Monday, January 18, 2016

My first ultra

Awesome experience!

Great event! Great weather! Spectacular scenery! Lots of mud! Very friendly people! Couldn't have dreamt of a better event/day to enter the world of ultra running. What a fantastic day it was! :-)

The alarm clock was set to 5:30am. The registration was from 7.30-8.00am and race start at 8.00-8.30am so had to get up early. Everything had been prepared the evening before, so no hard decisions was to be made at this early hour. Put on the selected clothes for the race and some extra layers to keep me warm until the race start - and with good reason, as the temperature outside was about 1 deg C and somewhat windy.

With everything packed we (me and my partner Maria) walked to the start/finish area of the event in the dark. A small walk of about 3km ending slightly up-hill. Got registered, went to the loo one last time and it was almost time to loose the extra layers and get ready for the race. After a relatively short briefing of the race, we were off! This is it - no stopping till I've crossed the finish line.

This is what I've been waiting for!

The first half-marathon (~21km) went really well! Maybe except for taking a wrong turn after 2km or so :-) To be honest, I was simply tagging along those in front (about 20 or 30 runners). I sort of had a feeling that it was the wrong direction, but as herded sheep, I/we continued to follow - maybe I had missed something on the map? However, we eventually ended up following the correct course and from here things were good. Good pace and strong legs. 

The first few miles we went through the city of Dover, but the scenery quickly changed after running through Drop Redoubt Fort. Not long after this we were running along the coast resulting in running on a thick layer of pebbles for a mile or two (at least it felt that long). It was quite hard work! At each step your foot sinks 10-15cm into the pebbles making it so much harder to kick off to push you forward. I bet you've tried walking on this - then imagine running... Hard work! However, good experience though :-)

After an hour or so, I could only see one person following me some 50 metres back and no one in front. The herd of crazy folks was spread well out on the course. At this time the course had taking us from sea level to approx. 100-150m above on the cliffs with a spectacular view of the area. We were warned not get too close to the edge and stick to the paths, as in some places there were no fences stopping us from falling.

The next half-marathon (from ~21km to somewhat 40km) my stomach started to behave badly. At this point I'd passed the event area starting another leg in the opposite direction still along the coast and the White Cliffs of Dover. Stomach ache or not - still spectacular views! From this leg of the race I only have few photos, as I was focussing on getting forward. Multiple times the aching/stomach cramps forced me to walk. At times I seriously considered quitting!

CRISPS TO THE RESCUE! I'm not sure what caused my stomach ache: too much sugar, too much/little water, etc., but I'm convinced the salty crisps at the check points helped me getting back into business! I was ready to take on the last 10km-ish loop!

At about the distance, where I thought the last check point should be, another runner approached me. He asked me if I knew how far ahead the last check point was, and if I was sure this was the correct way. As I sort-of had expected the check point to be around this place, and he came from even further down the course, I was getting in doubt - were we lost? Did we miss a turn or check point somewhere? After a few minutes of discussing and checking the map, a women came. She seemed convinced that the last check point was still to come further ahead. We trusted her intuition and tagged along. She was right! A lot further down the course than expected, we found the last check point and with a mouth full of jelly-babies we set off for the last bit towards the finish line.

Feeling strong, despite the previous stomach ache, I picked up the pace for the very last bit overtaking 4-5 runners. These runners were, however, not racing the ultra distance, but other distances like 1okm, half- or full marathons, so overtaking them didn't affect my final position in the race. However, it still felt good overtaking them, making me finishing with a big smile :-D

Of 65 starters and 49 finishers on the ultra distance (~35miles/56km), I ended up 15th after 6 hours 37 minutes and 50 seconds (UPDATE: actually 13th due to some did not pass the mandatory kit check). I am very pleased with this result. It was an awesome experience and we had some great days in Dover. This was definitely not my last ultra - hopefully many more to come!

The evening after the race was spent with a few runners and crew of the event-makers at a pub drinking a well-deserved pint :-)
The following Sunday was spent sightseeing in Dover before heading back home.

Excellent weekend! :-)

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