Monday, 11 May 2009

The 'As-Long-As-Planned' Weekend

The plan was similar to last weekend, with back-to-back 40 mile Ultra Sat / Marathon Sun again, hopefully without getting lost. Well, the short version: mission accomplished and in a faster time than last weekend’s effort too. I had a fantastic couple of days!

So, on Friday evening I got a lift from Hammersmith to Streatley from Riel, a lovely Fetchie, (half French, half Spanish, 35 year old known as Contro on Fetch) who’d hired a car for the weekend. We had both booked a place at the YHA and once we’d sorted out our stuff in our rooms, we wandered to the pub next door for drinks and dinner. We were joined there by two more Fetchies – Jen (who was my best friend at primary school, but I hadn’t seen her since we were 11 years old, until this year when we were reunited through Fetch) and her partner, Steve, who wasn’t racing but would be our finish line photographer. It was a lovely evening but I ate and drank too much. Then again, maybe I didn’t, as the run went very comfortably the following day.

We got a coach from the YHA early on Saturday morning to the start at Overton Hill in Wiltshire. We had quarter of an hour before the start and it seemed to be bright but very cold. However, within a few minutes of starting I had stripped off to my vest as it was rather warm after all. The Ridgeway 40 does what it says on the tin – 40 miles along the Ridgeway, which is a sign-posted byway stretching across the countryside over undulating but not-too-hilly terrain. The track underfoot was a bit tough at times, but I’ve run on far worse surfaces (see Thames Trot!). It was a lovely course and I felt very strong throughout. I had planned to walk the ups and jog the flats and downs. As it turned out, I also jogged a lot of the gentle uphill inclines too, which I was pleased with. There were 9 checkpoints, spaced from 2 to 7 miles apart, where we had to get checked in and could restock on water and nibbles. At mile 28 they had homemade vegan malt loaf – it tasted fabulous! I spent most of the time chatting to various other runners on the route, with Riel never far out of sight (he’s usually way faster than me, but was laden with a 10kg back pack this weekend). There was a final climb after the last checkpoint, then the last 3 miles or so came back downhill in a very welcome fashion (you can see the last downhill in the photo). There was however the steep driveway up to the YHA to negotiate, to get to the finish check in – that seemed a little unfair after 40 miles!

I was more than happy with my time of 7 hours 10 minutes, just a minute behind Riel. The certificate and badge say it’s a ‘walk’, which is a little annoying, but then it also has a picture of a local ‘white horse’ on it that I didn’t manage to see from the route either. As it wasn’t officially a race, positions don’t count here, but I think I finished second or third female.

I got a lift back to London and was very impressed at the top recovery/refuelling meal Jim had prepared, with a good mix of carbs and protein as well as being delicious. I only managed to eat half of it, but the portion was a humongous bowlful. That meant I could have the leftovers after the marathon though…

So on Sunday morning I wandered down the road to the A1, where Riel again acted as chauffeur. We went to Whitechapel to pick up Naomi and Kitty (more Fetchies) then drove up to Halstead, Essex. When we got there we found a gathering of Fetchies already growing. There were loads of people that I knew, including lots of the 100 Club members and others that I’d met at previous races, including Superman (aka John – this was his 251st marathon).

There was a loud, bright and supportive Fetchpoint set up that we ran past 4 times - very good for motivation. RichK took loads of pictures and the atmosphere was amazing. Contro got huge cheers as, not only was he carrying his heavy pack again, but he’d opted for the ultra distance of 30 miles. Yes, he’s insane, but there’s method in the madness: it’s all part of his training for the ‘Gobi March’ which he’s doing in June. That’s 160 miles through the Gobi Desert in 35 degree heat, over a week, carrying supplies of food and sleeping mat etc.

I was expecting my legs to start complaining at some point, but I felt great again, though a bit tired. I chatted away with other runners most of the way again and was very pleased to finish with a time of 4:20:36. Job done.

There was a presentation for Michael whose 100th marathon it was, as well as lots of cheer in general as loads of PBs were achieved despite it being a rather warm day. (No sunburn for me though – just more freckles.)

This morning my 4 mile gentle recovery fun felt very good. I thought of Contro, still in Gobi training mode, who’s planning 20K runs to and from work, with the pack, for the next 3 days… No rest for the wicked and all that.

Just one marathon to come this weekend for me, then a bit of a break before Edinburgh at the end of the month. Did I mention that I like running?

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