The journey to get to the start line for this race - and the race itself - were both significant challenges in their own right. Anybody who has known me a long while will know just what a roller coaster my life has been over the last few years:
- 2008: Multiple Award winning coach, 6th in Double Enduroman UK
- 2009: Double knee operation, lost my brother in a car accident, lost motivation
- 2010: Completed GUCR 145m race in memory of my brother - then lost motivation and withdrew from Triple Enduroman
- 2011: Withdrew from the GUCR at 75m with bad cramp, then tore my hamstring, Double Enduroman UK cancelled
I had been extremely luck to be given a free place for the Double Enduroman UK 2011 by Steve Haywood and Eddie Ette of Enduroman, a fantastic gesture to help with my charity fundraising. So when Steve rang me in July 2011 to tell me that that the race had to be cancelled due to the school that was the race HQ deciding that the race damaged the playing field too much, he offered me a place in this race (7 months later) instead.
How could I resist?
Sun, sea, sand and se..er, er, er...anyway....I didn't need asking twice!!
So I trained my bollox off and worked hard through the winter, one of my main training events being the 'Remembrance Ride' - an 11 hour 11 min charity spin - for injured servicemen and women - at David Lloyd on 11th November. I had never trained so hard through the cold winter and found it very challenging....but ultimately rewarding.
One of the tihings that I had decided to do in 2011 to try to get my motivation back….and keep me honest, was to keep a daily blog where I couldn't hide. People could read my training - warts and all - and this seemed to work for me so I kept it going right up until the race.
By the time I got to Lanzarote a couple of days before the race I reckon I was as fit as I'd ever been. And I was relishing the challenge. Bring it on! I had spent six months of gym work and pounding canal tow paths to prepare for the 4.8-mile swim, 224-mile bike ride and 52-mile run - all to be completed within the 40-hour time limit. Temperatures had hit the 20s leading up to race day but the African winds that notoriously batter the Canary Islands in February hit such verocity that the sea was looking pretty rough in the days before the race.
The race was due to start at 14:00 on the Saturday. Race check-in and the morning getting racked and ready were pretty standard, although the forecast was for high winds (even by Lanzarote standards) later. After racking and then relaxing on the sea front with a coffee, we were all pretty disappointed and surprised when a representative from the local govt office decided to cancel the swim at the last minute due to the rough seas. We were all on the beach ready to go when the decision was made, but there wasn't much time for disappointment as we had to all gather our thoughts and refocus as the planned swim had been replaced with a 20k (8 laps of 2.6k) run to start the event.
Negative….A good 90 mins run to start us off, BEFORE the 360kms bike and 84k run to finish.
The bike was 12 laps of 30k each. By the time we finished the opening run (due to the delay) it was now about 5.30pm so it was only a vouple of laps before the temperature started to drop. It was windy from the first moment on the bike - but NOTHING like the hurricane of pain that was to arrive about 10pm. The winds just got stronger and stronger - it got the point where you could not come off the tribars and sit up on the way out (making it really difficult to get a consistent drinking and eating strategy) and then the wind pushed you along from behind on the way back into town. With winds of 55 mph at 2-3am in the morning, it was extremely tough - nothing like I'd ever experienced - people got knocked off and taken to hospital. Some great athletes pulled out for safety reasons. Somebody said that only the foolish carried on!!
The camaraderie and the friendliness/respect of each athlete who does a race like this was summed up by one of the moments of the race for me - Paul Thompson (IUTA World Champion 2011) had pulled out of the race earlier in the evening with stomach issues after chucking up the night before. Paul was one of the favourites for the win and he must have felt gutted that his race had disappeared down the toilet! Yet as I came into Playa Blanca with about four laps to go (about 5am in the morning) - there was Paul helping Alison with my drinks, salt tablets, etc. Greatly appreciated by me and Alison - who stood there from the start of the race to the finish!
The bike took me 18 hours - the longest time I've ever spent on a bike by a long shot. But by the time I got off at about 11am on the Sunday morning there was no way I was not going to finish. All the dangerous hard work had been done through the night when most people had pulled out.
When I eventually got off the bike I was in 12th place. The run was 32 loops of 2.6k. I ran my first marathon in about 5 hours, had a cheese toastie and then ran my second marathon in about 4:50. The feeling of running those last few laps - after it had again gone dark and the temperature dropped - with people on the course cheering us on and friends and fellow athletes sat in bars shouting out our names - was a fantastic feeling of accomplishment! As I went out on my last lap I had tears in my eyes - knowing how much effort it had taken to get here.
I finally crossed the fnish line in 29 hours and 31 minutes. It was the best feeling in the world to run through town on that last lap and have Eddie shake my hand at the finish.
So I came home 7th of 40 starters. Good result, but made even more special by the fact that there were times in the previous few years where I wondered if I'd ever train properly or compete again. You can probably tell how happy I was from the photos below. All in all one of the greatest experiences and a pleasure to be there amongst such great people.
The final results are below, along with a couple of videos of the race itself that may give some idea of the conditions….but also the fun…. we all had!!.
Needless to say that there is no way I could have finished the race without the unswerving support of my fantastic wife, Alison. She is an ANGEL. No other word for it.
She never left the course from the time I started to the time I finished.
That is SUPPORT of the utmost quality. Love her to bits. X
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