Thunder Run 24 2014 – part 2

Once we got back to Catton Park, the rest of our team had arrived. Phew!

The sub-camp was now full with about 35 LRR members, some of their families and supporters and our team and Rolly and Laura’s children.

We all headed down to the start area for the pre-event briefing at 11am before the announcement was made that it would be held at 11:30am. D’oh!

I forgot to mention in part 1 that on Friday evening there had been a race for children, the Pyjama Dash; a great way to get the children involved and engaged with the event. It would be great to have a few more activities for children such as a bouncy castle.

Before long, we were heading back for the briefing where the organiser, Patrick – who looked about the polar-opposite to how you’d expect the organiser of a mass running event to look – gave an emotional thank you to all those taking part.

Prior to this point, we’d decided on the order the team would run in. This had to factor in several things such as ensuring that parents didn’t run one after the other thereby ensuring their children weren’t left unattended at night. I also tried to ensure that Laura, Charlotte and Kelly didn’t run between 2 and 6am and that Rolly didn’t need to run after 7am as he had secret plans to take his family to Alton Towers and wanted to leave by 9am.

Chris was first to run and assembled with the others starting lap 1. These included Kirsty and Tamsyn as well as solo runners Jim and Rob Kelly. We watched as they all headed off and then headed back to camp.

I took the opportunity to have a shower and re-check that I had everything ready for my run. I had several hours to wait as our running order was:

Chris
Rolly
Kelly
Laura
Charlotte
Myself
Aaron
Ray

Our running abilities ranged from fast to not quite so fast and we’d estimated that on average it would take 60 minutes to complete a lap given the conditions (sunny and very hot) and the course (challenging in places). If we could maintain that average pace, we should be able to complete 24 laps.

Our camp was at about the 9.5km point in the course; an excellent position to give lots of encouragement to all the LRR and Townhill runners as they got close to the finish. Shortly after, there was a short steep climb before a gradual descent to the finish.

After about 45 minutes Chris passed our position and was looking on great form. Although the position meant that we could walk quickly to the start area for the handover before the previous runner got there, we’d decided that it was better to not risk a runner not being there and leave 15 or so minutes before we expected each runner to arrive. We maintained a sheet of the anticipated lap time per team member and then supplemented this with their actual lap start time, lap finish time and duration. We also amended their estimated time based in their previous lap time and the weather conditions.

It was the responsibility of each runner to ensure that the runner 2 behind them in the rota was ready to get to the start in time. This meant that Chris made sure Kelly was ready, I made sure Ray was ready etc. Although this wasn’t really necessary during the day, it was during the night. Some of the other LRR teams had more elaborate schemes which they explained but I still can’t quite understand them. In reality, during the day, an entourage went to greet a ‘returning runner’. This proved very useful as they often waited to see the runner get to the 9.5km point and were therefore able to let the next runner know that they were due at any moment.

As Rolly, Kelly and Laura completed their first laps, Charlotte went out to run hers. Each team member gave feedback on their run on their return and it became clear that although the climb through the woods was one of the most challenging aspects of the course, the first 5km was the toughest half and if you could get through that, the rest was easier.

A couple of bits of non-running related advice while I remember them. The mobile phone reception at Catton Park is really bad. Not only is mobile Internet via 3G almost available, even being able to send a text message is almost impossible from the camping area. Also, it’s unlikely that your gadgets’ batteries will last the weekend, so it’s worth keeping this in mind and having something to charge them or having a backup gadget that’s fully charged. My solution was a Powerpack external USB battery which was about £20 from Amazon and proved invaluable as it charged up several people’s iPhones and Garmins during the weekend.

After 40 minutes of Charlotte’s lap, I headed down to the start line for my first lap.

I positioned myself in the changeover pen and waited to see Charlotte as she ran down the finish straight. I spotted her and put my arm out to receive the baton and started my lap.

The first 500m or so are on a flat, wide stretch of grass before reaching the ‘nasty’ climb through the woods. I knew that was coming and mentally prepared myself thinking that I’d walk if needed. I didn’t want to burn myself out for the other 9 or so km. As it turned out, I ran the first 1.5km on the flat and the narrow path as it twisted and turned through the woods. Shortly after, there was another section on grass with an incline and I reduced my pace to get up that.

Out of the shade, it was hot. The sun was beating down hard and I welcomed the shady sections for their coolness.

At about 4km, Jim and I met and we ran and, where necessary, walked for most of the rest of the lap. It was great to have company and chat with Jim who, as I’ve said was going solo and hoping to complete 14 laps. There were quite a few solo runners taking part many of whom were walking a significant portion of each lap to conserve energy for their daunting task ahead.

At around 7-8km, there’s another wooded section that’s really challenging as it has lots of twists and turns and tree roots to negotiate. It requires 100% concentration. Looking up and not at your feet is likely to result in a fall, or worse, a twisted ankle. I almost managed one if these by taking a quick glance at my watch. Not a mistake I repeated.

Once we were out of the tricky section, the last couple of km are far easier consisting of a run along a ledge and then a descent into the campsite before a gradual and slight incline past the LRR encampment, the short sharp incline and then the descent to the finish.

As I turned the corner to the finish gantry, I looked out for Aaron and spotted him ahead. I got the baton ready and made a beeline for him. My first lap was over. I’d completed it in 1 hour and 5 minutes. 5 minutes faster than my estimate. As I left the course Chris was on hand to provide water by the cupful. As we got back to camp he provided post-run nutrition. What a legend!! Thanks mate!

Two more laps to go…

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