~~* It has taken me a while to upload any new bloggage. And I still haven’t posted up my Grand Union Canal Race blog yet. Three weeks after the GUCR 145 miler, which I survived thankfully, I decided to have a go at Ultra Race 100, because I could. It went surprisingly well :) So, here’s that story…. *~~
I didn’t really tell many people I was doing the Ultra Race Cotswold 100 miler on Friday/ Saturday just gone. I normally plaster stuff all over facebook or twitter or the like, but I decided not to.
I was aware that it has only been 3 weeks since the GUCR and my feet had taken quite a battering in those wet conditions. It’s very strange that I rarely get blisters, but that my feet are quite sensitive and after a while they really start to get very hot and itchy and sore…although I guess that’s more normal than I think after such a long time out on the course. So, I definitely wanted to give this my best shot, but in the ‘more likely than usual’ instance that I might not make it, I didn’t want to give lots of explanations via social media etc;
It wasn’t looking great Friday morning as I had to drive myself to the start, which took nearly an hour longer than planned due to traffic and surface spray. I arrived with 5 mins to spare…just enough time to rush to the loo and I didn’t get my number until Check Point No.1…luckily they know me; otherwise I would have been in trouble. My back ached from the driving, I felt flustered, my mouth was dry and I hurriedly gave my 50mile drop back to the Race Director and then we were off. Annoyingly I had put ALL of my savoury food into said’ drop bag, because I didn’t have time to sort through it and so I only had sweet ‘food’ for the first 25 miles…I was really hungry and knew I couldn’t continue not to fuel properly, especially during the crucial early stages. I felt pretty disorganised (my rucksack was also really quite heavy too, because I didn’t have time left to sort through that either, so it contained everything for all eventualities).
Fortunately, some lovely and very kind man gave me a tuna sandwich :) and then at the 30 mile CP, the lovely lady manning that one gave me a salami and cheese roll and Snack a’ Jacks…I was saved! I felt mentally more alert and capable. The initial torrential downpours had stopped, my dad’s basic pack-away waterproof that I had had to borrow, because I still can’t find my OMM jacket nor afford another one had held up well and I was dry underneath and what’s more, no more rain was forecast…and although I didn’t quite believe that weather prediction at the time, it was very true. It didn’t rain again.
I was feeling pretty happy at 30 miles. Time was flying by really. I decided to txt a friend and hint at what I might have been up to at that very moment in time. Before I knew it I was at CP 4 and Mile 40 and another familiar face, TZ was manning that one. It was really lovely to see a familiar face and another runner at this point because I hadn’t seen anyone for quite some while and this CP was further away than I had anticipated. I fuelled up on cans of coke, which were a lifesaver…I had some peanuts; a packet of crisps…all was good. I was feeling happy and as darkness fell, I was ready to embrace the night section.
Surprisingly, my head torch was being good…it never normally feels too bright, but it felt much better this time. Even when I have replaced the batteries before it never seems bright enough…these must have been super batteries!
The night sections were quiet and not too eventful. I swore some sort of animal growled at me from a bush, which made me run faster. We ran past a few graveyards where I thought I saw a dark figure, but I think it was just a large gravestone. I saw lots of eyes, probably foxes, but I just flickered my torch at them. Before I knew it I was half way and could finally get to my massive feast/ drop bag! I ate most of my 600 Cal+ sandwich I had picked up in Tesco’s…Geeesh, imagine if you were just eating that in normal everyday life all of the time..?! I had a can of orange Lucozade and filled up my water and got on my way. I was pretty much cat and mouse with another runner at this point until the finish! It was nice to have someone in close proximity.
There were definitely some
KILLER hills on this
course…it may have been easier in some respects with it all being on road…but
the hills!! In another respect I guess it wasn’t necessarily easier with the
road surface, because it hurts your feet after a while and I guess the pounding
can be harder on your joints. Anyway, it was a lovely area in which to run. So
much wildlife and so many lovely houses. On the wildlife note, I saw a weasel,
hedgehog, hares (they’re creepy…too long-legged) and a Bambi in the woods :)
Ultimately I think it’s fair to say that I did get a bit complacent with the night section…in the end. I wanted daylight. Sometimes it feels like one of those horror movies where they’re all stuck in a scary house and they’re waiting for daylight to break and when it does it means they’ve made it!! I don’t mean that I hated the night section entirely, it was certainly no horror movie, it’s just nice when dawn breaks and you can look forward to that new day and eventually that finish line. It was indeed a lovely sunrise and a very sunny day.
We were so lucky, when I hear that a lot of the rest of the country was waterlogged and torrential. We had a slight wind but it was actually quite refreshing. I got a bit toasty later on and after the race was over I realised that I was even sunburnt. All this nice and calm weather after my initial feeling that rain just follows me around these long ultras; on the Thames Path 100 and the GUCR. I guess it did for a time here, but then things brightened up for us.
I really thought that this course was well marked…there was one long road when I didn’t see and arrow for a while and got paranoid, but thankfully it was paranoia. That paranoia was mainly fuelled by the fact that it was a massively steep downward hill and the thought of going wrong here was unthinkable because it would have meant going all the way back up this really steep hill and that wouldn’t have been good. All the major signposts and lampposts had arrows and UR signs; you just had to keep your eyes peeled.
In the latter stages my feet really began to hurt…really hurt…in agony... I began the good old ‘Liz Remedy’ of taking off my steaming hot trainers and itching my hot tired feet. It is the only relief that seems to give my feet any sort of momentary physical/ psychological rest bite when they are hurting that much. I felt a bit teary, because other than this I felt fine. I also walked on some patches of grass by the side of the road barefoot for a couple of minutes at a time and perched myself on any bench or wall I could find at regular intervals. I also dreamed of dipping them in a freezing cold streams and finally I popped a few painkillers, gritted my teeth and got on with it! I put on the mp3 player and sang and ran and walked and then ran to another tree/ wall/ lamppost. The hills were still furious and unrelenting and my feet were sore and screaming but I had gotten so far, I knew I would never drop. It was just a case of getting this pain over with as quickly as possible. My legs were fine. Weirdly, my feet look fine. Again, absolutely no blisters or manky nails, just very tender feet.
I was making good time for me. I could have gone even faster if it had not been for the feet, but that is the price I paid for doing two long ultras pretty close together and I could live with that. I had originally said I wanted to finish in 27 hours, but really, I didn’t care…I just wanted to finish! I started to get emotional and had the occasional sniffles trying to sneak through my ‘just get on with it’ attitude. I knew I looked a state as I passed members of the public and gave a little smile or hello’.
Ultimately we were on the last bit and the last mega hill. It was time to follow the final map instructions that would lead us into the finish. I overtook a lady in the latter stages…within the last mile. Suddenly, really as if by magic my feet didn’t hurt at all. They didn’t hurt one bit and I got a bit of a sprint on. Stratford was busy and I had to ask directions to the leisure centre. I had forgotten we had crossed a bridge. I eventually put my sensible head on and started picking up the Ultra Race arrows on lampposts again. This was it, the finish and I couldn’t believe it! Woooo!
I officially finished in 27:19:32 :) & 2nd lady (although there were only 3 of us, so doesn’t reaaalllly count, but still pretty happy). Obviously there were runners that were phenomenally faster than me, but I’m really pleased with how this adventure turned out! I think overall I must have drunk 8 cans of coke, a can of orange Lucozade and 2 teeny bottles of coke yesterday, no wonder I didn’t get my usual sleepy lull during the night…bouncing off the walls! So, not going to have loads of sugar or caffeine this coming week…I’m sure it’ll prob be the sugar I avoid most because I like my coffee!
Whilst walking back to my car, two members of the public shook my hand. The said they were marathon runners and knew how hard running could be. Then they said, ‘Not many people do what you all do.’ It made me feel quite teary and proud and put a little perspective on things. It can be easy to get too used to the craziness of this sport, but I guess we all are a little crazy when it comes down to it. It is something to be treasured. Sometimes I think I need to remind myself that all of this is pretty darn cool and embrace how amazing it feels to run so far. And as for all the craziness, well, I like that