I wrote this blog the day after Ultra Race 45/90, which took place on the weekend of January 21st & 22nd . I’ve encountered this race twice previously. I did my best in the first year I attempted it in 2010. 2011 was difficult as I had just overcome flu and only did Day 1.
This year was tricky…well, I was ok…I didn’t struggle as such, just found myself stressing over silly things like a bit of a bad stomach, people’s stupid dogs being off leads and tender feet, but nothing majorly bad. I took my time…probably more time than I needed to really. I guess I do have a problem with pushing myself forwards sometimes…I need to work on that inner voice a bit. Ultimately, I did find this race really useful for the inevitable loneliness that the Grand Union Canal Race will bring. Although, the dark and scary bits of the canal weren’t the best…however, it’ll be much better when I get a better head torch.
I may also get some more cushioned trainers for the GUCR, since my feet really were quite sore following these two days…and I’m used to ultras…it’s the strangest thing, but I did end up getting a bit blistered and I never normally do. Ultimately, I may have been right at the back…but from a different perspective, there was only about 29 of us on Day Two, a lot of those that were going to do Day Two decided to do just Day One, some people DNF’d and I was fourth lady and even though there were only four ladies in the whole thing, it felt good to be in a male dominated event and stick it out until the end! So, below is the blog that I wrote the day after Ultra Race 90 (although 94 miles in reality over the two days) :)
Feet are just a little bit mashed today. But good training was done in the form of UltraRace45/90 ….although it is more like 47 miles each day! I am now quite scared about GUCR, mainly because of dogs…yep…they were one of my main grievances/ fears along the way.
I’ve always been a bit weary of dogs and I’ve never been brought up with them, so I don’t really have a lot of confidence around strange dogs. However, there’s one certain longish stretch of canal along this route where people just let their dogs run free without a lead and I was a bit petrified...some of them were really ferocious looking dogs and I was growled at too. I was frustrated with myself for being silly/ scared and I think the tiredness exasperated my frustrations and emotions, yesterday. I had a bit of a cry. I did want to get a good jog on and in places I just felt a bit nervy to do so. Anyway, yesterday was never going to be fast after 47 miles on Saturday, but my legs felt ok...my feet were a bit mashed though…which is a good thing to happen now so as I can reassess foot comfort for bigger adventures later on in the year.
Shortly after my emotional dog meltdown moment I came across a police officer who had cordoned off a part of the towpath for 5 mins or so because someone had died aboard a narrow boat L That was sad to hear, but also added a bit of surreal-ness to the day.
It was quite a lonely day all in all and I was mostly alone. However, I did catch up with a guy who had been cat & mouse with me near the start and I walked for a bit and had a good chat. Speed-wise, and foot-wise, it wasn’t what I needed, but mentally it was. It was nice to speak to someone, especially when I was being all over-emotional. Ultimately, I had to run on because it simply hurt too much to walk. I popped some nurofen which seemed to do the trick and I jogged on into the dark. Another lesson was learned in the dark and that is that my head torch is a bit rubbish really. It’s a Petzl, but even with new batteries it is really very dim. And in the pitch black, when you’re trying to navigate/ see where you’re going, it can make you go even slower. And the only thing you want to do is get closer to the end. There were a few points where I got confused as to where to go, since there was a lot of cordoned-off bits of towpath where work was being done. It was guesswork, but after a bit of pondering for 5 mins, I decided to cross over a lock: right decision.
The last stretch was very lonely and I felt a bit drained. I also felt bad because I knew everyone was waiting for me to finish, as I think those that were behind me had dropped out. But when I reached the last checkpoint and had done 38 miles, there was no way that I wasn’t carrying on, even if it can be scary to be down a pitch black canal alone in the dark. I think the prospect of not finishing after so long kind of outweighs those fears. So, I tried to push any thoughts about the creepiness of the last bit to the back of my head. I ran and power-walked…mostly walked since I nearly did the splits at one point through slipping on invisible mud. Finally that big glowing green beacon of the Carlsberg sign was in sight and I was homeward bound and I finally got back onto the streets and into familiar looking territory. I followed the treasure hunt of Ultra Race signs on lampposts and finished!
Yesterday was such a long day, but a really good learning experience. Sometimes I guess that when it doesn’t run the smoothest, you end up learning the most.