Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Druid Challenge Day 3 - Wantage to Barbury Castle

Day 2 is here.

Today started at 5:45am for me when the lights above the sports hall came on.  I had slept reasonably, although not enough and was stressed at having been put in the latest start, at 9am, as it would have been good to get off early.  Everything ached, calves a little, glutes and quads a lot, knees, soles of feel, shoulder blades...

My concentration wasn't 100% because of the lack of sleep but at least the route was easy to follow.  My Garmin eTrex had been useful in the fog, making navigation effortless, although the actual route of the Ridgeway had diverged from that on the GPS a couple of times.  The two big hills in the second half of the race, weren't worrying me as I knew I could walk them without any trouble, but I was worried about knocking off the middle miles and ignoring the fatigue in order to push on.

We were taken by minibus back to yesterday's finish line for a very cold start.  I soon warmed up as the sun came out but I set off 5th from the back of the sixty runners at the 9am start, which was demoralizing.  I had to set off at a gentle pace as my body wouldn't let me run any faster and this was interspersed with occasional brief walks on the inclines.  I managed to shuffle (faster than walking but slower than running) up the gentler slopes.  The scnerery took my mind off the fatigue and today I could actually enjoy the view without the fog.

Over the first half of the race, along classic Ridgeway - wide grassy and chalky trails - I picked up and passed a few walkers and runners.  I passed the White Horse at Uffington (not visible from the route) and the tomb of Wayland's Smithy and reached the second checkpoint with about 20 runners and walkers behind me.  It had been a slow and gruelling first half of the day.

Here the trail changed.  I was onto tarmac for a while, climbing a little, then back onto trail for a steep uphill.  I passed a couple more people here.  After the hill I was starting to feel better mentally, despite the fatigue in my legs and the trail became undulating and then fairly flat for a few miles.  I was in my own world up on the ridge here, enjoying the view and then realising I was looking across the valley towards the finish.  With nine miles to go I was thinking I had cracked it and knew I could maintain a good pace to the end.  After a steep downhill section to checkpoint 3, where someone filled my camelbak while I grabbed some food, I set off on the final leg towards the finish.  I thought I would be climbing immediately but the trail was up and down hill before settling into a grassy  climb for a couple of miles.  I was feeling great now, passing runners as well as walkers, enjoying the view and trying to keep a good pace going.

On reaching the top, just short of Barbury Castle, the race route left the Ridgeway for the final couple of miles by road to the finish.  This was all downhill, or so I thought.  All the descent happened very quickly over a steep few hundred metres which gave my legs a pounding, but at this point I didn't care.  I pushed along the flat section, running on a very uneven grass verge.  Everyone else was on the tarmac.  I'm not surprised given the verge was full of holes, but it allowed to fly along.  I needed the cushioned landing at this point.

A final, unexpected climb caught me by surprise but at this point I managed to run some of it, followed by a flat dash towards the finish, where I thoroughly enjoyed a big burst of speed and huge round of applause from the crowd at the finish.

The Druid Challenge Ridgeway Ultra was a fantastic event.  Credit to the guys at Extreme Energy for great organisation and to everyone at the checkpoints for their fantastic support.  And to the many runners who I had the pleasure to share running stories with over the weekend.  I hope to be back for another event soon.

Day 3 stats: 5:08:45.  Officially 28 miles, my GPS read 45.6km, about 52nd on the day.  That set a new record for me of three marathons in three days (in fact, in under 52 hours, given the start times).

Overall my time was 15:20:59 and 41st place out of 146 completing all three days, which I'm very happy with for my first multi-day race.