I had heard of others running this event and read through last year’s race reports. It looked like a good challenge and from the pictures, very scenic. 15 miles out and back along the river Stort sounded like a really nice day out. Yeah, I’m that nuts now that I reckon 30 miles is a day out!! What have I become??
I had felt completely wrecked after my own torturous Leighton Ultra on Saturday. Somehow by Monday I felt superfine and completely normal again. I didn’t trust this almost miraculous recovery so I gave it a couple days before I managed a slow but still faster than my normal plod 5k lunchtime run on Wednesday. I felt perfectly fine. A little bit more drained after the 5k than I usually am. Things are starting to feel very weird now. I still wasn’t sure I was fully recovered but I would give Stort 30 a go and see how I got on.
I didn’t even feel nervous on the Saturday beforehand. I knew the course was along the river. I had thought there would be a hill or two in there somewhere but no, the only report of hills were the bridges/locks on the riverside.
Kit checked – I decided on no hydration pack for this one. I took gels, mobile phone, car key in my Nathan waist pack and I could carry my waterbottle with electrolytes.
As it was going to be a fairly flat event I thought the most useful bit of kit would be my Gymboss. I reckoned the return journey from the turnaround point was going to be hell so running/walking on the way back would be a good idea if things started to get difficult.
That was it! Where was the rest of the kitchen sink that I usually carry? It didn’t look like I had packed enough. I had my poncho ready in case it was forecast to rain. That was it. Hmmmm, is this a wise move? Well I couldn’t justify taking anything else so I took myself to bed, set the alarm for the following morning and got comfy!
The awesome timing for the event date meant that the 9am race start was on the day the clocks went back an hour. Bliss!! I got an extra hour in bed and still managed to drive to Bishops Stortford in time to get prime position parking right next to the start/finish. Nice one!!
A quick hug with Karen Webber (love station) and I get my number.
The closest I’ve been to a number 1 for a race number. Cool!!
I quickly get the rest of my kit on and with trail shoes ready I get myself a cup of tea and wait. More and more people are turning up and it’s starting to look busy. A quick race brief in the hall and we’re starting to head outside for the start. A quick toilet break and I join them. The horn goes and then I realise – my Garmin!!! Hahahaha!! I had completely forgotten about setting the gps for my new Garmin 620 because I’m so used to my Garmin 310xt being ready the instant it’s turned on. So as we’re all running around a field I’m running along waiting for my Garmin to find a satellite!! Oh well.
The two laps pass quickly and we all head out towards the river Stort. During the race briefing we were all told to keep to a single file unless we needed to pass someone. This made for a rather strange 3-4 miles along the riverside. It was a surreal feeling of being in traffic on a busy road, not able to overtake until there was space ahead and being kept to someone else’s pace. Thankfully I was in a line of people who were travelling at a very comfortable pace for me. There were a couple moments where brake lights would have been a handy warning to someone stopping in front of me – trying to stop when you’ve been watching someone else’s heels for the last 10 minutes is tricky!! Funny, but still tricky!! A few people were grumbling at the lack of passing space but this didn’t last for long. Soon we were on riverside paths that had enough room to pass people and the pace soon increased. The first stop at 5(ish) miles was a nice relief. The paths up to that point had been challenging and muddy and my ankles are still a little achy from the constant twisting of uneven ground. Not long after the first stop I nearly wreck my left ankle all over again. I heard it crunch as it twisted but thankfully it was painful. Phew!! If it had gone numb instantly I would have been hobbling back to the checkpoint as quick as I could before the big pain kicked in! (Note 1)
The ankle twist after the checkpoint slowed me down a touch but not by much. I was walking occasionally but only when I felt I’d pushed myself too hard over a section. The views along the riverside were beautiful. A few conversations with people on the way to the halfway point were lovely. I was having a lovely chilled out run and thoroughly enjoying it.
Approaching the halfway point the views change and I could hear what sounded like a motorbike track. Small engines roaring and tyres screeching. The countryside view changes to what looks more like an industrial estate and then it’s a bridge across to the River Lee. By this time the front runners are passing us on the way back to the finish. They look so fresh!!!! How do they do it? Well, I know how! Hard work and sheer determination. It still amazes me though. Getting closer to the turnaround point and runners passing me are saying “not long now”, “nearly there”, “keep going”. It’s lovely but by the time you’ve heard this a few times you’re thinking – this is the tenth person who’s said nearly there and I’m still going? How far is nearly? Are we there yet? Oh come on!!!!!!
Then, just as I’m thinking this is going to go on for another mile the lovely view of the halfway checkpoint appears from around the bend in the river. Oooooooo lovely!!! I run up to Karen and get my halfway love station hugs, then grab a biscuit or two and get my bottle refilled.
I so wanted to sit down for a bit of a rest but I dug in and got back to the river to start my return journey.
It’s at this point the biscuits I took at the checkpoint made my mouth go dry and then I started feeling really queasy. Blergh! I decided I would walk for a little while and wait for the feeling to pass. Whilst I was walking I got the Gymboss ready and turned on for the trip back. I was running by myself a lot and I needed something to keep me going. I’ve used this once or twice when I need to switch off and I’m not up to arguing with myself to keep me moving. It works. It’s like a microwave beep or the sound of toast popping up. After the first few times of hearing that beep you become programmed to run/walk when it beeps and it gets very difficult to stop haha!!
Beep beep. Run….. Beep beep. Walk….. Beep beep. Run…..ugh you b****ing, Ar***ing, GIT!!! Beep beep. Walk….. oooooo thank you.
The run/walk on the way back was very entertaining. I would pass a few people and as I was walking they would then pass me. This carried on through the whole return stretch. By the time I was nearing the finish I had become so ingrained in the walk/run routine that when the Gymboss beeped I swore and then started running. Even when it came to the run uphill from the river to the finish. Beep, beep – ooooooo walking now.
The timing was perfect. The last hill climb to the finish the Gymboss beeps. I start cursing the thing and start running. I reach the field and just as I’m about to finish the lap for the finish the Gymboss beeps again and I’m cursing the thing because all of a sudden my legs turn to lead and it feels like I’m running through treacle. I can’t stop now!!!!!! Woohooo!! Finish! – 6 hours 18 minutes. Not bad considering I thought I would be over the time limit.
Time for a very well deserved sit down with a cup of sweet tea before I get myself changed and driving home.
If I’ve managed to drag my arse around St Oswalds Ultra and I’ve recovered enough by then I’d like to do this event again.
My knees feel a bit sore from this one so I’ll get myself looked at to see where I’m missing some stability. I didn’t feel wrecked afterwards and my Salomon trail shoes were a good choice. They had just enough cushioning to make my feet feel pretty okay after that mileage. A couple small blisters which was a big improvement on last week. I’ve been massaging, moisturising and pampering my feet all week and they’re looking pretty good. Well, as good as feet can look!!
So, as it’s Wednesday and I feel pretty good all over again. I’ve got my kit packed ready for a lunchtime 5k run. I’m not sure how I feel doing the Stevenage Marathon but I’ll give it a good go.
Note 1 – To explain – I’ve noticed on my many injuries over the last few years running that a twist/trip/fall that results in pain that will eventually wear off and is okay. A twist/trip/fall that results in numbness is a big injury and I’ve got about 20-30 minutes to do whatever I can before BIG pain hits. I found this out when I broke my big toe. At the time I hit the toe it looked a wrong shape but didn’t hurt at all. So I put it back to where it should be and thought I’d dislocated it. 30 minutes later and I’m in agony so I get it X-rayed and I find I had broken my toe!!!! I fall down a hill and give my ankle a real bad twist and I heard it crack. I sit down to check it out and my whole ankle is completely numb and starting to swell. So I strap it up and start walking back to a pickup point. 30 minutes later I’m in agony and the ankle is unbearable to walk on. Blergh!!