So it would appear that the pain of doing an ultramarathon is easily forgotten...
After saying ‘never again’ at the end of my first ultramarathon, I somehow ended up participating in 'Endure 24'. If you’re not familiar with it, you have a 5 mile trail loop, and 24 hours to complete as many laps as possible. It is dubbed “Glastonbury for runners” and is a weekend of camping and having fun, with a spot of running! Many people do it as part of a team a bit like a relay race with laps. I, however, thought it would be “fun” to enter as a solo runner.
I was super lucky to have my friend @TurtlesAndRabbits volunteer to be my support crew. We went over to Bramham Park on the Friday afternoon to pitch the tent, at which point, she pointed out that I wouldn’t be spending much time in the tent because that would mean losing running time! I should have known then that I was going to be pushed to my limits
The running clock started at 12 noon on the Saturday in the boiling hot midday sun. We all set off, and apart from the people running in large team relays, we were going very slowly. The first lap was fun, everyone was chatting and excited about the event. The best thing about doing an ultra, is that everyone walks up the hills. The first 5 miles took just under an hour, and as I finished the lap, I ran across the timing mat and listened for the beep to ensure it had registered my run. Off I set for lap 2. The plan was to get 2 laps under my belt and then have a pit stop for some food. I’d learnt the hard way from my first ultra that I needed to eat a lot more food.
So, following instructions from my support crew, I came off the course after 10 miles and had a lovely sit down with a freshly made peanut butter and jam sandwich. I got quite comfortable though and it was difficult to get back out for lap 3.
After about 5 laps (25 miles) the novelty had worn off and all I could think about what that there still more than 20 hours to go. I had taken lots of food but didn’t fancy anything. I had to force myself to eat food – all of which would have been delicious at any other time, just now when your body doesn’t want to eat because it is running. The plan was to do as many laps as I could do and do as little sleeping as possible, but it was such a hot day and lots of the route wasn’t shaded so it became even more difficult. I came off the course and was welcomed with an ice cold ice cream fresh off the ice cream van – I really wanted a lolly because it was so hot, but I needed the calories... #excuses :D
Probably around 10.30pm when it was darker it somehow made it easier mentally. The route looked slightly different, and we’d heard rumours that there would be some fancy lights along different parts of the route which was enough to distract our minds from the running. Running through the night was interesting. We had to wear torches because we were running through woods and trail. It wasn’t scary because there were other people running nearby most of the time. Occasionally you would hear the heavy breathing of a fast runner coming up behind and it should have been scary in the dark, but it weirdly wasn’t. By 1:30am I was on lap 9 (45 miles) and previous hip flexor injury reared its head and they finally seized up. I hobbled the rest of the lap and straight into the massage tent. I’ve had lots of sports massages before, but never mid race. It was amazing! After the massage I went back to the tent to let my legs recover and had 5 hours sleep – it was probably the best sleep I’ve had in ages even though it was in a tent. :D
I got up and felt ok so I thought I’d walk one last lap to round it up to 10 laps (50 miles), then came back for some porridge. I needed lots of kit changes throughout the event due to the weather and sweating and I had saved my favourite kit for the end when I thought I would need a boost. So on went my SKINS compression shorts and SKINS calf sleeves and off I went. I had taken spare trainers, but my Altra trainers are so comfortable and so fab that I daren’t change them and put them back on. My hip flexors felt ok and I figured I had enough time to walk 2 more laps to round it up to 100km and was excited...until it was pointed out that 12 laps would only take me to about 96km. I was really disappointed and annoyed. I only had 3 hours left and there was no way I could walk each lap within an hour. Heart-broken, I set off anyway to clock up a couple more laps anyway.
I’m not sure what happened, but I found that I could jog the start of the next lap. Then I jogged a bit more, and a bit more, and before I knew it I was jogging the whole lap. My brain started whirring and I had a vague memory of reading that the last lap didn’t have to finish by 12 noon, but had to have started by 11:59am. I had my phone so I quickly messaged @TurtlesAndRabbits and she confirmed my thoughts. Which meant...if I could keep jogging this lap, I would have just enough time to fit in another 2 afterwards which would take me to the 100km barrier! My legs were tired but my mind was excited and took over. I felt like I was running fast and looking back at my stats I actually had negative splits for that lap compared with the rest of the race! I phoned @TurtlesAndRabbits and asked her to bring food supplies to the start of the next lap because I wasn’t stopping and I was just going to go for it and try to make it to 100km! I was BUZZING, hyper, excited and I can still feel that excitement as I am writing about it. Nearly a day of running and feeling exhausted seemed to disappear. Well...almost... :D
I ran over the electronic timing machine onto well within the time limit and set of onto my 13th and final lap. Seeing the finish line at the end was glorious. I got a final burst of energy and sprinted around the corner onto the final stretch and sprinted across the finish mat – listening for the beep to make sure it registered my race tag and my final lap. I went straight for a massage (yes, another one :D) then went to collect my well earned medal.
13 laps, 65 miles, 104km.
Until next time...
Yes, I’ve already booked another ultra for November. Plenty of time to recover before then.
PS Go over to www.instagram.com/claire_training and watch the video clips (high and low points) and see the story unfold in my story highlights in the "Endure24" folder