West Country Ultra 100 miler

I knew I wanted to enter this race the very day I completed my first 50 mile race in August 2016 (the men dip marauder) I looked around at other races, but my heart kept returning to this one.  I feel that was a huge part of my journey to feel drawn to a race, it was the part of the beautiful part of the country, having the sea, the energy of the west country, the fresh air, the coastal hills and Exmoor.  A guy I was running with actually called this ultra a “sacred ultra” because not many people know about it and the route is hand crafted by Dave the event organizer. You can just tell each Albion running event has the heart of an ultra runner inside of it, every fine detail is there! I would call it a self navigation ultra although the route is marked up!  a gpx files is available, I would still go in with the right navigation kit, crew and be as prepared as you possibly can.  I think that’s what ultra running is all about! finding your way.

So this is me at the start looking all fresh and everything, and that is my eldest daughter Phoebe I think was more nervous than me!! her mummy running 100 miles must be like running to the moon and back for a 10-year-old!! My mum was about to plat my hair (even planned the hair lol) I had fire in my soul and all I could see was the first mile.  It’s all I could allow myself to see at that point, I had visualized the whole thing. I knew what I needed to do. In fact Dave’s parents said to me “we will see you at Lynmouth” (mile 70ish) and I thought yes you will!! And I’ll save that story for in a little while……..

So I headed to the start line by the River Parrett in Taunton, where I met my amazing crew!! Tash and Tony!! They were like my guardian angels for the run, the faces of hope and encouragement.

I did end up on the wrong bit of the river lol, slightly down from the start, I stood there with some others thinking where the heck is everyone lol!! Heard a huge GOOOOO!! and everyone came charging round the corner.  We just joined the herd of crazy ultra people and off I went.  Getting to mile one with some guy singing 99 red balloons lol  To be fair I was in complete shock at how fast the from lot went off!! Like in serious shock. Remembering some wise words from a few dear friends, I stuck at the rear, I was about 3rd from the rear for a while, then slowly as the day went on I met with others, and it was a bit like a bat and ball game but I made sure I ran with my own spirit no one else’s, I made very sure I didn’t cling to anyone else’s pace and stuck with my own strategy and my own pacing.

The 100 mile race runs alongside two 50 miles races. So the ultra flat and the ultra hilly, meaning the first 50 were flat, around 2000ft elevation and the second 50 were hilly around 10,000ft elevation. This meant that the speedy 50 mile runners who set off 30 mins after us caught up by check point 1! 50 miles to me once felt like such a long way, so having these runners go by knowing their end point was my half way point was quite an amazing overwhelming feeling.  50 miles was also my longest run so anything over 50 was new territory for me! although it never scared me.

The first checkpoint came and went pretty quick. I couldn’t believe how quick the miles were tapping away! Greeted by my crew, parents and Phoebe. I grabbed a jam wrap and off I went, most people were just trotting through this first checkpoint.  The lady in the green behind me ran the same long journey, who knew at this point we would be hugging each other at the end! We ran bits together but knew we were in on it alone despite the short sections together.

IMG-20170521-WA0009

Check point one came and went, so far the weather had been kind! To be fair I can’t grumble at the weather over the whole thing it was spot on for my taste, even the heavy downpours were character building stuff lol.

The River Parrett was mega!!! A huge wide river we followed all the way up to the sea.   Very mixed terrain, some tow path, some grass tracks, few nettle bits but defo not your usual river running.  A friend met me at about mile 19 and followed along on his mountain bike to check point 2 IMG-20170520-WA0006

From check point two my dad joined me for 12 miles which was so nice. I loved running with my dad we have very similar souls, he ran beside me and was just present.  I was also greeted by my brother, sister-in-law and niece, who tagged along to further check points.  It was so nice seeing them all there to support me!! I love my family so much.  Always there.  Tash and Tony sorted my water out, I packed some snacks and off I went again with my Dad.

The split second we hit the coast line to rain went “WHY HEELLOOOOO CRAZY WEIRDO ULTRA RUNNERS! TAKE THAT!! AND THAT!! AND A BIT OF THAT!! hahaha  I train in all weathers and had the kit so it wasn’t a problem. I smile in the face of the elements lol Eventually you kinda forget its raining!! or is that just me?? lol

My dad left me at about mile 42 I think. By this point I was beginning to get the usual feelings in my body most ultra runners experience, that dull weird satisfying feeling that lets you know you are running an ultra!  It was nothing compared to later on lol!! My vision was to get to mile 50 feeling strong and capable and that’s what I did! arriving at Dunster beach around mile 49 I had a good feed knowing the half way point was just down the sea front. I ate at Dunster and my parents headed to Bossingdon to meet my pacer Nicholas.  When I say eat I had a vegan pot noodle!! haha It was bloody laaarvly!! and coffee and some crisps and some other stuff lol!!

IMG_20170522_101438_888

There were posh toilets at Dunster Beach so did my thing had a wee and carried on! I also got to see some very emotional 50 mile runners storm through Dunster.  The elation in their faces knowing they were nearly done, a feeling I could totally relate too!!  Having a loo at Dunster didn’t do much for my bladder!! My bladder was not my friend lol running down Minehead sea front with people here there and bloody everywhere! I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and just wee myself hahaha I got to the pub, met my crew, announced to everyone I weed my self, then went and got changed hahaha #noshame.  It’s all part of it isn’t it? baha

I saw Nicholas at Minehead (the face of kindness) gave him a huge massive squish and he jumped in with my crew to the 60 mile checkpoint at Bossingdon. The stretch from Minehead to Bossingdon was a bit of a laugh! In my head anyway!  Talking to myself a lot! Singing and feeling the sun doing on my body was incredible. This part of the race was what I had been waiting for all day, the hills, the tiredness, the darkness, the pain!! The unknown, I was just totally drawn to it.  My whole body embraced it!! Not one negative thought went through my head!  Even the descent from the top of the coastal path down the cliff!! I resorted to going down backwards lol  It took the pressure off my toes and quads! It took a while but was so much easier than going down forwards! It was so so steep.  I would have prefered to go up it tbh.

FB_IMG_1495472564847

Hitting Bossingdon checkpoint was officially my longest run (60ish miles)!! I was greeted by more family!! Woohoo felt great, had no idea they were going to be there so it was amazing lol. I changed into my night-time running kit, got my head torch packed, squared away some food and away we went with Nick, my pacer!!  as soon as I booked this race, there was not any other person I even considered asking!! Ultra running is something that only other ultra runners can relate too! for me to run with someone over that distance they needed to know me! They need to know my temperaments, my personality and they need to know how I run, and ultimately I needed to have a connection with them.

The unknown didn’t scare me, I embraced it!

The next stretch was probably my favorite part of the run.  Experiencing the day ending and the night beginning and the hills really kicked in!! I mean coastal climbs up through forests, I kept up a good pace and even went by a good few people.

So admin alert!! Learn your kit….I had serious serious tantrums around my head torch!! It was a borrowed one that was like 500 lumens.  It should have lasted the whole night if I didn’t have it on ‘can you see me from space setting’ so 2 hours into the night it started to flash, like I was at an effing rave! then dim! and then die! Yes I shouted and had a strop lol!! Luckily Nick had a handheld, and god knows what was going through his head!! luckily he knows me pretty well and was probably giggling to himself. I used the handheld for the whole night!! Really easy to use, and actually gave me more visual on the ground and wasn’t a problem to carry.  So important note! Have spare kit! Your kit is your lifeline, it can of fail you.

So coming into Lynmouth I blasted past 2 people.  I said to Nick to message Tash and Tony to get me some hot food on and a coffee ready for the very early hours of the morning section. The next section was probably between midnight and 3am.  I ran in, called my number, found the car, sat down, took my shoes off ready to put my Hoka on and yes I fainted!!! Hahaha in all seriousness it came out of bloody nowhere, I came over all sick, eyes shutting tight, swaying about, nearly pooed myself, and that was me, gone for a few mins lol I woke up with everyone around me. Straight away asked for coke and sweets,  I drank about 4 cups of coke, a plate of watermelon and took some sweets with me.  I put my warm coat on as I came over really cold, everyone seemed really concerned but pretty much as soon as I came round I began to perk up.  It didn’t take long and I was on my way again!!  It took my legs a while to remember they are meant to be moving forwards! I think they were going “what the F&*k I thought we were done” lol It actually turns out post run that I had a very very nasty bite on my ankle, and it happened prior to getting to Lynmouth, my ankle was sore getting into that checkpoint but stopped hurting around mile 90 so knew it wasn’t an injury.  It wasn’t until I had some piriton a few days later that reduced the swelling. I realized it was a nasty bite, hence the sore ankle and fainting.

Between Lynmouth and county gate car park check point I was still a bit wobbly from my little episode and it’s only speaking to Nick after that I realized the care he had to take around me! Apparently I was very wobbly and a few occasions he had to guide me away from the edge of the drop down to a rough running river.  I do remember him shouting to me to stay to the right!!  All I had in my head was one foot in front of the other.  The pain I was feeling was there yes, I knew it would come, and it had to be my friend.  It was one of the reasons for doing it.  Getting to county gate felt amazing because it was very much a really thin track that leads up to the car park! Tracks you couldn’t afford to have a wobble on!

After county gate we opened up onto Exmoor with a 12 mile stretch to Webber’s post, with Porlock to go down and round and of course back up! Probably the longest stretch and I knew it was going to be long.  However I tried really hard to maintain in my mind a mile, then another mile, then another mile, and not use the check points as a way mark in my mind. Nick said to me the check points aren’t the end, you still have to keep going, so this just held strong and made the distance between check points a lot easier.

This was also when my bladder decided to give up on me every half an hour or less.  I had to be really vigilant with my fluid and make sure I was drinking, just due to how much I was weeing.   It was rather comical looking back and defo added over an hour onto my run time hahaha!!!! I think Nick suffered more than me!! He did laugh.  By this point where I went was not a factor! I needed to go I went! I think I even went in front of some farm-house.  I wasn’t really thinking straight by this point and didn’t really care.  I also went from squatting, to weeing almost standing up and as I approached the 90 mile plus distance it was a case of my aim going out the window too bahahaha!!!!

The sun reappeared as well!! how freeking amazing is that!! OMG I had been running for a whole 24 hours!! how amazing is that…….

18740339_1312494102201700_8052876774324737406_n

Picture above!! I think the picture gives you a pretty good idea of my state of mind! lol  I laughed so much when I saw this picture.  I look so funny!! I still remember exactly how I felt to haha Nick did a few admin bits a Webbers Post checkpoint! food was no option for me by this point!! I had tailwind in my pack I think lol and also drank some coke!! (PS I had not drunk coke in like 4 years prior to this race!! that’s how out of it I was!! I hate the stuff) It was all I wanted haha coke and coffee…..It’s fine…..It’s all I need I thought haha!! This check point was about mile 92!! Up to this moment, despite how exhausted my body must have been I didn’t feel tired once.  Not one negative thought went through my head.  Quitting wasn’t even an option and neither was stopping!  I just machined on and embraced every moment.

After leaving Webbers Post the emotions and tiredness kicked in! I had been running for about 25 hours I think.  I knew we had Dunkery Beacon to go up over and back down and the terrain was far from pleasant! It was by far the hardest bit of the race.  I literally had to rely on my soul to carry me because my body was suffering!! the rubble and boulders and uneven ground was too much.  I kept tripping over rocks which was so frustrating.  I knew how close I was to the finish line yet I was in such denial.  All I needed from Nick at this moment was reassurance I was doing well.  I just remember saying “am I doing well” over and over again! his calm voice and replies was enough.  On the way up to the beacon I had my first meltdown! I just stopped and cried so so so hard.  It was almost childlike.  The emotions of running for so long and knowing I was so close to the end, the terrain, and feelings of elation coming were too much.  I brushed myself off though and carried on my way.

The thought of seeing my parents and Phoebe at the cricket Pavillion started me off again, as they left me at Bossingdon checkpoint, so I hadn’t seen them all night. I ran into that last checkpoint and cried to my mum.  I said “that was so so so hard mum!!” also by this point the styles had appeared!! so many of them, and climbing over them was just horrific.

I knew in my mind I wanted to finish in under 28 hours, so Nick hurried me along.  We had probably the biggest climb! or that is what it felt like anyway, and also about another million styles all in the space of 5k.   He literally had to pull me up the top of some of the climbs because they were so steep.

We hit the top and it leveled out.  I started running again.  OMG my legs and my body!! luckily for me the fire that was burning at the start was still going so I ran and ran and ran until I got the finish line.  I saw my mum and Phoebe and knew I was so so close!! I had visualized this moment in my mind for almost a year.  I knew I would get there.  I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that  I would make it!! And I did!! in 27 hours and 10 minutes and I came 8th overall and 3rd female.  I literally couldn’t believe it and the feeling will never ever leave me.  My bar has moved!! Once the thought of running 100 miles was only for super heroes, not me!!

What got me there was my consistency and my drive.  My want and need to be on my own, the choices I have made in the last 4 years and following my heart.  This journey had always been inside me.  I was destined to run this race!

Never ever doubt your ability to achieve great things!! let the fire inside you burn so strong that quitting and not achieving something aren’t even a option. 

My amazing dad recorded the finish line for me!! he really captured the whole thing.  Click here and enjoy the moment

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “West Country Ultra 100 miler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s