By David Killick
Four weeks ago I didn’t even have this in my plan, and thought anyone who ran over marathon distance was a complete lunatic. My season had been anything from 100m to Marathon, plus some throwing events chucked in there for good measure (Usain Bolt and Mo Farah could learn something from this I am sure).
Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed London marathon but being injured going into it and after it, the stress of the whole event (getting in, expo, getting there, time to beat pressure) was quite a lot. I love the lower key but tougher 1/2 ironman triathlons. But this year I didn’t have the chance to do one, so sitting at work one day I started thinking; Do I want to do another marathon and realised I didn’t want the stress again, so why not think about something longer (I know, how stupid of me).
Now I blame three factors here why I entered a 50km trail ultra. Curiosity, I am slightly mad and the club captain dangling the carrot in the pub after the cross country that we didn’t have an official 50km club record and resident club ultra nutter Mark Haynes telling me how great it is.
So next day onto the PC and spot two possible events before the year end and decide the low key event at Kings Forest at 50km was perfect. 4 x 12.5km laps through the forests near Thetford with a max field of 100 was a little stress as it could get. I won’t bore you with training because apart from a 27km run the week before there wasn’t any.
So the event itself. Night before I packed more gear into a bag than you need for an expedition, just in case it was cold, raining or sub tropical, pre nutrients, water bottles, gel and food bars. Nice early 5.30am leave from the house for the 90 minute drive to Thetford. So, big plus over any big marathon or race, I parked 100 metres from the start line, number pick up was easy and then some people obviously realised I was a newbie and the odd person stopped to give me advice. Don’t go off to fast, remember to eat regularly, enjoy it, stop at the feed station etc etc etc.
So 85 people lined up on a non pen start after a short race briefing, no stress, I have honestly never been so relaxed at a race in my life. And off.
I had a pace plan in my head and as we went around the undulating forest for the first 12.5km I stuck to it. For 8km you basically climb slowly through the forest paths and tracks and then 4km down hill before the last 1/2km uphill to the start/finish line before the next lap. Lots of different surfaces from sand based paths, to grass tracks and stone roads. First lap I felt great despite a cold/cough that had stopped me doing the Stag the previous Wednesday. The first lap went to plan and completed in 1:02.
Food station done and sitting around 7th place I picked up my water bottles and onto the second lap heading towards the half Marathon distance. So now if you read this I haven’t mentioned any food intake at all and the reason being is I had forgotten my intake plan of gels, food bars etc. So as I hit half marathon in 1:45 I decided to reward myself with a short walk and a yummy salted caramel bar. Heading back to the food station again at 25km I was still feeling good, second lap 1:04, still not enough food going in but again my head hadn’t registered this.
Then the cogs came off at about 30kms and the calf cramps started. So the plan now was to make 5km each time and then have a walk for a minute. By now I had managed some sweets, 3 gel packs and half a caramel bar plus the tablets in the water.
My 5km walk plan fell through as the cramps came on and off and then bang at 34km I was flat on the floor. Somehow I tripped on a hidden root and went flying. This sort of woke me up a bit and realised I was going to have to take this a bit more careful with tired legs, get some food on board and run/walk where I could. So dusted off, nothing broken (and not a person in sight in front or behind me to check on me) I headed down hill and limped for 3km into the food station. The lap was 1:13 so had definitely slowed and the odd person had over taken me (bearing in mind I hardly saw anyone its quite nice when someone sort of passes you and and says hello).
So off onto the last lap and I was under no illusion this was going to be hell. My next objective was to hit the marathon mark at 42km but it took an age, overtaken by 4 people in the process including the lead woman, but run/walk was the technique, run until you cramp, walk it off, carry on, which I did for for the next 5km. So limping along I then realised there was 2 guys catching me which spurred me on a bit and for the next 2km I managed to run without stopping, jelly beans now kicking in but alas with 1km left the guys over took me. Such is the sportsmanship these guys tried to drag me along but I was on my last legs. Then in the last 500m another guy took me. I was done and literally hobbled over the line. No famous Killick sprint. Last lap was 1:20 for a total time of 4:41 and 18th place. I wanted under 4:30 but I now get how hard an ultra is physically and mentally and I was happy just to finish bearing in mind some people where out there for 7 hours. You really go to some dark places of doubt in your mind and overcoming those doubts is an effort in itself.
Medal hung around neck, then some coke, coffee, biscuits, some more food, sweets etc etc etc. I can honestly say I couldn’t believe I had done it. Being a low key event everyone was just sitting around chatting, the winner was there having been there for an hour already (his laps each time actually got faster!!!!). In fact the first 3 over the line had been there for an hour such was the competition at the front.
Kevin Marshall (Positive steps) who runs this event and the marshals were superb, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It felt like a big family that I was inducted into.
So did I enjoy it, I would say better than a marathon. Would I do one again, never say never and I have my eye on the SDW50 and the IOW 100km but not fully committed (I can get why they are addictive). Have I claimed the vacant club record? Oh yes!!!!! What would I do different? Stick to my nutrients plan and get the energy in, maybe even slower start so I didn’t die on the last lap and actually do more than 1 training run beforehand.
For now my mind is focused back to cross country, the winter half, plus winter training for next seasons track & field. And apologies for the European measurements, Brexit hasn’t happened yet.