The railway ultra is along a disused railway near Coalport organised by Denzil at CODRC. It is a great introduction to ultra running as you can choose your distance and don't need to make up your mind until you get to the end of the 3rd lap! In addition as it is an out and back route you are constantly seeing other runners so you are never alone. Despite being a disused railway I do not find it that easy underfoot and in addition there is quite a camber which has previously meant bits of me have hurt sooner than they would normally!
Each out and back is 9.4 miles so you either do 3 or 4 laps. My aim was to do 4 but I had been having a bit of a knee niggle so was just going to see how it went. I had no intention of running hard I just wanted a long training run in company. This was my first time over marathon distance in over 2 months so I was a little nervous! When I did this event in February I was 1st lady so I felt a little bit of pressure but as soon as I saw Sue Harrison (super speedy GB 100km runner) at the start I was actually quite relieved as it now meant I wasn't going to be tempted into racing and really could settle into long slow run pace without thinking about what others were doing!
I set off nice and steady at just over 9mm. I think this must be a popular default pace as it was quite busy for a small race (about 120 runners). It wasn't congested and you could run free but it was too busy to be nipping off for a wee (which unusually I needed after a few miles!). Eventually I saw a spot where I could nip off course behind some bushes - the relief!! I spent the next few miles catching back up to where I had been and got a few looks from people wondering why I was behind them!
At the turn around point there was a table with goodies - 9bars, Jaffa cakes, sweeties and drinks. I had a quick chat with Lesley telling her that I had decided not to do the 10km swim she had mentioned to me last week as it was too soon and I was going to be sensible!!!! (don't believe me when I say I am not going to do something stupid as a few days later I entered!!). I grabbed a Jaffa cake and walked whilst I ate it then was off again running.
I always like out and back courses or routes with little bits of out and back as it is nice to see other runners ahead/behind rather than those around your pace especially if you know others who are running as you get to see them.
By the time I got to the end of the first lap I was getting hungry so had some crisps and a 9bar - walking eating the 9bar. It was quite warm so I also had a couple of cups of coke and a cup of water. This was the pattern until the end - either 9 bar or Jaffa cake then 2 or 3 cups of drink at each turn around. I was also carrying my own electrolyte drink.
My pace was gradually slowing but nothing drastic and I seemed to be picking people off. A lot of those who were running around the same pace as me at the start were now getting further and further behind so whilst I wasn't setting any records at least I appeared to be fading less than most.
When I got to 1.5 laps to go I did a quick calculation to find that if I kept under 10mm (including stops at the turn around) then I should be able to get sub 6. I was now on a bit of a mission! I didn't go crazy though as there was still a long way to go but instead of letting my pace fade I made a bit of an effort to keep under 10mm with a bit spare for the aid station stops.
Another check at the end of lap 3 and I had gained a bit of time on the 10mm target so didn't gobble down my 9bar whilst walking but had a leisurely walk break knowing if I had to I still had another gear!
On the final lap I was lapping a few people, a lot on their first ultra. I knew I couldn't afford to take my foot off the gas but also knew I didn't need to give it everything - I still had another race tomorrow. I continued at a pace a bit harder than comfortable but not full out so finished in 5.55 which was only a minute slower than February. I was happy with that as my training has been a bit hit and miss.
On Sunday when I woke up my legs felt more or less OK, just one tight spot on one of my quads. Today was the Dovedale dipper which I was running with Claire. We were doing the 15 mile option (there was also a marathon). This was a typical LDWA type event (including a bit of mud) with route instructions but it also had arrows in some places so in terms of navigation it was one of the better ones.
The start was downhill on tarmac; a soon as I started running I could feel my quads but once we got off road they were fine. We walked the uphills and the tricky underfoot bits and ran the flat/downhills. It was a lovely day for a walk; too hot for running; I think we spent more time walking that running! It was nice not to have any time pressure and doing the short route meant we could be home well before dinner!
We had a lovely day out catching up, having a chat with the check point volunteers and getting a suntan with no concern for time.