Grantham Multi-Stage Ultra – 5 March 2011 – Erring on the Side of Caution

Following Friday’s cake sale, it was non-stop all the way as I travelled up to Birmingham on the Friday evening to take part in Ultrarace’s multi-stage race at Grantham – 29.3 miles on both Saturday and Sunday.

I got up at 5.45am Saturday morning. The fact that the car had to be jumpstarted should have been an omen as to how the day would pan out. Using the old-fashioned road map to navigate, I got lost a couple of times and only made it to the race start line in Cotgrave with 30 minutes to spare. No time to properly relax at the start of the race – just a few trips to the loo and we were off!

The start of the race didn’t go too badly. I set off at a steady pace and the route was straightforward to navigate (always a bonus). However, the drizzle began and as we reached the canal path, the route became quite muddy in patches.

Around the 15 mile mark, the little ITB niggle came on again in my right knee. I walked for a bit and then tried to pick up the pace. By now, I was quite cold, but felt that I could continue to run through the pain. However, somewhat unusually, I decided to  heed my trainer’s words of warning and (guttingly) with only 8.5 miles to go until the end of the race, pulled out at checkpoint three. It was heartbreaking to see my fellow MdS competitors go through the checkpoint in good form wishing I was with them. However, the one thing I don’t want to do at this stage is risk my ITB niggle becoming something more chronic which then scuppers my Marathon des Sables hopes.

I made myself useful and sliced up some malt loaf and topped up waterbottles, then sat in the marshal’s car to keep warm. I think that the cake sale must have caught up with me, as I had a bit of a nap. We spent quite a bit of time waiting for two non-existent runners to come through the checkpoint – they’d already passed – so we packed up and headed to the Ramada Hotel, Grantham, where most runners were staying for the evening.

Pictures from the race can be found here.

Had a very thorough (i.e. eye-watering) massage on my right leg to ease off the ITB. It brought tears to my eyes. I checked into the hotel and had a bit of a soak (usually a no-no as the heat draws blood to the legs and doesn’t help the healing process, but I treated myself as I wasn’t running on Sunday). I walked into Grantham in the evening to go to Morrisons for a pot noodle – can’t believe that this is the place I took my HGV test about 10 years ago.

Rory and Jen of Ultrarace hosted an excellent Q&A session in the evening – literally “everything you wanted to know about Marathon des Sables but were too afraid to ask” and I passed my ECG test (compulsory to run the Marathon) with flying colours and a low resting heart rate (also good).

Feeling quite miserable that I couldn’t race the next day (although knowing full well it was the right thing to do), I consoled myself by troughing all of Sunday’s energy bar provisions (how many calories!!)

I was up early Sunday to catch a taxi back to Cotgrave to collect the car. Slightly envious of everyone else racing that day, but I split the cab fare with a guy called Steve suffering his own ITB woes, which seemed worse than mine, and came to the conclusion that with all this training, most of us seemed to have some form of injury or another.

Happily I didn’t need the jump leads in the boot as the car started first time, so sped back to Birmingham and spent a few hours playing with the dogs before heading back to London again for work on Monday. Sometimes you just have to accept that this just wasn’t your race.

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