Quite frankly, I'm in bits!
The race finished well over 2 days ago and on Sunday Niamh initially remarked how good I looked compared to my previous two 24 races. However, it was not going to last. One day later and I was aching all over the place, with the right shoulder (!?!) being particularly sore, but the right Achilles was just brutal. The journey back home was very uncomfortable, especially on the flight from Turin to London I just could not get comfortable, no matter what I tried. The second flight from London back home was better but still no bed of roses.
My feet, on the other hand, have swollen by about 2 sizes, which makes wearing the shoes, any shoes, really uncomfortable. The security guard in Stansted asked me to take off my shoes - of all the times I have flown, this was the one time they asked me to take them off! Putting them back on was torture.
By the way, I hate Stansted airport and the way they force you to walk across the entire damn building past all the shops on your way to the plane. It was a very long, slow and painful walk.
I am coughing a lot and I don't feel too well. Niamh is actually worried I might have pneumonia and said I felt roasting hot last night, though I slept through that. I did notice that my top was completely soaked in the morning, though. For the record, I'm absolutely sure it's not pneumonia but I have certainly acquired some respiratory tract infection, which is quite common after races, the more so after long ultras.
Looking back, most of all I am satisfied. Even though nobody ever said a word, I felt a bit under pressure to justify my place in the Austrian team, coming in as a complete outsider. My team mates, the crew and the team manager are all exceptionally sound people and never made me feel any less than a full part of the team but after coming home as our second runner I can now tell myself that my selection was fully justified. Even though the 2 best runners in the Austrian team were unable to finish the race we achieved the best team result since 4 world championships ago - it might have been below the initial high expectations (top 10) but it sure was not for lack of effort.
I placed ahead of the likes of Ivan Cudin, the reigning Spartathlon champion, and Marco Consani of the very strong British team, and just a whisker behind Yoshikazu Hara, the overwhelming favourite. Obviously I am not suggesting for even a second that I am anywhere near those guys in ability but on the day the course provided a few surprises.
My ambition had been to finish in the top 50, which I obviously missed. It was always a rather ambitious target and to be honest I don't mind at all. I ran as hard as I could have and I do have the scars to prove it.
I might have started a bit too fast (more of that in part II), but I was 115th after 5 hours, 94th after 11, 76th after 16, 64th after 20 hours and 60th at the end, which is rather steady progress through the field.
I have no idea when I'll run again. After Belfast I was planning on taking 2 weeks off but after 10 days Niamh threw me out of the house telling me not to even think of coming back within an hour. I'll play it by ear. Since I am presently barely able to walk, running is completely off the menu for a while anyway.
The spirit of international friendship was exceptional in this race. I got on particularly well with the Taipei team, the single runner from Mongolia and the Americans - Maggie Guterl especially is my new favourite ultra runner. Thanks for all the encouragement and especially the big hug at the end, Maggie!