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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ridgeway Challenge - 86 miles UK Ultra Championships

My journey to the start line of the Ridgeway Challenge began in earnest a little over 6 months ago. I had decided that it was time I upped my mileage: got in some quality runs and improved work on speed, endurance and hills. Being quite pleased with losing just over 6 kilos, accruing 700km more than this time last year and getting my Park Run PB under 20 mins whilst improving diet and cutting out alcohol all led me to believe this was going to be an epic race.

Having completed the Ridgeway in 2010 in a respectable 21 hours and coming in 47th place in the TRA UK championships, I  knew exactly what to expect. I knew the terrain, I had mapped out the CPs both mentally and on paper and I was very much looking forward to meeting my wife and daughter at the end. Or so I thought.

I set off with a decent night sleep and good feed under my belt and, despite feeling slightly sluggish it was a short hike to the start of Ivinghoe Beacon to begin.

A concise if not slightly curt race briefing from the RD and then we were off. Looking around there was almost nobody that I knew, which was weird. I know many were off to Chamonix for the UTMB but not a familiar site at the start of an ultra. Never mind....within a couple of minutes it was time to have a bit of a chit chat with some running folk as we bimbled off. Great I thought, as we ran into a slight headwind on the undulating Chilterns and I counted off the miles feeling fairly chuffed as I reached CP1 12 mins faster than I did last time. A quick bottle fill and off to CP2, having a bit more of a chit chat with a couple of runners until I was motoring along, race-walking the steeper hills and running everything else, holding gates open for my fellow runners. Then I got a thirst.....a thirst that I have never ever had before......and at the same time a deep deep stomach ache. I downed both bottles in the space of 3 miles and the stomach ache got worse. I'll run this off I thought and stopped for a piss. Nothing much. CP2 and I filled both bottles again. This time I needed a shit. No problem I thought and off I diverted behind some well positioned foliage. Grim, but necessary. CP3 and a chance to pick up my drop bags. Bang. Another shit. Not funny now. I motored on thinking potentially race nerves or maybe carbs upsetting my guts. I'd had nothing unusual to eat or too much of it anyhow. I made very good time up to CP3 despite this and then onto CP4, being about 45 mins ahead of schedule.

 This was brilliant as my wife and daughter who had been with friends in St Albans had dropped in to see me on their way to our other friends not far from the finish. I explained that the first miles had felt tough and Susie could see that in my face but she was pleased I was ahead of schedule and on course for an 18/19 hour race completion. After a goodbye I was off, conscious of the short but effective checkpoint strategies I had maintained thus far. I latched onto 2 chaps who were in a bit of difficult as I was feeling overheated and colonically unstable. Boom. Within the space of an hour or so I had forcibly ejected litres of unmentionable from my skinny arse. I felt insatiably thirsty so necked my electrolyte Nuun and within a few minutes, booooooom it was out. I couldn't eat (save for 3 twiglets) and I was completely dehydrated. Then lightheaded. I scuttled to CP5 and then called it a day.

I was too ill to capture the awesome sunset so this is the last image that I shot along the way. I think I had a shit somewhere to the left of the track, so desperate was I. At least it was in the wheat and not on the track. Good luck to the next loaf of Hovis that provides. And so it came to pass.....a DNF. Out. Scuppered by shit. Never before has this happened and I have no reason as to why. I managed a dribble of coca cola coloured piss 16 hours later and only a proper mansize micturation just over 24 hours later despite full-blown rehydration.

I got a nice t-shirt though. Had I not completed the race in 2010 I would feel a total fraud wearing it, but no sub-20, no medal and no cigar this time round.

Lessons learned?

1. No matter how much training you do, the shits are your worst enemy
2. A DNF is OK if you know you'll be a danger to yourself or cause the race organisers unnecessary problems if they have to collect you from out on course and you put shit stains in their Land Rover.
3. The race will be on next year.
4. All that training can be put to good use by entering some more marathons and ultras in the Autumn.
5. Come back harder, faster, stronger and with some Imodium and plentiful bog roll.