We arrived at Hest Bank ( near Morecambe ) yesterday morning and me and Andy looked out over the sands, you couldn’t see Grange that well and the water in the channel in front of us was travelling along at some speed. Em and Pam sat in the car were saying that we were mad and that they were looking forward to sitting in the cafe whilst we ran back across the bay. We had to board buses to get to Flookborough ( about 45 minutes away ), buses were assigned by race number so me and Andy were on different ones.
When we arrived at the start it was blowing a gale, I didn’t see Andy but he managed to find me due to the fact that I was the only person in bright yellow pirate racing gear. “Excuse me but are you a triathlete?” he said, which amused me. A quick safety breifing and pep talk from the Mayor and we were hearded to the edge of the sands and the start line. They announced that due to the heavy rain we would be taking a longer course to get over the sands – great !
About 300-400 runners started on the very narrow, rocky and muddy tractor path down to the sands, it was a complete bottleneck. I got stuck behind two lasses who were moving at snails pace, by the time I got round them and across the first ankle deep gully about 1/2 mile had passed and I’d lost Andy. I presumed that it was because I had slowed drastically and that he was up ahead. It later turned out he’d lost his shoe in the thick sand and had to stop to reteive it, so i spent the whole race chasing a guy ahead of me that had the same vest on as Andy, and Andy was behind me chasing me !
Most of the first half of the race was spent running with the wind which was quite good, watching the patterns the sand storms were making was amazing. I felt strong and every time we hit a river I ploughed into it as fast as I could, that would be my tactics for the race, be strong through the water. I was glad I’d wore my Salomon shoes and sealskinz socks because although they kept getting soaked, they seemed to dry out quickly as well. I’d also put blister plasters on my feet at the points where I’m prone to hot spots and that seemed to work as well, despite running with soaked feet I didn’t get any blisters.
At about 3 miles one of the guts fom Tri-Preston that I swim with passed me, we chatted for a bit and then he went off, I kept him insight for the rest of the race but couldn’t quite catch him. Also the guy ( Gary )from my gym came past and I was determined to keep him in sights, which was easy as he had a neon orange vest on. That was just personal pride, I wanted to be the first finisher from the gym, and I’ve talked to Gary about running and I think he thinks I’m all mouth because he’s about 9 stone of pure muscle, and I had the impression he didn’t think that I could run what I said I could.
We reached the main channel and it was a raging torrent, I didn’t realise it at the time but we were being turned round in a figure of 8 and heading back to the start. We turned into the wind and I just put my head down and ran as strongly as I could, I physically couldn’t lift it because the wind was too strong !! The sand lashed my bare legs and with them being wet started to stick to them. All I could taste was sand in my mouth, yuck. Everyone ahead of me was struggling and I saw this as my opportunity to move up the field, I must have passed about 50 people in the next mile or so, including Gary, and I never looked back. I crossed another channel and was suddenly knee deep in ice cold salt water, out the other side and I was running on my own in no mans land until I caught a runner from Lancaster & Morecambe athletic club. We ran silenty together for the next 3 or 4 miles, all I saw was my shoe laces.
When I did look up I could see the Heysham powerstation on my left, I couldn’t figure out why we were going back in the wrong direction, looking ahead I couldn’t see anyone turning left and heading across the bay, it was very confusing.
I pulled away and was running on my own, my cap blew off and I turned to chase it but in the blink of an eye it was gone, blowing across the sands into no mans land. We headed back towards shore and at that point I thought it must be Silverdale and I’ll emerge on the other siade for the final crossing to Hest Bank. I was totally confused, I fully understand how people get lost out on the sands.
I jumped into what turned out to be the final river crossing and went straight down a gully, neck deep in ice cold sea water. There was nothing more to do other than throw my legs back and launch into front crawl, 3 or 4 strokes later I was out the other side covered in thick black mud and heading for dry land. Running back across the rocks was the hardest part. I turned into the finish in 1:36:15. I was pleased with the time and my strong performance, a bit confused to be back at Flookbrough and wondering how far we’d actually run, turns out it was approx 11 miles. Also I couldn’t see Andy who’d finished in the group ahead of me, then the real Andy came round the corner into the finish. Turns out I’d been chasing the wrong green and white vest !!
I threw on a clean dry shirt and boarded the bus back to Hest Bank with Andy, we were first on so sat on the backseat to get the extra leg room. Andy removed his contact lenses because he had a layer of sand under neath them – ouch !! We both agreed it had been bloody tough but great fun. We also felt sorry for our supporters sat at Hest Bank who wouldn’t see us running at all. Em and Pam, Helen from work, and my mam and dad who had driven past Flookbrough to get to the finish ! Aparently they’d all enjoyed themselves watching the walkers and having a brew in the cafe, so we didn’t feel as bad ! And my mam and dad had had a day out in Morecambe – now thats not something you hear a lot of people say these days !!
It was a tough race, battling the elements, totally different from anything I’ve done before but it was great fun. I understand that health and safety comes first and that it would have been too dangerous to attempt the crossing. There’s unfinished business here though so I will be back ( hopefully next year ) to do the full race.
My legs aren’t as stiff as I thought they’d be, I managed to walk to work this morning, will walk home and then go OW swimming tonight at the lake unless the weather takes another turn for the worst !