Sunday, 2 November 2014

Piece of String3 - DNS and DNF

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

It all started Like the Wind. After a great evening at their pop-up talk in central London, where I met pretty much all the Centurion stalwarts chugging beer at the back plus a few other runners talking about running and stuff, I hopped on the train to Tring.

Being proper mentalists the PoS group had a great idea a few days before the race to also run the inaugural Tring Parkrun. I think it was Adams that suggested this. The run was only 5 miles away and although I had no way to get to the start of PoS (not being a driver), Mark Fox offered me a lift. I was also in the String mindset and thought this might play some part in this year’s pointlessness. I even went to the point of checking who the RD was just in case the Jameses had set this up as an elaborate hoax. The paranoia had started early this year.

As the Parkrun organisers started the briefing at 9am and proceeded to enjoy a good back-slapping exercise in front of the 100 or so morning runners, I had to leave the ongoing handshakes, cheque presentations and introductions of all the people who made this event possible at 9:15 to be able to get back to the start of PoS. So the first run of the day ended in a DNS.

Mark drove over due to a late breakfast and gave me a lift to the Village Hall in Wendover where I met many familiar faces and and donned the chicken suit. I’d told a few friends that I was running in the suit this year as the PoS is billed as a Fun Run, and I wanted to explore this aspect. Unfortunately as I wandered to the start line I realised I was only able to see through a postage-stamp size hole and was already sweating like a good ‘un. But not being one to give up on a mad plan, I persevered.
"13 runners, one chicken"
Level 1: Chain Hill

Nici Griffin was to be the ringmaster on this little bit of fun, and delighted in sending us on around 10 laps of Chain Hill (I lost count. It doesn’t pay to count things on PoS). We had to complete a lap on average every 15 minutes. Quite doable but tough on the quads. I estimated the hill to be a couple of hundred feet. So this was a quick 2 hour warm-up, 10k and 2000’ascent. Level 1 complete.

Level 2: More Hills

Returning back to Wendover we had a quick briefing from James Elson, which was exactly the same as the Level 1 briefing. Namely we had to run 14 minute miles across the Ridgeway to Goring. Oh goody. More hills. By now I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat, hills and chicken suit but being properly unstable I had vowed to keep it on the whole race. So back through town for the third time and more questioning looks from the Saturday morning shoppers.

Getting chicky with it
We trotted along the Ridgeway at a comfortable pace and I fell in to a group of 3 with John Barrett and Antonio Martins. We talked about the beauty of the countryside, the joy of being out on the hills and generally what’s great about running. Always good to have positive uplifting conversation. By now the suit was beginning to take it’s toll. 3 hours in and I’d gone through 4 litres of water and enough electrolyte to rehydrate a small horse, and not needed a loo break (thankfully, as the suit is not equipped for such functions). 
I was starting to flag. 
I waved the other two on and took a slow hike up a particularly long hill.

In an attempt to catch them up again I put my foot down on the downhill. In the wrong place. A niggling knee injury twanged and I was reduced to walking. No problem as I’d done this in pretty much every race this season. Just walk it out and back to running in no time.

Each time I tried to run, the knee wasn’t playing ball, so a long hike was in order.  I was passed by the rest of the field who all stopped and asked if I was OK.  I was, but mentally I was cursing that goshdarn knee. To the point I took of the suit & stuck it in my backpack. I didn’t want anything to slow me down as it was now a race against the cutoff. The worst of times.

It was a race I didn’t win. As I plodded down a lane James Adams met me at the checkpoint. I was 15 minutes outside the cut-off though he did give me the option of returning, but I wasn’t going to be running again today and so took the DNF at about 15 miles. My shortest ever ultra.

Back to Wendover we picked up Debbie King who had got very lost and was waiting for us in a nearby pub. As I’d gambled on a long string again this year my train ticket home was for 7pm Sunday, so I asked if there was anything I could do to help. As a competitor turned volunteer it was fascinating to see the well-oiled meticulously planned PoS machine in action. I found my niche making tea and coffee and eating all the chocolate crack.

Chillin' while Chain Hillin'
As the runners returned to Wendover for the second time, they all looked in pretty good spirits. Anna bopped in as 1st lady and 4th overall, though as Sam Robson dropped here, she left as 3rd overall.

My fellow Socialler, Mark Fox was limping badly due to twice twisting his ankle on Level 1 and was close to bailing. Luckily the next level was on the Grand Union Canal. Nice and flat, and so we persuaded him to pop out for another section. I was under strict instruction not to give anything away. So a nice flat GUC run it was then.

Level 3: A bit of canal and more Ridgeway

As it was now dark nav became a bit of an issue. That and the RDs forgetting to mention that the GUC had been drained for most of the section they were running so they couldn’t “follow the water” as usual. The Jameses swiftly and efficiently organised a text to all runners and we were back on track, and in the meantime it was time to brief for Level 4.

As it turned out most runners got through this section fine apart from Anna who managed to get pretty well lost and slipped from 3rd to 8th returning back at Wendover after 50-odd miles. We did lose Mark and Caroline after they missed the cut-off, so down to 6 runners.

Level 4: More hills

This was the beast section. The all-singing all-dancing James and James roadshow had found a looped track on a hillside in the nearby woods. Earlier in the day we’d asked the Twitterverse to vote trick or treat for each competitor. Some got 60% tricks, some got 100% tricks, though this useful experiment goes to prove that Twitter is full of sick, twisted individuals.

Midnight in the woods, dancing to toonz..
Nikki Mills and I were based at the checkpoint and had to meet & greet runners as they joined the fun. We first sent them uphill to the upper path, where Chris Mills was hiding in the bushes whispering Golum phrases and directing them back down to the lower path. Based on the Twitter votes, James Adams (who really enjoys this sort of thing) then either gave them a trick, directing them on the hell loop and a 49 degree scramble up Hoka Hill, or to continue along the flat path to our checkpoint for the treat. He was also tweeting each decision as the runner was told, just to make those voting for trick feel guilty.
Which I’m sure they didn’t.

In a display of absolute grit and determination, every runner that we sent on another loop merely refilled with water and gels, then set off on the next lap. Most had twigged this was going to be a night of loops on the second lap so just looked at us quipped “another lap?” and set off up the hill again as we nodded.

Finally after 5 laps we could send the runners back to Wendover with a “good news / bad news” greeting. 
The good news was back to the Hall. 
The bad news – they’d get that back at the hall.

The bad news back at the hall was that it was all over.
We’re a little bit twisted like that.

So as one by one the runners were sent back down to finish it only left Anna out on the course. Tunes blaring, bopping away and giving Adams a hard time for this year’s “piece of piss” to be sent down the hill to finish. All done. 

The best of times.

1 comment:

  1. Nice one mate.
    Sorry to hear about the injury but as ever I have no doubt you will be back chatting, clucking and running in no time.

    Ta for the blog, always interesting to see how PoS plays out :)


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