What is the Arch to Arc?

The Arch to Arc is a mega-triathlon from Marble Arch in London to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It involves an 87 mile ultra-marathon run from London to Dover, a 21mile swim across the English Channel and then a 181mile bike ride from Calais to Paris. When it is raced in a relay format it is classically done by 6 individuals doing an hour of exercise and then 5 hours off. Vickie and I will be the first 2 person team to attempt the Arch to Arc and we intend to break the 40hour barrier which will challenge some of the fastest 6-person relay teams. To make it even more unique Vickie will do the entire 87mile run, I will do the Channel swim and we will relay the bike ride (got to play to our strengths, plus I don't like running).

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Enduroman Arch to Arc - The Run Leg

The final preparations for our Arch to Arc Challenge took place at whirlwind speed as we were called up to start our Challenge before our date window!  We had been given the dates of 8th-13th August for the swim window (the neap tide), and the earliest I therefore expected to start running was on the Friday.  However, due to the possibility of poor weather over the weekend we were encouraged by Enduroman to aim for a early Friday morning swim, therefore the official run start time was set for 9am on Thursday 6th August at Marble Arch.  I spent the day on Wednesday whizzing about; tidying up from the fundraising party we held on the previous night, driving up to BodyKraft to collect the support van, doing a shop for food supplies, a final kit check and packing.  Not much time for putting my feet up and resting bearing in mind I had an 87 mile run to get through the following day, but at least this meant the day went by really quickly and I didn't spend too much time worrying about what lay ahead!

An early 5am start from Cheltenham with my fantastic run crew (Paul Willis and Kim Boon) meant we beat the rush hour traffic into London; we were at Marble Arch with plenty of time to spare and there was time to pose for a few fun photos before we met Dan (our Enduroman official) for the event briefing.
At Marble Arch with Paul, Kim and the lucky 'never ever give up' mascot!
Just before 9am Rach and Mike Beecham also appeared on their bikes, which was brilliant - it ended up being quite a send off!  9am struck and we were off with Dan cycling beside me showing me the route.  Through Hyde Park, past the walls of Buckingham Palace, over Vauxhall Bridge and past the MI5 building, weaving through all of the commuters, past a rather scary arrest involving at least 8 policemen and two police vans in Peckham, then on to the A20 at New Cross, before heading towards Lewisham, Sidcup and Swanley.  The weather conditions were perfect, there were plenty of sights to look at and it was great having Rach and Mike with me on their bikes, providing plenty of banter to help pass the time!  We were without the support vehicle until the 3 hour point as Paul and Kim had a really tough time getting out of the city in the rush hour traffic, but Rach plied me with the extra sports drinks I needed in the meantime, I had a supply of gels, and we met the vehicle just in time for the first feed - great timing!
Out of London in to Kent!
I was feeling pretty comfortable jogging steadily along at my planned 10 min/mile pace and ate my cheese roll and some jelly snakes power walking up a hill at about the 20 mile point.  This was when I first started to feel uncomfortable; the roll didn't go down at all well and I got stitch followed by a horrid tummy ache which lasted for a couple of hours.  During this time I also developed a really painful blister on the ball of my right foot (oh why so early!?!) and it was time to implement my plan of 'how to get through the bad times'.

Operation 'Blister'!
My run/walk strategy was not allowed to come in to play yet - it was too early on and the discomfort was not bad enough.  I made myself smile and say cheerful and positive things whenever I saw my support crew - a rule Ollie taught me; if you don't verbalise any of the negative thoughts that are in your head you are not really feeling them.  I kept smiling.  I just took on electrolyte fluids until my tummy felt better, no more carbs for a while - something I learnt the hard way in Hawaii.  I kept smiling - no sadness allowed.  I had a great cheer squad around me at that point - thank you Lucinda Bayliss, Ollie and Simon popped up for a while on their way to Dover, and mum and dad also arrived.  They all helped me to keep the positive thoughts at the forefront of my mind more than they could imagine.  I kept smiling.  I thought about all of our friends and neighbours who had given us such a great send off at our fund raising party and how they were all tracking me and I couldn't let them down.  And I kept smiling - stay happy, enjoy the occasion, 'you are never going to do anything like this again' I told myself.

Number 1 rule - keep smiling!
It was brilliant to have such a great team of supporters on the road, it honestly made the long journey fun and, as I saw everyone on such a regular basis, I was never short of cheers of encouragement - I was honestly having a great time, 'I love running' I kept saying inside my head - my mantra - always stay positive!

Fun along the way!
The crew - (L to R) Paul, Dad, Kim, Mum, me, Ollie, Simon
It was excellent seeing Nicky 'Noodle' Anderson and Caroline (friends from Uni days who live near Maidstone).  Once I had adjusted my feeding regime (just cafe latte GU gels, orange High5 electrolyte drink, cookies and cream Power Bars and Salt Sticks - no more cheese rolls!) I didn't have any more tummy problems, my hip was not playing up, I had a great play list on my ipod and I was visited by the Enduroman 'Ultra-Stalker (!?!).  As the miles flicked by I was still feeling good and still having fun!  Before I knew it Rach and Mike were also back on the roadside, I had a good 55 mile massage and stretch by Kim Boon (who is also a great swim coach by the way!) and Paul was like clockwork and really keeping me 'on track' with my feeds.

Run Butler Paul - in charge of nutrition!
Run Butler Kim - in charge of stretches and massage!
Before I knew it it was getting dark, I was donning my fluro vest, shortly followed by the lights, and there was just a marathon to go!  I hadn't needed to use my run/walk strategy, I had kept my pace going really well, better than I had probably imagined I would, so I started to ask Paul about the record.  I knew it was just under 16 hours and I was feeling like I could up my pace a bit and push on to try and break this.  The advice that came back to me was not to push the pace too soon, the record was breakable if I could just maintain the pace I was holding, but I felt good and knew I could up the intensity.  I held back for another 10k and then gave it every last bit of effort that I had left for the last 20 miles.  My legs were strong, they didn't let me down, and they were really helped by a couple of standing assisted stretches with Kim.  A fast power walk up the long 1.5 mile hill up to Capel-Le-Ferne with Kim and Rach and a short off-road run section with Kim and all of the hard work was done, it was just the run in to Dover to do!  I couldn't believe it, I had been running for just under 14 hours at this point, I couldn't possibly almost be there!  But I was!  Kim popped up again and she had been directed by Dan as to how to get me to the finish.  Dan had gone ahead so he could accurately time the finish and Kim guided me through the town (via a subway!) to the harbour.

The final run in
There ahead of me were the stone pillars that marked the finish line and, as I ran between them, I felt overcome with emotion.  I had made it and there were so many people there congratulating me - Ollie, mum and dad, Kim, Paul, Rach and Mike, Dan, Dave Granger (who was about to start his team Channel crossing), Rob, Finn and Simon (Ollie's swim crew), I chatted to Tim on the phone, it was brilliant - and it was a record time of 14:14:55!  I was thrilled and I wanted to lie down and sleep, and cry, and laugh, and do it all again all at the same time!  It was so exciting!  I kept saying to myself 'this is why I do it, this is why I make all of the sacrifices that training hard necessitates!'  Thank you so much to everyone who supported me and helped to make this possible - I'll never forget it.

The finish!
Look out for the next instalment coming soon - The Swim Leg!





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