Friday, 23 September 2011
Ok, so nearly a month has passed since my successful attempt on the Enduroman Arch 2 Arc and I have finally sat down to try and pen a few thoughts on the attempt. The build up was actually fairly stressful. We were due to swim any time from Saturday 20th August which would mean running anytime from Thursday 18th. However, Adam was involved in a really important project at work that was due to report on Friday 19th which meant, really he didn't want to go prior to that. As Ad was so busy it fell to me to do all the organising, shopping, packing, list-writing, double-checking and panicking so when the initial call came I wasn't really in a focused state of mind. We had told Ed that really we were happy to delay as long as possible, obviously without jeopardising the attempt, and that we definitely couldn't start before Friday. As it happened Sunday looked the best day to swim so Friday at 3am became our start time. Whilst within our constraints of not starting before Friday it was pushing it to get Ad back home from work on the Thursday, try and get him some sleep and then get to London before kick off. It did all get a bit much for me at that point, I think I was probably a bit tired and sitting by myself on Thursday afternoon thinking I was going to start at 3am that night made me a bit panicky. It wasn't helped by the fact that we had massive faff organising the support vehicle which we had hired. After a catalogue of disasters we finally got it home only to find it was leaking brake fluid all over the driveway. RAC was summoned and it disappeared back from whence it came. All very well but we were due to start in 12 hours and now didn't have a support vehicle. Luckily my wonderful father-in-law to be stepped in and offered up his 4x4 as an alternative. We were aware it was going to be a squeeze but after a quick trip to Halfords to buy bike racks, we at least had options available.
Soon after, Eddie rang and said the weather looked better to delay for 12hrs until 3pm on Friday. I cannot express how relieved I was. It sounds silly, after waiting and waiting for the moment, but I just didn't feel ready to go and the prospect off having another night in my own bed, getting some proper rest and having a chance to talk everything through with Ad seemed to make an absolutely extraordinary distance and I cheered up no end. I knew that timing would meant I would end up swimming through the night but I figured I'd worry about that when the time came!
The Cadman family had arrived on the Wednesday so we all settled down for a final supper, made sure all the equipment was ready for packing when the Troughton contingent arrived the next morning and then headed off to bed. I woke up feeling much better prepared and with only the smallest hint of butterflies. The Troughtons arrived early, Mike was assigned chief-driver during our expedition and Ellen was going to be UK-co-ord and chief dog-sitter. I was so so grateful to both of them for all the help they gave during the challenge - it is safe to say I couldn't have done it without them both. Team Cadman were going to see us off and then leap-frog along the route with the responsibility of arriving at the end of each stage fresh and ready to do all the feeding/hotel-check-in/supply-buying jobs required for the tired crew. Our system worked like a charm, but more on that later. Around 10am it was time for the off and we said Goodbye to Ellen and I gave Heidi a huge hug before Mike, Ad and I loaded up into our newly acquired support vehicle and headed for London. Mum and Dad has already gone ahead so they could check into their hotel and then head to Marble Arch to wave us off. The journey down was fairly uneventful, both Mike and Ad have been part of my training build up so were pretty aware of how I might be feeling emotionally, how my feeds work, what to say to encourage me etc so there wasn't much that needed to be discussed. I tried to nap and keep all the emotions bubbling around inside of me under control. Obviously we had let a lot of people know I was finally setting off so I was kept very busy answering the gazillion wonderful messages of support that started to flood in.
About 45minutes from London we stopped at the final service station on the motorway for me to go and get changed into my race gear, have a final coffee stop and get ready for the off. Ad helped me carry my run kit box in and I went to get changed. I took a moment to myself in the loo just thinking of everything that lay ahead as I knew I wouldn't have any further moments alone to try and absorb the enormity of it all after that. I got changed into my run kit, pulled on a Herbalife top and headed back to the car. Ad met me outside the loos and all of a sudden all the emotions I was feeling built up again and flooded out. I got really teary but Ad was brilliant and talked me through it all. I was so scared of failing, of letting people down and not being able to finish what I had invested so much in. After a bit of reassuring and a big hug, I calmed down and headed with Ad out to the car. After getting all the worries out I suddenly felt much calmer, it was time to race!
We headed into central London where Mike had the unenviable task of trying to drop us off close to the Arch and then circling round until we were a go, ready to pick up Eddie and Ad again. We got onto Oxford Street and then he pulled over and let us out. Ad and I headed up towards the Arch. We had a last loo break in a conveniently located KFC opposite and then headed onto the square of Marble Arch itself. A wonderful little group of well-wishers had assembled to see me off, my Mum and Dad were there busy explaining to some interested tourists what I was about to set off and do, the RAF media team were there ready to follow the whole event as it unfolded, and Gavin and Mila were there to represent my wonderful sponsors, Herbalife. I was also joined by a wonderful guy called Cyril Morrin who had come to wish me well and also Jo Kilkenny. Jo and I have trained together through the year and she will be attempting the Arch 2 Arc in September. Jo had offered to cycle the first leg with me through London in case the support vehicle got held up and it was great to have her there to steady my nerves. Jo has a really good understanding of the A2A and is a great ultra-runner to it was fabulous to have her there to get me through the first 8-10miles.
After a few conversations with the RAF media team and some photographs of me looking ready and set to go, Eddie came over to offer a final few words of advice. I gave the Herbalife team a big hug and thanked them for all their support. Then with a hug for Ed and a massive hug to my parents who I would next see around the 30mile mark I got ready to go. A final kiss from Ad and I touched the wall of Marble Arch. Ed gave me the signal, started the clock and....we were off!!