Monday, November 5, 2012

Hereward Way Ultra Marathon

In a moment of madness (this was before the moment of pure unadulterated mental unhinging that led me to entering the Ocean floor) I decided it would be an excellent idea to enter a 54 mile Ultra which was due to finish 20 minutes from my house.

Why you may ask (and if you don't you have to listen to my reasoning anyway) well, my mum sent me the link and as it was so close it seemed rude not to so before I knew it and after sending several very annoying questioning emails to the race organiser - I had entered the event - and then promptly forgot all about it.

As the event came closer i began to think that as Sarah and I hadn't previously met never mind run together, that it would be a great idea to ask Sarah along to run with me and she very kindly accepted (something which I can almost guarantee she regreted during stage 2 of the run)

It would be a good opportunity to make sure we wouldn't kill each other in the desert and for me to check that Sarah really did mean it when she said she wouldn't sprint off and leave me to be eaten alive by foxes and other such gremlins in the desert.

As it turns out - we got along very well. Sarah and her husband arrived on Halloween evening and even after promising I would have dinner ready for their arrival - I didn't - and as soon as they poked fun at me for it I knew we would be fine. We passed the evening discussing race tactics, average pace per mile, nutrition ............. ok complete lie we did however open my box of goodies that Sarah had brought over for me containing lots of items from buff, a shiny new head torch, a spork (yes there is such a thing) a little knife and other such exciting things - I was like a kid at Christmas.

Eventually we decided we really should go to bed and turned in for the evening with alarms set for 4:45 - me wearing my new Trion Z Bracelet (special thanks to trion Z who sent me and Sarah one of these to try out) I have to admit I was sceptical on wether this would work or not but I had the best nights sleep I have ever had before a run - no dreaming of turning up to the start and no one was there.........

Just the actual reality - yes it's true - on arrival at the start line (after completley missing the big Ultra running flag the first time around) myself, Sarah and her wonderful Husband ben (who very kindly followed us around all day) arrived at the start line to meet Steven Worallo the race director and no one else.

We couldn't beleive it when he told us he had had 4 drop outs the night before and that no one else had turned up this morning - there was a small beacon of light when two people turned up in their car - but we soon realised they were the race photographers meaning that Sarah and I had our very own crew consisting of 2 photographers (from Summit Fever photography), the race director and sarahs husband Ben - I now know what it feels like to be famous.

At the start line

Steve decided to let us go at 07:30 instead of 08:00 which was the planned start time so we had slightly more daylight (however in hindsight for next year it would be better if the start was at 06:30 to give just that little extra daylight) Steve sounded the horn and off we went on our way.

Within half a mile our feet were soaked and our lovely clean shoes were covered in mud - Sarah kept jumping around directly in to the puddles in an attempt to splash me (really i think she just wanted to make it look like she had worked hard ;) )

The first checkpoint was after 7 miles at the Cross Keys in Kingscliffe - on arrival we were greeted by the most well stocked check point I have ever seen on a run - never mind that it was only the two of us - there were jam and peanut butter sandwiches, gu energy gels, jelly beans, jelly babies, chocolate mice, red bull, cola. coffee, tea, pot noodles - I would have just stayed there all day but Sarah insisted we carry on so off we went :)

Off we went towards check point two -There were plenty more muddy fields, slippy slidey banks and a bit of road thrown in to the mix as well. It was on this section that we were pleased we had kept our road shoes even if it did mean they got a bit muddy. I was struggeling with my right knee at this point and my IT Band was playing up - for those of you who don't know me I do most of my running on the road so off road was taking it's toll - even the lesser bits we had on the first two sections so I was slightly worried for what was to come.  
We pushed on though and were soon at Wansford Station which is part of the Nene valley railway -

And look who we met !!!!

After all of the excitement of meeting Thomas ( I never saw Sarah more excited than when she saw him) Sarah strapped up my knee with some Rock tape, I threw a few peanut butter and jam sandwiches down my throat and off we went back over the bridge and on the nene valley way.

 this section of the course however did not run as smoothly as the first. Unfortunatly the route description we had been given wasn't correct and we ended up going quite specatacularly wrong. The worst thing however was not that we went wrong - it was the fact that we went wrong at the same time that the heavens opened and we had to splash accross two fields not once but twice. As i mentioned earlier 98% of my running has been on road so mud and sloshy fields are not something I come along very often. It turns out that it is a good idea to train offroad before you do an ultra (note to self) and my knees promptly reminded me of this fact by putting be in agony for several miles.
I honestly thought at this point that my run was over. I was struggeling to run more than a few steps without having to stop because of the pain and I will admit to saying a few choice words - at this point meself and sarah were both very quite - later we discovered that I was angry and worried that I wouldn't finish and Sarah was fed up from getting lost and worried for me that I wouldn't finish - bless us :)
We did however make it to the next checkpoint in Peterborough at the Charters cafe which was a floating cafe and after my treck inside to use the toilets I can confirm it is a very nice little boat and a great location for a nice lunch

As my knee pain had eased over the last 2 mile I decided I wanted to carry on with the run so I had a quick cup of tea and a bite to eat and off we went again. This was to be the best section so far. The route instructions here were spot on and I can happily say we didn't take one single wrong turn. We did in fact go so well on this section that when we got to the checkpoint at the Three Horseshoes in Whittlesey our support crew were not ready for us :) It was a lovely thing to hear them saying we had completed that section quicker than they had expected.
This joy was short lived however when I realised that my new backpack when it had decided to open all by itself earlier and spew the contents on to the trail - had managed to also throw out my brand new head torch - luckily for me Sarah had a spare one in the car so refuelled on an ever increasing selection of food (we had litle chocolate crispy cakes at this one :) ) we headed off in to the ever decreasing daylight head torches at the ready.

This 7 mile section was unfortunatly to be our last of the race - as the light faded we headed out on to the trail in to the middle of no where on our way towards March.
I have had a fear of the dark since I was little and had thought that after my nightime lap at the thunder run this year I would be ok but this was completley different. Although I was with Sarah, we were in the middle of no where - the route directions were not the best for this section and we couldn't see anything past the beam of the head torch which was obscured by our breath in the cold night air. After having to jump over a ditch to get to the correct side of the path (we must have missed a turning somewhere earlier on) we continued on towards the road we had been looking for. It wasn't long however before we realised we had manage to miss a turning somewhere and had to back track. By this point the dark was really beginning to make me nervous and I found myself struggling to catch my breath and getting really panicy and upset - I know I must sound like a complete wimp but the thought of going back out in to the middle of a field was un bearable. I felt awful when we got to the checkpoint in March and decided to go no further on the run - what annoys me more is that I know my legs could do it and I know my body would have been able to take it as I had managed to fuel myself well - I also know that although Sarah didn't feel entirley safe with the route directions being as they were and it just being us two - that had I said lets go on she would have followed me.

It is much easier to reflect on this in the comfort of my home wrapped up nice and warm in my dressing gown and kick myself for not having grown a pair and carried on but I know that at that moment in time there was nothing that could have made me carry on - at that moment in time I was more scared than I can ever remember being.

I know I have to work on my fear and I am going to do that my going out on a few night time runs with other people -I am ok when I am on a route lit with streetlights but I intend to try a few routes with no lights other than my headtorch and eventuially try and work my way to doing a few off road sections with someone else as well. I don't think I will ever be comfortable going out on my own in the dark with just the head torch but you never know.

My main goal is to get to the point where I am comfortable in the pitch black with just the head torches for guidance so that me and Sarah can do a few longer runs in the desert before pitching up for the night.

In the end we ran 47 miles which considering the furthest I had run prior to this was 35 miles I am very pleased with.

A massive thanks to Steve Worallo from Ultra running for all of your support - we know it wasn't your fault with the route and as it is its first year there are always going to be teething problems - you were so kind to have let us carry on regardless of the fact that there were only two of us

Thanks to our photographers from summit fever photography for also staying and taking some incredible pictures

Thanks to Ben - Sarahs husband for following us around all day and being very patient and for my wonderful husband for picking me up in March :)and bringing a nice flask of coffee and warm hoody :)

I have some exciting news to announce over the next few days with regards to sponsors and will be back tomorrow hoepfully with some of that along with details of our fundraising event coming soon :)

Thank you for sticking with me if you made it to the bottom of this post ;)

1 comment:

  1. Great fun, really enjoyed reading the blog, can't wait for the next story! - I can see you both having some exciting adventures together. Phobias - we all have them, don't worry too much it is what it is, just make sure you have a good buddy or two with you and good route direction lol. Whatever trials you face at the time just grit your teeth, because the next day you'll wonder what it was all about. Steve