Saturday 21st 2018 April seen me take on my 4th Ultra this year as part of my one ultra a month challenge.
I had not trained as much as I would have liked to for this, my “balancing” ( training and everyday life) is just a joke really, training is always secondary for me and so gets put at the bottom of the to-do list, and occasionally jumps the list when I can squeeze it in but leading up to the race I felt good mentally. Normally I start getting excited around three days before an event and knowing the weather was going to be nice for this one certainly added to the excitement. I’d missed running in the sun, as did we all I think.
The morning of the race I was “faffing”. I had all intentions of making the start line in plenty of time so I could relax but the dreaded snooze button was activated, several bloody times. So I got up, eventually, and got the most important part sorted-breakfast which consisted of 3 Weetabix with a spoonful of Chia seeds, a bowl of porridge with syrup and another spoonful of chia seeds, a strong filtered coffee and a small flap jack bar, with, yes you guessed it, chia seeds. I had prepped up my water bottles the night before, with active root, tailwind and water, so launched them and a few other bits into my bag and shot off out the door.
Whilst driving the 45 min trip there, I consumed 500ml of active root and around 250ml of water, this obviously meant the trip there was going to then take 55 min, as I had to pull into the petrol station 5 miles from the start and pee but it also gave me a chance to pick up a cheeky wee espresso as the late night, lack of sleep and early morning was already catching on me. I made it to registration just in time to get my bib and the start of the briefing, I say “start” of the briefing as the problem with consuming a lot for breakfast means that you gotta deposit a lot before your run! I couldn’t have timed it better really as everyone was listening to the “follow the orange arrows” and “mind the road crossings” I’ve heard this so many times- meant the toilets were free which brings its own excitement all on its own. There is nothing worse than standing in that queue waiting to be the 10th person to go. My friends, Paul and Luisa were somewhere there, which I was supposed to catch up with well before this point but the poop came first.
I knew I’d d see them somewhere on the 38 mile route anyway. So I gets to the start line for the ” 10, 9, 8….” countdown and bump into them, which was great. We all set off together.
I had planned on running with them for a while to catch up and then run my own race, our paces are a bit different plus I had set a new average pace time on my Garmin so was against the “virtual pacer”. We all ran for a bit, laughing and joking, having a great time, I don’t think one of us looked at our watches for around the first 8-10 miles or so. I very rarely run with friends in races because I’ve been so used to running myself since I started, that it’s the norm for me now, plus not many of my friends are daft enough to be up at 5am on their day off to run ultra’s but the best thing that I miss about running with friends is running becomes easy, almost effortless and even more fun. We parted ways around 12 miles I think and I saw Luisa at the finish line where she told us that Paul had to pull out around 24 miles- the heat was tough and he really wasn’t feeling well.
So it was hot, hot, hot, damn it was hot, did I mentioned that it was hot? I’m originally from Scotland, so not used to the heat, and it felt like I was in a sun bed, in a steam room at times. Part of the route was through forest trails which was absolutely fantastic, the shade was awesome but there was around a 4 mile stretch along the open canal trail that was murder, not even a skimpy bush or limp tree offered any shade at all. The only plus I devised from it was I could see the photographer a mile away so managed to prep myself for the ” race smile ” and “run strong ” photograph.
Hydration was certainly the key on the day- it was by about the third aid station, roughly 18 miles that I had consumed my first 500ml of tailwind, one lucozade gel along with 500ml of water. Id been drinking small cups of coke and water at the aid stations and ate my pepporami and grilled chicken fillets between the 3rd and 4th station. Another 500ml of tailwind was put into one flask and water into the other as I left the 4th station at around 23 miles. The 5th station was supposedly 8km from the 4th, but it was certainly longer, it was that stretch that the heat was at its peak, the trail turned into part road/hard gravel, my tailwind and water were gone in no time at all, I’d paced myself drinking it so that I would make the station just as I’d finished them, but the station wasn’t there at the 8km. I’d end up running/walking another 3/4km till I got to it. Leaving the last station at roughly 31 miles, I had 500ml of active root, and 500ml of water in my vest, I’d taking in around 500ml of water at the station along with a couple of cups of coke and some cola bottles from the sweet box. I was feeling some pain in my ankles by this point- not so much from running injury but from my big goofy feet clipping them every now and again when I ran: it was an annoying, and painful habit. My thighs were aching a bit so I was walking the slopes and hills and picking up the pace on the descents- which was going ok. Two high 5 gels were taken between the last station and finish, which helped a lot to take my mind away from the painful parts and focus.
The last stretch for me is always a great part of the race, it’s the time where I feel a wonderful surge in energy and happiness, knowing that I am there, that the finish line is just round the corner, and that I have put my mind to something and achieved it. My wife and kids were there this time to meet me which helped throughout the race, especially at the end, there is no greater feeling than having your loved ones there to congratulated you with big hugs at the end. For me the longer the ultra distance the larger this surge becomes towards the end. For the last mile of my UTMB CCC I was an emotional wreck, have you ever tried to run and hold back tears of joy, it’s not easy. (involuntary snots appear). When I came round onto the home straight to complete the 101km Alpine race I was in tears, crossing the line like a blubbering school child. I always get welled up thinking about that event.
So my next ultra takes me to Wales, where I will be running in the UK’s first alpine style race- the 50 mile Ultra Trail Snowdon, SILVA UTS 50 . I am so looking forward to this but I better get a few more hours under my belt before then so I’m doing the wings for life in Richmond in a couple of weeks to keep the legs moving.