T60 Night Race

Well…that hurt…a lot.

This was a race I had been intending to hit pretty hard when I made my plans for the year, but obviously plans change and my prep going into this was no where near what I had wanted. A couple of months out with injury meant most training was done in the gym or on the bike, but I had managed to get running again in the couple of weeks before the race.

In the week leading up to the race I was keen to do it to just see what I could do, knowing full well it wasn’t going to be a stand-out performance, but hoped I could cobble something together and had a bit of faith that even though I wasn’t going to be particularly speedy, I still had a fair amount of experience in my legs.

Sadly my dog, Zeta, fell very ill the day before the race; she was having uncontrollable seizures with no history of epilepsy. The vets were great in trying to help, first control the seizures then get to the root of the problem, most likely a brain tumour. She passed away later that night, a very sad sight to see. She’d had a great life and has been my running buddy for the past 10 years, really since I started to contemplate running. She was a rescue dog who we met at 6 months we’ve shared some amazing times, lots of them running related.

So late Friday night the drive behind wanted to do T60 became very different, wanting to do it for her as some closure from where we both came from to where I am now. A very sad and sleep deprived Ollie got all his stuff together Saturday morning in an experienced-robot fashion and we (the better half and I) headed up to Oxford.

It was fun being the centre of the pre-race hype along with Karen Hathaway, the winner of last year’s T184 – the much harder longer version of this, also a GB 24hr runner. There were no pre-race nerves; I just felt empty.

A night race makes prep and registration much easier and it was all quite chilled having a kit check in a pub, with the other patrons thinking we were a little odd in our dress sense and sense of a good Saturday night.

Well it was all chilled until I lost my tracker, before we even started, but about 5 minutes before the start of the race. No idea how I managed to misplace a GPS tracking device, a pretty epic fail on my behalf, but the guys from Go-Tek were great, saw me flapping and programmed another device for me. Hopefully that was going to be the last boo-boo.

We all set off at 8pm and Karen, Mark (an incredible and bonkers runner who did Thames Path 100 last weekend….) and I formed a little group and took it easy for the first 20 miles or so. It was pretty sociable running like this; much more sociable than setting off into the dark by myself like I did last year.

I started pulling a way a little before half way, then after hitting the half way mark wanted to start racing. My plan was to get to half way in good nick, then hit it form there. Turns out if you hardly run for 3 months, your legs get pretty lethargic, and I was suffering much earlier than I really should have been. I tried to pick the pace up after half way but hardly did at all, until I went over a bridge, glanced behind me and saw Karen’s headtorch bobbing along close behind. This gave me a solid injection of adrenaline at the thought of being chased by a GB 24hr runner… The race pretty much continued like this for the rest of the night…I couldn’t shake her off! It was relentless! My guts were getting pretty sad with me so I was eating much less than I would’ve liked, and the whole time I could see this torch bobbing along close behind me. I was like there was a massive elastic band holding us both together stretching out a bit then pinging us back together.

Karen sitting behind me like that made me run the race much faster than I would’ve otherwise! It was actually pretty exciting; we were actually racing. Not just running our own runs by ourselves, we were properly racing. And it hurt. It hurt a lot.

I dug a pretty massive hole that night, the whole time thinking about running with Zeta and wanted to thoroughly commit myself to the race for her.

I eventually pulled away slightly from Karen in the closing miles of the run, and was getting update-texts through to give me an idea of where abouts she was. I was dammed relieved to read that I’d manage to shake her off briefly, but kept the pace up as high as I possibly could convinced she would burst out of the trees right behind me.

It was a huge relief to make it into the last few fields and get that dammed stone in sight. The stone marks the head of the Thames, the point we were racing towards. I tried to run strong into the finish, and was absolutely pooped when I got there. Boy was I glad to see everyone.

Relief is really the best word to describe what I felt. I was empty; emotionally completely exhausted. I didn’t get much euphoria, I was just empty. That emptiness was pretty quickly filled with nausea and I provided zero chat for all the amazing volunteers and Shane at the finish.

After hobbling round for a bit and watching Karen finish, looking so fresh as if she’d just done a ParkRun, I hobbled up to the finish-admin site to try and stomach something warm and get changed before heading off.

The next race had pretty much just begun, with Gail needing to get to her bike race nearby, so I couldn’t mince and complain to everyone at the finish how much I hurt for too long, before we jumped in the car and shot off to join a very different race.

Enough rambling; the bottom line is that I’m exhausted. Its been a difficult few months, and a difficult past few days. The T60 Night Race is nails…it really is a hard race, and although the conditions were PERFECT (dry underfoot, clear sky, warm enough for tshirt and shorts all night), I still suffered big time.

A massive thank you has to go out to everyone who makes these experiences happen: Shane and his volunteers from T-series racing, for a very hard weekend; Gail for being the ever-helpful support driver and keeping me up-to-date on how much Karen was hunting me down; and all of my support from Tri Training Harder, the Bosworth Clinic and InDurance for getting me and keeping me healthy, and of course Athlete Service for my kit.

Now to try and recover from that humungous hole I just dug myself, in time to try and get on this Antarctic expedition team this weekend….

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