Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to the Summer of 2006

Yes, it's been a long time since I posted on this blog. A lot has transpired since.

The 2014 GUCR
Short story? Stopped at 48 miles owing to a flare-up of Crohn's.

Long story? Things were going well until I had to stop at 48 miles. :-))

The 2014 Liverpool-Leeds Canal race
Short story? Stopped at 54 or 55 miles owing to a flare-up pf Crohn's.

Long story? Things were going well until I had to stop.

Random pictures from the two races below.

                                                     (Before the Start of the 145M GUCR)

                                          (Somewhere in the first few miles of the 145M GUCR)

                                               (In Wigan during the Liverpool-Leeds 130M Race)

So it's time to step back and decide what I want to do with my "running" life. Running 100+ miles is what I wish to do most. Races that have not so stringent cutoffs are what I love doing for I am no longer interested in running quickly nor making really tight cutoffs (Spartathlon for one).

Ergo the title of this post. I have to almost go back to Square One i.e. find a way to manage what I eat in order to run 50 miles, 100 miles 145 miles, ...

Crohn's is not the end of my life. It is just the beginning of a different flavor of the same life.

My goal is to run the GUCR again next year. Along the way will be 50Ks, 50Ms, and possibly a 100M. I am excited at the prospect of re-experiencing the joy and thrill of crossing the Finish line of a 50M, 100K, 100M, ... all over again!! How many are given that chance again in life? Crohn's has given me that and I am excited.

Stay tuned (if you visit this blog).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Got to raise my Butting Average

Yes, it's not a spelling mistake. The title of the post is, indeed, "Got to raise my Butting Average". Read on to find on what it means. Please be warned, however, that some parts may have TMI.

The first time I had the "runs" during a run was during a weekday evening regular run back in November, 2012. I was barely a mile from home when the urge came on so strongly that it was all I could do make it to some bushes by the side of an urban road (it helped that it was quite dark by then). I wound up going to the restroom of a nearby grocery store and still needed to make it back home again after starting running from the store. 3 times in the space of 40 minutes and accompanied by diarrhea and flatulence!

I attributed it to something I must have eaten earlier that day. The next two weeks were a minor hell so to speak. Every time I started running I would get the urge to go in the first mile or so. I was forced take a closer look at what I had been eating and I came to believe it was a stomach infection because of some spoiled milk product. 

That incident passed and I was back to my usual running routine.

Fast forward to my July, 2013 trip to the UK for the Thames Ring 250M where I stopped at 109 miles. I must have gone to a toilet or used bushes along the way at least 5-6 times in those 109 miles but none of those were like the November '12 ones.

It must have been a few days after returning, in the second week of July, that I had a repeat of the November episode. This time around it did not go away completely. Here are the salient points of what happens:
  * There has not been a single run since that day when I have   
    not had the intense urge to go - I have "gone" in my shorts 
    a few times since then
  * My 3 longest runs have been a marathon and 2 50Ks
  * For someone who has run 30-40 miles continuously without 
    stopping it is hard these days to even manage 2-3 miles 
    without needing to stop. Part of the reason is the fact that 
    iron is being lost in the bleeding, nutrients are not being 
    absorbed in the body and dehydration is occurring because of 
    diarrhea
  * The intense, almost uncontrollable, urge to go has been 
    accompanied by gas and bleeding

There is that side of me that loves to soak up information. I have taught myself a bit of anatomy owing to all the running coaching I do. Everything else I know about a plethora of topics has been a result of being both a philomath and a polymath.

Ergo my desire to pinpoint my current travails. I had a stool test done back in December. Blood was found as well as a high count of WBCs. My belief that it was the result of rogue gut bacteria seemed to be confirmed.

Fast forward to today (March 11, 2014). I am in Oz (Australia) for work this week and I happened to be channel surfing in the evening and came upon Dr. Oz talking about "Poop and Pee". The first topic was the shape and consistency of poo. My stools were the furthest away from normal on his list. He attributed it to Crohn's disease or even Diverticulitis. I looked the latter up for symptoms and found my way to a Web site talking about Inflammatory Bowel Diseaser (IBD) which mostly comprises of Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis (UC).

Eureka! ALL the symptoms for IBD, especially for UC, matched mine exactly! I spent hours reading up on the topic and realized that I was in for a major battle and a massive lifestyle change.

There is still no clear idea why IBD happens. It is apparently a lifelong problem and can go into remission but come back unbidden (only a fool would bid it to come!).

A new journey begins. New paths to walk over.

A new battle commences. New weapons to learn about and use.

All I have is knowledge and my optimism as pacers and crew members. I will reach the Finish line one of these years and it will be the sweetest finish of them all.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Re-deja vu all over again?

Race: Grand Union Canal Race
Distance:  145.4 miles
Date: May 25, 2013
Location: Birmingham to London, United Kingdom
Time: 44:40

Beneath the Sun, the sweaty face,
The shuffling feet, the slowing pace,
The distant goal, the tired gaze.
Ah! This hot summer! Its thick haze!!
Why did I have to pick this race?

Kneeling down, doing up a lace,
Insects invading my airspace.
Tired feet on fire, ablaze,
Beneath the Sun.

And then my Spirit deigns to grace
My side. It takes its rightful place.
The new Me I start to amaze
As mile upon mile I erase.
And then the old Self I outrace
Beneath the Sun.

The above poem, borrowed from Rajeev The Runner, more or less describes what I went through. Not the thoughts about "Why did I have to pick this race?" but the latter part of the poem. I have run too many races, and stopped in a lot of them when I am no longer enjoying the journey, to now do something just because I have to prove something. 

2012 GUCR race report     http://rajeevtherunner.blogspot.com/2012/06/gucr-part-iii.html
2011 GUCR race report     http://rajeevtherunner.blogspot.com/2011/06/running-far-in-gucr-part-deux.html
2010 GUCR race report     http://rajeevtherunner.blogspot.com/2010/05/running-far-in-gucr.html

Let's go back to the beginning.

The days leading up to the race were pretty much similar to the ones from years past. I landed in London on Wednesday (May 22) afternoon. After eating dinner in Woodlands on Panton Street I wandered into the Whole Foods that's just off Piccadilly Circus. One of the things I picked up were 6 small sesame snaps. They proved to be an awesome snack during the race!


(Image from www.goodnessdirect.co.uk)


Spent the night there before taking the 1:00 p.m. train to Brum. I checked into Jurys Inn and headed to Pushkar for a quick meal at 5:30 p.m. 



I then decided to head to the theater not too far from the hotel where I was delighted to see the new Star Trek movie on offer. I quite enjoyed it, especially the acting of Benedict Cumberbatch whom I recognized from the new BBC Sherlock Holmes series.

Jet lag ensured that sleep was hard to come by Thursday night. I finally went to sleep at 6:30 a.m. only to wake up at 9:30, in time for breakfast downstairs. Right after breakfast I went off to the local large Tesco store to pick up last minute snacks etc.

Lunch was again in Pushkar - dal and rice this time since I wanted the food to clear my system by next morning.

I went back up to the room and watched TV until I realized that Mimi Anderson, who was attempting a double GUCR, was due at the Start by around 4 p.m. I rushed down to the Gas Street bridge to find Tim, Mimi's husband, and James Adams and Gemma waiting for her too. We realized that we had a bit of time so we trooped into a nearby pub/cafe for coffee and tea.

Mimi duly showed up at 4:09 p.m. She had started at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday giving her a northbound time of 31:09! Simply marvelous!!


(Mimi after her 31:09 finish)

My next stop was the Travelodge lobby where I bought a couple of belts to secure my bib number on and picked up my race T-shirt and sweatshirt. I spent an hour after that in O'Neills with some of the other runners. 

Off to my room it was around 7:30 p.m. I laid out my stuff for the morning and got into bed around 9 p.m. I watched TV for a while and turned off the lights to try and sleep. Like the past 2 years, sleep was hard to come by. I tossed and turned all night. I finally got up around 3:15 a.m. to shave, shower and eat my breakfast. 5:20 a.m. saw me headed for Gas Street and the Start where the yearly picture (below) near the Start was taken.


(L to R: Peter Johnson, I, Paul Ali, Keith Godden and Lindley Chambers)

We were off right after Dick's short speech.

START to CP1, Catherine de Barnes Bridge #78, 10.7 miles

(In the first few miles after the Start)

I was one of the last people to start. Very soon I was truly the last person for I had to stop 5 minutes into the race to answer Nature's call. I did however soon settle into a decent pace and caught up with Geir Frykholm who had stopped to make some adjustments to his backpack. We ran together for the next half a mile or so before he took off. I soon stopped to help a runner who had hit his head on a rather low tunnel overhead. He was bleeding a bit.

A few miles into it I knew we would come to a slight right curve in the canal from where I would be able to get a good shot of this nice church (below).



My left Hoka Bondi was poking into the top of my foot. This was starting to bug me a bit and I knew that if I did not take care of it soon it would become a bigger problem later. So I spent 5 minutes taking off my shoes and sticking Band-Aids to the top of my foot. I started running again, The Band-Aids worked for a few miles but the constant poking returned. I knew that I would have to get out of the Hokas in the first CP.

I duly reached it at 2:07 p.m. Given the 7-8 minutes I had spent with helping the runner and my Hokas, my time into the CP was more like 2:00 hrs. I had done this section in 1:56 last year and 2:00 and 2:06 in 2011 and 2010 respectively. I was pretty much running a similar pace this year too. I got into my Brooks Cascadias, grabbed a few more gels and was out of the CP like a flash. Not without joking with Paddy Robbins though!

CP1 to CP2, Hatton Hill Bridge #54 22.4 miles
I had covered this section last year in 2:20 i.e. I had reached the CP at around 10:15 a.m. I was hoping for something similar for this year too.

Very soon I reached Knowle Lock, at about mile 14, where I used my British Waterways key to open up a water tap (locked in a small box) and topped up both my bottles. The weather forecast had called for a sunny weekend, with highs between 65-68 degrees F, so having enough water was imperative.

                          (A fellow runner took this picture of me. Knowle Lock in the background)

I have no idea what happened to me between 14 and 22.4. All I know is that a combination of lack of sleep (I had now been awake since 9:30 a.m. on Friday i.e. 24 hours and counting), lowish blood sugar and, possibly, the warming conditions made for a perfect storm. 


I could not run at any kind of consistent pace and was forced to walk every so often.





(Just before Shrewley Tunnel)

Keith Godden caught up with me just before Shrewley Tunnel, at mile 20.4, and we exited the tunnel on the far side together. He went on through while I went off to the right, on the road, to this little grocery store I espied. Once inside I realized that nothing looked too appetizing so I decided to scarf down a gel and wait until the CP to eat something. 


The CP was finally reached at 10:58 a.m. I was a full 43 minutes slower than last year! I was still not close to the cutoff since the CP closed at 12:15 p.m. i.e. I had reached with 75 minutes to spare. I quickly ate something, grabbed a few more gels and left.

CP2 to CP3, Birdingbury Bridge 35.9 miles
This section was uneventful like every year. There is that section where the canal curves to the left past a block of apartments. I actually took some pictures in this section including some panoramic ones.








Looking at my text description of the route, something I use every year instead of the maps (which I carry in my backpack just in case I might need them), I realized that I was getting close to 34.6 miles (in 8:11). The CP was only 1.3 miles further away. I finally rolled into that CP at 2:28 p.m. i.e. 8h 28m into the race.

In the rainy conditions last year I had reached this CP at 1:38 p.m. This year I was a full 50 minutes slower! I knew I would be paying the price later in the race for I was now 32 minutes from the CP closing time. 

I have been eating gluten-free foods for the past 2 months but I was so hungry here that I grabbed 4-5 cookies and headed out of the CP stuffing them into my mouth.

CP3 to CP4, The Heart of England, Weedon, 53 miles
 Along the way I did take a picture of a marina I always pass.



I was at Napton Junction soon enough. I will never forget this junction. I was now visiting it for the 5th time in the past 4 years. I had first gone through it in the 2009 Thames Ring 250M where it came at 172 miles. In this race it's at 38.5 miles.

I walked a major part of the miles leading to the tunnel which comes up at mile 45. I walked up the initial climb out of the towpath and then, once I was on a smoother section, ran up the hill and then down the other side down to the canal again.

I was soon at the Norton Junction, at 48.3 miles. A few hundred yards before I reached this junction a runner named Spenser Lane caught up with me. We crossed over the lock and got back to the canal using the public underpass. I had just taken a couple of gels before he had caught up and the sugar rushing about in my body made me want to start running. I did precisely that and soon found myself settling into a nice and comfortable 9:30-10 mins/mile pace. I passed a few other runners including Keith Godden and Geir and Dave Baker who were together.

I must have run for the next 3 - 3.5 miles before settling down to a fast walk. I eventually espied the building, on the far side of the canal, I was looking for. The building is a sign that the CP is just another 200 yards further. I reached the CP at 6:58 p.m. i.e. 32 minutes before the close. 

Cathy, Keith's wife, was helping out here and she was sweet enough to give me two bottles of chocolate milk she had specially got for me! She asked about Keith and I told her that he was about 5-7 minutes behind me.

I was very concerned about Christian Hottas and Christine Schroeder. I was hoping they would be able to make the 7:30 cutoff. Spenser, who had caught up with me a half mile before the CP, and I left the CP at the same time.

Onward now to the big Navigation Inn CP at 70.4 miles!

CP4 to CP5, Navigation Bridge, 70.4 mile
The fastest I have ever made it to this CP is in 2011 when I reached there at 10:19 p.m. (~ 16:19 hours into the race). I have never been able to do the first 70.4 miles faster than 16 hours. This year, obviously considering how close I was to the CP cutoffs, was no exception.

The first milestone I had to focus on was Gayton Junction at 60.5 miles, a long 7.5 miles away! This leg has a 3 or 4-mile section I do not like very much. Those miles are probably the most uneven section of the GUC towpath.

I trudged along with my sights firmly fixed on Gayton Junction which duly arrived at 9:24 p.m. (15:24 into the race if you are paying attention). A scant 2 miles later comes the Blisworth Tunnel.

The top of the short 200 feet climb from the canal is where Spenser, who gone past me in the mile leading up to the tunnel, went right instead of left towards the road. I shouted out to point him in the right direction and quickly caught up with him. 

We were thus together on the mile or so up to the top after which is the descent back down to the canal. Spenser talked about an expensive but warm running jacket he had purchased. We were soon on the dirt path that led down to the canal. This is when the urge to go came upon me strongly. I asked him to continue and quickly went off to the right, off the path, a long ways to answer Nature's call.

Down it was to the canal again. From prior years I knew that there was a pub and an Indian restaurant on the lock. It was 10:45 p.m. by now and I was excited to find that the Indian restaurant was still open. I quickly went inside and asked them to pack me dal and rice to go.

I was waiting for the order to be fulfilled when Keith, Christian Hottas and Christine went past. I was very happy to see all three.

12 minutes later I was on my way on the towpath happily ingesting some much needed food. It must have worked wonders for I soon settled into a fast, distance-eating pace that soon saw me go past the others. I soon noticed the lights of the Navigation Inn off to my left. From the last 3 years of running this race I knew that it would take quite a bit more of time on the towpath before the CP arrived.

12:30 a.m. (18:30 race time) is when it did! 30 minutes before closing!! I did not linger long there. I was out in 15 or so minutes. 

CP5 to CP6, Water Eaton, 84.5 miles
Keith Godden soon caught up with me and passed me. This 14-mile section was unbelievably long! It was, as I wrote on my FB status, a slugfest between the course and my sleep deprived brain, I had now been awake for close to 40 hours with no prospect of sleep in the near future. I would walk a bit and then slow down to stop and close my eyes while standing up and, after the attempt proved futile, continue on. The miles went by uneventfully albeit slowly. 

The sky started to show the first signs of light around 4:15 a.m. That lifted my spirits a bit. It was nice and bright and a tad chilly by the time I reached the CP at 6:07 a.m. (24:07 race time).  This was a full hour and 8 minutes before it closed. The section had taken me around 5h 20m. 

There was some awesome soup on offer and I had two cups of it and a half cup of coffee. Spenser and I left almost at the same time. I had learned that Spenser had been battling sever shin pain in his left leg since the 53-mile CP. He was unable to run and walking itself was slow for him. I forget what time it was that we left but it must have been around 6:35-6:40 a.m. The next section was 15.4 miles long.

CP6 to CP7, Grand Junction Arms, 99.8 miles
The first thing that registered on my still partially sleepy brain was the fact that Leighton Buzzard was about 6 miles away. My plan was to see if I could get some coffee and food there. I trudged along ahead of Spenser until I got to the section where the towpath runs through Leighton Buzzard. It was around 9:00 a.m. that I veered off the towpath into the Tesco parking lot. I had to use the facilities!

That Tesco does not open until 9:30 a.m. so I trudged off onto the main road there to a Shell gas station. The lady there allowed me to use the toilet. I must have gotten back onto the towpath around 9:35-9:40 a.m. I quickly got back into a semi-decent pace (18-19 mins/mile). It must have been an hour before I caught up with Spenser. Were both knew that we were the last two out on the course.

Head down, I plodded on. I had been enjoying the Sesame snaps I had purchased in Whole Foods and I consumed the 5th one in that section. The Grand Junction Arms arrived at 11:47 a.m. (I had had to push in the last 2-3 miles in order to not miss the cutoff). This was 13 minutes before the close! I enjoyed some soup and fried potatoes  and quickly left in 15 minutes. I was very pleased to see Spenser make it into the CP with a minute to spare!

The next section was the longest in the race, all of 20.5 miles.

CP7 to CP8, Springwell Lock, 120.3 miles
I was feeling sleepy once again so a scant 1.5 miles after the CP I set the alarm on my iPhone for 10 minutes hence and tried to sleep. This is when Spenser passed me. I was unable to sleep so I switched off the alarm and resumed my slow death march.

The miles rolled by slowly. It might have been a combination of two gels taken together that prompted me to decide to run instead of walk. I was not happy that I was scant minutes off the cutoffs for I knew that the final 12 mile section of the race, should I be fortunate enough to reach that far, would take me anywhere from 4 to 4.5 hours owing to my severe sleep deprivation. I simply HAD to build up a larger buffer!

It was like someone had set a pack of dogs on my heels. I started running around the 107-mile mark and did not stop until I had reached 111 miles or so. Those 4 miles, run at 10 minutes/mile pace, instead of the 18-19 mins/mile of the previous many miles, suddenly put me in the black by 30 minutes or so. 

I had felt good while running those miles. That was very encouraging. It was back to slightly fast walking again from 111 to about 118 miles. I came upon Claire Shelley and others at one of the locks. They were looking for Jerry Smallwood. A few locks later there he was in their company. I hugged him and was very disappointed to learn that he had stopped at 112 miles. I was similarly disappointed to find Christian Hottas sitting atop one of the bridges. He had had a pronounced lean when I had passed him a few miles before the 70.4-mile CP and the lean had done him in. He too was forced to drop out. Christine had continued on alone.

The running bug caught me again around 118.5 miles and I truly sped up now! I must have been doing 8-9 mins/miles and I swooped into the CP at 6:30 p.m. Those last 20.5 miles had taken 6.5 hours! I had reached with 30 minutes to spare. I shucked my backpack, strapped on my big waist pack and got into my Tevas. My Cascadias had served me very well for 110 miles! Allan Rumbles walked a bit with me. You are a star, Mr. Rumbles! Thank you!!

CP8 to CP9, Hambrough Tavern, Southall, 133 miles
I was fired up now! I ate the last of the Sesame snaps and walked at a brisk pace until I had reached 127.5 miles (pub here) at 38:55 into the race. Those 7 miles had taken me 2 hours and 10 minutes i.e.about 18 minutes/mile. I decided to run all the way to Bulls Bridge (mile 132.5). I settled into a 14-15 min/mile pace and the miles started to slip by. It was starting to get dark and I turned on my headlamp. I must have reached Bulls Bridge around 40:18 into the race (10:18 p.m.). The last mile into the CP was mostly walked because the towpath was not in great shape, I reached CP#9 at 10:37 p.m. (40:37 race time).

My friend Fiona McNelis was in the CP as well as James Adams. I quickly refilled my bottles and left the CP since there was not much to eat there. 

CP9 to the Finish in Little Venice, 145.4 miles
James was kind enough to accompany me out for a half mile or so. He filled me in on the status of many of the other runners. Hugs to you, James!!

I walked and walked and walked. The first thing I noticed was that the path was pretty much paved after the first 1.5 miles from the CP. Evidently British Waterways had the intention of paving it all. That made it a lot easier to walk, even without a light if needed. I kept plodding on sure that I was closer than 7 miles to the Finish. It was with a slight shock that I noticed the sign "London Paddington 7.75 miles" after what seemed like an eternity. Crap! 7.25 miles to go still!

Sleep was upon me now as I had been expecting. Fortunately though it never got as bad as last year! I kept eating my gels with the intention of not only keeping the blood sugar up to help my my walking but also to let the brain have some much needed sugar to stay awake.

With about 4 miles to go I was passed by Steve Beedle, Glyn Raymen and Jason Firestone. They were setting a great pace and I wished them bon voyage! :-)

Having run this race 3 times before and this section 4 times (I had come to London for work in April 2012) I knew where I was. I was alternately walking and shuffling by now. With about 2 miles to go I experienced sudden twinges in my right upper calf. Not wanting to do more harm and knowing that I WOULD finish in time I backed off and kept walking.

The first headlamp I saw coming my way was Paddy Robbins'. He asked me about Spenser and I informed him that he was not far behind me. The next person was James Adams. He walked with me for over half a mile before heading off to his home just off the canal. I knew that I had just over a mile or a mile and a half to go.

It was a pleasure to see the Finish off in the distance. I finally let Dick put the customary heavy GUCR medal around my neck at 2:40 a.m. (44:40 race time).




What a battle it had been! I ran hard when I needed to and when I could. Was the victory sweet? You bet!

My heartfelt gratitude to Dick and his amazing corps of volunteers that included James Adams, Sharon Weldon, Paddy Robbins, Hank, Paul Stout and Allan Rumbles to name a few.

I found out the next day that Keith Godden had dropped out at 85 miles. I was very bummed to learn that. Spenser Lane finished in 44:54!! Way to go, Spenser!!!

Onward to the Jul 3 Thames Ring 250M now!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rouge-Orleans 126M



At 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb 8, 2013 I will start the 126-mile Rouge-Orleans race. It runs on the Mississippi levee from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Start times are staggered and Rajeev Char and I have opted for the maximum of 42 hours (until 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 10). Ergo the 8 p.m. start.  Like in the Coyote Two Moon 100M I will be running through two nights.

I first heard about this race when my friend, Jimmy Dean Freeman, ran the scrub run a few years ago. It promises to be an exciting event.

Check out http://www.therougeorleans.com/ for more information. The Start of the race is shown below as is the Finish. The last 22 miles of the levee are paved so it will be intriguing to see what my legs feel like after 104 miles on dirt.

I finally get to do a race longer than 100 miles in my own country!

ro website header uss kidd -2

ro website header-2
(Photos courtesy of the race Web site)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ultramarathonrunningstore.com Sponsorship

Ultramarathonrunningstore.com and I are pleased to announce that I will be one of their sponsored athletes. I will be joining Debbie Martin-Consani, the overall winner of the 2012 145-mile Grand Union Canal Race, and Terry Conway who set a new Course Record for Scotland's, and arguably the UK's, most famous ultra marathon, the 95-mile West Highlands Way race, in June this year.

Ultramarathonrunningstore.com is the retail outlet of the wonderful ultra marathon running resource Ultramarathonrunning.com. Hydration vests, hand bottles, waist bags and packs and running apparel are on offer for customers all across the world. They are the exclusive UK suppliers of UltrAspire and RaceReady products.

Stay tuned for upcoming product reviews. In the meantime hurry over to the Web site to shop or offer constructive feedback. You can also like them on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

GUCR - Part III

Race: Grand Union Canal Race
Distance:  145.4 miles
Date: June 2, 2012
Location: Birmingham to London, United Kingdom
Time: 44:10

 Back off! You're too close. Stop!! You are too near.
The last seven miles took me three hours:
Falling into the canal my big fear
And no, I did not stop to smell  flowers.
Rewind to the early miles - they were wet
But none more than the ones Saturday night;
The slow ones causing me to fume and fret
As the cutoff times became a bit tight.
Fade out. In focus once again. Fade out.
The sleep that once never showed now did come.
And now it was a fight, an epic bout
To stay awake, move and to overcome.
Oh England! How I love your moody self!
In exploring you a man finds himself.

                              (Is this idyllic or what? Photo courtesy of Hayley Donnelly)

GUCR Part I  (2010)  can be read here
GUCR Part II (2011) is here for your enjoyment
The 2009 Thames Ring 250M race I mention in the post below can be accessed here

The last 7 miles were the hardest I have ever done to end a race. They felt interminably long and I was so happy when familiar landmarks showed up, near the end, that gave me an idea of where I was with respect to the Finish. Even then the last mile took forever.

Let me go  back to the beginning.

(Photos courtesy of Christian Hottas, Hayley Donnelly, Phil Gadd and Ross Langston)

Wednesday, May 30
I landed in London around 10:30 a.m. and  got done with Immigration and Customs pretty quickly. Before long I was on the Piccadilly line and got off in King's Cross/St. Pancras. I took out my iPhone and loaded up Maps to orient myself and find the hotel. After checking in I went back to the station to take the tube to Piccadilly Circus and make my way to Panton Street where I was meeting Shefaly for lunch in Woodlands. We talked about her teaching stint in India and my upcoming race.



A quick stop in Tesco to pick up some water and snacks and back to the hotel it was. The room was actually a 2-room suite and I wound up sleeping in the outer room since the inner room felt very stuffy.

Thursday, May 31
I went downstairs for a quick breakfast before heading up to the room to pick up the bags and head to Euston Station. My hotel was about half a mile away and the walk was pleasant. I joined the long line to buy a ticket, 19 pounds, to Birmingham. I quickly made my way down to the platform and found myself seated at the end of the train. The train took off on time and deposited me in Birmingham New Street station around 2 p.m. I took a cab to the Jurys Inn on Broad Street. I checked in, left my luggage with the concierge and made my way to Pushkar, an Indian restaurant I have been to before, which was next door to the hotel.



Some satisfying food later I made a quick trip to Tesco again for water and some last minute food for before and during the race.

It was on the way back from Tesco that I noticed a theater near the hotel. I went in and realized that Avengers, in 3-D, was on at 5 p.m. Great! I like Robert Downey, Jr. and the movie was quite entertaining.

Friday, June 1
I woke up around 8 a.m. and made my way downstairs for breakfast. After showering I decided to go for a walk along the canal and then back to Tesco to pick up some more things, including chocolate croissants and some chocolate milk for the morning of the race, and then on to a lunch, once again, in Pushkar.

I finally made it to the Travelodge lobby to pick up my bib number and race apparel. Right after that Jeremy Smallwood, Marit Bjerknes and Knut Kronstad and I went for a walk along the race route, for a mile or so, before turning back to head to O'Neill's. I ordered some fries while the others ordered food. Christian Hottas and Christine Schroeder soon showed up as did another runner named Mark Howlett.

                             (With (L to R) Jeremy Smallwood, Marit Bjerknes, Knut Kronstad
                                                        the evening before the race)

I left the pub around 8 p.m. in order to go back to the hotel room for some last minute repacking etc.

I was in bed by 10:00 p.m. and fell asleep by 10:15 p.m.

Some sound or the other must have jolted me out of my sleep at 11:37 p.m. Getting back to sleep was hard after that.

Saturday, June 2
I lolled around in bed the rest of the night until I finally decided to roll out of it at 4:00 a.m. After partaking of a couple of small croissants and some chocolate milk and some more last minute repacking I was out the hotel door around 5:10 a.m. on my way to the Start area on Gas Street.

After handing Keith Godden a package I had carried for him from the US and taking from him, for my drop bag, some additional bottles of chocolate milk that he had been kind enough to buy for me I was ready for the race.

                                  (L to R: Javed Bhatti, Keith Godden, yours truly,
                                 Peter Johnson and Lindley Chambers)

                                  (Smart move on my part to don my poncho)

                          (Listening to Dick giving us last minute information and instructions)

It was drizzling by now so I made the wise decision to put on my thin poncho. This proved to be a boon pretty much all through the first day and night. It not only kept me reasonably dry but also added another layer that kept the warmth in and the cold out.

I hugged Emily Gelder and talked with a some familiar faces before Dick started talking about the race. Very soon he began the countdown and we were off!

START to CP1, Catherine de Barnes Bridge #78, 10.7 miles
The first few miles I ran with Per Hjorth and Kent Moeller. They picked it up a bit after that and I was left to my own devices. My plan was to make it to CP1 in under 2 hours. I had reached there in around 2:13  two years ago, under similar rainy conditions, and in 2:05 last year when it was dry and pleasant. This year I reached it in 1:56. I was pleasantly surprised. I had my chocolate milk, replenished my gels and was out of there in under 2 minutes.

By now it was raining quite hard but I was game as were the other runners. I was peeing every 40-55 minutes and that was good. I had planned to take a gel every 40 minutes or so and I had been following that regimen since the start.

                                      (Front to Back: Marit, Knut and Jacqui in the early miles)

CP1 to CP2, Hatton Hill Bridge #54 22.4 miles
The GUCR is very flat and so it's very tempting to run a lot in the race. Not wanting to make the mistake of running continuously unless I had to, I had settled on 25 minutes of running followed by 5 minutes of walking. It felt comfortable and the miles and the hours slipped away unnoticed under my feet.



To the canal-uninitiated it may seem to represent rather boring vistas, i.e. houseboats and water, but to those who have traversed appreciable distances over it on foot it becomes quickly apparent that its faces are ever changing.




The houseboats have their own individual characteristics as do the pubs and homes lining the canal. I always look forward to passing the Blue Lias inn on the opposite bank and the Two Boats inn on the same side.





It had taken me 2:20 to cover the 12 miles between CP1 & CP2. It was a bit slower than last year. I quickly had my bottles refilled, downed a chocolate milk, ate some crisps etc. and headed out into the rain.

CP2 to CP3, Birdingbury Bridge 35.9 miles
 I was still ambling along in the 25 run+5 walk routine that seemed to be working quite well for me. The rain showed no signs of abating. It was time to buckle down and make it to the next CP in time. I seem to remember certain sections of this part course, strangely enough, quite well year after year. There is one small bit where the canal curves sharply to the left, passing a block of apartment buildings, and there is always a lot of people activity here. This year was no exception. A runner was even standing here talking to someone on the phone.

Right after this, around the 31-mile mark is an area where crew members hook up with their runners to offer them support. There were 3-4 support cars there when I passed it. I knew I was getting close to the CP and I was looking forward to the hot soup I know they usually have there as well as my usual chocolate milk.

I reached the CP at 1:38 p.m., i.e. 7:38 into the race. To my surprise, the small second bag I had put my chocolate milks in was not available. That's when I learned that the 2 bags had tags of different colors. One bag would be available for me at all CPs while the other one would be sent on to the Finish area. Fair enough.



Cathy, Keith Godden's wife, was sweet enough to run to her car and get me a chocolate milk bottle from Keith's stash. The CP marshall called ahead and instructed the bag handler to make my second bag available in the next CP. I drank up the chocolate milk, ate a few small pieces of scone this young girl insisted I partake of :-) and hit the trail again.

CP3 to CP4, The Heart of England, Weedon, 53 miles
This section includes the Braunston tunnel going over the top of which, during the 2009 Thames Ring 250M race, I had spent 45 minutes looking for the path to the other end.

Having run the GUCR in 2010 and 2011 I was now familiar with the way over to the other side. I reached the north end of the tunnel soon enough, after passing Napton Junction, and climbed to the top of the hill with the brothers Marino and Mark Fresch. I was soon on the short stretch that led to the 48 mile point. I know I was behind last year's time because I remember being in this section around 4 p.m. while it was after 5 p.m. this time around.

I reached CP4 at 6:24 p.m. (12:24 into the race). My small black bag was waiting for me and I quickly downed a milk and transferred stuff I would need for the rest of the way into the larger bag. The small bag could now go on to the Finish area.


CP4 to CP5, Navigation Bridge, 70.4 miles
The next milestone to focus on way Gayton Junction at 60 miles. After that was the Blisworth Tunnel with its 2 miles of detour to get to the other side. It was still raining and I put my head down, figuratively speaking, and got down to the business of making it to the other side of Blisworth before it started getting dark around 9:30 p.m.

Gayton Junction came and went and soon I was on the road climbing out of the canal. At the top of this climb I decided to stop, take off my poncho, open up my backpack and put on my headlamp. All of this took 10 minutes or so. I then started the slight descent to where the trail down to the canal starts. I heard a voice calling out my name. It was Keith Godden! He had made great time from the previous CP. He and I ran down the hill together to the canal.

He soon veered off to go to the restroom while I continued on. I soon passed Cathy, Keith's wife, and informed her that he would be there soon.

The rain got even harder. This section had slowed me down a lot last year. This year's torrential rain somehow made it feel better than before and I manfully stuck to my run+walk strategy. The bright lights of the Navigation Inn came into view off in the distance to my left. They looked so tantalizingly close but I knew that they were a good 2 or so miles off along the towpath. Very soon the path curved off to the left and I rolled into CP5 at 10:54 p.m. (16:54 into the race). I spent 30 minutes eating and changing into a long-sleeved shirt and donned tights over my shorts.

CP5 to CP6, Water Eaton, 84.5 miles
I left the CP and continued the run+walk strategy for another 2-3 miles. It was still pouring hard and I am not sure what happened but I started walking and did not run again for a very, very long time. Sleep came in strong waves and it was all I could do to keep it at bay.

In all of this I rounded a corner on the path and came across a young man sitting in the dark looking at something on his phone. I promptly sat down under the bridge and asked him if he would wake me up in 10 minutes. He agreed but kept on talking! In all of that conversation, not totally understanding his strong accent, I must have said Yes to something. The next thing I knew he was asking me to turn on my headlamp and he promptly rolled a couple of joints and offered me one. I told him that I had never smoked one to which he replied "Why did you say Yes then?". Ha ha ha ha. He also snorted a line of cocaine and by then it was time for me to leave. He offered to accompany me but I dissuaded him by telling him that he would not be able to keep up.

Now it was back onto the towpath, under the rain, weaving and trying to stay awake. It was a hard battle keeping sleep at bay. I finally reached CP #6 at 4:17 a.m.


I sat down to take in some coffee along with my chocolate milk and a handful of Jaffa cakes. I was out of there in 20 minutes.

CP6 to CP7, Grand Junction Arms, 99.8 miles
This section was interminably long. I sat down a couple of times to try and sleep and it was on one of these occasions that Christine Schroeder passed me. I kept her in sight and passed her once before she started running and walking faster and eventually disappeared from sight. It was early morning when we went through Leighton Buzzard and, surprisingly enough, this section was familiar not just from the past 2 years but also from the 2009 TR250.

This section, 15 miles long, took me all of 5 hours. I was very, very sleepy and plodding on trying to keep it at bay.

Keith and I found ourselves together once again until he took off and made it to the CP a wee bit before I did at 9:45 a.m. (27:45 into the race). I promptly shucked my backpack and went off to use the toilet.

I spent a total of about 30 minutes here eating soup, some more jaffa cakes and crisps before heading out again around 10:15 a.m.

CP7 to CP8, Springwell Lock, 120.3 miles
This was the single longest section in the race, all of 20.5 miles. You can assess how excruciating these miles were from the fact that the 20.5 miles took me 6 hours and 45 minutes! Bridges went by as did locks. I wobbled on. I was also getting hungry. It was around 111 miles that I espied an Indian restaurant right next to the canal. In and out in 10 minutes with a small container of daal and rice.


I quickly wolfed down the food and this helped. I reached 115 miles around 33.5 hours into the race. It started raining around 117 miles into the race and it pretty much did not stop until I finished it.

I reached CP #8 at 5:08 p.m., 35:08 hours into the race. Since this was the last CP where my bag would be available I put a couple of milk containers in my backpack along with a flashlight and a headlamp. I also made sure I ate enough before leaving with Stefan Olsson and Dave Baker.

                                          (With Dave and Stefan)

CP8 to CP9, Hambrough Tavern, Southall, 133 miles
In spite of sitting down to try and sleep for 10 minute a few miles after the CP, during which time Keith Godden passed me for the last time (he finished in an awesome 41:13!), I still made it to 127.5 miles in 37:52 i.e. the 7 odd miles had taken me just over 2 hours which was not bad going considering how slow I had been until that point.

I had the presence of mind, around 129 miles, to call my hotel and instruct them to have a vegetarian pasta dish prepared for me before full room service closed down at 11 p.m. I kept moving at what I thought was a decent clip but the Bulls Bridge junction took a long time in coming.

It was finally over Bulls Bridge and onto the Paddington arm of the canal. The next mile or so to the CP was through a lot of puddles and mud. I knew that the CP was not far once the canal curved to the left.

I reached at 9:44 p.m., 39:44 hours into the race. I left at 10:10 p.m. after drinking some coffee and eating some food. My friend, Fiona McNelis, was helping out there and she was very, very sweet!

CP9 to the Finish in Little Venice, 145.4 miles
A half mile out of the CP I realized that the headlamp was very low on batteries. Having decided to turn off my flashlight, I had put it in my jacket pocket. After turning off the weak headlamp I took out the flashlight. To my surprise that too would not switch on. Now what? Make the best of it, I said to myself. Let's move in the dark. I was confident that my eyes would eventually adjust and that proved to be the case.

Suddenly I was walking very fast. I know this because some sixth sense made me look up, at 11:10 p.m., just in time to espy the sign I had been waiting for - the sign that said "London Paddington 7.75 miles". I knew that it was 12.4 miles from CP9 to the Finish so I had covered 4.65 miles in 60 minutes i.e. 12.6 minutes a mile!

Knowing that the Finish was close suddenly took the fight and pep out of my mind and body. The sleep, which had been held at bay for many hours, now came back with redoubled vengeance.

I was weaving all over the towpath. My eyes would close for 2 steps, 4 steps and even 20 steps once. This was scary! What if I, instead of merely getting close to the canal, finally went over? I did not think I would die from such an immersion but I was in no mood to try that experiment!

I saw a couple of headlamps coming towards me from under a bridge. It was a father and son duo supporting another runner. They asked me how I was. I replied that I was very, very sleepy. On hearing this the boy offered to get me coffee. He ran off to the right. In the meantime the father helped take out a space blanket I had in my backpack. The boy arrived with a thermos of warm coffee that I eagerly gulped down. They both then helped wrap and tuck the space blanket around me.

I had been cold and wet before this but I was now warm. I thanked them profusely and headed out into the rain to cover the last 5 miles. The sleep came back again once the coffee wore off in 20 minutes or so. Back to weaving it was in the driving rain and wind.

It must have been with 2.5 miles or so to go that the space blanket came undone. Now it was a struggle for me to tuck it in the right places to stay warm. I finally gave up and resorted to holding it closed in front of me with both my arms. This meant that I could not walk with arms swinging by my side. That made it even slower now.

I finally saw familiar landmarks that told me that I was within 1.5 miles from the Finish. Those last hundreds of meters took what seemed like an eternity to cover. I finally glimpsed the Finish banner a few hundred yards down the path. It was with sheer relief that I crossed the Finish line in 44:10 (2:10 a.m.).

                                          (Finally!!!)

                                          (With Dick Kearn and the awesome medal!)

This was the most epic ending of any race I have ever run and I thank Dick Kearn, the Race Director, for giving me a chance for the third year in a row to not only play and party on the towpath but to also go on a journey that took me into the deepest recesses of my being. At times I had to summon enormous reserves of determination, when confronted by the weather, the cold and sleeplessness, to not give up.

Immense gratitude to all the amazing volunteers who made this race possible by manning the checkpoints and helping runners take that extra step. Thanks to Paddy Robbins, the winner for the past 2 years, who chose to volunteer instead. You  rock!

I love running in the UK!





Tuesday, February 07, 2012

2012: Looking Ahead

Gosh! I have not posted in over 3 months! Time to get cracking and update my blog more often.

After the Spartathlon I experienced deja moo a.k.a "I've seen this bulls*it before" in the Javelina 100M in November. Just like the prior 2 years, the first 4 loops went fine while the 5th one and half the 6th proved to be my bete noires once again. Like '09 I had the most amazing last 3 miles. Caleb Wilson offered to pace me for the final 9 miles and he was the reason I was able to run fast at the end. Thank you, Caleb!

Like the past 2 years I have gotten into this year's 145-mile Grand Union Canal Race (June 2). I have already paid my race fees for the Sep 28 Spartathlon and my race number is 73.

A few Fat Ass races, the Lake Sonoma 50M on April 14 and the Quicksilver 50M on May 12 pretty much make up the list of races I am using to prepare for the GUCR.

I do want to pour in a few months where I touch 100-110 miles per week. This, of course, might necessitate 2 runs per day on some days of the week or very long back to back weekend runs. I will have to play it by ear about how I get to 100+ mpw based on my work schedule.

Last year was a good year for my mileage - I ran just over 2500 miles which averages to about 7 miles per day. I want to get past 3000 miles this year and I do believe I might just be able to do it. January was a good start towards that goal - I had 215 miles in that month in addition to over 100 miles on my road bike.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You Get What You Ask For

"You get what you ask for". Not that I don't believe it but how true it is was hammered into me during the incredible Spartathlon.

What an experience it turned out to be. I now understand why people go back to run it year after year whether they've finished it or not. I will be going back next year and the year after and subsequent years too (assuming I qualify to run it beyond 2013).

Let's start with the days leading up to the race. I flew to Athens a few days before the race to get over jet lag and get used to the heat and humidity there. Surprisingly, unlike last year, it was not very humid this year and it proved to be a saving grace for my race.

I picked up my race packet around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sep 28, and met a few people I know.

(75 Checkpoints, 75 drop bags if you like!)

Dinner that evening was with Mimi Anderson (she was the 3rd. woman overall), her husband Tim, their friend Bridget, Allan Rumbles and his wife and Matt Mahoney and his wife. They are all British and I know Allan from the GUCR earlier this year.

Friday, September 30
My Mom's birthday. She would have been 74 had she not passed away earlier this year in May. I had dedicated the race to her.

I got up around 3 a.m. in order to shower, tape my feet and eat breakfast. The hotel was across the street from the London Hotel from where buses were to depart at 6:00 a.m. sharp for the Acropolis. I went inside the hotel to use the restroom one last time and I met last year's winner, Ivan Cudin, there. I wished him good luck and found out that he had been ill the past 2 months and had not been able to train as he would have liked. He went on to finish 7 minutes faster than last year, in 22:56, and became only the 3rd. person ever, after Yiannis Kouros and Scott Jurek, to run the Spartathlon in under 23 hours! What an amazing runner he is - check out his picture later on in this post.

I found myself sitting near Mark Woolley, an Englishman who has been living in Malaga (Spain) for the past 20 years. He had run the race thrice before and finished once. He was hoping to even it with a finish this year (he did finish!).

The Acropolis was a beehive of activity. Runners from so many nationalities were swarming around taking pictures or videos and the air was thick with excitement intermingled with nervousness.

I met up with my British friends - James Adams, Matt Mahoney, Allan Rumbles, Peter Leslie Foxall (he was starting his 14th Spartathlon; he has finished the race 9 times!). I even managed to get a nice picture with them.

With my British friends before the Start. L to R: Philip Smith,
Matt Mahoney, Mark Woolley and James Adams)

I had to run off into the bushes at least 3 times in order to pee. A sign of things to come!

The race started promptly at 7 a.m. and the first mile was all downhill. My last 2 runs had been 5-milers on Monday and Tuesday. I had gotten rest on Wednesday but had climbed all the way to the Parthenon the day before to do some sightseeing.

The early miles felt wonderful. My legs were opening up and my Garmin showed me to be maintaining a pace between 9:45-10:00 mins/mile. The first urge to pee came around 7:45 a.m. Good! If correctly hydrated I pee around every 45-50 minutes. I ran off to the side of the road into a deserted lot to relieve myself. A minute gone right there. The first 2-3 hours I peed every 35-45 minutes.

We soon found ourselves on the Iera Odos, the road used 2500 years ago to make the religious trek to the festival in Elefsina. Lined with shops and buildings it would appear alien to an Athenian transported forward to the present.

We soon left Iera Odos and made the left turn onto Leoforos Athinon. I remember a Greek motorist shouting angrily at the policemen standing in the middle of the road. Traffic along this busy highway had been stopped to let the runners through and the motorists were irate at the prospect of waiting at the light for 10-20 minutes.

This road was probably the least attractive section of the entire race. Cars and trucks whizzed by belching exhaust fumes and it was a relief to branch out to the right, away from the busy road, onto a smaller road with much less traffic.

I had decided to put in 200 - 240 calories every hour. For the first 50 miles I had made use of just one drop bag, at Checkpoint# 13 (30 miles), in which I had put 8 gels. I was carrying 12 gels in my waist pack and the pouch in my hand bottle. I dutifully ingested 1 100 calorie gel every 30 minutes and it kept my blood sugar even. I had taken a salt tablet just before the Start and waited until 2 hours into the race to take the next one.

My initial plan had been to skip every other Checkpoint but it turned out that I went through all of them just to have my bottle either filled or topped up. These visits never took more than 10-15 seconds and I was very pleased with those rapid transitions. I needed every second - I had never run a 50-mile race in under 9:45 and here I was being asked to do it in 9:30!

The Half marathon point went by in 2:10 and it was starting to get toasty warm by now. We passed a factory and the road climbed a bit past it. This was around the 16 mile mark. We soon hit a stretch of the road that was beautiful. It hugged the coast with the Saronic Gulf on the left. The sun glinted off the water, ships went about their business and ahead of me I could see the coast stretching off into the distance. It reminded me a bit of the Big Sur marathon course.

I was still running well and had not walked at all. The road veered off the coast and started to see more traffic once again. It got very busy around the 25 mile mark as there seemd to be construction work up ahead. Before I knew it I had reached Checkpoint #11 (42.2K or 26.2 miles). 4:23 is what I took to run the marathon. I made it out of there 22 minutes ahead of the 4:45 cutoff. First part of the mission accomplished!

(Drinking a sports drink in the 26.2 -mile CP)

Pretty soon after the marathon CP the road got back along the coast again and started to rise up. This is where I walked for the first time, about 0.7 miles. As soon as it started to get undulating again I started to run and I ran all the way to the 30-mile CP, a checkpoint perched next to a hotel 60 feet above the ocean.


(30-mile Checkpoint)

My only drop bag in the first 50 miles was in this Checkpoint and it contained gels. I stuffed them into my waist pack and got out without wasting too much time. I had reached 30 miles in 5:09 and the 31 mile point came and went in 5:19. Not bad for a slow, old geezer like me! :-)

The road now wended its way a bit away from the ocean past homes and stores. It was really hot now and I was starting to slow down a tad. 30 miles in 5:09 is 10:18 mins/mile. The 40-mile CP came in 7:10 i.e. 10:42 mins/mile pace. I was still not worried for I had 10 more miles to do and a good 2 hours and 20 minutes to do them in though I did want to get to the 50-mile CP in 9 hours or under.


(Approaching the 40-mile CP in around 7:10)

I eventually rolled into CP #22 at 9:09 into the race.

Even though I had only 20 minutes before the Checkpoint closed I still decided to get a 10 minute massage for both my legs. I downed a chocolate milk and changed into Brooks Racer ST shoes. These weigh around 7 ounces and felt so comfortable once my feet went in. I started from CP #22 at 9:21 into the race and promptly got into a rhythm of sorts. Walking and running, when I could, got me to the next CP. I was not feeling all that great. My legs were starting to slowly deteriorate but I was determined to plod on.

I eventually got to the CP before Ancient Corinth and then past the ruins of Ancient Corinth into the next CP.


(Ancient Corinth)



(Ivan Cudin, the winner, flying past the ruins)

In and out of there in a flash, I set my sights on the next CP which was to close at 7 p.m. (12 hours into the race). My pace slowed terribly after this and I basically made it into the that CP at 7:00 on the dot! I still had half a bottle full of water and only 1.8 miles to go to the next CP. I blasted out of that CP and ran sub-7:30 mins/mile and made it to the next CP with 5 minutes to spare. It's noteworthy that I had now done a 100K in 12 hours during a tough, tough race. I was proud of myself.

That bit of fast running was the last I did until the CP where I stopped. My legs were really hurting now and I did not want to take a Tylenol just to make it from CP to CP for, deep down inside me, I knew that one of the Checkpoints ahead would be my last one i.e. I would reach it too late. CP #31 it was where I reached 11 minutes late. It was still open and one of the Race Directors, the one who had let me leave the previous CP 5 minutes after closing time, was there again. He was perfectly agreeable to letting me continue but I decided to stop just because I knew that I would be getting to each CP later and later and there was no purpose to subjecting my body to more pain when there was an infinitesimally small chance of anything different happening.

Back to Athens it was the next day and then the flight back to San Francisco on Monday, Oct 3.

So what did I learn from the Spartathlon?

(a) I am faster than I have given myself credit for recently. It's been a long time since I ran a race hard and the Spartathlon kind of forced me to do so. Had it not been for the increasingly frequent pee stops in the last 20-23 miles I would have reached the 50-mile CP in under 8:50.

(b) The race is hard but not unconquerable for someone like me. I will have to train harder and smarter to get to Leonidas's feet next year.

(c) AMAT VICTORIA CURAM - "Victory Loves Preparation". I will have to prepare really well in order to emerge victorious next year.

Now coming back to the first line in this blog - "You get what you ask for". Since applying for the race earlier in the year I have been talking just one kind of talk - I am so very grateful for being able to start this amazing race and anything I achieve will be far more than I could ever hope for. Just getting to 50 miles in under 9:30 will be wonderful. THAT'S ALL I focused on - 50 miles in around 8:45 or so.

Guess what I got? 50 miles in under 9:30 and then kaput! The brain had decided that that's all it was going to give me since I did not truly believe that I could run 100 miles in the Spartathlon in under 23 hours. I had violated my own first principle that I try to teach the people I coach - have belief in yourself and focus on the moment AND entire race..

(d) The biggest confidence booster was the fact that I DID reach 50 miles in around 9 hours. I know that I can reach the same point in next year's race, with good training and proper hydration management during the race, in 8:30 or faster. If I do so and my legs are still feeling good, my chances of making the Base of the Mountain CP with ample time to spare are very good.

Heartfelt gratitude to Tim, and Bridget (Mimi's crew) and, especially, to James Adams and Robert Treadwell for helping my crew navigate the maze that is Athenian roads in the first 50 miles and continuing to encourage me on repeatedly in the miles between 50 and 68.

Kudos to all of the volunteers, from the Race Directors down to the people manning the Checkpoints, for a fantastically run race. They made it easy for me to get in and out of checkpoints in a flash!

Onwards to the Javelina Jundred on November 12 now.