To Bristol for the second edition of the Kennet and Avon Canal Race or "KACR", put on by the Canal Race team of Keith Godden, Dick Kearn and Wayne Simpson. I was buddying up with with good friend James Ellis again after our efforts last year where James finished in around 34 hours and I DNF'ed due to a combination of bad planning on the home front and completely screwing up nutrition.
Determined not to repeat mistakes, James had been cooking up batches of fantastic snacks from the book Feed Zone Portables in his Yorkshire kitchen. James is a qualified nutritionist (check him out at http://endurenutrition.co.uk/about-endure-nutition/) and i was really grateful to have him take care of this aspect of the race, thanks James!
Now we're ready to start - Bristol Temple Meads, 6am
Like all long ultras it's a bit of a nervous wait for things to start, so we were glad to get underway at 6am sharp on the last Friday of July. Around 40 runners set off from Bristol, heading east towards London Paddington some 145 miles away. We would take in 3 main sections of waterway - the Kennet and Avon Canal, the River Thames, and finally the Grand Union Canal. James and I settled into a comfortable pace in around 10th place whilst a lead pack gradually pulled away. With runners of the quality of Fabio Rizzo Cascio (the eventual winner), Stu Wilkie (2nd here last year) and Matt Blackburn (recent winner of Endure 24 pairs with good friend and fellow Spartathlete Ian "Hammy" Hammett, who was crewing Matt today) setting the pace, we certainly weren't going to get sucked in. Progress was good and we reached the first checkpoint at mile 13.5 in around 2 hours. We picked up our first bag of "portables" and quickly cracked on. By around 9am the temperature was rising and it was clear we were in for a long hot day. An enforced loo stop for me around the 25 mile mark slowed us by a few minutes but we still ticked off the marathon mark in around 4 hours and reached the second checkpoint at mile 27 comfortably on target. On the subject of targets, the main one was just to finish. But lurking in my mind was the prospect of breaking 30 hours and the absolute dream of a Spartathlon auto-qualifier of 28:48 I had to admit had crossed my mind too. The only hill of note comes around miles 37 and 38 where runners must climb up Devizes Locks. This is a series of locks that takes canal boats some 6 hours to navigate and it really is a sight to behold, a wonderful feat of Victorian engineering. Not too far beyond Devizes it became clear that James and I were a bit out of sync today and James encouraged me to push on. Feeling pretty guilty about it I decided to take a crack at it as at this point I was feeling very strong. The next major distance milestone was 100 kilometres and I reached here still feeling pretty strong at a little over 11 hours. I was trying to keep to "Spartathlon splits" and the focus on this was working well so far. Things were getting fairly lonely at times as gaps between runners increased, so I was fortunate to be seeing Pete Summers and his crew fairly frequently as we played leapfrog. Pete was running stronger than me but also stopping more frequently which would allow me to catch back up. I didn't know Pete at all and I didn't even realise he is part of this year's British Spartathlon Team (https://britishspartathlonteam.org/pete-summers/), sorry Pete! We didn't really chat too much as we were both focusing at this stage, but I have to admit that I thought Pete was putting an awful lot of effort into his running, he seemed to be working really hard for it and I wondered if he would blow up at some point. In fact Pete just seemed to get stronger and stronger as the