3:30am is early, yet that’s when my day started, I drove to Farnham to sign in which opened at 6am, I always like to be early to maintain as much control over the travelling and timings as possible. Control what you can control is how I like to approach races like this.
At 7am the race started and I had an absolutely lovely opening few 7 miles over gentle rolling countryside in the early morning. I was making comfortable progress, not rushing but cruising along having a few chats with fellow runners along the way. After an hour the first aid station came into sight. I’d been working on my kit so that it was as light as possible keeping weight to an absolute minimum, I’d saved close to a kilo over my pack weight at the South Downs way 50 six weeks earlier. In the goal of saving weight despite having to be able to carry a litre of drink only one of my flasks was full which also saved 500 grams.
As I approached the aid station I looked down to get my soft flask out ready to refill and bam, I tripped over a speed hump of all things! Down I went cutting up both hands and one knee. I apologise to the aid station crew for making such a dramatic entry. I took a few moments at the aid station to wash myself down and compose myself a bit and then set off again.
Still on gentle rolling terrain I had a chat with a running celebrity – Susie Chan – who was at one point the face of Strava, we had met a few years previously when we did our run coaching course together. She pushed on and we approached Denbies vineyard which was a long down hill on roads, which was fairly punishing on the feet.
Westhumble fields was the aid station before the hills began, first up was the steps at Boxhill, which whilst steep are very well groomed and full of tourists and walking groups so progress was slow but steady, once over box hill the tourists thinned out and the rest of the hills kicked in, these were steep and technical with loose rocks, stones and tree roots littering the narrow trails.
A few hours of punishing hills started to take its toll and I was slipping back through the field. It was a warm day and some of the aid station gaps were quite big, about a mile before Reigate Hill I finished the last of my drink, a litre of water and tailwind gone in about 8 miles. At Reigate I had a treat, there is a small café there and I stopped to buy an ice cream, this was welcome and caused a bit of a giggle among the aid station volunteers as I wandered in eating a Calipo.
By this point was well over a marathon in, with 20 miles still to go, a very long way indeed. But keep moving was what I needed to do. My pace became slower and the hills kept on coming, the ascent to Botolphs was utterly brutal and by this point my left leg had stopped working to I was having to physically lift it up and over obstacles, everything else ached too and I was starting to question my life choices.
I had been aiming for somewhere in the ball park of 10 – 11 hours to finish which would have meant I was able to get the first bus back to the start to get the car and go home, but my ETA was slipping and I had nothing left to give.
With 5 miles still to go and by this point being physically broken I nearly sat down and had a little cry, but didn’t!
I found a little rhythm which was 20 steps walking and 30 running, I kept this up where I could and managed to clock off the final few miles.
My finish time was 12:20, I’d missed the bus by an hour but that was ok. It meant I could have a little sit down at the end and wait for the second bus.
The food at the end was great as was the tea, one lesson from SDW50 was that when I was given tea I was shaking so much I spilt most of it, not this time as I’d bought a travel mug – again that was something I could control.
The second bus was meant to be 9:15 – 9:30pm so we wandered down to the bus stop after having a lovely chat with Kevin Barnes (ocean lake tri) who was volunteering.
Some of the volunteers were driving home and stopped to let me cross the road, honestly I was slower than a 3 legged tortoise by this point and everyone was laughing whilst I was trying to get across this road.
The bus finally arrived at 9:30, but then the driver had to take a 30 minute break, so just after 10pm we left and got back to Farnham around 11pm, then a drive home with a stop saw me home at about 1am.
I was physically broken for a few days, but miraculously I made it to the club run on the Wednesday and the legs felt surprisingly good.
That’s it for ultras for this year and maybe next, but I will be back as I really want to do a hundred at some point.
Oh and here’s the step count!