Thank you to Learning Tree for once again supporting me in this event

Incredible Raj for waking up for the morning start

Awesome Charlie - who supported me from ckpt 2 to ckpt 3, waiting for over 4 hours at one point

Speed walkers Aunty Margaret and Pops for keeping me company from mid ckpt 2 to ckpt 4

Fantastic Uncle Wayne for supporting me from ckpt 4 to the end

Thanks to the helpers at Ambition Events for waiting for me at each check point.

An Ultra Day

4th February 2008

2nd Feb 06:45 am - beep beep, beep beep.  I roll over and put the alarm on snooze.  5 minutes later, it goes off again.  I hit the snooze button again.  In fact I do this 2 more times.  Finally the zombie gets up at 07:00 and is out the door by 07:20am.  Unfortunately my morning stupor makes me forget my walking poles.  Two previous marathons without walking poles, suffering is good!

Running along Brentford High Street


07:50 am: Arrive at the Premiere Inn Travel Lodge, our start point.  Enough time to pick up my number and head for the toilets before the pep talk at 08:00 from the organizers.  At every race, the toilets are busy.  This one was no exception except we were using the hotel's facilities (nice) instead of porta cabins.  So I'm the only one in the ladies room waiting for a cubicle to come free.  A bloke walks out of the middle cubicle.  I apologise, blush and start walking out the room.  The bloke smiles sheepishly and says "you haven't got it wrong, you're in the right room"!  Guess that's pay back for the times the women use the gents.  Just wished he hadn't peed on the seat.

08:05 am: Still in a morning daze, I wait until it seemed most of the runners were in front of me, before pulling out my pet.  However, was spotted by the organizer who requests to do a 10 second interview.

I blurbed something out.  Not sure if it was coherent.

Mornings urgh!

The route ahead. (Locks just past Hanwell)

Start to Checkpoint 1: Barriers

08:15 am: The run starts, and having moved only 10 metres a voice calls out.  Rajdeep had turned up and accompanies me for a mile, helping me carry Teddy (my tyre) over the first barrier gate. (Thanks Raj. Hope you didn't get a ticket on your car).

Had to manoeuvre Teddy thru approx 5 sets of barrier gates.  Initially I lifted it over the first 2 gates using the strings connected to the box (which will be my downfall later), and later decided to kick it thru (sorry Teddy), coordinating thru the opening and closing of the gate.  Dragging Teddy up an incline is bad enough but lifting - urgh!  Thankfully it was cold enough for some ice puddles to have formed, which helped the tyre to glide more easily.

The connection to my climbing harness was reminding me that my back will eventually become sore, so decided to change the way my harness system was set up, connecting the rope to my back pack instead.  This felt much easier on the back.

Notes: The route to Tring is a gradual incline all the way.  Thankfully it has long stretches of flat paths and the "up" parts are short, mainly limited to the areas by the locks.

Canal boats - the canal's main traffic

Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2: Power On

I readjusted my harness system again to balance the load properly on the back pack.  Unfortunately, I noted that the string connections to my box were not doing so well.  They were loose due to having carried them over the barriers and the bottom of the box was becoming soggy due to the puddles of water I'd dragged them over.

Leaving Uxbridge, I called Charlie, telling her that I'd probably arrive about 13:45 at ckpt 2.

I arrive early at 13:20 and was apparently 10 minutes behind the last set of runners.  I was catching up!  Charlie arrived about 5 minutes later with a bag of goodies.  I drank a mug of hot chocolate and a bottle of chocolate milk and ate a muffin.  Another bottle of water, chocolate milk and the last 2 muffins are chucked into my box.

Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3: Disaster

The tranquil scenery along route and after a heron flew out about here

On a high that the last set of runners are less than an hour away, I give Aunty Margaret a call to let her know that I'd be at ckpt 3 at approx 15:30 to 16:00.  The hot chocolate and muffin were kicking into my system.

Box Disaster

About 2 miles on, I greet a father and his sons who are collecting wood.  As I pass him, he calls out "excuse me I think your food supplies have fallen out". 

The bottom of my box had got so wet, that it had partly collapsed.  The pieces of string that were holding onto the box were now tearing thru the box.  The kids kindly picked up the contents that were now strewn along the path which I stuffed them into my backpack.  I tighten all the bits of string, regretting I had not done my double reinforcement that I had done for New York.  Oh well, I thought, I hope it lasts.

The father saws off a bit of plywood and puts it at the bottom of my box, asking me if I was in some type of strange race.  I laugh saying yes - it's a 40 mile race and I'm looking after the back.  He turns round to his sons (who are trying to pull out a tree stump from the overgrowth) and tells them "that's the way to train if you want to be strong"! Laughing and thanking them all, I go on my way.

Route Diversion

Red dots indicate suggested excursion detour

I'm not exactly sure when I got off the route.  I thought the whole path would be obvious.  However, I found my route appeared to ascend up a small slope behind a housing estate and into a small woodlands.  I saw a signpost indicating directions to Croxley/Watford.  I knew the river should be close, and it was.  I was above it on high grounds in a woodlands.  This was feeling wrong but I continued.  The first passer-by I met, I asked him where the tow path was back along the Grand Union Canal in the direction towards Birmingham.  He looked at me very strangely. 

Passer-by: "You going all the way with that?"

Me: "Well not quite just to Tring"

Passer-by: "Are you in a race?"

Me: "Yes, do you know the way to the Grand Union Canal?"

Passer-by: "Yes it's about a mile on.  Look for 2 bridges and there'll be a path on the left after the second bridge"

I quickly thank him, and move on.  After the second bridge, I still don't see a path on the left leading to the canal.  I stop a lady with a pram who happened to be passing by.  She corrects me, letting me know the path was suppose to be on my right leading back to the canal......and it was.  There was a sign post to London along the tow path and then I knew I'd done a diversion.

Then the ground became really sticky with mud.  Wearing road shoes I slipped and slid around for a couple of hundred metres.  The tyre was okay, perhaps it had a little more drag now going through the puddles of water.

Aunty Margaret called me an hour later, letting me know they had arrived.  Was only at Watford at that time and had no idea how far away I was from them.  Charlie called me asking me where I was and that a couple and their dog were also looking for me.

I tried to move faster but "mud, mud glorious mud" was continually slowing me down.

Somewhere close to Langleybury, Aunty Margaret and Pops Alan appeared with Mags (their dog).  It was great to see them.  They supplied me with another bag of food and hot water.  I gratefully took a cereal bar and tuna rolls.  Half a roll felt so good on the stomach.

We were still just over 4 miles away from the checkpoint.  Aunty Margaret put on a great pace to ckpt 3 where we met Charlie who despite waiting 4 hours and looking cold, supplied me with more hot water and moral support.  Charlie left us at this point, however Aunty Margaret and Pops still had a couple of miles to return to their car.

I was now about 1 hour and 40 minutes from the last set of runners.

Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4: Companions

About a mile and a half further on from ckpt 3, we had arrived at Aunty Margaret and Pop's car location.  At this stage, it was time for the box to move on to a recycle station.  It was sad for Teddy to lose its friend after all the time in New York and today but I know that Pop's would take the box to a good place.

The twilight was now fading into darkness.  So after a short break and being concerned, Aunty Margaret decided to accompany me and take Mags for a longer walk.  We would meet Pops at ckpt 4.  Uncle Wayne called to say he would be there at ckpt 4 as well and would also be there when I hit the finish line.

Aunty Margaret set a great pace.  I had to jog a little to keep up with her and quickly warmed up again. With a darkening route, the head torch came on.  However as we approached Berkenhamstead, switched off the light to appreciate the twinkling lights the town offered. We met Pop's on the bridge next door to the town's train station.  He had walked back from ckpt 4 along some pretty dark stretches and amazingly had not tripped over a tree that had fallen in the way.

2 miles later we met Uncle Wayne, and Quentin - an organiser who decided to wait for me at the last checkpoint.  He was keeping warm in his sleeping bag.

Checkpoint 4 to Finish - Pendley Manor Hotel, Tring

Mel can finally rest after a 05:30 am start to her day

I thought there was another 6 miles to go and thus would not make sub 12 any more, so decided to have a quick chat to all and farewell to Aunty Marg and Pops.  Then Quentin tells me it's only approximately 3.5 miles, and now my head is confused.  There is a slim possibility that I could make it.  However, I have just added another 10 - 15 minutes onto my time.

I returned to the canal tow path and finally got to the end destination, Pendley Manor.

Only Uncle Wayne greeted me.  No one else was around as they were expecting me 15 minutes later. 

Waiting at the reception area, a tub full of jelly babies had my name on them.  As I picked out a handful, I was caught red handed by Mandy.  Rory followed soon after and grabbed me by my hand saying I was just in time and to go with him quickly.  I was led into a room full of people....."and this is the lady who has completed 40 miles dragging a tyre"

Some other enlightening moments during my trek from ckpt 2 to ckpt 3

Passing a pony tailed guy with sunglasses on his camouflaged netted canal boat

Guy takes off his sunglasses as I approach and says "I won't ask it because everyone has probably asked you.......<pause - I smile>.  I nearly lost my boat watching this beauty come towards me <pause - I laugh and start to pass him>.  Okay what are you really doing?  No don't tell me I'll guess.....  Can I have your number?"

Laughing I respond: "Later I got a race, see you at checkpoint 3"

Passing a man with a group of 4 teenage lads. 

He turns round to the lads and says "See that, that's what we're doing at our next football training session.  We'll be dragging tyres so you can also become big and strong"