The two weeks leading up to the race weren't so great had a hamstring tendon niggle but a week of rest seemed to settle it and it was fine on a couple of short, slow easy runs. Then the week before I picked up a cold, full blown sore throat, cough, gallons of snot and felt crap. I shovelled copious amounts of vitamin C into me didn't run and hoped I would be well enough to run, at least the hamstring was getting more rest!
A few non running friends were horrified I was still planning on racing, I think my perception of distance has become distorted this year as I reassured them it was fine as it was only 30 miles!
Race day arrived and I was still suffering with blocked sinuses, the good thing about all this was I hadn't stressed myself out with the usual obsessive weather forecast checking, kit planning etc etc so I was actually pretty chilled out about the whole thing. I planned to run the first couple of miles with no plan then see how I felt and come up with a strategy for the final 28miles!
This was an important race for me after DNFs at my two previous races I had to have a good day. I had lots of friends from The Commando Runners taking part and other friends I've met at events over this year and I was looking forward to it.
Stort 30 is a 30 mile out and back run along the river Stort, it's a pretty route and I had enjoyed the race last year. I wished good luck to friends and we were off, the race starts with two laps of the cricket field and after only one lap I knew my cold wasn't going to be an issue, I felt good and quickly decided to go with my original plan of aiming for 2.5 hours to the turn around the push as hard as I still could on the return leg. I was happily running 9:30/10 minute miles for the first eight miles, I didn't plan to stop at the first two checkpoints as I had my own food and drink and was sticking to my eating every two miles strategy that seems to work for me. At eight miles my hamstring began to feel a little tight, not painful so I wasn't too concerned but slowed my pace a little. This seemed to work and I ran on pretty certain I'd make 15 miles in the time I wanted. I shouted some hellos to friends manning checkpoint two and said I'd stop on the return leg.
At 12 miles the shooting pain I'd had a couple of weeks ago returned, I ignored it for a bit then stopped to stretch hoping that might help, it didn't... My run now resembled a hobbling shuffle but I managed to run to the turn around point. Stopping made it feel worse to get going again so I made my checkpoint stop as quick as I could. The Redbull cake was much appreciated! I let Maxine and Karen know that my leg wasn't good but I was carrying on. Was good to see Richard too who was looking good on his first ultra, he did say to me afterwards that when he saw me at half way he didn't think I'd finish. There was no way I wasn't finishing even if it had meant crawling!
The return leg was slow and painful I ran a bit, walked a bit trying as much as could to keep under 15minute miles. I stopped briefly at checkpoints but it was taking every ounce of willpower to keep moving. I got some great shouts of encouragement from Nici and Fiona as we passed and they were both looking good. Shortly after I passed the sweepers, Brian stopped to see if I was ok and said he'd be on his way back in an hour and would kick me along if necessary, as much as I like Brian there was no way I was running in with the sweeper, so that gave me some added motivation to try and keep up some sort of speed!
The last 10 miles I spent doing calculations in my head as to what sort of finish time I could get at my current pace, I knew I would be inside the cut off but could I scrape in quicker than last year, I wasn't sure but thought I could get sub 6:30.
Just before 28 miles I worked out that if I could just run till the end I could, maybe, possibly beat last years time or be very close so I started to jog. It was painful and my left leg was sort of doing it's own thing but I was moving quicker. I managed to keep up this shuffle and turning into the cricket club I was met by Lindley's daughter Laura, you have to run a lap of the field to finish and she offered to run it with me. I said I had less than 5 minutes to get round to get a PB and she was great encouraging me round (as last year I'm sure the field is bigger at the end!!). I crossed the finish line in 6:22 one minute quicker than last year.
So despite it not all going quite to plan I had an awesome day out running, the support from everyone was amazing, I was genuinely overwhelmed by how many runners slowed down or stopped to check I was ok, offer painkillers, tape and words of encouragement. Seeing so many friends completing the race in some pretty awesome times was great, well done to all of you, very proud of you. I think the support and friendship on display today sums up brilliantly the ultra running community and I feel very privileged to be a part of it.
As always thank you to Lindley and Maxine for organising another phenomenal event, Karen for the hugs and cake, Laura for getting me round that field, all of the checkpoint volunteers and everyone else who supported along the way.
So what's next, well some rest and getting my leg fixed then it will be back to training for next years second and hopefully successful attempt at Challenge Running's Grand Slam...
Have a good week and happy running xxx