Sunday, December 2, 2018

HardWolds 80

Twelve months before the Wolds Way 80 took place it really wasn't clear to me whether I'd run ultras again. Grinding to a halt on day 2 of the Dragon's Back in 2017 had started a series of tests and misdiagnosis that was to go on until the beginning of 2018. Eventually a scan revealed what I'd been trying to tell a variety of doctors - that my problems were linked to one of my sinuses and not to overtraining or mysterious viral conditions.

I signed up for the race in January on the day that I got a date for an operation to unblock my sinus and hopefully clear out the infection that was making me feel like crap on a regular basis. Signing up gave me something to mentally aim at even if at the time I still wasn't doing the training that would give me any hope of finishing. The Black Dog had been hanging around a lot and this seemed to be a good way of distracting him and bringing some sense of purpose back.

The date of the operation meant that I'd have somewhere around 6 months to train. Unfortunately this took a hit when my body decided it didn't want to start running again and I ended up doing lots of rebuilding. The long and short of it was that I didn't start to train properly until August and even then managing the amount I could run was a challenge.

Not The Ideal Training Calendar!
In Oct and November I did manage to build my mileage towards doing some steady 50-60 mile weeks and fitted in one run of nearly 40 miles which I came through relatively unscathed.

So I went into the race knowing that I was probably a couple of months short of really being ready for it but relatively happy about how the previous 3 months build up had gone.

Realistic goal: 18 hours
Stretch goal: 16 hours
Fall back goal: Finish the F*@king thing!

The Race
One of the reasons for choosing the Hardwolds 80 was that I'm slowly working my through the English and Welsh National Trails (when I've got through that lot I might look at Scotland). The Hardwolds 80 starts just after the official start of the Wolds Way National Trail but before the start we wandered up towards the Wolds Stone that marks the beginning of the trail.

Race Start at The Humber Bridge
This was only my second Hardmoors event after running the Hardmoors 110 in 2016 but Jon and Shirley have built such a fantastic community around their races that I felt I knew far more people at the start than I actually did.

Jon warned us during his race brief that there was a gate that would act as a bottleneck. To stop myself getting overexcited I hung back, quite happy to get slowed down at the start and not get drawn into running at a level I wasn't capable of.

On my final run before the race I'd picked up a minor niggle in my hip and this reappeared at mile 1. Not ideal when there was still 79 miles to go but manageable.

The morning went well. I'd never visited the Wolds and the rolling hills and windy valleys were new to me. There were lots of short climbs that nicely broke up the running without being too long. The trail was pretty good underfoot and really well marked. The weather was much better than expected and by the time I reached the point where the race photographers were my arm warmers were down by my wrists.

Short Sleeves in November!

I always struggle to remember races in the detail that many runners seem. I couldn't now tell you how I felt between CP2 and CP3 or what I ate when and it always amazes me that some people have that level fo recall. I do remember that overall my pacing seemed to go well and a mixture of Tailwind, rice pudding and a few other bits and pieces meant I didn't really crash. The DNF Demons rarely whispered in my ear when it was light and even when they did it was fairly easy to distract them and make them go away.

A few things I do remember:
  • Running through a shoot just as the beaters were approaching the gun line. The shooters were perfecly pleasant but they must have been frustrated at a steady stream of runners disrupting their day.
  • At one point I needed to change my headtorch batteries and did this next to the car of someone crewing for someone else. They offered me something to eat and my stomach was feeling really empty at the time. I had two of the most amazing pieces of quiche which did the trick, until a mile further down the trail my stomach decided it needed most of the blood in my head to help digest the quiche and I had to have a little sit down!
  • Suzanne telling me "You've got that ultra smell about you". Suzanne and Grace were crewing for and at some of the outdoor checkpoints I'd jump in the car to sort myself out for 5 minutes. The 'ultra smell' is me going into ketosis. It doesn't seem to matter how well I fuel or how good I feel on my fueling my body always starts to burn it's own fat reserves and the keto smell is quite pronounced.
You've Got That Ultra Smell!

  • The CP team near the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy had done a fantastic job of lighting the village with fairy lights and some eerie music was playing as I ran past the deserted church. It was a lovely touch at just the right time in the race. I want to go back and visit the place when I'm not running.
It wasn't long after Wharram Percy that I did hit a bad patch. Not sure if it was bad fueling, generally feeling tired or the realisation that I still had 30ish miles to go and many hours on my feet. I'd agreed with Suzanne that the only reason for DNFing was if I physically couldn't work. This, along with taking some ownership and action and doing something about how I felt - fueling with a variety of things - made the extreme low turn into a pretty good high fairly quickly. 

It was then that I remembered why I like running ultramarathons. This realisation had been missing since the DNF at Dragon's Back. In normal life the low points tend to get better over a long period of time and we don't always feel the change. Also in normal life we often can't  take an extreme low, do something about it and then come out of the otherside feeling great. That's why I like running ultramarathons - you can. It might not always happen but the times it does that's what makes it so worth while.

Finish Time: 18:33 - just outside my main goal but close enough.

Very considerate of Jon to get a medal that matches my jacket

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