• Barry Gerhold

The Moonlight Challenge

The medal

Marathon/Ultra #6 of the year and #21 of all time.

Saxon-Shore event “The Moonlight Challenge”

11th March 2017

ADVANCE WARNING: This post is quite lengthy. Enter at your own risk. May it inspire at least one person to get out there running.

This one would upgrade my level of insanity somewhat. It was an 8 hour challenge event where participants could run as many 6.6 miles laps as they wish within that time. However, they would have to leave for the last lap before the 6.5 hour mark.

My goals for this event:

Set a new distance PB. I wanted to complete 6 laps (40 miles ish)

Reduce my pace for the marathon distance to around 4 hours (around 9min/mile).

Complete the 6th lap in less than 6 hours which will give me the option of doing an additional lap.

I set off a little too quickly, probably in the top ten, the first mile being a sub 8 minute. Straightaway we witnessed how the conditions of the course would test us. Just a few hundred metres in, we had to navigate through a muddy field, not as bad as it would have been in the middle of winter, but still very lumpy and sticky. This section only lasted around 400 metres, so nothing to get too upset by and roads shoes seemed to cope just fine.

The next part was pretty straight forward, but there was a section navigating through long grass which zapped the energy from my legs. Again, this was approximately 400 meters. As the laps went on, the grass got trampled on this part of the course and it made it easier. Nonetheless, it was still very testing.

The course looped around a farm and headed back to the start/finish line. The first lap was completed in 54mins, which was about 5mins ahead of schedule. Every mile for the first 14 was quicker than planned and this would turn out to be a big mistake...

I had to put my head torch on at the start of lap 3 as it was starting to get dark. I only needed to use this on the tree covered sections and when I was gaining on a person in front of me because I didn’t want to scare the crap out of them. The full moon was amazing and I wanted to enjoy that. Despite being covered by a thin layer of cloud, it provided a substantial amount of light in places so that I didn’t need to use the head torch.

During lap 4, my legs were beginning to struggle. Recent niggles with hamstrings and glutes had manifested once again, the pace in turn dropped due to being in a state of discomfort. I finished lap 4 (marathon distance) in around 3hrs 56mins, still a few minutes ahead of schedule.

In spite of how uncomfortable I felt, I went out for lap 5. The iPod in my back pocket had not been used up until this point, but I thought it would be quite beneficial from here on out. It appeared that some moisture had got in and it kept repeating the same track, which was bloody annoying!

During this lap I walked a lot, far more than I would have liked. At the midpoint of each lap there is a handy aid station, here I threw a load of salted peanuts down my throat and ploughed on through the pain. This peanuts were a blessing, they seemed to keep me energised and helped keep nausea at bay (sugary products seemed to have the opposite effect).

As the lap was coming to an end, I was questioning whether I could go on. Reminding myself of my goals, I knew I’d be disappointed if I didn’t do the 6 laps, so I decided to head out once more. At the turnaround point I threw some Doritos, Jaffa cakes, peanuts and loads of other stuff down my throat. The race director, Traviss approached me to see how I was getting on. I have no idea what the hell I said to him. I do know that I seemed to spit half-chewed Doritos at him as I struggled to swallow quick enough... Sorry Traviss.

I took out my spare iPod to prevent me losing my mind and I headed back out, not expecting too much though. I seemed to feel a lot better during this lap and managed to get through this one quicker than lap 5. Not quite sure how that happened? I didn’t get back until after the 6.30 point, so that meant that I didn’t have the option to head out for an additional lap, which was a blessing.

I completed 39.6 miles in 6 hours 35minutes, achieving the fastest time for that distance.

Thank you to Traviss and Rachel and all the other helpers; you certainly helped me remain positive, especially the guy manning the rail crossing, you were very enthusiastic and I couldn’t help laugh when you safely directed us across.

Unfortunately Nat couldn’t come along. I didn’t feel it would be fair on her to wait around in the dark to see me once an hour or so, but her encouraging words stayed lodged in my mind and helped me throughout.

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