Wednesday, 27 May 2015

21st GUCR, Birmingham to London -145 Miles

I'm not one for blogging too much as you will see from my last post in November, since then i received the news that i had been accepted in the ballot for the  21st GUCR, for those not familiar with the acronym, it stands for "Grand Union Canal Race", A race distance of 145 Miles, where you cannot stop for more than 40 minutes at each checkpoint or you are disqualified this meant that if i wanted to attempt to do well or even finish i would need to make sure that my training  was the best it could be, December is a cold, dark and horrible month for training but because it's Marcothon Month
it was the ideal opportunity to get the ground work underway, i recorded 700+ miles running over the first 28 days and this continued into January with a further 700+ miles, the base work was now completed, all that remained was to get some runs on the local canal to prepare me mentally for the race.

I started training on the canal and entered the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon in early April to get me race fit, the race is exactly 55 Miles and went far better than i could have possibly imagined i was running with Gerry Craig and Duncan Oats most of the way whilst the two front runners stormed off, Bob Turner and Grant Jeans, it was only at 38 Miles where i passed the injured Bob and then caught Grant who was also struggling at 42 Miles did i then go on to win the event in a time of 6:51 all be it 7th in the hall of fame and the 6th best time over the new distance, not that i am complaining as i am the oldest winner in the history of the event, LOL.

Race Number
During the next 6 weeks prior to the race my form took a dip, my motivation wasn't the same and work was not helping, it was only the week before the race that i started to really sit down and go through all my itinerary that the race organiser, Dick Kearn had taken the time to compile, the whole race pack is well put together, waterproof maps 2 race numbers, and all the info detailed that you need to know,.

I travelled down to Birmingham on the Friday lunchtime and headed to O'Neill's  pub where the regular runners meet up each year before registration which is in the Travelodge just next door, Paul Ali, Paul Stout, Pat "Paddy" Robbins, Mimi, Natasha Farid, Gerry Smallwood and Andy Nuttall who was also a first timer like myself

After some food and registration it was back to the hotel for an early night, 100 individuals all in bed by 10pm whilst the rest of Birmingham parties in to the small hours. my alarm went off at 4:15 and i was up fed and headed to the start line for 5:30, the place was jumping before i knew it we were being called on to the canal to get started, the organiser, Dick Kearn announced that this would be his last GUCR, he has taken an event and grown it over 21 years, well done to him for the creation of a classic event in the British race calendar.

The race started at 1 minute past six but it was soon evident that when two top runners, Dan Lawson and Mark Perkins immediately shot to the front that could mean only one thing, they were there to win it and to attempt to beat the current record held by Pat "Paddy"Robbins as we headed out of Birmingham i ran with Andy Horrobin and John Knapp, two strong hill runners, Andy ran 8.03 at the Fling this year, and John just over 9, we were just sitting behind the famous Mimi Anderson who has run just over 28 hours in the past and did a double run one year and was the woman's record holder until Debbie Martin Consani beat it in 2012,

Checkpoint 1 - 10.7 Miles - Catherine De Barnes

Andy kept a close eye in the watch making sure that the running was restrained, we came through in around 1:35, the pace was just fine we were joined at times with other runners, Edward Batch and Warwick Gooch who i would eventually cross the finish line with.

Checkpoint 2 -22.4 Miles - Hatton Lock

Again the chatting seemed to pass away the time and we came through this in 3 Hours 24 Minutes, we were all moving at a comfortable pace each taking turn to go to the front , we did not stop for food, just Andy applying some sun screen.

Checkpoint 3 - 36 Miles - Stockton

Similar to the previous checkpoint we were all steadily working away with no pressure to do anything silly at this stage we had completed 5 Hours and 24 Minutes and just wanted to keep running within ourselves, i stopped had a coffee and Apple pie and Custard.

Checkpoint 4 - 53 Miles - Weedon

We came through here in 8 Hours, 28 Minutes, i  stopped to refill my bottles and get some food in me, i decided to change my watch but was unable to locate a satellite  signal on the 310 so i stayed with the 920 a bit longer,all the faffing about cost me time at this point i lost Andy and John, further along this section as i came up the ramp at Blisworth Tunnel i took two wrong turnings the first was that i went right as per map but it should have read "turn left then right" along road and the second was i took a bridal path to the right instead of left, lucky for me  Russell Tullet who was part of the support for Russ Bestley was on had to direct me on the the correct path

Checkpoint 5 - 70.5 Miles - Navigation Bridge

They say that is the halfway point, well just short, i had now reached 12 Hours of running, i had a few glasses of Coke and hot apple pie and Custard again before re-filling my bottle and packing my head torches, gloves and buff along with changing into a long sleeve for the night time to keep warm.

Checkpoint 6 - 84.5 Miles - Willows Bridge

I arrived  here in 14 Hours and 43 Minutes, this was a real lonely section as it was dark from 9:30 which i ran and walked on my own, a couple of runners passed me with their buddies which is certainly a big help at this stage of the event, due to the underfoot conditions you are close to the edge and one mistake and your in for a swim, you just have keep your concentration about you.

Checkpoint 7 - 100 Miles - Marswood

It took me 18.5 hours to arrive here, after some coke and a yogurt  i left the checkpoint with Warwick and his buddy, Susie Chan who had ran the MDS would keep us going for the next 20+ Miles, there were points were i started to feel tired and dizzy, probably not enough food intake, the legs were feeling heavy and at one point i stubbed my foot on some rock sticking out of the ground.

Checkpoint 8 - 120.3 Miles - Springwell Lock

Bulls Bridge 13.5 Miles to Paddington
By now it was now a lovely sunny morning and we stopped for juice and bacon sarnies, Warwick change buddy runners to his sister Shelley, this was a tough stretch mentally as the legs were heavy the knees sore and body finding new aches and pains, it was also very warm, we tried to break it up the distance with 3 minutes running and 3 walking, probably too much walking but as long as we were moving, thats all that mattered until we reached Bulls Bridge which has the sign saying that you are just over 13.5 miles to Paddington.

Checkpoint 9 - 135 Miles - Hamborough Tavern
We continued with the 3 min on / off just beyond this until we were passed by 2 other runners, Jens Wittrowski and his buddy runner followed by Stephen McAllister who was on his own followed by tons of speed merchants on bikes with no bells to warn you of their approach, this gave us the jolt just to keep moving to the end, an end that just never seemed to arrive.

Checkpoint 10 - 145 Miles - Little Venice

By now we started to see the major land marks of London, the Chard, was in the distance and it wasn't long until we could see the finish line, a small detour diverted off the path then back on due to the path being repaired but we started to pick it up knowing we had reached our goal. me and Warwick crossed the line together in joint 11th place in a time of 31 hours and 39 Minutes, Dick immediately came up with the Medals that are the best you could ever receive

Left Side - London                                                               Right Side - Birmingham

The race is said to be one of the toughest with a high number of DNF's each year, this year we started with 100 and finished with 67 crossing the line, this is testament to how tough mentally and physically this race is.