Friday 1 November 2013

Ladybower 50 mile Ultra Marathon

 I completely forgot to say that in September I did something that was great fun that I thought I would never be able to do.  I ran, ok well ran / walked / staggered around a 50 mile Ultra Marathon.

It's the Ladybower 50, there is a website, and facebook group just search for "Ladybower 50" for the event.  I've signed up for it again next year, the cost a whole £31.50 which seems to be a bargain to me.

It was  a great day. I thought that I had prepared reasonably well, and in truth I was woefully under prepared, but just kept on plodding around and got there in 11 hours 54 minutes.  Yes I had a big walking section where i was struggling a lot but I did it :)

The course is around Ladybower reservoir which includes 2 of the dams that were used for practise runs for the WW2 Dam Buster raids. You start off doing a 5 mile loop around the bottom of the reservoir and then you continue around for 3 laps which are each just over 15 miles.  I think it's actually something like 50.9 miles long but that doesn't have quite the same ring as the Ladybower 50.  If you get there early enough, and I just managed to, you can park in the same lay by where the race starts, which makes it dead easy for refuelling and getting yourself organised at the end of each lap. So I found i could literally just stop at the car and sit on the boot sorting myself out at the end of each lap.

The organisation is great, and simple, opposite the start you come to a place where you can go left or right, you go left at 5 miles back to the start then for the three other 15 miles laps you go right, so they had a marshall here, and a water butt, and water at the start line, (oh and cake if you were quick enough but I was slowwwww).  So it's a nice simple course you don't need a map or anything like that, you have some sections on roads, and some on trail, it includes a set of steps to run down and up each lap to add to the fun Basically it's fantastic.

They also have options to run a 20 miles, and a 35 mile version.  So you skip one or two full laps. The starts were staggered very 15 minutes, or might have been 30 minutes apart, with those of us doing the 50 miles going off first.

Now onto my race specifically. Lets begin by making it clear I finished there is a 13 hour time limit and I was the last finisher in 11 hours 54 minutes, I was 2 minutes behind a couple of other finishers.  At the start line there were 48 of us, and I was the 39th and final finisher.  So a bit of me keeps thinking darn I was last, but over time that's going down and the I finished a 50 mile ultra marathon n under 12 hours side is taking over :)  I made mistakes, and things didn't go great but I got there.

My biggest mistake was that I had some home-made flapjacks that were just to rich.I knew they were a little rich but didn't worry, so I had a plan, run the first 5 miles without any water, or food so I had some drink and food before the beginning, then after the 5 mile loop i'd grab my omm waist pack with water in, and packed with food and go from there.  I also had a cheap rucksack with a camelbak style water pack in it ready to go if I decided i wanted to wear that but i had struggled with it a bit in training as it made me really hot and sweaty.

This is a link to my very very slow Garmin track showing me getting around the course.
Garmn Connect - Route 

So I drunk some water, eat a really rich flapjack and started off.  The 5 miles went great perfect pace for what I wanted.... Just chilled,  Got back round the loop grabbed my waist bag, and set off again, as soon as I tried to drink or eat though something weird happened I felt really sick, I just wanted to throw up.  So I didn't drink for an hour and just kept plodding along, and of course typical it was a boiling September day around 19-20 it was toasty. So tried drinking and was sick, tried eating just a nibble and felt awful... So gave up.   pace wise i was plodding along fine, but starting to feel crap.  So completed that 15 miles lap, so 20 down 30 more to go, felt crap but assumed it would pass, at the car at the 20 mile mark, i decided to change to my rucksack maybe i'd be able to drink the plain water in that easier, took that and more food and set off again.  had a 5 minute mess around deciding on the pack etc... but set off as soon as i could, so off i went and nope still could not eat or drink. So by 25 miles i was feeling awful.  I had at this point come across a bloke who was feeling the same. I think he gave up at this point and just crossed back over to the start.  I was only a few minutes or possibly even still on time with my plan at this stage, but the next 10 miles back to the start was hell.  I haven't really hit the wall before in a marathon, but because i was hardly eating and drinking i think i hit it, I certainly hit an emotional wall at this point.  I struggled like hell from here to 35 miles, the one and only bit of food that i could eat was a pepperami, so whoever had suggested I take some was a life saver. I didn't have much but the bit i had kept me going.  At about 30-32 miles I remember I was crying i had people saying well done, nearly at the end but i had a lap more to go!! and also I felt I was going so slow that I wouldn't be within the time limits to do the last lap, in fact I was praying they would say nope you are to slow.  Then a weird thing happened around 33 miles, a couple of people overtook me, and I was thinking hang on, they just lapped me and must be about to finish, well only one or two at most others have done that.... taking that into account maybe i;m actually not quite as slow as I think.  So I gritted my teeth and kept plodding / walking as fast as i could to 35ish end of lap.

So... I got there I went straight past the car to sign in, and they said 8:05? I thought they were going to say 9:30 or something so they were happy for me to continue if I felt I could.  So I went back to the car sat on the boot and saw that I'd opened a can of diet coke last time around but couldn't drink it.  Heck i could not drink anything so what the heck lets try flat warm diet coke.  ... Err it seemed wonderful!! I drunk the whole can straight down and it was almost magical it felt like it lined my stomach It was bloody amazing. I cannot describe what that can of diet coke did for me... Basically it was my saviour.

I then proved just how stupid I am and that maybe i was a little tired... I emptied and refilled my water bladder, and thought ooops spilt some as the bottom of the rucksack felt soaked, stuffed some of every sort of food i had in the car into the pack, eat a banana that felt great thanks to the coke, and set off... thinking eeek i'm getting soaked i must have spilt more water then I thought into the pack.

by the time i'd gone a half a mile i'd realised I somehow hadn't poured the water into the bladder... I had poured it straight into my rucksack so for the next mile i basically had all the water just comng out the bottom 1.5l of it just pouring down my bum and legs, totally soaking my trainers, socks etc... I was heavy legged had no water and was soaked, but it was great for cooling me down. So I kept going to 40 miles (the point opposite the start on the other side of the reservoir which has the water butt, and it was still there phew!! with some plastic cups so i filled my bladder a cup at a time from the waterbutt poured a little over my head and carried on.  10 miles to go I now had water, and could drink it, and food... I was actually starting to feel good.

It was getting dark for the last few miles and they sent out a car to check on us stragglers.  they first met me with about 6k to go and then again with a couple of k to go and they said I was flying between those two points which helped make me feel good for the last little slog.  that last 10 miles I actually felt good, i could eat and drink and i was running way better then from 25-35 which was utter torture.  Getting to the finish line in the dark with a few car headlights to show the way was amazing :) What a day.

At the 35 mile mark.  I was over half an hour behind the group of two that I ended up finishing 2 minutes behind, the last lap was great.  1-20 was great. 20-35 was pure hell.

But it is amazing how friendly everyone is out there, you all want to help each other out, but even knowing that when you are struggling it does feel so lonely in the last few miles it was getting dark and I was alone and hadn't seen another human for a couple of hours it really screws with your mind.  I really believe that ultra running or in my case staggering is more in the mind then in the physical body.  I've signed up to go back next year, and I would love to beat 11 hours next year, but we shall see. Whatever happens I know that i'm really looking forward to a great day out and meeting new friends again.

Oh this sums up how great Ultra runners are. The winner who lapped me easily an took around 7:30-7:45 to finish, was there at the line cheering and encouraging me over the line when I finished. 

Thanks everyone that was a completely amazing day.

There is a 13 hour cut off for the race, so even though I struggled a lot I still had just over an hours time left.

If you want to do something like this, here is a plan that you don't necessarily need to follow but it's a good starting to point, and gives you pointers, one of the key things that I didn't do anywhere near enough is back to back runs so a long run on a Saturday followed by another medium to long run on the Sunday, i need to do this a lot more in preparation for next years attempt.  I am also doing the Wall which is Carlisle to Newcastle in 1 day which is 69 miles, so yikes I had better start doing some training soon :)

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