Thames Trot 50

I’m looking forward to Go Beyond Sport’s Thames Trot 50. I’ve not ran in a ultra since August last year and has work hard during the winter so is looking forward to racing. The course profile is flat following the Thames footpath from Iffley to Henley-on-Thames and although the course is not marked the way markers and course is easy to follow.

The weather forecast for the race is wet and windy and we have been briefed that the course is very muddy. Leaving the comfort and very cosy start line at Hawkwell House Hotel we were soon introduced to mud sliding. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with mud sliding that is when trail running becomes less running and more “ice skating” with the difference that there’s no ice. No solid footing, a test for your core muscles to see if they can keep you upright. As horrendous as it might sound to you I don’t mind mud sliding. 

It started to rain. The pictures scenery seem to become even more beautiful. Every step was worthwhile until the wind came up. The chatting stopped! It was head down battling straight into the wind. I don’t mind mud and I don’t mind rain but I was not enjoying the wind. It was (wo)man vs. nature! The open river banks offered no shelter. There was no escape from the wind. Not only was I slipping and sliding but it felt as if I was moving backwards. The checkpoints was a welcome relief. It didn’t offer any shelter but the friendly marshals gave you new energy. 

My race plan was to check my fitness level to determine if I’m on track for my bigger races later in the year but I found this race more of a battle against Mother Nature than a test of my fitness. It was suppose to be a training run. My ultra demons was coming out. I can’t afford an injury. The demons was telling me that things hurt and although I admit “yes I had bits of my body which has felt better I wasn’t dying”. If you’ve ever ran an ultra before you will know if your mind is not in it, forcing yourself to run is hard. Mile after mile I kept telling myself it’s not that bad but the reality was I wasn’t having any fun! I run ultras for fun and personal achievement. To have an enjoyable experience in nature! But today I was not enjoying the experience. I was over halfway but decided to call it day. I had enough! Today Mother Nature won!  

Race summery:

Distance: 50miles

Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate. Despite being flat the weather plays a big roll in the underfoot. 

Organisation: Very good

Course markings: Although there are no spesific course markings there are plenty of Thames footpath way markers and it’s a very easy route to follow 

Overall: I will highly recommend this race for runners who want to start their running season early as well as to newbies who want to try out ultra running. But do check the weather before hand as winter flooding has a big influance on the course. 

XNRG Pilgrims Challenge, 66-miles over two days

It was a frosty Saturday morning at the start line of the XNRG Pilgrims Challenge, 66-miles over two days following the North Downs Way from Farnham to Merstham. My training over Christmas and January went well considering that it was all done very early in the morning in complete darkness but my aim for this race was just to enjoy the a route so close to home and get some mileage in. I estimated a 6h30 finish but decided not to look at my pace too much. That was a good thing as I didn’t get much sleep due to my daughter and the cat. At the moment I know that I can do the distance but I’m mentally struggling a lot more than what I should. Without a clear answer as to how to fix my problem I decided to just have fun and enjoy the run.

Most of the course is either up or down with the first part of Day 1 the easy section, leaving the big hills for the last part of the race. The cold weather didn’t bother me too much due to good kit selection. I was working hard but enjoying a very well organised event. I must take my hat off for all the volunteers at the checkpoints. As runners and walkers we stay warm but they have been manning the checkpoints with a friendly smile and a helping hand, despite the sleet and freezing temperatures.

Reaching the steps at Box Hill 35km into the race was an interesting experience on my legs. Mentally I kept telling myself that this will come in handy for my Vertical Rush Challenge in March. My mind wandered off to who made these steps? A giant, someone with very long legs or a random person who just randomly place them up this hill. The reason for it was that it was to big to climb up one by one and to small to get any rhythm of walking or running. They felt never ending but I knew that with every muddy step I was closer to the end. I don’t like running on roads but appreciated being out if the slippery mud when we reached some Tarmac. Reaching the finish line I felt happy and after a cup of hot soup and a hot shower I was ready to set up my bed in the hall where we would be sleeping. After dinner we got the opportunity to listen to different presentations.

When the lights turned on for the start of Day 2 a part of me was thinking “why?” Another night with hardly any sleep I stumbled to breakfast and yes I did sleep in my running clothes incase you where wondering. My knees were throbbing through the night, something I’ve never had before so the first few miles were slow. At least we started with the hard section and finish with the well somewhat easier section. The snow made everything looked pretty, peaceful and slippery!

Progress was slow. The muddy route was technical and my running soon turned into mud sliding something my poor knees didn’t like at all. I was dreading going down Box Hill steps the whole morning but was pleasantly surprised that going down them there seems to be less of them however to safe my knees I did try “crab style”. Reversing yesterday’s route you get some sort of idea as to what’s ahead however I also realise how much my brain blocks out as there were sections which looked very unfamiliar. Seeing my daughter gave me a mental boost to keep running. Only a few more miles!
I crossed the finish line happy with my achievement.

I can thoroughly recommend XNRG events. They are well organised and the staff and volunteers are great. XNRG runs a few events during the year. The next event is the Pony Express on 3 May 2015.

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