June 27, 2016
Round round get around
I get around, yeah get around round round, I get around. (beach boys)
And so the tale begins!!
(My alarm struck it dulcet tones at 07:30. Now those triathletes and spectathletes amongst you will know this is a very VERY civilised time to be awoken on race morning. For long distance racing the alarm time is usually more like 4am. Followed by the hideous feeling of trying to shove your choice of a large amount of breakfast down your throat when your body is just not ready for it. 07:30 was just pure slovenly luxury. The alarm was followed up with a nice big brekkie of quinoa and oat porridge with loads of fruit and nuts plus a Marmite and peanut butter wrap and a banana. A big mug of strong black coffee. Boom I was ready to go – (Yep toilet break number 1 of the weekend). Now I was ready to go.
Congregating down at the lake, solid support crew part 1 of Laura and Troy in tow, meeting some of the guys I would be spending the next couple days with. There was definitely some tension in the air but I was really relaxed and excited about the journey ahead. Harvey showed up of course but just happened to be wearing his continuous Quin (5 Iron Distances) finishers t shirt from last year rubbing my nose in the fact that I was only doing a double. But be gave me some words of advice and told me be would be spending the next several hours supporting me a teasing me with nice cold beer.
A short pre swim briefing from Dan then we stepped into the small pond / lake of Avon Tyrrell youth activity centre. There was 16 athletes attempting the continuous double Ironman distance triathlon and a small handful of guys doing the 3-2-1 swim. After about 3 minutes warm up (not much point in doing too much I am going to be in here for a fair while) Dan called us to the start line. There was certainly no argy bargy on the start line like usual, a nice countdown from 10 by Dan and the support crews. 3 2 1 GO. This was it. The culmination of 30 weeks of training, Enduroman continuous double was GO GO GO. Ahead of me 26 anti clockwise laps to make a 7.6km total.
Quickly settling in to a nice steady rhythm. Every lap passing through the timing channel rolling on to my side and shouting my number for the lap counters. It didn’t take too long before I lost count of how many I had completed. A couple of stops to smile at my crew and chug down some drink and a bit of baby food. I went through the counting funnel and asked how many laps I had done and I was at 20. In my head I thought maybe 18 so this was great. The lake being quite shallow made it quite silty. Along the back of the lake I could actually grab handfuls of the lake bed. The next thing I knew Dan was calling me into the Jetty and helping me out of the water. The swim was complete. A quick photo with Dan on the swim exit and I was taking A leisurely stroll back to the campervan to get changed ready for the bike. Whilst walking with Troy and Laura he completely shocked me by telling me I was first out of the water. I had no idea At all. 7.6km swim 1h 57m.
This picture is the result of the silt in the water. Later nicknamed Manscara.
A nice leisurely transition 1 with A drink and some food. Making sure that I was 100% comfortable I my Take3 skinsuit. (every single watt saved is a blessing over 360km) A good slathering of butt butter on the old undercarriage and it was time to go and mount my choice of transport for the next few hours. Well until the early hours of Sunday morning in reality! Ahead of me was 20 laps of 11.6 miles around a stunning part of the New Forest.
I adorned my one off custom airbrushed Giro Air Attack helmet, a present from Laura and a tribute to my mum and it was time for the off. Tom from Image Design Custom LTD did just an amazing job on the lid. The script giving me a stark reminder of why I was here, and to later draw some inspiration as things got tougher.
I started out just spinning the legs in an easy gear at a nice high cadence. Trying to stretch out my back a bit as it was quite tight from the countless single direction tight turns in the lake. Just a nice light breeze and a perfect temperature for a bike ride.
The laps were being ticked of at quite a Nice rate. I wasn’t getting tired. Making sure that I was drinking well and eating every couple of laps. This is where a great crew comes into play. I could call out at the turning circle what I would like at the end of the next lap and it would be ready and waiting. Like an F1 pit stop. Drink bottle refilled, leg rub down, avocado and tomato wrap, undercarriage check back out on the bike.
Every lap I would see John the eventual double winner. As I went out on a lap he was heading in. Literally within 20 metres of the same spot for the first 6 hours or so. I was doing quite a good job of holding the lead, of course this wasn’t why I was here I didn’t really care where I was in the ranking but it was pretty cool to spend some time at the front.
I am not gonna lie I was struggling for about 5 hours with pain I my shoulders and arms as they we’re so pumped up from the swim and took an age to relax. This triggered the first dose of ibuprofen. It worked a treat.
It was now afternoon, we are talking Saturday afternoon in Burley in the New Forest. This meant riding sometimes at 30mph all the while looking out for; horses, cows, cider fueled pedestrians, dogs, Duke of Edinburgh award scheme students, wobbly cyclists and the ever present highly unpredictable pensioners with their faces shoved in ice cream cones. It did make for great people watching to distract from the job at hand.
During the afternoon Kyja and Mark turned up and they made an awesome addition to my support crew, I have raced a number of enduro mountain bike races with Mark in the past so he has a good understanding of my mentality when I get tired and hungry.
I started riding at about 11:30 by about 17:30 I was heading towards 10 laps complete and Edds wise words from the race briefing were on my mind. “we advise you to stop and have some hot food at some point during the event” I was pretty hungry so at Lap 9 turnaround I asked my crew if I could take a break at the end of the Lap. They prepped a hot and spicy thai noodle pot and a nut butter and Marmite wrap,a strong black coffee (that tasted gooood) plus a full change of bike clothes for me.
So it was into another bespoke piece of kit. My black dog racing bike Jersey. Another amazing present courtesy of Troy and Mike (both also lovers of black labs) another good lube of the bits between my legs and I was ready for the off again. Halfway done and I felt great. Have been smiling all day.
Another 2 laps down and it was time for me to pull in to the turning circle and adorn my bike with the lights that are required to ride around the VERY dark new forest in the middle of the night!! It is also mandatory kit to wear a high visibility vest, the kind you see builders wearing on construction sites. You will be glad to hear that I spent an intimate hour or so with my sewing machine in the lead up to the event trying to make my vest as tight and as aero as possible, saving every bit of of effort that I could!! I also used this time to grab another coffee and a bite to eat.
Now cycling through the Forest at night is a totally different prospect but I had enough loops under my belt to remember where the holes and corners and other danger spots would be. The animals on the other hand are completely unpredictable!! Luckily I avoided any situations involving animals. There is a story amongst Enduroman that a guy was hit by an owl and it ended his day with a trip to hospital!!
Lap 17 completed, I was closing in on the finish of the bike leg only 2 laps to go!!! For some reason I had convinced myself that the bike leg was 19 loops. A quick check with the event team confirmed my fears that it was actually 20. So I still had 3 to go. Aaaagghhhhh. It Is amazing how tough mentally 18.5 extra kilometres feel when you have been riding for 14 hours. Cue Bomber, he straightened me out, pointing out that everyone had to do 20 not just me and that I needed to MTFU and just get it done. I am certain that lap 18 was my slowest lap and one of the lowest points mentally of my race. But soon enough 18 and 19 were done and dusted and I was out for my last lap. One of my rear lights had failed, my flashing front light was showing red (nearly empty) and 5 minutes into the last lap my Garmin flashed up the dreaded “low battery warning” nooooooo don’t you bloody dare die on me Now. I wanted a record of this plus as the saying goes “if it ain’t on Strava it never happened”. So the next 35 minutes were spent sweet talking my Garmin. We both made it to the transition area still alive. I made sure to reset it and turned off the power. The bike was complete. It was for the most part really enjoyable. The small hills seemed to get steeper with each lap but I got through. Quick self check Unchaffed, uninjured, hadn’t pooed or peed myself, nothing had broken, I hadn’t seized, stomach was good and I was still smiling.
Bike leg stats: Distance 375.2km. Total Time 14h 53m. Moving Time 12h 46m. Average speed 30kph. Total Ascent 3500 metres. 9500 calories burned.
Now it was time to take heed of the same advice that I had been given on 2 separate occasions by 2 very experienced Enduromen. Harvey and Patrick had both advised to get off the bike and go and get something to eat and drink and then take a shower before getting ready for the run. I took this advice, it was such a huge boost both mentally and bodily. Time to get some run kit on, tried and tested Gore shorts with liner, thin Merino long sleeve top. a liberal application of Lanacane anti chafe gel to my feet (thanks for the loaded Handy Andy toolbox Mike and Heather). Then adorn a pair of Flo green compression socks and my tried and very well tested Hoka One One Huaka run shoes. Like little sofa’s for the feet. Another very generous helping of botty butter to the equipment downstairs and I was ready to go.
A steady walk back up to the transition area, no need to run, I had plenty of that to come. It was still completely dark as it was only about 02:30 so I had my Cree headtorch on low setting which is plenty bright enough to light up wand see where I am putting my feet. Arriving in transition I was sure to walk over the timing mat so that the electronic timing chip around my ankle could register that I had started my run. I needed to run over this timing mat 48 more times for the race to be completed.
Lap one I took nice and easy, scoping out the course, where the big roots were, where the big rocks and potholes are, what bits are really runnable and what parts really did require walking. This is by no means and easy course to run. Lots of big tree roots that really want to hug you, some really sharp inclines that will sap every bit of remaining energy from you.If it was easy everyone would do it!! I was going to try and target moving pace at about 8 minutes per Kilometer. This would obviously rise as I took stops for food and toilet breaks etc.This should see me finished in around 13 hours. It became apparent almost instantly that I was too hot, even though it was dark and very very early. I called my crew to grab my tee shirt for me. A quick change and it made the world of difference. I carried on my merry way.
Part of the run course, I don’t have any pictures that justify just how many roots and slopes were on the course. But it was a pleasure to be able to run in such a stunning location.
The laps ticked by rather nicely in the early hours of the morning. Each time I passed my crew I grabbed a small drink, they were all wrapped up in whatever clothes they had with hats and hoods to try and keep the midges and bugs at bay. I have never seen anything like it in this country, swarms of the things just enveloping them, funnily enough they were not bugging me at all, I guess I was smelling pretty good by this point of proceedings!!
In my own little world running along, it was really cool watching all of the other headtorches making progress through the woodland in the dark. Some people find it eerie but I found it really relaxing. Then I could detect a really faint background commotion that just kept getting louder then I realised that the building crescendo was the dawn chorus of birds and animals waking up to go about their day. It was fantastic to be out there at this time amongst it. Within 15 minutes it was light enough to remove the head torch, give it back to my crew and run in the dawn light. They were happy as the bugs started to disappear. I was at around the half marathon stage and a feeling of overwhelming tiredness started to catch up with me, I tried some food and some drink but my stomach was a little queasy, this was purely from sleep deprivation. The plan was to try and do the whole event without sleeping. The problem was that I was actually falling asleep whilst running. This was a pretty dangerous situation to be in considering the nature of the course, a twisted ankle could prevent me from finishing this challenge I was not going tolet that happen, not a chance. I will never think about sleep deprivation in the same way again, it does very funny things to mind and body. It mwas time, My crew were amazing, next lap round the bed in Bess the camper van was down and ready, I pretty much fell in through the door and dropped on to the bed. I decided to remian clothed, as my feet were really comfy and showing no signs of hot spots (the early signs of blisters) I was not going to to take the risk of having to put them back on and being uncomfortabe. If it aint broke dont try an fix it!!
40 minutes I told the crew no more, this was not what you could class as sleep, more of a meditative state with really twitchy legs. There was gentle knock at the door of the van, 40 minutes was gone, I felt absolutely awful, really not good, stomcahfelt sickly, body felt drained, mind was not happy, but i had to get back to the job at hand. I climbed out of the van, was handed a jar of Quinoa, nut, and fruit porridge with a massive spoon of honey and Almond milk, a nice big strong coffee. Sat outside in the sunshine eating and drinking I could feel myself slowly coming back in to the realms of normality, there was a momentary interuption of Troy letting of the smelliest ale fart I have smelt, it actually made me retch and nearly lose my breakfast, (this really makes me laugh now as I would have been as proud as he was, but at the time it didnt seem quite as amusing). My body slowly absored the sunrays, I started to find that smile again, lifted some more by Kyja pressing her face against the net of her camervan looking mighty pretty and calling Morning. This was it, could it be the last push?
I was off, as I passed through the timing area I let the vent crew that I had been for a nap but was now back on course. The sun was now really rising in the sky and the temperature was getting up, I am not a fan of running in really hot weather as I really struggle to keep my heart rate down. But I guess everyone was in the same boat. My target was to get this race finished in the cut off time of 41 hours. I would like to get it done in 35. I knew I would be good from the bike then I would lose positions through the run, this has historically my weakest triathlon discipline. It was time to don my trusty Abingdon and Vale Triathlon club wifebeater vest. This would help the attempt at keeping the temperature down.
the next half marathon ticked by quite nicely, I was starting to hurt, old rugby injuries taking their toll, knees with very reduced cartilage, ankle reconstruction etc, I was now on a regular dose of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, it was helping hugely. mid morning I was heading past the lake mind elsewhere just getting the metres done and my toe caught one of those sneaky little roots that had been laying in wait to take me and all the other runners out. I tried to hold it and things happened in slow motion, the realisation that it would hurt more to try and stay up so I clattered to the floor. Before I knew it A member of Enduroman and Laura were right next to me checking me over. A quick self check everything was moving okay, arm was sore, hip was sore but nothing to prevent the onward journey. The guys said it was actually really funny as all they saw was a pair of Florescent green socks go vertical in the air!!
When I started running again and I became aware of the other runners on course, I started noticing how many of then were carrying grazes and marks on there kit, I was glad in the knowledge that I was not the only one that had taken a tumble. I don’t think anyone fell and hurt themselves enough to stop them, I was glad of that.
I was getting the loops done, whether it be walking, hobbling or and attempt at a run. The morning progressed and the sun was getting hotter and hotter. My crew had moved down next to the lake area so they could have a bit of shade. Each lap turned into a bit of a formula 1 style pit stop. I would walk / Run / Crawl into the pit area, sit in a chair or lay on a towel, a wet towel would be placed on my head, ice packs placed on my body in an attempt to cool me down and get my heart rate down. The I would be slathered with sun cream to stop me burning. I would eat and drink. Messages from friends and family would be read out to me, some funny, some motivational, some downright abusive to me but I love that sort of thing (ie Run fat boy run, thanks Elineor). There was also a gift box from Si and Lou, filled with all sorts of little things that they know I would like and that would give me a lift. A small bottle of whiskey (that would have to wait) a packet of MTFU pills (a regular of Coastal rail runs with Si) and an amazing card that every time you opened it Lou’s voice would spring forward in her dulcet tones “C’MON ANDY” it was like she was there. These were the sort of things that helped me get through the day.
Troy walked a coupe of laps with me, using his ability to make anything seem simple. So you have 10 laps left, 2 to go then you are through the 40 done mark, that leaves 8, the last loop is in reverse so that doesn’t count, laps 46 and 47 wont matter as you will be so close to the finish and on a massive high, so really you only have have 5 laps to do, that’s only 5 and half miles!! I have to admire his optimism, all the while I was walking next to him with a dripping purple towel wrapped around my head and an ice pack tucked under each arm and one stuffed down my shorts, I looked pretty.. but these are the loops that I will remember.
Into the late afternoon and Bomber walked part of a lap with me, he asked if I needed anything, I joked that an ice lolly would go down a treat. He disappeared, then 5 minutes later popped up at a random point of the run loop brandishing a Fruit Pastilles ice lolly. Wow, I can safely say that it was THE best ice lolly that I have ever tasted, it is amazing how some frozen fruit juice, sugar and water can pick you up. I still had a good couple of hours to go and Bomber and Kyja had to make a move to go and relieve parents from child sitting duty. A solid hug from them both (a brave move on there part as I was not smelling too amazing) a good chuck on the shoulder and just that all knowing look from Bomber and they were off, what an amazing addition to the team they were.
I started to break down the remaining laps in the mental fashion that Troy spoke about. Runners were now starting to get on to there last laps. So they were coming towards me High fives and hand shakes and big smiles, it is amazing the energy that you can glean from these finishers, a really good pick up. I would be there soon.
I got chatting to a chap who was doing the 50 or the 100 mile Ultra run, I cant remember which as my mind was a bit spangled at this point. but he had 5 laps to go. He stopped in the transition area, and had 2 Ibuprofen washed down with a full can of draught Guinness, I then saw him 1 lap later and he was running like Usain Bolt. Amazing. You soon learn in ultra distance the sort of little quirks that will get you to the finish line. I believe he actually broke the course record for the final reverse lap, it was a full on sprint for him. Impressive stuff.
I took a 5 minute stop and Laura gave my butt and hamstrings a quick massage that would loosen me up nicely for my last few laps
This was it I was on the closing few laps, I had already seen Jon come by in the opposite direction to take the win, the Paul came through in second spot an absolute running machine, I don’t think I saw him walk one step!! Next up was Mike who slid by me earlier in the day looking comfy with his running. But that was it, I was expecting to drop like a stone through the run but I was holding 4th. As I have said this did not matter to me at all but was actually an added surprise as typically I would lose lots of time on the run section. I then caught up with Jeremy, a really nice guy. He was a lap or 2 behind me, carrying an ankle injury, in pain but dosed up with some strong pain killers and heavily strapped, he was getting it done. For the whole race for some reason every time we saw each other we had a chat and I was calling him Paul, he was too much of gentleman to put me right. So again Jeremy, I apologise for that. Great job out there. I am sure our paths will cross again.
It was here, I descended the steep hill down into the transition circle, it was time for me to turn around an take my final lap in reverse. I had already told Laura and Troy that they were going to walk this last lap with me. They joined me part way around the lap which felt very strange doing it the opposite way round. I really enjoyed the high fives and handshakes of guys that were still out there. Some of these guys were going to get it finished. Others were not going to make the cut off of 02:00hrs. I chatted to one guy who knew he would not make the cut off so would appear on the records as a DNF (did not finish), this did not deter him he would continue through the 41 hour cut off time and eventually get it done by 08:00hrs, hats off that is determination, just inspiring.
We took in all the happiness of the occasion during this last lap. The guys took a short cut to the finish line I ran on and then came down the hill into the finish area, a massive smile on my face, and across the finish line, elated to have completed the Double. I was greeted by Nick who was crewing for the Enduroman team, he had my medal and much sort after Enduroman finishers t-shirt. His smile each lap every time through the turn circle was a big help through the weekend. The whole Event crew were amazing. I think he felt proud to be able to hand out the finishers medal and shirt to each and every one of the finishers, it really was a welcome to the family moment and I felt proud to become part of these crazy people.
Run Stats: 87.2km, 15h 45 min, 1622 metres of ascent, 10,500 calories
I was on a big high, standing tall we walked back to van, I managed a sip of beer, had a chat on the phone to Donncha in Ireland, took off my shoes, a double marathon resulted in one tiny blister on the ball of my foot, great result.I hobbled off to the shower to freshen up. Stepped in and got soaped up, then it hit me,just drained, completely, nearly fainting I had to get out of the shower to lay down, bit of a problem, unisex shower block, naked covered in soap, didn’t mater, didn’t care, I stepped out in all mother nature gave me but a bit soapy and ran over to my robey and laid on the bench, then got hamstring cramp so had to get back up. I would loved to have seen it on film, would have made some good comedy I think!! I managed to get clean and make my way back to the van. I needed food and sleep. Off to the pub to get food, we eventually found a pub still serving food, a massive veggie curry and salad, I couldn’t even entertain the beer that Troy got me,not even a toast or sip, I fell asleep on the table waiting for my food, apparently I looked like death. I would have liked to have weighed myself pre and post race. I estimate that I lost close to a stone in weight over the race duration. Garmin estimated 20, 000 calories just for the bike and run. After the food we got into the camper and headed back to Avon Tyrrell I was asleep withing 2 minutes, arriving back at the site, Laura put the bed down, I got in and was snoring within a minute, this was 9pm. I eventually awoke again at 09:00. A solid 12 hours of sleep. I needed that, I was feeling surprisingly fresh, a little bit of chaffing between the thighs and some muscle soreness but pretty damn good.
I had completed a Continuous Double Ironman in 34hours and 11 minutes, with 40 minutes of fleeting sleep. Part one of this summer challenges complete, time to enjoy my week off with Troy and Laura, earned by all.
Now you may think that I have not thanked all my supporters or crew too much yet, fear not you will all actually get a blog very soon dedicated purely to you all and how you contributed to this achievement. You have not been forgotten.
This is not the end either, remember I still have Race to the Stones to do on the 16th of July, a 100km Ultra Run along the Ridgeway.
Please remember the reason why I was out there. It has all been for 2 amazing charities. The balance is currently at £4000 after pledging to raise £1500 I am astounded at your generosity. There is still time to boost this figure, I still have a massive challenge ahead of me. Here are the all important details:
Sobell House – text DOUB73 & £ amount to 70070
Alzheimers Society – text DOUB74 & £ amount to 70070
See you here again soon.