Monday, November 02, 2009

Jappy Jours in Javelina Jundred

Race: Javelina Jundred 100M race
Date: Oct 31 - Nov 1, 2009
Location: Fountain Hills, AZ
Time: 28:36:59

Having my feet taped in the pre-dawn chill,
Mulling over the long miles up ahead.
And then we are off, soon snaking uphill,
And soon the sweat moistening the forehead.
The pink glow on the distant mountain peaks
Soon will light up the dusty, rocky trail.
Soon the morn sky adorned with orange streaks.
Soon the Sun shows, our wills to soon assail.
Slow steps forward through the heat of the day,
Heart gladdened by the sight of wild horses;
Be present, the Finish is far away,
And watch the smiles on the passing faces.
Night passes; the new morn brings new purpose:
Time to run fast to the victor's dais.


One of the most fun and, may I say, comfortable 100 mile races I have ever done. My blood sugar stayed constant pretty much all through the race and I was able to run as fast as I wanted to in the last 15 miles.

Friday, Oct 30
I took a 5:30 p.m. flight from SFO to Phoenix and, after picking up my Hertz rental, I was in the Comfort Inn in Fountain Hills by 8:45 p.m. I decided to go to a grocery store to pick up a few supplies like bread, PB and water.

I met Dave Combs outside in the parking lot and he directed me to a Safeway a mile and a half away. I was back in 30 minutes and spent the next 30-40 minutes making my drop bags. I finally lay down on the bed at 11:00 p.m. having set the alarm for 3:00 a.m. My intention was to reach race Jeadquarters by 4:15 a.m. in order to (a) get my toes taped and (b) pick up my bib#.

Fugitive was showing on TV and I could not resist watching it. I reluctantly switched off the boob tube at midnight and dozed off.

Saturday, Oct 31
I was up at 3:00 a.m. and quickly showered and had a quick breakfast of chocolate milk and a bagel with PB. I parked my car in the JJ Jeadquarters parking lot, picked up my bib# and goodie bag, put them in the car and went to get my feet taped. It was chilly and I was shivering a bit while the taping was done.


(Al taping my feet)

Al, from Kachina Rescue, did a great job of the taping. He was fascinated by the fact that I was planning to run the entire race without socks. I had already run the Dick Collins 50M sans socks and so knew where my hotspots were and the taping pretty much took care of them the entire way.

I was back in the car at 5:00 a.m. I turned on the engine and the heater while I pinned my bib to my shorts. I tried to doze for 20 minutes but the constant glare of passing headlights made it hard to come by. I finally gave up and left the warm confines of the car and stepped out into the cold to go look for Diane Forrest. We had planned to run together.


(Sandy (L) and Diane)

(My buddies Phil Rosenstein (L) and Donn Ozaki)

I met her namesake, Diane Vlach, Dean Dyatt, Steve Ansell, Dan Marinsik, Jakob Hermann, Donn Ozaki, Phil Rosenstein and a host of other familiar faces. I finally found Diane at the back with her friend Sandy Baker. Both Diane and Sandy were attempting their first 100M race but did not look nervous.

Very soon the runners were off and Diane and I noticed that it took us almost 55 seconds to step on the starting mat (we were being timed using a transponder that went round the ankle). The first loop was clockwise so we veered off to the left. The first 5-8 minutes I encouraged Sandy and Diane to walk. We started running a half mile or so after the Start and continued until we hit the first climb. It was not steep but it did take us a few hundred feet above the desert floor.

The pink glow rimming the distant mountain tops had bloomed into shades of orange and red and we knew that we were in for a toasty day ahead. On top of the climb, the trail leveled off gradually and then began a gentle climb all the way to the first AS. We could see the long line of runners snaking off into the distance.

That first AS, Coyote Creek, soon came into view and we were in and out of there quite quickly. Sandy had run this loop earlier in the year, in September, during the 12-Hr training run that Jamil and Nick Coury had organized for the benefit of JJ100 participants.

My arm warmers were the first to come off. My jacket followed later. The headlamp had been safely tucked into my waist pouch long ago. Diane, Sandy and I made our way at an easy pace towards the next AS, Jackass Junction, which was one of 2 drop bag Aid Stations.


(With Jody van Zanten (L) and Jean Ho)

A mile or so before the AS we saw homes on the left and even remarked about the wonderful sun deck one of the homes had. To our utter delight we came round a bend and saw 3-4 wild mustangs cantering off to our right. I quickly took a couple of pictures of these magnificent beasts.


(Dave James giving the horses a run for their money)

The eventual winner, Dave James, passed us going the other way. I was awestruck. We were at 10 miles while he was already at 24-25 miles 3 hours into the race! (he ran the first 2 loops in 3:53 and the entire race in 14:20, breaking the previous CR, held by Karl Meltzer, by over an hour!!!).


(The early miles)

We left the Jackass Junction rather quickly. I refreshed my Cytomax bottle and downed a small chocolate milk.

The section between Jackass and race Jeadquarters seemed easier than the first 10 miles and we ran across the timing mat for the second time that day in 3:36. I quickly went to my drop bag
and drank some chocolate milk and picked up additional gels while dumping my jacket and arm warmers into the bag.

The second loop was to be run counter-clockwise. This was the first time I was doing a 100M race that had more than 2 loops and was looking forward to finding out how easy/tough the "washing machine" loops would eventually prove to be.

The sun was definitely warmer by now so I made sure I got some ice in my Cool Off bandana from here on out. It was fun seeing other runners, they were the front runners obviously, going the other way. We got to see all of the fleet of foot ones - Bev Anderson-Abbs (the women's winner), Jorge Pacheco. I met Sean Luitjens a few times. Jakob Hermann and Dan Marinsik showed up eventually. Steve Ansell, Craig Slagel, Craig Heinselman and a few other friends had already gone the other way looking strong.

Somehow the counter-clockwise direction felt a tad tougher. We rolled through the Aid Stations one by one and eventually found ourselves back in JJ Jeadquarters to cross the timing mat for the third time. We had done the 2nd loop in a more conservative 4:14.


(End of the second loop)

Off we went into the 3rd loop, clockwise again, with food in our bellies and ice in our bandanas. It was almost 2 p.m. when we started and I asked Diane and Sandy to walk for the next 2 hours or so.


(The eponymous fountain in Fountain Hills)

That walking saved us from being overly ravaged by the 3 - 4 p.m. heat and we savored the gradual cooling down on the other side of 4:30 p.m. The loop was uneventful.

Anu and Raj had landed in Phoenix around 4:30 p.m. and I asked them to drive straight to the race instead of going to the hotel. They were waiting for us when we reached the end of the loop, 46.4 miles down, at 6:11 p.m. Sandy, Diane and I hit the restrooms and then our drop bags in order to get into warmer clothes.

I took off my shoes to check on the taping and noticed that some of the toes were starting to have their taping fray at the edges. Having another 54 miles to cover, I decided to spend a few minutes having the taping redone. The few minutes actually became more than 30 minutes! It was around 7:10 p.m. or so that Anu, Raj and I set off on Loop 4 (counter-clockwise). They were both happy to be moving and we had a blast talking up a storm. Anu had come down with the express purpose of evaluating the course to see if she would want to run it next year (as of today her answer is No). Nonetheless she had fun running at night.

The 3 of us walked a lot of the first 10 miles. I then decided to run up the hills in order to use a different set of muscles and give the hammies some rest. We had caught up with Dan Marinsik around 53 miles into the race and he was with us for another mile or so before we left him on the way to the Coyote Creek AS (mile 55 or so). Anu was initially reluctant about eating in the AS for fear of not leaving enough for other runner but was reassured when I told her that pacers were more than welcome to the food. She had a slice of a bean burrito as did I. We eventually completed the loop around 11:00 p.m., in about 4 hours. Anu and Raj quickly got me a few burritos and soup. I got into slightly warmer clothes, picked up a spare headlamp and left around 11:30 a.m. Anu and Raj went back to the hotel to get some sleep. They were planning to come back, to pace me for the last 10 miles, around 8:45 a.m.


(Getting ready to start Loop 5 after being paced by Anu and Raj in Loop 4)

The next loop, number 5, was one where I ran not a single step! I know not why but I could not run more than 2 steps! Strange feeling. I decided to surrender and walk since that was what each moment was bringing into my life. I had switched off my headlamp 30 minutes into the loop and went through the night section relying on moonlight.

4 hrs and 35 minutes is what that loop took me. The Aid Stations in the loop had some cold bean burrito slices that I ate with relish while downing chocolate milk. Once back in JJ Jeadquarters, I quickly used the restroom before starting loop 6.

The first 8.5 miles of this counter-clockwise loop went pretty much the same way as the 15.5 miles of the previous loop - I could not run.

Dawn had broken by now and I stowed my headlamp in my jacket pocket. All through the night I had moved up small slopes into warm air and down small dips into cooler air. Other runners remarked after the race that they had felt cold at night. I felt comfortable and enjoyed being alone in the darkness.

It was just before Jackass Junction, at around mile 82, that I was passed by a woman runner who was going at a pretty good clip. I found out later that it was Ling-ru, the 2008 RDL 100M women's winner. She was pacing Sandy Baker. I finally caught up with Sandy about a half mile before the Jackass Junction AS. I sat down in a chair to down my chocolate milk and eat something while Sandy and Ling-ru just breezed through. I eventually got up and continued on my way.

Daylight was upon us and I was glad to be able to see off into the distance once again.

A male runner soon passed me followed by 2 women, dressed in costume. I watched them go up a couple of hills and wished them good luck. I looked at my watch and it showed 6:50 a.m. Did I want to walk the rest of the race? No came the answer. This is where I "commanded" my brain to find me fresh resources in order to finish the race sooner. Oh boy! Did it ever find me resources!! I took 2 steps running, around the 86 mile mark, and did not stop running until I had reached the end of the loop, at mile 92.8. This was the most powerful I have ever felt in the end of a race. The running was effortless, whether going uphill or downhill, and the breathing easy and controlled. I passed the male runner and the 2 women runners and then a host of runners making their way to the end of the loop.



(Turning on the afterburners)

It must have been a mile and a half before the end of the loop that I passed Diane Forrest and Jennifer Blake, her pacer. I complimented them on their great form and moved as fast as I could towards the end where Raj was waiting to pace me the last 8.6 miles. In and out I went of Jeadquarters. I walked with Raj for half a mile and then decided to turn on the "jets" once again. Up the hill we went, passing admiring runners (they said as much), and continued running all the way to the Coyote Creek AS for the final time in the race. We had my bottle filled up with cold water and were shown the Tonto Trail for our last 3.7 miles back. The Tonto Trail was a gentle decline all the way back to its intersection with the Pemberton Trail which is the name of the 15.4 mile loop I had run 6 times earlier.


(With Raj Singh, my pacer for the last 10 miles)

This is where we wound up playing leapfrog with Jimmy Dean Freeman (3rd overall in the 2008 RDL 100M; a very talented runner and coach) who was pacing his wife, Kate, to her first 100M finish. We eventually came to the Pemberton Trail where we made a left turn. A few rollers later I could see the Jeadquarters and the Finish area off in the distance. That lent my feet more wings and I finally stopped just after the mat in a satisfying 28:36:59.

I had covered that last 8.7 miles in 2 hours and 10 minutes or so.

Diane Forrest came in to the Finish area about35 minutes later but waited, in a great show of friendship and love and caring, for Sandy to show up so that they could cross the Finish hand in hand. Way to go Diane and Sandy! You women rock.

A big thank you to Jamil Coury and his band of volunteers that included Dave Combs, Chris Rios and others.


(Dave Combs)


(Chris Rios)

Thanks also to Rick Gaston who took pictures throughout Saturday and also paced a friend. Seeing him and Dave there made the race that little bit more comfortable!

I'll be back!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2009 Lean Horse 100M

ANU'S SONNET
He who knoweth her a fortune hath found:
A treasure trove of Love and Happiness.
A precious gift 'tis to have her around
In our lives I must truly confess.
Her tinkling laugh, her lovely doe-like eyes,
Her capacious heart, her heavenly voice,
She is larger than life: don't go by size!
Love her we must. We have no other choice.
Cry with you she will, feel your pain she will;
Reach out she will in your darkest hour.
A Guiding Light on the climb up Life's hill,
Of mental strength she is a tall tower.
So heady, vivacious, loving and kind,
Another like her you will never find.

Date : August 22-23, 2009
Race : Lean Horse 100M
Location: Hot Springs, SD
Time : 29:13

And then I choked up again and again and again ... At mile 30. At 60. At 80. Along Argyle Road. I cried after the Finish. For months I had been looking forward to this race and I knew that I would get very emotional during and after the adventure. How prescient I was!

This was Anu's race. What a fabulous race she ran. Truly one for the ages.

It all began late last year (2008) when she asked me if she would be able to run 100 miles. I assured her she could run one with appropriate training and that gave her enough confidence to sign up for Lean Horse at my insistence. I had run the race in 2007 and 2008 and knew the course well. To say that I was excited is an understatement.

Given that the only cell phone provider that works in Hot Springs, SD, is Verizon I bought a couple of Verizon track phones for our race. AT&T phones work in Rapid City. Raj and I also both bought a couple of digital camcorders for the race.

Thursday, Aug 20
As I do every year, we decided to fly out Thursday morning. Our tickets had been booked way back in February and a friend of ours, Bharti, had also signed up for the trip to help crew and pace Anu.

We left Anu's home around 5:00 a.m. in their van to catch 7:18 a.m. flight to Denver from SFO. That flight took off on time and we landed in Denver airport hungry and promptly started looking for vegetarian restaurants, We settled on a Mexican restaurant that had pretty decent food. I hydrated with a beer. :)


(On our way to Rapid City, South Dakota)

We trudged across the terminal to the gate for the flight to Rapid City operated by United Express. It was a small commuter plane and the flight was short and uneventful.

We soon got our rental car, an SUV, and headed into town to Walmart to pick up much needed supplies for the race.

Raj and I picked up a Thermocol cooler, ice, water, cookies, chocolate milk, water and other small supplies for the race. There was no way of knowing if some of these would be available in Hot Springs. We also found the address of an Indian restaurant close to the Walmart. We ate a light lunch, at 5 p.m., and had them pack rice for us to be used in the race as lunch & dinner for Anu. In the cooler went the 7 bottles of Persian yogurt drink that I had brought in my checked bags from San Jose and string cheese.

We drove the 60 odd miles to Hot Springs and decided to head straight for Argyle Road to help Anu get an idea of the rolling hills between miles 5 and 16.5 (miles 83.5 and 95 on the way back). That recon drive really helped her on race day as she had a mental picture of what was coming up and how steep/gentle the climbs were.

We checked in to the Holiday Inn Express and I started the process of making the drop bags. That took a good 30-45 minutes and they were soon ready. We retired to bed early that night. Bharti and I were in a small room with 2 bunk beds. Raj and Anu were on the big Queen bed while Nishad slept on the floor on a couple of blankets.

Friday, Aug 21
We woke up around 7:30 a.m. and I was soon down in the restaurant eating breakfast. The others soon came down too and we had a great time talking to other runners. We met Phil Rosenstein who had run across the US to raise money for his charity. Very inspiring stuff.

Off we went to the Mueller Center to deposit our drop bags and make it in time for the 3 p.m. briefing. That briefing was short and we were soon in the Pizza Hut across the road for an early dinner. Anu cannot eat pizzas so she ate in the hotel room - we had brought some microwavable Indian food from the Bay area.

Raj and I then went to a local grocery store to buy Velcro, duct tape and some cloth that we were planning to use to cover the holes I had made in Anu's shoes in the front to give her toes more wiggle room. We eventually engineered makeshift covers for the shoes that were held onto the sides using Velcro (they were eventually discarded 20-25 miles into the race).

Sleep that night was wonderful.

Saturday, Aug 22
Race day dawned bright and warm. Anu and I quickly showered. I went down to eat breakfast while Anu was getting ready and reconnected with Phil. I also met Scott Giddings for the first time in person. Scott and I had run Lean Horse in 2008. He was back this year to try and go under 24 hours (he eventually came very close!).

We soon got into the SUV. Phil rode with us to the Start. Into the Mueller Center we went and checked in as instructed to do so the day before. Anu sat down on a chair and put on her socks, shoes etc. while I met and talked with Bonnelle Murphy and Joe Judd. I took a few videos of all of this.

With 7-8 minutes to go we were instructed to go outside. Jerry Dunn, the RD, gave us last minute instructions and we were soon off. I recorded the first 10-15 seconds after the start on the video and then put it away for later use.


(A few minutes before the 6:00 a.m. Start)

Anu was wearing a yellow fluorescent top with a blue skirt. She had a Cool Off bandana around her neck along with a visor and sunglasses. I had a waistpack that had the portable digital video camera, a digital camera and gels. My backpack had an extra 2 bottles of water to go with the 2 bottles I was carrying in my hands. One bottle had Cytomax while the other had water. A Cool Off bandana around my neck matched the orange visor.

I had Anu walk the first 5 minutes. We spent those minutes talking to a few runners, Jim Phelan one of them, who were doing the 50M race.


(The ever friendly and loving Anu with 50-mile runner Jim Phelan)

5 minutes into the race we started running. We were soon joined by Francine Weigeldt, another first time 100 miler. She stayed with us until mile 26-27 after which she took off on her own. We saw her once more, around mile 50. She was on her way back from the turnaround and she looked strong.

We soon left the asphalt roads behind us and began the trek to the first AS, Coldwater Creek, at mile 4. Anu was settling down into a good rhythm and I made her rush through the AS while I refilled the bottles. I caught up with her a quarter mile out. The left turn onto Argyle Road was soon upon us as was the large yellow 5 mile marker on the left side of the road.

This was a sustained climb of 1.5-2.0 miles and Anu maintained an impressive pace up. The road turns into rollers after the top of the long climb and before we knew it, we were at the second AS, Morph Road, at mile 10.5. Deb, Laurie Woodrow's friend, was volunteering here and she took a picture of me. I took one of the AS.

In and out like a flash from the AS. We had done the first 10 miles in 2 hours and 30 minutes i.e. 15 minutes a mile pace. Excellent pace given the terrain.


(Anu motoring at a very good clip, around mile 13 or so, just
after leaving the Black Hills National Forest)

Anu kept up this relentless pace all the way to the first AS where we could hook up with our crew - Argyle Road at mile 16.5.


(Coming into the Argyle Road Aid Station (mile 16.5) at
10:00 a.m. on Sat, Aug 22. Nishad on the right)

We reached there exactly at 10:00 a.m. i.e. 240 minutes for 16.5 miles or 14.5 min/mile. She had picked up pace between 10 and 16.5. To say that I was impressed is an understatement.

The cloth covering her right shoe had kept coming off so Raj used duct tape to glue it to the sides. Anu changed out of the yellow top into another yellow one that was thinner and better for running in the heat. Anu drank half a bottle of the yogurt drink. We both put ice in our bandanas and headed out quickly. Onwards to the next AS, Like Kiln, at mile 20. From now on we would meet our crew, Raj, Bharti and Anu, at every AS.

It was in the Argyle Road AS, as I was rummaging through our drop bag, that I met Lynnor Matheny. I had read her posts on the Ultra mailing list and had been looking forward to meeting her. She is a very sweet person as is the friend she was running with, Sherry Meador. Anu, Francine and I played tag with them for the next 6-7 miles or so. Lynnor was walking off food she had eaten in the AS with a very purposeful stride.

It must have been around mile 18 or so that Anu experienced a panic attack. She was quick to recognize signs of low blood sugar and asked me for a gel. I gave her an Accel gel and within 5 minutes she was feeling good again. The day was getting very hot by now. 10:45 a.m. with nary a cloud in the sky and the trail glinting brightly ahead of us for as long as the eye could see.

We trudged on to the Lime Kiln AS. Here we refilled the bandanas with ice, ate a bit and headed out.


(Adjusting Anu's ice bandana in the Lime
Kiln Aid Station (mile 20))

Anu asked Bharti and Raj to prepare her lunch, rice and yogurt, for her to eat in the next AS which was Pringle at 24.5.

The trail between Lime Kiln and Pringle, after an initial flat section of about 1.5 miles, was a gentle and then a slightly more pronounced downhill. It was fun to be running again. About 5 minutes from the AS I asked Raj to turn on the air conditioning in the SUV so that Anu could cool down while she ate her lunch. We probably spent 10 minutes here. Just before we left I helped Anu stretch her left hamstring. I drank chocolate milk. This is pretty much what I had throughout the first 50 miles in addition to the gels and Cytomax/Gatorade. It must have been after 12:50 p.m. that we left Pringle. It was very hot now and Anu had the hardest time in this long, unshaded stretch that paralleled Hwy 385. Raj, who had gone to Custer the day before to rent a mountain bike, now accompanied us with ample water and additional gels if needed.

I could tell that Anu was trying to conserve her energies. She is a very talkative person but this section saw her quiet as a doormouse. She was fighting and my respect for her, already very, very high, inched up with every passing mile.

It was in the Carrol Creek AS, at mile 30, that she informed me about her blister. Early treatment can be the difference between successfully finishing or dropping out from pain and an altered gait. I quickly took out my foot care kit (thank you, Zombierunner!) and had it popped, coated with Neosporin and taped up in no time at all. She had run the 30 miles in 8:20 i.e. we reached the AS around 2:20 p.m. She and I left the AS soon after the blister work and began the long stretch, 5.5 miles i.e. 35.5 miles into the race, to the Harbach AS. Someone had moved the 35 mile marker way ahead, almost to the 33.5 or 34 mile mark. Anu was glad to see the sign though and I could see it reflected in her stride.

It was here that I fought with her! She had been agonizing about the improper information her new Garmin was showing about the distance (she was trying to reconcile the mile markers with the Garmin numbers) and was constantly anxious about her pace and whether she would eventually be able to finish given the amount of walking we were doing.

My experience with previous very hot 100M races had taught me that power walking between 12 noon to about 4 p.m. would pay off big dividends later in the day, especially at night. I could understand her anxiety but my Ego refused to give up on "I am right. Just follow my advice. No need to consult your Garmin. Trust me". We had a small spat as we were walking into the Harbach Road AS and my anger erupted in front of Raj, Bharti and Nishu. To say that I was mortified and disgusted with myself is truly being generous to myself. I was sick to the core of my being. How could I fight with this little bundle of love and joy who was struggling hard enough to complete a very, very tough challenge? She certainly did not need my ego-driven anger. All she needed were calming words.

Unbeknownst to me (I was fixing my shoes in another part of the AS) she gulped down a bottle and a half of the yogurt drink. That amounted to 1000mg of Sodium. As soon as we left the AS, I took my hourly Succeed salt tablet and gave her one too. That was almost 1400 mg of Sodium in 5 minutes! No wonder she threw it all up in the next 2-3 miles.

About 0.5 miles out of the AS we passed Akos Konya going the other way (we were at mile 36, he was at 64!). All he carried was one hand bottle! Given that he was probably covering the miles between aid stations in 45-60 minutes, why would he need more????

Anu hit an emotional low a mile or so after passing Akos. My anger, combined with the heat and her anxiety, made her burst into tears. Raj consoled her and took care of her while I walked by her side in intense pain and feeling 2 feet small. I decided to talk about my flare up at a later time and to continue to help her as a coach by making sure that she was still taking in enough fluids and calories.

We soon passed another runner, Ray Greunewald, who was having a tough time. He had done many 100s before but was having the toughest race of his life. Anu, the ever compassionate soul that she is, offered him words of encouragement.

It was here that a couple of runners went by the other way. One of them pointed to me and said "I love your blog!". Whoever you are leave me a comment with your name so that I can come back into this post and give you credit! Thank you. That added a nice touch to my race.

We soon saw a familiar figure running towards us. It was Nishad running from the AS to assure his mother that (a) she was doing very well, and (b) the temps had fallen a bit. We had been told the day before in the race briefing that Custer and beyond would definitely be cooler. Cooler it certainly was. We were close to 5800 feet in altitude and that little coolness was so very welcome after the battering ram of the Sun that we had been subjected to all day.

Anu was feeling a lot better by now. Her queasiness had dissipated and she was feeling charged up with the knowledge that there was a very long downhill section coming up in a mile or so. We spent very little time in the Mountain Trailhead AS (manned every year by school kids) at mile 40.5.

Raj was still on the bike. We set out to begin the long downhill to the Oreville AS. A mile or so after the Mountain Trailhead AS, the downhill really began.


(Anu flying down towards the 50-mile turnaround. Crazy Horse on the right.)

Anu was by now flying at 11-12 minutes a mile pace (even faster in some sections!). I let her go, not wanting to interrupt her amazing rhythm. She stopped, for a few minutes, in the Oreville AS (mile 46.2) before pressing down on the accelerator once again all the way to the turnaround. Holy smokes is all I could say all the way there!!!! She reached 50 miles in 13:38 i.e. at 7:38 p.m. This turnaround was on Deadbroke Street in Hill City, SD.

We looked at each other and heaved a big sigh of relief. She now had an additional 82 minutes to add to the allotted 15 hours (900 minutes) to make it back to the Finish. Those precious minutes not only gave her an extra 1 minute and 36 seconds a mile (overall pace for the last 50 went from 18 min/mile to 19:36 mins/mile!) but untold confidence and faith that she COULD actually finish this behemoth of a race. I was so proud of how she had run the last 7-8 miles to the turnaround.

She ate her rice and yogurt again. I helped myself to some of it. The evening did not presage a chilly night. As soon as we had gotten all we needed from the SUV, Raj left to go and return the bike. He wanted to meet us in the Oreville AS at 54.6 miles. Nishad, Bharti, Anu and I set off to begin the long trek back to all the aid stations in reverse. We were power walking and must have reached Oreville around 10:00 p.m. It was here that Anu and I changed into warmer clothing. I put on a Brooks running jacket and Anu put on a skull cap and long sleeves. Nishad had a headlight. I had my headlamp and Bharti had her light. Anu was safely ensconced between us.

The climb back up to the tunnel just before Crazy Horse was a long one. I had kept telling Anu that the tunnel marked the end of the climb and it eventually came into view. We could even see someone's flashlight coming towards us. Nishad correctly guessed that it must be his Dad. It sure was Raj. We now walked in companionable silence to the Mountain Trailhead AS (mile 59.5). Bharti's foot was hurting by now so she decided to stop and drive the SUV along with Raj. The plan was for Raj to pace us from the Harbach Road AS (mile 64.5) which was the next AS.

After eating a bit, Anu, Nishad and I left. It was a downhill for a little bit and then flat all the way into Custer. Anu was finding it painful (pain on the inside of both knees probably brought on by tight Vastus Medialis or Sartorious muscles) to walk but did not feel the pain when she shuffled. We covered those 5 miles at about 15 minutes a mile pace. It was incredible what Anu was able to do in these late stages of the race.

We spent a good 10-15 minutes in this Aid Station eating and putting calories into our bodies. I had decided to switch to my Tevas here so it took us those extra minutes. Anu too switched to Tevas. Raj and I stuffed each of her gloves with chemical hand warmers.

Sunday, Aug 23
The procession now had Raj and Nishad accompanying us. Onwards to the Carroll Creek AS, at mile 70. Those 5.5 miles were the longest in the race. I remember leaving Harbach at 12:50 a.m. The AS refused to show up! It eventually did at 2:30 a.m. It had taken us 100 minutes to cover 5.5 miles i.e. 18 minutes/mile. Not possible. Anyway, we sat down so that I could eat some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Anu had some buttermilk and half a sandwich.

The empath she is, she is the only one who noticed that there was a runner sitting to her right who was crying (he had dropped). What a woman!

It was 2:37 a.m. when we decided to hit the road. I had been doing math while eating and realized that we HAD to reach the Argyle Road AS, at mile 83.5, by 7:00 a.m. at the latest to have a decent shot at finishing. I asked Anu to dig deep and do the next 13 miles in 4 hours tops.

Nishad had by now done 19.2 miles His plan was to go another 0.8 miles to make it a round 20. Bharti was given the task of finding the next spot where she could pick him up. It was dark, there was lightning in the air for the next hour and Bharti could not find an opening immediately. The trail had diverged away from Hwy 385. We asked Nish if he could continue to Pringle. He was OK with it so we asked Bharti to go straight to Pringle and wait for us.

We passed another runner, Louise, along this stretch. She eventually was one of the last people to finish. This section too felt interminably long.

The Pringle AS had been abandoned. There were a few people there, runners who had dropped and their crew members. One of them made us a PBJ sandwich. Raj and I had asked Anu to continue on while we picked up supplies. Anu passed Pringle at 4:30 a.m. It had taken us 113 minutes to cover the 6 miles from Carrol Creek to Pringle i.e. almost 19 minutes/mile pace. I know I was moving way faster so there was something way off about the race distances!

This next section, with a 2 mile gentle climb and a 2 mile flat after that, to the Lime Kiln AS was amazing. Anu covered those 4 miles in 59 minutes! She shuffled at 14-15 mins/mile, even up the slight slope. The Lime Kiln AS was totally deserted. Since we had Bharti and Nishad in the SUV we decided to push through to Argyle Road, 3.5 miles away. Given how hard Anu had been pushing for the last 10 miles and knowing that we would reach Argyle by 6:30-6:35 a.m., I asked her to ease off a bit.

We both felt the intense need to answer Mother Nature's insistent call. That took us 5-7 minutes. We eventually made it into Argyle Road at around 6:35 a.m. Anu quickly changed into day time clothes, the same orange top and white skirt she had worn for her 24-hour run around the West Valley tracks, while I shucked my jacket and my back pack. The SUV would now be alongside us all the way to the 95 mile turnoff! What a boon that proved to be!

Anu had delivered on the 4 hour from mile 70 to 83.5 promise to me. I was a bit worried about the next challenge, the biggest one yet, in the race - the rolling hills between 83.5 and 93. We left the Argyle Road AS at 6:47 a.m. Anu and I soon got into a great rhythm and we quickly passed the 85 mile mark. The Sun was up and it was a beautiful morning to be running towards victory.

To my utter and complete shock we were soon upon the site of the second to last (second one on the way out) AS - Morph Road. There was a lady who came out of a camper when she saw us and we gave her our bib numbers and just sailed past. I was excited! I knew that the 90 mile marker was not far off. It eventually came at 8:08 a.m. Anu The Magnificent had covered the last 6.5 miles in a stunning 81 minutes i.e. 12.5 mins/mile!! Holy mackerel. I had thought the hills would chew her up and spit her out. SHE was the one who chewed up those rollers and flattened them out!! I was in total awe of this little bundle of courage and determination. I knew I was watching the greatest exhibition of motivation, guts and chutzpah that I would ever have the privilege to witness.

Mile 93 came soon enough and we stopped briefly at the top for me to put on my Team Anu T-shirt. I had had them specially designed for us. Bharti, Nishad and Raj were planning to wear their shirts in the last 200 yards to the Finish.

We now flew down the hill to the 95 mile marker and the right turn just after it that would lead, in 0.8 miles, to the Coldbrook Creek AS at mile 96. Raj and Nishad took off from that turn to head into town and wait for us just before the Finish.

I gave Anu a gel here so that she could go straight through the AS. She and Bharti waltzed right past while I decided to go in and grab a cup of soup. The last question Anu asked me (it was exactly 10:00 a.m. i.e. 28 hrs. into the race when we reached the 96 mile AS) was if we would finish inside of 30 hours! Bharti and I chuckled at that comment but it was a telling one. She had been intensely keyed up for 28 hours and was just then beginning to realize that it would soon to be over.

To put the miles from the mile 70 AS to the Argyle Road AS (mile 83.5) and from Argyle Road to Coldbrook in perspective I want to offer up this statistic:

Mile 70 ==> Mile 83.5 ==> 13.5 miles in 4 hours
Mile 83.5 ==> Mile 96 ==> 12.5 miles in 3 hours 13 minutes

It is the most amazing statistic. She had covered 12.5 miles of steep, rolling hills much faster than the flat terrain of the previous 13 miles. Wow! Wow!!

My soup was hot so it took me a while to gulp down. In the interim I flirted with Elaine Doll-Dunn, Jerry Dunn's wife, and the other female volunteers.

I soon caught up with Anu and Bharti a half mile out of the AS. They were slowly walking up a hill. I assured them that we had only a couple of small climbs left before the downhill that ended on the asphalt roads of town. The day had gotten very hot by now and Anu's asthma had started to bother her a lot. She realized though that the Finish was round the corner, so to speak, so she put the discomfort at the back of her mind and started running as soon as we hit the downhill into town.

She started power walking as soon as we got onto the flat section. We could see Uli The Walker (5 times in a row Lean Horse finisher) ahead and Anu soon caught up with him and surged ahead with about 0.75 miles to go. Past the waterfall we went and soon saw Raj and Nishad waiting ahead of us, 400 yards from the Finish. Raj had handed his video camera to my friend, Joe Judd, so I ran ahead to within sight of the Finish and let Joe know that we would all be coming in in a minute. In the meantime Raj, Bharti and Nishad had donned their Team Anu T-shirts.

I waited for Anu and the others to join me. Anu broke down right there and I asked her to hold it in for a few more paces. We all rounded the corner and ran towards the Finish amidst loud applause from other runners. It was the most amazing Finish ever! Anu, who had been holding her emotions in a tight rein for 29 hours and 13 minutes (her finish time), now let go and started weeping. Raj hugged her as did Nishad and Bharti. I gave up when she put her arms around me and sobbed into her shoulder. I was the proudest I have ever been of any person in my life.

Raj had biked more than 30 miles the day before and run an additional 19 with us. Bharti had paced us for 25 miles while Nishad had matched us step for step for 25 miles too. Thank you, you wonderful crew people!

We slowly made our way into the Mueller Center to drink, collect our drop bags, get a massage and chat with other runners. The award ceremony was planned for 12:15 p.m. so Anu, Raj and Nishad went to the hotel to let Anu shower. She did get a massage before leaving though. Nishad and Raj later told Bharti and me that Anu had fallen in the bathroom owing to hypoglycemia. This was soon remedied by giving her food.

The ceremony started at 12:15 p.m. sharp but there was no sign of the three of them. She eventually came in around 12:25 p.m. and I knew something was wrong. She sat down next to me and asked for a doctor 5 minutes later. The attending medical officer was summoned by Raj and they helped her walk off to a stretcher in the back of the room. Jerry Dunn, the Race Director, pointed to her and said that she was one of the successful first-time 100 mile runners to which the crowd responded with applause.

It took Anu 2 hours and a lot of salty water and soda to recover from the dehydration. We eventually made it back to the hotel room around 3:00 p.m.

Monday, Aug 24
The next day we visited Mt. Rushmore on the way to Rapid City and the flight back to San Francisco. On our flight from Rapid City to Denver were Lynnor Matheny, Sherry Meador and Phil Rosenstein.

Lynnor, in her race report e-mail a few days later, stated that Anu's finish was "one of the most inspirational things she had ever seen". High praise indeed!


(Rapid City airport. L to R: Sherry Meador, Lynnor Matheny, Anu Singh, Phil Rosenstein and Raj Singh)

We spent an hour with them before the flight, which was delayed by about 30 minutes, and it was great fun to share stories.

Many thanks to Jerry Dunn and his band of volunteers. Very helpful and cheerful, even in the wee hours of the morning.

I am intensely proud of Anu. I am humbled and awed by the manner in which she fought her demons and eventually triumphed. Way to go, babe!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Untamed Thames Ring 250




Date : Wed, Jun 24 - Sun, Jun 28, 2009
Race : Thames Ring 250 mile race
Where : Start and Finish in Streatley, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Distance Covered : 183.14 miles (CP#7) in 63 hours

Pictures
Pre-race http://rajeevtherunner.smugmug.com/gallery/8992499_QbQHu#597869674_EtKj8
Race http://rajeevtherunner.smugmug.com/gallery/8858686_yNG7R#587155722_ko9cg

I have divided my race report into 3 sections.

Part I covers the days leading up to the race and the first 55 miles.
Part II details the sections from CP#2 (55 miles) to CP#5 (130 miles).
Part III focuses on the remaining 2 Checkpoints (#6 & #7)

I received an e-mail from the newest member, Christian Hottas, of the Ultraholics Yahoo group back in November, 2008 about the inaugural Thames Ring 260. It immediately appealed to my desire to see what lay beyond a race of 100 miles, not that I had sated my appetite for 100 mile races.

I spent a few weeks doing research on the race route and the Thames Ring. The minute I saw names like Henley, Reading, Marlow and Milton Keynes I was hooked. I had to give myself the gift of running a race in the UK. I have always been intrigued by that country and continue to be so even after spending 2 weeks there before, during and after my unsuccessful attempt to complete the TR250 race.


(The Morrell Room)

The race started in Streatley, outside the Morrell Room, and passed through Reading, Henley, Windsor, London, Milton Keynes, Braunston, Napton and then onwards to Oxford on the way back to Streatley. I am hoping to go back in 2011 and complete what I started last month.

Goring & Streatley are quiet little villages that have a few surprisingly famous personalities living there. George Michael, of WHAM and "Careless Whisper" fame, has a home right next to the bridge that connects the 2 villages.


(The back of George Michael's home)

(High Street connecting Goring and Streatley)

Goring is the one with the train station, the library and a host of small shops and restaurants. Its quiet beauty, so English, charmed my heart no end. The Goring side of the Thames is lined with stately mansions. One of them is shown below.

(An estate on the Thames)

The various checkpoints are detailed below.

CHECK POINTS

LEG
Leg dist
Leg time
Tot dist
Tot time
CP opens
Closes (hrs open)
Streatley – Hurley CP1
GR = SU828842
27.25
8
27.25
8
13:30
18:00 Wed (4.5)
Hurley – Chertsey CP2
GR= TQ054666
27.8
8
55.05
16
18:00 Wed
02:00 Thur (8)
Chertsey Yiewsley CP3
GR= TQ066800
27.2
10
82.25
26
23:00 Wed
12:00 Thur (13)
Yiewsley – Berkhamsted CP4
GR= SP997077
23.6
8
105.85
34
05:00 Thur
20:00 Thur (15)
Berkhamsted – Milton Keynes CP5 GR= SP880364
24.35
8
130.2
42
11:00 Thur
04:00 Fri (17)
Milton Keynes – Nether Heyford CP6 GR= SP644591
26.95
11
157.15
53
17:00 Thur
15:00 Fri (22)
N. Heyford – Fenny Compton CP7 GR= SP430532
25.99
12
183.14
65
24:00 Thur
03:00 Sat (27)
F. Compton – Lower Heyford CP8 GR= SP483246
22.84
12
205.98
77
06:00 Fri
15:00 Sat (33)
Lower Heyford – Abingdon CP9 GR= SU498967
23.55
12
229.53
89
13:00 Fri
03:00 Sun (36)
Abingdon – Streatley Finish
CP10 GR= SU594808
18.83
11
248.36
100
18:00 Fri
14:00 Sun (44)
Red = guesstimations!! Green = good sleeping spaces.

Bon voyage! :-))

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Untamed Thames Ring 250 - Part I

Saturday, June 20
I spent the morning running about 9 miles or so with Anu and Raj. We ran down Hwy 9 to Los Gatos, took a left turn on Santa Cruz Ave. which soon became Winchester Blvd. A left turn onto Knowles took us back towards Anu's home. A wonderful, warm day and an equally wonderful run with motivated friends.

I went back home to shower and pack and return to Anu's home in my car which I had planned to leave there. My flight was at 7:15 p.m. and I wanted to be in the airport before 5 p.m. Anu and Lily drove me there and I reached with ample time to spare. The airport was deserted! I was checked in and on my way to Security 10 minutes after I had walked into the Terminal!



(With Lily and Anu outside the San Francisco airport)

I eventually found my way to the gate and spent the next hour and a half reading the turn-by-turn race route details and tracing them in the Geo Projects Thames Ring map I had bought a few months ago from Amazon. It was so exciting to find the various small details like Pub names or street names on that map. I did manage to sleep for a few hours on the 10-hr long flight.

Sunday, June 21
I landed in London about 15 minutes early. Immigration and Customs were fast and I was out by 1:45 p.m. Time now to head for the Underground. The 3 bags were heavy with race stuff and it was quite hard lugging them down to the Underground. After asking around, I bought a 1-way ticket to the Gloucester Road station (about a mile from the hotel) on the Piccadilly line. The train came in soon enough and I stashed my bags by the door and sat down to enjoy the 45-minute trip to Gloucester Road.

The walk from the station to the hotel was very hard. I was going up a bit of a slope all the way lugging the heavy bags and I was thankful for the hotel (Best Western John Howard, next to The Royal Albert Hall) steps when they swam into view! I quickly got my room and put the bags in a corner. That's about when I received a text message from Engel Martin, my BMC ex-manager who had moved to Ireland a month ago and who was visiting London for the weekend, asking me if I wanted to meet up with him in Harrods.

I freshened up and headed out the door with my camera to make my way to Harrods which my map showed me to be on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. It was about between a mile to a mile and a half from my hotel. I decided to walk through Kensington Park where a concert was going on. The music was fantastic and I stood for many long minutes enthralled by the sounds and the people enjoying a sunny London late afternoon.

Engel and his family were in the toy section of the store. I must have spent 10 minutes or so talking to him before we were asked to leave since the store was closing at 6 p.m. (Sunday and all that).


(With Engel and his daughters)


We decided to take the party to a pub next door and soon found ourselves enjoying a glass of wine and eating pub fare. It was a walk in Hyde Park after that before we parted ways. I wanted to get back and sleep so that I could be rested for the trip to Streatley the next morning.

Monday, June 22
I had breakfast around 8 a.m. the next morning in the restaurant's dining room before checking out. I had 3 choices - call for a cab to take me to Paddington station, (b) take the Underground from Gloucester Road to Paddington or (c) walk the couple of miles across Hyde Park to the station. I chose the last option.

What a hard walk it was! The bag I was pulling was heavy and the castors were not the best. My two shoulder bags were heavy as well making for many stops along the way to rest my weary shoulders. I finally reached Paddington Station where I quickly bought a one-way ticket to Goring/Streatley station (16.50 pounds). I hauled my luggage onto the luggage rack in the compartment and sat down by a window to enjoy the scenery going past. I was curious to see if I could even spot the Thames Path! I did not but was fortunate to see the Oracle building when the train pulled into Reading. Adding to my woes for that day, I had, unfortunately, not taken a direct train to Goring. I was forced to haul my heavy bags from Platform 3 to Platform 9 using a tunnel below the tracks. Man, was that tough!!! The Goring train eventually arrived and I scrambled on it.

Goring station was another problem. I was faced with the prospect of taking my luggage up a flight of stairs and down another on the opposite side. This is when I had my first slice of luck for the day. :) A tall young man named Robin asked me if I needed help. I gladly accepted. When he learned that I was going to walk the 0.75 miles to the Swan Hotel, he offered to drop me off. Thank you Robin!

The room I was given in the Swan was right on the water. What a lovely view I had from the balcony. The hotel itself is a very old one and the plumbing supported that fact! :) Nonetheless I decided to head out for lunch. With my faithful camera in tow, I decided to first check where the Start was. To my utter surprise, it was right next door to the Swan (50 yards or so away!). I then headed the opposite way to check out where the Thames Path was. I found it soon enough and stood there examining it as a boxer might his opponent! :)


(Pretty signs in Streatley)

Lunch was in the Miller of Mansfield pub. A glass of wine and a delicious pizza. Out I went again to the Thames Path for a short walk along the first few hundred yards. I ate dinner that night in the Swan dining room.

Tuesday, June 23
I woke up early the next morning and spent the morning lazing around and buying last minute stuff like water and a few more batteries and bandaids.

I went back to the Thames Path again and was sitting there talking to an Underground train driver named Steve when a couple pulled up in their canoe right in front of us. They were obviously headed to town for a quick bite to eat. They asked us if their stuff was safe in the canoe. I then offered to help them lug their stuff to my hotel and have the hotel staff put it in the back office. We were soon walking towards the hotel, talking about my race. They were excited at the prospect of, maybe, seeing me out on the course as they were planning to camp overnight 6-7 miles down the river and were not planning to start rowing again until after 10 a.m. the next day. Mike and Mary made for a striking couple.

I spent the next few hours making my drop bags.

Alicja Barahona, one of 2 women to start the race (she eventually finished 3rd overall in 79 hrs! What an athlete!!), and I had met earlier when she was checking into the hotel and we decided to go look for rice or pasta to eat. After trying a couple of pubs in vain, we decided to eat in the Swan that evening. We ate an early dinner with a couple of other runners. We were all champing at the bit.

I went to bed early but could not sleep for the next 2 hours, nervousness and jet lag keeping me wide awake.

Wednesday, June 24
Race day finally! Gosh what an adventure it promised to be!! I was excited to say the least. I made my last minute toilet calls before checking out and lugging my 2 drop bags to the Morrell Rooms next door. A lot of the other runners were already there. I picked up my bib number and paid 5 pounds as deposit for a toilet key for the Grand Union Canal section of the course. I safely put that key in my waist pouch.



(The Start)


(With Alicja just before the Start)



(Doing my customary dynamic stretches)
Alicja and I had a couple of pictures taken outside and before I knew it the race had started. The others sprinted off like they were running a mere marathon or 50K! I walked to the start of the Thames Path, about 0.2 miles from the Morrell Room, and had a chance to take pictures of the frontrunners from the bridge.

Morrell Rooms, Streatley -->> Hurleyford Farm, CP #1
Segment: 27.2 miles; Total: 27.2 miles; Time Limit: 8 hrs.
Very soon I was the last runner. I had my camera in my hand and the laminated map cum instructions for this first section of the course in the other along with my bottles. Clicked a bunch of pictures before putting the camera away to tackle a few climbs, one of which included 10 or so stairs at a steepish angle. The right Achilles tendon was a tad tight owing to the impinged sciatic nerve in my back. That tightness eventually disappeared and never came back the rest of the race.

I kept looking at the directions on the map and making the correct turns as directed. I soon spotted a runner up front. He had slowed down to talk on his phone. I passed him and asked after his wellbeing (I always do that in a race). He said he was fine so I continued. Very soon another couple of runners showed up in front of me. I caught up with them and very soon there were 3-4 of us making our way along the Thames Path that soon wound its way away from the river into a residential neighborhood. That's whan a runner named Carl Sommer (he went on to finish in 91 hours!) called me back because I had missed a turn. Destiny! He was to be my savior on more than one occasion in the next 70 miles.

We made our way through the town of Whitchurch and were back on the Thames Path. It was reassuring to see the sign pointing in the direction of Reading! This was a section that ran right next to the river (on the left) and the railway line (to London in the direction we were moving in) on the right. I vaguely remembered seeing this section on my way in a few days ago.

By now there were 3 of us running together - Carl, Gary (a policeman) and I. Gary had completed a 205 mile one-off race a few years ago and he was looking forward to taking on this monster. It was fun running with these 2 Englishmen.

During one of our deviations away from the river, I espied a small convenience store and we were soon drinking chocolate milk and the local Gatorade-like drink. They really hit the spot.

It was just after Pangbourne, going past one of the locks, that I happened to look between a couple of boats in the lock and noticed a couple paddling their boat. It was Mike and Mary from the day before. I excitedly hailed them and took a couple of pictures of them before wishing them a good trip to Reading.

(Mary and Mike)

Carl and I soon found ourselves running through a big open field on the right and the river Thames on the left. I could see for miles off to the right and it was a sight to warm the heart.

We soon approached Caversham and the bridge across the Thames I had seen pictures of over the past few months. Wow! I had to slow down (not that I was running that fast!) to absorb the sight and let it all sink in. WOW!

The river was lined with wonderful homes on the far side of the path. Homes that had "garages" for their small boats! I was very captivated by the passing scenery.

Through Caversham and onto Reading. The path was lined on our right with apartment buildings, office buildings and an occasional restaurant or two. We rounded a corner and I was overjoyed to see a familiar sign on a couple of buildings on the right. Oracle. My old employer. I had interacted with a bunch of people from this Thames Valley Park office during my years in HQ in Redwood Shores in the Bay area. Carl took a picture of me with Oracle in the background.

We soon put Reading behind us and got on with the task of pushing on to CP#1.

(Henley Church off in the distance)

I soon spotted a church off in the distance. It was Henley Church. The number of people on the path had now increased substantially. Into Henley-on-Thames rolled the caravan of 2 runners. I was a tad behind Carl taking pictures. Henley was a hive of activity with intense practice and preparations going on for the annual Henley Regatta that was to take place the Tuesday after i.e. June 30. It was one of the nicest towns I had seen in a while. The Thames was very wide here and the rowing lanes had been set out for more than a mile. Rowers were practicing with their coaches yelling out instructions on megaphones. We passed through Henley, after sucking down on an ice cream cone each, around 3 p.m. or so. That was 22 miles in 5 hours of running. Not bad.

(Carl going past people enjoying the afternoon sun)


(Lovely Henley)
CP#1 eventually came at 4:07 p.m. (6:07 hrs. into the race). I spent 20 minutes there replenishing my gels, having my bottles refilled and eating some food. I joked around with Anthony and the other volunteers and left at 4:27 p.m.

Hurleyford Farm, CP#1 -->> Chertsey Bridge, CP #2
Segment: 27.8 miles; Total: 55.05 miles; Time: 8 hrs.
Carl had left 3 minutes before me and a combination of his slowing down for me and my speeding up meant that I soon caught up with him. The past few days in the UK had told me that it stayed light until just past 10:15 p.m. or so and got light again around 4:00-4:30 a.m. I was looking at around 6 hours of darkness. Another 6 hours before it got dark. Maybe we would make it to CP#2 just around the time the day gave way to the night.

Onwards we trudged along the Thames Path. Past homes and apartment complexes. On cement and asphalt roads. Past houseboats and other boats in the river. I kept asking Carl about Windsor Castle. The 6 hours to the sight of Windsor Castle are a blur. All I remember is that we spent quite a few miles going through neighborhoods, some of them rich ones, and shaded country lanes.

We soon moved from the right bank to the left side and stuck to this side all the way to Windsor. The castle was soon spotted off in the distance and very soon we were in a clearing with the huge bulk of the castle looming across the Thames on the right. Pictures of the castle were the last pictures I took in this race. I put the camera away in my drop bag for the night and never took it out the next 2 days! No idea why!!

In Windsor, Carl and I walked into a pub and bought a couple of bottles of water to refill our hand bottles.

Night was upon us now and we had on our respective headlamps. The laminated maps had great mileage notes. We soon caught up with Andrew Ferguson a.k.a Fergie The three of us ran together for a few miles. We passed under M25 and soon were joined by Paddy Craig. Paddy and Fergie took off ahead of us and Carl and I stayed together. We eventually passed them a mile or two before CP#2 which we reached at 11:31 p.m. or 13:31 hours into the race. Carl and I left the AS together at 11:59 p.m. after eating, replenishing our gels and picking up extra flashlights and batteries.

(to be continued ...)