The week after my 100 mile race past quickly, again wrapping myself up in work didn’t allow me to think about it. I felt I recovered fairly well and quickly due to my job im on my feet all day up and down stairs didn’t give the muscle much of a chance to relax really. My ankles after the race had swollen which I was concerned a bit about but they deflated after a couple of days.
I was on the flight and in the left hand drive car in no time at all, before I knew it I was at the hotel checking out my surroundings that evening figuring out where everything was. Registration wasn’t open till 3pm Friday so I decided to do a wee recce of the first climb and by God was it a climb 4,300ft to be precise I was puffing and panting like an old man walking up a flight of stairs. How was I going to do this in the cut off time?
After my recce I was feeling good, mentally and physically, excited about the new challenge ahead of me the next day. That changed tho, before I went to register I no longer felt positive, no longer happy about being there, about winning this free trip once in a lifetime competition. I know why and I’m not going to share but I wasn’t in a nice place. I’ve always struggled to pull myself out of a slump, as I get older it gets more difficult and takes longer.
After registration I went back to the hotel to have some dinner , pack my bag and prepare for the next day. I prepared for bed, not really thinking about the race, set my alarm on my phone, nice and early but I didn’t sleep well.
Woke up, with my alarm at 4:45am, race started at 6am so I did a bit of foam rolling then headed down for breakfast, there were a few people there and once I sat down I looked around and realised that there weren’t many runner’s there, I glanced at the guy’s watch sitting next to me and it said 6:15am, I was confused, I didn’t have my own watch or my alarm phone it was that point I remembered my alarm phone was still set on UK time, 1 hour behind. Fuck fuck fuckydy fuck… I ran up the 3 flights of stairs looked at my watch and it was 6:20am. Got half dressed into my running gear, grabbed my bag and ran out the door. Driving down the road like Michael Knight chasing a bad guy, all I could think about was “what if they don’t let me start ” I massive feeling if disappointment came over me, not in not starting the race but in myself, how could I have been so lackadaisical? I got to the start line at 6:35am, and tried communicating with the staff on the start line in broken Spanish ( I know no Spanish) so pointed at my watch and said “alarm, British time, ultra race?” The two guys looked at me in shock said something in Spanish which equated to ” O my god, your fucking late” . A quick call to the registration staff and he was there, talking in his walky talky looking all strict, I thought at this point it wasn’t going to happen, so I told him how I came to be there, through a competition all the way from the UK for my 40th birthday, he didn’t understand a word of it. He came off his walky talky and said “ok, you came with me” as he started running past the start line and pointing to a trail, ” you follow the white markers, ok?”.”ok , ok , thank you so much” I said, and off i went down the trial that 40 minutes ago 350, roughly, runners ran together.
I ran along the trail, throwing a red bull down my neck, I had missed breakfast so that would have to suffice. As I approached the start of the climb that I had done a recce on the day begore I started to sip on some tailwind. At the base of that start of the climb was a check point, as I approached I got the same look from the staff there that the two guys had given me at the start line. The good thing about doing the recce the day before was that I knew the route, I knew where and how long was the first accent and where the runnable part was before the big climb so that helped me push, the bad thing was that my legs were sore already.
I got to the cp2 and had caught up with and passed 5 runners, I could relax a little knowing I wasn’t going to get anymore of those looks from the cp2 staff but couldn’t relax about finishing in the cut off time. I pushed hard up the first big climb and across the ridge. It was at this point that I realised the ferocity of this race. The ridges were perilous, the climbs were steep, there was snow sheets that had to be crossed and rock climbs with rope aids. This was not the race that I wanted to be starting 40 minutes late.
I got into a nice flow for a bit feeling better as I passed more runners, it gave me a positive feeling knowing in had started a lot later than them. We had another big climb then it was down hill to the half way cp, the heat was stifling hot in was making sure I was filling up and packing enough water between cp’s and topping up at the mountain waterfalls in between, The water at the waterfalls was ice cold it was lovely to soak a couple of buffs in there one around the neck and the other around the wrist certainly helped me keep cool, as did the sheets of snow that had to be crossed which was sometimes easiest to slid down on your bum, it was also the funnest way untill I ripped a hole in my shorts. As we came down the decent to the half way cp we ran through the hotel I was staying at, for a brief moment I thought about jacking it in there, it would have been so easy to do and I was struggling due to pushing myself to try catch up but as quick as the thought entered I pushed it out, I didn’t come all this way to give up, I was lucky enough to have won this competition I was going to finish it and have something to remember my 40th birthday with.
Half way point, I found some shade, which was at a premium, off with the shoes change of socks emptied all the rocks from the shoes applied some sunscreen and stocked up with cold pasta and fluids. The aid stations were stocked well with fruit, I’m not a big fruit person im pretty fussy when it comes to all food but I tried some water melon and it tasted great, I was sure I had tried this before and didn’t like it, 40 years old and still only discovering standard food!!
I left the half way point full and hydrated, walked for a bit to let the food settle to the base of the next massive climb. By this point I was counting the climbs more than the miles, the gpx route was off a bit so I didn’t trust the mileage, I didn’t have a clue what the mileage was between checkpoints so didn’t want to go on that, the only thing I could properly gauge from the watch and the bib elevation map was the quantity of climbs. So counting the climbs commenced, one big, a few ridges, couple of smaller climbs, small descent, large climb, couple of ridges, small descent, last climb and then home straight decent..
This seems a silly way to mentally gauge and prepeare for the remaining distance of an ultra, but it worked for me. I could see the ridge from the base and all the runners in top looked like ants, I knew it was a long way but told myself you will be up there soon and soon I was. The traverse across the ridges at this point in the race were very precarious, yes the rocks were loose and it was a sheer drop but it was the legs that couldnt be trusted, the quads would give every now and then on a large step down, when they give the knee inevitable also gives which then leads to you doing a Bruce Grobbelaar impression ( spectacular diving save of your own life) so I stepped carefully which added massively to my time but this was time that could save your life so I didn’t beat myself up about it.
I got to the top of the last summit with great relief and some fantastic memories of ridge running and climbs, I checked my Garmin at the top and the eta to the finish was 20:47pm the cut off was 21:00pm. Although it was down hill from there it wasn’t exactly fantastic runnable terrain, loose rocks, large step downs for the start of it. This was it tho, now or never, my legs were feeling good and ready for the last decent, I say they were good but they really wernt I just told myslef that to get them moving and moving they did.
Wasn’t long until I reached good runnable ground nice forest hill trials led onto the last cp then onto a nice dirt track road, my soles of my feet were aching, I certainly had a blister or two but a quick stop at that cp, eta was now 20:35 and I was off, picking up a nice pace on the even dirt track road where I could actually let my legs go with the momentum knowing that it was clear ahead and that if I had to stop for a tree or bunny rabbit I had plenty of time to do so.
The track turned into a pine forest with a nice soft trail, the smell of pine wood was overwhelming, the shade was also welcomed. I had around 3 miles left down this narrow forest trail my eta was down to 20:30pm it was this point I knew I was going to make I was over the moon I picked up the pace enjoying the technical, tree root ridden, narrow trail concentrating and focusing 100% on ever step I took tearing down the trial ellated with excitement.
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