“We” came 4th in 17h:54min, a new PB by nearly an hour! Very happy at the finish, not so happy for nearly 18 long hours!
Before I go on I want to say that I am so proud of Thomas’ performance. Absolutely fantastic and I am so pleased that he got to his “sub 18-hour” target on legs that were not on their best behaviour from early on and in weather that caused 3 stops of 5-8min each, 2 for shoe changes and 1 for a clothes change.
And he was not on his best behaviour either, let me tell you! In fact it was very difficult to support him this year. I will spare you the details, but Nancy and I were seriously discussing that maybe it was time he found himself a new support team for future races as this was no fun for us and we were dreading each support stop, not knowing what he would come up with! At one point he accused Nancy of spraying the Midge Repellant right into his mouth! When all she did was spray it onto his legs and he happened to bend down a bit. Maybe she did just to shut him up?! As soon as he was out of sight we burst into hysterical laughter. Nancy was more forgiving though and once again I have to thank her for keeping everything calm and on the move.
People asked me at the prizegiving if I “enjoyed supporting him” as he did so well etc. And how do you explain that even though the result is amazing, he was not cruising to the finish but his run was a difficult battle and I have no clue out of what depth he pulled out the strength to keep going and finish within his target despite all the difficulties.
We watched Kate (the lady’s winner by only a few minutes) battling through her run from early on as she and Thomas stayed close to each other until the bottom of the Devil’s staircase. And you would not think that with her winning she could have had a “bad run”. But she did and at some point she asked her support team “How do you pull nothing out of nowhere?!” And that sums it up! She did and others will have done the same to get to the finish. And I am in awe and unless I had watched it with my own eyes I would not believe it. Into what energy do they tap in? Physically and mentally? I have no idea how it works but it does!
Back to Thomas’ run and he had complained that his legs weren’t having a good day after Balmaha. And that’s what I call the ultra-running lottery! You train and train and everything is going well with no injuries, you did not pick up any last-minute virus and you are ready to start. And you start, but what’s that? It does not seem to be your best day. And it is not like you could say, o there is another race in a few months I’ll have another go then. No, this is the day you have waited for for 1 year, the day you have prepared yourself for physically and emotionally. And I must admit I was frustrated myself when he told me in Balmaha that his legs were not in as good a shape as he had hoped. How he still got “his time” I really don’t know.
He arrived in Tyndrum 15min behind his schedule, but by Bridge of Orchy he was back on schedule and looking suddenly strong coming into Victoria Bridge and off onto Rannoch Moor. At the ski centre he was still on schedule for his 17:50 time but his legs were feeling worse again. He left in 6th position but on his way to the bottom of the Devil’s staircase he lost 20min. Surely that was not a good sign. The weather was terrible by now and he put gloves on. We drove round to Kinlochleven and waited for him. I was outside the Community Centre looking up onto the road as the minutes ticked by. The American Mark in 3rd position had left 25 min ago and no one else had turned up yet. Suddenly I saw Thomas red jacket and there he was in 4th position, only 5min behind his schedule! I was suddenly so excited. He came inside, got weighed, changed all of his top clothing, had soup and a coffee and left 10min later when Craig Cunningham (in 4th up to then) had just come in. Go Thomas go we shouted and left for our last stop in Lundavra. We saw the American come through and his team inquiring if we were with runner Nr 4 and where he was. We really did not know but they seemed quite confident that their runner would “cruise it home” in 3rd anyway. Thomas only arrived 12min behind him at Lundavra right on his schedule and must have gained quite a bit of time on Mark. We did not know where No 5 and 6 were, if they were closing in or not so told Thomas to not slow down and go for his sub-18! As it turned out there was nobody else behind Thomas for over an hour as both of them had got into difficulties. So onto the finish. We had just missed the exciting battle between Richie and the Flying Dutchman but to all our excitement Richie won in 16:24 for the 2nd time in a row! Fantastic!
Everyone was waiting for the 3rd runner home. Apart from Mark’s team, people were still hoping Thomas might have caught the American. But right enough Mark had maintained his pace and arrived 12 min in front of Thomas. The clock was then ticking and 17:50 passed and I was getting nervous. Would he make his sub-18? But sure enough he did and arrived in 17:54. What a performance! One that makes the hell called support worth going through! :-)
I think the only way I can get out of supporting him next year is by entering the race myself! Surely that is taking it a bit too far, isn’t it?!