Friday, 4 December 2015

My first 50km Ultra


It's all in the preparation!
After I had completed the 2015 London marathon I decided to sign up for a new challenge and in a moment of madness I opted for a 50km ultra on the North Downs in Kent.
My training started in June, with 5 months till the event, I felt assured that I had plenty of time and my base level of fitness was still good from my marathon training.
 I had achieved a great time in London and had worked around a few injuries, so full of confidence I wrote myself a 5 month training programme which also included cross training, circuits and pilates.
In a world obsessed with PB’s and running tech, my first month proved harder than I thought it would. Learning to slow down and using a run walk method was so alien to me. I ditched my beloved Garmin and just opted for a standard watch and used a print out of the North Downs rather than a google map on my phone! Old fashioned running some might say but I didn’t need to know my splits and wanted a more relaxed approach to the running I had been immersed in since October of last year.
The North Downs are beautiful and I now consider them to be mine, I ran and ran all summer, enjoying the freedom, the silence and the stunning views.
I felt lucky to have them on my doorstep and embraced the good weather everyday in short shorts and vest tops, a far cry from the long winter training,  wearing everything I owned and running every morning or night in the dark.
It felt right.
I witnessed the changes of season and every time I ran on the Downs it looked different. From the long grasses in the summer, to the fields of vibrant yellow rapeseed and then to the brown ploughed fields of September and the beginning of Autumn. I knew every path, every hill and every view.

Whilst all my running buddies were out running faster 10km and 5km on roads, I would lose whole days running along the Pilgrim's way, stopping for lunch and taking photos. I was in a phase of re-education with my running, absorbing from others, listening to advice and finding my own path to follow, I was no longer a sheep!
I had made it through to Sept and then I had a wobble! OMG ! Could I do this? Had I trained enough? What if I was last! I doubted myself and all the training that I had done, all the sacrifice, all the painful sports massages, all the gym sessions would be for nothing! But just as I hit my low point my friends and family boosted me up again!
“Of course you can do it, you will smash it”
“You've done all the training, you will be amazing”
For this I am truly thankful as it put me right back on track .
One week to go and I started my taper, just a few shorter faster trail runs set me up and I stuck to my daily fuel and hydration plan.
 I had already practised eating whilst running and getting my digestive system used to working whilst I was busy putting one foot in front of another.
So training completed, preparation done, all I had to do now was show up and run it!

Having never entered an ultra before I was nervous about turning up and looking like a novice. The pre race jitters that normally plague me just drifted away as to my surprise the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. The organisers Traviss and Rachel chatted away to everyone, faces from all walks of life, older, younger and all shapes and sizes gathered for the pre race briefing, this was more of a celebration about individuals being recognised for their achievements than actually giving out regimented instruction.
The rules were simple, follow the course laid out and come back to HQ after each lap for a wrist band. The loop were 3.74 miles
7 wristbands/laps = Marathon and 8 wristbands/laps = Ultra.
We all lined up, a bell rang and we set off, there was no jostling for front running positions or barging, no beeping of Garmins. Everyone just set off slowly and chatted away to the person next to them. So relaxed it didn’t feel like any other events or races I’d ever been to before.
Enjoying my first 50km event.

The course was challenging to say the least! Being situated on the North Downs the terrain was undulating! Luckily it had been a dry week so the course was not too muddy under foot.
I decided to stick to my tried and tested strategy, run the flats and downhills and walk the uphills. The hills were mainly in the first half of the course so you could conserve some energy by walking them and then run at a faster pace on the last part of the course.
The scenery was stunning and Autumn had officially arrived. Leaves were falling in the woods, ambers and rusty colours covered the ground like a cosy quilt and it was peaceful, zen like.
Before I knew it I was back at HQ collecting my 1st wristband. A superb buffet of sweets, chocolate and cakes had been laid out and it was already surrounded by happy runners grazing on the offerings.
After a quick break I set off on lap 2, and in much the same way and time lap 3 and 4 got completed.
Mentally I needed to get past lap 5 and then I could begin the final countdown.
It got harder but every time you got back to HQ Traviss and his team gave me such great support and encouragement that you just wanted to get back out there!
My running buddy wanted to complete 7 laps, which would be her first marathon but we were both tiring and walking more. I decided to push us both harder and keep us moving till eventually we raced back to HQ! Both of us had now completed marathon distance, such an epic achievement but my race wasn’t over yet!
Marathon and Ultra marathon achieved.

It’s the final countdown!
I didn’t hang about , my feet had started to hurt and I was tired. I’d spent nearly 5 hours running and although I had been eating and hydrating all the way round I could feel the last of my energy draining from me.
My strategy needed to change to get me around the course one more time.
I needed music and determination, I grabbed my ipod and steamed off up the track.  Still sticking to my race strategy, I walked the uphills and run the flats and descents.
I could feel every muscle in my legs tiring, heavy and fatigued but I continued forward, putting one foot in front of the other.
My mantra took my mind off of my aching limbs  “ Keep moving your arms and the legs will follow”. I allowed my mind to wonder, listening to thumping house music and repeating my mantra over and over again, suddenly I was jolted back to reality by tripping over a tree root! Concentrate Victoria!
I was nearly there, I counted the last 1.5 miles down, through the woods one last time and turning out into the final field. Exhausted I ran up the hill on the home stretch with a massive smile on my face.
The last 200m was dreamlike, almost in slow motion I ran to the finish line and was greeted by family and friends.
WOW! I’d done it and I felt AWESOME!

The medal was epic nearly the size of my hand with an Autumnal scene of Ranscombe farm and I got a PB badge too as it was my first Ultra.
The goody bag contained all the right things, a chocolate orange (FYI my fav!), chocolate match makers, crisps, biscuits, beer, cider and coke!
 Hey I’d just ran 50km, I was tucking into that bad boy as soon as I got in the car!
Goody bag & champagne.

The aftermath.
My first 50km trail run completed and looking at the results later I was elated!
3rd woman in for the 50km Ultra distance, I’m still not sure how that happened!
Looking back on not only the day but the whole journey, I feel like I evolved.
My running ethos and mindset developed and progressed in a way that I didn’t think was possible.
I absorbed other people's knowledge and experiences and listened to my body.
Running gives me a sense of freedom, a healthy mindset and a positive outlook on my life.
So what's the next challenge?
Well no moments of madness but how about 50 marathons before I’m 50 years old? Here we go.........
Thank you for reading my blog.

1 comment:

  1. A well presented article, and interesting how you approached and ran an ultra, I have a few issues with my own running/training and also need to look into my diet and hydration while running and not running.