to speed off and people that knew the Spartathlon race well. It seemed that would have been my problem before flying out to Athens, now I had the opposite problem, the race started and far from my 6 min mile starts I was struggling to stay at 10 minute miles, I mean the effort was far too hard, it turned into an uphill gradual incline through the streets of Athens and I was running with Anto a fellow Irish runner (also my room mate) and Rolando living in Dublin but running for the philipines, once the route levelled out I went ahead a bit, I was eager to get to the marathon stage CP 11, and Corenth CP 22, I started to feel a bit better and instead of the effort the start of the race was demanding, I started running on auto pilot, I seen Rob Pinnington from the GB team and was delighted, I had followed Robs reports on previous years and had chatted to him and learned a lot from the British Spartathlon group page. I would have been very happy to run this race with Rob and it would have been a race to remember, but he stopped for a wee and I decided to keep the momentum going thinking Rob would catch up soon enough. After a while I got chatting to another another fella from the British team Duncan, we had a right good chat about training and the few miles flew by, again we got separated at the checkpoints, I had my tailwind pre mixed at the checkpoints so it was a case of just grab and go for many of the early ones. I also had a sponge soaked in water which for luck and quite by accident stayed tight inside the back neck of my t-shirt. The ice in my hat was not working well giving me brain freeze, it took a while to figure out that I worked better in a zip-lock bag.

I went through the marathon in about 4:05 I think, I know the heat was really starting to bother me at that stage but my blocked nose was gone and I seemed to have sweated any other symptoms of flu out of my body, the pressure was on to get to Corenth the 50 mile stage. Just before reaching it I ran with Vilnis Plete for a while, a Latvian guy living in Ireland, he was on a different level of fittness and soon pulled ahead, shortly before Corenth Anto and Rolando caught up with me,  they had a run walk strategie going and it was working really well, they tryed to get me to stop and walk for a break but I was overheating and I thought if I stopped running that would be it. I was almost at the 50 miles and I was at least going to run to there. I made it to CP 22 (Corenth) 50 miles in a little over 9 hours I think, I spent a few minutes trying to shade from the sun and just resting. After about 15 minutes I started off again for the next checkpoint with Anto & Rolando, and joined their walk run strategie….well when I say walk run….I’m the slowest walker ever and would trail behind the boys on the walk, so I’d mostly trot along until the run would start again. I think we hit the 100k point in 11:30 and I have to say this race is a lot easier with company, we didn’t hang about at checkpoints, the good thing about being in a group is that someone is always pushing off and taking the lead, if you hung around too long at a checkpoint you were on your own. The pervious day I had been advised by Anto to leave my head torch at CP 29 but I opted instead for CP 34 obviously I wasn’t making the ground I thought I would at this stage, and he had no problem in saying I told ya so when it got dark, good Job I was in a group. Rolando had a crew of 4 philipineo guys and they had the guys sorted at the designated checkpoints like a formula one pit stop crew. They tryed their best to feed me solid food but I was on tailwind and nutrition wise I was going good. I don’t think they grasped the terrible stomach issues I’d have as the tryed to force feed me pizza and soup. It was great to see the back of that scorching sun, however the night section would bring back my cold symptoms with a vengeance and I lagged behind again. I would be on my own for the rest of the night and I had about an hour of a cushion ahead of the cut offs, I reached the mountain base in 21 hours and wasted no time in pressing on up the base to CP:48 I fell scrambling up the mountain as the rocky path was quite slippy….but only damaged my pride thankfully. Coming down I wasted a lot of time. Afraid to put in any kind of an effort incase I twisted an ankle or fell. The next checkpoint I remember sitting for a while and wasting time without realising it. That’s where a group would have helped or reminded me to push on, the next CP I stopped again, this time I could smell deep heat, I didn’t even need it but I was obsessed with finding who had it I thought that maybe putting it on my legs would be a good idea in the hope it would keep me warm and awake….seemed logical at the time, I was cold and shivery and  I’m still not sure if it was flu related or not. Many of the hills could not be run and being a slow walker I must have bleed a lot of time getting up them. The morning got very cold and a foggy mist was starting to form, and then without warning at about 9:30 or 10am extremely hot dead heat. I had about a 40 minute cushion on the cut offs at that stage, I knew the longer I was out in today’s strong sun the more of a danger I was in. I started to notice from CP: 61 onwards that I was loosing my cushion by 5 minutes per checkpoint, everybody was walking the hills because the heat was just draining energy from everyone, I passed some strong runners from earlier on and they were in a pretty bad state. I needed to get to Cp 69….I was told it was all downhill into Sparta from there and that the cut offs would be more generous. I noticed the cushion going from 35…to 30…to 25….to 20 minutes, and that’s when I panicked. I had to run all the hills to make it, or at least that’s what I told myself,  so I ran up the hills in a pretty fragile state…burning up from the sun I was just trying to get to CP 69 and hold my cushion (20 minutes).

On reaching CP 67 I felt ok…a quick dunk of my hat and sponge and a fresh bottle of tailwind and I was off about 20 meters past the checkpoint my eyesight went funny and I got dizzy. I leaned against a wall and put my head down to rest for a moment…..the next memory I had was a few people slapping my face and eventually carrying me back to the checkpoint. I’d blacked out or maybe fallen asleep I’m not quite sure…It was after all 3 days since I had slept and the sleep before that wasn’t much either. They made me eat a chocolate bar and take a caffine gel. It was like someone gave me a shot of herroin, it brought me back to life really quickly.  Anto had caught up again and came over to urge me to get going…I said that’s my buddy can I get going, they agreed but told me to take it easy….and in the same breath said to hurry that I only had about 30 minutes to the next checkpoint….-5 minutes of a cushion. So off I went both trying to take it easy and hurrying up!!! Not an easy thing to get your head round even now as I write this, I kept repeating in my head “hurry up….take your time” like a split personality I debated which to do as I ran down the road. I ran when I could and I walked when I needed to cool off a bit and I just about made it to CP 68…I think I was a bit out on the time but they agreed to let me through, the car from the CP I collapsed at was passing by frequently and it was clear they were keeping an eye on me. I must have made it more than half way to CP 69 but whatever energy stores I had left I used up running the hills, I knew I had gone over the checkpoint cut off by a few minutes, and for about a mile before that I had been burning up in the heat again, and feeling dizzy, it was 3:20pm on a open motorway I’d say I wasn’t too far away from blacking out again…I heard a few conflicting reports, but Rolandos crew told me that the heat on the 2nd day got up to 37 degrees with the humidity about 85-90%….it felt a lot bloody hotter. so when the car came to collect me and an official got out to tell me “no more race” I couldn’t really argue with him. Typically just around the corner was CP:69. I then had to ride in a death bus all to myself into Sparta, I immediately came around once I was out of the heat and I was recovering by the minute, which only added to the regret of not making it around the corner to get more ice and cool down,  the rest of the race was all downhill, I could have jogged down it even in the heat I still had over 3hrs 30 minutes….surely I could have made the rest of it if I had made it around the corner to CP: 69 just a few minutes earlier. The heat was a Major factor in this race, I’m not designed for it and I definitly am not designed for a second day in strong sun like that. The flu virus I had didn’t help, it drained me and made it a real battle from the start. It would have been a smarter move not to start but for most runners on the eve of spartathon that would have been even harder than the actual race. The lack of sleep slowed me down I was nodding off walking up to the base of the mountain and it was a full 3 days and 2 nights without any sleep. Did I rest too long at checkpoints when I was running alone? Maybe, I could have wasted a lot of time in stupid places… How did it take me 10 hours to run the last 40 miles from the mountain base….how did it take me 21 hours to get to the first 100 miles to the mountain base….a lot of haunting questions are going through my head even a week after the race. A lot of support before and after the race and a few saying that I’ll have to come back again next year. That’s going to be tough with a young family…a bit early to say for sure. I think if I did I’d have to limit my time in the sun on the 2 nd day and just push to get home early. I’d need at least a sub 20hr 100 miles, and a big push to close out more during the night.

Anto got pulled out shortly after me “for directing traffic on a busy motorway” as he says himself. Rolando finished and had to spend the night in hospital for dehydration, he told me he was getting heavy nose bleeds for the last 10 miles, but kept going and hid it from his crew, he’s the first Philippineo to compete in and finish the Spartathlon. Another Irish guy also had to pull out Samuel Kilpatrick, I hadn’t seen him until later at the awards ceremony. Bridget Brady also finished I seen her on the last few checkpoints as I was driving into Sparta. Keith White also done very well by running a 28 hour finish, as you’d expect from the Irish 100k record holder, and Eoin Keith did what he does best and finished in a very respectable 8th place in I think 25hours something.

So how do you move on…and get over such an epic fail! …well before I left Greece I had already signed up for two more races, next on my list is the 24hr race in Barcelona. It’s more my thing….if I can get a bit more training in, and the weather should be perfect for a red haired ultra runner…..this time I’ve signed up a crew (Christine and Luke) to cheer me on.

Lessons learned, don’t jeprodise your sleep and recovery ahead of training…it may leave you vulnerable before a race. Don’t race when not 100% fit and ready, you will increase you chances of a DNF, ….although being there, for me it was worth the risk so I’d probably have have a go again.

Maybe next year I’ll return to right the wrong….and get redemption.