Who would think that a cross country trail ultramarathon would be run IN THE DARK, in FEBRUARY in deepest, darkest swampiest (well marshland) KENT?! Bring it on.
My prep for the day included Brockley market picking up some excellent and super strong coffee, a scotch egg (remember ultra_Ewan......my secret weapon at our podium #2nd place at the Norman Conquest 50 miler?!!!!) plenty of organic veg and some meats. I spent the day with the family and then bimbled off to between Whitstable and Margate for a 7pm start.
It was wet, raining and very muddy at the start. I had a brief catch up with out of sorts Jezza. It is great to see him back on the trail. It will be even better when he is back to his best.
Pitch black and raining, I set off with a bunch of waterproofed and headtorched brave souls. I chose to travel light. One hand held and a merino sweater and gloves. Lap 1 I stuck with the front group. The pace felt comfortable so I held back. I felt great......probably unlike I have EVER felt before. One by one the front group got smaller until there were three. I made an early acceleration to test the water. No one responded. Potentially I thought that this was a ruse and they were holding me at arms length and then would pounce. No matter. I had to stop and wait as I did not know the directions and needed the reassurance of Paul, who had run the course last year.
For 30 mins I ran with him and gained confidence in the surroundings. I necked a caffeine gel and pushed again. Not the fan of wearing a headtorch an becoming accustomed to the night I switched off and ran....within myself but it just felt good. Not realising this until the end but apart from lap 3 where I motored, my pace was even throughout. I saw headtorches behind so kept pressing on.
Late on lap 3 I lapped Jezza. By mid lap 4 I felt awesome....save for an overtightness in my OMM running shorts. At mile 23 I borrowed scissors from a first aid kit at the CP and cut them through. Relief.
Final lap! At the CP I stated this. You are 15 mins in the lead! stated Race Director Mike Inkster. All that blurted out of my mouth was the fairly sombre "Well its mine to lose then!"
Final lap I had a few demons between 27-29 miles. Once over them I went as full gas as I could at 11.30pm in the dark in Feb across marshland trails with wet feet. Unbeknownst to me I had overtaken all but the top 5 runners. Ever time I dared to glance back, a headtorch brought the same question......lapped.....or catching me?! My heart was literally beating out of my chest.....too much sugar and caffeine or the potential that I might actually get a WIN!!
Straight into the final CP and 33.1 miles (the RD even asked to see my Garmin to confirm! NEVER EVER THINK ABOUT CHEATING!) and that was it
2 trophies and a medal
Interview on camera. "How does it feel to win?"
"I'm fucking STOKED!"
"We can't publish that....anything else?"
"No. I am genuinely fucking stoked. Well happy....did I really win?!"
"By the way.....you broke the course record.....BY 24 MINUTES!!!"
Wow. I went back to the car for my phone for some pics. It was now past midnight. I said the to RD I'd wait for P2 and P3 to come in. I waited 21 mins for P2. I got in the car and went home.
Everything had gone right. Food, hydration, pace. I think this is what you call in the ZONE. For me, a total enjoyment of every single minute.
I got home and had a beer and a pork pie. How better to celebrate?