well i wasn't going to do this, but i had a number of you lovely bigmoose folk ask me about whether i was going to write a blog on how my recent race went, so, if reading about some old geezer whitter on about running again ain't 'your thang' i just did some street move with my hands then (not really, i'm a mature 52 year old now.....kinda) then press the little square in the right hand corner, or wherever your smartphone provider allows you to escape from this jibber jabber.
cool, then we'll begin.
on returning from everest last year i had trained physically to get myself into the best shape i had ever been in, and as i had played pro sport for most of my adult life, i was pretty proud of being able to say that, but i have total respect for everest, and if i turned up at basecamp or bc as we climbers call it, then i would be endangering my own life, and my fellow climbers, and if i am going to do something properly i want to be ready for it.
this isn't a case of being fanatical about something, which i know some people may think i am, but i just don't want to be underprepared, and risk failure due to laziness.
i really didn't want to spend a fortune financially, and a shed load of time getting to bc to get my himex sweatshirt knowing that i may not make it because i hadn't trained hard enough.
so it was that i did gruelling sessions in the gym, walking the stairmaster with a heavy rucksack on my back, dripping litre after litre onto the machine and floor, sorry david lloyd.
i overcame my initial hesitance to draw attention to myself by wearing this bright red training tool on my back, and actually got a lot of support from people who trained on the machine next to my electric everest, though there were probably others i didn't see practising their card shuffling movement behind my back, or was that just my natural paranoia??
anyway, bc saw a very lean, strong jeff arrive ready for the challenge ahead, but this project wasn't to reach it's summit, and the terrible accident that killed 16 sherpa, the worst accident ever on everest, caused the mountain to be closed to climbers out of respect, oh yeah, and some threats to kill people if they climbed, i forgot that bit, sorry, a bit controversial, but hey that's the truth, i lay in my tent one night thinking about how i would defend myself if i was attacked, the threats were that serious.
everest was over, but the toasted pb sarnies weren't.
my staple diet of toasted peanut butter sandwiches seemed to continue, but my desire to train didn't, i am very goal driven, and with no target i didn't 'need' to train, ridiculous i know, please don't judge me, but this lack of drive saw the lb's pile on, and life continue.
i did however see naked jeff start to get some additional curves appear, and this caused me to start looking for a new goal. no jokes please!
i had been looking at another mountain, and had been promised an opportunity to climb an unnamed peak in nepal by some delusional walter mitty, who promised we could name the peak 'bigmoose' when we summited, and romantic jeff skipped to the bank to pay this loony for a pre nepal climb in scotland.
long story short this buttwipe still owes me £1400 which i will probably never see again.
hurt, upset, annoyed at my stupidity at believing this liar, i beat myself up mentally, but now had no goal or focus for 2015.
i wouldn't be able to afford to another 8000m peak, as they are all very expensive to do, and i felt a bit stuck on where to turn.
as i scanned various url's i happened across an ultra running site, which was never on my radar, but race to the stones filled the pixels on steve's machine, and i delved deeper into this secret world of long distance running.
100k in one or two days, sound a bit mad to me, i kinda like mad though.
beautiful countryside, sounding good.
july 11th, my birthday.
it's a sign.
three numbers on the back of the card.
let's start training!
after researching the race more i stumbled across the most experienced running dude in the country, who resided a distance away that i could run to on that day such was my ability.
canton was approximateley five miles from where i lived, so all these signposts as my mate parksie calls them were there, i just had to follow them.
rory coleman entered my life, and is still here, cos i like him and he's good for me.
he is arrogant and tough, and i have had an e-mail from a girl he has made cry, but he is bloody good at what he does. and if you don't want to hear the truth, don't use rory, if you want to run 63 miles without breaking, he's the boy.
rory set me up a training programme, which was tough, and i dieted to his specification, i lost weight in the manner he said i would, i ran 70 mile weeks, with 20 mile saturday runs, and 30 mile sunday runs the day after.
i trained my body to be ready for the race to the stones, because i didn't want to fail due to laziness.
so it was that in the week preceding the run i consulted with the coach, and he advised me to 'stay off my feet' as much as possible on the friday prior to the saturday race.
running ultra marathons is a lot about time on your feet, and being able to run and walk long distances is about training your body, and significantly your mind, to cope with being on your feet for long periods of time, which when you think about it makes a lot of sense.
i had spent up to six hours on my feet in training, but was faced with what i anticipated was going to take me fifteen hours in the race, so my bottle was going good an' proper!
to stay off my feet properly, i took a day off work, and checked into a local hotel, just a couple of miles from the start line, which allayed any fears i had of missing the start due to great western railways leaves on the line, etc.
as i lay on my bed drinking copious amounts of high carbohydrate drink as recommended by coach, i was now carb loading, which basically meant filling up with as much fuel as possible for a the very long journey ahead.
my body almost od'd on carbs, so starved of them had it been due to me recent rory diet, which i have to say saw me rock up to the start line in the best shape of my 52 years, i was ready.
(i missed out telling you the bit about measuring my breakfast cereal out at home and taking it with me with my bowl and spoon from home, as i thought you might think i was a weirdo.)
as my taxi pulled into the field at the start of the course, it was 6.15 and registration started at 6.30.
as i waved goodbye to my driver, a bit like a child being left at the gate on the first day of term at a new school, and i wondered what my hackney carriage driving chum really thought about this freaky geezer who was setting off to run in the hot summer day sunshine for nearly fifteen hours, and concluded it was probably best i didn't know the truth at this stage of the race!
i sat by the fence, allowing me to view everybody coming into the area at the start of the race, and liked my vantage point, and listened to the tunes that had cleverly been put together by the race organisers, born to run bruce sang as i smiled knowingly.
i meandered over to the check in area and played the 'smith, oh i've got a lot of them' game with the lovely volunteer lady, a game that i discovered at an early age, but continue to play with whoever thinks it might be the first time i've heard the gag in a way so as not to dampen their enthusiasm, me cynical? never.
i got given my race number, which also served as my electronic chip for monitoring my time and whereabouts by the race organisers, and set about pinning it to my shirt in a place where it wouldn't rub on my rucksack.
i took my shirt off for this procedure, and overheard somebody say 'he's taped up his nipples' which i must admit i haven't heard for a while in reference to myself, but then made a mental note of the heathen that had said it as if, perchance i saw him at the end of the race with a blood stained shirt in the chest area, i would say nothing, but instead just smile a smile of experience.
taping my nipples wasn't a tip rory gave me knowingly, but as we changed to go for a pre race marathon together i spied elastoplast on his raspberries, and computed the reason why, and made a mental note.
for those of you who don't have a scooby doo what i am relating to, whilst running super long distances even the constant action of your tee shirt rubbing against your nipples can cause chaffing, which can be very uncomfortable and cause them to bleed, so the simple answer is to tape them up.
tits taped, i set about my pre run routine, which basically meant visiting the toilet more times than i care to share.
i get nervous, what can i say.
as the crowds grew, so did my anticipation, and i love this bit, i absolutely love it!
pre game heightens my senses so much.
i couldn't prepare any more, the hard work was done on that wet morning at 5.30 where i pulled my waterproof jacket on and stepped outside to run 13 miles on my training run, and fought the elements, the hard work was not drinking at that party we went to where people said 'you always seem not to be drinking' i was ready.
the buzz and noise was almost palpable, and as i readied myself, the pre run announcer talking, but me not hearing a word he said, for i was in a place i couldn't hear anything, i was in the zone.
this place for me is almost spiritual, as my senses are truly heightened, and i zone out everything around and concentrate on my job.
i remember turning my headtorch on as i stepped onto manaslu the 8000m peak in nepal, and followed my sherpa as we headed into the death zone on summit night, i remember the whistle blowing at wembley when tony hand skated towards me stickhandling towards success or defeat, and i remembered where i was now.
cometh the hour.
i jogged with the throng as we crossed the start line, people starting their stopwatches with a view to monitoring their performance as they ran, and i thought how different i was, my time was of no significance to me, speed irrelevant, my sole goal was to finish, to succesfully complete this 63 mile run, possibly with a smile.
as we headed off into the beautiful countryside, the sun shone, and i vowed to take in the beauty and the whole experience of the race.
i noticed the shapes and sizes of my fellow runners, and the footwear, oh the footwear.
there were people running in what looked like sandals, and when i engaged in a very brief conversation with a fellow runner, which he coerced me into i have to add, i commented on said sandals, to which chatty man informed me of the barefoot runners he had seen, fable or urban legend, but i never saw them so i won't comment, but 100k in your sandals, now that's radio rental!
as i approached the first pit stop, i consciously ran past it and left my fellow runners to stop and chitter chatter and take on fuel, which i had plenty of in my rucksack, and i certainly wouldn't be stopping after 12k on a training run to consume, so headed off with a slightly clearer path ahead of me, and the quieter tree lined section ahead was to be where the congestion i had expected and witnessed in the first section ended.
i ran and i ran, and started to get into my natural flow, i am a very slow runner, but my strategy for this race was based on the tortoise and hare principle, and as long as i plodded along doggedly, refuelling as i went, and making a conscious effort to check my feet, stomach and head regularly, and if any problems were appearing to attend to them early, i hoped i would be ok.
i loved the beauty of this race, and wanted to stop regularly to take pictures, but decide to just let the vista wash over me, just taking the odd one here and there.
running through cornfields though, i have to say was wonderful.
my race went well, and i ran on the flat and walked the hills, of which there were many, as per my training with rory, my prep was totally on point.
as i approached the halfway point of the race, i mentally calculated that i was reaching the furthest distance i had ever run in my life, 50k or thirty and a bit miles was chicken oriental, and i was gonna have to do it all again, then, there, no rest, just keep running big boy!
the thrill of this was not wasted on me, and i revelled in what i was doing, and felt energised as i set off on the second half of my challenge and watched the tented village where the people doing the race over two days would eat drink sleep and regroup, and i would be a liar if i didn't admit that i felt a personal strength for being one of the 100k'ers.
now we got to the real game, the bit where exhaustion, calorie deficit, and dehydration could kick in, this is where it got very real.
my times between pit stops were very slow, but i focused on my job, slow but steady, just keep going.
i noticed how the body shapes of the runners on this latter part of the race were decidedly slimmer, and this was obviously the business end of the race, man i love this stuff!
my feet felt good, check, my stomach felt good, check, my head was strong, my legs were tired, but i knew i could do this.
as i ran into the 7th pit stop i had run 50 miles, shoot that's a long way i thought.
'just a half marathon to go' mouthed the volunteer steward.
oh man, i had been running for nearly twelve hours, and at this pace i was gonna take between two and three hours to finish.
oh well, buckle up buttercup.
i dug deep, and plodded along, seeing fewer and fewer people on the track, but when i did i wanted to pass them, i suddenly kicked into this animal that wanted to beat everybody in front of me.
i spied a guy in front of me, who i stalked for what seemed like miles, but was probably only 1k, but i couldn't catch him, we were running at exactly the same speed, until a huge hill came onto the horizon, and i watched as he slowed to walk it.
as i ran past him i noticed he was probably in his thirties, and he shouted after me 'great job pal, keep going' this was like kicking into turbo for me as i pressed on up the hill, and my training paid it's dividends.
with 10k, just over six miles to go, i had the thought that i was going to do this, i was going to finish, and i might as well use what fuel i had left in the tank, so i started to push myself as fast as i could, and i had this surge of energy and euphoria coursing through me, as i pushed hard on the flat and the hills, and as dusk caused me to get my headtorch out to light my way, i played back all the hard work i had put into this project.
i concentrated hard as i ran downhill conscious of not making a silly error and falling and ending my dream, and as we approached the magical stones the race was named after, i ran alongside a very smart looking fortyish lady, and said out loud 'i don't even wanna see the stones', to which she surprisingly shouted back 'f**k the stones' which made us both laugh.
as we passed the stones i touched one in a kind of 'made it' kind of way, and then headed to the glow of lights in the distance, where i knew doogie was waiting for me, as was a cold beer.
the final few hundred metres were illuminated with glow sticks which looked very cool, and i slowed to a walk to absorb the moment, and then thought stuff it let's sprint it!
63 miles, and a final 100m sprint, finish strong my boy, finish strong, and as i crossed the line, and the crowd cheered, i spied doogie, and ran towards him grinning like the proverbial cat from near manchester.
doogie went to hug me, but i warned him off as i was covered in sweat, and sugary drinks, but he hugged me anyway, and the embrace was just what i needed i was happy.
i collected my obligatory medal, of which i don't normally bother with, but this one was special, it told a story, and although it will go in a drawer somewhere, it will be a part of my storytelling process when my grandkids snuggle in to listen to the day grandad ran 63 miles, and they will probably think, like me, bloody hell that's a long way.
so, thanks for reading, and if there are any statos among you here are the numbers.
so until next week, i'll be seeing ya,