Arch to arc take 1

Everyone who has followed my progress will know by now that I did not succeed in completing Arch to Arc (for now)

The weeks leading up to the event were pretty sunny so I was hopeful that the weather would stay as nice for my attempt. Typically the weather turned a few days before the start of my slot so myself and my crew were left in limbo waiting to hear when we would be setting off, however that is always a risk with swimming the channel. During this time we keep an eye on the forecast and prayed for a break in the weather to allow an attempt, it wasn’t looking too good for it. To top it off the guy that was supposed to be filming the event decided he didn’t want to hang around even though he had been told there was a high possiblility that we would be delayed for a few days as the weather may be unsuitable for channel swimming. I am currently waiting on a refund from him.

Cameraman gone we focused on more important things like keeping an eye on the weather. A small break in the weather was showing for Thursday morning so we took the decision to start the run on Tuesday night. At 5.15pm Tuesday evening I set off from Marble Arch having been waved off by a few friends, Oli and James ( 2 fellow ultrarunners were there which calmed my nerves a bit.

Once I was running all nerves were gone. I had great crew (Fiona, Jason and Rosie) who managed to get me to eat with hardly any complaints, anyone who has met me in a race knows how much of an achievement this is so they deserve a medal. I did the run with some small rests. At about 3am i was starting to feel a little sleepy so decided to take a power nap. This decision, however, lasted about 5 minutes as I thought f**k it I’d rather walk for a little bit instead of sleeping so I had a coffee then carried on. As we approached folkestone the BBC crew came along. This was an incentive to keep running. They stayed with me for a bit then carried on to Dover where they filmed me coming in, the last section into Dover is downhill and I knew I had less than half an hour to break the stage record. Of course I chose this time to have a massive sugar level drop so had to cram loads of mini chocolate bars in to keep running. Luckily it had no effect on the time I did 18hrs13mins, 17 minutes quicker than the boys. This will be a time I will aim to better in 2011 when I return to do this event justice.

Once in Dover we headed off to the hotel where I freshened up then went for some food. I only managed to force down half of my meal though and went to bed for a couple of hours before getting up to try to eat again. This time was more successful and went back to sleep with the aim of getting up to see the boat pilot at 3am to check if the swim could go ahead. When we spoke to him he said the weather was closing in but he would start the swim. If it looked like the weather was turning I would be taken out of the water and he would return to Dover. Eddie asked me to make a decision, swim or not? The rest of the swim slot was pretty much a no go as the weather was due to get worse after that day so I thought about it and decided to go for it.

I’m not sure whether that had some effect on my mental state, I knew there was quite a high chance I wouldn’t have the time to get across the channel. Maybe that mental state affected my physical state. Either way I knew 6 and a half hours in I was not going to make it across. My arms were fatiguing, I had a brief respite when I thought they were getting better but that lasted about five minutes then I was struggling on again. For the 2 hours I carried on knowing I was moving too slowly to get across and that I was going to get pulled out. I wasn’t getting out unless I was told though. It was a crushing disappointment to me and writing this report now is incredibly hard to do without reliving that feeling of total and utter failure, something that will not go away until I complete this event.

As soon as I got on the boat I said to Eddie – we have to talk about another slot for my next attempt, I don’t think he was too surprised. The Boat pilot, Chris, took us into Calais so I could do the bike section too. Might as well make it a decent recce for 2011. After the rest of the crew arrived in Calais with the van and bike I had a short sleep then started the 180 mile cycle to Paris. Even though I had done the route at Easter there seemed to be a lot more hills than I remembered. The weather did turn nasty too, a small consolation to me as it meant I probably would have been pulled out of the water later anyway. The storm was pretty spectacular and some way into it Eddie and the crew decided I should sit it out as the wind was pushing me onto the wrong side of the road. Much as I wanted to finish the cycle quickly I didn’t want to die doing it so I agreed. After a shortish stop I was back on the bike and heading to Paris. The route is pretty amazing and I did enjoy it although I was swearing a lot on the up hills

Finally after 23 hours we got to Paris, the cycle up to the Arc de Triomphe was incredible. I became very Parisian in my attitude to all other vehicles at this point, in other words “out of my way, I’m coming through!”

I had an amazing support team Jason and Rosie, they helped me recce it all and I cannot thank them enough for all they did for me. Fantastic people, I look forward to doing it all again in 2011 – swimming into france instead this time rather than hitching a ride. Fiona, you were a great help. Now you understand what this ultra madness is all about

Eddie as race director was great, only sent me the wrong way once! Top bloke

Thanks to Dave Scott too, although he wasnt crew he has done an awful lot to help me out in my attempt. Look forward to catching up at Eagle Ilse

Lanzarote Race Report

A couple of weeks ago I headed out to Lanzarote to attempt the lanzarote ultra triathlon. This involved a 45 mile run, an 11mile sea swim and 80 miles bike. I had originally aimed to do this in April but brought it forward to the start of Feb in order to boost my confidence for Arch to Arc, which I will attempt in July of this year.

Myself and Paul, my support crew, headed out on Sunday 1st Feb. It was lucky we didn’t go a day later as snow stopped flights from London the following day. Upon arrival we were met by Eddie Ette. He had recently broken Steve Haywood’s record for the course and had done it in 29hrs 57mins. I had originally been aiming to go for the record but I knew I wouldn’t beat this time as my swim is steady but not fast so I kept the aim to beat Steve’s time as something to focus on.

The start of the attempt was postponed from 2nd Feb to 3rd Feb due to bad weather. It was lucky we did as when I took my bike out to put it together the airline had managed to damage it. A few hours and 25euros later the bike was as good as new.

I started the run at 8.55pm Tues 3rd  Feb, Eddie and his wife Lynn had driven me around the course when we arrived and I had decided it could be done in roughly 8hrs at a comfortable pace. The 45 mile course was one of the best runs I have ever done. I felt comfortable throughout the whole course and had plenty of energy during the stage too. This was most likely down to the fact that I had managed to sort out my eating habits- usually on races I struggle to eat but Paul was under strict orders to make me eat. I completed the run in just under the 8 hrs I had predicted so was pretty happy. After a couple of hours rest I got up and started to get ready for the swim, at this point I was feeling a bit ill and was unable to eat. Taking Eddie’s advice I rested for a little longer then was able to eat before heading down for the swim, just in time for the sun to start shining. Trying not to think of the 11 miles I had ahead of me I got in and thought, it’s 12 laps which in my mind sounded a lot better than 11 miles.Most people ask me what I think about when I’m in the water for that long so I will try to describe it and hope that the men in white coats don’t come after me. To begin with I was pretty focused on getting that first lap done. I also started to imagine the finish point of the event in my head, not just of the swim but also of the whole event. This is something I do in Ultrarunning anyway and it helps me to keep going. As time went on my mind wanders into its own little world with images of completing Arch to Arc in July in my mind, at some points general musings creep in e.g. I wonder what such and such a person is up to? What’s happening in neighbours? Etc etc. Most of the time I can’t remember what I have been thinking about during this kind of event except when reality kicks in and I start to feel the cold. The only way I find I get through this is to tell myself I am not allowed to feel the cold or pain (my left shoulder was starting to ache about 9 miles in) until I have done what I set out to do, after that it doesn’t matter. I don’t know how or why this works but it does. I rarely felt cold or in any sort of pain during the swim. I had a couple of low spots but they did not last long, Eddie, Paul and Lynn did a great job keeping my spirits up.Eddie got in and canoed alongside me for most of the second half of the swim which was a great help to me, given he had a bad back I was amazed he managed to get into the canoe at all. After 9.5hrs I was finally done in the water and very pleased with how it went. It may not have been the quickest swim but it was constant.The record was totally out of reach now so I took the maximum 5hrs rest before the bike. When the alarm went off a couple of hours into a deep sleep I really did not want to get up but told myself that the next time I got into bed I could sleep for more than an hour or two, ah the luxury of it.

The bike stage started just before midnight on Wed 4th Feb and soon I was climbing the hills with a fair bit of wind trying to prevent me getting any further. Paul and Eddie drove behind me for the most part and stopped occasionally to let me refuel. The course is quite a tough cycle and I was glad when I had reached the halfway mark as the worst of the hills were over. It was now about keeping moving and not falling asleep. A couple of times I had to stop and was given a triple espresso by Paul, they were rank but did the job, I was able to keep my eyes open and carry on. When daylight hit it spurred me on a little to keep going, I desperately wanted my bed at this point, I was crying tears of pure tiredness at 2 separate points, I had been on the go for about 35hrs with only a few hrs sleep. It was at this time that Paul thought it would be a good idea for roll down the car window and say (imagine a patronising voice) Alright? With his thumbs up. I knew he meant well so I just said “Yes”. Well that’s what I said verbally but apparently the look on my face said “What do you feckin think? I have been on the go for 35hrs and am blooming knackered” That’s putting it politely. After that he rolled up the window and said to Eddie “I don’t think she liked that” then drove on a bit.9hrs and 9mins after I started the bike I was finished and managed a total time of 36hrs 2mins and some seconds. I was exhausted but pleased as I had done the time I wanted and it was great preparation for Arch to Arc in July. This is a great event. Eddie and Lynn are fantastic people who made the trip more enjoyable. I want to thank them and Paul (who went out and ran the 45 mile route a few days later in 8hrs and 20 mins, good work considering that he had only ever run as far as 32 miles beforehand)  I couldn’t have done it without them. Thank you to Steve who updated the live feed for me and to everyone for their messages of support, they were a great help.