This was my first Ultra of 50 miles. Not only did I smash my longest distance - MK Marathon - in one day, I nearly doubled that distance.
I had trained as much as I could for this, I had worried so much about this, I had been booking marathon's to keep me from thinking about this event for a long time!! Insane? Yes. Yes it was.
The week before this race it had been raining with the forecast on the day being rain by the evening. What was the weather like? Blue skies and hot sun - ALL DAY!!! I'm sure there was another long distance race that was full of hot weather all day......?
The day started at 4am for me and Lesley at the Travelodge in Whitchurch. We got to Sport Wales in good time and took our seats on the coach that would take us to Brecon. Gear and packs checked, checked and double checked we sat and enjoyed the scenery for the next hour. We arrived at a theatre complex in Brecon and had enough time for a cup of tea and one more check of gear. Toilet breaks a plenty due to nerves. Then a quick briefing in the theatre and we headed out to the start.
The drama for the day consisted of me panicking about my Garmin eTrex30 that I somehow lost from the coach and the start outside the theatre which lead to me delaying Sian and Lesley from starting with the rest of the pack. Swearing and bitching about the fact that I should have been more careful I gave up trying to find the eTrex and we started way behind everyone else which also made me swear because we'd been left behind. Dang it all!!
After a couple miles I gave up worrying about my lost eTrex and we were following Lesley's ultra plan of run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. Yes I wanted to run that little bit faster than my friends but I also wanted to very much stay together for this first Ultra 50. Never underestimate the power of friends. The last 12 miles of this race were only possible because of that companionship. Thank you - You're amazing.
The scenery from Brecon was amazing. We ran along a canal for a while and then headed out into the hills. The views along the lake were amazing as the water was so still. The amazing view at the top of the longest hill I have ever had to attempt in a race - 7 miles long! The classic hills of Wales as we passed through Merthyr Tydfil and then the longest ever paved tree walk the seemed to never end through Abercanaid, Aberfan, Abercynor, Cilfynydd, Pontypridd...... The list goes on.
Some parts of the route passed through housing estates. Near Brecon people were asking us where we were going and would raise their eyebrows and wish us good luck. Near Cardiff people would ask where we had come from and give us a hearty "Well done, keep going, you're nearly there".
So how long did it take us? Myself and Lesley it was 13hrs 11mins. For Sian and Micheal (Green wig dude) it was 13hrs 48mins
I accidentally stopped my Garmin somehow but I was very impressed with the battery life. After all this activity I still have 50% battery. It's clunky, it's a pain to set up but wow that battery life is something.
For my first Ultra this was one hell of a learning curve. The run walk was difficult because I was not used to walking that distance, I'd been training for running only. The food I'd packed and kept munching on throughout the day was invaluable. I would have become queasy and felt much worse by the end of the event without testing what food works when. I need to pack more preventative care for blisters and most importantly. I need to be able to run more than 40 miles as a training run before I attempt my next ultra 27th July - Lakeland 50
A few things I'd like to say to anyone thinking of running an Ultra.
Training - Don't ever under estimate the need for training when you're going to do a long distance event.
Food - Another thing you need when attempting a long distance event. What's good? What's bad? You won't know until you've gone out and tested what other people have tried.
Gear - Why run with a pack when you don't need to? Because it's good training. Just like finding those beautifully comfortable running shoes that will let you run for miles without pain. You need to find gear you can run in for miles!! Compression/t-shirts/shorts/socks/bra/packs - everyone's different.
I'd spent so much time testing, training, testing, training and testing some more that it worked well up until the mile 40 checkpoint. That was my furthest distance I'd trained for over my weekend training runs. After that it was sheer determination and having friends with me that kept me going.
Thank you Ultra Race. My Virgin Ultra event will never be forgotten.