Day 51 – Teruel to Canete 77.3km

This will be a short report as I feel a little ill. I’m not concerned as I just need to rest and be out of the sun for a bit.

Today was a big day. I ran the whole day with Fred which was nice. Even though our strengths are very different, we have a very even overall pace. The first 40km were following a river. The road wasn’t great for runners as there was no hard shoulder, but because of the river, the area was lush and green. Since I have been in Spain I have just wanted to lay on some plush green grass, and today I saw plenty of it, though I didn’t lay on it. There was much food to be foraged on this road, so Fred and I were stuffing our bellies with figs, walnuts and grapes.

Then after cp 4, we had a 10km climb. It was hot and exposed, and once we neared the top a strong headwind started up, which at first was nice, but then frustrating as it dried my mouth out. The final 25km was a tough grind as the temperature rose. But we both stuck together and motivated each other. Fred said we could beat 8:45 and we came in 15 seconds before that.

Overall a good day. Hard but consistent. Tomorrow will be more of the same. I’m not bothered really. I can hope that it’s a little cooler though. I just had to bring my main course back from the restaurant as I felt a bit sick. I will now try for a second time to eat it. I may need it tomorrow!

Day 46 – Guissona to La Bordeta 67.4km

I actually slept quite well last night. The long walk to the restaurant was rewarded with a massive plate of tasty pasta as the starter, followed by a main of a few lumps of fatty meat with chips! It was great. A few of us weren’t going to wait around for dessert and as we were leaving, the waiter gave us our dessert to take with us! It was ice-cream in wafers that was perfect for the long walk back. I woke feeling pretty battered as is normal now. After our typical Spanish breakfast of a sweet croissant and a Danish (?) pastry, I was starting to feel a little more alive. I hadn’t seen The profile for the day, but had heard that it was basically a flat day that dropped downhill a little over the whole day. I can’t remember the last time that we had a flat day. My hip flexors have been getting a bit strained lately with the uphills, so maybe they will get a bit of a break? My knees of course will also be happy to not be doing so many long downs. The day started off at a fair clip. I was expecting this. Things are getting more and more competitive as time moves on. We all have fairly well established positions now and we are all aware of who is near in the overall time. I make calculations of the guys who are behind to see what’s the minimum they would need to beat me by daily to catch me up. I then keep an eye on this on the road and try to prevent them getting to far ahead. I can’t believe that I am now getting competitive in the seventh week of this race. My main aim is completion now, which I actually believe is possible. I just can’t help myself though, and nor can anyone else. The competition is in our blood. You can’t just switch it off. So, the day started off fairly quickly but as the sun rose, I sped up. I had the company of my Japanese friend Yoshataka for the first 15km. He had to slow then as his shin was sore. It was just me now for the rest of the day. It was warm and the road was large and busy, but my pace was quite solid throughout. As the road was long and straight I could always see a few runners up ahead and behind. I was quick at the cp’s too today. No messing around. I then thankfully got directed off the main road and down a small quiet farm road. After a while, a car pulled up and the driver started chatting and asking questions about the race as I ran. He then got out and took a picture. I shook his hand and said goodbye. 500m later I entered a small village and there parked up with his boot open was the same chap. He had a running shirt in his hand and wanted to do a shirt swap. Why not I thought. I apologised about the state of his new sweat sodden shirt as I peeled it off my back and placed my brand new shirt on. He ripped the labels off and then we did another photo. I thanked him and dashed off. A nice little break and a nice chap! There was now around 10km left. The trails got a little rougher and I was starting to enjoy it a bit when it then stopped and I was back on the tarmac. It was warm now but I wasn’t too bothered. Maybe I’ve actually acclimatised to the heat a little! I finished happy with my time. I have had a little sleep and have had dinner which was a starter of pasta salad followed by a main of a very large sausage with crisps! Strange Spanish food. Tomorrow is the big day. 83km. The final stage in the 80’s. The day after is a measly 44km so it doesn’t matter what state tomorrow puts me in. I will keep on plodding. Gibraltar here I come!

Day 27 – St-Seine-l Abbaye to Avallon 83.0km

Today is the second largest day. The longest is only 300 metres longer and that is tomorrow! I had slept ok and was about as well rested as the time would afford in the luxury of the hotel room. Louise and I had gathered enough food together so that I could do breakfast in bed instead of having to get up earlier and join the rest for a more than likely disappointing breakfast. I was a little concerned that the morning could be difficult seeing as we were away from the routine, but as it was it was really nice lying in bed eating my breakfast, just the two of us. We left the hotel and arrived at the start with 15 mins to spare.

I just wanted to get stuck into today. These two 83km days stuck out like a sore thumb to me from the first time I looked through the stages and now I was here. It’s silly really, because the other day we did a 79.5 and a 82.5 together. I knew it was completely possible for me, it was just doing it.

The morning was very foggy and there was a bit of a chill. I wore just a t-shirt which was just about right. I quite like running in heavy fog sometimes. You feel truly alone and there is no competition. As I warmed up, the old battered body felt better. The route was again on very quiet back roads again and today was very hilly. In fact it had the second largest amount of vertical gain at just below 1100 metres. I was very grateful for the fog hanging around as long as it did, as it made things safer by slowing all the cars down, and of course kept it cool, but after around 3-4 hours of running it was gone and all that remained was a splendid blue sky and a scorching sun. There was a lovely refreshing headwind that blew all day and did a great job of keeping me cool.

There really didn’t seem to be too much flat today, and as usual I was enjoying the uphills but taking the downs quite conservatively. My knees just feel fragile now and I am learning to live with them. Speaking of pain, my heal is very painful after around 40km but I am starting to get used to it. I believe this could be some Achilles tendonosis very low down, but I’m not sure.

As the day progressed and the cp’s passed one by one, I didn’t start to fatigue to badly so kept on pushing. A lot of the reason I push sometimes is to finish and therefore maximise my rest. It is just trying to get the balance right for my fitness and my current physical and mental state.

When I got to the final cp, I was told that the route was not 83km but 86km due to a diversion earlier on. I felt quite positive at this stage so this potentially damaging information didn’t affect me too much. I was surprised and happy with my positive outlook. Thankfully the last part of the day was following a river as it meandered through lovely little villages, before the route climbed up to the finish point right on top of a hill.

I finished in about 10:10 I think, which I am very happy about. One down, one to go. My heals both hurt a bit but I know that the rest will prepare them for tomorrow. Day 28! Wow, I never thought I would get this far!

 

 

Day 26 – 55km

Today I was hoping for another  relatively easy, uneventful day. The rather small hall we were in last night gave the predicted poor nights sleep. Ingo has decided that we start 15 minutes later as it’s so dark at 6. We are still woken at 4 and breakfast is still at 5 though meaning that we get 2:15 in the morning to pack up and get ready. Very relaxed!

We ran off into a dull and damp morning. I was hopeful for some rain today. The forecast was for it to get hot again soon so it would be nice to enjoy some refreshing rain before being exposed to the evil sun again. I soon found myself with Eiolf again. He said that he didn’t want to go too hard. I think everyone has the next three long days on their minds.

The pace was nice and steady like yesterday. Nice. We were soon on some lovely rural roads again. They were very peaceful and this made for some very relaxing running. A lot of the day we spent slowly climbing up until we were eventually high up on a plateau. We ran through a forest for a long time where there were wild boar and we got rained on a little. I even put my waterproof on for the first time on this trip! Soon enough though we were at the 45km point and only had 10 left. The last 10 are always a little quicker (unless something is wrong) and Eiolf showed me his speed as he slowly eased away from me. I finished at a speed that was a little slower than yesterday. Not bad considering there was a lot of climbing today.

Just on the final descent into the small town where we are staying I saw Louise walking up the hill. What a sight! I ran up to her and kissed her and we ran the last few hundred metres together to the finish. On the way down, she told me she had got a room in a hotel for us! We are in a bed again! I feel so spoilt, but so much more comfortable.

Well I really must rest before getting stuck into the 83km day tomorrow. I will hopefully write again tomorrow with a nice uneventful report.

Day 25 – 48km

At last, a nice short day! 48km is the shortest day yet (I think?). I woke from a good sleep in the luxury of a bed in the Gite but felt rather stiff. There were lots of sore spots. Breakfast was in the local restaurant and consisted of some nice French bread and jam. Nothing else except the rather grim coffee. Even though I feel stuck in groundhog day each days accommodation and food is a new experience and a surprise.

We started in complete darkness. I wanted the day to be over so that I could lie down and maximise my rest. At the first cp I was alone and going at a nice clip. It usually takes around 5-10 km to warm up and for my aches and pains to subside a little. Only 37km left! This day will be over before it has begun!

Todays route was on some lovely rural roads that were very quiet. The weather was blissfully overcast and cool. As the day progressed I was enjoying it more and more. Soon I caught up with JB at one of the cp’s. Today was JBs’ 52 birthday (he looks 45) and he told me he was going to buy a large bottle of red wine for the evening. We ended up running the rest of the day together which was nice. We came in together in 5:25. A good day.

I have had a little snooze and we all just popped down to see the mayors from the local area who handed out some medals gave a welcoming speech and then we were set loose on the buffet! How lovely of the community.

Tomorrow is another short day at 55km. Ace! Then we have the two longest days of the whole race at 83km and 83.3km so I really need to take advantage of all this rest time.

Bye.

Day 22 – St. Georgen to Bad Krozingen 74.5km

The last full day in Germany! I can truly say that I really wouldn’t have believed that I would have got this far if you had asked me four weeks ago. Truly gobsmacked and happy! Tomorrow I pass into France and also pass the 1000 mile mark. Of course no-one else here is backward enough to care about mileage and normally I try to stick to metric, but there’s something special about 1000 miles isn’t there. It’s a bit like numerology now as you tend to find milestones in almost every day. There’s always something that is mentally reachable, and if not, then you make something.

Today was a long day and apparently we were passing through a very hilly part of the Black Forest. Sounds good! We set off into another cool morning. I just wore a t-shirt today though. We were soon enough into a decent road climb. Once we had crested it we begun a very long descent into a stunning landscape. I went cautiously and my knees seemed ok. Next we had some confusion with the arrows as someone had apparently moved some. After a bit of head scratching I was back on route and was passing through a town.

The towns roads had largely been closed off in preparation for a mountain bike race. I had some food at cp2 before beginning the climb that would last for around 20 mins. Half way up the lead group of bikes went past at a fast pace, followed by a steady flow of riders. On the downhill that followed I was careful as they were flying past. I then turned off the course and was on a beautiful alpine like descent through heavy forest. It was lovely and cool.

This descent went on for ages but when it ended, it was straight into another very, very long ascent that wound its way through the gullies and up till eventually I was out of the trees. The next descent was the longest yet. Beautiful but very long. Once at the bottom of this one the rest was relatively flat. It was warming up all the time and the forecast was for it to reach the 30’s so I didn’t want to hang around too long.

All was going nicely until I stopped to go to the loo with 10km to go. When I began to run again My knee really hurt like the other day. Don’t panic. It’ll pass, and there’s only 10km left. It did ease a little but was still very painful when I finished. I have iced it and think it could be a tough next two days as they are both long but apparently not as hilly.

I have been getting quite emotionally stretched lately. Every little thing that goes wrong I can’t help but see as a real major problem. Thankfully Lou is doing an ace job of keeping me grounded which can’t be easy!

Anyway. Bedtime!

Day 19 – Frankenbach to Malmsheim 62.5km

Today was mostly good. I slept ok I suppose. My ankles felt quite stiff but loosened up before we set off. My right knee felt quite average so I went off at my normal pace. Things felt ok and it looked as though the sun wouldn’t show for a little while because of a little cloud cover. Awesome!

We started on a busy main road, and sadly this continued for 35km. It was after this horrible section that my knee really started to hurt. It first reduced my run to a limping run, then an equally painful limping walk. Not good. As I dragged myself forward, all sorts of negative thoughts went through my mind. Just try to relax it will pass. It lasted around 20-30 stressful and painful minutes. Slowly my running became a little more fluid again, and I was almost back up to speed. All I had to do was get to the days end then rest and it will be a new day.

I finished just under 7:30. Not bad considering the little episode my knee had. The hall we have for tonight is very cosy to say the least, so Lou took the initiative to pitch the tent, so tonight we’re camping! No listening to loads of groaning and snoring all night. It’s a beautiful evening too.

Tomorrow is a mere 58km. I just hope that my knee holds up enough and that the short day will feel like a rest for it.

Must dash. I have some recuperation to do.

 

Day 18 – Assamstadt to Frankenbach 65.2km

A shorter day, but still a fair jog to be fair! The day was another scorcher which is obviously all they get throughout Germany. It’s like the South of France!

My ankles both feel a little stiff and painful at the end of each day. I don’t think I have mentioned this yet? The heal hurts a bit and is awkward at the end, but seems to heal enough for the start of the next day. I’m sure it’s fine.

I again pushed off alone today doing my own pace. I slept ok, but felt a little weary none-the-less. We were soon climbing out of the town and then we had a large descent. The sun wasn’t out yet to punish us so I was really enjoying it. The scenery was beautiful as always, and the roads were deadly quiet. We all spread out rather quickly.

I followed along the valley floor for a while pushing through the mist that had settled in the lower land. Then it was back up again. This was the theme of the day, though once the sun came out it was baking. Fortunately a lot of the route had trees to provide some much needed shade.

The majority of the day was spent running through glorious wine country and fields of orchards. I stopped at one point and selected an apple to eat. It was lovely and refreshing. At another point I had a few cheeky grapes. So incredibly tasty. Then I was into the final 10km grind. The last part was spent running into an industrial area which was pretty uninspiuring, but who cares when the day is done!

The gym tonight is large and I have acquired a thick gym mat for the ultimate comfort! Louise arrived a couple of hours ago so I am a very happy boy. Tomorrow is 62.5km.

Day 17 – Dettelbach to Assamstadt 73km

My nights sleep wasn’t great, but it was better than some. It was a beautiful clear morning out and not cold. All lovely, but I was guessing that this meant another hot one. We started out on some lovely quiet cycle tracks. The sun first showed itself as a bright red circle over the cornfields (about all they grow over here!). Then some light cloud covered it for an hour or so. I knew that this wouldn’t last so just put my head down and took advantage of this cooler period.

My knees felt about the same as the previous day. Today was by all reports supposed to be quite hilly too so even though this was a shorter day, it was by no means going to be easy (are any?). Today would also be another day alone. I spent the first 20-30km going at a half decent pace, but was really shocked when the lead man, Stephan flew past me at 30km going at an incredible pace. A couple km later Trond flew by in pursuit. Do they not injure?

I stuck at my pace and was feeling pretty good. It was very hot with just a lazy breeze to keep me cool. There was again very little shelter, except for about 15 mins running through some trees. It was so cool!

By around the 50km point, I was starting to feel the heat. It makes everything so difficult. It always makes me feel lazy. I want to walk, must run…

Then there was a sign giving a gradient for a downhill approaching. I wasn’t happy when I saw it. 20%! It seemed to go on for ages, but finally it bottomed out in a town. Once I had weaved my way through the town following the tiny orange arrows which faultlessly guide me through Europe, I was at the final cp. I didn’t hang around too long before departing, eager to finish. There was a long climb followed by a long fast stretch into the finish town. I possibly went too fast at the end and irritated my knees a little, but never mind. Tomorrow is a paltry 65km and the following days are shorter! I think this is classed as a rest!

Anyway, I have to try and sleep as I am knackered.

Day 16 – Zeitlofs to Dettelbach 81.6km

I must admit that I was a little nervous about today. It was long and apparently hilly. Ups are fine, but the downs are painful on my knees so I have to take them a lot slower. Before there is a chance to really think about it too much, we have begun! I intend to go fairly hard on the ups and rest on the downs.

It is a little chilly as we begin, but straight away we are getting stuck into a steep up. Perfect. I walk hard and am soon plenty warm enough. The hill is only a couple of kms long. At the top we turn left and have a most glorious view of the pink sky over the German countryside with pockets of mist in lower areas. Soon enough the first cp came. This was going to be a hot day too as if it wasn’t hard enough already! We had a large steep downhill and my knees were not too bad, but I was going very slowly. Then another large up. I was beginning to sweat a lot now as the sun begun to show its power.

I ran the whole day alone again. This worked out well as I could adjust my pace depending on how my knees were playing up. They were certainly letting me push a little harder than yesterday. My pathetically slow downhill running was even a tiny  bit less pathetic.

We passed through a town and then within about 15 minutes, I had the top three runners come flying past at an incredible pace. How these guys are running so fast and hard every day is quite unbelievable to me. They are running one day faster than most ultra runners could do it in.

It was now a stifling heat and there wasn’t a lot of shelter. I’m not great with the heat, but so far things had gone ok. I was managing to stay hydrated and felt ok.

As the kms passed by I started to see the day as it was. Just another day. Soon enough I was entering the outskirts of Dettelbach. Rainer Koch lives here and I was expecting to see him somewhere. When I ran with him for one stage of the JOGLE earlier in the year, he said when I pass through his home town, he would take me out to check out town. Rainer is a legend when it comes to crossing countries and continents incredibly fast. I don’t think he understands that when I’ve finished running for the day, I just want to rest.

Just before I finished, I saw Rainer walking away. I quickly said hi before finishing. Later on he came and chatted for a bit. I felt pretty empty so went outside to get some food from Thomas. Thomas is a German guy that is part of the crew. He runs cp4 usually that always has soup. He has a small old caravan that he parks up and then gets a tarp strung out to what ever is near and creates a shelter. At the end of the day he creates this same café near the finish line, tables and chairs will be put out and he will be cooking up a large meal of fried potatoes, eggs and either sausage or bacon for whoever wants it and has five euros. Today I had bacon. I ate it at an incredible rate of knots, then just before I was finished, I suddenly felt a little dizzy. I needed to lay down. I stood to make my way into the hall to find my camping mat. I thought I was going to pass out. I sat on the floor then just lay down on my back for 2 minutes till I thought I was ok.

I feel fine now. I had obviously been affected by the sun. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight and all will be back to ‘normal’ in the morning.

That’s day 16 done. One quarter of the time done! Awesome. 73km tomorrow.