106km round the Isle of Wight in one stage. Ultra Challenge laid on a really great and polished race. I opted to camp at the start/finish line in Chale for a mere £25 for 2 nights. The upside was that I could just wander to the start and could then fall into my tent when I had finished. The downside was that I had to sleep on the floor after running over 100km- ouchie.
Considering I was next to the start line, I still managed to be in a massive rush to get there on time. I was so chilled out in my tent that when the 5 minute call to get to the start line was announced, I realised I hadn’t filled my water bottles, gone to the toilet or particularly packed my bag. Nevertheless I made it to the start line on time and met up with Rich from Tri Surrey whose first job of the morning was to go and fill up my bottles whilst I faffed around!
I had decided to start out at a decent pace with the goal of getting as many miles under my belt before the inevitable shuffle started. The checkpoints came roughly every 12-14 km apart and were stocked full of delicious food. Keeping the mentality of always moving forward, which I think we have figured out is from Channel swimming(every 10 seconds stopped can add minutes, perhaps hours, onto a swim), I kept my checkpoint stops brief, just picking up a banana and water and then moving on.
I had gone from 37th place to 17th at the halfway point but only stopped for a minute to pick up a banana whilst others changed socks etc. I don’t know why but I felt quite competitive at this point and, knowing that we had a short ferry crossing to take just down the road, I legged it through Cowes(accidentally going first to the Red Funnell ferry!). Unfortunately the ferry had just left so I sat down on a bench whilst 4 other runners joined me for the anxious wait. One of these was Nick Butter who had only recently run from London to Paris and who has got a phenomenal set of challenges lined up, all in aid of Prostate Cancer U.K. Check him out here: https://nickbutterrunning.com
The runners from the ferry all went off in front of me but by the next checkpoint I was up to 9th and only dropped 3 places to finish in 12th, which I’m pretty happy about.
I was under the impression that I was first lady in the race but I was fading fast in the last 20km and was overtaken by Erica somewhere along Shanklin. It turns out she started in a different wave to me(I had thought all runners started at the same time) and so had been running a lot faster than me anyway. We had a nice chat and I look forward to seeing her again at London to Brighton in a few weeks.
With 12km to go, I got to the final checkpoint and found Rich with his walking sticks out. He had been dealing with nagging injuries from the outset but had managed to run really well until the final section. He was going to walk to the end. We had a brief chat and I jogged off in front, having a little joke about putting the kettle on.
Well, I found out that Rich is rather good at power walking. So much so that I literally couldn’t shuffle any faster yet I kept hearing his voice on the wind, talking to his mate Sam. Finally, with about 2-3 miles to go, they caught up with me. The light was fading fast and we had reached high ground so the wind had a really chilly kick to it. We nattered away for however long it took us to finally see the finish. I think my memory of finishing would have been a bit dismal if I hadn’t met up with the boys, as I wasn’t loving that final stretch.
Hoping that they wouldn’t disqualify us for not wearing our headtorches in slightly post-dusk light, we jogged through the finish line, grabbed a glass of bubbly and had a mini photo-shoot.
IoW was Rich’s first ultra and he did just amazing; his attitude and ability is just so that I’m pretty sure he could do absolutely anything if he chooses to.
We had dinner in the race HQ and I rolled into my tent for a sleepless night. When I woke up in the morning, I walked back down to HQ to see if I could score a free breakfast (sausage bap, oh yeah.) and was just so impressed to see people just finishing, having been walking all night. It really takes some mental ability to go through the night and I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t do it.
I had been away for two nights so it was lovely to get back home by lunchtime to see the family and, by the sounds of things, daddy day care had been nearly as exhausting as running an ultra!
After feeling a bit ‘meh’ about running Brighton marathon, this run refreshed my mind…. it made me realise that I want to run in beautiful places and talk to interesting people and, ultimately, I want to always have that desire to run and for it never to be a chore or a hinderance.
Next up: London to Brighton 100km 🙂