Anyone who knows us at Camino knows that plenty of our running friendships have started at Spartathlon. We've had been dreaming of that race in the early 2010's and have been every year since 2015. It's in our blood and we love racing it, crewing it and being a regular part of the British Spartathlon management.
In 2019 Camino hosted our first Spartathlon Runcamp with the legendary Nathan Flear and Andy 'Daysey' Day was one of the beautiful guests. It was easy to love Andy from the get-go. He was ultra competitive - first one to get naked in the mountain swim spots! Best snow-angel! But he was also championing things like plant-based in the early days and this stood out. Andy came back clearly in love with Nathan and he's coached Andy ever since. Andy has been to Spartathlon twice and last year was impressively first British runner.
Last week the pair of them went to Florida to take on one the United States most prominent 100 event - Keys100 . Andy wrote this wonderful report - without spoiling things let's just say that he once again he did the UK ultra scene proud. More exciting things to follow x
The American Dream.
“Tell me what’s wrong”
“My heads on fire. I can’t get enough breath in”
I’m sitting in the SUV. Aircon on full blast. Initially it felt freezing cold & refreshing but then after a minute I get used to it, but it’s still very much needed & appreciated.
I’m 60 miles into the race & I’ve just crossed the 7 mile bridge. I’m around 9hrs 45 into the race, hitting the hottest time of the day & still 40 miles to go………..
Keys100 is a 100 mile race from Key Largo to Key West. One loooooooong road connecting 40 islands.
30+ degrees heat (feels like 40) & high humidity. What’s not to love!
This is also an ‘Unsupported Race’. Meaning there were no Aid stations were you could top up your hydration or get food. You had to rely on your Support crew, who would keep overtaking you & then stopping to give me whatever I needed.
I’ve never been to America, so I was really looking forward to this race & the whole experience.
Plus, I was going to be racing with & against my friend & coach Nathan Flear. We always have good banter but I’m a realist & know ‘all things being equal’ Nathan would beat me by at least an hour. However…. 100 miles is a long way (no, honestly, it is. Who knew) & anything can happen & often does.
You’ve always got to back yourself!!
“I have a dream” (I’m sure somebody else said that )
The dream was to beat my PB (Personal Best) time for 100 miles - 16:39. (incidentally this was in Israel in January… where I beat Nathan 1-0 to Daysey! )
We arrived in Key Largo 4 days before the race & after a couple of runs in the mid day sun, this mad dog of an Englishman realised this was going to be a big ask.
The race started at 0520hrs, with the first of two Elite waves. I was in the second with Nathan at 0525. Waves would then go off at 5 minutes intervals over the next 2 hrs.
The Plan (always gota have a plan right) was to run around 8.30 - 9 minute mile pace. However, we decided to run a little quicker, whilst it was cooler (only 26 degrees )
The first 20 miles passed with mostly Nathan heading the conversation but Nathan has since informed me that I took over for the next 20 & didn’t shut up Rude!
At mile 43 you run into what’s known as ‘Hells Tunnel’. A 2 mile long path, with vegetation (we’re in the US) on both sides & with nowhere to hide from the sun. This is where Nathan informed me wasn’t feeling great & we took a couple of short ‘walk breaks’, to try & get him back on track.
At the next ‘meet up point’ he decided to sit in the car, in an attempt to bring his core temp back down. He had stopped sweating & this was a bad sign. He told me to push on & so I headed off towards the ‘7 mile bridge’.
Everytime my crew met me, there was the same process - new bottle, gel, cold cap change with ice in it, ice ‘neck buff’ change & ice inside my wrist sleeve. This helped bring my core temperature back down, but it only lasted for about 2 miles. Soooo you can guess that the 7 mile bridge became a little uncomfortable!
(Back to opening paragraph & 40 miles to go)
I’d passed a few runners since the start of the race & had been told I was currently second on the road. The leader was around 45 mins ahead.
This info is good to know but I’ve learnt that I can only run my race & I don’t get swept up in worrying about positions. In these events you pay the price by trying to chase people down. Plus, by 60 miles I’ve only got one pace
The heat was intense & I’m not gona lie, I struggled a bit on those longer stretches, as my head felt like it was going to explode & my lungs felt like they were on fire, making it difficult to breathe, but we got through.
A few minutes in the air conditioned SUV a couple of times & the great support of my crew, made all this possible. Mark holding ice on my head & feeding me rice pudding, is an image I won’t forget
Around mile 80 I was told I was in the lead but again as many runners had started behind me, it was difficult to be sure.
The heavens opened around 7pm & it lashed it down for a couple of hours. Unfortunately it didn’t make it any cooler lol.
My obligatory flashing front & back lights failed me about an hour into darkness but thankfully Di managed to borrow a spare set from a kind American relay crew member.
It appeared someone was looking down on me, as Di had prayed for the rain just before it happened.
Christine & the thought of all the overwhelming kind donations, kept me ticking along.
So after 18hrs 20, I crossed the finish line in 1st place. Towards 60% of the field didn’t finish. Congratulations to everyone that did & hopefully those that didn’t will succeed next time.
This is very much a Team effort & I could not have done it without my awesome better half Diddy & our very good friends Cherry & Mark.
I provided the legs & stubborn stupidity & they took care of everything else. A good crew is critical & I was again blessed Thank you!! x
The icing on the cake was receiving an entry to Badwater135, for winning.
A dream race for me. 135 miles in Death Valley in Ave 48 degree heat.
After the lessons learned in this event, I will not take any aspect of BW lightly!!
Remember - Age is but a number & eat your greens
I devote this win to Christine. Taken far too soon but who left an endless memory!