I arrived in Barcelona with my crew (wife Gill and in-laws, Kelvin and Collette) midday on the Friday and chilled out with fellow runners, as well as checking out the track.
Alas on the eve of this, my 24hr debut I had my third consecutive restless night, which meant hardly any sleep for three nights. This wasn’t good prep and concerned me greatly. Missing one nights sleep, even the night before, isn’t a show stopper, but the preceding two day’s too was a real problem and I knew it.
As it transpired I’m thankful and delighted to have hit my target of an auto-qualifier for Spartathlon by completing a total of 218.41km/135.6 miles and finishing 6th overall (4th male) My auto-qualification target for Sparta is based on the 20% better rule applied to the criteria ‘cover a distance of 180k in a 24 hour race’ Hence I needed at least 216 km for auto-qualification.
However, I know it was a lacklustre performance really. It could and should have been so much better for a number of reasons and had I had been on form I’m convinced I would have bad a better chance of getting closer to 240km.
I had to leave the track at least four times due to stomach issues and throwing up on one occasion, which really surprised me as I don’t usually suffer such issues. This cost me dearly of course and stomach issues continued to cramp my style for many miles.
Following some post race analysis and discussion with fellow runners I believe it may have been attributable to either my digestion struggling to cope due to the tiredness, the effect of the new track surface or unfamiliar nutrition. May be even a combination of all three of these factors.
Yes I was using nutrition I hadn’t before and I had forgotten my Tailwind but it seems that my body was struggling with anything I gave it. The end result meant that I simply couldn’t fuel properly resulting in a severely compromised performance and unusually for me my head going down, especially in the last third.
Nevertheless, my amazing crew who supported me throughout were just brilliant!. So too were all those in the British camp including Drew Sheffield, Paul Katsiva-Corderoy, Paul Ali, Nathan Walsh, Simon Prytherch, Stu Wilkie, Roz Glover, Wendy Shaw, Katharine Ganly, Rich Cranswick, Ben Atkin, Simon Atkin, Claire Shelley and many others supporting from the sidelines.
Also, Irish friend Don Hannon who was ever present shouting and high fiving as we ground out the laps, the indefatigable Sam Kilpatrick who always had a smile on his face and Billy Holden who like the rest of us dug deep lap after lap.
Huge thanks to Robbie Britton for his motivational shouts, tips, cajoling and keeping me posted as I thought my target looked in jeopardy. Also for helping to source items of my kit as the night closed in.
My tired brain had defaulted to miles instead of km during the latter stages of the race after a misheard message, causing unneccessary stress for me and everyone as I thought my target was now beyond me. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the results/splits board had gone down!
I was touched by the kind gesture of fellow runners Natasha Farid, Gary House and Jay MacDonald for sharing some latter laps with me to keep my spirits up and the dream alive.
I of course had started fast again I’m told which I’m sure didn’t help either given my tiredness, so I paid a price for that too. Bob Hearn (the master of pacing) commented that I had ran the first four hours at Kouros pace 😊 Not very sensible unless you are Yiannis Kouros.
In those early hours I was averaging two mins per laps, but inevitably slowed, hitting the 100 mile split in 16:47. A 100 mile PB for me but of little significance, given there were still seven hours of running to do.
The track really took a toll on my body too and far more than I expected. Many other runners said the same. My quads, hips and surprisingly my lower legs/ankles were all trashed. The latter is not usually a problem for me, so obviously a track/shoe combination effect.
Three days later and I’ve just recovered from the worst case of DOMS I’ve ever experienced and although my initial thoughts after this debut are that I never want to do a track 24hr again I understand I have earned a free entry to next years race based on finishing in the top 5 and attaining the required IAU Silver Label distance of at least 200km.
Thanks again to everyone who tracked, supported and helped me in any way and congrats of course to Grant MacDonald for a superb overall win and to anyone else who toed the line!
Although unavoidable on this occasion, three consecutive nights without proper sleep undermined both my performance, my state of mind and my digestion, so I must try to ensure this doesn’t happen again!
Track/shoe choice combination possibly contributed to nausea I believe, as well as the worst case of DOMS I’ve ever experienced. Interestingly this was primarily in my lower legs and ankles, which is a first, so I need to review shoe choice for surfaces like Tartan tracks.
Try harder to up nutrition intake even if the body and mind are rebelling mid-race and stick with the familiar if at all possible.
Start slower than two minute laps and ensure to monitor progress by taking splits of the 400’s as I originally intended based on test run stats.