Sunday, 29 December 2013
This was to be my last ultra of the year and it nearly never happened because of a lingering head cold which I had for over a week. The cold mainly affected my breathing when I upped the pace, which had resulted in some of my training runs feeling a lot harder than what they should have been. On the easy days I felt OK and wanted to race, but on the days I struggled I had just about persuaded myself there was no point in racing. So with 3 days to I talked it over with Stevie and we both decided that I would start the race but with the real possibility that he would pull me from the race if I was struggling.
I guess I just really wanted to race, as I felt that my training had been reasonable and I had started getting some good miles in through the back to back runs, but that was all before I came down with the cold. I was not targeting the race, but I wanted to use it as a gauge to see were my fitness was. I felt it would provide me with a good base to start the new year in.
So we travelled down on the Saturday and stayed in the Marriott Hotel right next to the course, Steve picked it as he said it was the best one for me, but I think I got done, as we have a rule, whosever race it is they pay for the weekend.
The hotel was lovely though and I slept well, but when I woke up on the morning of the race my nose wouldn't stop running but generally I didn't feel too bad so I was hopefull that I was going to at least get to the start line. My first transition went well as my alarm went off at 5am and by 5.05 I was alreay eating my breakfast in bed which was the cue for Stevie to go get his miles in.
It was a 2 min drive to the course and when we arrived I got a shock as I had expected it to be cold but I hadn't expected it to be so windy. Well that threw my clothing plans into kaios as I had to decide on legging or shorts, long slleeve top or arm warmers, and did they all match, well I thought these where all important things a girl has to think about even if Stevie did not agree. I was glad I did make the effort as some of the girls looked so pretty running around and very matching, well it was Newcastle and they do take their fashion seriously down here.
The start was a little strange as they had all the different distances starting at different places on the course, so for the first lap everyone was in a mad rush to overtake. I had set off quite easy not letting the shorter distance runners effect me. I soon fitted into a pace that felt comfortable and I was actually feeling not too bad.
The first couple of laps I never really felt the wind but then it soon become very noticeable towards the end of each lap. At times it really stopped you in your tracks or even felt that it was pushing you back, it became very frustrating as I felt I was moving well and still harboured thoughts of a good time. I soon decided to adapt a strategy to ran at a good pace when not in the wind and when faced with the wind to ease back and not fight it, that way I felt I was conserving my energy for the later stages. In these easy miles I was still feeling good, the cold was not having an effect except for the runny nose, in shorter races I had started wearing nose strips to help my breathing and for me they really seemed to work as I was wearing one today.
Into the middle part of the race I was still feeling good but really noticed that the wind had changed direction a little so that it felt very windy for most of the lap giving you very little time out of the wind. I have to say at this point I became quite annoyed as it was making the run even harder than it should have been and I started moaning to myself, I wasn't a happy bunny. I thought I should maybe turn my Ipod on as it might help me to forget the wind. The first song that came on was my favourite song so off I trotted instantly feeling a little better.
I knew that the wind would eventually get to me but I was knocking the laps off and kept passing people even those doing the shorter distances, I felt I was moving well and I was feeling really good. I always felt I had another gear and I kept wanting to push harder, but I knew I had to hold back, saving my strength for the later stages. I was feeling really happy to be enjoying my race, so I took time to have a cup of tea at 1/2 way and then a drink of hot chocolate at 2/3, I know I lost some time taking these on board but they made me feel happy and its all good practice for the longer challenges. The race was 19 laps so I had made a conscious decision to not take food or drinks every lap, so that overall I felt that I ate enough to fuel my strength but I did not overdo it meaning I had no stomach issues.
At no point in the race did I feel that I struggled so on the last 6 laps I felt that I could take the brakes off and started to push on aiming to finish the race strong. I knew I wouldn't get near the time I was hoping for but I felt good and I was enjoying myself. I nailed the last couple of laps and finished first lady and 6th overall, making the 4th and 5th men work hard on their last lap.
The race organisation was excellent, as they found that balance between keeping it relaxed but also making it work. Lots of laps are not to everyones liking but they make for good support even if they do eat or give away all your home made flap jack. I wonder if other ultra runners have this problem?
I know all my ultras will not go this easy but this race goes to show that I am fit and I can now start looking forward to next years challenges.