It's not often I win anything. You can forget the lottery though, I had won a place in the inaugural Weald Challenge 50km from Trail Running Sussex (run by UltraStu himself). I won this by guessing the downloads UltraTales would have when it released it's latest version.
Truth be told I wasn't going to write a blog after just completing the Apocalypse 50 miler the weekend before and writing about that, but as the prize was from UltraTales it would be rude not to do some sort of write up and post it. To be completely honest I didn't really want to race a 50km right after a 50miler but, with the SDW100 in 3 weeks and a distinct lack of training, these back to back long runs would at least give me an indication of whether I was fooling myself into thinking I could run 100 miles this year.
The race started in the tranquil village setting of Muddles Green in East Sussex. The day promised to be a beauty although a couple of friends I was meeting up with, who were doing their first Ultra (in fact their first run over 30km), assured me it was going to rain heavy early afternoon. After panicked conversations of what to take, I eventually settled for rucksack, baselayer and waterproofs. Of course the sun shone hot all day! This was much to the amusement of Paul, who had parked next to us. We both knew we knew each other somehow, but couldn't quite place where. He was back recovering from an horrendous sounding injury (dislocating his knee amongst other things at the Spine earlier in the year). Paul didn't need our good wishes as he won the race quite comfortably, which I hope means he is back to running at his strongest.
After a quick briefing UltraStu walked us to the starting position and sent us on our way. My friends, Jake and Melissa, were off with the eagerness of first timers. After the first few miles, and in need of a pitstop, I let them go on hoping to catch them up later in the day. I was looking forward to spending some time with them and getting the opportunity to hear all about their honeymoon in Nepal. Sadly it wasn't to be and we would have to save that conversation for the beer and BBQ afterwards. Meanwhile, I did get talking to John about all things good about running and competing in the SDW50. With the expectation of yo-yoing, and catching up later, I let him run up a hill and immediately found myself engaged in a chat with Paul, who had careered from fighting (karate) to running.....whilst battling Asthma.
All this talking somehow made us take a right turn on the main road and before we could say 'we're lost' we saw the WC signage which we duly, and rather ignorantly, followed. Over 1.5 miles later, just as I was thinking of picking up speed to try and catch Jake, Paul made an off hand comment that we had run some 8.5 miles on his GPS which got us thinking why we hadn't seen the CP which was between 7 and 8 miles? Maps out and after setting the GPS on my phone we slowly figured out we had inadvertently gotten onto the homeward bound course markings!! Bugger. Turning around we picked up another couple of runners who had gotten it wrong as well. Somehow, we all took it in good spirits and just treated it as just adding a little extra to the legs!
(Leg 1 :1hr55 was 17km should of been 11km)
Once back on track and passed CP1, with some marathon runners flying past us, Paul began struggling with his asthma and needed to take more walking breaks so I pushed on. I suddenly found myself needing to rush, where bears go, to relieve a painful stomach. Whether this was due to the heat, the pace or the nutrition of the day (or the 9 ales on the Friday night) we shall never know. After my unplanned break I managed to catch up with Paul and the others again so I slowed to have another chat. Thankfully my stomach settled down nicely so I pushed on again. The day was heating up making me wonder why I was carrying my baselayer and waterproofs? Pointless, but like the extra miles I guess it is all good training.
The route took us northwards through wonderful scenic trails and one very nice looking hotel (Buxted) taking away the anguish from painfully heavy legs. At the next CP marathon runners went right and ultras left. The temptation to go right was pretty strong but I was here to see if I could run 50km so left I went, after stopping for refreshments and thanking the marshalls.
(Leg 2 : 1hr12, 10.6km)
The next section was both beautiful and tough. Immediately the route climbed and climbed and climbed up to Camp Hill and breathtaking views over the Ashdown forest valley, More heathland than forest though. I could see for miles and what dawned on me is I could see no other runners. Which pretty much meant I was running the rest of this race on my own so I took out my mp3 and tuned into some music to help ease my way up and down the Ashdown valley.
(Leg 3 : 1hr, 8km)
We were now passed the halfway point and had turned around/ We were heading southwards on the Vanguard Trail through picturesque farmlands and quiet single tracks. Meeting up with the odd runner now and again brought me out of my isolation and helped force me on with tiring legs.
(Leg 4 : 1hr20, 10.5km)
The next CP brought me to the familiar surrounding from our misadventure earlier on. The section was mixed with some country lane running which, although lent itself to moving faster, it meant that walking breaks were hard to come by. In the baking sun and with tender thighs the breaks were becoming more and more welcome. At least we were near the end and the final CP was close by.
(Leg 5 : 40min, 5.6km)
A quick refreshment and a final chat with the marshalls and runners and I set off to finish the race as quickly as possible. 'It's 5k' a volunteer shouted. Spurred on by this comment I sprinted around the corner only to be set upon by a hill which brought me to a grinding halt. I staggered up this slight incline. Seeing a runner in the distance encouraged me to keep moving and, where possible, get a good pace on. Finally managing to overtake him where the footpath was at its most overgrown and muddy. Soon after I popped out from nature's solitude into the hustle and bustle of a pub garden in full flow. 'Go left' was the call I heard from some helpful bystanders. A few hundred yards further had me thinking whether they were having me on. I stopped and checked my map. The helpful person was proved correct and I made my way further down the road, starting to remember this was the road we started on all those hours ago.
Finishing felt so good. I felt good. All in all it was a great day, a stunning route and great organisation and CPs from the organisers Trail Running Sussex. I had managed back to back ultras and Jake and Melissa had a good day and good finishes, although they did wonder where the hell I had got to!
Total : 6hr45, 57km, 35+miles
Bring on the SDW100 in June!!!