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Monday, 30 August 2010

Ridgeway Race Report; CP9 to finish

The easy bits I forget. The hard bits I remember. At this point the guys at Cp9 said less than 10km to the finish. Bollocks. It was 13km+

That was negativity slipping between the cerebral hemispheres. The bastard had got in and was starting to rot my PMA like it had done with Dave many hours earlier. We had targetted finishing at 9.30am. I knew that we were 25 minutes outside our last estimate for CP9 so I feared for where we were going. A sit down and watch the rest of the runners go past and amble in under 24 hours was a flood that was suddenly taking over my brain. Dave was good here. He was playing reverse psychology. At the time when I needed it most, the big man from Molesey was there and demonstrated that his ball of PMA was massive. Well at least acorn sized.

The Ridgeway is a ridge. Just that. The last leg was undulation from 160-280m on long slow hills. Metalled track gave way to rutted muddy pathways, too deep to run properly and switching from rut to rut demoralised me. We saw a few runners in the distance. The sun picking out the reflective strips and day-glo colours from the chalky farmland that surrounded them.

The last 5 or so miles were a bit of a blur. I couldn't walk. However, the last ounce of energy, the last gift in the sac magique was to run. That was all I could do. Spasm in calves and the knowledge of lost and broken toenails gave way to a trot. the trot broke into a canter and then a gallop as we descended from Fyfield Down and off the hills down Herepath. As we did we flew past 6 totally dejected runners and did what we always do when we run. Finish strong. We did a sub 11, a sub 10 and then an 8 for the last 3 miles. 8 minute miles are bread and butter to most runners but 8s at 88 seemed a symetrical way to end the best run of my life.

And then it ended......

At the line, handshakes and medals. The UK Ultra Trail Championships were over =46th place for me and Dave. Bacon butties cider and a sleep in the crew car all the way to London.

Sublime. Ridiculous. Unforgettable.

We said never again. Ever. But now? I think maybe 100 next year.

Thanks Astrid and Susie, Jezza and Dave. Massive well done to Di, Dave, Tim and Linda for support. Thanks to Susan Smith; Chairperson of DPR who turned up and waited for us hour after hour at some ungodly hour! Well done to Claire and Helen, Draconian one and Colin. Well done to Beardy man and the PMA stealers. Well done to the Jungle crew. Well done to you all. If you came 1st or last. That was a run that defied expectations and gave everything in memories that it took from you in spirit and energy.

See you next year?

Ridgeway Race Report; CP8 to CP9

first go at lomo, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

This was the hardest individual run I have ever done and this was the hardest part. We arrived at CP8 to a roaring fire and Swindon Striders were manning the CP. Flat coke and coffee was all I could muster. I attempted a Jaffa cake but my mouth was not accepting it. We had arrived at the CP expecting solace and all we had to do was soldier on. Bloody friendly bunch though and I made sure I thanked everyone at the station as at 4-5am, what a great thing to do for others. I think that is one of the essential components to the success of this event. The cameraderie and the unselfishness of the supporting crews and marshalls. This cheered me up no end thinking about this.

Dave was poking his head above the flatline where depravity ends and humanity begins. He warmed to the log fire and found some elbow grease from somewhere and off we went...after a piss stop of course!

This stage was a long one and soon off Ashbury Hill at Bishopstone, we descended off the downs from Foxhill to Liddington. The down was an opportunity to have a speedy hill descent and we quickly caught up with Beardy Man who we had seen at Chequers (and had found a £20 note blowing across his path!!) and had a chat with him. He was in good spirits but as soon as we had conversed, he had an impromptu stop and was not to be seen again.

A long and boring stretch of tarmac now and a gentle upwards towards the M4. Crossing this dirty track via a bridge we noted on articulated lorries on the road, pushing on through the night with the drivers in comfort, while we were in agony.

Off the road finally which was a welcome break and another punishing 700ft climb past the aptly named Upper Upham. Right! Dave darted behind a redundant combine harvester, fresh from the threshing of wheat the day before (we did spot one at CP7 working through the night) and alerted me to his toiletary requirements. After this Dave was back from the dark side!

Whilst Immune dealt with the necessary ablutions, 2 runners attempted to steal my PMA and this had a lasting affect on me. Both were suffering. Badly. All they could do was tell me how hard it was and after asking me how far did I think it was to the end, they scoffed and said it was much further? So why ask and why steal my PMA?

Anyway. Dave came back from the rim of hell and we started to get a clip on. Onwards towards Ogbourne St Andrew and we had decided to keep our windstoppers on as they were breathable. If we walked, we would still be sweating and get cold, as it had dropped to 7-8 degrees and we would be more likely to cramp. Light had crept across the contorted duvet of pathwork fields and downs, dithces and woodland. Torches were off, saved now for some other senseless run.

We approached Ogbourne down a quad busting mile long hill and after taking the PMA-stealers, we took another runner, clearly limping and enduring huge sufferage. He was nearly crying. Words of encouragement as we sped past was all of the crumsb that we could offer. Aside for a serious injury, all of my energy was focused on the Self and Immune, who was now very perky. I sensed that Immune was an anti-vampire. a man scared of hard work in the dark! All of these silly thoughts kept me going as we raced past these poor souls. Each time my feet chiming to the rhythm in my head of "Another one bites the dust".

It was my turn to feel the pain. Dave was feeling good and had a fast clip. I lagged behind for longer periods now, having spent a long time focused on both of us I now needed to look inwardly to myself. Sugar and caffiene was lacking from my bloodstream and I knew it.

Lying between us and CP9 was Barbury castle. A 700ft climb of relentless and head on windiness. This was ultra running stripped bare. 7.30am and I found a capri-sun and flake in my back. I necked both, feeling sick but knowing that otherwise a balckout would ensue. I quickly reminded Dave of the 3 in my club who had failed at the final hurdle and to keep an eye on each other, as low blood pressure and the wall were looming ominously on the horizon. My mind was on overtime. At the top, the beacon of CP9 and a luke-warm coffee and the support crew! Susie and Astrid we late and we saw them pull in. We needed to motor on but seeing Susie's eye well up in acknowledgement that the pain written across my face was unbearable nearly made me cry. Onwards...quickly.

Ridgeway Race Report; CP7 to 8

Salisbury point to point, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

The have lots of Horse racing on the Downs, I told Dave, and recounted stories of gambling and horse racing and why I am not a fan of gambling. I am rubbish at it!

If we could see the downs, then they may have looked like this. However, we continued, up to some of the higher points on our journey. Rams Hill, White Horse Hill, Lammy Down, Uffington Hill and I recounted the history of the White Horse and Wayland's Smithy. We chatted with a couple of runners who caught and left us on this oppressive stage of the race. We looked down at the watch and we were close to 70 miles....and despair. All we had to look forward to was the next CP. We were pretty quiet now. Occasionally we discussed athletics. Mostly we were quiet. Moving forward. Slowly. I can't remember how many times we stopped for a piss. Both of us felt dehydrated but urine colour analysis proved otherwise. Nothing else to do but move forward. I popped an anti-inflamatory pill.

Ridgeway Race Report; CP6 to CP7

broken, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

I have to admit that his pace quickened across the top of Bury Down but Dave appeared broken. Even the little piss take (East Ginge Down!!!) went down like a sack of shit and the little jokes and gee-ups were not working. There was no plan B. Plan A was to put one foot in front of the other and as quick as possible.

The relentless North Wessex Downs offered little in the way of anything to pass the time other than the red-topped masts that dotted the horizon and made you feel like you were on some night time treadmill going no where. We passed the point where Dave wa in new territory, over 57 miles. I tracked in front of Dave for long periods here, part trying to give myself a PMA and part from not letting any demons get inside my head and make me negative. The only solace was to count off the miles and to stop us from going to slow. Jezza had stated that 3 miles an hour at night across the hills would be good but that would have been too slow. We had to keep the pace up if we were to challenge for a sub 24 hour time. We were in dangerous territory here. Road crossing after cart track came and went and with some deft navigation, we apexed corners and made it to CP7. Dave was coming to the light at the end of the tunnel, but her wasn't there yet. I was in some form of madness/psychosis as the marshalls at CP7 thought I was mad. Coffee here (note to self; should have had sugar!) and a top up of water was needed. I couldn't face any food which was silly as I would need it too later as I was to find out.

Off we went

Ridgeway Race Report; CP5 to CP6

Crew car, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

Say goodbye to the crew car. After Goring where Jezza arrived as we left, although I didn't see him we walked for a while to let the food go down. After a mile or so of crossing the Thames and roads,we hit the trail again. I turned my headtorch off as Dave's was bright enough and the stars and the moon were out. Up to Bury down (Down was up!) and as we approached the 50 mile mark Dave started to nose-dive into a patch of not feeling great.

We were up on the downs and it become very open with the relentless gentle up and down that we had been used to on Neolithic. It was too steep to run up to Bury Down so much of this we wlaked. Dave was dropping back so I tried everyhing to gee him up, asking questions and whittering on about stuff. We approached and overtook a runner who I had to block out mentally. he was so negative about everything and I had to work hard in my head not to let the negative thoughts creep in just as I could have been feeling crap too. I had to drop back and keep Dave away from him as Dave was not feeling great and this negativeness could really kick him in the goolies. We let him pass but we were conscious of the ticking clock and made our way towards CP6. As we got there we picked up 2 other runners. One was an essex girl who told us of the Jungle Marathon that she had run. Her and her mate from "team Jungle" had met and run the race that Mark Hines wrote a book about. We listened in and I was in very high spirits at this point. I left them with Dave to have a chat. Dave was not chatty but they were. I took the opportunity to head about 500m in front of them to do some thinking, keep my head positive and have good run walk posture, making sure that I was tracking towards CP6 by cutting off apexes and not going wrong with the mapreading.

A mile from CP6 we went under a road bridge with the most minging murals on. It looked really grim. Up the hill and the word was that CP6 had hot dogs. I had a call from Susie to let me know that. They had left CP6 to go to the hotel. Unfortunately we missed them. Up the hill towards CP6 I ran all the way and arrived about 5 mins before Dave. Cup of coffee and 2 hot dogs later I was right as rain, fueled by cheap flat coke I was read to rock and roll. Dave on the other hand, looked grey. He managed a cup of tea and off we went.

Ridgeway Race Report; CP4 to CP5

CP5 Goring food stop; 9pm, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

This was the longest stage of the day so far and we were keen to keep the pace high. I must admit that as we entered Grim's Ditch, a 5 mile long earthworks that I was feeling a little low. We had been running with Draconian One and Colin on and off for some time but something was bothering me. My arse! I was going to have to stop for a moment. relief! I bounded up to Dave who had kept running so I knocked off 1km at about 7.30s to reach him. Grimmer Ditch I thought.

It was surreal running along the earthwork thinking that some 2500 years ago many people had built this and we conversed about why they had done it. There was a lot of downhill on this stage and we made quick work of what seemed like over an hour of the ditch. Straight forward towards the River Thames and towards the halfway point. The light faded quickly and we ran walked along the thames watching parties and boats and big houses whicle we chatted as a group of 4. We picked up a couple of other runners as we left the Thames and it was now pitch black. Through the beautiful village of North Stoke and along pathways and roads towards Goring. I have a habit of speeding up towards checkpoints. Why? Perhaps to stay longer and organise, perhaps for the sweet thoughts of food and hot drinks. ANyway, I motored ahead of the group, leaving them for about 2 miles and to Goring, where my food was on the table before they arrived. Brilliant service from the marshalls and volunteers and thanks for my coffee, jacket potato with beens and cheese and homemade quiche!

Shoe change! Wow. Comfort from the buggered up old shoes. This was the 44 mile point and I was in need of fresh feet. This would be the last time we saw the crew until CP9 tomorrow morning, but at what time? Dave and I departed in total darkness with headtorches showing the way

Ridgeway Race Report; CP3 to CP4

Of all of the legs of the race, I must admit that this one I think I remember the least for the terrain and the most for the people. It was a short leg by the standards as we had already done at least 2 from CP3 to the support crew car before. There were plenty of roads to cross and the trail led across golf courses and probably the most populated part of the journey. Lots of walkers and people were out and about in the afternoon. I spied Susie at a junction with camera in hand with Astid on support. Amazingly, Di and Dave from the running club were on hand to give support and encouragement. It made us feel like we had an extra 10% energy and with a quick 2 minute chat we were steaming along to CP4.

Then we hit some serious hill and valley territory. The last hill was unforgiving as the crew were shouting from the top but all runners were walking this one!! Up to CP4 at Swyncome, there was a tent, Di and Dave had joined the support crew for encouragement and also, Tim and Linda from the club who had biked up in their leathers! Wow! this was like another 10% boost! A cup of tea and a change of clothes to night wear. We were concerned that with the next leg being 12.5 miles that we would be in the dark and so we dumped the bottle belts and opted for rucksacks with extra food and headtorches. Both of us were feeling really good and kept up a good pace during this leg.

Ridgeway Race Report; CP2 to CP3

Approach to CP3, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

We didn't stop at CP3 at all. We went stright on through and past 7 or 8 runners. It looked a well manned CP with loads of food. Instead we soldiered on and to the meeting point, which we assumed was half a mile or sop onwards. Actually it was about 2 and a half and Immune was out of water.

We had a sock change here which felt like heaven. I really had enjoyed this stage, despite it being the hottest of the day and hilly. The views were just amazing and we got a serious clip on during this part of the race and overtook quite a few runners, seen as we had started the race in the last 5 off the hill at Ivinghoe beacon. What really gave us a boost was the territory was fairly even although there were road sections that were long and I felt for those in trail shoes. I am glad that I stuck to road shoes throughout. I had asked Susie for a shoe change at CP3. On hindsight, I am glad I left it to CP5.

Ridgeway Race Report; CP1 to CP2

Immune 39 and me 50 at CP2, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

To start this challenge with talk of urination would be odd, but it was pertinent. About half a mile out of CP1, I had to go. I went, looked round for Jezza and no one was in sight. We had a gentle start towards CP2 and with it only being 6 miles to CP2, we were sure that with our pace at a comfortably relaxed rhythm that Jezza would catch us up. Approaching Princes Risborough we spotted Jezza on the long straight before the ascent to the monumented hill with the view of Chequers. He was about 500m or so behind. We stopped and chatted to a couple of walkers and they took our photo (although I relinquished the camera at the next CP as it was extra mass) and we plodded on.

Coming into CP3 we had 7 minutes, a ham sandwich, coconut water and a refill of the belt bags we were carrying. Astrid and Susie were in high spirits but wondering were Jezza was. He eventually came in 5 mins later.

Ridgeway Race Report; Start to CP1

12.00 wave and the whistle blew. I was expecting the speech, the health and safety but no, off we went on the whistle. A great chance to talk to Helly D, Claire, Robby Elson and to meet COlin, fresh off the back of lakeland 100. The sun was out and after a bit of kit tightening and adjustment, we were on our way.

We needed to motor as CP1 was a 2 hour cut off. Rather tight but can you imagine being shut out after that time! We made our way up the Chilterns as a 3. Me and Jezza up front and Dave behind, his usual chatty self, gleaning hints and tips from all manner of runners. We were off at sub-9s which was about right but kept having to haul ourselves in from going faster as up onto the Chilterns, this was all uphill through gorgeous scenery.

We hit CP1 and what we should have done was organised the crew with what we wanted, a mistake that we would not make again. 6 minutes at CP1 was long enough although Jezza spent a lot of time in his bag. And off we went......

Team UltraBobban

Team UltraBobban, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

Well at least we were matching

Hats off to the support crew.

Before the race report, a few words to the crew, whom without their tireless dedication and hard work, Dave, Jezza and I would have found this nigh on impossible.

Thank you both for your brilliant work!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

What will it look like on Sunday?

Hopefully this will be the picture. Feet up. Wine. Relax in a hot bath and chill.

It has been a big build up. I signed up on 3rd March but truly started training for this the moment I crossed the line of C2C. This week has been slow, with 40km completed in the dreaded taper. I have been to work a few times in my holiday (?!) and I have planned food bags, hydration and laminated the maps. We have conversed daily by email, weekly by phone and it feels like ages since I competed after 6 marathons and ultras in 12 weeks.

There is just 36 hours to go until the start of the Ridgeway challenge 2010. I have a couple of treats for the chaps on the journey. I think that the niggles are starting to iron themselves out and some carb loading is taking place. Kit checks tomorrow and medical kit and sartorial changes will be planned. Fruit will be purchased tomorrow. Then saturday morning it will be sandwich making, measuring out Nuun and Electrolyte/energy drinks will be made in labelled bottles.

All I can hope for now is to maintain PMA, charge the Garmin and get some good quality sleep.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A mountain to climb

Scafell Massif, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

Immune said to me that he was bored shitless with his taper, or words to that effect on Friday. At least I remembered that he had telephoned me in the Southwark Tavern as I had just returned from the fabulous Borough Market with a face full of Bratwusrt and 6 pints of Aspall's Cyder in my bloodstream.

I fucking hate tapers. That is why I never do them. Dave is right. They suck. Each time I walk up the stairs or to the pub or the shops I think about a niggle in my knee, a stiffness in my achilles and a twinge in my back. For goodness sake I have been knocking out 130k week in week out and as soon as I stop, the mind games set in.

So the only thing to do was to go for a few pints with good friends and enjoy the taper. Enjoy might be the operative word as at the time it seems that but after a few hardcore ultra sessions and the local chippy getting more service from me in the wee small hours that I care to remember it is time to hang up the hangover. Admittedly in my gregarious state I have had a whale of a time and enjoyed company and many good beverages, at least 6 types of cider, coffee martini's and is time to get the brain and body focused on the task ahead. Ridgeway mode.

The entry list came through today and it is great to see so many friends running the route. I am more nervous about going back to school after the hols that the race.

Jezza has purchased new shoes and I am about to do the same. Asics gel cumulus 11 as they are the best shoe I have found for my feet and gait. In 16 marathons and ultras, not one blister and only 1 lost nail. And that might have been the inov8s anyway.

Sartorially I am nearly ready. More clothes changes that a presenter at the MTV awards and the team UltraBobban crew t-shirts which are chav-chic is a billy-bonus.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

It's a long and winding road but the end of part 2 is in sight

Hardknott Pass winding road, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

It's been a funny old week.

As weeks go, it has been OK, but funny. Part 2 or the year is nearly over. Challenge 2; the Ridgeway is almost upon me and I am feeling nervous and excited. Good.

Ran to the Summer League last round today in Battersea. Only 6 miles to the start but did 8, before allowing the legend that is Steve Beard to draft me and in doing so knocked 4 minutes off his PB. 2 things are going on here. Steve is less fat than me and it was a windy day, hence him tucking in behind my massive arse. Secondly, the profanity that ensued was enough to put anyone off loving me, hence the wide berth that we were being given.

Hell, it was a chance to get a PB, something he was going to do and if I was going to run at 7.30s then I was going to make him suffer. 36.59 on a slightly long 5 mile course was 4.20 off his PB. What a star!

Anyway I was all up for running home and then I found the table with free Pimms. I had a few and then some quiche and peanuts ready for the run home. Ultra food I told everyone. Then the rock of the club that is Smithy the Chairwoman roped me into the relay. Great. A moment where I knew I was going to be a vomiter. Then this girl looked at me as if I was going to say hello? Who the hell was she? After the relay in which I ran for the B team in a very respectable 53 seconds (note; watch the crowds look on as I let the other competitors race off and I took last place so that none of the wiley characters could put pay to my Ridgeway challenge. Anyway a lollop around in a time that was good enough for second fastest in the A team.

Anyway, this girl comes over and it was none other than Serpie Claire who I ran with at the C2C in January. Being her first ultra, she was just utterly brill and finished a few mins ahead of me. She then reeled off a load of races that she had done and it was true that she was turning into a legend too.

Anyway I have an invite to the Hardmoors 110 in 2011 which I could take up. And we'll see her at the start of the Ridgeway too on the 12.00 Elite start....... and possibly not after that as she looks in fine fettle. As the start approaches, the long and winding road to the Ridgeway comes to a close.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Bob Graham Round

Approach to Mickledore route, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

For about 3 years I have been thinking of the BGR. 42 peaks in 24 hours. Looking up at Scafell Pike through the Mickledore Route (although this is not the route I would take!) it seems insane that Joss Naylor can run up and down England's highest peak in well under an hour and the record is 49mins 50 sec to the summit and back down to Wastdale Head car park. I really want to plan for this in 2012 and I think that it would be great to do it as part of a small team. Only just over 1000 people have ever done it and I can see why. Just for the fact that there is so little visibility above 600m on an average day means that GPS is a must! Better start saving!

Walking, not running

After Scafell; Cider, originally uploaded by ultraBobban.

2 weeks to go until the BIG race. A little R&R in the lake district to take in some clean air and panoramic views. The new TNF trail shoes stood up to a scrambling ascent through the difficult Mickledore route to the top of Scafell PIke at 3208ft from Wastdale Head. They are very comfortable and I think possibly will get some use on the Ridgeway, particularly good on stony ground as have grip but also a lot of cushioning. The previous day I entrusted the Inov8 gore-tex roclite 312 for a fell run. We took a hilly route up to Vile Crag and Loughrigg which was in it's part, not a huge run, about 10km, but Mrs UB enjoyed the views of Windermere and gave her Inov8s a good road test too. Slightly stiff quads from the descent of scafell pike and I think that this week will be mild on the mileage, particularly after last week and the 130km achieved. This being my biggest week and that with 2 1/2 days off running. Perhaps this could have been much bigger, although perhaps it would have ended in injury. We finished off the week on saturday afternoon with an 8 mile run round Croxteth Park in Liverpool and some of the more interesting areas of the outer City Centre.