Sunday, 21 July 2013

Wenlock Olympian Walk

Wenlock Olympian Walk 


57 miles 6600 ft ascent 10hours 28mins.
Joint first place with Andy Samson.

20th July 2013

Best bits

Having the grit to keep going and finish even though I had 100s of reasons to stop. 
Seeing the wildlife, five foxes altogether, falcons, pheasants, cows and sheep. 
Volunteers supplying me with food and water.
Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait, based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.

Detailed Account 

Start to Check Point (CP1)

I arrived with one hour to go to the start. I was provided with a sheet to stamp at certain points but had to ask what the self clips looked like and how clip. The organisor looked a bit worried that I was just about to start a 50 mile race without knowing basic orienteering stuff! As I found out during the day my fast running had to make up for my poor navigation skills. The whole point of this race was to learn from mistakes for later "serious" Ultra races.

At 10 we started next to the grave of the founder of the Olympics. There was an official gun fired and the sound of the Church Bells right next to the grave. It was an odd start for me, I've never started a race at such a slow pace. For the next 5 miles or so I kept moving to the front and wanting to go off fast but thought I'd better not because I had a long way to go.

Luckily there was a local guy running at the start whom we followed. At the start I tried a couple of times to go off on my own but quickly got lost, then had to catch the leaders again.

I got to CP1 first and at this point I was starting to get the hang of navigating on my Garmin 310XT. I'd not stopped in races before and thought everyone would stop for a while so I took my rucksack off, relaxed, got some coffee, BUT then the other guys came in and didn't stop. They just had a quick fill up with water and they were off again. This surprised me so I quickly put some vaseline on my toes got up and ran fast again to catch up the leaders.

CP1 to Self Clip.

It's hard to remember what happened but I think this part of the race had just one path so it was not hard to get lost. I was running with Andy. We were passing a lot of walkers at this point, who started at 8am. There was a massive climb up to Brown Clee hill (Mountain). At mile 10 I was at an altitude of 450ft and at mile 14 I was at 1758ft. Andy and I made a large gap here on the 3rd, 4th, 5th placers and didn't see them again.

CP2 to CP3 

Somewhere at this point I had lost Andy and started to navigate on my own. I did mostly OK but I remember at one point near a pond I just really couldn't figure out which way to go. I had passed the pond three times already so I sat down on a style and just took a breather. I might have cried if it wasn't for the beauty of the golden corn field I saw next to and the fact that I knew I was nearly on track and there was only one track left I hadn't tried so that must be the way. I took it and my Garmin was happy, the screen said "Found Course". At that point I decided to focus on those positive words and repeat them, "Course Found, Course Found, Course Found". This positive energy kept me going at a good pace. 

CP3 to CP4 

I was first in to CP3 which was in Cleavley Arms. I stopped to ask two teenagers where the community centre was. I had to explain that I was in a "Crazey 50 mile race" they didn't question it and didn't even look as though it was a surprise. They told me the centre was just up the road on the left, I could have kissed them. I took my time at the CP, no one was behind me and there was no pressure. I was offered a baked potato, it was tempting but I knew if I stayed longer I would be caught up and I liked being chased, it kept me going. So off I went again keeping a real close tab on where I was going, this slowed me down a bit. The countryside was beautiful but I was beginning to make up excuses to give up at CP4 but focussed instead on what it would be like to finish. I did a DNF (Did Not Finish) in a marathon last year and the weeks afterwards nearly killed me. Bye the way if you've read up to this point, I'm impressed, more endurance than me!

At about mile 33 my foot hit a stone and I fell over. After that my foot hurt only when I thought about it. Maybe this is a psychological thing? Should you ignore pain so that it doesn't hurt, or should you listen to it to cure or prevent further damage? There's a sense in which it depends on whether or not you can prevent it. In my case I was in the middle of nowhere and if I did call the emergency number on my mobile it would take ages for them to find me, so I had no choice. I had to ignore it. Today (the day after) it looks very bruised but I can move it so it can't be broken. 

CP4 to the end

At CP4 I was a bit out of it. I kept repeating and mumbling stuff to the volunteers but they were great with me and got me sorted: water, food, blister taped up etc... Then, just as I was leaving, trying not to think of how much further I had to go and how much I could get lost, Andy turned up. This was the best part of my day, especially when I asked Andy 'shall we run together' and he said 'yes'. I waited a little bit for him to refresh and we heard news of other runners dropping out at CP2/CP3 so we knew we had done well. There was no talk between us of dropping out but we both must have thought about it at some point. 

We worked well together again, Andy had his map, I had my electronic Garmin. Andy had also run a fell race (hilly race) over the terrain so we didn't get lost too much. We found the Lawley (see picture at the top of the page) and had to SC (self clip) here to prove we had been there. I threatened to throw Andy's SC sheet away so that I could take the win! Just joking though. We had to back track at one section about 1/2mile because of a wrong turn but other than that we managed to keep running. I think I had, slightly stronger legs, but Andy was mentally stronger and kept positive when the hilly and tough terrain (brambles and rocks) meant the miles were making us slow. 

We finally heard traffic in the distance and knew we must be hear civilisation, and thus the end in Much Wenlock. I said to Andy "I've never been so glad to hear cars". Then at the end we had a good cheer from the organisors who were waiting in anticipation. In the last section we saw the organisors in a few different points, keeping an eye out for us which was encouraging. 

So will I do another Ultra Race? The answer is YES, if I can fit one in. Next time I'll choose an easier one. 

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