Of all four races this year the South Downs Way was the one I was looking forward to. I love the route and everything about it.byte fact it finishes only 5 minutes away from the in laws is an added bonus. With the knowledge that I am comfortable with the route my excitement and anticipation escalated to an all time high. Never before have I been so excited and so on edge for a race day to arrive. The other runners and crews all seemed to be feeling the same sense of anticipation and the swell of excitement could be felt across social media. My Twitter feedback and Facebook all consumed by talks of kit, weather, pace plans, weather, nutrition, weather and then as it all settled down a few more conversations about the weather.
This year I had a host of friends running the route. My running family seems to be growing faster than the Brady Bunch and to this end it was probably inevitable that I would in some capacity know a chunk of the runners. This just made the build up all the more exciting and l knew from past experiences this was going to be like a travelling festival from checkpoint to checkpoint. With several friends running their first 100 miler in one way or another this weekend was going to be a big adventure full of joy, heartache and maybe a tiny bit of swearing.
At check in it was the start of a weekend of catching up with friends and absorbing the race atmosphere. So many excited faces all coming of the back of a taper and carb load made for an excitable atmosphere. Chatting to Mark, Phil, Tony, Gary, and several others it was great to be part of the gathering momentum towards a start. The registration was as seem less as ever, although Bryan did prick himself on a safety pin from within the pot (Health and safety report Nici?). A quick hello with Graham Carter (@GrahamCarterGC) and it was clear he was like a little boy at Christmas who had just heard bells and assumed Santa was on the roof. He looked ready and I had every confidence that Graham would be making it to Eastbourne. So with registration done Bryan manage to blag us a lift from Stew in what can only be described as a bloody fast car. It saved Bev one journey and we were very grateful to our smooth transition from destination to destination. After some food at the massively over price hotel restaurant and a chat with Bryan and Mark it was time for bed. The day had gone to plan and after a foam roll session (physio’s advice) and a final kit check it was time for bed. Bryan and I had succeeded in being in bed before 10pm and I was awake about 5 minutes before the 4:30am alarm. The other 7 alarms were not needed and it was race day. All the excitement and preparation had built to this day. The recovery from TP100 and the training before all of it was now focused on part 2 of the Grandslam. It would soon be time to run to Eastbourne and keep myself in this Grandslam challenge. I had taped my ankles, but it was an unknown how my Achilles would hold up. The only way to find out would be to start running.
After about 7 or 8 miles Bryan and Ashley disappeared off into the distant. I knew that Bryan would do this but had not anticipated Ashley steaming off. I think he runs about my pace and so it was a surprise, but this was his race to run and I had my own agenda that was not going to be swayed by that of others. Pretty much from this point in I would spend the rest of the day interacting with various people and a core group of people who I would leapfrog all the way to Eastbourne. The day was beginning to heat up. In my head I had figured given it was mid-morning the day would not get much hotter. Of course this was the distortion of having been awake since 4:30am. In reality it was only about 7:30am and the heat that was soon to set upon us could not have been envisaged. The humidity was soon to take a vice like grip on the competitors and for much play a significant factor in curtailing their race prematurely. Anyway for now I plodded on in bliss and ignorance.