• Barry Gerhold

Birthday Ultra Marathon - Cakeathon Challenge

A Saxon-Shore event located once again a Samphire Hoe, Dover. Timed challenge event to run as many 2.5mile laps as you like within a 6 hour cut off period. (http://www.saxon-shore.com)

Due to my recent illnesses, which had pretty much wiped out any training in the month of April, I went into this event expecting very little. I was hoping to get close to the distances I was achieving prior to illness, but I knew that this would be unlikely as my fitness would have inevitably dropped. Getting close to 40 miles would be perfect, but I expected that it would be a fair bit lower than this.

The course itself is quite tough. The lap distance should be 3.75 miles and within it there is a tough climb, which you must tackle 7 times for marathon distance. This eventually takes its toll as the race goes on. With the weather that day being quite windy and wet, the coastguard had closed off the seawall and therefore the route had to be altered and shortened to a 2.5 mile. This would mean that the hill needed to be climbed 11 times for a marathon distance and kind of threw out the window any pacing plans that I may have had.

My goal was to run by heart rate, keeping this somewhere in the 150’s and low 160’s on the hills. I stuck to this for a fair while and felt pretty comfortable. During these events, I prefer to sit a little way back from another runner of similar ability and for the first couple laps this is what I did. A chap from the 100 marathon club named Ivan was running steady and his paced seemed to match what I wanted to do, although he didn’t seem to like the downhills, I kept him in front and eased into a steady pace.

Following other runners is much easier on road marathons, when the only interruptions are the runners slowing to pick up a drink from a water station. During a lapped event like this, where there is an aid station every few miles, interruptions to pace are much more severe because a runner may stop for a while to pick up food or drink. This is exactly what happened at the end of one of the laps. Ivan stopped briefly and I continued to find my own pace. Shortly after, I managed to sit in and feel comfortable following a runner from Sittingbourne Striders, who was running strong, but also stopped at the end of the next lap. For the remainder of the event I continued alone, battling through the harsh conditions.

If I ran up the hills in this event, I knew that my heart rate would climb into zones that would cause me problems in the latter stages. When my heart rate gets into the 170’s, I find that the lactic acid builds up in my muscles quicker than it can remove it and performance takes a massive hit. Therefore, I planned to walk the hills, which I stuck to religiously. I found that when following someone running up these, I did not lose much ground.

Around the 14 mile mark, the wind picked up quite a lot. It was already quite tough running into the sections that produced a head wind… It got tougher. The conditions were all over the place! One minute the sun was shining and I was tempted to take my windproof jacket off, but then the next minute, the rain came in and the temperatures plummeted. At mile 22, the rain came down hard. I say down, it was more like sideways along with that strong wind. It was relentless! Trying to move in a forwardly direction into that wind was gruelling. You’d expect that having a tail wind would be a pleasant jaunt along the paths, but no! You could barely tell that you were getting any assistance.

Natalie and the girls had come along to watch me run, but sensibly sat in the comfort of the warm car for the majority eating their remaining Easter eggs, stepping out whenever they saw me at the end of each lap to give me a cheer or hand me supplies. It was lovely to have them there, as always.

I was very much contemplating stopping after the marathon distance as my legs, or more specifically my hamstrings and glutes, were very tired. Even walking up those hills, they were struggling. However, I didn’t want to have a slower time recorded for a marathon distance, so I reluctantly continued and ended up doing two more laps. The official distance being 31.2 miles in 5hrs 3mins

Not my fastest time, but based on my current fitness, it will do nicely and is step-up back to where I could and should be.

Thank you once again to Traviss, Rachel and the fabulous helpers.

#SVN #UltraMarathon #SaxonShore #SamphireHoe

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