This is my 3rd Ultra – why?
I think the answer to why takes a long time to discover, after many years playing football I finally quit due to not enjoying it anymore.
I started cycling with Luctonians cycling club, and also tried mtb for a while before trying my luck at triathlon with Teme leisure tri club which was ok but after having a panic attack during the lake swim of the middle distance Shropshire triathlon, I’m thinking it’s not for me, I did complete the tri though.
While I was with Teme tri I joined Ludlow running club which I quite enjoyed and started competing in races like Storm the Castle, the Ludlow 10 and cross country.
I decided I’d like to have a go at a marathon so entered the Worcester Marathon and set myself a time of 4hrs but just fell short with a time of 4.10, but the sense of achievement from finishing that run was overwhelming even though it was quite hard due to the heat and hills.
Maybe this is where the Why comes into it.
I start talking to friends and Croft Ambrey running club are recommended, I get transferred from Ludlow, but while I’m enjoying the coaching and training, I’m finding the 10k races a bit full on for me.
I am inspired by everyone at Croft, by looking at all their activities on Strava, I decide to enter my first ultra-marathon, it was the black mountains 50k run by trail events.
While it was hard, I really enjoyed the challenge and I’ve finally found what I enjoy doing.
My other ultra was in November, another 50k this time over Pen Y Fan then 2 weeks later I did the Snowdonia Marathon which was brilliant.
So here we are for my longest ultra yet. So does it explain why I do it?
I suppose if you don’t run these different distances it’s hard to explain the WHY.
Anyway, so my race started on Friday morning Jan 24th packing my gear because I was working the late shift on Friday. Getting home on Friday I checked my gear again knowing that I would check it again on Sat morning. I am told there are a few others at Croft that keep checking gear. I was in bed by 2130 and asleep within minutes – never a problem sleeping for me.
I was up early at 0400 – I don’t know why it takes me an hour to get our of the door – food and kit check again. Out at 0500.
Arrived at the finish point (we were due to get buses to the start line) at Lifford Memorial Hall, Broadway 0620 .There were quite a few competitors already parked and checking their kit. This prompted me to check my kit again – yes all good.
Two buses took us to the start at Droitwich Lido, where I registered at the Bandstand in the dark and freezing cold. No food, no warm drinks no shelter, just toilets with the Conga queue already well established.
I love chatting – and there were plenty of folk around to speak too – some newbies and other veterans. I was getting nervous and couldn’t help but size up the opposition. Some of the runners were surprised how small my hydration pack was – what had I forgotten? Nothing I had checked it enough and was sure I had everything I needed. i think looking at their packs they were carry a bit to much, I then thought to myself they intend it being a long day.
My approach was to break this Ultra into 3 sections, one for each check point.
Start time 0830 and we were off. I had downloaded the GPX file to my Garmin watch – Aagh it was not working and wanted to send me back to the start – I decided to follow the leaders down a canal path and then into a field. I follow them into a muddy field and notice others running along a path on the other side of a hedge. So 40 odd of us pop through a hole in the hedge and re-join the route. I stopped at this point after 1.45 miles to reset the Garmin because I can’t afford to keep going wrong today. There must have been 50 people pass me whilst I was stopped – this was annoying. The reset worked and proved to be reliable from now on.
My target time was 10 ½ min miles and get to first check point after 9.2miles.
My pace was slowed by the most horrendous mud – so I decided to forget the target pace, I just want to get to the check points as best as I can.
The going was horrible – mud – field – mud – Garmin bleeping every mile, I actually like the bleeping, it keeps me company and I find the info reassuring.
Checkpoint 1, 9.2m arrived after 1hr 41m – feeling good, strong and happy with my new mindset of ignoring pace and feel more relaxed just going with the flow.
Routine is to fill my bottles with water and the other with orange squash, mini pork pie and flapjack – a quick stop. There were 15 other runners at this check point and we were all overwhelmed by the mud and physical effort required to keep going.
On the way to check point 2, I joined up with 3 other lads. We ran together for about 5 miles, a little bit chatty, mostly about navigation with our Garmin’s, but I mostly hung off the back of their group.
We hit a short section of tarmac – I hate to say it but it felt great and a real relief from the endless mud.
I pushed on a little quicker than the lads, my Garmin was giving me confidence and my legs kept going.
Checkpoint 2, 21.2m after 4 hrs 05mins – looking back I am really surprised how quick this has been and find myself 44th out of 150 – this was a real boost to my spirits and I felt uplifted.
Routine – fill bottles, mini sausage rolls, peanuts, flapjack and jelly babies and time to put on some dry socks. It might seem mad to put on dry socks but it gave me more feel-good factor and renewed determination. The lads come into checkpoint 2 at this point and left ahead of me whilst putting my shoes back on. I wasn’t bothered by them coming past me whilst I was tidying myself up.
On to the 3rd and final checkpoint – I soon passed the lads again who were slowed by one of their group. I pressed on.
I met up with Duncan Jenkins from Worcester Tri and we ran together for most of the remaining distance. And another guy Mark Rooke Rhonda Tri joined us and we chatted about our experiences.
Running through the centre of Pershore all we could see was Bredon Hill (299m) which was looming out of the fog ahead and was the highest part of the route. It’s quite disheartening to be running in the wrong direction – about 3 miles away from the Hill, around farm land and yet more mud.
Eventually we appeared at the base of Bredon Hill, a real slippy section and I was forced to grab a fence to keep myself upright. It looked massive ahead of us.
The mud disappeared at the top of the hill and we passed the Tower across Kemerton Camp (ancient hill fort) was quite a nice walk come jog.
The checkpoint 3 was at the bottom of the hill so only 2 miles to get there.
Checkpoint 3, 33miles in 6 hours 50 mins, position 41st – we arrived as a group of 3. Repeat drink and food routine, added some crisps for salt, flat coke.
The light was starting to fade, fog was descending – the winter sun was dropping in the sky – I was hoping we get back before dark. Mark Rooke set off on his own at this point, I could see Duncan who had met with his wife and he was not looking too good so I left and decided to catch up with Mark with just 7 miles to go.
My legs were really feeling it now, watch beeps again, showing me we had only 5 miles to go, then Duncan catches up with us, just as we are taking a muddier route.
15.45 surprisingly 2 of the 3 lads I had run with earlier came past me – we exchanged words of encouragement, 2 miles to go, the sun has dropped below the horizon, just showing me enough light to see other runners ahead. I was not going to catch them.
I had a final word with myself – keep going to the finish line. Then one of the two lads that passed me then came back with his medal – he said was going to look for the 2nd member of their group who had got lost. But he then decides to run back to the finish with us – not sure what happened to his mate after all.
1 mile to go – false finish – it’s a bit further and passed where my car was parked to the finish.
3 or 4 members of the public applauded as finished.
It felt awesome with my medal and time sheet – 8 hrs and 39 mins, 44 th of 150, only 96 finishers, and my event was over at 17.10.
We enjoyed a coffee and pasty at the finish. My glutes were aching from Checkpoint 3 and at the finish my hamstring was tight too.