Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sandstone Trail Challenge (May 2011)

Up until two weeks before the race my training had gone perfectly but then I picked up a cold which settled on my chest. Right up until a couple of days before the event I wasn’t sure if I’d be running but the cough eased off enough for me to decide to run, though I went into it not sure if my body would hold up the distance. 

My mates Dave (Wallman) and Jeff would be battling it out at the sharp end and Andy A was running more my sort of pace. I was going for sub-6 hrs, which I thought would probably place me quite high. Andy thought that sounded like a good aim so we decided to run together.
The route starts with 3.5 miles of canal towpath then some nice, rolling fields. The ground was bone dry and lots of people shot off into the distance. It took a lot of willpower to stick to the game plan and not go with them. We came through the first checkpoint in 26th position, pausing only to have our routecard stamped then on we went. We overtook a few people who had stopped to take on food & water but they soon caught us up and passed us again. At this point we were just running at an easy pace, chatting away. 

I’d had one gel by this point but when we hit the woods at Bickerton Hill I got out my first (chicken and ham paste) sandwich. It went down easily and I felt great from it. Into CP2 at 11 miles still in 26th place and again pausing only to get the card stamped then up into Peckforton Hills.

This was superb running and I had to force myself not to speed up too much. Andy was great at letting me know when I was going a bit too fast and we ran much better when he was in front setting the pace. Just before we arrived at Beeston (roughly the half way point at 16.5 miles, 2:40) we overtook someone for the first time and if the plan had worked then this would be the first of many. I had a nice surprise at Beeston Castle: Mrs DogT was there with the kids and kisses from all three, along with much cheering and clapping, really gave me a boost. Andy stopped for a quick break here and I headed on alone.

I felt fantastic leaving Beeston Castle and overtook a few people. I was feeling so positive but then I made a schoolboy error and followed everyone in front of me the wrong way through a field. I have run this route so many times I really should not have gone off route. After dithering around trying to establish the best way of getting back on track we ended up looping back and re-tracing our steps. It didn’t add on much distance and only cost a couple of minutes but it really blew my head and put me in a funk for the next few miles. I went from feeling super positive to tired and lack-lustre in an instant.

Still, I was passing people and came into CP3 at 22 miles in 24th. I had my first little stop at this CP, half filling my bottle with water and taking on some sweets and a cup of orange juice. The orange seemed to give me a boost and I suddenly felt great again. I wonder what they put in it?
On through Delamere Forest and the legs were tired but I was in such a positive place mentally. Mrs DogT and the kids met me again, which lifted me even further and the people I was passing were looking more and more burnt out. I passed 26.2 miles in 4:20 but I knew that the last few miles are tough, with quite a bit of walking. I knew I’d be sub-six but started to wonder if 5:45 could be possible.

Into the last CP at Manley Common (28 miles) in 14th and took on more water and magic orange juice. I was running with the 2nd and 3rd place ladies, so had people to chat to along this bit. It was great to get to the top of Frodsham Hill and only have the steep run down to Frodsham remaining. I stormed the descent with only very faint warnings of cramp in my legs. Half way down I saw Andy’s wife who told me I was in 10th place. Up until now I had no idea what position I was in and just couldn’t believe it. There was nothing to race for here, there was a big gap ahead and behind me, but I kept the pace on and ran hard right to the finish.
The reception at the end was great, with finishers and families sunbathing on the grass, clapping the finishers in. With about 20 meters to go Alex came running over with a huge grin on his face and I picked him up and staggered to the finish (33.5 miles) in 10th place in 5:47. I found it all a bit overwhelming, finishing in such a high position and finishing the run with my little boy and for the first time ever I had a little cry at the end of a race.

I soon got myself together and joined the other sunbathers to cheer in the other finishers. This was an excellent event and Helsby RC did a superb job putting it together. For £18 you got a coach ride to the start, a meal at the finish and super-enthusiastic support along the whole way. I’d advise anyone looking to try their first (tenth, or hundredth) ultra to take a look at this one next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment