Well the day had arrived for my return to the T184. This is the race that finally finished off my Achilles injury last year resulting in a 4 month lay off.
I have had quite a good year so far finishing the GUCR and the Thames Ring 250 and the Achilles has been no trouble at all.So was feeling quietly confident about this race although I know anything can go wrong in long distance races.
T184 is a184 mile foot race from the Thames Barrier to the source of the Thames in Cirencester, the full length of the river. What makes it more difficult is that it is self supported apart from water stops every 25-30 miles, competitors must carry all their kit in their backpack which in my case weighed 10kgs.
I stayed at the Travelodge in Woolwich met up with Lee, Jane ,Dave, Alan and Nina and headed out for dinner which was nice and then turned In for a early night.
Race morning was clear blue skies as we all headed off to the start. Kit checked by Paul Ali ,signed the waiver Ha ha,had the tracker fitted and we were off.
I started with Zoe who I have known for quite a while now and a fellow Spiner next year and also Adrian but was having trouble with my pack bottle holders so lost them while I faffed around . luckily Robin another Spiner next year and former MST buddy appeared and sorted me out. Stayed with Robin,Becky and a few others for a while but eased ahead through the crowds of London.
Got to Westminster bridge and for some reason decided to cross the bridge and go down the wrong side of the river , oh well just keep going. Shane did call me to tell me so at least I knew the tracker was working ok . Back on track before Fulham although not for long.
Got to CP 1 topped water and headed off . Now this got a bit confusing as I ended up the wrong side again and quite a way off towards Hampton Court but I found my way back eventually losing loads of time.
Into the first night and I felt ok and on to CP 2 where I had my first adventure food at about 2AM, this is where I dropped last year.
Soon after here I met up with Dave Baker and we stayed together for quite a while which was good fun. I first met Dave on the PoS and what a blast that was.
Nothing to much happened between CP2 and 3but we arrived at the Henley CP about 14:30 after finding a couple of benches for a 10 minute power nap. Cooked up a tomato soup and coffee and got ready to head off . The pack was starting to worry me now as it was cutting in to my shoulder so I was using my waterproof as packing under the strap.
Zoe was waiting for me here as she had been on her own for quite a while and needed some company.It was about here we met up with Ernie,Chrissie,Phillip,and Anthony once again but after a while Zoe and I found ourselves easing ahead.
Between CP3 and 4 Zoe started struggling with a swollen shin which looked like shin splints so she decided to play it safe and retire. The others caught and passed us while Zoe decided what to do but she did the right thing.
I decided to get moving from here and ran through the Reading Festival which was quite good and even with the drunks asking what the hell I was doing but they were all well behaved. I quickly caught the others and decided to keep pushing on for a while into CP4at Streatly 100 miles at 21:45
When I arrived here someone on a bridge shouted that I needed to go straight up the road to the CP so I did as I was told only to end up at the Ridgeway checkpoint .They asked my number so I said 16 and went into the room thinking this was strange to have a hall as a checkpoint. A lady was asking if I wanted my drop bag so I said no I am not allowed it until the finish. After about 5 minutes someone realised I was a T184 runner and Jamie appeared and guided me back to the correct CP Thanks Jamie lol.
Quick tomato soup and off .
This was to be a lonely race from here but something I really wanted and needed to do. I love running on my own sometimes as you only have to worry about yourself and can stop and rest when needed and pace as you feel.
So on to CP5 through the night, this stretch I found to be a real drag up through Wallingford and Benson lock and on to Shillingford where the heavens opened. Luckily for me I got to a sheltered bus stop so stopped for a brew .It was raining very heavy so I stayed here for probably 2 hours still no sleep though. Packed up and headed off along a busy road for a short time and back into the fields of long grass which now was so wet . Tiredness was setting in and my feet were soaked and sore, I had a really nasty blister from the TR250 which still had not healed but had taped it well . All I wanted to do was get to the CP5 so I could re-tape my feet. I desperately needed to get my head down but continued on to the CP.
25 miles till the next CP 130 miles done.
I found the navigation quite easy after my early detours
The next section I got quite stroppy with myself for losing my Montane beanie hat ,and was cursing my feet which were getting blistered now. I remember trying to unwrap a flapjack along this part but just couldn,t do it so stupidly told it to fuck off and launched it in the river,so decided to stop for a cup of soup and cool down and get my head back on track.It,s funny the smallest things which really piss you off in ultras. I had a sleep somewhere here for an hour just chucked my bivvy on the wet grass and fell on top of it , I remember thinking it was about 5am and I hope the farmer doesn,t come up in his tractor as I was just sleeping in the middle of a field
I remember coming to a sign in the woods at chimney meadows and listening to owls or whatever it was and seeing a man stood looking up at the tree , I was swearing at the sign thinking I had done full circle here as there was a sign exactly the same miles back , the man turned out to be a broken tree stump and I was ok and still on track. Sleep deprivation was really affecting me now as I was starting to see things that were not there.Trees were becoming people and branches animals ,gates were opening before I got to them, long weeds in the grass were sea horses and evil looking goblins. Rain showers were getting more frequent now and I needed sleep and quick. I trudged on knowing I was near CP6 but just could not go any further. My feet were agony here and I needed to re-tape my heel so I stopped at Radcot lock and had a coffee and dressed my feet .The plan was to bivvy on a bench for an hour after sorting myself out but it started pouring down again so I packed up and then realised I had left my socks in the bloody rain. So with soaking wet socks off I went to CP6 where Paul was waiting to top water bottles up.(Sorry if I was a bit grumpy Paul). Didn,t stay long here so carried on up the path where I found a war time shelter and it was quite clean inside so that was it head down time, socks off, food cooked slept for not long more food and coffee. It was so good to just get out of the weather and burst a few blisters ,re-tape feet and generally chill and re-group . My feet have never looked so bad and I was worried about trenchfoot. CP6 was 155 miles .
The weather was awful and had been raining constantly, it had been a really tough day and night for me and things were about to get worse.
After heading through Inglesham my maps finally disintergrated to pulp I was lost and with no river to follow trudged to the main road , rain pouring down, feet in agony and no idea what to do. I carried on and saw a massive barn fire about a quarter of a mile away , fire engines were tearing up the road a explosion came from the barn all I could think was the poor farmer all that hard work gone.I carried on down the road which was badly flooded and cars were going so fast it was a scary even though it was only about 04:30. Got about half a mile and turned back I did this about 3 times getting more and more fed up. After the 3rd time I just sat by a gate and have to admit after all I had been through I thought my race is over, I had been about 2 hours or more here and started blubbering, got my phone out and was just about to call race director Shane to come and get me when 3,4,5,6 headtorches appeared over the hill . It was Ernie ,Dave, Chrissie, Philipp, Anthony and Christine . It was the first time I would have some company since two days before. Someone was looking after me that morning, I was so glad to see them. We all carried on together through this part which I would never have found without maps. Into CP7 and 168 miles done,cooked up some hot food and coffee and all headed out for the final stretch. All of us were really starting to fall apart now and it was a really tough section but everyone was in good spirits.
My feet were so painful I had to use my poles just to take some of the weight off . Through Kemble and toward the finish . We had decided to all finish together which was a great feeling all holding hands running to the Stone marker .
I am so so happy finishing the T184 as it gives me the treble of big races this year and after the disappointing end to the year last year it so makes up for it.
I would just like to say a massive thank-you to everyone who helped out, without you all these races would be impossible so thank-you once again.
To Shane for giving me the chance to come back and beat this beast of a race thank-you so much, one of the reasons I had to finish was for you.
My feet are absolutely battered but will heal quickly I hope. This race has taught me a lot about myself and have learnt many things to take forward to the brutal Spine next year.