Saturday, 5 November 2016

Exmoor Ultra 50Km - The Perfect Race

Make the reason on why you push yourself so powerful it's impossible to fail.

To me it was the prefect race - it wasn`t the fastest I covered 50Km or even was it the furthest I`ve ran or the best performance but I would not have wanted to be anywhere in the World than where I was running. I really do think I would have come back from anywhere to run, likewise I think I would have run even it`s was a 100 miler it was that perfect.

What made it so perfect that it was on the same day as my Dad`s passing - a date you never forget. The start / finish point would be yards away from where I, despite the years gone by, feel closest to him.

I had been planning to go and run Snowdonia Marathon - voted the best British Marathon twice - the day before but when I saw this event I entered straight away. Luckily my training was going well. The Red Bull Steeple Chase Challenge ( a mad but must do race) also in Exmoor went really well despite the difficultness, my 5Km are sub 22 mins, 10Kms were around the 44 mins mark, 11 mile tempo runs are just inside 90 mins & been enjoyed my Friday long hills sessions at Caesars Camp. Not quite pre-Comrades fitness & endurance speed but blooming close. I did want to give Snowdonia a go (has 2,750 ft. of elevation) as it would have been my last big target race of the year.

I travelled down early on Friday afternoon - after a very stressful & horrid week at work - thankfully there are not too many of those in all my time I`ve worked there. I arrived at my friends parent`s cottage just after 4.30pm & chilled for the evening. Just for fun I watched `The Race` - Story about Jesse Owens (I was saving the `The Barkley Marathon` documentary for Saturday night !!). I had toyed with going to Minehead parkrun in the morning but settled for a trip to Barnstaple in the end. If I return I will remember about the bridge closure and that way ensure my warm up run would be cut in half & at a slow pace. Really nice parkrun & followed the 22 min pacer around for most of the course. Afterwards I recced a bit of a bike course I know but did decide that a hilly 24 mile ride the day before would just be a bit too crazy...always nice time though :-)

So the day itself - and no over sleeping this time - I was up in plenty of time to make the 7am briefing. A small field of runners for the Ultra, maybe 35 of us included Big Peter which was just great to catch up before the off at 7.30am. The two mile or so of the course following the river was on the same route as a run I`ve been doing whenever I`ve been down there (coincidence??) then it was across the moors following my a path but a series of flags.

The last time I saw Peter he was in the front group of three powering up the 1st major hill looking in good form. We had spaced out quite a bit - I think I was around 10th. I was moving rather well. It stayed that way till about the 10th mile (1hr 40ish) where I wasn`t confident of the route direction (better to be safe then sorry & do bonus miles so early on) so I waited around till a group of about 6 came past. We set off and still no signage so I hung back again. The next two runners had the course downloaded on their watches (Note to self - good idea for next time) and confirmed it was the right way. Lucky the next section was a lovely down hill section so I set off in chase mode to catch the 6 or so runners I let though...

At 15.5 Mile or so this amazing steep track that zigzagged up towards & across Countisbury Hill, then we followed the amazing South Coastal Path. When we hit the top there we had a few half-marathons runners going past - I was a bit cheeky and overtook a few going down hill.

Through the 20 mile mark in around 3hrs 50mins and feeling good - I hadn`t eaten much - maybe 2 gels & a couple of jelly babies but I had some food in my vest kit if I needed some. The next section reminded my so much of the Red Bull Steeple Challenge - it was that stunning. When I ran that Challenge race I hadn`t seen this Exmoor race which was another bizarre twist of fate.

My initial pace of around 10 mins per mile had slowed to 12 / 13 min per mile and I went through the marathon mark in around 5hrs 20mins. Lucky we were on our own now. Every now and again I passed a runner or saw one just ahead as the course twisted & turned. I still felt good despite being tired and despite being `alone` I had not needed the ipod.

The last section as I called it was tough as I knew we had to be heading up towards County Gate then sharply down towards Oare. This last 6.3 miles took my 1hr 40 mins and my legs and big toes were totally mashed but I didn`t care.

Ok I had missed by 6 hr & top ten finish I had wished for at the start but that was ok - I had finished one of if not then most challenging races I had done.

Great to see Peter at the end & with a top three finish.

Words cannot really express how I am so grateful that I saw this race & that could run 50Km....

That was for you Dad.

Next up its the Silly not that but Cross Country Season & the Cyprus Challenge.