Monday, 3 March 2014

St Peters Way Ultra

After what seemed like a long week Sunday morning finally arrived, I have never been as nervous before a race as this one! I'm not really sure why as it's probably the best prepared I've ever been, had even done a proper taper. I really wanted to do well, prove to myself as much as anyone that I could be good at this ultra running stuff.
I arrived at Chipping Ongar and met up with Gareth who was also running, some of the Commando runners who were manning some of the checkpoints, after several trips to the loo, a race briefing, checking and rechecking kit it was time to go...
       Gareth and I at the start.

The mud started almost immediately but felt good physically but have to say it was a good six miles in before the nerves finally decided to sod off and let me enjoy the day! So leg one passed quite quickly and I was running at a decent pace, and after a near miss with a cyclist (really need to look before crossing roads!) we arrived at checkpoint 1, it was good to see Rob and Lorraine and eat a good selection of food, so checked in, maps exchanged, fed and watered we headed out for leg 2.
Another really good section, everything was going well I was on target and felt good, slight twingey left heel but nothing too bad. The route description and maps were easy to follow so my GPS spent a lot of the day in my pack, just needing to reassure myself a few times that I had made the right decision on direction, but definitely starting to build some confidence with the navigation. The miles seemed to pass quite quickly and I soon arrived at checkpoint 2 where there was another fine spread of food and drink, and lots of support from the marshals. 
Leg 3 I had run before and knew it was extremely muddy, think it gets my vote for the muddiest leg. There were times when running was impossible and I'm still quite amazed I got through the day without falling over! What I did discover though was I can walk quite fast so still managed to be keeping to just over 4 miles an hour even when I had to walk which wasn't too far off the pace I needed to be going. Checkpoint 3 was manned by friends from The Commando Runners so I got a massive cheer as I ran into it. Gareth was still at the checkpoint so a quick photo opportunity, some food, drink and painkillers as foot was still troubling me a bit. I had a bag of salt and vinegar fish and chip crisps waiting for me and I tipped some into a bag along with some grapes and haribo, may sound awful but even a mixed handful was surprisingly enjoyable, could be a whole new snack in salt n vinegar coated haribo! 

      Checkpoint 3 

Leg 4 was probably the toughest for me, I was ok until about 30 miles and then some negativity set in for a while, the never ending, ankle deep mud was starting to get to me, but I found swearing out loud at it made me feel a bit better! I may have had some violent thoughts towards an elderly man who I saw walking his dog at 31 miles, I was walking as I was reading my route description and he said 'aren't you supposed to be running' I smiled through gritted teeth with clenched fists, and didn't ask if he'd ever run 30 miles!! The mile along the road through Steeple village seemed to go on forever and I was convinced that I'd be nearer 11 hours finishing instead of the 10 I was hoping for. I almost phoned Lindley to say 'I can't do this anymore' and for a little while hated running. Fortunately I spotted the checkpoint and Lorraine ran along to meet me saying I looked good! I told her I was struggling and asked if I was last as I hadn't seen anyone for ages. She said I wasn't and that I only had 8 miles to go after this one, which was less than I thought. So I had some food, Rob gave me tissue for my endlessly running nose! Extra layer and headtorch at the ready and it was time for the final leg. I had been running for 8 hours and suddenly realised if I could do 4 miles an hour I could still finish in 10. So feeling better and much more positive I set off. 
I power walked most of the final section as running was making me feel sick and wasn't any faster! Along the final leg I met a guy named Paul and we stuck together to get to the finish. It was really windy for the last few miles along the sea wall and the end didn't seem to be getting any closer, but we made it and only a very short time in darkness. Paul managed an impressive sprint finish, I had nothing left in me for a sprint. Seeing Wendy, Chris, Ruth, Mark, Gareth and Rachel, waiting in the cold and dark to see me finish was brilliant and even though I wasn't really with it, appreciated it enormously. Lindley told me I'd finished in 10:13 which I am extremely happy with and 5th lady to finish.

So that was my St Peters Way experience, I loved (almost) every minute of it, had fantastic support all day from marshals and other runners. My new race vest was brilliant highly recommended piece of kit, along with my drymax socks and dirty girl gaiters which were amazing, I have one tiny blister which after 10 hours of wet, muddy running is pretty good. 

      Post race feet!!! 

My coaching from Lindley over past 6 or 7 weeks has already made a huge difference to my running and I felt strong for most of the run, though still need to work on fueling and hydration. Low point of the day was throwing up into a carrier bag on the minibus on the way back to Ongar, I can only apologise to the poor man sitting next to me, not one of my finest moments but guess it happens when you run ultras! 
I have to say a massive thank you to all at Challenge Running Ltd for a brilliant event, the support was amazing, to The Commando Runners who were out marshaling all day, seeing a familiar face is always a boost, all the other marshals who were fantastic, to Lindley for the coaching and support, and all my friends and family who sent messages of support and congratulations, sponsored me and generally put up with my madness!
Well done to Gareth and Tom who also completed the race you were both amazing. Still completely in awe of the winner who finished in 5:34. How do you do that, amazing, well done :) 
I am really excited about the rest of 'Challenge 2014' and hope my other events are as successful and enjoyable as this one.
I even received a certificate in assembly at the school where I work this morning!

So this evening a little (ok very!) tired and achy I am really happy with how it all went yesterday. A few days off then the training starts again but for now enjoying the post race happiness of a truly enjoyable days running :) 

Have a great week and happy running xx


  1. Nicki you are brilliant! What an achievement and so inspiring. Enjoy your recovery and thank you for such a good post run blog. Love the tee and medal but most of all the Bee Award!!

  2. A great read and an even greater achievement !!! Well done Nicki

  3. You are just going from strength to strength, Nicki. Unstoppable and fabulous xx