I would treat the Moonlight Challenge as a mini rehearsal. Set on a 6.55 mile course, which I knew (& know how confusing it gets), running on mixed terrain with the full 5 laps in darkness being my goal - still very odd to treat a 32.75M run as a training run but needs must.
Last week I had decided that (just to make it difficult) I would run in the morning at Basingstoke parkrun seeing as it was Alan from the club 100th parkrun. Aim was 28 / 29 mins - I managed 28:06 so not bad. After that I drove down to the hotel - which was only 2 miles from the race HQ. Relaxed for a bit - watched Mo doing this thing...also watched the rain coming down outside :-/ I got changed & made my way to the HQ. I knew where to park - I wanted to use my car as a base, so I parked 200 metres from the start at the side of the road. I laid out my 4 sets of kit in the back seat - planned for the worse. I had my food & drinks in a cooler in the front. The plan was that on each lap I would stop my the car & have something to eat or drink, maybe change kit (or shoes).
Like normal I got there early, I checked in & looked around (yes the great shoe debate was going on) - I decided to go with road shoes in the end (complete with gel heel) as I wanted to protect the Achilles tendon really but of coarse the advantage of being a lapper I could change shoes after 6.5 miles.
We had the race briefing - one of the best things about these ultras is the relaxed briefing but shortly later & with a bang & cheers (starts with a firework) we were off. There was a good 100 or so runners and with head torches lighting up the darkness it must of looked a good sight. Soon enough we came off the road & unto a broken farm track - we were already being to string out in the darkness. Unlike last year where I raced off and completed the 1st four laps in just over 4.5 hrs (OK was better conditions then) the plan this year was steady slow burn pacing - maybe sneak a PB (06:04:56). The first few miles it was quite social - finding out about what fellow runners were doing, had done, number of laps planned etc. From about 2 miles I found myself in-between two groups of runners - I was happy with that. Just over the halfway stage at the drinks station I passed the group in front. Apart from a few single runners in front no-one else was around. Soon enough I got to the `Jelly Baby corner` and onto the finishing straight & into race HQ to check in.
The conditions didn`t warrant a change of kit so I had something to eat & drink (Muller Rice & water) and updated my status on FB - I thought I was quick but saw quite a few runners go sailing past. Finished off & got running again - I past them about 1.5 miles in. They recognised me from my flashing back light. The second lap seemed to go very quickly and soon enough I was back at the race HQ checking in. I thought I better not have another rice but I did drink & more updating on FB - noticing a similar lap time even with the extended food stop which was pleasing. Lap 3 and this is where it all got confusing - runners come at you from all directions - you think you know where you are but no, you think runners are in front of you but really half a lap behind . I think I may have been lapped too.... At the start of lap 4 it was food time again...another Muller Rice (Strawberry flavour), a quick change of jacket - now a gilet and off I went again... Lap 4 was really the same as the previous laps - running by myself in the peace and quiet occasionally passing a runner in front. A couple of runner I had recognised from other events - esp one who passed me at mile 27 at last year`s JW Ultra - not that I remember things like that.......
At this stage I knew the PB was out of my reach esp as the conditions underfoot was getting worse - as Jerry (a fellow runner who I saw a number of times esp at the same watering hole) put it has having the "consistency of wet concrete"
At the start of the day & for inspiration I used the mantra of "Green Bottles sitting on the wall...." and I imagined myself knocking the bottles or miles down as I went along.....I started the day with 35 Green bottles on that wall ... 3.1M + 32.75M
By the start of lap 5 I started to count down "6 Green Bottles sitting on the wall" which boasted my energy levels, then "5 Green bottles....." I also decided to walk through the muddiest of sections - I really didn`t want to twist an ankle or make the tendon even worse (not that I was aware of any pain there :-) ), "4 Green Bottles...", "3 Green Bottles....", "2 Green Bottles...." - I was down to the final "One Green Bottle........"
I was on a high - I had managed 35 miles in a single day (& a very rare 60 miles per week) plus I managed to get around the course without falling over....opps - with just 10 metres of off-road section left & over I went in the mud - gutted AND in front of the marshal & it was in the same place as I saw another runner (one of the speedier runners too) fall in my previous lap. What a prune - I picked myself up & was cursing to myself for the remaining mile of the event.
By the time I turned the last corner & saw the pub it was all forgotten about. I signed in & shook Mike`s hand (the RD, who you often saw out on the course like a shepherd looking after his flock) & congratulated him & his team on a brilliant event, chatted to a few runners who were still about & off I went..
10:15, 11:23, 11:13, 10:49, 11:09, 11:38, 14:32* (01:12)
10:25, 11:29, 10:24, 10:05, 10:58, 10:27, 14:37* (02:26),
12:09, 10:47, 10:12, 10:29, 11:27, 15:43* (03:43),
11:13, 12:27, 11:01, 10:42, 11:35, 11:59, 14:18* (05:04),
10:46, 13:42, 12:41, 13:31, 14:16, 11:25, 00:51(10:27/m@ 0.08m) (06:30)
Finishing time - 06:30:38
No PB, tired, muddy but very pleased - I had learnt some valuable information too.
I would like to say same time & place next year but after now running 10 laps in the dark I would like to think it`s about time to do a couple of laps in the daylight......the only trouble is that the only other two events held is either the 52.4 Miler (8 laps) or the 24 hour event....... ;-)
The next morning I was out of hotel fairly early as I wanted to watch the folks running around the Bramley 10 / 20 - which is a really (and I do mean really) good event. I was at the 9.25M / 19.25M point with Jon, having a right laugh, watching & cheering loads of folks I knew. Why was I at the point....because I jogged from the car & that`s all I could manage - a 2 mile recovery run. Said a quick hello to Marc & Sarah - who again had very successful trip down South. Then it was back to Sue`s for a very quick chat with fellow parkrunners & a few nibbles before driving back home to enjoy some quality time with the sofa. zzzzzzzzz
Next up - an easy week and then the Mad March 20 on the 6th March - a new event to me but a two lapped 20 miler - nice :)
Some other reports about the race -