Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

October 16, 2011

Round Rotherham, 50 Mile, 15 Oct 2011

Well, the 2nd time is the charm for this race, I guess.  This is the first time I've repeated a race since moving to the UK, and my results are night and day, literally.  In 2010 I started in the dark with the walkers, got horribly lost, and finished in the dark.  In 2011, I started in daylight with the runners, and finished well before the sun went down. 

In the hall before the start, I ran into Nick, (his photos are here) who I hadn't seen since bumping into him in the middle of the night on the Open24, if that even counts.  Also met fellow blogger Mike (good photos of the day) who was attempting his first Round Rotherham but knew the area well having grown up here. 

From the tiny bumbags that many runners were carrying, we concluded that there were no kit requirements, joy! I gleefully left all the normal junk in the car, carried my smallest pack (still almost empty) and didn't even have a waterproof top (gasp!).  It was chilly at the start, so I finally got to try out my Pertex jacket, usually passed over for a fully waterproof version.

The forcast was for sun, light winds, and nice temperatures.  In other words, a beautiful day to be out running.  My goal was to not get lost, and perhaps even attempt a sub 10 hour race.  The dry conditions meant that the course would be fast, and with only gentle undulations it is a very runnable route.   I think even road shoes would have worked for me today, but I was happy wearing comfy trail shoes.

With 6 miles clicked over in the first hour to give me a bit of cushion later, I settled into a steady 5 mph pace, which is what I would need to finish in 10 hours.  I found I could actually keep up a pace quite a bit faster than than, but with lost time at checkpoints and walking up a few hills, it all averaged out.

I had only minor bumps in the race, including somehow choking on a cracker I had eaten 5 minutes before at the first checkpoint.  Somehow a stray crumb worked its way down the wrong tube, and I coughed until tears were streaming down my face.  The guy behind me was concerned and made sure I had water in hand.  Luckily it sorted itself out shortly after. 

Then, just before the second checkpoint, I tripped over a pebble and did a faceplant onto a gravel road.  The same guy happend to be behind me again, and gave me a hand up after I checked all my moving parts for injuries.  Escaping with just a few scratches, I continued on for a drama free rest of the race. 

Never got lost!!!!!   Again I had a really fun time navigating using the Wainwright style maps that make it a whole different experience than map reading.  I noticed a lot more landmarks along the way because I was really forced to watch for signs and turnoffs.  It was amazing how much of the route I recognized from the year before.  I gave a middle finger salute to the bridge that had caused me almost 10 extra miles of running in 2010, and noticed a few other spots where I had gotten a little lost.  Not this time.  Many thanks to Henry Marsden for his meticulous upkeep of the route and the maps. 

With a few hours left to go, I was still on pace for 10 hours, until I flipped to the last page and realized that the course wasn't 80k , it was 81k!  An extra kilometer to run suddenly seemed to far to go.  So did running another 3 hours at a pace that was already hurting quite a bit.  However, the miles kept clicking over, and finally I was running through the part of the course that I had covered in the dark last year.  I knew if I could keep it up for just a bit longer I might make it.   With a few miles left to go, I picked up a follower who had lost his maps, and we attempted to run to the finish, laughing at how hard we were trying to beat an arbitrary time limit, and concluding that 9:59 was no better than 10:01.  Anyway, the finish flags came in sight when my watch still showed 10:00 hours flat, and I finished with a time of 10:00:36.    Definitely a PR as last year it had taken me 14:30 with my 10 mile detour!

Results on Henry's website can be found here

October 4, 2011

Open 5 Lake District, 2 Oct 2011

For my third Open 5 adventure race, I teamed up with Sarah Keast, as we figured that women's pairs gave us the best chance of being competitive, and even (dare I say it) winning something.   Sarah and I run and bike at about the same pace, and since we managed to share a small tent together on the Rab Mountain Marathon last weekend without any troubles, I guess we work together pretty well!   There are 7 races in this year's winter Haglofs Open 5 series, so we are hoping to get in as many as we can, schedules and weather permitting, of course.  We are calling ourselves "Team 29er" as we have matching mountain bikes with big wheels, hopefully an advantage on the biking sections!

Well, after a week of the nicest weather I've seen yet in the UK, normal conditions returned on race day, so we woke up to drizzle and clouds.  The race started in Staveley just on the edge of the Lakes district.  I could have sworn I had never been there before, until we got the maps at registration and I overheard mention of the night biking section of the Open24 back in July.  Suddenly memories of a horrible rough trail ridden at 3 in the morning came rushing back to me, and I pointed out that particular trail to Sarah so we could make sure and not ride it!   But the location immediately made much more sense to me and a few checkpoints were even similar to what we had found on the Open 24, so that helped us decide our route choices for the mountain bike section. 

No, we're not lost.  I just look lost.
 We decided to run first, and after dibbing out, quickly plotted all the controls for the bike and the run.  This helped us decide how long and how far we would run, to give us time to get back for lots of biking, as there were more points available on the bike section.  It was calm and muggy (can that word even apply in the UK?), and we were quickly sweating even in a t-shirt.  Sarah had forgotten her watch, so I was calling out time splits as the sweat dripped off our noses.  The run route was easily broken up into two loops (unfortunately we had to run right back past transition halfway through).  We made good time and only had to knock a couple of controls off of our planned, if somewhat ambitious, route. The second loop was a boggy hill with several lumpy tops, which made for an interesting search of one control with just a description of "rock on knoll" or something like that!  We found it quickly enough after splattering mud up to our knees, and we were back in transition just outside of the 2 hours we had allocated ourselves. 

With three hours left on the bike, right out of the gate it was a steep uphill to a control wirth a lot of points.  Sarah was threatening to throw up after eating a gel and pushing hard up the hill, but luckily she didn't and we carried on.  I must say that there were a lot of hills involved in the route we had picked, but we managed to avoid any really rough, unridable sections by working the roads as much as we could.  Even so, the minutes passed quickly and we wondered if we would have to sacrifice a few controls to get back in time.

Fortunately, the next off-road section was very rideable, and I even caught puny air on a few rocks, finally feeling comfortable on my new bike. We did run a bit low on water as it was a warm day, and refilled from a questionable source just to wet our throats a bit.  There were a lot of gates to open and close, which must have slowed us up quite a bit, but we reached the road back to Stavely with 45 minutes to go.  This gave us time to backtrack on the road and pick up some large points at controls which were easy to reach.  I kept a close eye on the clock, calculating that we could pick up everything we had planned on and still make it back on time.  Sarah was cursing behind me when I turned up a gravel road to the last detour, but she gamely held onto my wheel.  With 15 minutes to go, we were turning the pedals for all we were worth for the mostly downhill run back into town.   Luckily we didn't let up even after it seemed we would make it, as we came back into the finish chute with less than 15 seconds left on our 5 hour deadline!

Sarah collapses at the finish....
 We felt we had done pretty well, and I anticipated that a few penalty points might have been enough to drop us out of contention.  It was a nail-biting long wait for the awards ceremony, helped along by some yummy veggie pasta and baked potato provided by Wilf's Cafe.  When third place in women's pairs was announced (and the score was lower than ours), we started bouncing up and down in excitement.  Well, turns out we tied for first (in points) but came second as the winning pair came in 7 minutes ahead of us.  

Tied for first sounds so much better, though, doesn't it?  :)

And then is smiling again a few minutes later!
It was a great day out on the hills, as always, a perfect start to the series, and we'll see you all next month for the Open5 in Shropshire!
2nd in Women's Pairs