A very different race this, second time around....
May 11th 2013, first ultra, first trail race, first big race without any friends or family around. Nervously arriving at Race HQ at 7am and entering a hall full of hardened experienced ultra runners talking about the Fellsman and Hardmoors and all of these other races that I'd only read about in magazines and to me at the time seemed way beyond anything I'd ever do.
May 11th 2014, a few races later, rocked up, looked around, loads of friendly faces, runners. Simple as that. Sat down, looked through the maps etc again and chatted to the runners around me. Turned out the guy sitting beside me had read my race report from last year. So, bearing that in mind, I'll try to watch my language on this one :-)
We didn't have race bibs this year, which was a pity as I like to keep them, instead we got a nifty wrist tag thing which was swiped at each CP. I wore mine till this evening (2 days later) as I didn't want to cut through it, but I eventually managed to stretch the ribbon a bit and get it over my hand. I'll keep it in lieu of a bib. And maybe wear it at weekends lol.
Quick race briefing and off we went at 8am into the rain. The first couple of miles were an out and back narrow sandy trail. Same as last year I went out a bit too quick, but it felt ok so I went with it.
A few miles of trails and running through woods and fields, the rain had stopped and it was feeling quite warm so I took off my smock. Had a real high at around the 10k mark, one of those raise your arms in the air and whoop moments. CP1 was at 8.2 miles, I got here half an hour ahead of the time I'd estimated beforehand, but felt good so wasn't too worried. I stopped and got busy sending a text, one of the volunteers asked "are you sending an email?!". "Nah, gotta write my blog" says I. I think he believed me :-) Filled the water bottles up, bemoaned a chipped nail and off I went again.
Next CP was 10 miles away. I'd been very disappointed to hear from my wingman Ian a few days before that he was injured and would have to pull out of the race. I realised that today was going to be a tough one mentally if I'd to run alone for the whole 40 miles but with such a small field it was more than likely and so I'd just have to MTFU and get on with it.
Made my way to the infamous turn off in the vicinity of the Major Oak, where last year I'd diverted to take a photo and disoriented myself completely. This year I just said "yeah Tree I've been there, got the photo, laters" and successfully found the right path.
I knew that it was a pretty straightforward run for a few miles now to the next marker so my plan was to just zone out here and relax and run for a while without having to check anything. Grand, till a spider dropped on me from the sky and shocked my bladder into overdrive. Bastard. Road on the other side of the hedge and a wire fence and trees to the other side. Fuck it, I needed to go. So I went. Luckily no-one came along. I met a dog walker shortly afterwards. He'll never know what he missed!
Another high running through some truly lovely woods, happily going along thinking ooh how lucky am I to be here doing this.....
... Mile 15 suddenly felt sick as an effing pig. It was a bit humid but I hadn't a headache, it didn't feel like the overheating type sickness I'd had at SDW. Just a "I'm going to puke now" feeling. That was minging, so I decided to walk for a bit till it passed. Took out my bag of crisps but they didn't help. Mile 16 "Wish you were here" started on the iPod and I burst into tears. Christ Almighty. The sickness eased off a bit so I started running again. Took a wrong turn, realised fairly quickly, luckily, and turned back.
Arrived at CP2, which was CP1 approached from a different direction. I'd to whack more tape on the knee at this point as it was being a gimp so I asked the lady to fill my bottles while I did that. Ate some banana and off I went, 6 miles to the next CP and the luxury of a real indoors toilet woohoo. I think it was along here there was quite a stretch of country road, which fucked me off as I really didn't feel like bloody road running. A man strimming a hedge or doing something grassy at the other side of the road said hello and then asked me about the race, I was quite happy to stop for a bit and take a break from running on this poxy road. His cousins are Irish. I don't remember how that came up.
So a bit more road type crap and then back on trails and I was at the halfway point :-) and then you'd to cross a lane and go onto a track to the side of a cottage. Got there and there were a few cottages going up the side of a hill. Buggered if I could remember which cottage to go to the side of so I decided I better run up the hill and check them all. Having done that the first one seemed the most likely culprit and, as I was deciding to go that way, another runner came along and confirmed that this was the one.
Ah, the lovely Rachel, within a few sentences she'd cursed several times and I knew we were going to get along. She appeared at just the right time too as I was fucked off with how much the knee was already aching so the distraction of having another human being around was marvellous.
So we ran and chatted and got to CP3. Rachel's parents and husband were driving around in support, we used the luxury loos at Cresswell Crags then had a quick catch up. Rachel's Mum gave me a delicious cakepop, as I was eating it a quarter fell off onto the ground, "5 second rule!!!" shouted Rachel so I grabbed it up again. Would've been a sin to waste it. Changed my socks here, they were pretty damp and muddy, and off we went.
|Blair Witch Tree|
6 or so miles later Rachel announced she'd now done her furthest distance ever, which quite surprised me as she seemed very calm and experienced at this lark. Underfoot was muddy, boggy and wet, in varying degrees. I managed to sink into a few boggy bits so the change of socks was redundant quite quickly. Ah well. Got to the start of Limetree Avenue, which I had not been looking forward to at all, and this year it was 2 miles instead of 1, so double the fucking grim.
|Limetree Avenue - looks pretty doesn't it. Nah. It's a bastard.|
And Ian yes it wasn't just us last year, it was neverending and shite this year too! Got off it eventually thank God. I'd another hummus wrap and very shortly afterwards felt sick again. I do have to wonder if it was the hummus. Never been a problem before but who knows.
At this point I was running like an automaton, just get me to the fucking CP and get me some Cola, some banana, anything to make this feeling go away. Rachel's Mum came along the trail a bit to meet us, couldn't even talk to the poor woman, good thing Rachel was still upbeat and smiley. Got swiped at the CP then went off into a corner to puke. Didn't eat anything there. Got the water bottles filled up, we crossed the road and set off again.
We were both tiring now, "fuck the trees, fuck the mud, fuck the woods and fuck Robin Hood" was the general feeling and we did shout some of that aloud, which made us laugh. Thank God I had company during those last 10 miles especially, because all I really wanted to do was vomit and have a nap, whereas the sight of Rachel soldiering on made me soldier on. Got sick again in a field, sorry Rachel for subjecting you to that, and then took a bastard wrong turn or missed a turn or did something wrong anyway along here again. We got ourselves back on track after a bit of faffing through fields and eventually met up with Rachel's family at the point they'd arranged to see her, so that was pretty nice. Rachel the little angel had Kendal mint cake in her pack, which was an absolute godsend as I'd been wishing for a mint or anything to clean my mouth out with, I couldn't have been happier if she'd pulled out a toothbrush and toothpaste on the trail!
Another 2 or was it 3 miles, and we were in the village and on the home stretch. Ah the joy of taking that final left turn and seeing the finish! Straight into the Ladies for another vom, ridiculous behaviour. Then I collected my finisher's mug and sat down to have pie and peas with the gang.
Got a lift back to the Travelodge with Rachel's parents and then proceeded to start refuelling till I had the energy to shower :-) I was glad to get to the end, I won't deny, it was tougher than I had expected it to be, but still a great day overall.
Hadn't been sure what to wear shoewise as the feet have taken a battering over the last month, I went with TNF shoes pretty much straight out of the box, they'd only had 15 miles done on them the previous Monday, so I was happy with how they performed on the various surfaces.
|Still there after 5 weeks so I guess I better trim it :p|
And there you have it. Had a good night's sleep and came back to London this afternoon. Am pretty tired and the feet are swelling now, they seem to be ok for 24 hours and then start ballooning. Gobshites. But hey ho. I'll wear trousers and wide shoes to work tomorrow!
This race has shown me I definitely need to make more of an effort get the knee fixed, even if it means rethinking my summer schedule. It's been dragging on now since the end of November, which is just plain stupid. Physio told me on Friday I'm delaying recovery by constantly loading and fatiguing it but she's not about to tell me to stop running completely as I'd lose my marbles, so I just have to keep on with the rehab stuff. Nah, I can't keep on with the 'just get to the start line in one piece and then get through the race with brute determination' mentality I've adopted, I'm not doing myself any favours. I need to train a lot more and a lot harder and I know what I need to do to get there. Eurgh.
Fuck, enough whinging, end on a high note quick lol....
I'd a great time overall, glad I went back to do this race on my ultra birthday, it's brought the first year round in a nice circle. I had a lot of laughs and some very good high points, great company and even more lessons learned. Roll on the next one!