Race Day finally dawned, dry and mild. Fried egg and veggie sausage sandwich for breakfast, Ian picked me up at 8 and off we set. Low key friendly atmosphere in village hall, some poor girl got stuck in the loo for about 15 minutes but that was as dramatic/tense as the atmosphere got. Gotta love ultras! Within a minute of the start everyone bottlenecked at a gate then the field started to spread out.
This was the first ultra where I’d arranged to run with someone right from the start. You’ll always chat and run along with those at the same pace at some stage but it was much more fun to have company all along. Ian’s parents came too and drove from checkpoint to checkpoint in support.
I wore road shoes for the first section as there was quite a bit of running through the village and on roads to get out into the countryside proper. There were also a couple of farms to go through, slipping and sliding in farmyard type stuff, and my shoes were pretty muddy by the time we got to CP1 at 7.5 miles. I was happy to switch into trails at this point, Ian’s parents had very kindly brought these along for me.
We ran through lots of gorgeous woodland, very muddy and slippy, just a beautiful place to run. Some steep slippery uphills too, all added to the adventure. Great fun here, I was laughing aloud from sheer joy, probably sounded like a loon but sure I was happy :-) Turned my left ankle quite a few times, I’ve strengthened them up a lot from running offroad but there’s clearly still work to be done.
I think it was also in this section that we ran through a cornfield. That would’ve shit me up if I was on my own!! But I wasn’t, thank God :-)
Got to CP2 at 16 miles. Realised at this point that the reason my shoes were rubbing strangely on the outsides of my big toes was because I forgot to put the bloody inners back in. They'd bunched up during a wet run so I'd removed them. Maybe a mistake but hey 2 layers of Compeeds and I survived :-) After this checkpoint the terrain changed and really got hilly! Bloody hell, I thought I’d met hills before, I’m from a hilly town in Ireland after all, but no, they make them long and steep and unrelenting in Yorkshire.
I can remember one section where the bracken was chest high, the briars and nettles were waist high, you could barely see the ground beneath you and that ground was either wet gloopy mud or bog, nothing else. It was feckin brilliant, my heart was racing from the adrenaline, it sure put all of my offroad running so far into the shade. My poor trails hadn’t a hope, I was literally skating along on two dinner plates of mud across mud hoping to move quickly enough to stay upright somehow. Great craic.
CP3 at 20 miles came after a mother of a long hill which was preceded by mothers of steep hills. Again I could feel the difference with having stronger quads than say 6 months ago but it was still hard work. There was a core group of me, Ian, Amanda and Tom by now with around 4-5 others passing / being passed /getting lost at around the same pace. We had a toilet break here and stopped to check the condition of our feet.
We then went up into moorland. Loads of feckin dead animals, good God, there were hundreds of the buggers, just lying dead and decomposing in the middle of trails, don’t know why they died there but it was pretty minging. As for stiles, Christ Alive, there must’ve been at least two dozen of the buggers to climb over. And even some gates. Ouch. Oh! And a myxomatosis rabbit!! A live one I mean. That was scary. And the cows. Jesus. Wildlife hey.
By this stage my eating wasn’t going too well. The terrain was too up and down to do a 25/5 and the uphills were too steep to do anything but breathe. We got to the top of a moor, think it was Kirkby, and the area was just amazing. So wild and rough. My feet were a bit wet by now from unavoidable bogdipping so I stopped to change into my Sealskinz. The others got a bit ahead so Ian and I took a trail across the moor to catch up. Mother of God. It petered out but Ian said fuck it man up let’s keep going, or words to that effect ;-)
In that stretch of moor I fell right down on all fours twice, it must have been funny to see but it did hurt at the time. Stumbling into knee deep holes in the gorse, trying to avoid wet bogholes, and then a whole big unavoidable section of gorse that had been burned, so we were running through sharp sticks. That made interesting marks on our legs! I did laugh once I got out of it, it was a good unexpected addition to the whole adventure :-) It would be a bloody scary place to get lost out on your own though, you’d want to be either very experienced, or an awful eejit, to tackle it solo.
More running up on the moors and the lack of food was starting to make itself felt. I took out a hummus wrap when we were within sight of CP4 at 29 miles but I knew when it took me about 3 minutes of chewing one mouthful like a camel that I was not eating enough at all. At the cp I refilled my bladder and had the best cake in the world ever. I think the RD’s wife made it. Ian’s mum was a godsend with a banana which was so easy to eat and I really felt a boost from that.
The map really was essential during this race, luckily Ian had shared a gps file with me and the waypoints he set were so good that I didn’t even have to look at the map once. The race organisers very thoughtfully provided a map book at the start with each section (9 of them) on A5 size and laminated. Perfect. I’m glad though that all I had to do was concentrate on running and checking the Garmin, that was hard work as it was!
We then went up and down more hills, through some more woods and then down through a nature reserve type thing where we saw loads of grouse, into a deerpark where I didn’t video the deer running across the road because I didn’t think of it :-) and then around the corner to The Finish :-)
So, in summary, I ran 35 miles around a beautiful wild place with great company and lots of laughter. My only dark moment was a silly fleeting “what if everyone leaves me behind” thing on the moor when I was falling over. I soon got over that. I learned how to mud skate and how to run across a bog fast enough that even though you can feel the ground sinking below you you’ve moved onto the next sinking bit before it gets you completely. I’ve climbed a shitload of stiles and gates, breathed in buckets of fresh air and had a fantastic weekend :-) Race organisation was spot on, nothing bad to say about it at all, I recommend this race wholeheartedly!