Friday, 18 September 2015

Friends, Romans and Countryside....

Something told me (that would be my legs and my energy level...) that its probably not the best idea to have booked your first 50k 2 weeks after running around the alps, but that was what awaited me after returning from France, and suddenly it was all too close!

first though was another milestone, Dad's 80th birthday. Luckily at that age it seems a lot of fuss is not required and a special lunch out was all he wanted. Local pub, nice food, couple of beers and he was set for an afternoon nap!

So, cue 2 weeks of heavy legs that only eased off a few days before the race. I made sure to take 2 whole days off running and with only a bit of walking. A lot of people can run right up to a race but with a lot of trial and error I have found a 2 day rest is definitely required if i want to do my best.

We picked up Neil at the ungodly hour of around 4am or thereabouts as far as i remember, due to the fact that we had to be nearly at Wantage by 6am. Uuugghhhhh, it makes me tired just thinking about it, you may guess I am not good at mornings, and had to have several coffees, which was a decision I would regret later on. All i can say is, thank goodness for the portaloos at the aid stations!

I'm not really smiling its wind!
2 hours and one large wet cold field (full of tents) later we had our numbers and were posed on the start line ready to go. As Neil is a member of the running 'alliance' (not club, don't say club..) called the Rebel Scum, he insisted we did a 'scum start' for Kev's camera

Ready, Set, aaand... well just go when you feel like it.
Yes there are only 2 of us on the start, as it seemed day 2 of this event was a 'go when you feel like it' up to a certain time, so it was probably the most relaxed start line i had ever been on - "shall we start running then?" "well i guess we ought to jog for a bit...", 100 yards later followed by a short delay as i decided my race number would be more comfortable placed on my leg.

You can guess what Neil might be saying to Kev at this point...'women eh? or worse'
And then we were off. Kev left to take an extremely leisurely drive to the finish at Avebury with the dogs, and would have the unenviable task of hanging around for several hours waiting for us to come in (we were estimating 7 hours)
We had already agreed to pace pretty slowly, to stick together, and if an incline started to feel like a hill, we would walk it to save energy. This led to a quite a few 'hardly much more than flat' slopes being walked towards the very end! I can't remember a lot of the course (which followed the historical ridgeway path for most of the route), unfortunately because not a lot of it was truly memorable, apart for the wrong reasons like the section where we were running along the side of a road. There were some scenic bits don't get me wrong, but they were few and far between. By the time we had got to some of the better parts of it, just before Avebury we were at a level of hurt never before experienced, and didn't really notice, yes i know only 8k more than a marathon, but we didn't know it would make that much difference. On the way down the last hill to run through the Avebury Stone Circle (and then out again to head for the finish which was another couple of km away) we did agree that probably everything below around chest height was in pain. 
We pretty much decided to walk most of the last km and leave our remaining energy for running the last bit to the finish line. Unfortunately as we rounded the last corner to the finishing straight we realised that we would have to run all the way as everyone could see us! Longest finishing straight ever but first Ultra for both of us and only Neil's second marathon!

"Just a bit further, try and look like we are enjoying it..."
A nice surprise for Neil that became apparent as we got closer was that waiting for him at the finish line were his whole family and most of the rest of the Rebel Scum, and they were holding a banner....

a nice touch!
Why was it so much more difficult than a marathon? Was it psychological perhaps? An inability to pace such a long race due to inexperience? perhaps a seasoned ultra runner can enlighten me, or perhaps it will become clear if i ever do another.
I thought the event was expensive but pretty well organised, no problems with registration or start area (if you were doing the whole 100k you could be provided with a tent to sleep in). The aid stations were approx every 10km and were particularly well stocked (sandwiches, soup, tea, coffee, cake, hot chocolate, crisps, fruit, sweets, chocolate bars, flapjack etc etc), and they also had a few portaloos too, which was a welcome sight to someone who had consumed just a little too much coffee earlier...(too much information?)
You had to pay for a tshirt if you wanted one, but the medals were quite nice, although we both said, that since you could elect to enter just one of the days, it was a shame that they didn't have a separate medal to reflect that, as you felt a bit of a fraud with a 100k medal after doing 'only' 50k...
We were pleased to have got in under the 7 hours we predicted at 6:47 and I when I checked the results I had the added surprise of discovering I had come in first in my category (VF50) for the 50k even if you counted both days! No prize for that though, apart from plenty of pride :-)

I made sure i had a few days of total rest after that (well just dog walking anyway) as in a moment of stupidity I had already booked a place on the White Star Running 'Dorset Invader' half marathon just the following week, needless to say i was not planning on racing it (even if I had it wouldn't have been possible!) just getting round. I didn't want to miss this event as Kev was helping out there the whole weekend and to top it all the medals were EPIC, as most WSR medals are.
The truly enormous Dorset Invader half marathon medal! (not my photo)
Runners had been encouraged to embrace the wearing of themed costumes, and many people did indeed embrace this with open arms! The whole event was Roman themed as the farmland we were running on was once theirs and everyone got involved. There was well placed signage, no not the race direction signs, although they were good, but ones along the lines of 'What have the Romans ever done for us' and 'he's not the Messiah he's a very naughty boy'! Even the aid stations were themed and the famous 'lovestation' was renamed as 'Aphrodite's Temple' - This was Kev's get up for the weekend, understated as usual...

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me...:-)
I was disappointed not to have had chance to get a costume ready, but it did turn out to be a pretty warm day so perhaps not such a bad thing after all! I certainly wouldn't have liked to have been poor Justin, who did the whole race in actual full metal jacket roman style

The Races were started by everyone being led in a charge down the hill by Rupert the farm owner in full roman costume on horseback!
The route was a nice mix of fields, gravel tracks, woodland etc and a lot of it went through Barley fields thus providing many an opportunity for people to channel their inner Gladiator by running fingers through it. I especially liked the sections of narrow paths which twisted and turned through woodland. Although one of the tree roots got me and I ended up on the floor, but nothing damaged except pride. Bonus points for me though as i managed to roll my shoulder and end up half on my back, which makes an improvement on the usual 'face first in the dirt' style.

In terms of venue it was great, there was a 'roman bath' for runners to cool off in, a Bar in a barn, camping, breakfast and a hog roast. To top off the weekend there was a bit of silliness in the guise of the charity 'Invader Chaos' race, a short race which started off with everyone having to throw their shoes in huge bags which were then taken up the hill and deposited on the ground, where runners would have to find and put on their shoes before the next section of the race. This led to the quote of the weekend, in a pause in the pre race brief we heard the radio announcement 'The shoes have been deployed, i repeat, the shoes have been deployed'....
Runners then had to run a short course before locating an item they would have to carry back to the finish with a partner who was only identified by the numbers pinned to the objects!
True to the race name, Chaos did ensue, I didn't run the race myself, but it was fun to watch. All proceeds went to Parkinsons Research charity

The 'Film my Run' guy Stephen was running the Invader Marathon and his film sums it up quite well.

Dorset Invader Marathon from Film My Run on Vimeo.

After 3 very different but difficult races in such quick succession and feeling really tired after the Invader I did have to admit that I had probably overdone it a bit and so elected to take a week off running.
After coming back from France I had luckily picked up my new bike as well (obtained via the bike to work scheme) and so just did a couple bike rides to and from work and a few dog walks.
The last week of July was just putting in a few steady runs, and looking forward to August which would bring, among other things, the Stur Half race, the Salisbury 54321 33km (which I was running once again with Neil) and hopefully most of the Bad Cow Day 2 Marathon as part of my training for the Purbeck Marathon in September.
Busy Busy time of year for Dorset trail running...

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