And so, an incredibly late race recap of the One Run to Find Them All ultra marathon. The race marked the end of my ultra marathon season – a season which had proven to be rather more mentally and physically demanding that expected.
At the end of the race I collected my 26 ultra marathons in 52 weeks (an average of one a fortnight for a year), 26 marathons in 52 weeks (far exceeded) and 26 half marathons in 52 weeks (exceeded even further).
Just under a year ago, on 18th August 2018, I ran my first ever ultra marathon. It was day 1 of 10 ultra marathons in 10 days. In for a penny, in for a pound. There we no plans when I ran that first ultra to chase numbers for the rest of the year. That just developed as race after race added up.
I hadn’t entirely recovered for this race after the previous weekend’s 50 mile escapades but I’ve had a couple of weeks race free since to rest and recover (if moving house can be considered resting). Next Friday I have another race around a 400 metre race track (I ran a 50k around the same track earlier this year – 125 laps) and then one week after that is Richmond Marathon where I may target a sub-3 hour marathon depending on how the legs are feeling.
But on to the recap…
This was another Phoenix event and part of their Lord of the Rings themed series. It was the first of Phoenix’s events to be set at the beautiful Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking. The course was a 5.3km loop. 4 laps for a half marathon, 8 for a marathon and 9+ for an ultra. In other words, standard Phoenix.
What was not standard – hills. Constant hills. I’d run across the top of the Denbies estate the previous weekend as part of the Centurion North Downs Way 100 Miles and from above it had looked relatively flat. This was wrong.
Naomi was running also and was planning on 4 laps for a half marathon. I was going to run those with her and then press on for the final five and tap out at an ultra. It had been raining all morning and was still doing so as we lined up on the start line. I was in my waterproof (50k when soaked from the start isn’t much fun) but the weather was warm and humid so I was already uncomfortable.
The siren blared and off we went, around the first corner off vines and… straight into the first hill. A long incline up to the top of the vineyard to warm up the legs, running head down into the wind and rain. Once at the top the course turned the corner and flowed downhill into the distance. Fair enough I thought. We’ll use the downhill to make up for the up.
This would have worked if we were running in a big square. But at the bottom of the hill, rather than turning left, the course turned right. And back up another hill. Yay. I actually quite like running hills – I just hadn’t been expecting it to be this kind of race and my legs were still fairly knackered from recent runs.
Naomi wasn’t particularly enjoying the course, despite the stunning surroundings. She’s told me she’d love to come back to the estate but only for a wine tasting – sounds like a good plan.
Up the next hill we went, down the other side in a long straight that cut back across the vineyard, around the next corner and up another hill. And then down again, around the next corner and then looping back around to the checkpoint.
By the time we reached the end of the first lap I’d decided I didn’t care about the intermittent rain – it was too warm and muggy so I dumped the waterproof. Back out we went for another loop.
By the time we reached about half way around lap three I was getting a bit concerned about squeezing in all nine laps within the cutoff. Naomi was happy to run her final 1.5 laps by herself so I shot off, finishing the third and then the fourth laps for half marathon distance.
Coming in to the checkpoint at the end of lap four I grabbed my headphones, shoved some music on and pressed on.
Come the end of lap five and I was suffering. I was starting to feel sick and had a headache. I wasn’t sure why. I have difficulties with calories etc over the “long” ultra marathons, i.e. 50 miles plus but this was nowhere near that. As became evident after the race, it was because the weather had incrementally got hotter and hotter without me really realising, to the point that my neck and head were burnt red and I had started to suffer.
At the time though, I didn’t realise. So on I plodded, getting slower and slower and feeling sicker and sicker. I messaged Naomi who popped to the cafe and got me a couple of apple juices for the next time I swung by the checkpoint, hoping it was just a bit of a low sugar dip.
As we know, it wasn’t a sugar dip and therefor did absolutely nothing for me. By the last two laps I was trudging around, barely moving beyond a slow jog with the odd burst of relative speed whenever I glanced at my watch and got too nervous about time.
Eventually, just under six hours in, I dragged myself across the line. I think it was the slowest of these distances ultras I’ve ever run, but it was done.
It was done, as was the series. I collected all of my medals and certificates and then had a lie down on the grass before moving off.
As always Naomi picked me up, got food and drink in me and pushed me to the train and home.