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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Windsor Ultra 43.4 mile Race Report

The Gravy Train rolls on with another adventure with trusty GRT runner Phill. This one was a little off any radar other than the two of us and our new GRT runner Cookie. Cookie bowed out on this one to go to a 40th birthday party and attempt 40 pints. I'm not sure how that worked out fella? So this was all a bit last minute, but required a bit of planning for the point-to-point race along the Thames. There were 4 days of the race but we opted for the 43.4 mile (70km) Windsor ultra. Phill arrived at mine at 5.30am and we cabbed to Paddington to get the train to Madenhead and cab to the start about 6 miles away. It was a fairly low key start and with the NDW100 on the same day, a small field including a Spartathlon runner.

The start was actually delayed by Race Director Steve for the 2 competitors who were doing all 4 days of the race. He then let them go 15 mins before the mass start. This was all a little weird as they were walking like John Wayne and we passed the first of these guys only 1.5 miles into our run. Off we headed at the horn and withing 2 mins were on the Thames Path. slightly muddy underfoot but by no means treacherous we joined the lead group. The spartathlete looked in good shape and he ran the race from the front with an odd guy in Hokas and ONE COMPRESSION SOCK! We were joined by a young chap who looked about 18 but had a support crew of wife, child, mother-in-law, brother and father-in-law. We dubbed him the boy scout as he looked young. With only 3 Check Points and 24 degree sunny temperatures, our fuelling and hydrating strategy could make or break us. Our form and fitness was questionable, as I in particular had not got the miles in. So to CP1, we settled into our own race strategy, letting the 2 faster chaps off the front and the boy scout joined us. He wasn't very talkative! CP1 was reasonably well stocked and after 3-4 mins stocking up we set off again from 10 miles to the next CP which was 11.7 miles away. It got hot and humid and I wasn't in the greatest of shape, with a feeling of malaise and bloatedness. I beckoned to Phill to come up with a CP1.5 so we walked and took on some food, the boy scout staying with us. We set off again at 15 miles and that was the last we saw of scout. We then started to make tracks to CP2, crossing the river a couple of times past Windsor castle where groundsmen were out with shotguns.

I was out of water by mile 17 so a welcome shop for a can of coke was utilised. Scout did not come past. We rolled into CP2 for a longer stop. The front 2 were 7 mins ahead at this point. A big fuel and water up and we walked for 10 mins to let the nutrition soak in. We then opted for a strategy that would see slow, but steady progress up to the Marathon point and then it was into Gravy territory and ultra land. Again out of water, we stopped at an ice cream van for a much needed coke. Running along the river was the first fully flat ultra I had done and actually feel that it is harder than a hilly race, all of the time utilising only one muscle group rather than changing for the differing gradients. The river was getting busy and watching the boats bimble past with the occasional seaman asking us how far we were running and with the sun beaming down on us we almost missed CP3. There was a problem here as the back of the pack were so far back that CP3 hadn't been set up properly and there was water only. Why oh why do races insist on a water only CP?

We stopped to 10 mins and had a sit down out of the now hot sun. As we were leaving, much to our surprise, a Greek guy from the start come rolling in. No scout. Being in podium 3rd was now at risk and for Phill, this wasn't an issue but I got the bit between my teeth and off we went. Navigation issues with a closed part of the path and some missing signeage meant the map came out for the first and only time.....I mean, who could miss a river. We assumed the Greek had gone past us by now so we took the pressure off ourselves, both close to the wall in the heat, both with bloated and sick bellies. Hampton court came with a small sense of relief as this meant a cheeky 10k or so to go. Coke 4 from an ice cream vendor for me! The last 5 miles of which took forever. Where was the bridge we had to cross to signal 1.1miles to go? Then there it was!

A couple of double/triple checks of the instructions to find the finish line and we reckoned about 1km to go. We both of us were a little worried as we had stopped sweating in the last 4 miles. Wobbly but knowingly close, Phill picked up my strategy for spotting a marker, running to it and then having a walk break. We did this to good effect. Finally he said, 2 lamp posts and the end of the hedge and the finish came upon us! Fat medals, t-shirts, showers and then a walk back to the pub to sink a few. We assumed 4th and went to see how far the Greek had beaten us by. Joint 3rd= said the RD! Awesome work. Phill has a battle scar tan line on his slap as a reminder that this was his longest ultra to date. The gravy train rolls on!