03 February 2009

Tring to Town

Tring to Town was my first Ultramarathon. It's basically a point to point marathon on the Grand Union Canal between Brentford and Tring here in the UK. It's roughly 40 miles end to end and is run two days consecutively. I decided to do one day and I think it was enough for me for my firs foray into ultra running. Anyway, I'm not that crazed... yet!

We got to the race HQ at the hotel in Brentford the night before to pick up my number, map, and have them inspect the required kit I had in my running pack. The first thing I noticed was how low key the whole event seemed. Don't get me wrong, Ambition is a professional team that hosts events worldwide. They know what they're doing. So they checked to see that I had all the essential stuff for the race. Everyone was required to have the same things kept in their bags throughout the whole of the event (food, compass, space blanket, lamp, etc.)

The first bit of good news was that we were going to start an hour later in the morning, which meant a 9:00 start. That's great. I have been sleeping in lately and early mornings do not suit me these days. The next thing was that we would be starting from the hotel itself.This meant that S and the baby would be able to see us off and still remain warm.

We arranged to stay with friends close by which was fantastic. We were treated to the obligatory carbo-loading session with pasta, chicken with green pest, topped off with a very generous apple crumble! Whew... that was a lot of food. Thanks Rob and Fi! Relatively early to bed and early to rise. For breakfast, I decided to go very conservatively with the amount of food I took in and stuck with a carb drink, a bagel, and some coffee. That hit the spot and we were off to the hotel.

The race briefing area in the hotel was full of runners already kitted up by the time we got there. A few minutes to spare for a few nonsensical questions and we were about ready to go. S took a few photos pre-start and we were off!

Race Start
We had about a half mile before we hit the canal and ran as a group. At this time I realised that my Camelback drink bottles were leaking like hell! Not a good choice for ultra running (lesson learned). Anyway, it really felt like a festive atmosphere as we all seemed to be taking it easy. The fast boys didn't take long before they started putting the hammer down. After about 2-3 miles, they were gone! I think that was a pack of 5-6 runners. I decided to run conservatively and kept an even pace for a while. This is when I met Mimi Anderson and a couple others. We kept to together picking up a few runners who slowed a bit. By the time we hit about 14 miles, we had 7 people in our group. It was really nice. We were trading off stories about events and races. It was a really nice time we were having. Every once in a while we traded off the lead pace until I took it. I knew this section of the canal well and put the pace up a bit. This was the section near Harefield between Uxbridge and Rickmansworth. It' a nice long stretch full of green and the occasional canal boat.By the time I hit check point 2 at about 20 miles, I was all alone. Oops! Well at this point I felt good, I was well hydrated and was taking in gels frequently. I was maintaining low 8:15 miles or thereabouts. It wasn't until I hit the marathon distance did I regret this. I managed 3:48 at that point. This isn't my race pace for marathon, but it's not shabby considering the terrain (stoney, ruts, muddy). One of the group I was with caught up to me, gave me a few words of encouragement and continued on. I caught back up with him at CP3 which was at 30 miles. I stopped for some water and jelly babies. I got passed by another one from that original group. That was a great pick me up as I ended up pacing with that guy for a while. We had a chat about what to do at this point of the event. You really need to watch your footing as mistakes can be made easily! I suddenly had to drop back as my energy levels started flagging again. I had 5 miles to go and realise that my speed had dropped to 11 minute miles! My quads were really going at this point. Every lock or incline was a serious drain on me and hit my pain threshold. I got passed by a few more people including Mimi. She just flew past me and the guy in front of me (little did I know that she actually missed the exit off the canal and ran an extra 7 miles!). I finally got to the ramp off the canal to the hotel finish. I got to the top of the bridge and the signs didn't really point anywhere. Time to consult the map! By the time I got it out S was arriving in the car. Funny coincidence as I could've been at that T-junction an hour later. She told me to follow her! Right! She told me that the GPS in the car said 1/2 mile to destination. I put down the hammer and followed. I finally got to the finish at beautiful Pendley Manor in ummm I think 5:54. I made it under my targeted time, in about 13th place, got my medal, and the t-shirt!

This was a great event one of which I would recommend to people considering doing as their first ultra. I'll definitely have a go in the future and see how fast I could run it or maybe do both days. Consequently, I'm currently recuperating from this effort and am having a nice active rest this week. Then it's back on with Ironman training!


Stuart said...

Nice job, looks like a great race and intro into ultrarunning

DirtDawg said...

Congratulations, great story and description of the race. Sounds like a fun one.

Simon Lewis said...

Hi. Stumbled across your blog. Great reading. The more I run, the more I want to do an Ultra and reading your race report just makes me want to do it more. My target was early 2010 so this race would be perfect. Thanks. Keep up the good work, Simon.

Sportsgrants said...

Great race post. Thanks for taking the time.

Sportsgrants said...

Great race post. Thanks for taking the time.

Ross said...

Wow that's great to read, really interesting and it makes me want to try longer runs. At the moment I'm feeling uncommitted to tri due to a recent crash that has impacted my bike speed.

home exchange said...

Wow congratulations, this is a really well written post and great story! Ultra running sounds cool, not sure we all have the strength though heh heh!