“Curiouser and curiouser.” ― Lewis Carroll
Wow, that weekend absolutely flew by! But, I had such an amazing time. I don’t even know where to start... so I guess I’ll start with Friday. Although, not too much to say about Friday. I granny napped a lot, ate a lot and sweated a lot; the second coach was like a sauna/ would make good heat training...
I guess I travelled a lot & surprised myself that it went so smoothly, since, as usual I seemed to have packed everything and the kitchen sink and I have no idea why or what I had in my huge travelling rucksack, but it weighed a tonne! I made my way down south, way down south to Winchester and a train and two coaches later I arrived.
Earlier in the day, on route to Chester in the morning and on the way to the coach stop, it felt like a bit of a mission with my heavy rucksack and already, it was starting to feel like the beginnings of a warm day. So, I headed to one of the only coffee shops open *cough – Starbucks* and ate lots of food, drank some strong coffee and spread the word about ultras to some inquisitive baristas. Funnily enough, the day before in Chester, whilst in upandrunning, I also had a rather lovely, long conversation with the lady who worked in there about ultras and she actually seemed positive that she might do one in the future, yey!
I only entered XNRG’s Pony Express last Tuesday and I was really excited to do it. It’s been far too long since I’ve done a multi-day ultra and I have really missed it. I guess for those that knew me in 2010/11, during ‘mad-marathon-let’s-get-to-one-hundred’ mode, you’ll know that I used to do a lot of doubles and things, of various combinations. My weekends were never dull and I loved the adventure of seeing new places and having a big catch-up with all the usual suspects (although, my weekends haven’t been dull lately, but only because of a certain someone...) And this was mine and George’s first event together :-) and I met the parents, so lots of exciting things. Although, I was incredibly nervous about all of these exciting things, but everything went lovely *sigh of relief*.
CP 1 - Yew Tree Heath Car park (7.9 miles)
CP 2 – Setley Cross Roads (16.1 miles)
CP 3 – End of Disused Railway (23.5 miles)
Finish – Moyles Court School (30 miles)
I got up really early and tried to organise myself. But, even though I’m not the most enthusiastic morning person in the world, I was excited for this, so I was okay. I still had lots of coffee though :-) and we had coffee in the car when we got to the start and I had my chocolate covered coffee-bean supplier with me ;-) I’m surprised I wasn’t bouncing off the walls. So, after we arrived, which was very on time and early (such a rarity for me, I have to savour it), I picked up my number and registered. I get so used to people calling me Liz, I sometimes forget my full name is Elizabeth, so it’s always amusing when they write Elizabeth on the front of my race number.
So, we were off and I was running at quite a good pace. However, I did feel pretty warm straight away. I’ve never run in the New Forest before and it’s such a novelty to see horses just roaming around everywhere. Although, I must admit that I was a bit scared of the mention of free-range cows and bulls ha-ha.
Reaching CP1, I was so thirsty and so warm. I downed lots of Ribena and filled up my bottle with Ribena. I normally take little bottles of coke with me on these things, but I didn’t this time. Ribena definitely helped though :-) And there was the usual array of haribo, pretzels and little bits of cut-up sandwiches. I also had some brazil nuts which I found really easy to eat and I had a packet of pickled onion space invaders...
When I woke up on Saturday morning it was pretty drizzly, but by this point in the day it was beginning to get quite warm and a little bit sunny.
On both days we ran on a mixture of cycling paths, a bit of road, forest tracks & more rocky and pebbly terrain. I wasn’t so keen on the wider cycling paths or the disused railway line. I really liked the more higgledy-piggledy paths. However, on Day 1, I did go flying whilst navigating my way through some trees/ uneven ground. I stumbled on the uneven rutted ground and then sort of tripped I think. I knew I was going to fall, but I couldn’t stop myself, so I just kind of sprawled my arms out. It was all good though and I only bruised and scratched my knees a little, but nothing major. And I looked like a proper mucky trail runner *roaaar*. It’s not a proper ultra-run without a bit of dirt, right?! I cleaned up my hands in a nice cold stream a little bit further on.
In the last 10 miles the terrain became a little hillier and stonier, so I just walked those and had fun running down them. I also had a close encounter with some rather big cows in the latter stages. I reached a stream and there were three massive cows stood in the middle of the path. I had a bit of a girly scaredy-cat moment and was happy that there were some blokes just ahead of me. I decided the best way past them was to go to the right of the path and jump off a little bit of raised ground into the stream. My feet got rather wet, but it was really refreshing, if not a little bit sloshy.
I wasn’t wearing my Garmin on this, because I need to send it off to get repaired, so I was just wearing my ordinary sports watch. However, I wasn’t too concerned with time and after having fallen over in the first bit, I was very conscious of not injuring myself for the GUCR which is fast approaching.
Therefore, because I was guesstimating where I was and how far away the finish was, it was a really nice surprise to see an XNRG sign out of the blue...and even nicer that we ran past a little stream and an ice cream van up the road to the finish (this would later prove a nice recovery ice-cream)! Running into the finish, it was lovely to see super-George, who ran awesome and had finished some time ago. I managed to scrape into the finish, just under the six hour mark, which I was pretty happy with considering I wasn’t really trying, well, considering I was just trying not to get injured! In fact, I think that might be a 30mile PB for me; not fast, but nice.
CP 1 – Cadman’s Pool Car Park (10.7 miles)
CP 2 – Woods Corner (16.7 miles)
CP 3 – Wilverley Plain (21.7 miles)
Finish – Brockenhurst (30 miles)
I woke up in a bit of a grumpy, sleepy mood. I know these events are notorious for snoring runner blokes, so I had brought my ear plugs with me, but nothing would drown out the snoring. And there was a particularly loud snorer sleeping near to us. I don’t know what it is about snoring. I think I can sleep pretty well in a lot of different places and it doesn’t have to be a really quiet place either. However, snoring just really grates on me. I think it has something to do with the fact that they’re blissfully asleep and dreaming away, but because of them I am not...it’s sort of mean haha. Okay, I’ll put my soapbox away now...
I was pretty hungry and off to breakfast we went. I have to say, it was a pretty amazing breakfast with lots of bacon, sausages and hash browns. However, I don’t think I left enough time to digest it properly, even though I really needed it, because my stomach was majorly rumbling. As such, I felt pretty uncomfortable and had some bad indigestion for around the first 10 miles of Day 2. This made me feel pretty sluggish and rubbish and I definitely found it hard to get going.
It was very warm on Sunday. It was proper tan line weather and I now have some awesomely silly tan lines to show for this ;-) It also struck me just how amazing the landscape was on Day 2. It was lovely on the Saturday, but on Sunday I felt like I was in Jurassic park or something (minus the dinosaur’s ha-ha). The landscape was so vast, with random horses and cows roaming about and because it was such a toasty day, with sandy, stony paths, it almost felt like I wasn’t in England at all, but it some far away land.
I felt a little isolated on Day 2. I started at 8am, a lot of people had started at 7am and all the super speedy runners (George) who eventually overtook me, all started at 9am. So, I really didn’t see many people. I overtook some of the earlier ones a couple of hours in, then the speedsters overtook and then I was pretty much on my own. At some points, it was nice to see others because even though the route instructions were absolutely spot-on, there were a couple of points on Sunday that I was unsure of.
There was one point after CP2 where we had to cross this huge plain of grass at a certain angle in order to pick up the red and white tape and other markings, before taking one of the paths up ahead. However, there was absolutely no-one around at this point and I started to doubt that I was going the correct way. I even started speaking to myself, like the crazy mad person I am sometimes... I looked around me and I couldn’t see anyone down any of the other paths, so I kept moving forwards on the track I was on. It was actually quite funny thinking about it. By this point it was really, really hot and I could feel the back on my legs starting to burn, along with my shoulders and neck. Fortunately, I was on the right track and as I looked on the floor to my right, I saw a fluorescent green arrow and mouthed ‘yes!’ to myself! And onwards I went.
In the last 10 miles, it didn’t feel so isolated because there were so many families out and about. It was such a lovely day and there were people cycling about everywhere. This was both a good and a bad thing. It certainly kept me on my toes, but I was constantly dodging bikes and little children. Also, I was feeling a bit paranoid over how I looked, since the day before I had run past a toddler who asked her mum, rather loudly: ‘Mummy, was that a man?’ I can see the funny side :-), but I was also thinking ‘Omg, I must look like shit!’ So, every time I ran past a little child on Sunday, I kept anticipating ‘man comments’. And I’m pretty sure I looked more man-ish on Sunday, since it was so hot, I was a bit frazzled, sleepy and dehydrated.
In the last two miles, I came across another runner who funnily enough had ‘saved’ me form a big crowd on horses at the beginning of the day. This was nice, because like the confusing bit after the last CP, we had to run at a certain angle through a big plain of grass and it took me a while to pick up route markings. It wasn’t long until we picked up the final markers and just one road crossing later; we were running towards that finish line! Yey!
It was so lovely to finish, but now I wish I was out there again. I’ve definitely gotten the bug back. I love this. And George ran so amazingly well, but I’m not surprised he did – he’s a brilliant runner. Overall, he finished 4th and 3rd male and I’m really proud of him.
Afterwards, it was so nice to get back and have a lovely shower and de-man-ify! And then we went out and had a lovely meal, with lots of recovery Guinness of course!
Overall, I had an awesome weekend, with lovely crazy runner people. Another brilliant event from XNRG. So, now I’ve done all of their multi-stage ultras, well, apart from their new Cotswold’s Way ultra, but we’ll see, next year...