Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ridgeway 85 race report

 For a couple of years now I have fancied this race but for one reason or another I haven't got round to it. Time to get it ticked off. GUCR was my "A" race this year and all my thoughts had been about that to the point that I had failed to book any other races for the summer. Nothing took my fancy so I concentrated training for the Ridgeway.

 All in all training went well and I was banging out some good mileage and quality sessions prior to the race. The only problem has been trying to juggle a new business venture and training has to say the least left me feeling exhausted. So I decided a two week taper was in order and the rest would do me good. All was fine, tapered well and ready to run. Then on Friday I got hit with a massive migraine. Bollocks!! Anyone who suffers with migraine will know that headaches are a very small part of the problem. All the other effects that accompany them can be debilitating and one of my side effects is exhaustion particularly the following day. Great.

Race morning was nice as I got to stay in my own bed and we left at about 8 for the 2 hour drive to the start. As we arrived the 10am starters had just gone, we parked the camper and put the kettle on. I wasn't up for hanging about in the rain so dashed out through the drizzle, registered and jumped back in for another mug of tea. It was at this point I witnessed something that I have never seen before. Now on a few occasions I have witnessed runners who smoke and once have run with a guy during a 100 miler that had a fag at every checkpoint but this was different. In the camper next to ours the crew were smoking gear and not your regular Old Holburn. Not only that so was the runner! How did his day pan out? I'll never know.

Anyway the forecast all week for Saturday had been horrendous so we were expecting a downpour which would make a nice change to the summer heat but standing at the top of Ivinghoe beacon the summer heat is what I wished for. My wife/crew had decided that the van was the best place to be and would not be making the 15min walk to the Beacon and start. I had opted to start without my coat on as I knew I would soon hot up but some looked like we were about to embark on a polar expedition. One guy caught my eye because he looked like he was on his way home from football training with his Brighton jacket, drawstring bag and lack of anything ultra like but more about him later.

Tim the RD had just informed us that he had snapped his vuvuzela during a nasty chalk induced fall and the start would be in the form of a 3-2-1 go and off we went. The first down and up were ubber slippy and I was so worried of falling and making an arss of myself I virtually walked them. The running was easy to start with the usual race day adrenalin pushing me on. I soon began to get into the groove keeping in mind a tip I read from Stuart Mills about pushing on hard early while you've got the energy cause you're only going to feel tired later anyway. I soon reached CP 1 filled my bottles and got out quick.

My three strategies for the day were 1) Go out at trail marathon pace as I've already mentioned. 2) Keep my aid station stops to a couple of minutes and 3) Within reason run the whole thing. Number 2 was a shame really because the CPs were fantastic and I was unable to utilize the early ones. I had put my map away early as no-one else was carrying one but somewhere between CP2 and 3 we came to a gate as we passed through a guy was stood there and said turn left and then right which we all did and carried on up the lane. Very soon runners came back towards me and I realized we were off track and turned round. What the guy had failed to tell us was there was a gap in the hedge immediately after the right turn which would have sent us 45 degrees across a field in the correct direction. That was it map back out for the rest of the race and no more wrong turns.

I ran the first 26 in about 4 hrs 30 so bang on schedule. I was in a fair bit of pain though my right hip and ham string were sore and I was struggling to take my mind off of it. This pain came and went for the whole race and  is not the first time so defo something that needs sorting. I spend a lot of time thinking about pain and asking "does it really hurt or am I just being a pussy?". Usually the former funnily enough but I do kinda believe pain is manageable with your mind. Apart from the pain energy was good and I was running well. I have found that I can survive pretty well on GU gels so that was the fodder for the first half. I ran to Goring in about 8hrs so was well within my 10 hrs for 50 mile target. My crew met me here I changed shirt, ate a can of pineapple rings (well the contents of) and was off again in minutes. I didn't stop at the checkpoint just checked in and out and off I went. From Goring there is a very long period of pretty much up hill all the way so I walked for a while. At the top of Streatley I bumped into Paul Ali who walked with me for a while and we chatted which was nice but we soon reached his car said our goodbyes and I carried on up the trail.

Goring to CP7 is about 18 miles and was not great for me when you do get back up on top of the Ridgeway the headwind hits you and I slowed dramatically. CP6 gave me a boost as there was so many people manning it and there was no way I was getting out of there without a cup of tea and a jam sandwich. I changed to a long sleeve shirt and cracked on. Up to CP7 was not very nice it dragged and I was slow. I think I hit 50 mile in 9hr 10 and was hoping to hit CP7 in under 10 hr 30 but only managed 11hr 40 which was a real downer and I felt my race was falling apart. The fact that CP7 was 100k in and deep down I knew if I could make good time it would give me mental assurance I was good enough for a 2014 Sparta attempt. So still not good enough. Yet!  I expressed my displeasure to the CP staff about my time who couldn't understand my disappointment. The lady who filled my bottles actually said "I wouldn't worry you ain't going to win but on the upside you've only got a marathon to go". Little did she know I found those words encouraging and left there with a new found vigour.

I started running out of the CP and before long spotted a runners torch ahead. They were quite a way ahead but they soon spotted me and started running themselves. I spent the whole section chasing them down, we were racing and it felt great. We even passed another runner but he put up no resistance, no fun in that.  As we ran into CP8 he grabbed some food  and went. I stopped, filled bottles and ate cake. As I chatted with CP staff I told them that he had only shot off because he knew I was going to take him.  Oh how we laughed. I was loving it. Someone said you'll both be in the top ten anyway your about 9th at the moment. Well talk about red flag to a bull. Top ten! I was feeling so good I now wanted top five. I was off. It wasn't long before he came back in my sights and this time he was running with someone. There was no way I wasn't going to take them both and I soon did with a quick hello and how you doin? I passed them by. I think when you pass someone you have to put the hammer down just to make sure they think that there is no point resisting as you're going too fast. That's what I did put the hammer down.

I felt I was now the hunted and ran hard. It was rather unnerving running up Smeath ridge because I couldn't make out the trail and was relying on my limited map skills. I had also built up such I lead on the other two they were no longer in sight. That just added to my doubts about the way I was going. To my relief I soon reached the top and quickly found the last CP. This was a fast stop for me I wanted to A) stay ahead and B) keep my top ten place. They last section is a horribly rutted track and I ran as fast as I could manage. I was following the map closely and was very confident I wouldn't miss the final turn. As I approached it I saw another torch. This was it another place I thought I kicked again but so did the victim ahead. It was a bridge too far my sore legs just wouldn't play ball I couldn't catch him. As I entered the unassuming village hall there was no fan fair, no finish line just a room with a few smelly runners. I was rather shaky and had to sit down. I was on a massive adrenaline high. 16hrs 49min, 7th place and 2nd in the over 40's. Second only to the guy who was 500 metres infront at the end. Job done well happy.

What did I learn? 1) My strategies were not far off and I will certainly be taking them into more races. If I can get all three right I reckon I can have a half decent 100. 2)Don't believe the hype! No disrespect but a few runners told me how fast they were and how great they were etc etc. Didn't see them at the end? or when I left to go home for that matter. 3) Rapa Nui's are fantastic shoes. 4) I really love to race not just run but race(ok I may never be right at the business end but i'm happy enough).

Thanks to all the CP staff and the RD the whole event was cracking from start to finish and excellent value. Recommend it to everyone..

Oh and the guy with the football jacket and drawstring bag. He won! Just goes to show you can have all the gear and no idea or rock up with nothing but raw talent and smash it, Fantastic.

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