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Joined: 03 Aug 2005
Ridgeway Challenge - 85 miles - 28/29 Aug
Sun Sep 05, 2010 4:35 pm r0bh
With 5 weeks between Lakeland 50 and Ridgeway the plan was to have a week off, two fairly high volume weeks then two taper weeks. Unfortunately during the long run of high volume week one I managed to turn my ankle quite badly; the irony of doing this on a flat run down the Mersey Valley after weeks of fell runs did not escape me! This basically stopped me from running for two weeks, and even put starting the Ridgeway at all in doubt. Fortunately it had recovered enough by the weekend before to get a bit of running in (including a speedo-tastic 5k at the National Club Relays), and it seemed strong enough to get me to the start line. Phew.
So the Friday saw me on a train down to Tring to stay the night there, before being picked up by the race organizers on Saturday morning and dropped off at registration. We were there a couple of hours before the race start but it was a sunny day so nice to sit around, get everything ready and watch the other runners arrive. Then it was time to walk the half a mile to the start proper on Ivinghoe Beacon. Windy at the top with some model planes swooping around to keep us entertained until the start at 12 noon.
A moment of confusion as the starter said ď5 secondsĒ which hardly anyone heard, then blew a whistle which lots of people didnít realise was the start! Still we were soon underway mainly downhill for the first few miles to Tring station. Here a bystander asked me how far we were running. ď85 milesĒ I replied. ďWhat?!Ē was the disbelieving response. The remainder of the first leg to CP1 at Wendover was a mixture of fields and woods on good trails with a bit of road too. The majority of the Ridgeway is well signed but occasionally there is no marker at a turn and one such point caused a few runners ahead to carry on the wrong way until shouted back. I was glad to be carrying a map in my hand but I was in the minority; 85 miles is a long way and I didnít want to run any further than I had to. Arrived at CP1 grabbed a cup of water, some jelly babies and a couple of hunks of cake and off again. My plan was to try to average 6mph whilst moving for the first half to Goring with 5 minutes at each of 4 checkpoints. 30 min at Goring then 5mph for the second half for a 17 hour finish. With a fast first leg and only a minute at CP1 I was up on this schedule and feeling good (although youíd expect this after just 10.75 miles!).
Through Wendover (where they really donít want a high speed rail link apparently) then a long climb up Coombe Hill with great views from the top. Later we ran straight past a pub with many people enjoying drinks in the sunshine, occasional glimpses of normality like this can lead you to wonder what the hell you are doing! Still, a mile of shaded woodland trail saw CP2 at 16.8 miles, just to the East of Princes Risborough. Another quick stop and onwards.
Leg 3 started with a descent to a wide trail round the Southern Edge of Princes Risborough, before more road then a narrow trodden path across a ploughed field. A hop across a railway line was marshalled. A climb up Lodge Hill then some confusion down the other side where the route wasnít obvious, but I picked the right way after a few moments thought. Soon after we turned South West onto a good wide track which we would follow almost in a straight line for the next 7 miles; not hugely interesting but good progress could be made at least. Part way along this section was CP3 where I used my full five minutes to eat and fill up my water bladder; it was turning out to be a fairly warm day and I was slightly worried about getting dehydrated.
A couple of miles after CP3 we went under the M40 which, coincidentally, marked a full marathon 26.2 miles from the start which had taken me 4hrs 20; but rather sobering to note that after a marathon there was still 60 miles to go, which in itself is further than Iíd ever run before! Shortly after I caught up with a lady called Jayne and we ran together until CP4, it was good to have some company on this section. Eventually we turned off up a hill into some woods, and coming out the other side we could see CP4. Unfortunately though it was across a deep valley so a run down then a walk up the other side. Another quick stop here just to grab a couple of cups of water and a bite to eat.
Leg 5 is the last before the halfway stop at Goring-on-Thames, and also the longest leg of the route at 12 miles. It also splits into three distinct sections. First, 3 miles mainly South across fields and then a golf course; a climb at the start then flatter. A right turn then onto the line of Grims Ditch, an ancient earthwork heading West for 3.5 miles towards the Thames giving some interesting running as the ditch is crossed and re-crossed. Finally, a left turn to head South again tracking the Thames for 5.5 miles to Goring. On this section a member of another runnerís support crew ran with me briefly and said I was in about 6th place! A bit of a surprise and I didnít quite believe him at the time but he wasnít far wrong. Join the Thames for a mile or so which is a nice change as most of the rest of the route is fairly arid (well, it is a ridge!) before leaving it and into a village for more signs or what normal people do, smart clothes, wedding receptions, pubs etc. Goring seemed a long time coming and despite favourable terrain I struggled to pull my average speed for the leg up towards 6mph after a slow start. This was a bit of a concern but put aside for then as ahead was Goring, some marshals and the midway checkpoint. 7 hrs 23 on the clock so 7 minutes ahead of schedule after 43.5 miles.
Iíd budgeted half an hour to get myself fed, watered and sorted for the 2nd half, and I used most of this time. Had a lovely baked potato with beans - so nice to eat something savoury! Dessert was rice pudding with jam yum yum. Changed into my long sleeved top and swapped cap and shades in my bag for buff and gloves. Also changed into my road shoes - which was the plan - but they felt too tight round the toes, guess my feet were a bit swollen. So I went back to my Kanadia trail shoes, but with a fresh pair of socks. Gave the Garmin 10 minutes of juice too to make sure it got to the end. Topped up with water (sick of Kona Cola Nuun by now!) and replenished gels/bars.
Back out and on with it for Leg 6, it was just coming up to 8pm and already starting to get a bit dusky. A couple of miles on road to start with steadily climbing out of Goring so fairly slow going. Was joined by Jayne again and soon after we met another runner Claire coming the other way as she wasnít sure if she was on the right track. We trotted on downhill for a short while which prompted getting the headtorches out. Thereís not much to say about the trail here, or for the rest of the way to the end really, just wide tracks for miles and miles with few junctions. And of course nothing to see in the dark! Eventually we went under the A34 and a few minutes later arrived at CP6. Canít remember what I ate here but I do remember drinking the worst Rola Cola ever! In fact I didnít drink it but had to throw it away. I should point out though that apart from this minor aberration all the checkpoints were spot on and the people manning them were all stars.
A three minute stop and onwards, but Jayne wasnít feeling too good and decided to stay at the CP for a bit longer leaving Claire and I to push on (I later found out that Jayne decided to call it a day here which is a shame). And it was this leg where it all started to go a bit wrong. First off I started to feel a bit sweaty, but bad sweaty if you know what I mean, like when you have the flu. Tried to work out what it might have been, whether I needed sugar or salt (or just a nice sit down more than likely!). Soon I was struggling to keep up with Claire and was having to force myself to run just quarter miles - 400m, one lap of a track - before having a bit of a walk. Not good. As we approached CP7 a helicopter was hovering over to the right with an amazingly bright spotlight, although it didnít do us a favour and shine it our way. At CP7 we met the runner in front of us in 5th place briefly before he headed off into the night again (and that was the last we saw of him). Had some soup and a sandwich before being cajoled back onto the road by Claire, although not before Iíd grabbed a nice bit of cake for the road.
Leg 8 is a straight 8 mile run with not a single turning to worry about. Well, I say ďrunĒ but in my case it was a walk. My legs hurt, my feet hurt and I guess the mental battle was lost at this point. By ďwalkĒ though I donít mean a Sunday afternoon stroll, we were still moving at about 4mph. Well, Claire was and I was doing my best to keep up! Before the race I was quite looking forward to the night section as it was something Iíd never done before and I thought it would be an interesting experience. The truth was quite the opposite, it was actually really boring! Nothing to see bar the pool of light from your headtorch, a massive wide track with the only decision to be made being whether the rut next to the one you are currently in is any better, and trying not to look at your watch too often to show just how slowly you are moving. We made it to the lights and fire of CP8 anyhow. Another 5 minute stop here as I put my jacket and gloves on and topped up with water. Just as we were leaving two headtorches appeared approaching the CP, looked like our time in 6th and 7th position was going to be short lived.
And it was as a mile down the road approaching the M4 crossing the catch was made by a man and a lady; they were mainly walking too but walking quicker than we were! At 10.5 miles Leg 9 is the longest in the 2nd half and becomes the crux; make it through this then itís just 10km mainly downhill from CP9 to the finish. I donít remember much about the first 7 or 8 miles of this leg, a climb up Liddington Hill then a gradual descent to Ogbourne St George. I do remember that my feet were really hurting by now, occasionally I would tread on a stone and it was like someone had shoved a knife into the ball of my foot. Even Claire had slowed down a touch, although this was a good thing as it made it easier for me to keep up! The last 2 or 3 miles to CP9 are a gradual climb up Smeatheís Ridge to Barbury Hill. Also on Barbury Hill is Upper Herdswick Farm which shines a bright light which you would swear looks about half a mile away. The trouble is it looks half a mile away for the next two miles, an exquisite form of torture! Eventually we made it to the top and like moths to a flame headed to the bright lights; unfortunately this was the wrong way - the only wrong turn I took in 87 miles - but luckily this only wasted a minute or two. We had seen head torches following us up the ridge and we were joined by two more runners at the CP, but we had quite a quick turn around and left in front, just.
So just 10km remained, and I can run a 10k in 37 minutes. Well this time it would take me almost an hour longer than that. We did manage a bit of a run, at Claireís behest, I would have been quite happy to keep on walking. Unfortunately though just as I was getting back into more of a running frame of mind I went over on my bad ankle a bit which stopped me in my tracks for a few moments before reducing me to a walk again. I did eventually get moving again with a shuffling run but not before being overtaken by the two guys weíd seen at the checkpoint. By now it was about 5:45am and the sun was starting to rise behind us and soon the headtorch could be turned off for the last time. The final descent to Avebury was unfortunately very rutted and I had to walk again for fear of totally screwing up my ankle. But with a km to go I reached the road, a climb up into the Avebury Stone Circle and then, finally, 100m downhill to the finish line. Did I run this bet? You bet your ass I did!
The finish itself was a fairly low key affair, just a couple of people standing outside Avebury Village Hall, neither of which was the official timekeeper who had to be called outside! Not that I was bothered about a couple of seconds over 18 hours and 15 minutes, which put me in 11th place. Claire had finished 5 minutes ahead of me, 10th place and 3rd lady a great effort and my first port of call once in the hall was to congratulate her and thank her for helping me get to through that long difficult night. After that it was sugary tea, bacon rolls and a nice sit down! After getting changed (and having a quick look at my feet - not pretty) the full force of the exhaustion swept over me and I had a few minutes sleep in a corner of the hall.
And that was pretty much that. My friend Russ picked me up (cheers mate!) and whisked me to his place in Bristol where I had more of a chance to assess the damage; sore left achilles, sore and swollen right calf, blistered feet. Then a shower and a well earned and much needed couple of hours sleep. Steak and chips and a few beers were what the doctor ordered for the evening, although it was a slow hobble up the road to the pub. Then finally luxury of luxuries - a proper nightís sleep!
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~ Last edited by r0bh on Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:22 pm r0bh
The Lead Up
After Osmotherley Phoenix - which went almost perfectly - the three weeks upto race day were full of trials and tribulations. Came down with a cold the week after Osmo, recovered enough by the weekend to do a recce of the last third of the L50 route, but the next day discovered Iíd tweaked something on the inside of my left ankle which meant no running for 5 days. Then just when things were looking up I came down with a mystery illness on the Monday evening and still felt terrible on the Tuesday (my birthday too!). At this point I was settling for just making it to the start line! Whatever it was though went as quickly as it had come and by Friday I was in a much more optimistic mood.
So, I arrived at race HQ in Coniston on a lovely sunny afternoon with a spring in my step and just two final decisions to make. Firstly, shoes - trail or fell? Both are compromises in some way but decided on the trail shoes as with zero cushioning in the fell shoes 25 miles two weeks earlier had left my feet very sore. Secondly, target pace and I settled on 11 hours as sounding vaguely plausible and would put me towards the front of the field.
With decisions made I chilled out in my tent before going over to the start of the Lakeland 100 to wish Brian good luck and see them all off (nutters one and all!). Then in to register, get weighed (71.4kg - think my scales at home are under-reading!) and get dibber attached to wrist. Nice big fish and chips for tea in the pub in Coniston followed by a decent sized Sticky Toffee Pudding (carb loading obviously!) then back to the tent for more chilling then bedtime.
So after breakfast, last minute faffing, a second breakfast, race briefing and a very long, hot coach ride we were on the start line at Dalemain ready for the off at 12 noon. It was pretty warm and I was starting to wonder whether a long sleeve top had been a good idea. Too late to worry about it now as the hooter went and off we go.
Before heading out on the route proper we had to complete a 4 mile loop around the Dalemain grounds, all signed and on easy terrain so a good way to ease into the day ahead. Lots of stiles too so I was glad to be up near the front to avoid the queues. The second half of the loop joined the 100 mile route and we passed the first of many 100 competitors, all of whom deserve massive respect - a whole different ball game from the 50.
Back to Dalemain then out of the route proper down the river to Pooley Bridge, still good easy running here. After Pooley Bridge was familiar territory as we follow the same route as the ďA Day In The LakesĒ tri. Bit of a climb before a good long runnable descent to CP1 at Howtown. Some strange behaviour on the climb, some people actually running up it! Even an ultra-novice like me knows the unwritten rule of ultra-running is ďnever run up a hillĒ. Needless to say the runners who overtook me were dropped on the descent and never seen again. Grabbed a couple of cups of water at the checkpoint and a slice of malt loaf for the road before setting off on the next leg to Mardale Head.
Still following the ADITL route up Fusedale means a long steep climb and unfortunately where the tri run heads back down to Ullswater we keep on climbing to the highest point of the day at 665m on High Kop. The clouds had been threatening to cover the tops on the way up but cleared again for a lovely runnable section on luxurious soft peat for a couple of miles to Low Kop. Feet had got soaked at the bottom of Fusedale and this was how they were to stay until the end. The descent down to Haweswater sounded complicated in the road book as there isnít an actual path here but I found a reasonable route down on sheep trods through waist high bracken to the footbridge, and then on down the path to the reservoir. The run from here to CP2 was much harder in reality than it had looked on the map, especially as it was a mile longer than claimed in the road book! It was a relief to arrive at the checkpoint with 20 miles on the clock and about 40 minutes up on an 11 hour schedule. All good so far.
Only spent 5 minutes at the checkpoint but in that time the weather had closed in and by the time I headed away on Leg 3 up Gatesgarth Pass with a flapjack in my hand the rain was coming down pretty hard. Over the top in the clag and a long rough descent down to Sadgill. Was caught on this by another 50 runner so picked up the pace to stick with him so we could have a chat. After a mile or so we realised that we were consecutive numbers 294 and 295, because we were both Harpers - bit of a coincidence! Another shorter climb then back down to Kentmere for CP3, and a little bit of luxury. Soothing music, fairy lights, fresh fruit smoothies and hot pasta. Marc was here too and he told me that Brian had gone through Dalemain in good spirits 3 hours up on the cut off time. Felt like a long time at this checkpoint, but it was actually only 10 minutes before I headed back out into the rain again.
Felt pretty ropey on the climb up over Garburn Pass, probably due to not eating enough in the first 25 miles. I think this was the 4th time Iíve been up here over about 20 years and never seen a bloody thing from the top, always covered in clag and today was no different. Another rough rocky descent down to Troutbeck and the poor old feet are really starting to feel it. Climb (again!) before dropping down through the woods to Ambleside. Had to have a quick stop along here to try to sort out my shoe as the top of my right foot was really hurting where the laces were digging in. Finally along the road through Ambleside to Lakes Runner and there were plenty of people around offering support, including Harsh - nice to see a friendly face after 35 miles. Into the shop for a cup of soup, topped up my water and sorted out my gels for the remainder of the run. Oh, the rain stopped sometime during this leg so packed away the pertex gilet.
Not sure if it was the soup, the support from Harsh - and him telling me I was about 15th on the road! - or the fact that I knew the route from here to the finish but I absolutely flew out of Ambleside and across the park, feeling great again. Of course, this didnít last long as it was back to walking 5 minutes later at the next hill, but itís only a short one and soon it was down to Skelwith Bridge then a lovely rare flat section up the river past Elterwater to the next checkpoint at Chapel Stile. Passed a few more 100 runners, some looking in good shape, some less so! No more 50 runners though as I think we were now spread out and all moving at roughly the same pace; so the last 15 miles were a solo effort. Toilet stop, a shoe off to empty some stones, a handful of jelly babies and off again on the penultimate leg.
Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite, just over 7 miles, nothing too hard on it really; but it was very much the crux of the day for me with some negative thoughts (like ďnever doing another bloody ultra againĒ!). Seemed to take forever, my pace had started to drop off a bit but I think it was mainly because I was clock watching too much. Was glad to get from Blea Tarn to the Wrynose Pass road still in daylight (just) as itís a tricky section. Good tracks from there to the next CP so chugged down a caffeine gel and tried to get myself going again and eventually down to the road and the lonely checkpoint at Tilberthwaite. Didnít hang around as itís only 3.5 miles to the finish so just topped up with water and grabbed a couple of biscuits and sweets.
Only 3.5 miles to the finish. But itís a tough 3.5 miles, a proper sting in the tail. Very steep climbing up past the old quarry before levelling out a bit for a long grind up to the col on indistinct paths; my recce of 2 weeks ago was very useful with darkness falling. Finally thereís no more up and itís downhill all the way to Coniston. Youíd think this would be cause for celebration; unfortunately, though, they save the roughest toughest descent right until the end. Unpleasant in daylight, horrible in the dark and cause of much cursing as sore feet were banged into rocks. This last hurdle completed just a mile downhill on a good track then a road remained, entering Coniston on flat tarmac was a great moment - no-one saw it in the dark but I think I might have let out a Henman-esque fist pump. A jog to the finish line, only a few spectators clapping me home (well it was 10:30pm!), dib in and thatís that. Done!
Escorted into the HQ to get checked over; all finishers were applauded into the hall by everyone else in there which was a nice touch but quite surprising and humbling when itís for you and youíre really not expecting it! At the weigh in Iíd only lost about 0.7kg and to be honest I felt fine, good even, apart from sore feet and legs. Sportident print out confirmed that Iíd finished in 10hrs 33 for 16th place - result! Picked up my meal ticket which was quickly exchanged for a nice bowl of stew, tasted lovely after a day of gels. The best moment though was finally getting those wet shoes and socks off and putting on lovely warm dry ones - mmmm.
Would have liked to have gone to bed now really but that caffeine gel had kicked in! Stayed up until gone midnight occasionally checking the live timing to see how Brian was getting on. Heíd arrive at the Ambleside checkpoint at half past midnight. I didnít envy him having to go through a second night but had no doubt heíd do the business.
A leisurely start to Sunday - too leisurely as I missed Brian finish by a few minutes! He came home at 7:30am after 38 hours on the move. Astonishing, and whilst I was really happy with my run itís the 100 milers who are the guys (and girls) who deserve maximum respect.
A 5 week break for me now until the last race in my ultra trilogy, the Ridgeway 85 miles at the end of August.
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Osmotherley Phoenix 33 - 3rd July
Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:03 pm r0bh
Thought I'd better get a little bit of practice and a good long training day before tackling the Lakeland 50 later in the month and the Osmotherley Phoenix 33 miler looked perfect - plus it was only 6 quid to enter, bargain! Arrived in picturesque Osmotherley and the village was buzzing with runners after a record entry of 400+ for the 17, 26 and 33 mile routes. As the village clock moved around to 9am the start line formed and after a few words from the organiser (thank you!) we were off. Not particularly quickly though as it was uphill and the start of a long day.
The 33 mile route is a loop taking in long sections of the Cleveland Way, at first on the edge of the North York Moors escarpment with views for miles Northwards across the plains towards Teesside. Early on navigation was not a problem with a long line of people to follow - all assuming the person ahead knows where they are going although this wasn't the case for a group of people just ahead of me who all missed a turn. Other than the immediate issues of putting one foot in front of the other thoughts were mainly on numbers. 3 miles, that's one-eleventh of the way... 4 miles, that's _almost_ one-eighth of the way etc etc.
After Checkpoint 2 there is a route choice either to follow the ridge direct or contour round the side cutting out a few hundred feet of climbing. Beforehand I'd decided I'd probably take the "pure" route but when absolutely no-one in the 50 or so people I could see in front of me went this way I bowed to the wisdom of crowds and joined them. The crowds, though, were starting to thin out and I only just kept the guy in front in sight to see the hidden path down to Checkpoint 3.
A long drag from here led to CP4 on the trig-point of Round Hill, at 454m the highest point in the North York Moors. A long drag is rewarded by a long descent down to CP5 and a compulsory kit check (cagoule, map and compass), before heading up up up again with the steepest climb of the day, followed by a mile of singletrack before a good runnable track most of the way to CP6. 20 miles done and only one major climb left on the route things were looking good. The next few miles to CP7, though, was the only stretch where it looked like navigation might come into it as the route was a bit complicated through a maze of fields and woods. Luckily I fell in with a guy who had recced this section and knew where he was going - result!
Out the other side I pushed on alone with a quick stop at CP7 for a couple of mugs of squash as it was starting to get a bit warm. From here the last major climb up onto Arden Great Moor, steep for a mile but then a long runnable section on a good track. My steady pacing upto here came good as with plenty left in the tank I could up the pace a bit and pick off a few people. Osmotherley came into view down below so not far to go and mainly downhill. Apart from two steep climbs in the 32nd mile which the legs could really have done without by then. A couple of minutes later though turn left the right onto the High Street and the finish line - hooray!
Had a nice sit down after on the grass by the finish line in the sunshine taking in the sights and sounds of the Osmotherley Village Games. A few runners were already getting going on pints from the pub opposite but I stuck to the Rego! I had finished in 5 hrs 24 which was bang on the pace Iíd wanted to run and good enough for 20th place on the day. So far, so good. Next stop, Lakeland 50 in 3 weeks time.
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~ Last edited by r0bh on Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
5k = 17:19 (04/03/2009)
10k = 36:45 (26/12/2009)
HM = 1:18:55 (22/02/2009)
M = 2:54:40 (05/04/2009)
10mi = 23:56 (10/05/2008)
25mi = 59:41 (16/05/2009)
400m = 6:50 (19/11/2009) LC
Clumber Park Duathlon 15/03
55/214 (AG 14/36)
Wilmslow Half Marathon 30/03
Milton Keynes Duathlon 13/04
76/281 (AG 14/32 - Qualified for Worlds)
Horwich Triathlon 04/05
Keswick Triathlon 17/05
UK 70.3 15/06
103/896 (AG 19/145)
ITU Long Distance Du Worlds, Geel 10/08
Helvellyn Triathlon 07/09
ITU Duathlon Worlds, Rimini 28/09
4 Villages Half Marathon 21/01
Wilmslow Half Marathon 25/03
Ashbourne Duathlon 28/04
93/320 (13th in 30-34 AG)
Rossendale Sprint 20/05
Dunham 5k 25/05
00:17:38 (new PB )
Ian Hesketh Memorial Duathlon 27/05
Cheshire Sprint 03/06
Chester Oly 24/06
Eastnor Middle 01/07
Salford Oly 29/07
2:18:52 (30:22/3:14/1:02:44/1:17/40:38 )
22nd/213 (AG 12/78 )
Saddleworth Tri 26/08
1:44:48 (08:32/1:15:48/20:28 )
9th/101 (AG 2/17)
Xterra UK 16/09
39/113 (MOpen 16/50)
Reading Half Marathon 09/04
Parbold Duathlon 17/04 (5k/18k/5k)
Blenheim Tri 21/05 (750m/19.8k/5.4k)
Cheshire Tri 04/06 (500m/20k/5k)
Chester Deva 25/06 (1.5k/40k/10k)
Boundary Breeze 09/07 (750m/22.5k/5k)
34th/230 (4th AG)
Swanage Classic 13/08 (1.5k/40k/10k)
Horwich RMI Tri 27/08 (800m/42k/10k)
Rivington Tri 03/09 (1.5k/40k/10k)
Trafford 10k 10/09
North West Sprint 17/09 (500m/20k/5k)
Coed y Brenin Offroad Duathlon 12/11 (5k/20k/5k)
25th/85 (13th/39 AG)
Moorland Mayhem Offroad Duathlon 26/11 (5k/10k/3k)