Beware Of The Chair!

During their epic journey Brian and Mike could always rely on Ash ‘Beware Of The Chair’ Senyk.  Ash is an Aussie legend and was an amazing support to the guys.  In his blog Ash recalls the first leg of ‘Challenge 126’……… via http://borntorunash.com/

The guys asked me to come along to help out because I had been a good source of running experience, but my ultra running is fairly modest – having only run a few ultras but done about 40 marathons. The task was massive, simply run non-stop from Limerick to Dublin and cover the estimate 126 miles over more than 24 hours. In principal the idea was fairly simple, “you guys are like diesel cars – just keep putting fuel in the tank and do some basic maintenance – and you’ll make the distance.”

What I didn’t realize was that Mike and Brian and the crew would be turning to me every step of the way for advice and solutions. Don’t misunderstand my tone, because I loved every minute of the Challenge, but was pushed to exhaustion myself.

Furthermore, there was a film crew capturing every minute, every footstep of the challenge which meant I spent a good deal of time in front of the camera (which I am a bit camera shy).

Prelude to Challenge 126:

Its easy to forget about the miles these guys had put in befor the run. Early 6am training runs, followed by evening runs in the the darkest, coldest and meanest months of the year. When I was still in bed on those mornings  Mike and Brian were out running.

They also did some Vo2 testing in the DCU lab for a physiological check before the run. While their ‘rock-star’ lifestyles still kicked on in the background with late nights out and film premiers, the lads were dedicated to running and in March did a 54 mile run. I was really happy to hear they successfully made the distance and got a chance to go beyond the 20 mile runs in their normal training. But remember that 54 miles is not even half the distance !!!

As the date fast approached, the guys had started honing in on their gear list and plans as they were laid out. I kept bugging them about the logistics and the plans and it felt like nobody really knew. I was direct to talk with Caroline Foran from entertainment.ie. and my questions were answered.  The guys both had a good planners by their side, Caroline Foran and Caroline Smith. There was also the Special Olympics foundation people who offered ‘hard’ support in terms of accommodation, fuel, food etc etc. We had the filmcrew, including the sound guys as well who contributed to the whole plan. It sounds a bit like planning a launch to the moon; Checklist: Lunchbox packed, spare socks, jacket, batteries for lights, toilet paper etc etc….

So the adventure was ready to start, and the launch party was over so it was time to get on the road.

The Drive to Limerick:

Driving to Limerick from Dublin was extraordinary. I remember thinking while I looked at the road that every single mile driven was going to be slowly returned on the run back to Dublin. The toughest thing was heavy rain and hailstones combined with a  5-10 degrees C temperature. It was really daunting and I could sense the nerves from Mike who had run in similar condition to this and resulted in injury from swelling feet. (See Lapland Ultra Marathon Blog)

The Night before, Breakfast and the Start Of Challenge 126:

Arriving at our hotel in Limerick gave me a chance to learn a bit more about their mental preparation and expectations. Most ‘coaches’ would have done this prior to a mammoth run, but I had been fairly confident they had sorted out their plan while training.

That night chat around the dinner table was fairly light, with the usual jokes and pre-nerves. I kept looking at the weather conditions at met.ie because the rainfall was my biggest concern at this point.

We drove to the start – which was in front of a department store in the middle of Limerick city. The streets were fairly quiet and not many people around, but that soon changed with a good crowd forming fairly quickly.  There had been pretty good coverage in the media about the run, especially on the radio through the station Spin 1038 – where Brian works, and through entertainment.ie.

It was overcast and cloudy that morning, with rain still lingering from the previous day but a bit clearer. I had predicted a change in the weather. Its typical after a good strong weather system of rain you get this broken-up patches of rain and wind. I much preferred this over the previous days constant heavy rain. The lads left with a good pace joined by a couple of runners leading them out of the city of Limerick. The going was fairly slow and the police escorted the way. It was only after about 45 minutes the guys had to stop on the roadside for the first pee. It was the first sign of nerves and anxiety as usually happens before a marathon. I was trying to keep the guys fueled up and eating along the way. I also kept a close eye on the pace – and they commented to others ‘Ash is going to kill us if we keep changing the pace’. It was the first sign that some of the things I had said were settling in.

On the outskirts of Limerick the road turns toward the motorway, when we took a small exit straight onto the R445. It was the original road from Limerick towards Dublin through the back of Claire. The ideal road for lots of miles ahead. With a bit of drizzle and rain the guys were feeling pretty good and the miles ticked away. 10 miles, 20 miles and then the first marathon (26) came up in 4 hours and 30 something minutes. We were in the middle of nowhere at that point. The pace was a bit quick for my liking, and they had already fallen a bit short on the nutritional strategy of 1 litre min per hour and one descent meal per hour. Both Mike and Brian felt bloated and weren’t hungry, a typical feeling when you are taking too many sweets.

*** End of Part 1: More to come ****

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