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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Downland 30 Challenge; Race Report

Downland 30 Challenge by ultraBobban
Downland 30 Challenge, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.
I had what you could call a hangover. Not of the cider or wine variety, but a running one. 60 miles in the last week including the Fairlands Valley 50km plus getting lost. The weird thing is that I woke up this morning with DOMS. Having legged it around Dirty South at 6.30s, Saturday was fine, Sunday was ouch. Quads and calves.

So I met Johnny Mac and Helen at the start line with some trepidation. JMac introduced me to Allan Rhumbles, who I had run with some 3 years earlier at Doyen.

The first hill is what can only be described as silly. 0-500ft in about a mile. Quad and lung bursting and I was sweating like the proverbial after a conservative start. Hot weather and warm winds prevailed and I ran the first 4 with JMac, swapping stories and contemplating his 100 marathons (this was #97). I made my excuses as he was on 8.20s pace, too quick for me for a 30miler, especially near the start so I ran alone for an hour or so, in awe at the steep escarpments and relentless hills around Ditchling Beacon which at 814ft is the 3rd highest Down. Clayton at the start is not far of sea level. Black Cap was somewhere on this stage at 676ft.

It was back down to about 40ft above sea level and then up 713ft Firle Beacon, a long, relentless climb. I got to running a good clip but conscious of the second half being the tough one. At CP1, I discovered that there was only water. Shit! A problem. I have never come across an ultra that didn't at least have some bananas, cheap biscuits or orange juice. This was just 2 moody old geezers with water. I was going to be in trouble here with only a buzz bar (300cal) a jordans bar (100cal) and a gel. (100cal)

I slowed to accomodate my concerns and found myself caught by Steve, running his first ultra, although he had run 4 marathons. We chatted, in fact we chatted lots and I ran with him towards the turning point near Southease, about 15ft above sea level. Reaching the one marshall with just water at CP2 was a chance to fill bottles and realise that I had just my gel left for the next 15 miles. I decided that although our conversation was good, the going was too slow and at 2.37 at the turnaround, I had to get a move on.

The next part of the course is hard. Back up to Firle from sea level is a tough, into the wind climb. I started to wobble at mile 17. I thought that I was going to hit the wall, something I had never ever done before. Transition from carbs and glycogen to fat burning was a worry, but the transition was short and by mile 19, I was sub 10ing up Firle and reached CP3 (or CP1 for the second time)

Quafing the gel was my only joy here and I know that 2 years ago, running with Immune, I told him to go on and run as I hit a bad patch. Last year with Helen and Flynn I felt pretty much the same and we walked vast swathes of the return leg. This time I dropped my pace to 10s and stayed there for the duration. With only a couple of walk breaks, 10s was what I hit, mile after mile after mile, all the way to the top of Ditchling. 1 gel, 15-30 miles. I overtook 20-30 people so hopefully would get to about 30th place

Met Jez in the last 5 miles and we chatted on the downhills but my leg injury prevented me from going brain off, brakes off mode. I rolled in to a 5.14 finish, only which was unbelievably 3 mins faster than last year!! However, unlike last year, my back half was the same as my out half, which I was over the moon about. Ultra number 20.....done!

An hour later, fish, chips, curry sauce and mushy peas in Brighton with Mrs UB, Simi, Anouck and all this I forgot to praise Mrs UB who ran the Jack and Jill 5 miler up Ditchling Beacon and back. She is a true running legend and I am so lucky.


  1. Well done mate, good report. Very solid 2nd half as the return leg is harder than the outward half. Very surprised there was nothing but water, but from memory i think it was the same in 2009. Can't really copmplain, as it is a very cost friendly entry fee, but a couple of bottles of orange squash wouldn't break the bank. Any chance of you having an easy week this week?

  2. Great to see you're running again - Immune told me about your injury when we ran the Thames Trot at the start of the year. Immune was on fire that day. Since then, I've spent most of my year injured too with tendonitis then a fractured metatarsal. It meant I missed the TDS and have only just started running again. Hopefully I'll find myself running with you again some time soon. Going to go for the full UTMB next year, and my first 100 miler in March. - robby