Saturday, July 13, 2019

My first ever DNF!

What does DNF mean? Did Not Finish, that's what!

It was my main fund-raising event of the year, after the London marathon, and I was to run it with 2 chums but we were joined by another on the day. But due to a number of unfortunate incidents we had to make the soul-destroying decision to retire 78 miles into the 104 mile event. You'd have thought I'd be gutted about it but I'm not as things just conspired against us and it was the right decision so I'm feeling pragmatic about it. No point fretting, just go back next year and smash it!

I have a huge number of photos taken at random points throughout but I won't always be able to identify what they are or where I took them so apologies for that.

The event was the Harold's Way 1066 ultramarathon starting in Barnes in London and finishing on the steps of Battle Abbey in East Sussex, my home territory. Although it was billed as a 100 mile event it was actually 104.5 miles although many people added lots more miles to their journey due to getting lost countless times, the most was 115 miles (eek!).

It was a challenging route with some tricky navigation and I was glad to be other people, especially during the night.   The start time was 9am Saturday and the finish time was 5pm Sunday so we had 32 hours to complete the course. There were 105 entrants but less that 45 actually made it to the finish!

Group photo of some of my fellow 100 marathon club members being photo-bombed by the lovely Karen who was handling the logistics of the day and popped up at numerous points throughout the event.

I bought the cap and socks I'm wearing especially for the event as we knew it was going to be hot. The white Raidlight cap has a detachable neck flap and it was brilliant in the heat. I took the flap off later in the day when it started to cool down. The white compression socks kept my legs nice and cool too.

Another group of chums we see at SVN events

The start line before anyone started! 

Cute puppy alert - just 12 weeks old and very, very sweet

My running chums for the day were, from left to right, Brenda, Kirsty, me and Heather with over 1000 marathons between us. Brenda joined us at the last minute as she only entered late and was nervous about doing the route on her own.


Kirsty and I had been out checking on various bits if the route and this proved invaluable on the day and gave us a lot more confidence as some of it was incredibly difficult to navigate and many people got horribly lost. Suffice to say the drop-out rate was very high and only around 46 people out of a field of 105 finished within the cut-off with 2 people finishing after and therefore not receiving a buckle - ouch!

So here we have our journey, mostly in pictures.

The route stayed close to the River Thames through London and we had a choice of which side of the Thames we took, whichever way we chose would be busy with tourists.

Heading into the Docklands/Canary Wharf area

A magnificent Catalpa Bignonioides (aka the Indian Bean Tree)

Steps painted for the London 'Pride' festival which was taking place on the day

A beautiful example of a 'living wall'

The entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel - going down a spiral of steps was not fun for me as I hate going down steps! Then we had to walk through the tunnel and up more steps at the other end which Kirsty didn't like as she hates going up steps!

The 02 Arena just coming into view

The glorious bark of a London Plane tree.....

.....which is what reminded me of my knitting sample for Kapua!

This beautiful patch of wildflowers looked as if someone had sprinkled a Bee Bomb and it was just perfect!

En-route to the Isle of Dogs (no, not the film!)

The Isle of Dogs is a peninsula in East London bounded on 3 sides by a large meander (that is a large bend) in the River Thames.

Working our way towards the 02 Arena

These figures up on the top of the arena caught my eye.  Apparently you can climb up it - see here for details!

The is the Emirates Air Line which must give fantastic views over London

There was an open-air concert going on

This installation/sculpture looked like a flock of birds from far away but up close I could see the figure of a person inside. I can't find anything about it though.

You can just make out the Thames Barrier in the distance

Self-seeded Hollyhocks brightened the concrete gloom!

Our route took us through a few housing estates which felt really weird for some reason

Living sculptures!

This section seemed to go on forever and as there hadn't been another checkpoint for miles we were running low on water and getting very thirsty so we went in search of refreshment in a MacDonalds where a full-fat Coke hit the spot nicely. At the same time Anna and her chums had just stopped to refuel too so they took a snap of us. Look how nice and white my lovely new socks looked - they didn't look like that at the finish!

This looked like a giant sluice gate so we wondered if it might be for a 'dry dock'?

This section of the Thames seemed interminable!

Finally the Dartford Bridge came into view which was exciting because that was the next Checkpoint even though we were still several miles away!

I can't quite remember when it was that Brenda started to feel unwell but she needed to slow right down. Then she started to be sick and couldn't get rehydrated. She wanted to retire but Heather suggested she had a drink of tea and see if that helped - her husband Alex was shadowing us from 52 miles onwards and we'd let all our food etc with him. She did feel a bit better but as the hours went on she was feeling really grotty, throwing up and so we had to slow right down.

This is where the photos stopped as we went into the night section. I can't put into words how difficult it was trying to follow a GPX route which wasn't detailed enough on our watches. It looked as if someone had just put the route together on an interactive map rather than having done it on foot so you'd see a straight line and follow its direction only to find that you'd gone off course because there was a turn in there which you didn't know about until you'd missed it! We spent ages trampling through undergrowth only to find we had to retrace our steps, then woods/hedges/houses and so it went on.

By the time we reached Maidstone it was a bit brighter but the GPX had us hunting around hedges/doubling back on ourselves and generally getting very downhearted. 

We'd slowed right down to help poor Brenda get through it but we'd lost so much time that when we reached the next checkpoint we were 15 minutes outside the cut-off and technically could/should have been pulled off the route. However, the lovely Karen said we could continue as long as we were straight in and out of the remaining checkpoints.

By this time Brenda had really had enough as she was feeling so grotty and still throwing up but Heather kept insisting that she soldiered on which meant we'd slowed right down to slower than a snails pace. After 3 more ridiculously slow miles of trudging so slowly it felt as if we weren't moving forwards at all Brenda insisted that she wanted to stop and by this time Kirsty had developed a painful blister underneath her foot and it became obvious that we needed to retire as we just wouldn't have been able to meet the cut-offs unless we started running much faster and that just wasn't going to happen!

Bother (insert all the expletives you can think of here!!!!!)

So that was that. We'd clocked 78 miles with about 30 miles to go (the route was much longer than advertised with those who finished clocking up from 110 - 117.5 miles!) in about 10 hours which in normal circumstances was easily doable but not at this stage.

Alex came and picked us up and drove us to the next checkpoint where we 'Retired' from the race, disheartened but at peace with the decision because sometimes things just don't go to plan do they. Heather and Alex headed off home and me, Brenda and Kirsty sat around at the checkpoint eating everything in sight and being served coffee by the lovely volunteers one of whom was the legendary Mimi Anderson who lives locally! We watched a trickle of tired participants come and go in various states of disarray - I nearly sat on what I thought was a pile of blankets until I realised there was someone having a snooze underneath!

The next issue was getting collected from there. Thankfully Kirsty's dad was able to collect her after about 1.5 hours and they dropped Brenda at a point where her partner could drive to collect her. Mike on the other hand had a nightmare trying to find a taxi to collect me at 8am on a Sunday morning. After about 40 minutes and many failed attempts he finally found someone who was in the vicinity to collect me which was a huge relief. Just to rub salt into my wounds, the drive home followed part of the route through Sandhurst and I spotted several tired participants trudging slowly up the hills.

So all I've got to show for those 78 miles is the tee shirt we got at the start and my number from the day which has already gone into the bin.

In summary, everyone who took part was surprised at how tough it was, especially due to the GPX mapping of the route which was hideous in places. Those who made it to through to my territory found that section really tough which was ironic as I'd covered all of it in preparation and we would have been fine there.

The drop-out rate was very high: 105 entered but only 49 finished! I saw a few people had dropped out at 90 miles which must have been a difficult decision for them. The results haven't been published yet but the first man got home in 22:14 and first lady in 24:01 which is awesome! 2 people were allowed to finish after the cut-off (one at 1.5 hours over) but of course they won't get a result published.

Many people just sneaked in before the 32 hour cut-off, one of whom was my friend Anna who posted this on Facebook which made me smile:

It was really interesting to hear that everyone thought the sections I'd researched were the hardest and yet I knew we'd be fine through there. Hmmmm, methinks I might have unfinished business with this one!

I'll update this when the results are finally published.

No comments: