Feet and legs are very swollen, I've got more blisters than toes, a few less toe nails, lots of bites, a torn muscles in my shoulder, an infection on my side from where my pack was rubbing while I was running and lots of cuts and bruises from the razor grass, hidden tree stumps in the swamps etc, but other than that I'm fine.
An awesome experience - sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the rainforest for a week listening to howler monkeys, running through active jaguar territory and smelling their scent while you are running and also hearing a jaguar cub warning us off, seeing neon blue butterflies the size of your hand which lead the way through the trails, covering 89km on the long stage which involved running deep in the jungle on my own in the middle of the night which my headtorch picking out whip scorpions, tarantulas, the strangest birds I've ever seen, and lots of sets of eyes watching me from the trees and then plunging into the amazon with my full pack in pitch darkness and swimming 100 metres to the glowstick course marker on the other side while not knowing what was lurking in the dark water below me, these are just some of the memories which will stick with me forever.
The race itself is the hardest task I've ever set myself, constantly dipping in and out of heat exhaustion and critical core body temperature rises, drinking between 20 and 25 litres of water a day just to keep hydrated, the most killer hills I've ever seen, horrendous blisters and roots and stumps trying to trip you with every step.
The runners in this event are all experienced athletes so to have finished in 28th overall and 15th placed Brit from around 100 starters was way beyond my expectations ( especially as I got lost for 3 hours on day 3!)
Anyway, back to work and reality now otherwise Paul will tell me off and we don't want him getting angry!
Thanks again for the support - not sure when or where the next race is yet but will keep you updated, please continue to support the Shark and Coral Conservation Trust via www.justgiving.com/running4reefs
More detailed report to follow when I'm a bit more recovered!!
Atlantic Coast Challenge 25-27th September 2009 (80 miles)
So, another race which I nearly didn't start due to illness and ended up with a damaged ankle, there seems to be a pattern developing here!
The week before the race I picked up a heavy cold/flu which I just couldn't shake off despite sauna's, overdosing on vitamin C, drinking orange juice instead of water and doing pretty much every other thing that has ever been linked with possibly getting rid of colds! The day before I was due to travel down I had to leave work early and went straight to bed feeling totally average.
The next morning I did feel slightly better so decided to travel down and see how I feel, there was the option to miss the first day if I still felt bad so that was the plan.
Day 1, I felt slightly better again so thought I'd give it a go, only 26 miles! We got to the start point and I actually felt quite good, started running and I felt fine, the first hour was going well until I realised that I'd got a bit carried away with feeling OK and my pace was way to fast considering I hadn't managed to train at all for the last 3 weeks! Sure enough, the second half I didn't feel quite so fresh so, bearing in mind we still had 60 ish miles to go, I thought I'd just go easy for the rest of today, get a good rest in and see how tomorrow feels.
Day 2, Felt pretty much 100% so was looking forward to getting a better run in today by pacing it a bit better. The stage started pretty much vertically and that was very much the theme for this stage, some really severe and relentless climbs and descents throughout. My injury occurred after about 2 miles, we were running down a rocky descent when I took my eyes off of my footing and my left ankle completely folded underneath me. It immediately felt much worse than the one I did in the Marathon des Sables. I pulled up straight away and really thought that this was the end of my race. The guy behind stopped too as he saw it happen, he told me that if I'd seen it from his view I wouldn't thinking of carrying on as it didn't look very nice! I had a walk on it and although it was very sore, it actually seemed to be loosening a bit so I decided to carry on. What I really didn't need was the amount of climbs and descents that we had, the climbs were killers generally in terms of stamina and legs, then the downhills were just destroying my ankle. I was very glad to get back to the camp and get my nicely swollen ankle into an ice bath and get my weight off of it. I said to the lads that I really wasn't optomistic about the last day but they were having none of it!
Day 3. Due to peer group pressure I decided to start what we were told in the briefing was the toughest day, great! Looking at previous years times, this stage generally adds a couple of hours on to the previous stages times, we couldn't really work out why but we were about to find out! We started well again, we were even the first three through Checkpoint 1! The terrain soon started to get a bit more rocky though! Pretty much from here on in it was less running and more rock climbing, just what I needed on my ankle! Jon and Lewis went ahead as I just couldn't push my ankle any harder without completely wrecking it, I just wanted to make the finish and get my pasty! This was without a doubt the hardest day, scorchingly hot, unclear paths, so I actually had to use my map which anyone who knows me will know - is a major concern, and incredibly tough terrain some of which was very very close to the cliff edge! I was massively relieved to see that finish line flag.
Collecting my pasty at the finish line!
Although I really enjoyed this race, the scenery is absolutely stunning and the organisation by everyone at VO2 was superb, it is very very tough! I ended up with torn ankle ligaments (probably doing the last 50 miles or so on it didn't really help!) and because I altered my footstrike to protect my ankle, I had lots of blisters and bruising to the ball of my foot. I finished in the top half of the field, which, considering the ankle problem, I was fairly happy with. I'll hopefully have some pics to add soon and will hopefully get the all clear to start training again next week! (16/11/09)