Really Awesome Coffee

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Great Barrow Challenge 2012

Despite now lying on the sofa with a swollen knee & a badly bruised posterior, what a fantastic week I've had. Completed the most challenging event i have done so far & also made some fantastic new friends along the way.

Quick training overview which includes the Great Barrow rides, then a run through of the 4 day challenge.

Monday - 2 hr bike ride
Tuesday - Rest day
Wednesday - 7 hr 33min bike ride
Thursday - 8 hr 3min bike ride
Friday - 9 hr 33min bike ride
Saturday - 8 hr 58min bike ride
Sunday - Rest day

The Great Barrow Challenge

The Great Barrow Challenge is a four day endurance event in the heart of Suffolk that offers something for individuals and teams, from novices and families to serious athletes.

The Great Barrow Challenge takes place in September and, for those who can’t wait a whole year, we also host the one day Christmas and Spring Challenges and the two day Summer Challenge!
Entrants can walk, run and/or cycle the four day challenge. The full challenge is 26.2+ miles per day for walkers and runners and 120 miles for cyclists! However, there are also 6, 10 and 30 mile courses for runners and walkers and 30 and 60 mile courses for cyclists. Prices range from £20 to £80 for the four days.

Based on the Nijmegen military training marches in Holland, The Great Barrow Challenge is the only UK event that offers extreme running, cycling and walking over four days. The event is well marshaled and the routes are well planned with easy to follow directions. There are excellent camping facilities and several fully licensed bars as well as optional evening activities and free sports massages to keep those aches and pains at bay from the team at Sports Injury Clinic.

So, i took on the cycling challenge which was roughly 120 miles riding per day which has a cut off time of 11 hours.  The courses consisted of two 60 mile loops from the Barrow HQ. Each day was a different route.

I camped there so arrived on Tuesday about 4pm. Camping was £6 per night. Toilet & shower facilities were the best Ive seen at any event. In fact, the toilet blocks were so posh they even had hand moisturiser on tap, pictures on the wall & piped music.

So, pitched my tent on the edge of what turned out to be a  football pitch, i must have misheard the camping instruction from Glen, something i regretted two days later when i had to move the bloody thing after a ride & loaded it up with all the crap i had taken with me.

Once all set up i wasn't really sure what to do so headed in to the village for some chips then back to the campsite bar area to see about picking up my race pack & do some socialising. Bar area was a great social centrepiece with comfy sofas for us all to chill. Got to know a few people on the first night, everyone was really friendly & planned to start the first ride with a lady called Heather, as we would be going at roughly the same pace (for now)

Day 1 - woke up at 5.45am after a shite nights sleep, coldest it had been for ages & temps dropped to around 3 degrees. Not to mention the teradactyl that had been screeching it's head off outside the tent since about 4am.

Had a coffee, bowl of frosties, banana & headed off to the start line for the morning briefing. This was done with those taking part in the full distance walking challenge as we both started a 7am (6pm cut off time). Met Darren at the start, a guy who i have communicated with on FB prior to the challenge. Didn't recognise him at first as it turned out his hair in his FB pic wasn't real, it was a scouse wig :-) Couldnt see Jake, another guy I'd previously arranged to ride with (turns out his pace would have been too quick for me anyway) so we set off, Heather, Darren & me.

Route West - Ely -

Nice flat route although a couple of roads had some very strong headwinds. Pace was 15.8 mph so a bit quicker than i had planned, in hindsight i think this may have attributed to my knee issues later on.
After about 50 miles Darren decided that the 4 days of 120 miles wasn't going to be for him so told us to carry on. He decided to do 4 days of 60 miles instead.

Still felt good after the first lap & we headed out again, looking for a shop as some lunch was required, took us about 20 miles riding before we found a co-op & was able to buy some sandwiches. Suggestion for the challenge is to have a buffet at the HQ for the cyclists who are doing the 120.

At 90 miles my legs got really tired & i found the final 30 miles quite tough. Thankfully Heather was still strong and I was able to draft her for a lot of the final 30.

Darren was a legend. He lived local & came back to Barrow at the same time Heather & i had finished the second lap with extras duvets & a sleeping bag for us because we had been bitching about the cold. He also brought his laptop & downloaded the next 3 days routes onto my Garmin for me, top bloke.

Cup of tea, showered then headed to the bar for tea. Meals were £6 per night & you had a couple of choices. Sausage & mash for me, tasted great but i could have eaten it twice.

Spent the evening lying on the sofas talking about the days event with other cyclists, walkers & runners. Bed time around 9.30pm, knackered.

Day 2

Up at 5.45am again, lot better sleep but still patchy. Getting up was a struggle but cracked on anyway.Same ol routine, Coffee, Frosties, banana briefing, go. Although had a second cup of coffee at the briefing. Had to stop for a pee after 20 minutes due to that.

Route North - Norfolk

No Darren but myself & Heather set off with a guy called Dan who was doing 3 days of 60 mile rides. Great route, headed up into Norfolk then looped back through Thetford woods, not so windy & well sheltered. Pace was going even faster so after about 20 miles i had to ask for it to be slowed down as i knew i wouldn't last all day at that speed. Even so, by the time we got to 50 miles i started to get pain in my right knee which was a bit of a concern so i dropped the speed right down & fell off the back of the others.

Was a bit worried about going out again but thought I'd give it a go. Said to Heather i need to take it really slow & she was cool about that & really supportive. Second lap went fine though with no real problems, we had a nice break at a pub in Weeting where the land lady had laid on loads of sandwiches. I think we ate a third of them :-)

Got back & went through the same routine. Chilli for tea in the bar then relaxed & watched the football. Had been a few more drop outs now & there were only 7 left in the full distance cycle challenge. Couple of the army boys doing the marathon challenge were having real bad times with various injuries as well. Only 1 out of the 4 of them completed their challenge in the end.

Day 3

Route - South - Safron Walden

yep, 5.45am wake up blah blah blah.

This turned out to be my worst day where i came closest to quitting after 6 miles, also the longest ride, 124 miles. Few more of us riding in a group today. Consisted of Dan, who had decided to do a 120, Heather & two others, not sure of their names.

Set off ok although my knee was a bit stiff, i had been taking Ibuprofen, paracetamol & smearing my knee in ibru Gel but it still hurt. By 6 miles I'd been dropped off the back & i was finding it difficult to even pedal let alone keep a pace that would get me in within the 11 hours.

The others had waited for me, but i told them to crack on as i wasn't sure if i would be able to get round. Managed to gradually get up to an 11/12mph pace which would just about get me round. There were quite a few good long downward stretches where i could get the speed right up.

Was also suffering from bad stomach pain where i nearly had an accident a couple of times when going up hills. It got so bad i was looking on the side of the road for some newspaper or other suitable wiping material. I did not want to do a Chrissie Wellington & just shit in my shorts on the bike, although the thought was becoming very tempting. Managed to get to the 30 mile checkpoint & dived into the toilet. Diarrhoea was all i needed. Made sure i was totally empty, filled my pockets with spare toilet paper just in case & headed off again.

The rest of the time i had to keep in a real easy gear so i didn't have to press hard. I couldn't stand to get up hills as the knee just gave out. Then the pain would subside for a while followed by an excruciating pain which would run from my knee to my foot. Nightmare, i was in a dark place & really pissed off.

Got back in to HQ after the first lap at 12pm, so first lap had been 5 hours. The two riders who's names i didn't know had binned the second lap due to bike mechanical issues. I decided to go for the second lap but knew I couldn't take much of a break so went straight out, just in case i had major problems. Had to skip lunch & so survived on Gels, toffees & haribo for the rest of the day. Took the second lap easy trying not to put any pressure on my knee & got in at 5.15pm. 45 mins to spare. Happy days for now, but very concerned about day 4.

James & Nicky (Nicky is a fantastic athlete, 5th lady in The Outlaw triathlon this year), a couple i knew from FB, were doing sports massages when i got back so decided to have one to see if it would help my knee. James did a great job removing & reducing the abundance of knots in my legs & stretching me out. This definitely helped make the completion of the challenge possible for me. Note to self is more sports massages.

Everyone was really encouraging & supporting that evening which was really appreciated & meant i would definitely be on the start line in the morning. Said bye to Dan who'd hung around till I'd got back.

Another top meal, lasagna & Jacket potato. Had some live music on that evening, bed by 9.15pm though

Day 4 - final day

Route - East - Lavenham

Had a result in the morning. Paul, one of the marathon challenge runners (this guy must have drank 10 pints a day & still done the marathon the next day) had a load of pills in his tent & some turned out to be codeine that he gave me. Chris another cyclist also brought me some 600mg ibuprofen. So, ate them & set off, just Heather & myself this morning. Stayed together for about 8 miles before i had to slow it down a bit, I'd already said to her in the morning, crack on if i started struggling so she hooked up with Jake (another FB cyber buddy) & his cycling partner, i was on my own again, this suited me fine as you don't have the added worry & stress that your holding others up. Daryl (a guy from Attleborough, used to be a Norwich ABC club rider) & his group passed me a bit later , again with words of encouragement.

My plan was to aim for a 10 hour finish (allowing a spare hour for disasters & stopping), so a normally easy 12mph average would suffice. Was the warmest day which helped, the drugs were helping also  & i came into the 30 mile checkpoint whilst the two other groups were still there, av pace was over 13mph. Quick stop & i even left before Daryl & crew, although they still passed me again within 10 minutes. Drug top up at 10am was just in time as the knee was getting quite painful again. Had a nice young blond lady, (walking a horse) shout to me in her Essex accent that i had nice legs, guess she'll never know how much she lifted my spirits

Arrived back at Barrow HQ, again. all the others were still there. I had to change my shorts as my backside was killing me. Turns out my cheeks are really bruised, hence that pain.

Set off on the final 60 miles at around 12pm, 6 hours to complete the challenge, it all seemed possible now. My immediate thought was 2pm though, when i could take some more pills. Second lap was a real struggle again with the left knee also starting to play up now. Both were so painful it even made me stop at one point. Still, i worked out even with a 7mph average i would still get in now, so cracked on. Pain eased off with light peddling. Came in with over an hour to spare. I was the last 4 day 120 mile challenge participant in. Lots of handshakes & 'well dones' going on.

Final part of the day was a piper leading the 4 day challenge participants in to collect their medal & certificate from Glen.

This is a great event & i would recommend it to everyone.  I want to do all three disciplines now so will be back next year to do the 4 day walking challenge

Getting my medal from Glen

The Great Barrow Challenge Medal

So whats next. Rest for this week then i will begin training for the Norwich Half Marathon.
After that, not sure, but my structured Ironman training begins on January 7th.

Happy training

Join the Facebook Group - The Ironman Journey!/groups/287319678021088/

Say hello on the Fatman to Ironman forum

My charity page for event listings & making a donation

The allotment Journey Blog

No comments:

Post a Comment