The Lightning Run (12 hours) – 01/05/16

‘We sat in the car on the journey back, completely broken. It was universally agreed it had been tough, a good experience, but something we probably wouldn’t be rushing back to do again.’

That’s an extract from my blog on the Cotswolds 24 hour race back in July last year – it appears that I suffer from severe short term memory loss when it comes to hard endurance events. In my defence, I did wait until January before picking up the phone to my good mate James Bosher and asking if he fancied another crack at a similar type of race.

I had my argument ready to counteract any doubts he may have had;

  • Its only 12 hours this time.
  • It will be much better because there’s no running at night
  • We’ll be packed up and home in time for dinner.

It didn’t take long, and in a few minutes we were signed up. I’d also managed to convince Brownie and Lewis (the other members of our little jaunt in the Cotswolds) to enter as a second pair, and so we had the band back together again for another stroll through the woods.

After that quick flurry of activity, the event was completely forgotten about as we all focussed on our respective spring marathons (apart from Lewis, who considers anything further than 6 miles too far – he prefers the shorter stuff). With a few weeks to go we decided we probably should start thinking about the race, but instead of training we concentrated on the more important points such as how many jaffa cakes we would need and whether or not to bring the camping chairs.

For me this was only ever meant to be a bit of ‘fun’, so I’d already decided to train through the event and not worry about resting up beforehand. Ironman Switzerland is the main target (in just 12 weeks’ time), and so I had a big week of swimming and biking in the days before the race. I also returned to Brockwell parkrun on the Saturday morning, recording a respectable 17.59, good enough for 4th place.

From there, it was straight on the train to Leicester to hook up with the others. Brownie whipped us up a fine pasta dinner and we shared our concerns around the upcoming torture we were about to put ourselves through. Bosher and I had booked a romantic room for two in a B&B just 5 minutes from the event site, so we headed off to bed down for the night. Brownie and Lewis would be heading over on the day, but we didn’t fancy the hour drive with registration being at 5am the next morning.

bosh in bed
Our luxury suite

 

After a few hours’ kip and a quick pot of porridge, we made the short trip to Catton Hall, where the event was being held. I didn’t know where it was either – it’s somewhere in the Midlands, near Burton upon Trent. Parking and registration took less than 5 minutes, so in the end we had plenty of time to get all our kit and food sorted for the day ahead.

early morning in car
4am start – all for a bit of fun

 

The format of the event was relatively straight forward. You’ve got 12 hours to do as many 10 kilometre laps as possible. Unlike the 24 hour race, we’d decided to enter as 2 pairs, with Lewis and Brownie forming the A team and Bosher and I the B team. To add to the confusion, we’d both decided to have exactly the same team name, which had thrown the organisers slightly, and they’d ended up pairing Bosher with Brownie.

To say Bosher was devastated is an understatement, but a quick word with the organisers meant we were re-united as team mates, leaving poor old Lewis stuck with Brownie.

I was taking the first lap, and people started to line up a few minutes before the start. With the event being in May, we were hoping for some fairly decent weather. As always, it never quite works out as planned, and I found myself in a pair of gloves, a hat and two base layers – it was around 2 degrees. Ridiculous.

1. start area

2. start area
The start/finish area
5. joe in tent
Ready to go

 

We had a long day ahead, so the plan was to set out steadily and hope to maintain that pace for as long as possible. As with most/all of my races, plans quickly go out of the window as soon as the gun goes off, and I found myself haring along the first flat section trying to keep pace with the leaders.

It was possible to ‘recce’ the route the day before, but since we’d arrived at the last minute, the plan was to just wing it. How bad could it be? The answer was, pretty bad. Or good, if you like steep hills, loads of mud and stinging nettles. Obviously it was just a case of getting on with it (it was all a bit of fun remember), and so I put my head down and ran. After 500 metres or so we turned right and headed up a steep muddy bank which was near impossible to run up – I slogged my way to the top, knowing I’d be back for a few more go’s later on.

The first 2 kilometres heading through some wooded areas, before the route opened up onto some fields with some more gradual up and downs. I realised I was still going way too hard so dialled it back slightly and found a more sustainable rhythm. There was absolutely no-one out on the route, bar a few teenage marshals in tents cooking up some bacon sandwiches over a fire.

A few more nasty climbs followed, before a nice downhill final kilometre took us back towards the start/finish area. I ended up finishing 3rd overall on the first lap, with a time of 40 minutes and 8 seconds – not bad for an off-road, hilly 10km, but I thought I may well pay for that effort later on. I passed on the baton to Bosher and he was off on his first lap.

There were different categories of runners on the day, just like that fateful day/night in the Cotswolds. Some people had decided to take on the 12 hours as a solo runner (nutters), then there was the pairs (us), and also teams of 3-5 people (cheaters). We were only competing against the other pairs, but everyone was out on the course at the same time.

As a team we very unsure how the day was going to go as Bosher had finished the London marathon just 7 days earlier (running a very impressive 2 hours and 57 minutes!), so we just didn’t know if his legs would turn up on the day. I just appreciated having a speedy team mate to run with, and he pretty much matched my time for the first leg, and in no time at all I was on my way again.

I pretty quickly fell into a rhythm of running a lap, before spending 5-10 minutes having a bit to eat and drink whilst sitting in the car. I didn’t want to stiffen up too much so would then go and have a stretch around the start/finish area before getting ready to do it all over again. We’d brought plenty of our own food, but there were lots of hot food options that had been put on by the organisers, as well as proper toilets which makes a real difference!

3. brown in car4. lew in car

food list
The tempting food options

 

Instead of boring everyone to death breaking down each lap, I’ll list all of my lap times before highlighting some of the more interesting moments;

Lap 1 – 40.08

Lap 2 – 42.28

Lap 3 – 43.46

Lap 4 – 45.20

Lap 5 – 46.55

Lap 6 – 47.21

Lap 7 – 50.30

Lap 8 – 52.44

As you can see, there is a gradual slowdown from lap to lap, but overall, I’m pretty happy that I didn’t fall apart completely. I felt pretty great on laps 2, 3 and 4, and allowed myself a little fist pump part way through lap 5 when I passed the marathon distance in just under 3 hours (including breaks, obviously).

I actually think it would have been easier to keep running continuously for 8 laps as opposed to running one and then having a break before another – all this did was throw you out of your rhythm and the legs would begin to stiffen up.

Lewis and Brownie were soldiering on, having decided to do 2 laps in a row each before changing. When Brownie came through on the first of these laps, Lewis was waiting with a small mountain of food for him to consume during the second lap. All that was missing was a small blanket and a picnic basket.

Another trend that’s developed from these longer races is Lewis quite quickly realising he’s signed up for something horrendous which I then tend to get the blame for, with some colourful language usually getting thrown in. To be fair, it is usually my fault, so I probably did deserve some stick. Both he and Brownie completed 5 laps each – more than a marathon in distance, a very impressive feat.

I could tell that Bosher was really suffering, but he was absolutely heroic on the day, getting out there lap after lap, posting some strong times. He admitted afterwards he’d definitely have pulled out after a couple of laps if he wasn’t part of a team, and looked a broken man at the end. As did we all, to be fair. I’m not sure I could have run 70km the weekend after running a sub 3 hour marathon – what a legend.

It started to hurt by lap 6, but I was still running at a reasonable pace, and was harbouring thoughts of completing each lap in under 50 minutes. This was all going so well until the very end of lap 7. I was about 2 minutes away from the finish line, but unfortunately, my stomach started cramping and I was forced to dive into the bushes for an emergency pit-stop. This probably cost me a good minute and I crossed the line a few minutes later in 50.30. D’oh.

You were able to track your progress throughout the day, and by this point Bosher and I had all but wrapped up 3rd place in the pairs competition. However, the idea of running 50 miles really appealed to me, so quite unnecessarily I set out for an 8th and final lap when Bosh had returned with the baton.

This lap continued as the previous one had ended, with some more stomach issues. However, after a while, these passed, and I actually then had a smile on my face as I realised that each time I went past a point of the course I wouldn’t have to run past it again for a very long time/ever again. I’d made an effort to talk to people on the course throughout the day, as this seemed to make the time pass much more quickly, and whenever I saw a solo runner on that last lap I congratulated them on what is a very, very impressive achievement.

Reaching the finish line was a great feeling, as it quickly dawned on me that I could finally stop running. It’s safe to say my legs were in absolute bits as we all limped around the event site getting our things together. I took advantage of the hot food on offer and demolished a giant bacon baguette.

6. finished
Job done – and all in the ridiculous hat

 

As mentioned above, Bosher and I had finished 3rd in the pairs competition, so we hung around for the presentations at the end where we each picked up a nice little trophy – the first one I’ve ever received actually. Not only did we come 3rd in the pair’s category, but we actually finished ahead of all but 2 of the teams with 3 to 5 runners in. I ran a total of 50 miles in just over 6 hours (6 hours and 9 minutes).

7. bosh and me podium8. brown and lew podium9. podium all

10. podium
First podium I’ve ever stood on

 

The whole experience was a great day out, with the event being really well organised with proper toilets and up to date results information. The best thing about the day was the camaraderie with the other runners and teams – everyone was really getting behind each other on the course, making an effort to chat and keep spirits up.

After the awards had been given out, I headed back to Brownies house where we subsequently demolished a pizza each and then a tin of biscuits. I didn’t stop eating for the following 24 hours, and certainly made sure I made up for my calorie deficit during the race.

The plan was to pick up training where I left off on the Monday, with just 12 weeks to go until the ironman. It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to happen, and I allowed myself a couple of easy days to let the legs start to recover.

11. trophy
A nice little trophy to take home

3 thoughts on “The Lightning Run (12 hours) – 01/05/16

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