Friday, 25 September 2015

Equinox24 Endurance Event - Sun Downers and Sun Uppers.

After a long journey all 6 hrs of it, in the car from Plymouth that was made longer thanks to the lovely M5 traffic jams, we made our way down a dusty track heading towards lights and sounds that were on the horizon, and with Belvoir Castle (near Grantham) glowing due to an orange light I was starting to get pre event excitment or as my wife who is my support crews says starting to become a pre race arsehole. I still don't know what she means by this as I'm always calm and collective prior to any running event!

Glamping was available (Photo by Mark Ratcliffe)
 Met at the campsite area by my good friend Duane of Team Buff UK, he guided us to the area, where he and the others were pitched along the start finish line. Probably one of the longest start finish lines I've seen for sure and arriving late meant we didn't get the best of spots but it wasn't the worst. It was dark, so we didn't hang around and soon got our shelter up in quick time thanks to lending hands of my Team Buff friends. We've gone for a different set up to our HOPE24 set up. Mainly for ease as our massive tent is a nightmare to put up and down for such a short time. With it up and done and only the stuff for the insides to sort out we went off to our hotel to try and get a good night sleep prior to a long day ahead of me. We checked in and put my best support crew member (my 5 year old son) into bed and I and the wife soon dropped off to sleep.

All set up!
Event 28 of 37 Equinox 24 - 24 hour Endurance Event

I slept pretty well, unlike my wife she had a pretty rubbish sleep which was not good considering she was going to be crewing me later on. I still had to register to pick up my race number and finish setting up our stuff for the event,  so we left the hotel early, grabbed a big breakfast and made our way to the event.

All ready for the go!
The place was buzzing with the very atmosphere I like. People were up and getting themselves ready, campsite was a lot more filled and I couldn't wait to start. I registered straight away and picked up my race number and the Equinox24 Morph (a bit like a Buff) and preceeded to finish sorting out my stuff, getting it all prepared. Even though I had some various snacks out on the table, I decided to try something different. As I had no minimum laps or a target it didn't matter if things went wrong. I was out to enjoy it as much as I could and try new things. Having heard about a nutritional product called Tailwind from Duane, and knew other friends raved about this product, I thought I'd give it ago. I filled up my bladder in my race vest with water and added the naked flavour Tailwind powder to the water. As it was a 2 ltr bladder and normally the sachets give two scoops for 500 ml, I added 7 scoops to the water. I went 1 less as I had a feeling 8 would be one to many.

Duane and myself
As I was getting ready, the fun run for the children was set off and it was soon good seeing them having fun. Some with their parents some with out. It was a lap of the camping a field about 1KM I think and it was good to see all the solo and team runners cheering them on as they went around. I stuck my hand out for a high 5 like many of them will be when I am running about, but alas none took up my offer. I felt slightly rejected by this but I knew they were focused on their goals hehe!

Team Buff UK's Sarah, David and me!
As 11.30am approached everyone made their way down to the start finish line for the run director's briefing. Johnny Nicol with microphone in his hand mentioned the usual rules and regulations you would hear at a 24 hour event. This is the 3rd year the event has been put on and has grown massively since the 1st year and this year there was about 1200 odd runners either running the 10K, team relays or as soloists and this was showing in the atmosphere around the arena.

Last few minute preps and I made my way to the start line, with so many people on the start line, I was towards the back. Everyone was eager to go, like horses in the starting pens. The big and small hands hit 12pm and we were off, the supporters along the start straight finish cheering us on as we made our way out of the area. Each lap was 10KM and was made up of mainly tarmac with some grassy areas, having asked a few veterans of the course, I asked how it compared to HOPE24's course and was told it's not a challenging but the extra 1.2 miles makes up for it. The course lead us out down the road before turning right up an incline and the first of the grassy areas. It took us around a field before back on the road and heading back towards the way we came. Not far after the 3KM sign we turned right and headed down a slight incline towards and over a bridge near two beautiful lakes at the 4KM point. Straight after the bridge we made our way up a long hill, it wasn't steep but it went on for about 1 and 3/4 KM's where you hit a water station.

Race start briefing
 We turned left onto another grassy field where it took us past the 6KM marker towards a steep short downhill section. The downhill was also at a camber all the way down to the bottom where you turned left toward what they call "That Hill". This was a short steep hill, which brought you back up to the top towards the tarmac. It wasn't a tough hill but it was enough to make you walk it. At the top turning right along the grass you soon hit 7KM and eventually heading down the tarmac which we came up before hand. Half way down the hill where a marshal waited for us we turned right into another field and down a slight incline towards the lake. You can see the arena from here and one of the lakes. We turned right at the bottom and headed past the 8KM and turning right over the bridge and back up the incline towards the arena. 9KM's led you back into and around the arena. The route lead us around the arena where some of the best support you could imagine were located until you hit the finish start straight which was a really slight incline and that was your lap done!

That Hill
 So how did my event go for me? First two laps were pretty good, straight away I went with run the flats and downs and walk the hills from the very beginning, and making sure I soaked up the event with the mindset of enjoying it all the best I can. I didn't stop between the first two laps but after finishing the 2nd lap I had to change my shoes. I was wearing my Hoka Speedgoats, but due to the amount of tarmac it just wasn't worth trail shoes. I had another pair of trail shoes and only one pair of road shoes. I went with the road shoes which happened to be my famous Hoka Flops from my epic adventure. Even though I knew it was going to get damp during the night on the grass it was worth the risk I thought. The sun was beaming down on us, and it was redders out on the laps. I was making sure I took my salt capsules every hour due the heat and sipped on my tailwind from the race vest's bladder. I had a cup of water when I reached the water station. As I made my way up the long hill for the 3rd time, the back of my right knee blew out on me. The injury I sustained during the 7 ultras in 7 days reared it's ugly head once more. It proved I wasn't fully recovered and now it was a case of damage control during the laps. I got back to the tent, and the support crew aka the Wife was waiting ready to go. She knew exactly when I was coming, due to hiring a tracker for the weekend for this purpose. It saved me using texts on my phone and it worked very well.

Digging in deep (Photo by Curly Photography)
I'd taken my poles out for hills to give my knee some respite and soon 5 laps had gone, each marshal I passed on each lap got a thank you, because they rotated with different marshals through out the 24 hours, I didn't know if I'd see them again. I crossed the line and grabbed a top up of the bladder and my head torch ready to dig in deep for the night. Each lap finished with that amazing support, there were cow bells, cheering, clapping, and signs. On one lap I had a runner called Paul Ross from Shabba Runners recognise who I was and came over to me as I passed and shook my hand. I stopped and chatted as he introduced me to his team and told them of what I had recently done in my epic adventure. The awareness of what I set out to achieve over the year is working and it makes me very humble. During lap 6 I had other runners slow down and chat to me asking me about what I did. I was humbled and my spirit was lifted because of this. Also my wife was now having a nightmare due to my boy being poorly and vomiting everywhere, the last thing she needed was to deal with me. I had 30 min break and headed out once more my thought with my wife and boy now and not on the run. I was pleasantly surprised it wasn't that cold. it was cold but I coped with just my X-Bionic Trick shirt and Gillet my arms and legs felt warm. On the other side of the lakes there was a big wedding going on, with a terrible saxophonist and a DJ giving it large, I was able to guess the tune and have no need for headphones. It went on til late into the night/early in the morning so wasn't much of a quiet period.

Great support throughout the event by Team Bear Tri
 Eventually I came in from my 7th Lap, it was not good with my knee, I felt great otherwise, with Tailwind doing what I expected. I still hadn't needed any food and I seemed to have solved my issue with eating right here. It was 2.48am and I went out for 8th lap but 2 minutes after I couldn't go a step further with my knee and with my boy being ill I didn't want to go out (in my head anyways). I hobbled back and I went for a lie down. Something I didn't want to do or plan for but I did it. I got my head down about 3am and it wasn't until almost 7am that I give my mind a telling off and dragged me out and back on the course. I kept hearing the other runners go past and I had to get up, I had to. The sun was coming up with a little mist over the course. It was stunning, and with that second wind you get first thing when the sun comes up, I went out put in a good 8th lap, I saw a field full of ducks which was something I didn't expect.

Photo by Mark Ratcliffe
 Now I went on for my 9th lap with time to do another and another I had in mind, but as I made my way around the course, my knee had nothing left pain, pain I hadn't felt since the third day of #YOLO7dayUltra. the day I couldn't barely walk. That was it, my event was over for me. The rest of me was good to go, and if I hadn't had stopped for almost 4 hours I could've done even more. Was I disappointed? No I did what I set out to do and that was to enjoy myself. My wife met me at the bottom of the finish straight and walked with me to the finish. I received a great man hug from Johnny who's words were "You're going to be the first to punch me for saying one more lap aren't you?" "No, my knee has had it" was my reply, with that I ended my run and collected my lovely medal. I was very pleased, that I survived pretty much on Tailwind alone with no issues, no sickness, cramp or feeling hungry. I had fuel in the tank and it was great. I was reasonably happy with my performance and the fact actually I could of nailed more laps really but this time just 93KM's were completed but they were happy 93KM's.

More miles for Phil
 What can I say about this event? It's a very special event. The atmosphere is amazing, the support is something I've only seen really at events this. The marshals are everything you want from a marshal they kept your spirits up and made sure everyone was ok as you went around. There was plenty of food selection in the arena, from fish and chips, jacket potatoes to pizza. There was a double deck beer bus which supplied throughout from Friday on wards.The event is amazing and if it grows even bigger I hope it doesn't lose the spirit, the atmosphere I love about it. I've met and created new friendships, Sid the man who wore a Morph suit throughout another inspirational man and Nikki Reeves who had more changes of outfits than the London Fashion show you smashed out an awesome 111K whilst still fitting in a long sleep. The winners Gary and Kirsty were amazing and put in outstanding performances.

Johnny and Laura have created something special here, long may it continue. Definitely one as long as I'm not at sea I will go back to.

I must thank my wife and son for being an amazing support crew once more, X-Bionic and Sunwise for the continued support and the amazing kit.

Top Crewie!
I've 9 events left to do now and more miles for Phil to run. Until the next time!

Owain




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