Sunday, 9 September 2012

5x50 Day 0 - Marathon du Médoc

Well, it's exactly a year since my first ever marathon and I went back to the Marathon du Médoc for a second go.  It's been a busy year and this was the 12th marathon event I have entered, finishing all but one. Unlike previous races, I decided to take the festive runner approach to this one, making the most of the entertainments, atmosphere, food and wine that make this such an unusual event.

Fancy dress is a major part of the Médoc and all participants are encouraged to enter into the spirit.  Last year, I didn't and felt a little bit out of place, so this year I went a bit mad.

Yes, the armour is metal and, although it's relatively lightweight, it doesn't weigh nothing.  Nor do those swords.  And under it all is a large foam pad between a couple of shirts to keep it all from chafing.

We'd had a slightly frantic morning already by this point packing up our tents, getting the kids breakfasted and driving to Pauillac.  I was a bit concerned about getting there in time and managed to forget to eat breakfast.  And to tape my feet.  Oops.

The pre-race entertainments were great with acrobats performing on ropes hanging from a crane and multiple fly pasts by jet fighters.  And then we were off...

After experiencing the choke points of the narrow streets last year, I got near the front and didn't take any of the stops until we were a few km outside Pauillac itself.  The first 15k went really well as the temperatures rose from 22C (71F) rapidly to around 32C (90F) which was the predicted max.  And then they continued to rise (I am told) to 36C (97F).  I've run in that kind of temperature before but in very minimal gear.  Not heavy fancy dress.

One really unexpected thing that happened was other runners going past me and slowing down so that I passed them again. Then they would go past and touch the armour.  Almost every one of them said something to me, mostly along the lines of "What?  It's real!?  You're a crazy person.  Good luck!"  This happened literally dozens and dozens of times and people were really encouraging me to, er, soldier on.

On the way past a water spray at Beychevelle, I somehow managed to get my shoes soaked.  This was a bad thing as I had no spare socks and no tape on my feet. 
My new friend: Emmy

Oysters.  Mmmm...
I slogged on to the halfway mark at Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste where I dumped the swords on my long-suffering family and friends.  They did try very hard to get me to lose the armour as well but I was determined to press on.  Duh.

And Ice Cream!
My supporters told me that the heat was being especially hard on the kids so they were going to head straight to the finish and meet me there.  In addition, there was the start of some proper foot pain as my feet were blistering inside the damp shoes and sock.  I went through a real low for a few km when I had a real piece of luck.  Mistakenly thinking I recognised a costume from a web post, I struck up a conversation with another runner.  She was a little taken aback at first I think but soon we were chatting away and it turned out that we were both on the Marathon Talk website where I had replied to a comment of hers.  (Hello Emmy!)

We carried on with some run-walk as we battled with nausea, fatigue, blisters and hydration but kept going forwards.  Her relentless optimism was a fantastic boost for me and we both managed to run across the line.  For me, it was a shockingly bad time (over six and a half hours) but, even more than usual, the triumph was in finishing in spite of the heat and without discarding the fancy dress.  It was great to see my family cheering at me in the stands at the finish and I even managed a wave.

I've felt better...

Then, for the first time ever, I went to the medical tents to have my feet fixed up.  It was suggested to me that I should start with getting my head examined but hey-ho.  The two guys there took one look at my feet, then each other and then there was a drawing in of breath over teeth.  Lotions, potions, unguents and bandages were applied followed by a foot massage and I left that tent in much better shape than I went in.  I was so, so grateful.

Next steps are some recovery, making contact with Emmy and getting on with the actual 5x50 challenge...