I have had time to digest the experience of my first ultra. What have I learnt.
Miles or kilometres training does not quite prepare you for the full experience. I have a history of life’s highs and lows but an ultra puts that in the context of a walk/run sustained over a constant period of time.
After some faux pa’s at start – wrong shoes, forgot water bottle eventually got to start – off we go – no music or fanfare – next year Jamie?
The first few miles consisted of chatting to whoever would listen and vice versa. But then the serious business of hills and more hills kicked in. This began to whittle the field down into friendship groups and individuals. I found myself hooking up with a group of four and one other runner. This lasted to CP 2 and then it was just two of us.
I was three hours in and on target for CP 3 in fours hours as per reccy. However, by this point I had met Ian, who had a watch that navigates, and he was hobbling due to calf pull. So as I pushed on I was concerned about Ian. Fortunately he reached CP3 and we set off together now a friendship was developing. Incidentally I reached CP3 in 3hr 40mins – felt OK but not for long.
The next two hours were about putting one foot in front of the other. Early training days I had designs on 7hours to finish but quite soon I amended that to closer to nine hours. So we plodded and plotted along to CP 4 and The Miners Arms, Hundall – great real ale pub (personal recommendation) but back to the race and the inclines had taken there toll and I had hit the wall. I knew this would happen but coupled with my ill preparation on knowing the Jamie Glazebrook version of The Round Chesterfield Walk I was worried and hence why I stayed with Ian. Thanks Ian.
My insistence earlier that day that my poorly wife, Vicki, be at Brimington CP 4 was my motivation to keep going. We climbed through the least picturesque part of course, Brimington Estate, and approached the checkpoint. We bumped into Lucy, with Ben trailhound, who had done 1st leg of relay, and she told us Martin, my mate and Vicki were at checkpoint. This lifted my tired spirits and legs. The second half was about to start and fresh socks would be on my feet – Top Tip. Also dry t-shirt, replenish tailwind – why not available at checkpoints – Jamie? So we sat drank, ate and chatted regaled stories of the previous miles and were wished – ‘Good Luck’ as we left for Sutton Scarsdale and the final push. We were down to a snails pace by now. I was hydrated, fuelled and felt the benefit but only briefly after each checkpoint until the rot set in and strolling set in as opposed to purposeful walking – race walking even. I have learnt to vary your foot plant during ultras to reduce the impact on the same muscles, etc. So heel strike downhill, toe strike if feelingvspritely but mostly midfoot strike. All engage different parts of legs and provide some light relief relative to the distance covered. The notion of fuelling with food does not seem to work for me – more practice and trial and error to find what works for me. I did notice Ian, who recently did MdS, was sipping tailwind I frequently and only eating at checkpoints.
By know Ian and myself had shared many stories, experiences covering running, triathlon, employment, homes, children, partner/wife, etc. This chatting, having someone with you must help the mind games in your head especially if you are out there a long time. Jim NO one had caught us up at Brimington checkpoint but was no where to be seen now. We were pretty much on a gentle stroll as we wondered why we past the composting plant but went back up the road to pick up trail? This was all new to me as my reccy runs had missed this bit of course. Mental note to self must do better on navigation or wing it. Speaking of winging it – Well done Gav Wing – all that biking to/from work must be good training 😉.
Onward and upward to final checkpoint and another sit down picnic lunch including some staples coke, banana and water. I did not bother with cake, sweets, nuts, crisps, etc maybe this is the answer, not. The last three miles was upon us and I had promised myself I would try to run them. I beckoned Ian and off we set. Initial push was good but faltered. We both phoned respective wives and made arrangements for pick up. I was conscious of breaking nine hour mark so kept making us run, Ian had done the same earlier in day so joint effort. We duly got to end of five pits trail and only a short pavement run to the finish. Applauded in by a small band of supporters was a welcome sight. The nine hour mark I enquired only 37 seconds over – get in! So there you have it Couch to Ultra and then after food and drink back to Couch for rest of evening. To finish is to win. 😎
Postscript – 1st run Thursday – painful hip joint probably inflammation – ice pack on it.
Already planned training for Louise Smalley Walk Saturday 23rd June 40m – Ultra No. 2.
Last, but not least, Big Thanks to
Jamie and Clare for organising race
All helpers for encouragement and standing around
My wife Vicki for finally supporting me on route
All other runners for chatting, being comradely and enduring an ultra
Anybody who reads this blog. 😎