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Race Reports 2011

Triple Iron 2011- Enduroman uk - Carl Atkinson

 "From childhood's hour I have not been

        As others were; I have not seen

        As others saw; I could not bring

        My passions from a common spring."

Edgar Allan Poe

Hahahahahahaha I'd blurted nervously when asked by the organisers about my training plan running up to this event, I've done loads I said, feeling nervous as I go red when I lie. Well it's a tough course they said, were giving you all an extra 5 hours to complete it, ooh good I thought mentally gathering up any upsides to what lay ahead, and then hugging them close like putting on a warm clothes before it even gets cold!!.

Hello Carl bet you can't wait to get stuck in this year!! A familiar voice rang out, yeah you bet I can't wait!, I said bravely but once again going claret red ..

So I'm standing wet suit on, saucepan firmly in hand (porridge mixed with go-gels), at the lake side, with 15 certifiable nutters, let me get this straight, It's just 39 laps of the lake round the buoys and i don't need to count? well there's an up side but then again I'll really have nothing to think about, cos 7.2miles is a big swim, and big swims are boring, that is after reciting all the songs and poems i know, starting with "eye of the tiger"- right down to "there once was a man from Nantucket", I'd love to say it were more like R.Kiplings "IF" or Shakespeare!!, but think the Benny hill theme tune and your right there with me. I couldn't see anything below the water line, whether this is an up side or not is still questionable, I did chase and talk to a duck or two, and play the helicopter game, this is where I pretend the weed is a thick forest, think Cambodia not Sherwood.. and i do all the noises dubdubdubdub, neeeeow kbrackksh dagdagdaga- there the guns!!, but in all it's just swim, swim, sight, swim, duck, weed, guns!!, I forget the time passing, and to be honest it's the best thing to do in a race like this cos i doesn't really matter, just go old school or pre school, or better still pre everything, caveman school!, just wait and watch the sun go up and down again sort of time keeping, seeming how my awesome polar watch ended up looking like an expensive yet crap snow globe after lap1 I didn't have a watch anyway, this both haunted and probably saved me, not yet tho, not by a long way, the real race hadn't even started!!

(Swim 7.2miles - 03:50:45, 2nd)

I love cycling, I cycle everywhere to work, the pool, and to the pub, tho I sometimes walk home!! I remember thinking 100miles was impossible before my first Ironman, or 200miles before doing the double,
but 336miles becomes something of a joke in one go, in one race, in a race that still involves remaining upright afterwards never mind going running, and this must at all costs be put out of your mind!, and that's all without thinking about possible rain, wind, traffic, hills up and down.. night time, fog! lights, punctures and bloody horses!!

But that's the challenge, It's not a race It's a challenge, It's attrition it's seeing beyond what passes as normal like trying to drown out a noisy crowd and then calmly taking a breath, this is not normal but that's exactly why I'm here, and everyone else...
11.6 miles per lap x 29 laps, easy, at least logistically so it seems simple really just peddle, we were tagged big brother style so race org could monitor our progress, spin, spin, no computer on my bike either to monitor anything at all,
I'd since the swim opted to put on my analogue wrist watch, this was great it took the digital obsession away, no cadence to panic me as it undoubtedly dropped over the hours and no escalating distance feedback either to remind me how far it really was, just the laps like deja vu.

The night fell slowly, blanketing the now warm, humid new forest, a clear sky several renditions of twinkle little star, and then the temperature started to drop to something like 4C with thick fog from around 2am-5am cold shivery stuff, thick and creepy like in a slasher flick I half imagine figures in the mist but to be honest I just couldn't be bothered, though I now didn't stop quite as long in the woods for wee stops but this was probably more down to not wanting to get cold than fear of the bogey man!!
But a little fear does keep you warm so occasionally I'd pretend I was being chased it's a bike version of helicopters really, uneventful mercifully no punctures, just lots of miles, sunrise came to great us like a lazy yawn, and in a matter of 30mins you just can't believe how dark it had been, I'd decided to go through the night on my bike as it's easier to stay on your bike than it is to get out your sleeping bag and back on it.. pip had been a great support fielding well wishers from Ftc and beyond via texts and informing me of useful stuff like "Carl you look terrible" and I'd be like "really, I feel fine", and as always smiling which is contagious, I spent a lot of time making lite of the event which I find helps after all we are here by choice and it is a holiday from work!, some people never came back to the fold after night one, it's a bit like that you see people one minute looking fine and the next less so... this was me last year so my heart went out to them, some vowing to come back next year, some vowing to sell all their kit on Ebay!, We spent a lot of time chatting to each other with encouraging comments and idle banter in equal amounts, the laps remaining dropping firstly down to single digits, and then like dusty bin 3,2,1,!! Nick escorts me to the showers to get changed phsically and mentally for the run, I remember trying to eat in the shower and feeling glad to be off the bike...

(Bike 336miles - 29:08:19, 7th)

The run was always going be tough I had feared it and I had ignored it and felt at times maybe I'd not even make it to "Trainers 'o clock" I thought it would be amazing to just get to the run, now I was re thinking my use of the word amazing,
It was just over 1mile per lap and no less than 76laps, and being mostly off road there was no where to just relax it was "interesting" mud, roots, up, down and round and round, I ran almost straight though the night again but at around 3am and with 26laps done I took some sound advice from my tireless race support Nick Holmes, and grabbed a quick hour in my bag, fitful and surprisingly restless I thought I'd just crash and maybe even burn, but I just rested my eyes, listening to other people still on the course and the hypnotic clatter of rain on canvas shushing my frayed nerves, I waited till the sun did it's yawning morning routine and decided I'd just get back out there, I could sleep the next time it got dark if I could do another 50laps I'd be sleeping in a finishers t shirt!,
Trying to forget the last 48 hours or so and trying to view here and now as a fresh event strangely a sunrise can do that, lap 1 or as it actually was lap 27, but lap one of my 50 to go, I took my tooth brush around with me, still trying to trick my body into a new day routine, next lap porridge kindly handed to me again by Nick, I just took the pan and kept moving it was raining pretty hard now and my heat regulation was badly on the Fritz, next lap I had about a pint of coffee, now I'm getting into it again, I remember thinking that my legs felt surprisingly OK,
I was running not walking or jogging i was shifting, i later found this was mainly cos i'd lost over a stone so i was quite literally running my ass off!!

It rained all dam day, soreness crept into my very being, my feet were the worst part, you can't hide from it every foot step is like a like shout in you ear, but stopping would be worse, not now not after all this I'd think, but at around 69laps which was about 70miles, and with just 7laps to go like a Hollywood story line, where you hope it will all work out but you just aren't betting the house on it yet, I had to stop, I'd ran all of it up to now, but the last hour had been purgatory with constant tears streaming down my cheeks, I must of looked sorrowful but no one had said anything to me just I just caught the occasional knowing wince from some spectators, truth is everyone was now finding it tough, but everyone was determined to finish and no one really complained, at least not out loud , so at 69laps I felt empty and I was in serious pain, I needed help, I had Nick look at my feet in the confines of our tent because I was worried if they were as bad as they felt the organisers may pull me from the race, but I really needn't have worried, not because my feet weren't bad because believe me they were smashed and torn after 20 hours of wet running, but because the powers that be want you to finish too, and unless your dead it's all still possible, and Enduroman uk is no place to complain with anything less than death, and I honestly believe even if you died they'd just give you an extra 60min to complete!
I had my feet bandaged by a helpful medic, who happily told me she'd already seen this same problem on a few others so at least I wasn't the only one and now I felt sure I could finish in fact when I was being patched up Nick and I worked on revving up the engines with coffee and a burger and about 4 gels, it was going to hurt anyway so I figured I may as well run as fast as I could, I left the medic tent focused and took off. I made the ground fear my feet, where before I'd hobbled sore footed and blurry eyed, I pushed back hard, each foot step I pressed against the ground teeth gritted and screamed around the course passing everyone and getting some glorious applause thru transition this was more like it how long could I keep it up I thought, long enough I said, so clearly mad but mad and fast, I can live with that!!, making my next 6 consecutive laps the fastest recorded laps of the race.
Finishing the 3rd marathon distance in a row, not caring now, I got the much awaited last lap confirmation and turned tail to complete this final lap in reverse as is the tradition, so as to collect a whole bunch of high 5's from everyone still on the course, I tried to give as much back to these people stopping for a hug or two, I saw Nick just before the finish and commented on it being a lovely way to spend a weekend, we were both glad for it to be just about over, and now it was time for a sprint for the line!!, one hand shake and a t,shirt later, with a medal proudly around my neck, beer in hand the job was done, as proud now as then, mostly to have done it, but more so to have done it with the sort of friends who would want to help against all odds and admittedly basic common sense...

(Run 78.6miles - 28:25:23, 11th)

Total 61:24:28 - 7th position overall

Thanks to Nick Holmes for more than I can mention over many years of friendship,
Philippa May, for faultless support, bringer of food and purveyor of smiles.

And to all at FTC who have and continue to support not just myself but each other in all these bonkers events.

x x x x x x x x x x x

"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'"