This was the 4th time I had entered this iconic race. It is just a couple of days after my birthday so is always a birthday treat to myself. It has been a bit of a comeback from this niggling piriformis injury and every time I go for it and up the mileage, it goes again. This time was about taking it more carefully.
I was joined for the second time this year by my good running buddy and neighbour Jon. Hard to believe that 2 ultra runners live opposite each other in a small street in south London. Here we were setting off in the rain and wind. 2 miles up from the start to Cissbury Ring. I felt OK, but a little short of miles and lack of proper carb load. Jon was off like a rocket. We ran together for the first few miles, me struggling with the drive to push uphill owing to that piriformis and then catching Jon up as the terrain flattened out. We reached the turn at the summit of Devil's Dyke, Jon first and then me, in the fog, driving rain and a fierce wind. After the switchback I saw Helen (who was really suffering with a heavy cold) and then dug deep to get back up the hill to the CP. It was here that I had some form of shoe malfunction. This has happened before to another pair of shoes but unexpected in my inov8s. The inner sole came out of the back of the shoe and dug into my heel. Ouch. Some moments later and we were heading off down the hill. Jon was off like a rabbit again and I only caught up at the next CP when he was waiting up. By St Botolphs I removed both inner soles and (feeling slightly guilty) shoved them down a grid, carrying on with no inners in my shoes. Feet sliding around and reduced cushioning was a pain in the rectum but on we went, from 16-20 miles. At 20, something happened that to my knowledge has never happened before. I got cramp. Both quads, at the same time. This now felt like the seven plagues of Egypt...rain, wind, fog, shoe malfunction and now cramp.
Jon ran on. He had to. I must have been a shit to be with. I could see him up ahead, perhaps 100m or so. My favourite part of the race is up to Chanctonbury, then down, up again and then up again to Cissbury ready for the last 2 miles. We had a chit-chat at the top of Chanctonbury. I hit the skids with another bout of cramp on the way down. Jon went off. I walked down the hill. The cramp subsided so I aimed to put a silver liming on the cloud. I went for it. The last few miles were nearly ticked off. 3 to go.....bang. Cramp again. I was literally on the floor. What the hell? 5 minutes of sitting down and it subsided. I got up.....filled my cerebral hemispheres with the most positive thoughts and chugged out the last 3 miles, thankfully overtaking about 20 people, finishing strong(ish) and only 6 mins behind Jon.
Medals and smiles but a lesson learned. Salt experimentation begins.