Maxine picked me up at 5am Saturday morning in the pouring rain and we set off to Hemel Hempstead and race HQ. I had been practicing some relaxation techniques in the few weeks leading up to the race and although I was nervous, I wasn't as stressed and panicky as I am normally, managed to eat well in the lead up and was excited about getting started. Fortunately the weather improved and it turned into a lovely day for running.
There were only six crazy fools taking on the inaugural Chiltern Way Ultra (214km version) the 100k event would start on Sunday morning. We were fitted with trackers, given 58 pages of maps to follow and at 9am we were on our way.
The first leg was about 15 miles and all went well, navigation was going ok, I was really pleased to actually be able to interpret the maps and if nothing else this weekend my map reading skills have improved massively, it wasn't very long ago that I was convinced I couldn't map read so throughout my run I used the maps with my GPS for checking if I wasn't sure. The Chiltern way is a well walked path and pretty well waymarked. I was grateful for my GPS and it saved me from making any major navigational errors.
I was happy in my running, maintaining 12 minute miles which is what I wanted in the early stages. My nutrition was under control and it was the start to the race I wanted. I was smiley and happy that I was able to spend my weekend taking part in this adventure.
I reached check point 1 only 5minutes later than my predicted time and was happy with that as well inside the cutoff. Was good to see Lindley and Cali, a quick photo, food, drink and I was on my way again.
Leg two was 16 miles.
Again it went well, legs felt good, my annoying left heal was niggling a bit but I ignored it and refused to let it spoil my run. I was running well, coming out of High Wycombe Golf course I saw Mandy and her daughter waiting for me for a hug and some support, was a great boost and i looked forward to seeing them again at CP2. This section was getting hillier but I was still on track, walking the hills briskly and running the downhills and flats. I arrived at CP2 at 5:15pm and Maxine taped a couple of hotspots on my feet, while I ate and had a quick chat with Mandy and Lucy. Apparently I was getting lots of support via FB, I had made the decision to only take a very basic phone with me so had no idea what was going on. Abbi was updating my progress and I was left to focus solely on my running.
Another 15 mile section and I knew it would start to get dark during this one so I tried to maintain a good pace while it was still light. It was all going well, legs were still feeling ok, feet were good and mentally I still felt strong. As darkness fell I stopped sort my headtorch, and make sure I was visible. My pace slowed (too much) but I was still moving at a decent pace that would get me to the next CP within the cutoff. I hadn't factored the cows into this though, I was in a field and I could here 'mooing' and then everywhere I looked all I could see were eyes, in front of me on the path. They weren't happy and began moving towards me, so I did what any sane person in the dark surrounded by agitated cows would do, I spied a barb wire fence that looked as though people had been though before and I leapt though it. The cows continued to stare and stamp but at least they now the other side of the fence. My only problem now I was in a small wooded area full of brambles and stinging nettles! I decided scratched legs were preferable to 'death by cow' so I battled though the undergrowth and managed to get out the other side of the gate away from the scary cattle. I was quite pleased when speaking to some of the other runners later that they had had the same issues, Glyn had also taken the dive through the barbed wire way out! I phoned my children after this, just needed to hear a friendly voice, it helped lots, I pulled myself together and carried on.
I think with the dark and dramas I hadn't eaten properly during this leg and ran out of drink a couple of miles before the CP. By the time I arrived just before 11pm (and the cutoff) I was feeling a bit light headed and sick. Brian, Cali and Frank were at this checkpoint and also one of the other runners, Graham who was having stomach issues. I had a very welcome coffee, some soup and Brian made me up a bag of food to eat as I went. I was struggling to force food down but knew I had to and also knew I needed to seriously speed up to make the next cutoff.
Brian walked us out of the CP and as we walked up the road another runner came from the opposite direction, it was Glyn who was having a navigational nightmare and had spent 2.5 hours running in a big circle. So Graham, Glyn and myself set off, I spoke to Lindley, who gave some good advice and I was determined to make the next cut off. For an hour or so I managed to keep up a good pace, Graham dropped behind and Glyn and I with maps and the GPS managed to more or less keep on track. Then the light headedness came back, and I really struggled. There wee some steep hills and I could only manage a few steps at a time before becoming very breathless and dizzy. I had to push hard to just keep going at this stage, several times all I wanted to do was sit down. I felt like I would never reach CP4. Glyn was great at encouraging me to keep going and I was really pleased I wasn't alone. This was the point where I decided I would pull out at the CP, I was feeling awful and tripping over everything. We eventually made the check point and that was the end of my race. Glyn continued on and I leant him my GPS.
It was a tough decision but I had had several moments when I thought I might pass out, real or imagined I don't know, was I just looking for an excuse to stop...
At the time of pulling out I was certain it was absolutely the right thing for me to do, now there is that voice inside wandering if I gave up too soon, I don't know, just as I don't know if my feeling unwell was real or imagined, but that is the decision I made and I need to live with it, learn from it and move forwards.
I am disappointed not to have finished but know for as long as I could I gave this race 100% effort, I pushed hard at the start and I am proud to have made 65 miles. My legs are telling me today that I worked hard!
So out of the six of us who started, only David Pryce finished, I was privelaged to be there to see him cross the finish line, awesome running.
I had a good chat with Lindley afterwards, sometimes I think he knows me better than I know myself, I am lucky to have a coach who understands me as a person, can see my strengths and weaknesses and is committed to helping me improve. Still the best decision I made for my running this year. I have learnt so much not just about running or running stupid distances, but about me as a person.
I have to say a massive thank you to Lindley, Maxine and all the checkpoint volunteers, you were all amazing and couldn't have done more to help and support throughout the race.
Thank you also to the other runners, it was great to meet you all and hope you are all recovering well. I also had awesome support from friends and family, the text messages were brilliant and I was overwhelmed by the support I'd had on FB whilst I ran, thank you everyone.
Finally Challenge Running events are awesome, I would recommend anyone looking for a challenge to take on some (or all) of their events. Fantastic races run by runners for runners. There is no denying they are really tough events but extremely enjoyable and superbly organised. I feel really privelaged to have been involved in this first running of The Chiltern Way Ultras, have a feeling it is the start of a really special race.
Have a great week and happy running xx