A couple of weeks ago I ran the Evesham Ultra. I wasn’t meant to. I mean, it wasn’t part of my plans this year.
My plan for this year was thus:
1) Tackle the Oldham Way – this is my own Ultra-in-the-making. It was to be my first step up from 50k to 40 miles with plans already made to run it on June 22nd with a band of merry men;
2) The main event of the summer was to be the Lakeland 50 at the end of July; my first step up from 40 miles to 50 miles!
3) Then finally, I’d finish the year with High Peak 40. That, I thought, would do me for this year… 100k and 100 mile-races can wait until next year!
The spanner in the works came when I went to enter Lakeland 50 only to find that it had sold out! I didn’t think ultrarunning was so popular! So what should I do? I looked around for an alternative event of a similar distance at around the same time, but nothing was fitting the bill. I then came across the Evesham Ultra, which I’d heard a friend on Twitter, Matt (m8dkn), was doing. Great, I thought. 45 miles was a similar distance and it seemed to have plenty of hills. It was an opportunity to check out The Cotswolds and an opportunity to run with Matt too. The only problem was it was in April – 3 months earlier than I was training for!!
Bugger it, I entered. Then injuries struck. First Matt, who has suffered a lot with an Achilles problem, had to pull out. Then just as I thought I was doing OK, I picked up a calf problem, which lingered for a few weeks, but I recovered in time to run Blackpool Half at the beginning of April. I then went on a short holiday with little opportunity to run (Rowena was training on the Ironman course in Mallorca and I was entertaining my son, so I could only manage a couple of short runs). When I got back it was only a week until the race.
So how was it? Hard! I had a pacing strategy, but as always I set off a bit too quick. Then I realised that I would have to continue that early pace and keep up with the leaders otherwise I’d get lost. The reason for this is that it soon became apparent that some arsehole(s) had been messing with the way markers, so everybody started getting lost. Luckily a few runners had the route programmed into their GPS watches and so they soon became everyone’s best friend.
Thankfully after the first 5 or 10 miles it stopped being an issue and not long after I started to feel pretty good. It didn’t last long though. By around mile 18, having already done 3 or 4 big hills, I started to feel tired. Tired legs mainly. My quads especially could no longer cope with the downhill running and so I had to slow considerably. As for the up hills, I had to start walking more and more. No shame in that – those around me were doing the same. It’s a long way and you need to save your strength, but I was really feeling it.
I struggled on for a long time. I kept waiting to find my second wind, but it didn’t come until around 15 miles later with 10 to 15 miles to go, when I started feeling strong again. I finished the race battling it out with the first two ladies. Towards the end, the leading lady got me out of a few binds as I went the wrong way and got shouted back. I was then running alongside her and fell down a rabbit hole. Smooth!
I finished in 18th place, which was a top half finish and I was pleased with my time of 8:45.
|Approaching the finishing line back in Evesham having done a 45-mile circuit of the Cotswolds|
1) Early in the race I stopped to water the hedge and two stags came darting out of the bushes at high speed. They were massive powerful creatures and came very close to where I was standing (could have been messy!). An amazing sight!
2) Meeting, chatting with different people. The good thing about doing a race on your own is you do mingle, which I enjoyed
3) The Cotswolds. Very pretty. For me they lack the rugged awesomeness of The Lakes and The Peaks, but they were still very beautiful and I can’t think of a better way to see an area of outstanding beauty!
What did I learn?
Actually, quite a lot!
1) My pacing was good. I had a plan A (aspirational target) and a plan B (realistic target) and this worked well for me
2) Fuel – I experimented with more savoury food. Taking my inspiration from Scott Durek’s new book Eat and Run, I made tortilla wraps with houmous and chopped olives and they went down a treat. Sweet stuff like flapjacks are always available at CPs, so no need to worry too much about them
3) Hydration – again, I experimented. I took the bladder out of my Camelbak and took two small 250ml grip bottles instead. I usually had one in my hand and I filled them both up at CPs.
4) I hadn’t trained enough. I need to do more back-to-back long runs
I’m also thinking about looking into training using a heart rate monitor, but I need to do my research on that one.
So, it’s back to my own project, the Oldham Ultra, now. Starting yesterday afternoon and continuing this morning, I completed a full circuit of The Oldham Way in the same 24hr period - 44.16 miles of running in total across the two runs & 4,648 ft of that was vertical climbing!
I’m also off to Mallorca again this week to support Rowena with her Half Ironman quest on Sat 11th May. You can follow the action on twitter where I'll be providing updates using the hashtag: #IronRo
Then we’ll be travelling for a week in the mountain range that runs across the north of the island – the Serra De Tramuntana - spectacular trail running having tasted it last month. Can’t wait!
Thanks for reading.