THE SUN LIFE GREAT RACE  – SEPTEMBER 1990

 (or  OLDFIELD  V  CIERPINSKI)

Sunday 16/09

Stage 14  –  Wolverhampton to Birmingham (15.5 miles)

84 starters.

This one worried me. I think I must have used up quite a bit of nervous energy beforehand and feel as though I am running on empty. Strains and stresses of the hard road and in particular the road cambers are taking their toll. Now starting with strains on top of my left foot and around the arch with pain also beginning to creep up the left side of my shin.

Started off at normal steady 5m 50s pace for first mile followed by a 5m 30s second mile before settling down to 5m 45s miling. Got in with a group and pressed ahead with a split off group. Held with them although at times not too comfortable. At other times I really thought I would have to drop back or even drop out. However, I managed to outstay these thoughts and hung in. With 2.5 miles to go and feeling uneasy, I decided to quicken my pace gradually (shorter but quicken my stride length). This paid off and I took 2 others with me. However, I again weakened but not enough for others to catch me. With 600 metres to go, I surged again and passed 3 others. Drained at the end but glad to have made it. Shortly after in changing tent I had a good leg massage which made me and my legs feel much better.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Overall position 72nd Average stage pace = 5m 47s[/dropshadowbox]Later that evening, left shin paining – must take care. Blister on outside of right foot still healing well.

Time:   88m 47s  (Winners time 76m 59s) :  Position  68th : [Cierpinski 86m 36s – 57th ]

Stage incidents

  • This morning Mike McLeod was ordered out of race by John Bicort the Athletes Co-ordinator for allegedly ‘not trying’ although he is on good money to compete (talk of £10,000). However, he was reinstated just before the start of the stage following representation by some of the ‘named’ athletes but for half of his appearance money. I am not being paid to run, just there to take part is enough for me. After all, my travel, hotels and food are being paid for – all I have to do is turn out and compete well above a required standard each day.

If you wish to see highlights (courtesy of youtube) of Stage 14 please click here. (Clip is 4m 46s)

Monday 17/09

Stage 15  –  Solihull to Coventry (10.5 miles)

83 starters.

Surprise, surprise Mike McLeod did not start today!!!

Had physio treatment on my left leg (outside of calf/shin) – seems to have done the trick. Again apprehensive. Have got into the competitive syndrome with those around me from the day to day and in General Classification. Must try and remember they do not matter but what does matter is me finishing well every day, not being ‘broomed’, giving a good account of myself and to be there on the last stage at Westminster, London.

Started off quite well and feeling ok. However, after 2 miles I started experiencing the general fatigue and empty symptoms. Although I tried hard to concentrate and keep the pace up, it was a tremendous strain. However, over last couple of miles I did pick up a few places. I am beginning to lose feeling for this stage race and with racing every day in a state of fatigue both mentally and physically. One pleasing aspect though is that even on the most toughest of stages, I have managed to clock a sub 6 minute miling average. This has to mean something. I am finding out just how much punishment my body can take and this leaves me constantly amazed. Wish I had a longer training build up though before I started this Great Race. I could be stronger and quicker. Some of my runs leave me a little disappointed at times and now I must surely be running on ‘reserve tank’. I am sure that you need a mentally strong capacity to enable you to run in such a race and to race close to a normal standard. However, others, including the ‘big named’ International athletes are suffering just as much and performing just as I am.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Overall Position 72nd Average stage pace = 5m 31s[/dropshadowbox]Anyway, tomorrow is the 2nd rest day – and I really need it. I knew from the outset that the 11th -15th stages (between the two rest days) were going to be very tough but I have got through it. Now just 5 stages to go.

Time: 57m 51s  (Winners time 50m 31s)  : Position 67th : [Cierpinski 57m 14s – 62nd ]

 Tuesday 18/09

REST DAY

Went for walk into Coventry town centre. However, found my legs to be really weary and at a stage of beginning to cease up – a peculiar sensation! When back at hotel had a good massage after lunch and then just rested. Found it difficult to sleep both last night and this night. Not a comfortable hotel this Godiva Hotel.

Wednesday 19/09

Stage 16  – Coventry to Kenilworth (7.3 miles)

83 starters.

Feeling good both in body and mind. This lasted  for all of 2 miles (5m 19s and 5m 23s) but then I began to suffer bodily. Legs just would not co-operate and I started to drift back down the field. Obviously in my state I had gone off too fast. Even chopping my stride length and forcing my body and legs along did not help. This has to be one of my worse race day in this stage race and I can’t even say that I had an easy day. Lets hope tomorrow is different.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Overall position 72nd Average stage pace = 5m 41s[/dropshadowbox]Moved hotels again and this day am sharing room with Kevin Forster. During Monday’s race, he was stung by a wasp on his tongue – well he does have a tendency to race with his tongue out.

Time:   41m 28s (Winners time 35m 33s)  :  Position 74th  : [Cierpinski 40m 08s – 60th ]

Thursday 20/09

Stage 17  –  Daventry to Northampton (13.1 miles)

83 starters  – weather is very cool and damp.

Here we go again – I just can’t seem to be able to raise the enthusiasm for today’s run – a half marathon. After yesterday’s experience I decided to start off steady and run fairly ‘within’ myself. The first mile was at 5m 30s and was near back in a good group of 4 others (Rushmer, Hart, Sinclair from USA and Fry). Feeling relatively easy but still ‘looking for mile markers’. Strongish on hills and pushed pace a bit from 7 miles onwards. Passed a couple of struggling runners but at times found myself having to work to keep up. There was always a largish group in front and these seemed just to pull away even further. In retrospect, I now wish I had tagged in with them from the beginning as I am sure I could have been able to hang in.

However, the object of this exercise is to not race but to run to finish and to finish well without too much of a struggle, particularly as I have missed a lot of training prior to this event. Also I am now aiming to run a good (for me) average pace throughout the entire event. At the moment including today’s stage it is 5m 42s per mile.

I had one of my very few good night’s sleep last night. Tonight we are in yet another hotel but this time have a double room all to myself.

Time: 73m 55s (Winner’s time 63m 38s)  : Position  75th  : [Cierpinski 72m 45s – 65th ]

 

Friday  21/09

Stage 18  –  Milton Keynes Time Trial (6.5 miles)

83 starters  – weather dry but very windy.

The moment of truth! We were set off individually at 30 second intervals and in reverse order (i.e. from last runner to first runner). The course was around a man-made lake on parkland paths. Part of the paths had loose gravel and it was very windy which seemed to be against us for most of the way. This was always going to be a difficult time trial that was akin to that of a road relay leg. Was ok for 2 miles (5m 30s : 5m 34s) then I began to really suffer – my legs would just not respond. They really pained, experiencing signs of seizure around the top of the hamstrings and weaknesses in the quadriceps. However, from 4.5 miles was able to slightly raise my pace. Glad when I reached the tape.

Some notable scalps today (i.e. Cierpinski by 53s, Kosgei by 6s, Gates by 1m 59s etc) but it was said that some went off course, misunderstanding the direction signs and thereby running further. I suppose this could be true.

Overall position 72nd Average stage pace = 5m 44s

Sam Stevenson (Telford AC) ran the course but would not cross the finish line, the reason being that he has knee problems and did not want to be put under pressure to turn out tomorrow. Maybe, but as the clubs 4th man he has let his team down and they have not been able to finish a team in the team competition today and so it will affect the overall team standing and prize money.

 Time: 37m 18s (Winner’s time  31m 26s) : Position  69th  :[Cierpinski 38m 11s – 74th ]

Thoughts:

It seems to be taking me some 9-10 miles to be able to start running well. My endurance base and my age plus all this daily racing looks the likely cause.

Saturday 22/09

Stage 19  –  Hitchin to Knebworth (11.7 miles)

82 starters  – weather is dry but a headwind most of way.

The penultimate stage. After a warm-up felt good. This is a toughish hilly course today but with a headwind most of way. Good start (first mile in 5m 30s) and holding back – then at 3 miles …. wham! Legs and body felt completely shot – just like hitting the wall in a marathon. Ran on memory, just trying to control my leg movements. My mental state was one of negative vibes.

Ran a few miles with Cierpinski but although he tried to encourage me he eventually left me on a downhill. Started to feel better at the 8 mile mark but then really struggled over last mile and in particular over the final ½ mile uphill into the wind. Almost collapsed. This must be my worst day of the tour. What worries me is how am I going to run a 10 mile race tomorrow. Will I even be able to turn out? Linda Moorcroft was great – she looked after me until I recovered. David and his family have become good friends.Overall position 72nd Average stage pace = 5m 55s

Time: 69m 24s  (Winner’s time 59m 18s) :    Position 77th  : [Cierpinski 68m 45s – 72nd ]

Thoughts:       

I think this is a week too long for me as I seem to be getting worse with real fatigue. Normally I would say I’ve gone ‘over the top’ and raced too hard for too many consecutive days. Am just managing to stay clear of injuries and illnesses. My 2 months of good training prior to this stage event is now proving to be not enough for such a series, particularly as I had not been able to do much training/running in the previous 14 months due to injuries. It is now getting to me.

Just one final day to go and over 10 miles on a 9 lap course around Westminster and Whitehall. Still I am  under 6 minute miling (just today at 5m 55s). Including today’s stage, my average for the 212.9 miles is 5m 43.1s per mile. To maintain this average, I need to run at 5m 40s per mile tomorrow (i.e. 56m 41s for the 10 miles). To average 5m 42s I need to run 52m 58s which I know at this stage is out of the question.

 

Sunday 23/09

Stage 20  –  Westminster  (10 miles)

82 starters.

The final stage. I have made it. 25 athletes haven’t – some of them true elite runners, but I have. My family were here to cheer me on and witness my achievement to which has been for me, my Olympics. Plenty of spectators for this 9 lap course.

Was very apprehensive following my draining run yesterday. Ran it sensibly and well and was only lapped by the leaders as they started their final lap (with me still 2 laps to go). The elation at crossing that final finishing line was unbelievable. The emotion within the athletes tent afterwards was a tremendous not to be forgotten experience. This was so even among the truly elite with embraces, handshakes and congratulations all around.

Final overall position 72nd Average stage pace = 5m 33s

I had managed it and at an average pace throughout of 5m 43s per mile.

Time: 55m 30s  (Winner’s time 48m 10s)  :   Position 74th : [Cierpinski  54m 13s – 62nd ]

Overall winner: Paulo Catarino (Portugal) 18hrs 32m 43s (average pace = 4m 59s)

64th  Waldemar Cierpinski (Germany)        20hrs 57m 30s

72nd  David Oldfield (UK Elite/Sheffield    21hrs 13m 03s (average pace = 5m 43s)

So there it is. A one-off stage race that enabled me to meet and race against some established UK and Overseas runners for the glory of it (for me anyway), and to meet and race with a double Olympic Marathon Champion – one of my all time inspirations and now friend.

During one interesting conversation I had on the coach with the East German Kunze I asked him that if his country had not boycotted the 1984 Los Angles Olympics, did he think Cierpinski would have done the marathon treble gold (i.e. 1976, 1980 & 1984). His reply was ‘put it this way, Cierpinski was fitter & stronger than at any time of his previous build ups’. From this I concluded that it was a distinct possibility that he would have actually won it and who am I to doubt it ….

Thoughts:

Next time (if indeed there is a next time), I need to be fitter, stronger and faster over a longer period of time. Also need to work on strong faster hill running both uphill and downhill. However my pace day in and day out has really surprised me. Even my strength on hill running and breaking away from others on the hills with my rhythm was a big surprise. But it did catch up with me in the last week. It proves that your body can excel when called upon under duress and it can take more punishment than what is normally thought possible. The body is an incredible human machine but needs looking after. I am really pleased at having achieved what I set out to achieve 3 weeks ago.

Afterwards.

A disappointing note to finish on was when trying to get my expenses to travel home from London to Sheffield. Was informed that I had to provide the cost and then claim for reimbursement. Fortunately, the coach that was used throughout the Tour was travelling back to base up the M1 and passing Sheffield so I was able to hitch a ride on it but as it turned out, it was not that straight forward as you would expect. After dropping off the Moroccan and Algerian teams at Heathrow Airport and the East Germans at Gatwick Airport it was found that one of the East Germans (Olaf Dorrow) lost his bag containing his money, passport and air-ticket. So some 2 hours later, we dropped him off back at London’s Regent Crest Hotel for the organisers to sort out. Graham, the coach driver had done his best effort to help Olaf with his problem. We then headed for my Sheffield home much later than expected. I was well and truly knackered. And so that’s it………

You Tube highlights click here (see if you can spot Dave around the 6.55 mark)

The Sun Life Great Race – Part #5