10 weeks, 53 miles and my third official DNF
I had planned to just do one lap of 5.4 miles on Tuesday and then rest until yesterday to give myself every chance of finishing the St I'lltyd 100k ultra. While my speed for this was faster than usual, I did not feel sluggish at all when starting and thought I had the balance right in terms of my taper for the last 2 weeks.
After volunteering at a checkpoint at this event last year. I was adamant that dropping down to the 50k at half way was never going to be an option for me. I was fully aware that all of the difficulties this race involved would not be obvious from what I saw of the route a year ago, but with only 2 months until having to cover 72 miles in a day, no amount of hills, heat or other issues were going to let me retire at that point.
Setting off at 6am was great, there was fresh dew on the trail and it was overcast without being cold. 2 runners set off suicidally fast but the other 14 of us were quite happy to plod along at a steady pace. I wasn’t massively concerned about times for reaching checkpoint 1 (7 miles) or 2 (11.5 miles) but was aiming to reach checkpoint 3 (15.5 miles) by around 9:30am to have a half hour buffer to use later against the 16 hour cutoff. This went perfectly and I was leaving back on the return leg at 9:20am.
Despite some navigational issues I was able to hold the 4 hour pace for this section. I had taken on board way too much water and spent most of the time negotiating between hiccuping and trying to not be sick. Some of the smaller descents from the outward section were absolutely soul destroying to scamper up!
Back at the start I said to one of the race organisers Nathan that I may drop out at 75km and asked for him to help my wife with directions to checkpoint 3 if I decided to do this.
After a short burst of enthusiasm, my pace for the next section very quickly reduced to power walking. They had mentioned in the pre race briefing that checkpoint 3 would close at 7pm. I got lost slightly on my way round to checkpoint 1, but had an enormous slice of chocolate cake walking down a hill after this which brightened my mood considerably. I was very conscious of my inability to run even short down hill sections and the impact on being able to cover the last section before the cutoff if I was to walk all of it. About 2 miles after checkpoint 1, I rang my wife and informed her of my plan to drop out at 75km.
Apart from having to stretch out cramp in my legs, forearms and back at various points over the last 2 sections, I was able to maintain a steady pace and reached 75km at 5:55pm. The marshalls there informed me only 6 out of the runners who started the 100k were still out on the course and I was the last one to continue on to the 75km point.
I’d love to be able to say I contemplated a gritty death march to cover a very hilly 15.5 miles in the last 4 hours but it never really crossed my mind once I’d sat down.
Considering my main goal for this year has similar elevation to yesterday but spread out over a longer distance and involves a 22 hour cutoff, I am quite confident if I can get out of the night and early morning section, what I’ve powered through in unpalatable conditions both yesterday and in the Beer Ultra will put me in a good position to finish.
One of the things I am growing to like about Ultra running is that it keeps you honest regarding your abilities. In terms of willpower and self confidence, I was able to channel this for the final third of my run and never doubted I’d reach 75km but this was never going to enable me to cover that last section in 4 hours.
I had spent a large part of last week listening to an audiobook of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, this is justifiably epic even by his standards and I am only about 17 hours into the 46 hour total! It had a brilliant quote about truth that I am going to try to bear in mind for the Great Glen Ultra in 9 weeks.