Friday, 23 May 2014

Apocalypse 50 Ultra

Ultras tend to bring to the fore all sorts of questions which lead to apprehension, mainly around whether you are capable of completing!
This was my second 50 miler. It is the start of a summer madness of running and this was to kick start me into training more and getting my running mojo back from a dispirited last 6 months. I blame our new dog. She doesn't care.
So, could I do it?
This was the Apocalypse in the Longmynd. An inaugural race from the Beyond Marathon team with options on a 50 or 100 mile route around the Shropshire hills. The fun 50 for me, Hell on earth for those choosing the latter!
Race day began easy. The sun was out and was going to stay out. The start time was a luxury; 9am. The friendly atmosphere was relaxed, full of eagerness and anticipation for a great challenge ahead for the 100 or so 'Apocaliptics'.

We huddled for a quick debrief and 'Go'. The End had started. I choose to amble away up the 1000ft climb to Pole Bank mainly so I could get to know some other runners. A good chat and all to soon we were at the top and having no further excuses we all broke into intermittent jogs. Glorious 360' views of the Longmynd eased us into the rolling course and increasing temperatures to CP2 (10ish miles 1hr53 - feeling good, thighs a little sore, already!).
A quick refuel and top up and I was on the Conquest loop. The biggest conquest was to climb Corndon hill in the blazing heat. Then the usual undulating terrain taking us back to CP2/6 (20ish miles 4hrs33 - hot. The river was nice, thighs feeling it).
The next stage was a point to point taking us northwards over the famous Stipperstones, luckily dry, an altogether different experience in the wet but, still a hard proposition over the natural cobblestones. It was here that myself and Caroline started our 8 hour chat all the way to the finish line. Although we had yo-yo'd a few times and spoken from here we joined forces to help us both get through this event. Especially as things were getting tough and knowing where you were and reading a map were vitally important so that we did not get lost for long.

Out of water, out of touch and with the first sign of mirages conjuring in my mind we crawled into Pulverbatch (which is kinda how I felt) and took a pitstop in the White Horse Pub. The most welcoming landlord took care of us and refreshed us with ice cold drinks. It was a hardship to drag ourselves away from cold beer and the FA Cup final. But knowing the next CP was also a Pub we dragged ourselves away reaching the CP pub in a better state for stopping. Here we rested up for some 20+minutes and gave ourselves a proper cool down and ate and drunk plenty on the fresh cold grass (30ish miles 7hrs. Refreshed and legs hurting).

With the Famine loop looming I stocked up on plenty of pork pies. This looked to be a fast leg with a lot of flatter ground all the way to Earls Hill. With my mind and legs dreary Caroline pushed me onwards and we made good time. Unfortunately one small wrong turn did cost us a bit and it is always demoralizing having to pass people you have already made the effort to overtake. We took an indirect horseshoe route around and up to Earls Hill. I pretty much felt my worse here in the ascent. I just felt my body overheating and there was nothing I could do except keep it steady and drink loads. With the heat I had been finding everything tough especially eating. On top of Earls the wind whipped up and instantly refreshed me and gave me a second breath of energy. Although the legs were now certainly feeling it on the steep descents. A seemingly never ending track took us back to the pub CP for another well deserved break (40 miles, 10hrs. Doesn't matter now we are nearly home).

The last leg winds southwards back to Church Stretton. With tired bodies and mind small things went wrong. Caroline forgot her waterbottle at the pub. I rested up whilst she retrieved it then some simple map reading went wrong forcing us to retrace our heavy steps. But all in all we were making steady progress as twilight moved in, followed by the billion flies all wanting to take a bath in my eyes. A long slog up hill to the final CP  and then we dreamed and hoped that we could make the finish in daylight. It was wishful but gave us something to push us on that little bit more before we crumbled. With eyes adjusted to the 'darkness' we powered down Carding valley to the finish. Handshakes, hugs and medals were shared and a personal moment taken to reflect on an achievement to be proud of.

Finish time : 12hrs45, 12th (52 starters?) Knackered.
Chicked at the line by Caroline. For someone who said to me at the start she was nervous of being left behind by all these adonis type characters,she held her own on her first 50miler and more, she was 1st Lady. Well done Caroline, a truly amazing achievement and I hope you 'enjoyed' the experience.

That's the course description. More inspiring is the people you get to meet who make these days. The ones I can remember through blurred memories are...

Colin and his guys, on the 100 enjoying the day and taking it as it comes. Makes these races fun.
Dave, getting back from injury and has one tough summer ahead, culminating in the T184. Good luck and great stuff on completing this 100.
Carmine, the chatter man and all things good about Italians.
Chris, doing his first Ultra after only running a marathon this year. Too much, who knows but he did finish the 50 strong and on a flatter course and no map reading I'm sure a 100 would of been a cert. Go get it.
Nick, go buy that dog.
Caroline, amazing women. This was a birthday present to herself and through everything she smashed it.

Congratulations to all who took part. A tough course on a brutally hot day.

Beyond Marathon. Great organisation from start to finish, the volunteers were helpful, encouraging and superb. CP's stocked and good and a great course. I look forward to doing another event with you when the calender allows.

Pros - Great course/area, superb weather, good CPs and marshals
Cons - a fair bit of tarmac running (could of used road shoes)

More event pics at :

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