A nasty knee injury in January (which I've blogged about on numerous occasions so won't bore you with another), followed by an operation and 10 weeks of physio, resulted in me being silly enough (well some people thought so but I had to do it) to run the SDW50 after being back to running after a week - I did ok, not great in terms of time but wonderful in terms of mental strength gained from resting the demons and knowing that my knee was getting better.
After the SDW50, I threw myself into a full on training schedule which myself and TrainAsONE compiled and after 4 weeks I was looking for a challenge to test my fitness levels.
I'd been speaking to Stuart Mills (UltraStu) down at the SDW50 and I knew that he had started up a new race event company and his inaugural race was 25th May - The Weald Challenged (down in East Sussex)- so I thought this could be good to test the fitness levels. As I was looking into this I got a call to see If I'd be interested in pacing for Sam who was doing the GUCR over the same weekend - F...ing typical and a dilemma (well for about 24hrs) - RACE or PACE, RACE or PACE!!!! I really wanted to help out Sam, but my selfishness got the better of me and it just had to be RACE (So sorry Sam)- I needed to RACE, I needed to go out and prove a point to someone (only 2 people know what I mean and we'll leave it at that!)
So with 2 weeks to go before the Weald Challenge I snuck in and entered. I quickly started to gather as much information as possible on the course and who were also racing. I managed to rope in - what am I talking about, it was bloody easy - Ben forget work on Wednesday were going down to East Sussex to recce the race, OK? - Errrrr? - it'll be fine we'll be working as we run, - Yep OK!..................how far did you say?
I must admit I am so glad that we recced the course - Never underestimate getting out on the course prior to the event - We had a great day of "working out of the office" - it's a great course, going out along the Weald Way up into Ashdown Forest and then back in following the Vanguard Way.
Right so knowing the course, I hastily put together a pacing, fuelling & hydration strategy and then spent the week before going over and over Google Earth following the GPX file of the route from the recce - There's some tricky navigational points to watch out for and prior to the race I wasn't sure how well marked it was going to be - (needn't have bothered as Stu must have put out hundreds of signs and red tape so in the end navigation wasn't an issue).
Right, I was all set - I'd had 1 week of tapering, I knew the course and was happy - and all was needed now was to head down to East Sussex.
I meandered down to the East Sussex National - a Little ;) DeVere Hotel a mere 7 miles form the start of the race and chilled out for the evening.
Early morning wake up call and it was straight down to business getting my head into gear.
Registration was from 7am - 7.40am and the sleepy village of Chiddingly was alive with activity as I arrived. Straight into registration and back out to sort my gear out when I bumped into Stu, had a few words about the course and then I was asked, "what time you looking at then Paul" (I was feeling good, knew my strategy had me in for 4:25 and just said to Stu - looking for 4:14, want to see how my fitness is!)
It was looking like the weather was going to be warm so I changed into my new X Bionic top (which I was suppose to be testing) - THE TRICK Running Shirt (I'll blog about this separately, needless to say I LOVE this new TOP - Its F***ing AWESOME at keeping me cool - some great new technology going on in that shirt)
10 minutes from the start, no nerves were there and was talking to people as we walked up to the start and before I knew it we were off..
The four of us settled into a nice easy pace with snippets of conversation going on - no one really seemed to want to go for it. A couple of occasions someone tried to push it but I just matched the pace and before you knew it we were back down into a steady pace. We all hit CP1 and we weren't stopping, well apart from one of the guys grabbing a handful of bananas and handing out them to us as we ran on (what a friendly and helpful chap that man was!) to CP 2. Knowing the route, I knew there was a steep road hill (Shepherds Hill I think) and I thought that this needs to be where I start to kick, so as we turned out of the field and up the hill, I kicked and kept my head down.
I didn't really look back but as we came onto the edge of Uckfield I was aware that there was still one guy behind me, again due to the recce of the course I knew that there was another hill coming up just before the Buxted Park Hotel, so I picked up the pace again along pass the sports ground and hit the hill and stretched the lead again. Down the A272 and then up to Five Ashdown I just kept the pace up, I couldn't hear anyone behind me, but wasn't too sure so, I knew that the A26 crossing was coming up (it's a real busy road section) so thought that if I could just sprint over this between cars it could get me a good few valuable seconds. As I came up to the junction, I looked left, right & left again - always remembering your green cross code - bollocks to that, I was in a hurry, I looked left/right and sprinted across, no problems and headed off to CP2 at Oldlands.
I hit CP2 for a quick water bottle refuel and looked around for the first time to see no one behind me. Rushing out of the CP I decided to make or break for it and just pushed the pace as hard as I could. The leg between CP2 and 3 is where the race was won (I'm not being big headed, it's just a fact) I kept on pushing up past the Clump on top of Ashdown Forest and on to the turn point on the B2026, hitting the car park at the junction of the B2026 & B2188, I was met by a very inviting ice cream van, where I stopped and had an orange Calippo Ice Lolly - Not really, I must admit I did think about it for a split second, but by then I was past it and on my way.
I didn't know if anyone was close to me or how far away they were, so as I hit the other side of the valley before hitting CP3 I turned around and walked backwards for a minute. I couldn't see anyone and I knew I had about a 1.5K distance back up to where the car park was - NICE was all I could think of as I turned around and headed into CP3.
Again, I rushed through CP3 and ploughed onto CP4, hitting this in 03:18:52 - 25 mile point (my pacing strategy had me in at 03:33:38). This is where the half marathon joins the ultra route and as I came through, a few speedies passed me, so I thought, this would be good to use them as pacing for me - in hindsight, considering that I was still not race fit, this was a big mistake, I should have just kept to a comfortable pace all the way in BUT NO, I decided to up the pace and stay with these guys. Hitting CP5 my left calf started to cramp and I was really starting to tire and I can only put this down to trying to keep up with the half marathon guys and not being fit enough.
Out of CP5 with just over 3 miles to go the decision to slow right down was taken out of my hands by my calf cramping and each sty was a bloody issue (oooh that's something I haven't mentioned - Stu the race should be categorised as an obstacle course, there's bloody loads of stys to contend with!!!).
Regularly runners were coming up behind me and every time it went through my head "F**K I can't be overtaken now!!" and every time it was a runner doing the half - I was becoming paranoid with every footstep I heard behind me.
There was one sty before coming back into the village where I tried to climb over it, but the cramping just wouldn't let me and behind me a queue was forming - I asked the question "Anyone on the Ultra?" a resounding "NO!!" from everyone so I conceded and got out of their way and let them all hurdle the sty before me.
I was really getting frustrated and as I hit the Church and back onto the road down to the finish I was certain one of the guys behind me was going to overtake me, so I just ran as fast as I could. The last 800 meters to the finish seemed to take an eternity.
I hit the finish line in 04:18:19 in 1st place by 15 minutes and thinking................ ;))
Least forgetting the prize tables - yep there was loads of goodies from his sponsors - Ultra Runner Store, TORQ & Montane - so a huge thanks to Stuart for putting on this event and long my it last!!!!!
The information on the website gives an elevation gain of 712M but I've run it twice now and both times have recorded an elevation gain of 834M. Apart form the mid section where the most gain is (circa 160M of climb), it's relatively "rolling"
The route distance is 51K
I spent most of my time in HR zone 3 (63%) and zone 4 (35%) with an average HR of 147bpm and a maximum HR of 160bpm
Los it big time on the last leg into the finish, losing upto 90 seconds per K.
looking at the CP splits that have been posted on the website;
At CP2 I was 1st in split times and had a 2 minute lead on 2nd place (going out of CP2 I thought I had less than that)
At CP3 I was 1st in split times and had a 7 minute lead
At CP4 I was again 1st in split times but even though I had slowed down myself I had managed to amass a 15 minute lead
Last split time into the finish I slipped into 4th place on the split time by 3 minutes.
Fuel - based on taking one TORQ gel every 30 minutes with the last two gels with the added caffeine kick
Well I can truly say I'm happy with that and now it's on to the next race. Room for improvement? Heck Yeah!!!!