Updated: Jan 28, 2021
I’m writing this blog sick as a dog - immune shot to pieces and man-flued up. But the body feels good and the legend of this years 24 hour race in the Worlds still makes me tingle. If the blog is boring, poorly written or inaccurate it’s because I ‘m funked x
Super Dad at the Worlds Opening Ceremony - Could not have achieved anything like 228 km without Dad
Bone had previously PB'ed at Tooting, UK 2018 with 222 KM. With the new Spartathlon AQ being set at 226 KM a new PB and Spartathlon AQ were the first realistic goals. After that it was 237 KM = Team GB qualifying standard for Team entry Final finish distance was 228.237 KM = 141.82 MILES
So a beautiful PB, a massively satisfying Spartathlon AQ success and an 8.763 KM deficit to a Team GB qualifier. Having a PLAN: With Coach Daz we had settled on a strategy to split the race into three key areas: a) First 8 Hours b) Middle section up to 100 mile c) Ability to keep strong to the end
Super Compadres Sarah Cameron and Dave Andrews #teamgb
Taking into consideration my previous 24 hour runs I've often gone at a pace to "ease into the ultra" for the first 8 hours. Any Spartathlon will tell you that the race doesn't even start until Corinth (80 km) but you can overcook by that point and that's got to be a primary focus. However in my last 24 hrs I had been considerably strong for the final 4 hours and was running a pretty speedy 7-8 minute pace throughout these last hours. Whilst that's amazing it also shows that I didn't push myself hard enough earlier on. So general bench-marking with other runners who are around the 235 km level will show that they are consistently sub 16 hour 100 milers in 24 hour events but crucially still strong enough to covert 45-55 more miles in the last 8 hours . My previous 100 mile PB was 17:21 and so I knew that my section A PLAN had to give me a chance of pushing in section B for this.
So where did things go (a little) WRONG!!!
Well for the first 10 laps I sat behind my friend and ultra powerhouse Nathan Flear. At some point I just went ahead of Nathan and then spent the next 2 - 3 hours in my own head-space concentrating on my own section A plan. However why didn't I think a little bit more about "why was I ahead of Nathan". I clocked up my first marathon in 3:35. Inside I was buzzing that's a pretty punchy first marathon time - I was not out of breathe - I was taking my Tailwind every 45 minutes - man this was the dream. Not quite sure exactly when it went pear-shaped but after 5 hours the unseasonably warm weather was now beginning to effect me. I could sense that out of nowhere I was getting slightly more out of breath and it just didn't feel great. This funk lasted as long as the sun stayed out. All I could really do was stay focused on the '10 km an hour mantra'. I had obviously banked a good chunk of time with that marathon so that even at the 80 km mark I was there in 7:30. However my official 100 km split was 9:46:57 and 13th place in the Open Championship.
It's getting HOT in here so let's keep on my VPH clothes...
Sporting the much loved Spartathlon “ice-bandana” - Dad was a life saver with these
Major Rule of Ultramarathons #1 - when something you know works make sure that you do it in future races. Two weeks before Albi I had seen a FaceBook post from fellow competitor Helen James worrying about the impending heatwave in Southern France. It won't be hot I assured everyone - even if its a little sunny it will feel mild and pleasurable. Boy what a BIG mistake. This coming from someone who knows what its like to do a full month of sauna training before Spartathlon. Just a little bit of heat training could have played a massive difference.
Section B - Seeds of Unravelment - After my Albi Funk session the thought of getting the next 60 km done in 6 hrs for a sub 16 hr 100 mile seemed unlikely. I'm not really sure what happened but basically the heart muscle was strong, I was loving the experience, my crew (Dad and support Tori) were perfect and not missing a beat and I was grateful to be on that track with running legends. I just slipped into a groove, I dug a little deeper and started to chip away. 120 km sub 12 hrs - 140 km sub 14 hrs. When the lead up hour to the 100 mile marker came I knew I'd slipped a few minutes but I still clocked my fastest ever 100 miler in 16:08. I'd started the day with Nathan showing me a page of inspirational quotes and at the top was a reference to this being "just one day in our lives". I too had often reminded myself that this was a 24 hour race. An opportunity to stay running for a full 24 hours and that "getting a 100 mile time and stopping" would never be a substitute for running until the final minute of the 24 hr.
Major Rule of Ultramarathons #2 - I'd had a good run of ultramarathons with no blisters and no nail loss. My formula was always to have a brand new pair of Injinji toe socks and either use powder or vaseline on my feet. So for this World Champs I rocked up with a crusty pair of old Injinji's - afterwards I found a hole in them - this may have even been there at the start and even though I knew I was getting some Vaseline from Nath for the all important crotch/chaffing protection I actually looked at my feet and couldn't be bothered to take my Hokas and Injinjis off to vaseline them.
Finale - from the clutches of Dave Andrews to slipstream of Courtney Dauwalter - I genuinely had not paid any attention to the 40 runners in the Open event. Other than Nathan (who by mile 100 was quite a few laps ahead of me and looking absolutely skippy - I've since seen the photos and the boy is giving his heart and soul at this point - total respect) I knew no-one and the race format meant that I wasn't spending any time getting to know anyone any better. However throughout the entire race there were various crews and supporters who would cheer me on lap after lap. These included Dave Andrews buddy Chris - I don't think he missed out a lap - behind a bush, fences and in his crew spot he'd shout my name and wish me well. Thank you Chris. Plus Sarah Cameron's family and Dan Lawson's Mum!!! But Chris was good - he was clearly filling Dave in with all kinds of intel - namely where he was positioned in the Open event and where his "rivals" were. Dave started to lap me and he'd be like "Dave we need to keep all three podium places - you are only 1 lap behind". At this point I could feel the race unravel - Was I even going to get a PB anymore. Was I just going to tail off and death-march the last few hours in. I could feel that fast marathon - I could feel what the heat had done to me. "Nah Dave you kick on and keep your spot" I'd mumble - but when I got to the lap-counter screen I'd be looking to see where I was and if that podium spot was real. With 4 hours to go I was up to 5th place and there didn't appear to be much of gap between me and Dave and whoever was between us ( Jens Brack Germany and Shigemi TAKAYOSHI Japan). With the long period of night-time slowly being transformed by a stunning sunrise we had two hours of a beautiful daylight morning to bring us home. The Podium dream was slipping away, the PB was getting ever closer and now it was time to ensure that Spartathlon AQ was nailed. Throughout the night ultra sex-god Alex Whearity (here supporting his Team GB wife Wendy) would chant daznbone and be sharing a lot of much-valued love. In the last hour Alex became my go to man with the Sparta qualification details and how close I was. Plenty of expletives when I thought it was going to be out of reach turned to waves of kisses for Alex (and anyone else who wanted some) when it was duly brought home. How do you finish off such a beautiful 24 hours - well by running in a small little group with the wonderful Courtney Dauwalter - another absolute legend in a day of running with total legends
What a pleasue to be sandwiched by two ultra-legends Sir Dave Andrews & Bestie Nath #teamgb2020
Emotions of Albi 24 - I loved every second of the whole trip. It was enough to just be with Dad. With his support we got that Sparta AQ and I hope he wants to come with me to do it all again in Greece next year. The town of Albi was beautiful - want to go back and spend more time on a bike and drink a little. Big love to Nathan/Tori as ever for being so beautiful and for Nath's Team GB qualifying win - immense brother - you properly deserved this. To Nath's running buddy Camille Herron for smashing the World record - what a treat that was to witness - seriously a runner on another planet. To all the Team GB runners - especially those little beauties who offered so many kind words of support. My Spartathlon buddies from around the globe especially Rolando who offered some of the kindest moments of the race to me - thanks buddy. My Romanian buddy Radu for his constant cool support. To Helen, Sarah and Dave for being such awesome competitors in this epic World Champs. Next Worlds are in Romania in 2021 x
Other Major Rules of 24 HOURS Racing that worked :)
I Kept one set of kit on for the entire 24 hours - sounds easy - try it. I don’t think many if any of the other 400 competitors made not one single clothing change in 24 hours. I did think about putting my arm warmers on quite a bit!!!
I at least made a good effort to “Keep a Line” - by this I mean that there will always be a shortest route and you need to try everything to stick to it. Where it did fail for me was when I began to overheat from hour 5 - 10 and I would move over towards the tables that had the sponges of cold water in and dunk my hat. Think of the line as a zig-zag for those 5 hours
Nutrition Strategy - I had 24 Tailwind Sticks for 24 hours - I came home with 5. I had 7 gels - a couple tasted ok the others were foul. One of the things that made me smile the most would be seeing the international athletes receiving their carefully measured drinks and food of nutritional goodness and then seeing them on the other side of the course eating crap from the open food station. For me I only ate fruit (mainly oranges and bananas). The most exotic thing I tried all day was a heavily salted cucumber from Tori!!!!
Elastic form - did it happen? In summertime I spent a session with performance coach Shane Benzie and I really wanted to bring a lot of his wisdom into the planning and execution of this 24 hr - How did I do:
What an incredible experience to be up close and experience the form of the worlds best ultramarathon runners. Still amazes me that so few actually have that beautiful elastic form - I definitely am a fully paid-up believer but I am also someone that's trying to work on so many aspects that you expertly shared. Watching elegant runners like Dan Lawson Nathan Flear - Athlete/Coach - they just glide. When someones been running for 20+ hours you see all sorts of carnage - just a small degree of form degradation and all sorts of things begin to unfurl - you can only imagine the level at which some international runners were hunched over or tilted to the side at the end - just unbelievable. It was also hot for the first 8-10 hours and this totally flipped with runners heads - runners with things hanging off them and juggling sponges - I had a makeshift buff turned into an ice bandana - felt amazing but I'd be running along constantly trying to move it around as ice fell out or if it melted one side I'd jiggle to try and get the ice water to flow down a different part of my body :) elastic at that point = no!!!! Even my watch felt like a small brick after 12 hours - when the battery ran out I just took it off and decided not to bother sticking it back on - felt so awesome not to have one arm that felt like it was drooping lower...and to stop lifting it up and down to obsess about the laptimes! I really love the finger touching/sense-check thing. In summary Shane I need to practice more with the arms - I know that I've made some improvements since we met but that there's a long way to go - that excites me. Until the next time