Last weekend should have been a breeze. The weather was perfect, the ground was soft, my body felt mended. Nothing should have held me back. Nothing!!! Oh how wrong was I.
Saturday morning I met up with my running buddy Kelly at 8am and I had plans to recon a route as far as we could get before turning back to get home for 11am. I had the route planned on the map, I had my etrex all programmed. The only thing that could go wrong was missing footpaths.
It was a fabulous recon. I missed one turning for a footpath, I should have known this one because I’ve used that path before but we soon got back on course. Then we encountered a field full of new mother cows. Dang it. A quick look on the map and there was another footpath back along the way we had come further down the route. Our first big U turn. This footpath wasn’t used much and the height of the nettles around the footpath gate had us laughing and “OUCH, ouch, ouch”ing. This is where we met our first farm animal for the day. A great big pig. He looked huge! As we were discussing how big this pig was I got the feeling we were being watched. Yes we were. The pigs owner, obviously a bit worried about two brightly coloured individuals talking to his pig. We waved, the owner waved back and we moved on. This new footpath took us to the church in Hockliffe and from there we took the road to the next footpath section. I couldn’t find a safe footpath route to cross Leighton road so taking the roads on this section was safer. Our next U turn was at farm on Woodcock Lane. Thankfully the very lovely lady at the farm directed us to where the footpath was. We apologised and thanked her for the directions and carried on. Some furious dogs in kennels, a very lovely little bridge across a stream and we were in a field with two very friendly horses. Nothing but love for this trail so far. It was lovely. We then entered a field full of high grass. Our feet had been wet since hitting the footpath from Stone Henge works on Mile Tree Road. Our feet were now squelching with all the water drenching our legs from the long wet grass. A soggy but firm route so far. The next field gave us no clue to where the next footpath gate was. No footpath through the field either. So this was a walk around the edge of the field moment whilst we scouted out where the gate was. Eventually we found it. We were then heading downhill through a tree lined lane. Mud, mud and more mud. Okay, I’m regretting thinking that we had gotten away with not having to get our feet muddy! A few moments of navigating mud puddle gates and we arrive in Tilsworth on Blackhill. Kelly realises where she is and we also notice a great stopping point The Anchor. Before this point we should have turned back at the field with no obvious footpath but we were enjoying ourselves. Arriving in Tilsworth we decided to head towards Stanbridge along Stanbridge Road and make our run a loop. I made a note of the next turning point to continue the route to Dunstable Downs centre and we continued on to Stanbridge. Took a turn towards Egginton along Mill Road and instead of just staying on the road I dragged Kelly into some more fields. More mud and a little bit of getting lost we ended up on Stanbridge Road not too far away from the industrial estate on Cherrycourt way. By now our poor shoes looked like they had been dragged through a very muddy river but we did have an absolute hoot of a time. We part ways at this point and I run home to end Saturdays run at 10.5 miles.
After getting home I found that all the old blisters that had been slowly mending were now separated and dead skin. My feet looked a mess. So I spent a good hour or two fixing them up before soaking them thoroughly in a lovely bath. I felt good for the rest of the day. Chipper. I didn’t feel in the slightest bit tired because the recon was taken at a very steady pace.
Sunday morning was another early start to get to Northampton for the Shire and Spires Go Beyond Ultra. I had my comfy trail shoes on and everything felt good. The morning was already warming up. The day however was not going to be fun. We arrived with very little time to register and get to the loos. The race started whilst some of our group were still otherwise occupied. We weren’t far behind the main group of runners but this did have an effect on our group. The terrain was far more road than trail which made was affecting my feet by the first checkpoint. We only just made the cut off for this one. We all pushed on and the day was getting hot by now. The second checkpoint achieved with 5 minutes to spare this time. The group had been pushing themselves and it wasn’t a comfortable pace for me. I was struggling. This should have been easy, the pace we were going was much slower than North Downs Way. Maybe it was the heat!! Or the roads. Or the fact that I was wearing trail shoes and it had been mainly road up until that point. I was not feeling the love of the event today.
After the second checkpoint things started to go downhill. One of our group developed sickness and diarrhoea and our group split into two. Two people looking after the sick member and the rest of us pushing on to the next checkpoint. This was not ideal. At mile 15 we start worrying about whether we’ve missed a checkpoint because we were in the middle of nowhere and we were getting close to the checkpoint cut off and there was no sign of this checkpoint. We pushed on and at the top of a hill at a farm was the third checkpoint achieved with minutes to spare again. Water refilled and a few snacks noshed we waited for the last three of our group. A phone call from the sick member informing us that they pulled out and were being picked up. Do we wait for the two left behind? If we did wait then we wouldn’t make the next cut off at the next checkpoint. This was getting very stressful. We decide to head on and know that if there’s trouble they have phones and will let us know. A few strides is all it takes for me to realise that my feet are getting blisters on the newly healed blisters. Huge pain striking through my toes. This is not good. My head is not on right today, I’m not feeling the love for this event and I’ve been nothing but stressed out this whole time. No, I’m not going to continue. I encourage the rest of the group to continue and they do thankfully. I felt relieved. The last two members of the group arrive and hand over the chip from our sick friend. The checkpoint is closed at this point and they’re informed that if they continue it will be unsupported. They’re encouraged to sign waivers without reading them and then they head off to try and catch up with the rest of the group. That was a bit strange!! I get a lift back to the start from one of the checkpoint volunteers and we had a lovely chat on the way back. Now I could have just made my way home. All I would be doing would be hanging around waiting for the rest of the group to get back which could be another 6 hours. I stayed. I wanted to help at the finish but there didn’t seem like there was much to do. So I made my way down the course, passed a pub and found the last gate before the finish. That would do, I had a plan. I got myself some late lunch at the pub. Feeling refreshed I made my way to the gate and kept it open for the runners to go through whilst I made sure no cattle escaped from the field. I even opened it for the owner a couple times which they found amusing and helpful. After a few hours I get a phone call from my group that they’re close and could I get an order of drinks in for them at the finish. I had 2 ciders and a shandy waiting for them. It didn’t take them long after that to come past the pub. Where were the other two? What had happened? A couple hours after the first 3 of our group had finished we got a call. They weren’t far away but they had been having a very bad time. There were no checkpoints and they had been knocking on doors to get water for the rest of the route. An hour or so after the phone call they arrived at the pub only to find that they’d made it all that way to get nothing. No medal, no finish arch, nothing. We had 2 very unhappy exhausted people. It was only later that we all realised that unsupported had meant they were running outside the event and would no longer receive any help or get a medal or recognition on completing the course. OUCH!!! This made it a weird drive home. Some happy but not wanting to upset those that had gone all that way for nothing and then myself who just didn’t enjoy the day for completely different reasons. What a mixed bag of results!!
The following day (Monday) and I’m feeling exhausted, wrecked. This didn’t make any sense. Then during the evening I kept wanting to go for a pee and that was a clue. I thought I wasn’t hydrated enough from such a hot weekend. I still felt rough the day after (Tuesday) so I take myself to the doctors. Urine infection. Well how dumb did I feel. Of course!! Sheesh!! I’m now on antibiotics and feel like I’ve been pulled through a rocky desert by my legs. This new ultra body of mine needs to sort out it’s “I’m sick” signals because I missed that completely. I thought it was dehydration from the hot days, looking back it’s obvious it wasn’t and I shouldn’t have even toed the start line on Sunday.
That was one hell of a weekend but I think I need to put in some hard work on my form and work back in some regular short runs during the week. I’m new to this whole distance running thing and I’m treating it like running 5k. As long as I can run that distance I don’t need to do much else unless I want to get faster. WRONG!!! I need to keep training as though I’m still working up to that distance. I know that now. I just have to implement it.
Hope you all have a week and weekend.