Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ultra Race Grantham, 10th-11th March 2012, 29.3 miles x2

A rather belated write up of the UltraRace Grantham event – 29.3 miles along the Grantham canal on Saturday and 29.3 miles back on Sunday morning. A dead flat route along the canal from Cotgrave to Grantham and back again.

I went into this event mainly as training for the Viking Way Ultra and also to see where the winter’s training, concentrating on some big miles and strength, had got me – quite a long way as it turned out. As such, I hadn’t tapered fully – I normally back off the weekend before a race but had actually done a back-to-back 34 & 18 miles the weekend before.

Day 1
Saturday dawned fine with the recent high winds much lighter. Arrived at the start at Cotgrave, and said hi to Rory and Jen, who assured me I couldn’t possibly go wrong on the route! Met Graeme and Felix from the MdS forum, and had a chat with Andy, whom I’d met at my first ultra, UltraRace Peaks, last August. After much indecision on clothing, I went for a short-sleeved top which proved a good decision.

Having planned a steady start, I soon myself in the lead group of five! After an early discussion on the correct route, Charlie Sharpe hurdled a fence, leaving Richard Quennell and myself running in 2nd. We chatted away to CP1 and 2 – Richard has represented GB and is more at home on the road and over longer distances. I was making sure to drink plenty and keep some energy going in – beginning to learn!! The two if us were joined by Barrie Jones & Toby Froschauer. Toby pushed on but Barrie dropped back again.

With Richard Quennell. I really was having fun at this point!
At CP3, we hit the grass and I quickly dropped Richard. I felt I was running really well – just over 4:30/km (7:12/mile), at a heart rate around 135. My max HR is about 162, and anaerobic threshold about 152 so I felt that from a cardiovascular point of view I was well within my comfort zone. The limiting factor was my legs – but that will come with “hours on legs” – I’m still a relative newbie.

I followed Toby for a couple of miles before catching him. We chatted for a while, he seemed to working quite hard – I always try and uses breathing rate as an indicator of other’s effort and strain. Unfortunately I now had to pay an urgent visit to the woods. Perhaps the brief rest was actually beneficial, but I soon caught and passed Toby, passing through the marathon in just under 3hrs 15. This is actually a marathon PB for me – I have only ever run one straight marathon, the Derby “Ramathon” in 1984 aged 19, finishing in 3:19 from memory. Have done 3:30 in an Ironman though.

Firmly had my sights on 2nd place now and my first placing in an ultra. Surprisingly, I hadn’t found the flat route boring or mindless at all. Living in Lincolnshire helps and race conditions make a difference too. I picked up my pace over the last 2-3 miles and soon left the canal and ran the last half-mile to the finish.

Finishing - with Jade chasing!

I was so chuffed crossing the line in 2nd place, especially with Jenny, James & Jade there to support me. Surprisingly Charlie was only 2 min ahead – I had presumed he was further and must have been catching him. I proudly accepted my first ever ultra trophy. It was really nice to have family there – they were all very pleased for me and very proud too, which was great.

All that remained was to ensure a rapid recovery to enable me to run back again in the morning! Checked into the hotel and quickly dunked myself in a cold bath accompanied by a ForGoodnessShake! Having had lunch, Jenny and the kids left me to my devices, and I had an afternoon replenishing fluids, grazing and watching rugby.

In the evening Rory and Jen held a very helpful and informative Q and A session, then it was off to bed for an early night.

Day 2
After a fairly restless night with a few oatcake and peanut butter snacks, I awoke feeling a bit stiff but not bad considering. Wasn’t sure how the legs were going to cope with another 29 miles – only 1 way to find out!

Someone asked me over breakfast if my legs were sore. I said yes, to which they replied, “It’s nice to know the top runners feel pain too”. Me…a top runner…food for thought indeed.
Soon we were under way in beautiful morning sunshine. Charlie Sharpe and Richard Q set off very quickly as I thought they would. I let them go but was surprised to catch them after half a mile or so. When we hit the grass at about 5 miles, I suddenly hit the lead.

At CP 1, Jen Salter, who had decided to race day 2, was just behind me with Charlie and Richard a minute or 2 down. Interesting. I was feeling great. Jen was obviously running to a set pace and I remember my heart rate being 130/131. At this pace I would finish 3-4 minutes slower than day 1. Having looked at previous results, the lead runners seemed to be about 10 minutes slower on day 2. Doubly interesting. I tucked in behind Jen – knowing that if I could maintain this pace, I would definitely win the men’s race.

Between CP2 & 3, it started to get tough. I was working hard to keep with Jen, and I started to doubt myself. Why couldn’t I just be happy with a good run rather a superb run? CP3 bought welcome relief – last stock up on fluid and Soreen loaf, and on with the last 8 miles.

Half a mile later, I simply had to pay an emergency visit to the woods and, this time, I just couldn’t get going again. My legs were cramping and mentally I think I’d lost my focus. I decided to walk for 2 minutes – no one in sight – but even then my legs (or my brain?) refused to run. Walked for a few more minutes and soon Richard came past, asked me if I was OK and was off. I tried to get running but it was fairly woeful. Hitting the road, Barrie Jones came flying by, looking very strong. It was time to mentally beat myself up – I was still safely in 3rd after all – and this time I settled into a steady jog and gradually watched the miles go down. Back on the canal, I began to properly get going again and moved swiftly towards the finish at the leisure centre, which seemed to arrive rather sooner than expected.

As I crossed the line, Rory declared me the winner of the men’s race – Jen had already finished. I knew that I had been in 3rd and as I hadn’t overtaken anyone then I definitely hadn’t won third. Looking at my Garmin I realised I was just under a mile short. Whoops. Mr Wrongturn had struck again!! I had turned off the canal too short. I was, quite rightly DQ’d. Silly me! Shortly after, Barrie finished in first place with Richard just behind. Charlie finished third.

So was I disappointed? Well, initially, yes, as I’d stupidly lost the chance of a second placing for the weekend. However, overall, it had been a really pleasing weekend. My primary aim was for a solid weekend’s training in build up for the Viking Way Ultra, and I’d hoped to win a trophy! My winter’s training has obviously put me in a good place physically and I had felt strong on both days. Mentally I had run Saturday’s race in a very positive frame of mind, trying to focus on the now rather than the finish. Sunday had been testing – on hindsight I’d probably gone a bit too hard early on, and I need to be mentally stronger to really push when the going gets tough. So came out of it feeling very positive.
I drove home on a lovely sunny spring day, roof down, music blaring!

Roll on Viking Way!

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