Tuesday, 14 August 2012

54321 Running, climbing and Wild camping

Before Ultra

With the weather being too good to rest. We decided last minute to head down swanage on the friday to do a little sport climbing in Hedbury quarry. A couple of good climbs later we settled down to camp for the night. This being a quarry and on a sea cliff, wood was in short supply so a search around on the nearby hills brought us a bounty of dry rotten wood.
We started a BBQ and made a firepit and a few beers later we were enjoying mint burgers, sausages and ribs washed down with some fine beers and wine. The night was a beautiful clear starry night and I tried in vain to get some good exposure shots of the Milky Way but, instead had to be content with shots of us messing around with firewood etc which came out surprisingly well.

Apart from the wind picking up strongly during the night I slept well and after a quick clear up we wondered over to the other side of the quarry to do a couple more climbs. These I found hard work, maybe a little too much wine last night. So instead of pushing on and doing more climbs we decided to call it a day and rest up before tomorrow.

Ultra Day

This would be my second ultra race. A 50Km run in and around Salisbury, superbly organised by the Fire Service with a 54321 theme. 5 Rivers, 4 Hills, 3 Country estates, 2 Castles, 1 Cathedral. After the usual flaffing before the race the 50k runners headed out at 9am approx 120 of us. The turnout was good for all the different events to day had to offer (5, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50k races). One issue I guess that most trail races with good turnouts have is at the start everyone has to go down the same paths and through the same gates. This made slow going for the first half hour. But I was in no hurry as my plan was to do this within 5.5hrs so there was plenty of time left in the day to stretch them legs.
Not long into the race we had a strong downpour most welcomed as it cooled us down on this hot and humid day. We all started to spread out so the barefoot (sandles) runner I was chatting to sprinted ahead but i decided to keep to an easy pace and just let the day unfold. A castle and a river passed I soon saw a unique sight in a camel grazing in a field. What things you see when out running. After running the outskirts of Old Sarum Fort we took to the outer limits of the town and onto the Claradon Way but soon peeled off and headed south to track down more rivers and hills.
Just about to pour down
The middle section of the run was a pretty pleasant experience. My body felt good and strong. I carried plenty of water and food plus we had the added bonus of aid stations pretty much every 5 or 6 clicks. Around halfway I chatted to a very inspiring and funny guy called Danny. Danny was over 70 and taking part in his 453rd marathon, Legend. The ultras had by then done the additional loop and were joining up with the other runners and walkers doing the other various races. It was good fun running with Danny although I have to admit he was a little pacey for me. But I was enjoying our chat and just couldn't slow myself down, nothing to do with my ego at all, honest. Danny did seem to know all the other runners and walkers there and so when he stopped to hug and greet a few of them I said my farewells and wished him good times on his trip to Australia to run the Sydney and Melbourne marathons.
A couple of tough hills later and passing through Great Yews woodland, a very spookily enchanting forest. I met up with the barefoot runner again. Struggling with the hard terrain underfoot. A lot of hard ground, road and rocks doesn't fair well with the natural runners. Still he was grinning and bearing it and felt confident of finishing. I pressed on and seeing another runner with a UTSW shirt on I felt obliged to have a chat. He was not only running this ultra from start to finish but then turning around and completing it finish to start!! I look forward to the day when I will be ready to do that. Not only had he already completed a few 100milers but was in training for the Spartathon, one of the toughest out there. Courageous and I wish him well there.
The last third of the race things were starting to falter a little. The heat (or humidity) was taking its toll and my legs were heavy (probably sprinting too many down hills) but worse was that my calf just felt on the brink of cramping up. So I was just ticking off the miles in my head. 10 to go, 9, 8..5..3. hey that's about half hour. I could beat 5hours if i make myself push on. So no more walking or thinking about cramping up. Just get a shuffle on. These tactics seem to work for me as although I am no fast runner by starting out slow and then trying to pick it up at the end it certainly feels better tracking people and overtaking  than having a blow out and everyone overtaking you.
The last mile approached and boy was it one long mile that stretched out seemingly forever. I glanced down at my watch a few times knowing that I had to push but my legs just didn't have anything. Staggering into the main part of Salisbury and past the cathedral was good. but when you are tired and trying to be in a hurry, having loads of people walking and shopping in your way doesn't go down well. And after it looked like I had lost my way and a feeling of dejection was going over me someone shouted and pointed the way to go. This bouyed me on and again someone helped me out at a car park to ensure I carried on running the right way and not stop and scratch my head. Crossing the final road and hearing the cheers and music and Stu, Jake and Melisa cheering me to hurry to the line for a 'sprint' finish and beating the 5 hour mark. Knackered but feeling satisfied.
A tough race, a good race. Nicely set up, great aid stations and support and well organised by the Fire service.

Race stats : 50km, 31miles in 4hrs59mins.

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