This time I knew what was coming!
First things first, I’m not much of a writer so apologies in advance for the rambling report!
Now I didn’t really have a training plan and it kind of showed, as I was less prepared than last year. I’d been off work for a few months but that seemed to make things harder as it was easier to drop everything and head off for short family breaks and weekends away! I’d turned up at the T60 with no real training in the hope that it would kick start my motivation, needless to say it didn’t! In fact I was probably more overweight than last year with less miles in my legs!
I decided to follow the same plan and kit as last year with a few exceptions, mainly due to lack of organization! I was swapping some hot meals for liquid fuel (mainly overnight as it had caffeine in it) and some different snacks. This was mostly due to forgetting to check how many freeze dried meals I had left!! Oh well, it worked well and now I have the confidence in using other energy sources over these long events.
I had last years sheets and wrote Richard Hurdle’s times at each CP and mine on them as I wanted sub 60 like Richard.
But what the hell…
Well it all started pretty much like last year, a nice easy train ride down but with heavy eyes already. I seemed less rested and ready than last time. Possibly much more to do with “I now know what to expect” and I knew just how much it was going to hurt. Last year I’d never gone above 50 miles so it was all new and to be honest a big blur!
I met with a couple of old faces from last year and some new ones (Nina, Jane, Dave, Chris and Alan), we headed off for the traditional pint before the ultra (well it is for me, I’m no elite athlete so I like to enjoy myself). Then it was off back to our hotel rooms for a last minute pack and repack, then a night of wondering why oh why do I do this stuff!!
The morning was nice and smooth, taxi arrived and a quick and simple check in and kit check at the event. Time to have a chat, sit around and hydrate. I had a quick chat with Paul Coker (Rocktape) as he saw the mass of white tape wrapped around my ankles last year. He spotted the tape on my ankles was already peeling and offered to replaced it. I’m glad he did as it lasted to the 100mile mark, the other stuff wouldn’t have made it to the end of the road! Whether it made a difference or was purely a reminder to run-walk correctly is anyone’s guess but I didn’t have the ankle issues of last year.
Now I didn’t have a plan for the event really last year, more of a fluid idea. The same applied this year, I found last year that I was able to take, adjust and absorb the change without much effect or worry.
To take a phrase from Phil Burt, I think I fall into the Macro-Absorber category. I’m fairly robust and tend to soak up changes. He tends to use it more for bike fitting with the sky team but the general principles can be applied to anything. The first time I read it, it made sense to me and answered some questions about myself.
Anyway back to the event!
Start to CP1 Beehive Brentford
For me this is the worst part, I hate cities and I hate crowds! Once again it was hot and sunny for the start, the clock ticked over to 10:35 and we were off! The pack this year felt heavy, maybe I just can’t remember last years but I could have sworn it wasn’t that heavy. The first few miles are fairly mundane industrial areas but soon enough you’re wishing you were back there, once the tourist and lunch time runners start appearing. We approached the greenwich tunnel and this year I actually remember seeing the cutty sark, unlike last year when everything was just a blur, a bit of sensory overload I think. From here on it was a rat race up and down alleys, getting a little lost and missing turns (see that’s why I hate towns, they all look the same!). We eventually hit the main tourist destination and thankfully it wasn’t as heaving as last year, and this year I just managed to catch my cap hanging from my rucksack to a tourist and pull them along a little rather than sending one flying with my rucksack like last year!! I totally forgot I had one on and tried to squeeze side on though them, knocking them flying with it!! I was running along with a chap called Alan chatting about other races at this point and stopped for a London Bridge photo.
Once past the houses of parliament the crowds slowly started to lessen and I felt I could relax and just concentrate on my gait and body position in the hope of staving off any tendonitis like last year. The rest was uneventful, I reached the water stop and refilled my bladder before heading off for the check point. Sadly over the next few hours the left strap on my rucksack started to rub, no matter what I did with the straps I couldn’t get it to sit well. I didn’t have any issues with it last year, so it goes to show, even tested kit can start being an issue. I kept jiggling it around till I arrived at CP1 as I knew it would need cleaning and drying before fixing. My plan had been to fill up, and then walk out eating a bagel and some bars rather than sitting around eating. I decided to stick with that but would have to fix this first. Unbelievably I ran out of water again (same as last year!) even with the extra water stop, I could hardly believe it. It would seem I’m just destined to run out before CP1, thankfully I was only a few miles away and well hydrated so it wasn’t an issue.
Once I arrived, I quickly refilled (to the brim) and pulled out my food, refilled the pockets with bars, then probably upset the locals in the pub by stripping off my top! I can’t imagine an overweight sweaty middle-aged man is the view they expected on a nice sunny Friday! Then out came my trusty white tape, a quick clean up and the covered the whole area with it, thankfully that was the last of that problem! It could have quite possible ruined my day.
Then as I turned round I spotted a face I knew but at the same time my brain’s saying, “No, it can’t be”. My cousin had cycled over to catch me at the CP1. It was nice to see a face I knew even early on, sadly it was only a quick chat but it made my day. Cheers Danny.
CP1 Beehive Brentford – CP2 Bells of Ouzeley
I headed out eating my bagel and chatting to Alan and Annabelle who were leaving the check point too. I was still feeling ok at this point, no aches in my ankles, no hots spots and thankfully the shoulder tape was doing its job.
This section was relatively straightforward, Annabelle knew the route well from previous Thames events and I had a some recollection from last year. That didn’t stop us getting lost once or twice though, there seemed to be quite a few missing signs for a well sign posted national trail! Mostly it was a case of doubling back and checking the map with the GPS but once or twice we had gone too far for that so it was a case of re-routing. Oh well whats a couple of extra miles over 184 miles eh!
Annabelle met with her family and young son at a prearranged point and me and Alan carried on. It was the last we saw of Annabel, I later discovered she had abandoned, which was sad to hear as she was a strong runner.
We saw some headlights in the distance and seemed to quickly catch them. We found Dave and Jane on a bench, Jane having a small bout of nausea. I asked if they needed anything but they were happy, just going to wait it out. I had a feeling they’d be OK as I’d ran with a Jane for a short spell early last year and knew she was strong and knowledgeable and Dave fought through last year and again is a strong runner.
As we neared the CP2 it seemed that it was always just that bit further away that we thought. Just around the next corner, never quite there! This seemed to become a ongoing theme though, the approach to many of the CP’s just seem to stretch out away from you!
We ‘eventually’ arrived at CP2 where we were met by a few familiar staff faces. I sat down, sorted my water and food into pockets then pulled out the Jetboil for some hot food. I’d had a few grumbles over the last hour so a substantial meal was just what I needed.
The weather was still hot so I didn’t need to layer up whilst sat around like last year, I had a few laughs with the crew waiting for the water and meal to be ready and a chat with Shane.
Jane and Dave arrived not long after we arrived and decided to get some rest before deciding if they were going to carry on (I was in no doubt they would after a rest and would be watching my heels for them over the next 12 hours or so)
CP2 Bells of Ouzeley- CP3 Anchor of Henley
Off into the darkness, and the coolness of the night. I quite like moving along over night as I run quite hot and I enjoy the peace (being a bit of an introvert)
I started to work out my times at this point to keep me occupied and shifting along. I’d always rather be moving along even slowly as rest rather than sitting about. I started to realise I was a couple of hours ahead at this point, which was great news and I was feeling good. I was trying to remember when it was last year that I start to feel the problem in my ankles but I couldn’t. I could just remember trying to get to CP4 through the hilly bits in agony.
It was a nice easy night with no real problems, diversions or errors. As the day light grew the view of Fulham Court start to show and I knew that Henley was not that far away. As it turned out it was another of the endless run ins to the CP and boy I was glad to get there and brew up!
Eventually the bridge across the river came into view, obviously in the distance and much further than I’d hoped but I knew the CP wasn’t far past it.
We arrived at the CP with Shane and a few others in attendance, I grabbed a bottle of water and headed to an empty bench to brew up and make a meal. Whilst there Richard Ebbs came in and met his wife, we cracked a few jokes about the event and settled into our respective meals. Shane popped over to see how I was doing (I didn’t realise at the time but he put a couple of posts up on twitter)
The next section for me was going to be the tester, if my ankles held out then hopefully I’d continue to make up time, if not then who knows!
After the quick pit stop it was time to get moving!
CP3 Anchor Of Henley – CP4 The Swan Streatley
Once again this was a relatively straight forward stretch, the only spanner in the works was Reading Festival, last year was hell!
We set off and slowly jog/walked at varying intervals until my shuffle landed my big toe into a stuck up piece of metal and sent me flying! Now normally I’d just go with it or regain balance but the 10kg on my back had other ideas and flying I went! A quick check and no damage just jarring through a tired body and what was already a sore big toe made it even worse!
Next was Reading and it didn’t disappoint but at least it was slightly quieter than last year but with just as many odd sights!
Then it was onwards till the bend in the river that makes you think you’re arriving at Streatley before I remembered that there is the whole uphill and around the houses bit to do! I remember it well from last year as I was in so much pain with my ankles at that point I could hardly walk and was almost in tears (oh yes). Thankfully this year it was just the intense sun and heat that was trying to kill me. I resorted to dipping my buff in the river and lining my hat with it to make a nice cold shield around my neck and sides of my face.
At this point I was just needing my own space and to just focus on moving forward and getting to the check point. I really didn’t have the want or will for conversation (saying that, many people would say that’s normal!!). Alan took the brunt of it when he tried talking to me and cheering me up.
Finally the bridge came into view and then the check point. I’d already decided that I’d have to change my plan here and have a rest. I was hoping for some sleep or at least just a relax and get myself back together. I was rather grumpy (again, some would argue that’s just normal!) and abrupt when I got to the check point, I just grabbed a bottle of water and walked off to the field.
Shane did mention at the end that he was a little worried about me at that point and had someone check on me. From my point of view I was starting to feel that I needed to be on my own so I could focus and just keep moving, I felt that I was being dragged into somebody else’s plan not mine. It’s a learning point and one I’ll take away with me for future. Alan what a really nice bloke and I enjoyed running and chatting with him but there comes a time I need my own space not just in running but in life too, that’s just part of being an introvert.
I tried to sleep but it just wasn’t going to happen, either I couldn’t settle or my hip hurt on the floor or there was noise! It just wasn’t to be, so I got up and made some food, changed my socks, at which point all the Rocktape I’d put on and that Paul Coker had put on fell off! I decided to just leave everything now as I’d never really suffered blisters (except for the Apocalypse 100 and soon the T184!)
CP4 The Swan Streatley – CP5 The Punter
I was kind of looking forward to this part as I’d be seeing the route in different light conditions as I was so far ahead of last year’s time. Most of the route was twisty turny through weeds and overgrown hedges next to the Thames. Then up to Benson Lock, and thankfully this year it was open! Unlike last year when I got all the way to the lock to find it shut! There were some choice words at that point!
Then came the long stretch around the bend in the Thames. I can remember it from last year, it was dark and I felt like I was just going round in circles! In the daylight I can see why. I must say I’m glad it was light as there where cows and bulls in just about every field through that section and after last year being chased by cows at night later on I’m really not that keen on them at night! I exited the bend and up onto the road just before sunset.
It was around then that I realised I thought this was the 25mile section when actually it was the 30 mile one! Arse, no big deal I told myself, that means the biggest section is done, all downhill from there.
As the night drew in, I started to feel dizzy and weak. My eyes started to close slowly and I was struggling to keep a gait and a straight line. The sections twisting around the Thames are just a blur of footpaths and trees. I can’t recall most of it till the outskirts of Oxford. I struggled on but the section into the CP felt like hell. It was like a concrete jungle (I’m sure it isn’t, but in my mind it was just tarmac paths and bridges but never the CP) I was weaving across the path and hugging the fence line to stay away from the Thames. I had pain in the back of my knee and pretty sure blisters on my heels. At this point I seriously wanted out, I was quite happy to arrive at the CP and tell them that was it, in fact I’d decided that is what I was doing. I didn’t, I grabbed some water and tried to bed down on the bench, but once again sleep wasn’t forthcoming! Looking back I think I know why but that’s a lesson learnt. Eventually I gave up, sat up packed my shit and sat there with my head in my hands feeling sorry for myself. I wasn’t sure I could carry on but I didn’t want to say it out loud as that would make it real. Instead I cracked on some food (I think), swapped some sweets into my side pockets and taped up my heels and carried on feeling sorry for myself. I eventually packed up, put my kit on (it was almost automatic, I was still thinking I couldn’t do it but at the same time putting my pack back on)
CP5 The Punter – CP6 The Swan Brampton
I passed the guy running the CP and walked on thinking “This is F@£king stupid” but I kept walking. The next section eased, the dizziness passed and I felt better. My feet were bitching and my knee hurt but I felt so much better in myself I really didn’t care. In my head now I’d broken it down to the last big section. After this it’s just two short hops and you’re done (yeah right but that’s my psychology)
Actually the rest of the night wasn’t that bad! It wasn’t long out of Oxford that Alan decided he fancied a kip. I just froze! It was the defining moment when I realised that I needed to be alone. Alan was great but I’m an introvert and a stubborn git! I threw all my kit on and we got moving but for me that was the point I decided I should be alone (to be honest it should have been much earlier as Alan was quicker than me, stronger but didn’t want to leave….I should have sent him off earlier as when he did he stonked it!! (Well done mate)
The run in to CP6 was uneventful, the scenery was different than last year, they seem to have removed much of the trees from the river’s edge.
There where a few points over the last field where my eyes were closing in slow motion and I expected to wake up face down in the grass! Thankfully it never happened.
CP6 The Swan Brampton – CP7 Red Lion
It was nice to arrive, for me the event was nearly over, psychologically knowing they were only short distances to each CP and the finish.
I sat down and brewed a very strong coffee (more like syrup!) and chatted with the CP crew. It was strange to be here in the light! Last time I was here it was dark and had a rock band playing opposite.
I checked my feet, my big toe on the right foot looked like it had been hit with a hammer, I was definitely losing that toe nail! To be honest I’d felt it a while back but did nothing about it, my sock had been pulling on the nail! Oh well!
It was now I mentioned to Alan that I’d like to be alone for the next bit as I’d like to see it in a different light and I needed the space. I’m not sure if it upset him or not but I needed the space and well, as I said he flew the last few bits to a sub 60.
The rain started so I took that as my cue to get cracking, I set off wondering how I managed this in the dark last year! It was a bit confusing in the day! The path became slippy and long wet grass with an electric fence just to one side, typically right next to the bit I wanted to run on. I was expecting a couple of shocks but I seemed to just squeeze though without!
My eyes had started closing slowly again, that caffeine syup at the CP didn’t last long. I’d thrown all my caffeinated Tailwind into my bladder at this point too, I took a few sips and it was strong, in fact a little gritty but it did the job! I gave the backpack a shake to try to mix it a bit more.
I was quite surprised when I started to see the bridge I pass under in the distance, last year it felt like it was miles and miles to it but it’s only a short distance! Once again the field was full of cows but at least it was light! Last year somewhere around here I was chased by a herd of cows across a field! Not fun, I can still remember waving my map at them and shouting!!
I headed under the bridge and in the field that last year felt like an endless loop and the wrong direction! In the light I could see that I was just following the river! About 3/4 of the way round I saw Jerry sat on a bench looking at his feet. I stopped to check he was ok. He was worried about his feet, a quick check and I told him he had a nice case of trench foot but nothing was broken or open. He took that in and asked if I minded him joining along with me.
We took off to the road where we made a nice pace (well I did to keep up with Jerry’s long legs!)
I was still enjoying seeing the route in a different light even though I still couldn’t remember bits from either the T184 or T60! Eventually we arrived at the CP after what felt like endless hills! I decided to swap back to my old socks which had now dried out. We had a chat and a laugh with the CP7 staff (a huge thanks for the donation guys, it was a massive surprise and really generous. Thanks)
CP7 Red Lion – The Stone
Well we set off to the finish with only the dreaded water park and hallucinations in our path (and maybe some cows/bulls)
Straight away I was regretting changing back to my old socks as I felt like I was walking on sand. We headed off though the fields and eventually we could see the village in the distance. The only thing in our way was the bulls in the field! They watched us closely as we started past looking for the bridge out. As Jerry has said in his report the trees showed shadows of bridges tricking our mind constantly until the real bridge eventually came into view! Then it was just the zig zag through the town before the (shiver) water park!
We entered the never ending water park and it just seemed like a maze again! We moved along comparing hallucinations, thankfully all funny ones! Eventually we hit a town again but Jerry was getting concerned we’d gone wrong. I was on the phone to my wife and Jerry was chatting to his who both confirmed we were on the right path! I had a bitch that this was starting to become annoying! It was a 13 mile section but we still had 6 miles left and had travelled more than 7!! I have a sneaky suspicion that this is longer than 13 miles! We eventually exited on a path I remembered before heading up to the start of the last few fields. It was here we met Dave and Jane. This last few miles had taken their toll on all of us and we must have looked as bad as each other. Dave pointed out the first Thames Path sign as we headed up the trail. It was now dark and the head torches were on as we navigated the field. This was new to me as last year it was light and that made it easier. We managed quite well to locate the signs and gates, the GPS helping out. Eventually it was the last couple of fields. We headed on but it was basically blackness and no defined path. I tried to locate the path with my GPS and Jerry with the map to compare. It was here that communication fell on its arse!! I waved him to follow but he thought I was off to check! I made the assumption he was just behind and in my sleep deprived state I didn’t realise he was waiting!
I saw what I though was head torches ahead but they where actually the reflections in cows eyes, I must say at this point I didn’t really care! I wasn’t moving, I walked past telling them to shift and headed on past a few of them! Finally I saw the head torches of Shane and Trudy at the stone. I jogged that last few metres to the stone and finally touched it, saying to Shane “It better bloody still be Sunday”!!
Well enough waffle time to refuel!
Will I be back next year! I’d love too and see if I can improve even more but sadly I have the King Offa’s Dyke book for 3 weeks later! But you never know!
Note from Elaine (Lee’s wife): I told Lee he couldn’t pull out as I was only picking him up from the stone and I had plans all weekend!! He seemed a lot better this year when I picked him up on Monday morning, last year he was literally passing out unconscious in the car on the way home
Remember folks Don’t Take Life Too Seriously! And Enjoy It
If you’re feeling generous then have a look at the sponsorship page
and have a read about the charity cancer warriors and the guy I grew up with who is starting it all up
Ultimately he’s been through experiences like the T184 over and over again just to live! Then to regain some normality and to continue with life! We just did it for the weekend!
Website – cancerwarriorsuk