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Race Reports

ticked on. I felt for sure that any lead I had made would now be gone. I cursed myself and all the praise I had just given myself for not getting lost. Eventually her son appeared and was almost as confused. He thought it was back up the road I had just run from, so I had no choice but to turn back and head to the last clear sign I’d seen.

I headed back up the road quickly, and at the top saw a large bunch of runners who not long before I had been well ahead of. However, they too were lost and were looking for the sign. I told them it wasn’t at the bottom of the road for sure, so as a group we searched and not too long after that we found a turnstile hidden behind some hedges. It had to be it. I was really annoyed, as I remembered running past it and dismissing it, as it wasn’t obvious as I thought a turnstile for the Ridgeway would be. I was in too much haste to stop and check to make sure, which was what I should have done.

I was pretty angry with myself now, as I could see across the field that a dozen and more runners were now ahead of me. From my watch I reckoned that I had ran an extra 2 miles as a result of missing the gate. Instead of calming myself down I allowed my anger to dominate my thoughts and display itself in the only way I know how in a pair of running shoes. I dropped the hammer. Instead of doing the steady 7-7.30 minute per mile pace that I had done so far, I started doing sub 7 minute miles and then 6.30s and even some 6 minute miles. I raced past people, sprinted up hills without easing my stride.

The first checkpoint was due at 11 miles. My GPS read just short of 13 miles when I got there, confirming to me that I had added an extra 2 miles to my day’s race. I was still angry, so instead of stopping for water and some food, I swiped my chip card and kept on running. By now I was catching the slower runners from the earlier groups. I wasn’t sure how many from my fast group were ahead of me at this point, so I just kept banging out the fast miles.

The countryside was beautiful, but a blur, as I carried on in my rage. I reached the second check point, which was meant to beat 17 miles, but for me was 19 miles. Still annoyed I didn’t stop for any food or drink, just to swipe the card. I asked the checkpoint guy how many more people

were in front of me and he told me about a dozen, I then asked how many from the late starters and he said none and that I was in the lead. For some reason, this didn’t register at all. I simply didn’t believe him, as I set off. I continued at my frantic pace determined to catch everyone. In my head at this time I was thinking if I could just get within 10 or 15 minutes of the leaders then I could maybe make that time up on the next couple of stages. I passed a several runners and then another group of four runners not long after that, as we followed a path leading through some farm fields and up a hill. The next check point was due at 22 miles on the official course route, so 24 miles for me.

It was now I learnt my second important lesson about ultra racing and trail running - always refuel as you go!! I had a camelback on, but stupidly had only filled it with half a bottle of energy drink and the same again of water, so about 500ml of liquid. I had no food. Because I hadn’t been stopping at the check points for water or food I had now drunk my camelback dry and was starting to feel a little uneasy on my feet. I began to suck at the mouthpiece to continually find nothing coming back.

I carried on through the fields, my legs getting less and less sure. I don’t know if this was the reason for my next mistake, but I am sure it was a factor. I came up to a turnstile that led into another field, with a clear path leading away. It was quite dark now as it was approaching 3pm and the dark rainy clouds had made everything grey. Instead of slowing to look for the white acorn or any other signage I just carried on.

I was now on a path that went straight down and turned a sharp right keeping it inline with the sheep field that was fenced off to my right. I ran down the full length of the field and then turned another sharp right before heading back up the field, it was only when I reach the top of this path and made another sharp right did I realise that I was now heading back to toward the turnstile I had just declined. I had made another course mistake. Worst of all, was this hadn’t been a small farm field, but a rather large one, so that by the time I got back to the turnstile I had been caught up by the group of four runners I had passed about a mile before.

16 Ultrarunning World | February/March 2011

Sure enough there on the turnstile was the white acorn that I would have clearly seen if I had been smart enough to slow down for just a few seconds and had a look. I passed the group of four again, and told them that I loved it so much I was doing it twice. They laughed and got the joke. I raced across the field. Again I was angry with myself and again I responded in the same way by upping my pace. This time, my body began to kick back. My watch read 24 miles at this point and I had guessed that my little excursion around the sheep field would have cost me another mile, so that meant I was still a mile away from the checkpoint. I tried sucking my camelback for any hint of water, but nothing. By now I was looking at the muddy puddles on the ground and seriously thinking about stopping to drink from them. My head was throbbing and I was very unsure on my feet. My pace dropped and I began to wobble a bit. I tried to keep going, begging for the check point to arrive.

At 25 miles there was still no check point and I simply couldn’t go on..

For the first time in a very long time, I gave in. I simply had to stop. My body ground to a walk. I walked for a bit and then jogged for a bit. My head was all over the place. I didn’t feel well. I was still angry and annoyed with myself for having gotten lost twice! All I could think about was how I had thrown away the

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