Written by Matt Armstrong - http://integralrunning.blogspot.fr
It is over a week now since I finished the Ultra Great Britain 200 mile race from Southport to Hornsea along the Trans-Pennine Trail and the afternoon naps have now finished. 66hrs 55mins and joint 8th place. Well chuffed.
I have learnt a lot and amazed myself that I have actually done it. 200 miles, I must be crazy. Can I dare call myself an ultra-runner yet? The training has paid off, I had resisted entering longer races (100mile) in the build up so to make the the jump from 50miles to 200miles and survive means there is more to come.
These first 50-60miles were really about getting them ticked off, one by one. I set my watch to laps per mile and tried to keep an even pace. I was joined by Pete Harrison for a fair few miles and I enjoyed the company as the runners had really spread out after 33miles in and a number of quick fire CP's.
|51 miles in - I had never run this far before - only 149miles to go!
- Mountain Fuel - Night Fuel; Morning Fuel - before race and during (250ml) and ate like stodgy porridge; Extreme Energy drink - during race -mixed to 750ml later on in race, I used this throughout although I had put some morning fuel in a drop bag by mistake so ran out on one section; Recovery Fuel (250ml) during race throughout. I found this worked well and could stomach it without any problems.
- Hi-Jack - high calorie flapjack cut into small pieces and spread across drop bags (Contadino Atlete: https://www.facebook.com/Contadinoatlete/) I always found this was easy to eat no matter where in the race I was.
- Real food where possible - baked beans on toast was a winner; lots of bananas, pots of Ambrosia creamed rice pudding; a few protein bars early on in race - first 50miles (Aldi - Hike - banana). I will never underestimate the power of beans on toast.
CUT OFF 81MILES
Adam Lomas met me at a mile or so before the Didsbury CP, I must say that the support I got from my running club 'Hyde Park Harriers' was really great. I had been struggling to really run for a few miles as my ankle was reminding me that I had twisted it a month or so before the race. The first drop bag was a welcome chance to refresh and a change of socks. I didn't stay to long at the CP and then on to the section I had recced and was very comfortable with the route, enough not to need the map or gps and just go by head torch to Broadbottom. I reached here well within the cut off of 24hrs at with 6 hours to spare, arriving just after midnight. My plan had been to go straight on to Penistone but a sore ankle meant that rest was in order and a welcome plate of beans on toast. In trying to sleep on the floor I made a rookie mistake, I had left my sweaty t-shirt on and then lying down, started to shiver but was to tired to bother as there was no bag drop and didn't want to fuss about in my bag, quite a few others had the same experience. Needless to say that my sleep here was not good a couple of broken 20min naps and I paid the price for this later in the race.
APPROACHING PENISTONE -
After moving along with Wes Evans from Broadbottom for a while, he had to drop out I learnt later due to a fractured foot. Great guy. I pushed on to Penistone and caught up with some runners ahead. With Barry Rimmer flying up from behind looking real strong.
Penistone was the 103mile marker...in under 26hrs... this would be my first 100miles done. Some of the comments in the checkpoint were funny. 'How you doing?' 'I have sore feet'. 'What do you expect after 100miles - 'Sore feet' - 'Yep!' nothing like a dose of realism to focus the mind on the job at hand. Thanks Christopher Kay. Sitting down to change kit and sort feet out was great, getting up was hard and everyone looked and moved liked we had aged about 40years overnight. Getting moving again is the key from now on.
KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
The marathon section from Penistone to Bentley was a long stretch and by the time we hit I was looking to refill my water and wished I had stopped at a café just a few miles back. Some strangers on bicycles who knew about the race stopped us and offered to get us some water, which turned into a cup of tea and then a plate of beans on toast. "Do you want cheese on top?" Of course.
Also thanks Phil Hammond
for some awesome support running, after this and really getting moving again for a good number of miles I really started to believe I can do this 200 miles. He called out the mile split times, they could do with some improvement. In the afternoon (Sunday) the lack of seep kicked in and getting to Bentley was the order of the day. I was a couple of hours behind schedule now and missed my family at the CP but had an encouraging note once I arrived. I didn't stay there long, Barry and Peter were there when I arrived and got out in front of me which was the story of the rest of the race.
Later on in the race I posted on FB "Tired now! Random kindness from 'Neil' from North Ferriby ...coffee and jam sandwich." He had pulled over in his car and just wanted to chat about the race, enthused by it, I was looking for a shop to get a drink -and he offered coffee, done deal. It meant a few hundred metres extra to the route but what is that in 200miles!
DON'T FEAR THE DARK
Getting to Sykehouse - after briefly stopping at Bentley CP, I pushed on with the plan to sleep at Sykehouse and with some possible tricky navigational sections I wanted to get this mostly done in the the daylight as it was a mainly road then a section along the canal.
I came to a small hamlet - full of large gated houses and as I turned the corner... a DOG, well a BARK! It gave me a fright and it was one of those barks that would tear you be pieces if it could. I couldn't tell if it was behind the gate or wall or what. I was tired and had come to a stop! Would my night be spent tip toeing past a dog, then retreating because I couldn't see, was this the end of the adventure? Darkness and tiredness had crept in and common sense needed to prevail, Bec is good at that... I just got on with it after a few minutes and eventually was past, the light of the head torch revealed a seriously well locked steel gate and the nose of a dog under the gate trying to get out! Well In was soon onto the left turn on the next section along the canal section, where I put my foot down and just wanted to get these miles done, they might have been my quickest of the last 100. It was eerie quiet with swans floating on the canal, the light ahead on the locks and crossing seemed to stay far ahead and I'm sure I saw someone hanging around on the lock which was of some concern, I then saw a security guard which made me feel better about this, it turned out to be a reflective sign on a wall, one was there. Welcome to 'Sykehouse!'
Don't fear the dark.
With 143miles done, blisters, sore feet and ankles! Oh yeah and knees I was offered some bacon butties I just said 3 or 4 thinking rashers, 4 sandwiches appeared a few minutes later and they were scoffed. Now some sleep - I asked to be woken at 4am, but was awake at 3am listening to the other runners getting ready. OK, I need to get up and get going! I might be somewhat competitive.
After some well needed sleep at Sykehouse I set off at about 3:45am on the next section which was around 29miles, I hadn't managed to get out with a couple other runners who had left 20mins or so earlier having arrived at the CP before me. Franck didn't stay at the CP long and he left just before me and we chatted and walked our way into the new day. we were to finish the day together as well 57miles later.
Well on the way again .. ticked off 150 Currently heading towards Goole I stopped to enjoy the sunrise. The route took a diversion on the A614, I might never want to see that road again! I was met later by Steve Rhodes and Rob Howard who picked me up a coffee, which was wonderful and they did a great job at keeping me going, with Steve stoking up my competitive edge. however my feet really hurt every time I stopped now, so any pause was hard to get going again. I started using some sticks which really helped and the pace started to pick up, until we got in some good solid running miles and again faith in that I would reach the finish was there.
The grass banks along the river put a stop to the quicker pace as it was just so uneven and my ankle didn't like that. Some one stopped me just before the banks and wanted me to climb up a bank for picture, I politely declined.
BROOMFLEET - JUST AN 33MILE ULTRA TO GO!
One of the features of the trail was the many rail crossings especially in the later stages. I was here for a good 5minutes waiting. As Steve and Rob ran with me to the next main turn and wished me well.
That Bridge! The Humber Bridge had appeared near Broomfleet but never seemed to get any closer. Once I reached this that would be 184 done only 16 to go! Meeting Franck at the Humber Bridge CP we decided to work together and get the finish... we were very tired and unloaded what we could of excess food to lighten the load.
Tactical discussions over coffee and biscuits
It was in a somewhat dream like state that I finished the race, pacing it out with Franck and with my friend Rick accompanying us on the final stretch. Neil Rutherford's words in the presentation at the registration event the night before the race regards the feeling of 'déjà vu' was spot on, I'm sure I've finished this race before! It was strangely comforting like a dream remembered or a distance memory. The path and the circumstances of the final 10miles into Hornsea felt familiar, the tiredness of the race with little under 3.5hrs sleep and an hour of that at Broadbottom being very broken had hit home, the dappled effect of rain on tarmac meant I was starting to see faces on the floor and imagine people in the bushes as the leaves and branches took on new forms and shapes.
Rick who had started to read me the football results from the weekend like a sports report brought me back to reality with an update on the Villa with a 4:2 win! Or was this also a dream? Anything would do to occupy the mind and keep the eyes awake.
With the president of the running club 'Hyde Park Harriers' with me to verify that I was wearing my HPH vest (wink) - I think the club 200mile record might just have gone.
Hornsea just never seemed to appear and the light glow of the horizon never opened up until the final few hundred metres. The end surely came, not a moment of euphoria as many said it might be but huge relief as I just wanted to sleep - which in a few moments after pictures and congratulations I was in the car - gone - sound asleep. The feelings of achievement have come over the last week as I have realised what a huge event this was, an epic challenge and it really was 200miles. It took me a couple of days to find all the messages of support from during the race... all were appreciated and really do help when you know people are behind you.
It was a pleasure to cross the line together with Franck Bugianesi - I love this about trail running and especially ultra's... competition fades into respect and camaraderie.
My feet were swollen and my big toe looked larger than usual when I took my socks off, I thought it was juts my toe but a smaller blister had covered the whole toe by the end and it took me a while to drain the blister which is healing well now. I resisted taking a pic as it was not nice. My ankles were swollen and red and this took a few days to go down. Lots of ice and feet up. I didn't know what to expect from finishing such a long race and wanted to give my self time to recover. I'm ready to get back running soon and looking forward to the DT40 trail race in a few weeks, and I have now signed up for next years #RaceAcrossScotland which is 212 miles of Southern Upland Way trail fun... a few more hills, so had better get back to training.
The end of the Trans-Pennine Trail - Hornsea
ULTRA GREAT BRITAIN - TEAM
I can't thank the UGB team enough - thoroughly supportive and an excellent race as a whole. A race like this puts a lot of responsibility on the runner as always but the team certainly went out of their way to enable the runners to perform to their best. I would recommend their races. This is a truly epic event as well as team that support the race, from marshals to race director, the personal touch from entry to finish line. You won't regret being part of Ultra Great Britain.