Monday, 31 August 2009

Ridgeway 85 - UK Trail Running Championships

Start at noon on Saturday at Ivinghoe Beacon, about 3 miles from Tring, follow the Ridgeway National Trail for 85 miles then turn off to Avebury for the finish. 86.5 miles in total, 21 hours and 11 minutes. I came 5th (female) and have to admit I'm a bit disappointed.The first half was lovely. Some great views, quite good tracks and grass to run on and I was running well. Stocking up on water and nibbles at the checkpoints without hanging around too long. I felt great. My favourite section was Grim's Ditch, about 35 miles in, which is a rootsy trail through the trees - I didn't even fall over!I got to Goring (half way) and had a jacket potato and beans and was ready to head out into the darkness. Not trusting my sense of direction, I decided to stick with a group of 3 others through the night. They were great company and certainly ensured we went the right way, but we spent longer at the checkpoints than I'd have liked.

But my slow time was a result of my sore feet. I was wearing not-very-cusioned trail shoes and the rough ground lead to blisters on the soles of both heels, which made runnig difficult. The balls of my feet were also sore from all the sharp stones and rocks. This made every step painful and from 65 miles onwards it was a struggle to enjoy it, despite feeling otherwise pretty strong. I really felt with a wiser choice of shoe I could have put in a far better performance in the second half.
Still, it was kind of fun running with a pack and a headtorch, past bemused wildlife. I got quite tired around half past three, but felt much better once the sun came up.

My favourite checkpoint was at about 62 miles where a fellow Vegan Runner, Maria, had got some vegan treacle tart and a cup of tea (with soya milk) for me. They tasted fantastic!

This is a really well organised event and one that I'd recommend as a first long ultra. The route is signposted well but worth a recce beforehand if possible. The checkpoints were all brilliant, manned by enthusiastic volunteers from local running clubs. Sadly the medal at the finish doesn't actually say '85 miles' on it though...So, this is definitely an event I have unfinished business with. I'll go back looking for a sub-20 time hopefully. Not next year as I have something else on around then, but 2011 looks good...

Dorset Doddle

After the fantastic week away in Paris, I had no plans for the next couple of weeks. That includes no marathons. The first running-event-free weekend was nice enough, but just felt a bit wrong. So I found a short ultra to do the following weekend (23rd August).

The Dorset Doddle is not a doddle. It's 32 hilly miles along the coastal path from Weymouth to Swanage. Constantly up and down, with nasty steps on some of the rises. The hills were so steep that it was hard to walk, let alone run, up and down them.

But the views were fantastic. And it was a lovely day out in the sunshine. I had planned to take it easy, as I was supposed to be tapering before my upcoming longest ultra. So I finished in just over 8 hours, having thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Monday, 17 August 2009

We really like Paris

Ah, Paris! Going to Paris with Jim is always fantastic. We spend the whole time grinning like idiots. Some may say we're just easily pleased...
We rarely use a map as we know the city well now, but still manage to find a few things each trip that we haven't done before. This time, they were 1: going to Butte Chaumont, a park in the North East of the city with a few hills in it affording great views of the city, including seeing the Sacre Coeur from a new angle. 2: A visit to the Musee des Arts et Metiers,with plenty of geeky old stuff, including some planes (Bleriot's) in an old church. Good use of the building we thought. 3: A visit to Versailles, the palace of the 'sun king'. It was very big and shiny, with a lake in the huge gardens. We hired a boat and Jim rowed me about in true gentlemanly stylee.
Of course in the mornings I took a run along the Seine (and Jim even came with me a couple of times) and we went to enjoy all our usual haunts throughout the week too. I expect we'll go back next year then, especially as we forgot to go to les egouts (for the sewers tour)...

Old Sarum

Apparently Old Sarum was the old town (now just a few ruins on a hill) that eventually became Salisbury. It was just above our campsite and made for a pleasant short run on Saturday morning, then was the first hill of the course of the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 Trail Marathon. (So called as it incorporates 5 rivers, 4 hills, 3 stately homes, 2 castles and 1 cathedral.)
Jim and I had a lovely couple of days in Salisbury, with drinks by the river in the sunshine, then on Sunday I met loads of folk I know at the start of the marathon. It was too warm for me but a pretty route. Too many roads for my liking, but the trail parts were great. A slow one at 4:45:42, but I really enjoyed it, taking it nice and easy.So that was supposed to be the last long run before Ridgeway at the end of the month, but having had one weekend off and it feeling too odd, I've found a short ultra to do next weekend.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Lakeland 50

Toughest. Race. Ever.

Actually, I was doing the lightweight 50 mile option - the folks doing the full 100 had it far harder. They started at 7:30pm on Friday and ran through the night (during which it rained heavily and persistently on them), whereas we started at noon the following day. This still involved a few hours of darkness on the fells later on, with a smattering of rain, but at least there were only 50 miles.
So, tough terrain. I thought I'd met tough terrain before, but the variety of types of tough were something to behold - ankle sucking peat bogs, cold streams, sharp and loose rocky trails, bracken obscured paths, extremely steep uphills and downhills, wet slippery stones, slidy stiles and all of this for practice in the daylight, before more of the same in the dark. It's fair to say it was the most difficult event I've done.

But there were some stunning views - the highest point was 665 metres, offering a fantastic panorama. Wished I'd taken a camera. Throughout the day we looked down on Ullswater, Haweswater and Windermere (the dark hid Coniston Water from view on the descent into the finish town). There was also the surreal nature of navigating up on the fells with only a small spot of headtorch light to see by, illuminating the sheep's eyes in an almost alarming manner.

There were 7 checkpoints, well stocked with various food and drink (the hobnobs and straawberry jam were my favourite). I ran with a fellow Fetchie, Jo, from about 27 miles onwards and it was great to have both company as distraction up the long hills, and someone to work out the correct route with. We met up with another group of four later on, which was even more reassuring for finding the course at night. We finished exhausted but happy at around half past two in the morning (final time of 14:22:13). We got a medal and a rather nice pertex gilet.
So now the 100 miler is looking tempting for next year...

Ultra #10 the Downlands Challenge

Just a little 30 miler for my tenth ultra. A lovely route along the South Downs Way (15 miles out and back, as you can see from the symmetrical elevation profile):A Fetchie (and friend from primary school as it happens) is organising a race along the entire length of the SDW next year (website here) so this was a good recce to see what it'll be like.

This was the first race I've done where we got a shopping bag for finishing.It was warm but not too bad and I was pleased to get a 30 mile PB of under 5 and a half hours.