Monday, 28 June 2010

A Pride of Rampant Lions

My WHW report is work in progress but I write as slow as I run but here’s a cracking report from Gail’s Anglo-Celtic 100km


2010 was to be the year I got my own back on the WHW. Alas, I was selected to represent Scotland in the Anglo Celtic plate, which, as luck would have it (or was it an English conspiracy?.....hush my mouth…) landed on the same day.

It didn’t take long to decide that I would prefer to represent my country. I may not have that opportunity again, and the WHW wasn’t going anywhere.

So I trained hard on the roads, harder than I’d trained before. I did loads of build up races which helped my speed and boosted my confidence. I had run Keswick in a PB, for the 1st time breaking 9 hours last September. This was a hilly course and I hoped I could do better on the flat, scenic Boddington course. I wanted a PB and thought 8.45 was a reasonable target. Then I heard the British qualifying time was 8.39. So why not go for that. In the past I’ve always covered the 1st half in about 4 hours and the 2nd in 5 hours. I was going to try and start a bit slower in the hope that I wouldn’t burn out so soon. I knew it would slow drastically in the 2nd half, but I hoped it would be later on in the race, where I’d have more in the bank and be able to hold on for longer.

All my training had gone to plan. I doubted towards the last couple of weeks before the race whether I’d done enough mileage. But that’s not an unusual feeling before any ultra. We travelled down to Boddington in a hire car. Steven and I picked it up in Kirkcaldy, drove to Bellshill to pick up Grant, then onto Abington to collect Issy. En route we hit terrible traffic and got lost in Bellshill. A potential 6 hour journey was more like 8 ½ hours. Not the greatest preparation the day before the race. On arrival, Steven, Grant and I had a quick recce of the race route in the car before going straight to the pre-race briefing. The race organiser seemed to take great pleasure in telling us that Scotland was the only complete ladies team, and all we had to do was finish. I’m sure as a UKA official he is meant to be impartial, but my ar*e!....

I went to bed, not thinking this is in the bag, but rather I’ve got 62 miles to run tomorrow and if I don’t I’ve LOST the ACP for Scotland. No pressure then! I slept quite well and turned up for the race not feeling too bad. The nerves kicked in when we arrived at Boddington Manor. Everyone appeared to be the same. Grant was super confident despite having a back problem for weeks. Scott didn’t complain of anything but I knew he was nervous about a foot/ankle problem he’d had recently. I was glad he was there – good friend and clubmate, and his Dad. I knew how important it was for him to represent his country for the 1st (and I’m sure not the last) time. Issy and Nathalie were also on edge – Issy always questioning her fitness and Nathalie running for Scotland for the 1st time. Les was an old hand but had a problem with his back.

We all had our own goals and before we knew it we were off. We ran alongside runners doing the marathon and the 50K. This was great as there was plenty to watch and think about. And it always surprises me how you can lap people running the marathon! Always gives you a boost. We were to run 28 laps of a 3.5km loop. It was very scenic and flat and myself, Natalie and Issy all settled in and ran together at roughly 8 min mile pace for the 1st few laps. I had a good blether with Natalie for a while then she broke away. I was happy to plod on at my own pace and felt quite comfortable. Issy fell back and it was difficult when I lapped her, to see she was having trouble early doors. Grant lapped me after about 6-7 laps I think, up with the “fast boys”. Scott lapped me later and I could tell he wasn’t comfortable. He told me his legs were very heavy. But on we went. I felt fairly comfortable for the 1st half of the race, going through 50K at about 4 hrs 07. This was all par for the course. I knew I’d thrown in 2 or 3 fast laps early on but felt OK and was running steady now. It was all time in the bank. I lapped Issy again and she was really struggling. I really thought she was going to pull out. This put extra pressure on to finish as 2 runners were required to count for the team. I was delighted to hear on the next lap that she was still in the race.

Update from the WHW – Richie was in the lead at Bridge of Orchy. This was what I wanted to hear and it gave me a wee boost and spring in my step. Unfortunately, not long past the half way mark I started to feel sick. In spectacular form, at the next drinks station I vomited my guts up. Always nice in front of a crowd. I didn’t know what I could take till Margaret, Les Hill’s wife came to the rescue with some flat coke. It went down well, then I was off again. It wasn’t long before I felt the same way again. I knew I was in deficit and my pace was slowing all the time. At the start of the race, because of the new rules where your support can’t run with you for any distance – they can only move 1 meter from the drinks station, I was struggling to get hold of my drinks as I ran through. One thing I really wanted to do in this race was not walk. However once the vomiting started I had no option. I had to stop every lap to walk, refuel as best I could and vomit when the need arose. And it was oh so difficult to get moving again. I perfected the mega slow shuffle to make it look like I was running – debatable I’m sure. But I was sent off with a flee in my ear each time and told to keep moving. I did my best and did in fact keep running for the rest of the lap, only walking at the drinks station. I always vomited in front of an audience at the drinks station though– such an attention seeker!

I was counting down the laps and was told on 2 separate laps that I had 9 to go. The lap counters were at the opposite side of the lap to the drinks station and our support, so it was not easy to verify this. It sorted itself out but I was not impressed when I was told I had 3 laps to go as I entered my final lap. The lap keepers were shouted at accordingly and they confirmed I was right. Thank the Lord!

I was so desperate to finish. I had been desperate for the past 2 hours. It’s not easy running 30 miles with nothing in the tank. But I had to finish. I couldn’t lose the ACP. If I had to walk or crawl I would. My hoped for times had long gone. I knew I wasn’t going to get a PB or even sub 9 hours but that didn’t matter. I just wanted to finish. I’d seen loads of people drop out. I wasn’t going to be one of them. I’d been lapped by Scott twice but then unlapped myself. I knew from our support he was having mega problems with his legs but he was still going. So was Issy despite feeling rubbish from 90 minutes into the race, Nathalie was now having problems with her hip I think, but was still running. Grant’s back was giving him problems and he was way down on his hoped for time and Les’s back had gone. But everyone was gutting it out to the end.

I have to admit to walking some of the last lap – when no one was looking! I started running before I approached the lap timers and ran towards the manor. I saw Steven who gave me the Saltire to run with till the finish. I held it with pride as I crossed the line with great relief. I was greeted by Scott’s Dad, John who gave me the biggest hug. I don’t think he thought I was going to let go! Then Steven got the same. Relief at finishing, joy at winning the ACP and I came in 3rd in the British 100K championships to boot! Now I’d stopped running, could I have something to eat now please?!! Thank you to Scott’s friend’s for buying me a ham roll and a cup of tea!

Then I heard the news I’d been hoping for, Richie had just won the WHW!!! With tears welling up I shouted to Scott to give him the news. He felt the same. So many hundreds of miles away Richie had made our day!

Within the next 90 minutes the whole Scottish team was home. We had all gutted it out with our own personal battles on the day. None of us had done what we wanted time wise but we had all achieved in our own ways. Another one put down to experience. Yet another character building race.

I don’t know why I was sick. Not a problem normally for me during ultras. Maybe it was the heat. It certainly was hot at times. I didn’t feel I was sweating much, but did feel I was overheating, and regularly had to throw bottles of water over myself. The long journey down to Boddington the day before maybe didn’t help. But I can’t think of anything else.

Boddington was tough. It was a challenge for Steven to go down as team manager. Experienced as he is at supporting, managing a team is a whole new responsiblilty. He didn’t just have to look after me, but the whole team. The new rules where you can only move 1 meter from the drinks station was hard for all the support. I was certainly conscious of the fact I was barking demands from a distance. I knew this was required but I felt very demanding and there wasn’t much time for please or thank you. So I’ll say it now! – Thank you to Steven, who did a sterling job for me personally and for the whole team, and to all the other support and runners in Team Scotland – for emotional and physical support. For Margaret and Les a special thanks for the flat coke, which will now be an essential part of my supplies in future ultras!

As I ran this race I thought, well at least I’ll not have to do 100K again as I’ll not get selected again, but like the WHW last year, me and the 100K now have unresolved issues. See you in Perth!

Gail Murdoch
June 2010

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