Monday, 24 May 2010

A tough 24 hours

World and European 24 hour Championships 2010

After getting back from France last Saturday evening I’ve been meaning to write a wee bit about the World Champs all week, but I’ve been knackered, mentally as well as physically, ma heid’s been all over the place and a bit more forgetfully than usual. Also I planned some big miles running every day this week knowing I’d be tired, my longest on Monday was 21 miles and boy, it was an exercise in remembering how to run tired, I covered 58 miles in the seven days and every mile came under the heading of flogging a dead horse but compared to what I witnessed at the World Champs it was nothing, the determination and fight shown by all the athletes was inspiring.

There was 229 competitors from 32 nations and we had a strong men’s team Chris Carver, Chris Finill, Stephen Mason, John Pares, Richard Quinnall, and Jim Rogers. They did very well, winning bronze in the European Championship. We didn’t have a ladies team, Sharon Gaytor was injured so Pauline and Marie Doke would be running for personal bests.

Now the atmosphere at these events is totally different from a family day oot aka The West Highland Way Race where competition is still fierce at the front end and between siblings, the Family always lookout for each other. This was the best on the planet running for national pride and gold medals and pressure to do well came not from team management but from the athletes themselves. There was the camaraderie that’s always present at ultras but it was still pretty much every country for themselves, there were a few wee bits of friction between some nations and for me I felt it was a bit like the petty shenanigans that go on in that disreputable game called football! Official complaints were flying around, ok; everyone wants a level playing field. I fell foul of the referee myself, on one lap I knew Pauline was approaching but the there were a horde of French hanging out of the tent next to us, Pauline came down the middle, I stepped forward to hand her drink bottle over as she went past, next thing the official was eyeballing me, speaking French, pointing to the painted line. I stopped short of tugging my forelock but nodding my head in acknowledgement of my misdemeanour, next lap I told Pauline she has to come right in to me ‘cause I got a row for stepping over the line. Now let me explain the rules for support at this championship, we were only allowed to use the length of our tent, three metres and one metre out (check the orange paint) anything out with this would incur disqualification for the runner.
I have never supported Pauline under such restrictions before (this was Pauline’s four British vest and I’ve been there for her in all the others), I usually cover about a marathon in the feed zone, but unless I’m handing over food or drink, I walk or run behind her, (don’t want to be accused of being a pacer), passing on information or kick ass encouragement. This felt like I was supporting with both hand tied behind my back! Right, enough of my frustrations.

This was a good team, support crew gelled together well, although we hadn’t all met before, there were a lot of laughs and we looking after each other, I was also helping Graham, Marie’s husband support Marie, he’d had quite an accident earlier and wasn’t firing on all cylinders and went off to rest occasionally, on one time where I was looking after Marie I missed Pauline, on her next lap round she shouted “Message from Alan Sugar!” She was long gone by the time I realised I was sacked!

We managed the three metre rule regards feeding, Pauline either took her juice bottle or mug round a whole lap or dumped it on the official drinks table where I’d walk over and pick it up. Communication was the hardest, but I have a good set of lungs and vocal chords set at max, when there was a text message of support I’d either edit it if it was a long one or just bellow as Pauline went by. (Thanks guys for sending them, they were appreciated and I read them all in full to Pauline afterwards.)

The support crew all worked together, when Chris Finill came in for a change of shoes, I did say out loud “How many crew does it take to change a pair of shoes?” Well, it was three, with the physio supervising! I was swapping Chris’s orthotics from one pair of shoes to the other, “Concentrate Fiona, there’s a left and right here, swap them over correctly!” Next lap round Chris came in to say they were in the wrong way round. Bugger! I’ve never been stumped to find a positive in any situation; I apologised and told him “Look at it like it was a reflexology massage!” Chris has proved that he is a consistent runner having run all thirty London Marathons and all under three hours, I took my hat off to him, I also lent him my favourite pink gloves when his were wet and cold, it was the least I could do after messing up his shoe change.

Pauline wasn’t having the best of runs, her shin was hurting, you could see it swelling and bruising as time progressed, she managed to maintain a pace that would at least give her 200km but as the night drew in it became freezing, I was wearing a t-shirt, a fleece, my inspirational t-shirt, a thick sweatshirt and a jacket, a pair of three quarter length breeks with thick cosy joggy bottoms over them, two hats (until I gave one to Chris) and I was freezing! Pauline was so cold she was rattling like an old washing machine on fast spin! Got lots of clothes on her and even made her do a spell wrapped in a blanket, she wasn’t the only one suffering from the penetrating cold, there were a few more similarly dressed in blankets.

Incidentally my inspirational t-shirt wasn’t necessary Pauline was working as hard as possible at all times and never gave up no matter how tough it became, I did give it a flash in the wee hours since I had it on. I also gave Pauline the Runrig “COME ON!” at my loudest possible, that stunned the Americans opposite into silent momentarily, well, there was a bonus!

After running for so many hours with a gammy leg Pauline’s gait was affected and she developed other sair and tight bits and had quite a pronounced limp at one point. Dave, the physio knocked some of the kinks out of her but that looked just as painful!

Time moved on and just after nineteen hours I bellowed some inspirationals recalling my run last Saturday on the WHW, Pauline drove from point to point enjoying the chill out and scenery “Less than five hoors tae go, jist imagine Bridge o’ Orchy tae Kinlochleven in the sunshine!” I laughed when Dawn (Richard’s support) said “err… that was too Scottish for me, can you translate?”

The end was in sight, Pauline had said she didn’t want her flag for the finish, she didn’t feel she deserved it. Pah! Not in my eyes. The distance she covered didn’t show the fight she put up and she definitely deserved the honour of finishing flying the Union Flag. I tied it round her shoulders, gave her a hug and sent her off, that was when my bottom lip gave a big wobble, I’d stayed a tough taskmaster up until then.

Marie didn’t have a flag to finish with, her first GB vest and a PB too, I had a bit of a dilemma, there was no way I was going to ask Pauline to give up her flag but then I saw my Saltire fastened onto the railings. Now there’s a flag Pauline will be proud to finish with! With total disregard for the restrictive rules I took my Saltire to where the route went round the back of the tents, as Pauline went by I told her that Marie didn’t have a flag. Pauline’s look of concern said it all followed with “Give Marie this!” I gave Pauline my Saltire and dashed back with the Union Flag for Marie. There were only a few minutes to go, I grabbed my camera, sod these effin rules, I’m off! I went through a gap in the railings and charged round the inside of the lap screaming at Pauline “Fly your Saltire, show them how a Rampant Lion finishes!”
The signal for the end of the race sounded. Pauline was shifting at the end, I had to climb the barrier to get to her, she was still standing but leaning her head on the barrier, and could still make me laugh, in true Diva style said “No photographs!”

It took a bit of time to get everyone back to the hotel, Pauline just crashed out and didn’t move for ages, it took me a good deal of effort to get her to eat and finally have a shower. Then I fell asleep!

Pauline’s distance of 107 miles was a disappointment for her but there was no disgrace in her performance, I have never seen anyone work so hard for so long with the problems that she had and I’ve witnessed quite a few tough races!

I’m not finished with doing support yet, next weekend I get to do the let’s not bother with any sleep thing again. Pauline and I along with Ken will be looking after Sue in the Heart of Scotland 100, it won’t be so intense and l’ll get to run a bit too! I might even take my t-shirt but only for the laughs!


John Kynaston said...

Well done to both of you.

Thanks for the report. The effort you both put in came across well.

Anonymous said...

A great performance from you both once again and a crackin' report.

Congrats to Pauline from me and see you soon.

Take care,
Bob A.

Vicky Hart said...

Great blog Fiona. Really moving. A huge well done to Pauline on battling through.
And wish Sue good luck from me and Paul for the HoS100.

Debbie Martin-Consani said...

Fabulous report. Well done to Team Pauline.

Great picture at the finish.

Debs x

Silke said...

Well done to both of you! But what about that washing machine?! I hope Pauline gets a good rest. And you before your next support. Silke

lesleyh said...

Great report Fiona, what a tough time you both had - Pauline with her sair bits and you with the restrictions. Brilliant effort from both of you as always.

Anonymous said...

A great read, Fiona, and a great effort from you both. Well done and hope you enjoy the more "relaxed" weekend ahead. Good luck to Sue! Isobel

Keith Hughes said...

Top stuff Team !! Great run and guts and effort !! Great post !

Anonymous said...

That was a fantastic read, it fair brought a lump to my throat.