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Race to the King. Ultra marathon

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Not sure where to start with this one.  After a decent showing at IM Wales last year, I knew I wanted to do something a bit different in the endurance world this year, so I bought a XC mtb and started taking an interest in things ‘off road’.  I’d done a couple of trail races of up to 20km but was slowly getting drawn in to the Western States, HR100 and other way cool US and Euro ultras. I started to get to know the personalities that are the ultra elite and before I knew it, I could recognise more ultra runners than road cyclists!

 

I started to watch more and more UTMB footage and despite having zero ultra experience, like an idiot, I thought ‘yeah I’ll have a piece of that’! haha.  So a plan to earn my 8pts from two races was hatched. This would allow me to throw my name in the hat for UTMB’s ‘CCC’ race, which is something like 117kms and 8,000mtrs of climbing crossing France, Italy and Switzerland.

 

My two selected races were the 88km ‘Race to the King’ on June 22nd and the 105km ‘Race to the Stones’ on July 13th.

 

The lead up and training plan had been to gradually increase my volume and vert from around Feb. Things were going well and I regularly hit 70kms running per week but at Easter I had a very big fall descending and hurt my knee. This put me out for over two weeks. Just getting back into it and I had an old allergy flare up which left me very weak for a week, which was precisely the week I had taken leave to get in a big block of running.  Given that and an ongoing hip problem, my prep was hardly brilliant.

 

Race to the King:  Bleary eyed 4am and eating porridge at home, waiting for a taxi to take me to the coach that would shuttle us from Winchester in Hampshire to Arundel in Surrey. The race finished in Winchester, so just had to ‘run home’!  Once at the venue the sun had risen we knew it was going to be (Pommie) hot, approx. 28C later on.  I was allowed to leave with ‘Wave 1’ despite being in Wave 2  (self seeded time base).  Before my fall and allergy I was hoping for sub 13hrs but now I was in ‘just get it done territory.

 

Waiting for the off, local radio were getting everyone revved up, it was pretty cool.  I had a basic plan, walk all the hills and try to run 6.30-6.45kms in between, simple hey? Haha  the start was a bit of a blur and the first couple of kms you don’t have much choice other than to go with the flow of traffic, we were running around 6min/kms and as soon as I had a chance I slowed it down. There were approx 8 aid stations along the way with the one at 5km before the midway point being the overnight base station for the folks doing it over 2 days.

 
I pretty much stuck to my plan but could feel my hip starting to get real pretty painful after about 18-20kms. The weather was getting toasty now and I was glad to see each aid station. i tried to move them quickly and refill bottles etc.  We'd been up some lumpy old hills but nothing outrageous. After the half way point, a few of us ran/walked about 500mtrs up a hill, which turned out to be the wrong way, doh!
 
After about 55kms we came across a really massive hill called Butser Hill, it started off easy enough in a field but kicked up viciously for the top third and I seriously thought I was going to faint. Only the fear of rolling back down the bloody thing kept me moving. There was an aid station at the top and despite best intentions, I just had to sit down, take stock, take rest, east and get some cold spray on my hip. I probably spent over 20 mins here but it was needed.
 
Not long after setting off I could feel a blister like sensation in my foot, so decided to sit on a verge and change my socks. A cyclist was there and we were chatting. I went to put on my sock and had massive debilitating cramp in my calf. the cyclist helped me work it out, he was a godsend. Another 15mins to get that sorted and I was on my way again. Walking more, even on the flats.  The heat had conspired with my stomach and I could take much in.
 
I'd read about the need to be patient if things go awry, i just kept moving forward.  Very gradually I could sip some Tailwind and take some food again. Jogging became a bit easier and the kms ticked off.  two more aid stations and I discovered the medicinal qualities of a hot sweet cup of tea!  bliss haha.
 
We had one more massive road hill to walk up, I knew this one as I'd ridden up it lots. back on the trail and one more station, then basically an undulating/flat trail run into Winchester. I knew 13hrs had gone but figured if I could run most of the  last 10km i could go sub 14. I had 1hr15 to do this, which sounds stupidly long for 10km but not when you already had 78kms in your legs.
 
Coming into my hometown, I knew I had sub14 in the bag. My old neighbour and sometime running partner Beth, was at at the finish with a whole crowd of supporters and they were bringing the house down.  crossed the line in 13:49, bags collected, we went for a beer but i only drank half. Beth gave me a lift home and I absolutely threw my guts up, which felt amazing!
 
So, my first ultra done. Lots of lessons learned. Be more efficient at aid stations, don't panic, enjoy the views, start slower than what you think is slow.  I think I went to some pretty low places which were on par with the miserable conditions at IM Wales 2017.  At IM, yes you are moving forward for a long time but there is also change with each discipline. Doing the same thing hour after hour is extremely hard but i found incredibly rewarding.
 
Next one in 8 days!
 
Apologies for formatting. Written on two different laptops.
Edited by FatPom
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NIce one mate.  

Yep, if you feel comfortable when you start, you're going too fast. 

And just keep moving.  Your gut can go awry but don't force it, keep moving, and things will pick up. 

 

Great work!  

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I didn't realise you were doing these races! I have a friend, Melanie, doing them. She's got very ginger hair, early forties. Give her a shout if you see her!

 

P.S. Well done and good luck for the stones!

Edited by monkie
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6 hours ago, Turts said:

NIce one mate.  

Yep, if you feel comfortable when you start, you're going too fast. 

And just keep moving.  Your gut can go awry but don't force it, keep moving, and things will pick up. 

 

Great work!  

 

3 hours ago, monkie said:

I didn't realise you were doing these races! I have a friend, Melanie, doing them. She's got very ginger hair, early forties. Give her a shout if you see her!

 

P.S. Well done and good luck for the stones!

Cheers guys, great advice Turts. It’s hard to be patient but over these distances you don’t have much choice. The other thing I noticed was generally, I was still within the same ‘bubble’ of 20-30 folks, which meant if I was slowing down, so we’re they!

Monkie, I will have a look for your friend, is she going straight through? We have different bib colours than the others. I’m intending to start Wave 1 if they let me, otherwise Wave 2.

I have a white Transitions hat with ‘FatPom’  written on the back :)

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Good one FP, I too can hear the trails calling my name.

Will keep reading with interest.

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On 06/07/2019 at 2:54 PM, FatPom said:

Monkie, I will have a look for your friend, is she going straight through? We have different bib colours than the others. I’m intending to start Wave 1 if they let me, otherwise Wave 2.

I think she's doing it in two parts, I shall check and tell her to look out for you!

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