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HOPE 24 Race Report

Ironjediby IronjediMay 21st 2015
Hope24. Where do I start? A whole world of mental and physical pain......

I entered this race on the back of the disappointment I felt over my DNS at Equinox24 in September 2014. I couldn’t race due to a ruptured calf. I ended up supporting my friend Grant who ran 72 miles as a Solo and the two teams of 4 we had entered. We had such a great time and after the euphoria of everyone collecting their medals I suggested a race nearer to home. So the idea to enter Hope24 in 2015 was born.

Just after running “The Oner” in April, my body battered and bruised, Hope24 was the last thing I was looking forward to. However, as the weeks went by I actually started looking forward to it and in my mind set myself a goal of 100 miles.

On the Friday Mark, Grant and I headed down to Newham Park to set our tents up. We arrived there to find a hive of activity. The camping was well laid out with solo camping right next to the course and finish line. They even had solo toilets set aside so you didn’t have to go too far off the course (great touch). Danny Slay “The Leg Slayer”, organiser of the race, came over to meet us and say hello. We appreciated the personal touch. We started to get our two tents up in the now pouring rain and were helped by one of the other Solo participants camped next to us, Wayne Many thanks for your help.

With the tent up and the rain still pouring we headed home for some food to fuel up for the race.

I slept like a baby and didn’t feel phased by the race at all. I woke early and probably felt the most relaxed I have ever been going into any race. I put it down to the solid base I had built up over the last few months. I was super chilled!
We headed down to Newham Park which was now considerably fuller. There was a great vibe and the place was buzzing. It also had a really super family feel to it. I met Louise C who I had chatted with on twitter and who had given me some great advice. She is an extreme ultra running and triathlon machine. She had entered the race then found out shortly afterwards she was pregnant. She was still going to walk round a couple of laps. A real inspiration as she had only five weeks to go until the due date. Amazing.

After the race brief we had time for a few photos and then it was on to the start line for a midday start. I set off with three other Solos in our group: Grant, Mark and James. Mark was a young guy who had never run an ultra before and was going to see how far he could get. James, also new to ultras, was running for two great charities. Grant, a seasoned ultra runner, was injured and didn’t know how long he would be able to run for but was going to see how he would shape up.

My plan was to run consistently and try to maintain the same speed throughout. Well that plan lasted about 5 minutes as I found myself being swept along with everyone else. I was running far too quickly and needed to slow down but I just couldn’t. I ran the first 5 laps (25 miles) in 4 hours 14 minutes. Including short stops my laps were well under an hour.
The course was fantastically brutal. It was almost all off road and a mixture of soft mud, hard mud, grass, small bits of tarmac and gravel paths with a couple of substantial hills over a 5 mile loop with just over 600 foot of ascent on each lap. The first section slowly made its way up to the first hill and over the stream past a small tarmac section with a camper van and some supporters, they were awesome for nearly the whole race. Even when they went to sleep they left some music on outside the van to help people along. The course then goes through a muddy section which would get interesting later as the air became damp. The hill was pretty steep and went on for about 1 mile. Once at the top, you slowly made your way back down until the last couple of hundred metres where the path became quite steep and would later be a quad killer. Back past the “camper van crew” and across a small bridge over the stream. Once back on the flattish grassy part, the course then went back towards the camping fields where crowds of supporters and team runners clapped everyone through. It went on over a small river crossing and up the second big hill (a sharp steep section on grass), through a couple of fields and on to a gradual climb to the top. This climb lasted for around 1 ½ miles. At the top was a Thomas the Tank Engine cross country jump and the course then wound it's way back down to the finish. The last 200 metres of this descent was brutal on the quads due to the tarmac road. At the base of this descent was a marshal point. The Marshal had a pink beard and every lap I looked forward to seeing him, he was so supportive and friendly and really helped motivate me for the next lap. The route crossed the stream again back into the camping field. Again, more supporters and team members clapping everyone round the outside of the camping fields and over the finish line. There were a couple of parts of the course which were initially not that well marked out but they improved after a number of people went the wrong way (which included me on lap 2 running about ½ mile extra). All in all a bloody brutal lap.

During the first couple of laps I was talking to loads of different people, all running for their own reasons and with their own goals. It was a really friendly atmosphere. The laps seemed to be flying past. I was loving it, meeting new interesting people. I chatted to Duane (solo) who I had recognised from Equinox24 (I had clapped him every lap calling him “Buff Man”). He was really chatty and told me how he had done 100 miles the previous year and was hoping to do more this year. Right, I need to stay with this guy in order to complete my goal of 100!

For the first 5 laps I didn’t really stop for very long, just enough time to grab a drink, a snack and then set off again. Wendy, my wife, and the rest of our two teams were going to look out for me - The Wannabe Wonder Women and Team LePage.

At mile 30 I stopped and grabbed some food. I had decided to run the race on normal food. I had stocked my food box with an array of items including sandwich thins with cheese, hummus and lettuce, Pringles, salt and vinegar twists, homemade banana bread, raisons and cranberries in yogurt, bananas, Jackoatbars, salted peanuts, 9 Bars, dried apricots, boiled eggs, wholewheat pasta with tomato sauce, porridge pots and my winning homemade bacon and lentil soup. I had water, tea, coffee, coke and Science and Fitness Glycosource. The Glycosource is a game changer, awesome stuff and it's what I filled my bottle with each lap.
It was at 30 miles that I also had a slight internal mental headfit. I still had 70 miles to hit my target. Mental note to self.....I must run 50 miles by midnight! However, after a quick talking to myself I was back out running and hit 50 miles and 10 laps by 10:13pm. Things were still going well and I was holding it together. I decided to go to 55 miles before I would treat myself to a change of clothes and trainers. By this time I was pretty stinky. At 55 miles I changed my mind and just wanted to get one more lap in. I did however crack out the Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles. #gamechanger

So at 60 miles, we were well into the night. The temperature had dropped a little but it was still not too cold. The air however was pretty moist and that muddy section was slowly turning into a muddy swamp. When I came in at this lap I felt pretty broken. Mental head fit number 2. I had immense pain in my left knee on the inside, it felt like someone was driving a knitting needle into the centre of my knee and twisting it around. There was initially no one to be seen from my team to help me. I stood outside the tent and pathetically said “help me, someone help me” but not too loudly so as not to wake them all up! After a little rustle the team came to my aid as I wanted to change, have some proper food and put on a slightly larger pair of trainers. I was aware that my feet had swollen a little and could feel a blister or two. I fuelled up on pasta in sauce. I took my socks off and boy my feet were a blistering mess. It certainly helped that going into the race I had hardly any toenails due to previous recent races. My support team were doing a sterling job. They seemed to have a decent system going, one would prepare some food and drink whilst one rubbed BetterYou Magnesium Oil into my legs and helped me stretch them off.

After the change of clothes, hot food, a drink, Paracetamol, massage and stretch I felt like a new man, well almost!
I set off again. The night then again became a bit of a blur. I remember running a number of laps with the teams - Darren, Mark, Nancy, Chloe and Wendy all ran a lap with me as part of their team race. It worked quite well to link up with their laps and I think they enjoyed the company as much as I did. Running with Wendy, my rock! I was able to let out some of my true feelings about the race, the brutal course, the pain in my quads and knees, and I got a little tearful. She was so supportive and said I could stop as I had nothing to prove. By now the number of people on the course had certainly dropped. I reckon there were quite a few people who had gone to bed.

At mile 75 my mate Justin (hardened Double Brutal support crew member) turned up to say hello to everyone and came round for a lap and a catch up. It was great to go round with him, although I did have to wait for him at the top of a couple of the hills. I was pleased to have a rest to be honest.

I continued on and the sun came up, I can't recall what time that was as things were becoming a painful hazy blur by this stage. One guy ran next to me and said “have you been up all night?”, I replied “yes, why does it look like I have?”, he replied “yes”. I laughed and appreciated his honesty.

85 miles and full mental breakdown. I came into transition and the pain in my left knee was the worst it had been, it was so painful. I sat down in tears crying, could hardly even speak, whilst everyone around me fetched food, drink, Magnesium Oil and massaged my legs. I was a willing vessel who had almost lost the ability to think. I was in tears, Wendy was telling me to stop as she hated seeing me in so much pain. Something in my head would not let me stop. I only had 15 miles to go and I could do it. I just needed to start moving. I physically didn’t have the strength to get out of the chair on my own. I had to be lifted off the chair and then started to limp out onto the course. I can only imagine that I looked like someone walking with nails in his shoes who had ( there is only one way to describe this) shit himself. The first 50 metres or so whilst the muscles started working again were the hardest. The further I went the easier it became until I could do a fast march and then attempt to run the odd section. By this time every downhill section battered my quads. Danny Slay “The Leg Slayer” had a lot to answer for.

I wanted to get the race finished so didn’t stop much after this. The more I sat down, the more I seized up. I had company for the last 15 miles, Nancy, then Wendy and then almost everyone in the two teams, Wannabe Wonder Women and Team LePage, on the last lap. As long as you started your final lap before 1200 midday you were allowed to complete it. So my last lap, and lap 20 which would take me to 100 miles, started at about 11.25am. The last lap was pretty much a walk all the way.
I had Chloe, Wendy, Nancy, Helen, Darren and Mark for company. Everyone was buzzing. I started the lap tired, in pain and not too happy. However, my spirits improved as I got further around the course. As I came down the last descent on the tarmac and headed over the bridge and onto the grass track that surrounded the camping fields I had around 400 metres to go. Nad, Holly and Matt joined us for the last bit. I started to jog and as I ran towards the finish line I had what I can only describe as an emotional release of happiness. I had done it. 100 miles. I crossed the line with my poles held high, a massive smile on my face, ecstatic in the knowledge that it was over. I collected my medal from Danny, had a quick “man hug” and then laid out on the floor whilst everyone around me packed tents and cars up.

Whilst this was going on my body had gone into shut down mode. I downed two large chocolate milkshakes and was taken home. The journey in the car was only an hour. Wendy and I were so tired we took the wrong turn off the M5. All I wanted to do was sleep. I spent the rest of the afternoon dribbling, unable to string a sentence together and couldn’t wait to get to bed.

Ok, so the next morning someone had clearly smashed my legs with a battering ram during the night as I was now hardly able to walk. Sadly I couldn’t get the day off work and so began my 'week of rest' with a minimum of 12 hours at work every day.

I would like to thank a number of people, firstly my wife Wendy for putting up with me and supporting me. Big thanks too to the rest of Wannabe Wonder Women, Team LePage, Holly, Justin, James, Kerry and Gary P for all the support. Thanks to all the other runners I met, “Pink Beardy Marshal Guy”, the “Camper Van Crew” and everyone else who showed support around the course, not forgetting Danny Slay for putting on a fantastic couple of days and at the same time raising a shed load of money for some great charities.

I would certainly recommend this event. It had a great family atmosphere about it, with great facilities, medals, t-shirts, spot prizes, marshals, camping, support, location plus one extremely difficult course. I will be there next year, I just haven’t decided in what capacity yet! Thank you Danny Slay!!
 
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