Crossing to the Dark Side - My First Ultra

My first ultra. 8 x ~6.5mile loops around a farm in Kent. Thankfully, being in a coastal marsh area, the course was very flat with a mix of grassy tracks, gravel, concrete farm, tracks and some tarmac. There were glorious blue skies at the 6am start, and it turned out to be a long, hot day at ~22C.

I didn't really want to start this race, feeling quite under prepared for it, but a friend was coming to stay who was also running it so there was no backing out! I had all sorts of thoughts about maybe I could pull out after 33 or 40 miles and still know that I'd run further than I had before. But really, I knew deep down that if I started, I'd have to finish.

I'd decided before the start on a run/walk strategy and executed that right away with 25 minutes running & 5 minutes walking. Although it felt very odd to be walking after just 25 minutes! As it turned out my Garmin didn't last the first lap as I had forgotten (again..) to charge it, so the simplicity of having 30 min segments worked out really well as I could just check the time on my phone.

I continued this strictly for the first marathon. This went okay but towards the end I was starting to feel seriously fatigued and with that came severe doubts of my ability to see it through. The cut off was a very generous 15 hours as this event is more of a challenge than a race. So I had plenty of time to finish if I could keep going that long. I think the first marathon was 5-5.5 hours, I forget! So I decided I would start to walk a bit more. I abandoned the clock watching half hour segments which in any case were becoming a bit tedious. Instead I settled into a routine of running certain sections and walking others. This worked quite well as I knew there was a fixed point to focus on and run to, rather than a time slot which was a bit arbitrary and didn't relate to what I could 'see'. I pretty much continued like this for the rest of the race.

Food wise, I wanted to avoid getting all bloated up and just had one gel all day whereas normally I'd have quite a few. I ate all sorts of crap - most of which I'd never tried on a run before. Malt loaf (this was great), mini scotch eggs, crisps, bananas, jelly babies, sports drinks and cans of coke. I drank loads as it was so hot. I was carrying 500ml+ of water with electrolyte in my waist pack each lap and also supplemented this later on with a cup of water form the aid stations. The first coke made me feel a little nauseous at one point, but it was so nice and ice cold, by the time I came though the next lap, I took another one.

I don't know whether it was the slightly extended walking or what, but at mile 30 I felt good. I felt like I could go all day. Incredibly this lasted for the next 20 miles. Seriously, I was starting to wonder just how far I could run if I kept going... Naturally, this didn't continue. Maybe my body knew there were just a few miles left, but it started to remind me that, no, you may not do this all day. So the last few miles were a little more of a struggle but nothing major. I was certainly relieved to finish!

52.4 miles, 12h34

I'm pretty stiff today, but am quite relieved to find that I don't seem to have lost any toenails, or picked up any blisters. I can even imagine not dismissing out of hand the possibility of doing another...

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