Sunday, 20 October 2013

Midnight 30 Caesar's Camp Endurance Run


Back in the car and knowing I did my best
Well well well. I'm not even sure where to begin. This event is the longest, most technical and most challenging run I've ever done. I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot about running in the process (and myself), but boy was it tough.

Last week I ran the Greensands Marathon. A little shorter, ran during daylight and a higher elevation gain compared to the Midnight 30. What I initially considered to be two races that were complimentary to each other, as further steps on my long distance trail running foray, could not have been more wrong.

Even Henk, the Race Director, was rather different

The first words I heard from him was where he called someone a "F&£king prick". Followed shortly after with words to another gentlemen who had just ran 60 miles and needed to retire and go home on family business, "You f&£king pussy".

Henk is not your normal Race Director. He likes hard races, people who don't moan and complaining about the "f&£kers" who do. He's actually a really nice and quite a genuine guy, he just enjoys his swearing and doesn't like moaners, whiners, soft people or tasteful music.

It's sad that his was the last race as it's proving too difficult to keep getting the access to the site for the event every year. This year, even after he'd sent a confirmation email that all was going ahead, due to the filming of The Man from UNCLE his access was being pulled. Luckily, Henk, in his own words, "sucked a lot of cock" to make the event happen. Thanks Henk.

The line up

I sadly didn't really have the time or take the opportunity to meet and greet my fellow Midnight runners as much as I'd wanted to, but there were about 12 of us all in. A good few of us were ultra newbies too.

Some of the fellow Midnight runners

The course

I guess I could split it up into a few different experiences.
  • Steep up-hills with loose stones / rocks of sharp flint
  • Soft grounded single-track heathland (this was lovely)
  • Twisty paths (with seemingly more left turns than right)
  • Steep downhills (with a variety of finishes from rocky drops to mud-wrestling slop)
  • Combination of the above with a special 'trip hazard' dressing
This is what I could see

At one point I tripped at speed and was near horizontal with the ground. That was exhilarating and rather surprising. I tripped in the same place again in the next lap too! Overall I must have tripped about 15 times.

I also pulled a funny and nearly pulled my groin muscle too with an audible "No! No! No no no no! Not the splits" as I slid my way down a very steep and sloppy hill to the horror that my legs were ever widening. Thankfully a pitifully mustered jump brought them back together and saved me from a messy fall.

I also made a navigation error that cost me the fastest lap (I believe). I'd carried on following a trail when I should have climbed over a stile fence. I must have run for half a kilometre and it was actually quite unnerving by the time I realised I was definitely in the wrong. Finding yourself at the bottom of a steep hill with no visible signs of the path you should be on or any fellow runners. It's amazing how quickly things can see so alien and uncertain when the safety and ease of your marked course can't be found.

This was me at the start
The last section before the race HQ checkpoint was great. Nothing technical (though I still tripped once), low elevation difference and soft absorbing ground to run on. Pity it only lasted a kilometre or so.

The laps

The Midnight 30 did 3 laps of the course and by the second I knew it quite well. Which leads me to believe I must have been quite tired to make another (albeit) smaller navigation cock-up on the third lap.

Lap 1 was done in 1:37 and I loved it and felt great. I bombed it around and although the legs were still feeling the effort from the Greensands marathon, I still felt fresh enough to try another fast lap. Something I didn't expect were all the 50 and 100 milers to check that I was on the 30. Worried that some super-human was running the 100!

End of lap 2
Lap 2 started well and I was in first place until the half way mark, but quickly took a terrible turn for the worst after an ankle injury basically stopped me from running. Hills, up or down, had to be walked and I could barely shuffle along the flat. I wasn't sure of the damage and didn't want to risk my ankle. I hobbled into the HQ and after a tablet of some description, I was ready to go again. The second lap I believe took 2:01 in total.

Lap 3 was a mess. It took a good 4 miles for the tablet to kick in and those first miles were done at a walk in most places. I met up with a guy doing the 100 miler and we got chatting. It was he who had recommended the tablet at the HQ and I believe it was his lovely caring wife who provided it. It was a real insight to run / walk / hobble next to someone who had already done 70 miles.

At the end. Didn't mean
to look so shocked
Things turned downhill and all of a sudden my legs came back. The ankle pain was gone and in the 100 miler guys words later on "I took off really fast". I ran the rest of the route at a good pace and came in at 06:01. Lap 3 was a slow one at 2:23.

The finish

  • Call out my race number (47)
  • Have my race number scanned
  • Shake the hands of Henk, Nicky and the team (see, he is a nice guy)
  • Politely ask to sit down
  • Get offered a tea (win)
  • Be offered a mini Mars bar (double win)
  • Go put on warm clothes
  • Fin
  • Eat soup and jig to Henk's banjo music (see above)
  • Welcome back other runners
Looking out for other runners
(they run in from between the trees on the left)

There was no medal or pomp. I think the idea of this event is that you're there because you want to do it. Nothing else. I did get a tech t-shirt and a key-ring though!

What did I learn?

  • Bring paracetamol and ibuprofen (tablet and cream form) with me
  • I can turn around my negative mental attitude even when things are grim and slow
  • If my body is feeling good I could do more than 30 miles
  • I love running on single track
  • If I'm warm standing around with a t-shirt and a hoody, I'll be warm on the run with just a t-shirt
  • Bring water and leave the salts for a handheld
  • That I should stretch more often after races (I've learned that, I still haven't put it into practice!)
I'd love to do the event again, but sadly that won't be so. But it has given me the confidence that I can run further than 50km. I can run technical and challenging terrain and I have some mental robustness to keep on going.

I think I'll need them for my next run in December. The Coastal Trail Series Ultra in Dorset.

Garmin data for the nerds.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Greensands trail marathon - first timer

The Greensands marathon was my first trail marathon and what an event to start with.

4,000 odd feet of climbing, more puddles than you could hope to avoid and some horrible steps at around 25 miles to remind you that you're only human.

Start at the start

So what was the start like? Quite relaxed really. A little home spun too, but I like that. I picked up my race number with little fuss and settled in to people-watch around the room. Everyone was looking hardy and decked out with non-mainstream trail trainers, race belts and running club tops. I did wonder whether I was out of my depth for a second, but striking up a few conversations I realised they were all human. Ish.

It was also a great opportunity for a selfie with fellow noobie, Justin Bateman.

The six degrees of running

In a random field strung out in a line, I was stood next to Justin Bateman, who got me into this event, who was stood next to James Adams, who had gotten him into these events, who was stood next to Michael Carraz who had probably been helped into such events by him and then finally, who was stood next to Laurenda Tirepied, with whom I had met, but not met 'met', from the Trail Running and Ultra Marathons group on Google+. Which was cool, odd and unexpected.

The route

I'm not going to lie, I hadn't really done much research on this event. I'd run the Midsummer Munro this year, which was great, and in some way I just presumed that this event would be similar. But it wasn't. I hadn't expected such poor weather conditions, the really narrow sections or the areas darkened by trees. The endless puddles were impressive and the mud, having been churned up 100 times or more, was sloppy and slippery everywhere. But I appreciated the additional hardships. Running a course is great and all, but running a course in harder conditions is a hardier challenge (obviously) and there's something in my pea-brain that says that's better.

Anyway, it was uphill a lot. There were some down hill parts and I don't recall that many flat parts. Here's the elevation chart from my Garmin.

Yup, no flat bits in sight.

The hardest bit

  • There were a few miles, probably around the 17 - 20 mile mark where things just took forever
The best bits

  • The fact (that after a while) I couldn't care less about running through puddles and sloppy mud
  • The twisty and tight single-track running in places
  • The flat, fast and open final 1/4 mile

The Marshalls

Miserable weather. Brave St John's Ambulance crew
Admirable nutters. I know it's a crazy thing to pay to run around hill, but it's a truly great thing to stand in the same spot for 5/6 hours with a smile on your face and a positive persona cheering every runner on for free.

All credit to them and I hope they enjoyed themselves in some way. Though for the life of me I'm unsure what that could be. Free jelly babies after the race maybe?

Big thanks too to St John's. Hopefully no one was hurt, but it's nice to know they're around.

Medals, tea and bacon

My Grandad would be proud. He'd probably also have laughed at the abysmal showers. I would have had a better shower standing outside in the rain!

Overall I really enjoyed myself and I look forward to doing this and other Trionium events again.
This is a terrible photo

Garmin data for the nerds.