Monday, 14 November 2011

Druid Challenge Day 1 - Ivinghoe Beacon to Watlington

Friday morning and I was on a train to Tring, shrouded in fog.  I stepped off the train into a cold wind.  This was truly a bleak start to three days of running the Ridgeway footpath.  We were taken a couple of miles by minibus to the registration point at a nearby farm, where everyone was sheltering in a barn, trying to stay warm.

There was a great atmosphere and everyone seemed excited.  There were three start groups and I watched the walkers / slow runners depart at 10am.  I was supposed to go off at midday but didn't much fancy the last couple of hours in the dark, given how cold and damp the weather was, so I joined the briefing for the 11am start and we were then driven to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon (well almost - it was a five minute warm up walk through the fog to the top.  There was no view to enjoy!

I set off in tshirt, long sleeve top and anorak, complete with ha, gloves and buff.  Not my usual running gear.  The trail was dense with runners for the first couple of miles, over slippery mud, narrow trails and through gates which slowed us down.  All good as there is no point going off too fast in a marathon.  The fog stayed down all day and, although I didn't get to enjoy the scenery, in a way it helped me to focus on the running.

Today was all about not overdoing it.  I enjoyed the run on fresh legs but controlled my pace, walking up hills (not that I could have run up most of them if I wanted to) and running as lightly as possible.  The shoe-sucking mud was tiring though.

I passed plenty of walkers and runners and about 2 hours 50 minutes in, the midday starters began passing me.  The eventual winner was smiling as he whizzed past me going uphill, looking very relaxed and having enough energy for a quick chat.

Number 25
The checkpoints were very welcome, staffed by a great team.  Each time I threw down a couple of cups of squash and grabbed some marmite sandwiches or crisps to eat on the move, avoiding losing time and getting stiff legs by stopping at the checkpoints.  Towards the end of the day I was struggling to absorb enough water despite the cold.  The anorak had come off after the first hour but it was cold enough for hat, buff and long sleeves all day.

I turned off the Ridgeway for a mile or so on road into the finish at a school, where I quickly sorted out a bed on a gym mat in the hall, with cups of sugary tea and tiger balm for my legs and feet to begin recovering.  My calves were more sore than I'd expected but everything else was okay.  At this point I was feeling nervous about the next day because I now understood exactly how hard it was going to be.  At least it would "only" be 27 miles.  Today was the longest stage at 29 miles.  I wasn't thinking at all about Sunday at this point, just staying focussd on running lightly, protecting my feet and knees (some of the steep downhills can give you a real pounding if you run heavily on them).

No real low points today, but the field was more spread out than I expected and I found myself running on my own a lot towards the end.  I was careful to eat enough and my bag of peanuts, sultanas and jelly babies went down well.  Everyone at work said I was mad but this was more fun than sitting in the office.

That was marathon number 26, 5:12:18 bang on target as I was aiming for 5:15, officially 29 miles (I got 47.8km on the GPS which is a little more).  This was day 1 of the Druid Challenge, organised by Extreme Energy.