I guess the race really started on the day before the event, with the event starting in Wendover near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, driving the 200 plus mile journey in the morning before the event would of meant leaving home at 3am, so stopping the night before would make a lot more sense. I finished work on the Friday night drove back home to feed 'Timmy' the cat and oovooed Shirley (similar to skype) then drove through to Knaresborough to pick up David Cremmins (friend and fellow ultrarunner whose current aim is to complete 100 marathons.) Three plus hours later we were in High Wycombe searching for the Travelodge I had booked the week before. The next day the alarm went of at 6 am we ate and set off for the Shoulder of Mutton, not for a pint but for the race registration. Arriving at the pub I recognised Drew Sheffield but no one else ( too far south!!) Drew I knew from the UTMB and the Highland Fling plus other events. After collecting our race number and dropping our bags in the van (the van was going to the finish, and in our bags were warm clothing, car keys etc) The race start was delayed by 20 minutes as we waited for runners who would be arriving by the delayed London train. After a race brief that I never heard any of (to be honest I wouldn't of taken anything in of it anyway) We started, some set off at a blistering pace, I took it steady, mainly because of the dozens of lunges I had done on the Monday night class I teach ( I had been feeling pretty sadistic with my students and put them through a big leg workout ) on the Tuesday a Friend at the gym showing me a kettlebell exercise, which of course I had to do twice as many reps as he did, ego?? stupidity?? probably both!! well I suppose they are really the same?? So my hamstrings and inner thighs were very very sore and wouldn't allow me to run fast. The route took us along footpaths, bridle paths gentle undulations over fields and woods, all very pleasant reminding me of the flatter parts of the Yorkshire Wolds. The scenery was very charming just as I had expected but we could of been anywhere in Britain. The checkpoints were stocked with water, jelly babies and fruit cake ( can't eat due to being a coeliac) NO COKE!! With hindsight I was carrying 10 hammer gels and some naked bars ( made from fruit puree ) plus a bag of nuts, seeds and berries. Did I mention I was really missing the coke though!! My plan was a gel on the hour every hour. The pace was good, gradually overtaking several runners easily, I was still keeping some back in reserve for 20 odd miles of canal running. My target was 8 hours, 7 - 7.30 would be too quick, didn't want to blitz my legs for the next few ultras!! Ive chosen a few Ultras I want to race and this wasn't one of them! The route for the first 10 to 15 miles was easy to navigate with so many people running the event but there is always a point where everyone eventually spreads out and you seem to have no one to follow and no one behind you to let pass on the pretence of tying your shoelace then follow. So out came the map and minutes we where back on course. 20 or so miles later I found myself running over the M25 obviously over a bridge, not dodging the traffic. I found this quite unique, but also reminded me of the Round Rotherham. We followed a single track path several fields away from the M25 for a bit, this kind of made me realise 'I was down sarrf' not up in Yorkshire. We ran through a very pretty little village called Denham, with some pretty thatch roofed cottages. A short while later we were running alongside the 'Grand Union Canal' 20 odd very flat miles to go!! The first few miles of the GUC we had joined were pretty interesting, with canal barges, workshops etc etc to look at, several miles later it became a bit less interesting, several more miles later it became a bit less interesting, several miles later I was going to throw myself into the canal to put myself out of my misery, then realised it wasn't deep enough and some hero would bloody rescue me anyway!! Hats off to the runners of the 145 mile GUCR, 145 MILES OF THIS!!!! No seriously it wasn't as bad as that. I just couldn't switch off or speed up. I had great joy in overtaking runners who had obviously started too fast and were trying to run but couldn't. Several where cramping up, I offered electrolytes but they refused. My own pace was slow, I just ran, didn't stop to walk (as my walking pace on ultras is incredibly slow compared to others, I blame it on my short stocky legs that fill up with lactic acid with a drop of a hat) David would run then walk a bit, when I would catch him up on his walking bit he would just run off. I wanted to push him and his long slim legs into the canal!! No matter what I tried to do I couldn't up the pace. I seemed to be playing a yo yo game with other runners too, I would jog along non stop at my 6 miles an hour pace, they would fly by me then walk a while, I would run past them and so on. After what seemed an eternity Little Venice and the race end came into site!! I had encountered shifty looking hoodies, dead foxes, the local homeless hotel ( under one of the bridges on the other side of the canal there were several old battered duvets, a washing line with clothes hanging from it and plenty of bin bags full of I guess old clothes etc. To add the temperature must of been minus 1 when I passed this, and would of been a damn site colder when they would of been sleeping there the night before. Its crazy in this day and age people have to live like this, and no I'm pretty confident its not where they want to be either!!) The race end was a brief affair, it was outside next to the canal, I was presented a medal and a cup of tea. I grabbed my bag from the van and changed my top layers and my shoes quickly and put a down jacket on as I was starting to shiver. I think a race in January really needs to finish indoors, after running 45 miles, the body soon cools down and possible minus temperatures with exhaustion could lead to hypothermia. If the race was circular and you could jump into your car to warm up that would be fine but most runners would need to head off to the nearest train station to get back to their cars, 40 odd miles away. I was fine as I had packed correctly, but for others who had never run more than a marathon this could of been a problem. Yes us ultrarunners are hardy souls but we need to be careful. I was pleased to find out we had finished in under 8 hours, but a lot more pleased when I saw a runner come in after me wearing a Royal Marine
t-shirt. I had seen him at the 'Rosedale Rumble 40' a month or so ago running with a Bergen on his back, myself being an ex-Para decided he wasn't allowed to beat me to the finish, he did! Now I had beaten him. 1 all! (If anyone knows him, please don't tell him I'm an ex Para or he will speed up when he sees me behind him at another event!!!)
Both David and myself decided we needed hot food and we were in London, so we hopped on a Tube at 'Duffy's' Warwick Avenue and went to Piccadilly Circus, several minutes later we were walking round Soho in running tights. David was getting the eye from many a gay man on the streets, ha ha ha, luckily they couldn't smell him!!(I advised him to keep his race number attached to his leg so people would realise we where runners not some kind of kinky Lycra fetish rent boys looking for trade!!!
Next stop.. A 30 mile training run as no events to run on my 4th week of the challenge, possibly the Cleveland Hills?... Then Week 5 will see the 'Yorkshire Ultra' a 50 miler starting at Whitby.
A couple of people I respect a lot, both as people and runners gave me some sound advice about the Challenge.. Thank you.. I will pick a few of the Ultras to race but the majority of ultras will be all about pace, and finishing in good condition. Which Ultras will I race?? I have a few in mind, and will see how I feel on the day, but these are top secret!!