Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Spitfire Scramble 24 hour team relay race

The weekend saw me take part in the inaugural Spitfire scramble, a 24 hour team relay running event held in Hornchurch Country Park Essex. 


First up I would like to say that it was an awesome event held in a great location providing great scenery and interesting landscapes and I really enjoyed the challenge this endurance event provided.


Being a 24 hour event its going to take a bit of time and quite a words to summarise and report on it, if you are a bit strapped for time my mini, condensed bite sized summary of the event is here.

As soon as I heard about this event earlier in the summer I was desperate to take part but I reluctantly decided it wasn't going to work out as I had already committed to three marathons this Autumn. I was keen to get involved as the location is ideal for me being located only a mile or so from my flat and taking place in the Country Park where I have put in so many training miles and hours over the last few years.


Up until Monday the before the race I was fairly content with planning to take part in 2015 and putting my name forward for volunteering duties at this years race. That was until I saw a tweet on Monday morning from the race organisers requesting assistance to help out a team left decimated by injury and illness. Several people had offered to run already but either couldn't commit the time or were too far away and unable to make the journey at short notice. So as a local runner my offer to run was happily snapped up by team red and I was soon welcomed into the team by my team mates on social media.

So on Tuesday, four days before the start of the race I had to quickly figure out how to plan and prepare for some grueling miles at the weekend!

I quickly scaled back the weeks training plans and after much deliberation decided It was best to stay at home and 'commute' in to the course rather than sort out camping on site at such short notice.

Saturday Morning soon rolled around and Made the 2 mile bike ride to the course to meet up with my team and to have our pre race photo. 


I was happy to meet a friendly and happy bunch all relatively eager for playing their part over the next 24 hours. 

A race schedule covering the next ten hours or so was soon in place despite the best efforts of the liveliest member of the team Bella to distract us with her insistent eager pleas to constantly throw her ball or Frisbee (don't worry this wasn't some weird warm up routine or an odd demand of the course, Bella is a gorgeous dog!)


My thoughts quickly turned to my race plans and how to fuel up for the miles ahead and I started taking on fluids and munching my way through a flapjack.

The race was soon under way and as the teams second runner I enthusiastically waited around the start area to welcome in our first runner and sprint off on my first lap.

My local knowledge served me well and I had mostly anticipated the paths and trails the course took. 


Being so focused on the event, the course and other runners the first 3kms flew past and I was ticking over nicely moving at around 4min/km pace and enjoying the run. 

5K was soon up and I was pretty shocked to have smashed my 5K PB by around 30 seconds! 

Considering the undulating terrain and the demanding Ingrebourne hill in the 4th km that's no mean feat! 

My speed week in recent weeks has obviously worked well! 

I pushed hard enough over the rest of the lap to make sure my time would have equated to a 10K PB while still being conscious of having something in the tank for future laps. 

The next few hours whizzed by and I was soon back at the course waiting for my second lap. I was a bit early and the team a little behind schedule so the runner before me was still yet to go, however our runner on the current lap was soon finishing and I was urged by other team members to run the next lap rather than waste time waiting around.

So with no warm up, little hydration and no time for a pre run toilet break off I set on lap 2!

I quickly set about passing a dozen or so runners in front of me in the first few hundred metres. Feeling Good I kept the pace and I surprised myself by being only a few seconds off my 1st lap time at 5K.

My second lap was completed in a little over my first lap time and I was incredibly proud of knocking out two blistering 10Ks only 4 hours apart! 


I headed home for food and rest before returning to the course for my 3rd lap scheduled for around 10.45PM. Thanks to the team for the lend of the head torch and off I went. It took me some time to adapt to running in the dark and the course had several areas that demanded a slower walking pace in the poor visibility.

I managed to get back home before 1AM and got just under 2 hours sleep before heading back to the course soon after 3.00 for my next scheduled lap.

London in the distance, the bright lights of the big city still shining
It was while waiting on the start line for my fourth lap that the cravings started to kick in! All I wanted was a KFC and a Lucozade and that quickly developed into a specific KFC craving, I wanted a mini chicken fillet burger and a mini chicken fillet snack box. Lets just the thought of KFC motivated me massively through my next two laps as I fantasied about eating succulent fried chicken and then formulated plans as to how I might get my hands on a KFC substitute, could I cook something similar when I got home with the ingredients I had in the kitchen? My mind raced around the local area trying to pinpoint a fish and chip shop or fast food joint that might be open in the wee small hours that might be able to satisfy my craving but I came up with nothing!

My fourth lap started at around 4.00 and I was nervous to see how my body would react to running at such an unusual hour, with little sleep and after having already covered almost 30K. 

Pretty good was the answer! Again I walked when the course demanded it and slowly plodded up most of the hills.

By the time I had finished the mixture of lack of sleep, coffee, energy drinks and endorphin's had created a heady mix in my mind for which I will call the 'Forest Gump Feeling', I am sure we have all experienced it, the feeling where you just want to run, and run, and run!

So when I was told that barring the runner after me the rest of the team would be catching up on some much needed rest I crazily put my hand up to run another lap! 

My fifth lap kicked off at around 6AM and I will be honest with you the Forest Gump affect only lasted for the one lap before tiredness and fatigue set in.

Courtesy of Andrew Kenyon https://plus.google.com/app/basic/s?sc=po&sq=andrew+kenyon
My experiences on this lap were pretty different to anything I had experienced while running before. I really enjoyed running in the calm and quiet of the early morning sunshine and the satisfaction that came with knowing I was completing something awesome while the rest of the world slept. The second half was a real challenge though as the lack of sleep turned my mind into a zombie like state. At least two runners spoke to me as they passed, I heard them, I registered their greeting and formulated a response in my mind but my brain was too tired to put any of these actions into practice. I even had my photo taken at this point but couldn't really muster a decent pose or expression!

After this fifth lap my legs were know heavy and stiff and tiredness had now well and truly set in, the bike ride was tough but did energize me and loosen up my legs somewhat. 

Having failed to find of a solution to satisfy my KFC craving I still required some serious calories and good tasting ones at that! As soon as I got in the through the door I started preparing a bacon sandwich! It filled the gap but unfortunately it didn't go anyway to satisfying my craving, stomach filled it was time for a nice warm shower before jumping into my comfy bed (not to rub it in anyone that camped!).

Sleep didn't readily come over me and when it did it was only in a short sharp 20 minute burst. Waking up feeling refreshed but with my legs suffering the pain of running almost 50K I decided I definitely had one more lap in me and I knew by the time I got up and ready I would feel a lot better and so I did! I definitely didn't have the mental or physical strength to bike there again though so I took the tube one stop and the short bus ride back to the course.

By 10.30 after a coffee, some jaffa cakes and an energy drink I was waiting eagerly on the start line to run again. The last lap I wanted to run well and enjoy, I reflected on my positive performance, how well I had coped with the demands of such an event and how I had enjoyed the course, its location and scenery and the fact I had been able to share my usual training routes with so many other runners.

Courtesy of Andrew Kenyon https://plus.google.com/app/basic/s?sc=po&sq=andrew+kenyon
With my last lap completed by 11.30 the team had time to send out a last runner before the 12.00 deadline. All was left for me was to sit on the grass in the warm, bright sunshine and reflect on such an enjoyable event and experience. 



After some team photos and plenty of cheering and clapping for the various medal winners it was time to head off, it was a bit weird leaving the course knowing I wasn't going to be heading back in a few hours! 


Thanks for reading, to anyone that ran in Spitfire Scramble I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and if you didn't run this year I hope you are inspired to run next year or to enter a similar event. Massive thanks go to everyone how made the event possible, the race organisers and marshals for their time and for all the participants for taking on the challenge and creating a great atmosphere, lets do it all again next year?!