Scotland, land of Haggis, mountains and cold weather (http://www.mydestination.com/users/mrcastro/bbb#tab) and the Perth 50k race and a 100k race that would host the Anglo-Celtic Plate this year. It was also going to be the setting for the Team GB 24 World Champs strategy meeting and a chance for a couple of us to prove fitness.
I have the joy of flying up, after bussing it up to Scotland last time, and I get to Perth and bump into Dave Mitchinson at the train station, who’s running the 100k for England and has never gone over 50k before. Fair play, I thought, although he didn’t mention his 2:18 marathon that led to this selection, but more about Dave later.
Meeting up with the rest of the team was fantastic, not only did we have familiar faces like Commonwealth Champ John Pares, Grand Union Canal Race monster Paddy Robbins, Bislet 24hr winner and Hezbollah Mountain Biker Steve Holyoak and Barcelona 24hr chum Matt Moroz, but there was also our medal winning and record breaking women’s team! Emily Gelder, Sharon Law, Debbie Consani-Martin and Karen Hathaway are a great bunch and have countless Uk Champs, Grand Union Canal, 100 mile and 24 hr wins between them.
|What a crew! Paddy Robbins, Karen Hathaway and Guy Van Herp.|
Everyone was up for a laugh as well, something that is vital in 24hr racing and so it was off to the pub we went after dinner, except for John and Emily who were racing 100k in the ACP the next day for Wales, us 50k and non runners went for some fine karaoke in one of Perth’s lovely drinking establishments before I returned to my celebrity hotel room!
|Fingers crossed WADA don’t raid Matt and I’s room, god knows what they might find?|
Now for the 50k the next day, a nice 10:00a.m. start where we joined the 100k runners who had started at 7. I bet they loved us, starting fresh and running less distance! Dan Doherty, the Irish team on his own and the English cohort of speedy marathon chaps were at the front and all pacing for a sub 7 finish for the 100k. Hopefully I could tag along with Dan and he could pace me to my desired sub 3.30 finish, the target I was beginning to regret blurting out, especially now a sugar based bet had been placed with Dave Urwin.
So off I went, aiming for 10 minute laps of the 2.38km loop, 50k was 21 loops and the maths worked out nicely for me. Any more complicated and I wouldn’t have had a clue and just been running aimlessly? So off I plodded, along side the running Scottish Doctor Andy Murray, a chap who run to the Sahara before and has done some other interesting things. Matt Moroz was also charging round in his huge Hoka shoes and carrying a wee injury from his Atacama shenanigans, but he just wanted a wee jolly and to test his knee.
It was all going nicely until I finished one lap and saw Dave Mitchinson hunched over past the checkpoint. He insisted he was calling it a day but I said “fuck that” and irritatingly made him jog with me for a couple of laps, jabbering on and trying to get him going. It was post 50k and new ground for him but low points and pain are just part of ultra running, he was going to have to get on with it. I left him plodding by, not confident he was going to last much longer but he kept going, 70, 80k and still plodding round.
My pace had dropped a little but I was only about 2.30 outside of my target pace at halfway and feeling strong, hopefully I’d be able to push it and see what happens. I kept getting my 10 minute laps and taking 10 seconds or so a lap as I wasn’t fussed about position, just my own race.
It was also a chance for me to get a sub 3 hour marathon and I’ve been wanting to kick that monkey off my back for a while now. I got round to my 17th lap and I was convinced that was the one, jogged through the marathon mark in 2.48 or so and then darted into the toilets to “deal with stomach issues”. I strolled out again and was trotting round when someone told me it was this lap that I went through 26.2 miles. SHIT! I looked at my watch, 2:58, I best get a jog on! I sprinted round to the marathon mark, would I miss out because I had gone for a sit down? As reckless as Paul Harding’s Bob Graham attempt? Time alone will tell…
I got round to see our GB Coach Richard Brown standing at the mark and he informed me it was about 2.58 or 2.59 on the race clock when I got there. Phew! That would have been embarrassing! New marathons PB under my belt, I now had to deal with a 50k race! Only 3 more laps and I’d be home. I went through lap 18 in about 3:02:30, I’d need to post a couple of speedier laps now.
It is at this stage of the race that you feel like you’re running at Usain Bolt pace but are in fact crawling like Colin the Caterpillar (who had in fact helped me get this far) so I got round the next lap in 9.30 and had to do the final two laps under 19 minutes. More than doable but I’d have to get motoring!
Off with went and I think I was in fifth or sixth place, but all of a sudden runners who had left me at the start were coming into view. Tidy, just the motivation I needed, hunting them down on my penultimate lap and I had 10 minute to finish the race. I was feeling the pain now but I knew I could push it, couldn’t I?
The final stretch was about 800 metres in a straight line and I started my final push, I wanted to sprint across the line as usual and sneak under 3.30. The clock came onto view and I could easily see the 3:, then the 3:2 came into view? What was the next bloody number? 3.29! Quick, get a move on you tart! Faster, faster, I don’t care that it hurts, it will all be over in less than a minute, one way or another.
I fly across the line (read: stumble) and ask the time? Sub 3.30? I’m third? Wonderful news, but did I do it? “Yes, yes, you were fine with 30 seconds to spare” Haha! Even better news. In the words of the great Hannibal (not the elephant chap, the A-Team guy) ” I love it when a plan comes together”.
|A massage frenzy for Dan Doherty!|
|Craig Holgate grasping the UK Champs|
Now to cheer on the others still out there, Dan Doherty is still out in front of the 100k and every chasing looks tired… But so does Dan. The main challenger turns out to be Craig Holgate, Thames Path 100 winner last year and a strong finisher but Dan holds strong. He was still unhappy not to go sub 7 but I wouldn’t bet against him doing it in the European Championships in 4 weeks time, the guy is a machine.
Emily Gelder makes it look easy for a 4th consecutive victory in the ACP for Wales with a solid performance and a good sign for Steenbergen in May. Isobel Knox wins the award for the runner who looks most unhappy to be in Perth, but comes through with a strong finish as usual but admitted she had a bad day at the office. I one day hope to see Issy smile at a race but I don’t think I know a joke good enough. A well paced effort from Helen James for England as well, steady and disciplined throughout.
Dave Mitchinson made to the finish with an epic performance, considering he was ready to drop at 50k and really had to grit it out. Definitely one to watch over 100k I reckon, capable of well under 7 hours. Congrats to Craig for winning the UK championships with a large PB.
Now a wee flight back to London and a stroll home to Box Hill before I get to work tomorrow and go run on the NDW again. The most brutal part of the weekend was the post match massage, administered by a lovely pair of sadists who decided I hadn’t experienced enough pain in the race. They were probably right. Maybe they knew about the guys at Viking Way and Barkley?