By Dan Aubrey
As many of you already know, I did not get the time I wanted at the Bournemouth Marathon.I was chasing a sub 3:30 but only managed to get 3:45 exactly , I know where I went wrong and I have learnt a lot from that race, so I decided to set a new and more realistic challenge which I could enjoy and complete without any stress. I decided to enter the 50K Ultra marathon in March 2014 and my training started in November. I am new to this different style of training so I had a lot of advice from some very good runners. Instead of my usual long runs where I would take time off afterwards, I was introduced to back-to-back runs which involved running around 18-20 mile runs on one day and then a smaller run the following day, this had the aim of training my body to run on tired legs. I felt that this was a key part of my training as it made me feel like I was making good progress. I was also running hill repeats every week. During these runs I was practicing my nutrition, which I honestly think I managed to perfect as much as I could by time the race day came. It wasn’t long before March was here and I was beginning to feel nervous and sceptical but at the same time excited. By this time I had done all that I could. I was fully hydrated and had had the nutrition I needed and it was time to take the long drive down to the New Forest.
Its 6am on race day and for breakfast I had Porridge, one banana, and some coconut water. I was still unsure of what to wear; the weather was forecasted to be 7 degrees Celsius, feeling like 4 degrees Celsius with rain and wind (I wasn’t looking forward to this). In the end, I decided to wear shorts, a compression top/T-shirt, a jacket, gloves, neck buff and my road shoes. I had chosen the right clothing to wear as it was cold at the race venue. I got to the race venue at 8:30am and managed to meet up with some fellow running friends and we discussed our training and nutrition plans. I found this helped to calm my nerves. After this I went up to register myself and picked up my race number, which happened to be number 13 – seen as unlucky for some people.
As I was taking it all in, I began to watch other runners warming up and sorting out their nutrition supplies. As I did this I thought to myself… Am I out of my depth here? I thought that they all looked so professional compared to me. I couldn’t help but think that in 10 minutes time I would be running 31 miles. Before the race started, I put my number and race pack on and then found myself waiting in the field listening to the race briefing.
The nutrition I had was 1.5 liters of water containing two zero tablets, 2 slices of bread with Nutella spread, 4 gels, 2 glucose tablets and a sachet of salt.
We all slowly walked up to the start; there must have been about 75 runners just for the Ultra. By this point I was starting to think… I don’t want to be the last! I had been speaking to a friend called Rachael online about running together for at least the first 20 miles so we agreed to meet up at the start. Once the race had started, we were on tarmac and I was trying to keep an eye on my pace, making sure that I didn’t go too fast. At around mile 1.5 there was a short but sharp hill which lasted for about 200 meters. After this hill the next two miles were on a flat gravel path in the open forest. Mile 4 to 6 was still through the open forest on the gravel paths. We later crossed a road passing, and then climbed up to a main road which was at around mile 7. Straight away I was thinking that this will be tough on the second lap. AT the end of the road there was a feed station, after we passed it we continued through the forest to mile 9 which then took us all up a short hill which then descended to the starting area again. By this time I had completed lap one, the marshal told us that my friend Rachael was the third woman at the time, which was a great boost. At this point I had found out that a friend of mine had to pull out due to injury – I was gutted for him.
By this point I had had a slice of bread with Nutella, a small amount of my gel and some water. When we were on our way to mile 13 I was feeling a little hot so I removed my gloves, neck buff and t-shirt. I gave my removed items of clothing to Rachael’s brother who was on the course with a bike which I thought was very handy. I found it nice to run with someone on a long run like this as it passed the time quickly; it wasn’t long until we were at the half way point. Our pace was at around 9-9.30 minutes a mile. It was not long until we were at the long road part of the course. At this point the wind was much stronger than before but thankfully there was no rain. Rachael had made me laugh because she was using me as a windshield as we were running along this part of the course – crafty lady! We stopped at the feed station at around mile 18, we found ourselves laughing at this section as it was so tough. I knew that I had to run this again which then started to play with my mind.
Up the hill again and down to mile 20, Rachael went for a toilet break so I had another slice of bread, a sachet of salt, gel and also some water. I was beginning to feel a bit nauseous. I was a bit disheartened when the lead runner passed us at mile 20 to finish his race with a time of 3 hours and 20 minutes.
At the beginning of the race we both agreed that if one of us wanted to go ahead on our own at any point then we would just go. At mile 22, mark, john and Liz all came up the hill behind us and then passed us. I decided to run with john until mile 23, the next feed station, and where Racheal then ran passed. This was hard now as I knew that I was near to reaching a marathon distance but at this point im on my own and have to complete the remaining distance. John ran off into the distance and I could hear some footsteps behind me, I turned around to see that it was Liz. I said to her “im feeling it now!” this must have been at around mile 25, so we walked one of the hills together and then began to run again at around 9:30 minutes a mile pace. By this point I was hurting. Knowing that I still had the dreaded road section and the last hill to complete didn’t help, Liz said to me “Come on! We can do this!” We reached the road section and I looked down at my watch, and to my amazement it read 27 miles – Wow! I couldn’t believe it! I emptied my shoes of stones, had some of my last gel and ran the road section. I found this part very hard as it was silent, we didn’t speak to each other at all. We made it to the final feed station at mile 28. The weather had been pleasant – no rain, sunny with a little wind. I found that parts of the course were hot and others were a bit chilly. I really think that my training plan both before and on race day helped me to get this far. I noticed a difference in myself after my bread with Nutella and the salt sachets – it would have been stupid to change my plan for the day seeing as my body is used to what I usually do.
There was only 3 miles to go, and my mind was playing with me, I had to keep telling myself that there is only 3 miles to go. Liz was with me until mile 9, where she had a stitch and told me to carry on without her. At this stage I was feeling sick, tired and my legs were feeling slightly numb. There was two miles to go and I was still passing tired runners. As I went up the hill to see mile 30 I saw I small gate which I knew was the point where I had one hill then a final decent to the finish line. I was tingling all over and I felt strange – I thought …was on my way out? Or is this normal?! I got to the top of the hill and sorted myself out. As I was coming down the hill I did shed a few tears, I have no idea why but I was smiling at the same time. The crowds at the pub by the finish line were great. I saw my wife waiting for me there. We ran to the finish line, as I crossed the line I felt Goosebumps all over my body – I had done it! My first ultra-marathon, all 31 miles of it. I can now relate to the old saying… ‘Pain is temporary but the pride is forever’.
After I had finished, I waited for Liz to come through. Once she did we had a group photo. At this point I wasn’t feeling too bad, I only had a bit of nausea and my legs were a little stiff. I then went to the pub to have a nice plate of chips and a pint of beer. It wasn’t until around 2 hours after when I could really feel that I had just run 31 miles. No words can describe how you feel once you have achieved this distance, it’s unreal. I have really got the bug for ultras now.
Click the link below to see the route and my mile spilts.
I would like to give a massive thanks to Andy, Liz, John, Rachael and mark for being part of this event and helping me through the toughest parts.
Overall, I would say that it is a great venue with camping facilities, a pub on site for a beer afterwards and the course is very scenic. I am now looking forward to my next ultra-marathon in October. I would recommend wearing injinji Toe socks (I wore these… http://www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com/Injinji-Performance-2-0-TRAIL-Running-Socks-Micro-p/injinji2trailm.htm ) they are especially good for runs that are over 20 miles in distance.
I am very happy with my first ultra-marathon time, 5 hours 23 minutes. I came 36th out of 74 runners and I was 15th in my age group.