I am writing this post to you with some very sore legs. Normally a long run or a race would cause a little pain but this time there is severe muscle aches. I guess that’s what you get when you run up and down hills on rocky paths. At least my knees are ok. For now… The Three Forts Challenge was on Sunday morning and boy was it fantastic. The whole event and weekend was an outstanding success and has been a real encouragement as I draw ever closer to the big one on June 14th.
The weekend started off well or awfully depending if you prefer to focus on my social life or my race day planning. Many post work beers on Friday left me with a sore head and aching legs on Saturday. Oh dear. Not a good start. We headed down to Worthing to spend the day with my mum and sister. As we were driving in I spent a lot of the time apprehensively looking at the many rolling hills that I would be scaling the next day. After arriving and checking in to the guesthouse we headed out for a delicious lunch. The hangover started to fade and we ended up wandering along the pier and seafront at a slow and steady pace. The perfect warm up before the next day’s activities.
It was only on the way back to the guesthouse that I realised I had forgotten my race number and chip which was still in my drawer at home. This led to quite a bit of panicking and swearing. Once I’d calmed down I realised that I probably would still be able to run the event but I just wouldn’t get an official time. Not the end of the world but far from ideal. I emailed the director who got back to me really quickly and said I can get a new chip for the small fee of £2. I was saved! I could pick it up from the registration tent before the race.
After all the excitement I was now hungry. Dinner was at a very decent Italian by the sea. I went for the carb loading trick which worked wonders. In fact I think this was the best nutrition I have done before any event so far. Chicken and spinach pasta and ice cream. Perfect.
After a poor night’s sleep I woke up still full. I packed down some scrambled eggs on toast before walking up the road for a mile to the start area. It was cold, wet, windy and cloudy. Perfect race conditions… I managed to pick up my new chip number with ease and then it was time for the usual pre race activities. Trying to keep warm, multiple toilet trips, chatting nervously before a banana 30 minutes before the start. After a quick warm up we were lining up at the start. The marathon had set off half an hour earlier and now it was time for us halfies. There was quick moral boosting speech by the town crier. I couldn’t hear this because the PA system was getting drowned out by the wind. Well, either that or the town crier was just rubbish. I did hear the super loud horn though. And following a chorus of watch beeps, we were off!
The course starts as it means to go on with some horribly steep uphill on a single file track. The initial track got thinner and thinner until eventually it was a walk/run combo to get through the first mile. After that the path widened but continued uphill. I was feeling good. Having never ran up any real hills my legs and lungs felt strong. Little did I know how they would feel in a couple of hours…
At 2 miles we reached the top of the first hill. Here there was an aid station. I had a couple of jelly babies, some squash and a welcome stop and chat with the volunteers who were amazing throughout the whole day. At this point we were in a cloud. Hill fog everywhere and not a lot to see. Thankfully the next mile was also downhill. This was great fun. Striding out at speed and letting my legs recover. Even if my hamstrings were still taking a pounding!
Everything got a bit uphill after that. The next 1.5 miles were fairly steep and I spent a lot of time wishing I could see the top whilst also being pleased that I couldn’t see how far was left to go. It levelled out a bit after that. Whilst still uphill these next miles up to half way were not too bad. Although it was bloody windy on the top. I had some more jelly babies here and another chat. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the time. I just wanted to finish alive.
The next 2 miles were all downhill. I did this at a fantastic pace. My quickest mile of any event at 7:17 mins per mile. It was great fun and a massive relief after the uphill slog. It was only right at the end of this particular hill that things got too steep and then I had to hold myself back else I would have gone head over heels. I definitely felt it in my legs at that point.
After a final jelly bean and squash stop it was time for the last hill. This one was a killer. Steep and long for about a mile or so. My legs had pretty much gone by then and I had to find some real strength from within to stop myself from walking. There seemed to be a lot of walkers and it would have been so much easier to take a time out but I kept plodding along. Super slow but still running.
After what seemed like hours I reached the final aid station at the top of the hill and it was only then that I knew I was going to complete this thing. Here on out it was all down hill, retracing the route we made in the first couple of miles. That meant a very narrow and (by this time) very slippery section. The chap behind me fell over in an almighty crash. I stopped and he said he was ok but he definitely lost all his pace after that. As I arrived on the last few 100m’s of of road I was alone. A few marshalls cheered me on and then I was back on to the grass to finish with no one else around me. Everyone was cheering me and I sprinted it. I felt like a winner. It was such a great feeling.
I finished in 2:00:36. Not quite under 2 hours but a lot better than I had hoped to do. I came through in 94th place in a field of 349 which, for me, is absolutely brilliant. Especially as I come from flat old London! Next up is the Liverpool Marathon. A couple more weeks of high distance runs before a trip to Snowdonia and the pre race taper. I have now nothing else to focus on except this. The marathon looms.
Oh, I forgot – If you like this, please could you vote for me on Simply Hike? My blog is nominated in the hiking and walking section. Thanks!! 🙂