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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

UK Ultra Trail Championships - R86 The Ridgeway

SO I trained. I trained hard. Super hard for some time, well as super hard as you can train with a 50 hour week job and 2 kids and moving house at the same time. It has been ages since I have blogged. I have moved house, work has got a little bit harder and kids are well, kids.

Leading up to the race we took a holiday in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria. I love going to see Graham and David and having a few beers. It was 35-ish degrees so I ran early....It is really hard to run without being chased/attacked by wild dogs. I was out for a few days and all was fine. The last day I took Audrey in the buggy and had to leg it from a wild dog. Nevertheless, lots of hills and back country. Having arrived home I had a proper taper. I don't usually but with looking after the girls and packing for the move, there was no time.

Saturday morning came and I hopped on the train, super early as they were on some bank holiday engineering works mullarkey. Anyway, after a train, tube, train and cab i was at the start, 90 mins early. Time for a relax and a feed. I also met a few fellow competitors. The nervous, the happy, the intrepid and the gung-ho. I kept any powder dry and focused on me-time. I did begin a conversation with Lauren, who was at the start with her BF, who was crewing for her. They seemed pretty cool. Aside from that, I listened to and ignored at the same time, the pre-race drivel from some blokes chatting gear and crocodile wrestling. my time would come.

There was plenty of photo shoot at the start, I put my phone away before it all started, had a moment looking out over Ivinghoe Beacon and then it was off. It was a super warm bank holiday. 26-27 degrees I recall. After 2015 and the blow-out DNF at half way, I took it steady. Mile 1-10 was at an easy pace. Up to CP1 I felt OK. Not great, but not bad. The evil demons that are runners dreads and nightmares kicked in soon after. I recall the same incline in 2015 and also 2010, felt good at the latter, the wheels were already off in the former. CP2 was welcome. Within a couple of miles I was all at sea. Images of 2 years ago were flooding my memory. This time, I knew my  mind was stronger and I would try as hard as I could to overcome the evil and vile demons. Then it came over me like a tsunami of meh....10 miles of run/hide in hedges. I succumbed to the heat once more. Ongoing diahorrea until mile 23. Totally dehydrated I gently trotted to CP3. I ran with a less hirsute Tom H (trail dragon) whom I had spent a lot of miles with in 2010. Both of us were at our ends. Mustering up energy we gained momentum and conversation towards CP3. Under the bridge and out the the CP, there lay a battle strewn line of drawn and pale faces, despite the late summer humid pallor. Sweat-ridden and salt wanting men, clearly to-hard-to-fast written over their forlorn tattooed bodies, memories of races past. This was the turning point. Looking at such pity, such sorrow, phoning wives and girlfriends, gurning, angry, sad. I had to go on.

Within 2 miles or so, a wave of hope came across me. I felt OK. Not only that, I was beginning to feel good. Slow as the first marathon was, I was picking up as the cooler evening air pricked up my skin as the sweat retreated. it was then, as the course took a turn uphill through a pair of gates and across a pasture that I met up again with Lauren, whom I had me at the start. We started up a conversation that lasted 60 miles. One of the best conversations I have had and at the time, I remembered every word and now, as the months have passed, it all blends into a happy memory of races past, places lived (Lauren has lived nearly everywhere near me!) school and crazy holidays in Africa and most of all...not getting lost at night.

We picked up some pace and CP4 came and that was  anew one as the old CP was at the top of a hill with a caravan. Sadly the old lady running this has long gone but onto the point at which I capitulated last time around. I needed to take a reference, so here it is...

Then it was onwards. Down Grimm's ditch at super speed. Despite the terrible first 26 miles, the next 18 were spot on and we were about 45 mins up on the 2010 time with Dave Hegarty, Colin Fitzjohn and Tom H. No need for a headtorch, but in need of directions from a lovely posh boy in a Morris Minor. At Streatley, the half way point it was time for a change of clothes, jacket potato and beans. Lauren delighted me in showing me her mangled feet. 3 cokes and a salt tab later, we were ready to go. I clutched a banana, maybe I would eat it later. I'm not even really a banana fan. Up up up out of Streatley and onto the Wessex Downs. A slog for the next CP but how welcome it was. Hot coffee! We were making good progress and still doing a lot of running. We are indebted to Stuart Low (winner of MV50) who has run the course a few times and when we stopped to check (we never got it wrong!) he was there behind us to reassure. The next 2 CPs weerew full of awesomeness. Watermelon and coffee and more bananas to carry. I think I held onto a banana for most of the second half of the race. Crossing the motorway from CP7 we began to realise we were overtaking quite a lot of runners. We had been picking off a few but now was our bounty. Out of the distance was terry, who stuck with us from mile 65 up until not far from the finish. He was lit up like an Xmas tree and was a 10.00am start but we had banter. He ran mainly behind us while Lauren and I put the world to rights. What a super chat. I knew Barbury Castle was the final CP. I had felt awful in 2010 so had some apprehension. Once negotiated, the hill was not as bad as I had made out. A hot dog and coffee at the top with the sunrise and we were 1.45 hours up on my 2010 time. As we were running along earlier in the evening, we were spurred on by mutterings in the CPs. Lauren was 4th lady. Lauren was 3rd lady. Lauren was.....???? Well there was a rough looking girl in front. We blasted past her. Then another. What were we achieving. Spurred on we thought that this was something big and I was going to help her smash it. After Barbury, we though we saw over the hill behind, another female runner. Never, since the days of Mr hegarty and the 'cheeky last 10k' did we have such a cheeky last 10k. We mullered the last 5 miles. The figure in the distance did catch us, but it was a bloke! Phew. That said, what a last few miles. Booooooooom. All the way past the stone circle....what stone circle Rob? Oh those......anyway it was downhill to the finish. YES!!!!

19 hours and 14 minutes. 2 hours and 16 mins faster than in 2010. Wow. the A race of my year. I never imaginged I'd do an 8 hour 50 miler and the R86 in sub20.  Never again I said. I still might do something else. Something different.

Anyway, I had an interesting bush shower in someone's driveway. Then I sank a warm can of IPA and had a doze in Lauren's car whilst we were driven up towards Stevenage, not far from where they live. I was off to a BBQ to see Susie and the kids. I had not stopped thinking about them all race. I was really looking forward to seeing them.

Looking back on the race I feel pretty good about the latter half of the day. I remember that races are not won in the first half. I also feel really lucky to have met such a good friend in Lauren. Such is the joy of our sport, you can meet kindred spirits and share such wonderful moments with. Can't wait to run with Lauren again, only to find out how she deals with poor attendance at her school!