12 weeks, 55 miles and my 2nd Beer Ultra
I had planned to have another week where I would finish with around 70 miles but must have underestimated how much last week’s long training run in the woods took out of me.
After a few rest days, I managed to fit in 3 laps of the 7.5 mile route midweek, once on Wednesday and twice on Thursday. The weather was noticeably hotter for the evening runs but my Thursday morning effort was considerably more comfortable.
I decided to have Friday as an extra rest day taking into account both the weather and the total elevation the Beer Ultra prides itself on having.
Technical trail routes are usually far more enjoyable than even trail in my experience and the first loop of the course had a few points where I had to plan out where my feet should land. Whilst it does add to the challenge, I do like that you have to pay more attention than routes where you can just push forwards.
The second loop followed an old railway line and then had a very long steady descent (always a bad sign!). It had been advertised as 542ft of elevation as opposed to 790ft from loop 1. I had naively assumed the 542ft might have been spread across more than one hill!
Knowing what is coming tends to help me a lot in Ultras and I was quite comfortable for the 3rd and 4th loops. I had left my backpack and water bladder in one of the marshalls car and after an abysmal loop 5, I asked if I could retrieve this after loop 6 to take out on the last 4 loops.
I was severely dehydrated during this loop and walked most of it. My secondary aim for this year had been to down all 11 beers in one at the start of each lap. Whilst there was some carbohydrates in these, it evidently wasn’t enough as a sole source of fuel in hot weather.
When I finally made it back to the start at the end of loop 6, one of the other entrants Kate, challenged me to a downing contest for our beers. I barely managed to finish mine first but I really enjoyed the camaraderie part of doing this.
I had an energy drink after this and sat down for a few minutes. I then had some salted peanuts and got my backpack and water bladder out for the start of loop 7.
Knowing there was plenty of water to refill on later laps was a comfort. My brain seemed to have created a confidence that I could persevere as long as I remained hydrated for the rest of it and I still had another energy drink I could take if needed.
I was able to run again for virtually all of loop 8 (of course I was walking the 540ft hill!!) and carried some of the momentum from this it to the first part of loop 9. I sat on a loose stone wall after ascending the first hill and had my last energy drink. My time spent at the start before loop 10 was very minimal essentially jog/walk in, open can of beer, drink in one then set straight off again.
Knowing 5/6 of the other entrants was an incredibly important element of my finishing. Exchanging high 5s and supportive words was great for keeping my motivation up. Being asked if I had eaten a lion and having ‘Come On Mr Slack’ bellowed at me were both hugely encouraging.
At the finish I managed to down my last beer then ‘nursed’ my local beer I’d brought for about an hour afterwards! Pasta, flapjack and pizza all gave me some energy back and I enjoyed cheering in the others before getting my train.
I have decided I was a bit overconfident going into this race and having struggled from flying off too fast at the start is something I won’t be able to get away with on longer ultras. It still all contributed to a very memorable day.
I think this Kristin Armstrong quoute sums up well the appeal of entering social races like this.