So, I did my third ultra in 22 days yesterday. I think an extra day of recovery between the last two would have been welcome, but the TT was going to be tough regardless of any lingering tiredness in my legs, given the conditions. Now, I saw the map beforehand and the route did indeed follow the Thames Path for 50 miles from Oxford to Henley. But somehow that conjured up an image of a relatively nice trail to run on. And maybe it would have been if it hadn't been snowed on so much last week.
As it turned out, it was the toughest terrain I've ever run on. There were fields of snow, mostly of the hard, crunchy, ankle-turning variety, as well as other bits of softer snow (still hard work for the legs) and then where the snow had melted there was mud! Thick, shoe-sucking mud alternating with extremely slippery mud. Also cold streams and puddles to be run through and some icy areas. There were a couple of bits of relief where the path leaves the river to pass through a village, where the tarmac made a welcome change of surface, though I then had to watch out for the icy patches (I managed to only slip over once on the ice though).
I found it very challenging mentally to summon the strength to keep going. Fortunately, after about 20 miles, I met up with a runner called Ade (who happens to be a running coach) and he was doing 25 minute jogs with 5 minute walk breaks in between. He persuaded me to join him and we remained together to the finish. He was very encouraging and I'm sure there would have been a lot more walking involved if he wasn't there. We mostly kept up the 25/5 thing, though on the few road sections we made ourselves keep running, but at other times the thick snow or slippery mud forced us to walk again. It got dark between the last two checkpoints which made it hard, especially as there were some large rocks and roots in with the mud on the path. We actually appreciated the snow then as it made the path more visible. From the last checkpoint we ran nearly all the way, just stopping when it got ridiculously slippy. We were casting shadows in the moonlight. It really was a beautiful course, most of which we barely appreciated due to having to focus on the terrain underfoot. It was a gorgeous sunny day too, which I'm sure helped - conditions could have been far worse.
We finished in 10 hours 5 minutes, which I was really pleased with (especially given that we actually did 51 miles as we got lost at one point). I was the 4th placed woman - just one position behind the trophies!
I slept well last night and went for a gentle 4 mile jog this morning. My legs are feeling surprisingly good - far less achy than after the 40 miler last weekend. Today my job is mainly to rest and eat - fantastic! (Curry later, mmm...)