• Barry Gerhold

Rachel's Ranscombe Ramble

Rachel’s Ranscombe Ramble

Today’s event was on the trails of Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve. The course follows a 3.75 mile route with 380ft of climbing per lap. North Downs Way crosses part of the course so that says it all really. Participants have the option to run as many laps as they wish within an 8 hour cut off.

My intention today was to run at least 9 laps (33.75 miles) and hopefully 10 (37.5 miles). Unfortunately, Natalie was unable to join me as it is Juno’s birthday and fifty 6 years olds were about to cause chaos at a soft play centre somewhere… Such a shame that I missed this.

The event got underway at 8am and I held back slightly so that I could find my groove. I have run this course once before back in October and was aware how tough and hilly it was. I didn’t want to be at the front and try to maintain a tough pace up the climbs, so I opted to sit mid-pack and take things relatively easy, then I could slowly overtake people as the event progressed.

You start the main incline about 1km into the course and it is quite relentless. Although there are sections that ease off, you are pretty much climbing for just over a mile of about 300ft in elevation. On lap 1, I took it steady up here and then began to enjoy the downhill section that followed. Perhaps taking this a little too hard was probably my first mistake of the day. I managed to overtake a couple of other runners, but felt I was exerting myself somewhat.

In just over 34 minutes, I had completed this lap, which wasn’t too bad, but from that point forward I began to focus on these lap times, which was probably mistake number two. The heat was starting to intensify at this point. Lap 1 had been quite overcast and muggy, but from midway into the 2nd lap, I felt the sun come out and this did not feel comfortable in the slightest.

On lap two, I maintained a good pace, completing this a little quicker than the first in under 34 minutes, which was a surprise as I didn’t push the downhills as hard this time. Lap 3 was also around the 34 minute mark, so my pace was pretty even and solid at this point, but knew that those hills and the sun would soon test me. It was in fact on lap 4 that the hills reduced me to my first walking sections. Walking the steepest sections of the climb and when it eased off, I could run some more. This lap was 3 minutes slower than the previous ones and the running only got worse after this.

Lap five I had to walk most of the hills, my energy levels were seriously low and I was feeling very tired. On previous laps, I had been gradually passing other runners and had caught back up to a quick female runner called Tracey. She however was able to glide up these hills with some ease and I couldn’t stick with her. Lap 5 was the last time I saw her.

Everything after this point became a bit of a blur. I was struggling so much with the heat, trying to hydrate as much as possible, managing to eat quite regularly but nothing making me feel any better. I was even starting to walk some of the downhill sections and it wasn’t too long before some of the runners that I had previously overtaken, were now overtaking me. I could so easily have stopped after 7 laps (marathon distance), but I knew the time was slow compared to my previous marathon results and this would knock my average times down considerably. So, I opted for one more lap and this lap I decided to walk. Even walking was tough, but I did manage to try and enjoy it. ¾ of the way through the climb, the woods open up and you can see a beautiful landscape looking over the local countryside. It is quite a sight, especially with the sun shining. Not the weather for running, but it certainly made the views look good. I took a moment to take this in and try to forget the exhaustion and then I continued my journey. I walked through the rest of the lap and completed 30 miles in 5hrs 41mins. Not the distance I had intended, or the pace, but it was certainly a test.

I chatted briefly to Traviss after the event, asking him about his running plans to see what challenges he has ahead. What Traviss has accomplished is quite incredible and his intended events sound amazing! It wasn’t long before I started to feel light-headed and a little nauseated, so I had to cut Traviss short and take a sit down in the shade, which seemed to help. Walking back to my car, I had to dart off into the woods to be sick. I felt so much better after that and it was certainly a sign that I pushed things a little too hard today. But still, could have been worse… I could have been surrounded by fifty 6 year olds!

On future timed challenge events, I will now take a slightly different approach due to today. Rather than setting myself a distance and pushing myself hard, I will try to run the duration of the event, whether 6hrs or 8 and reduce the pace a fair bit, so that I do not suffer as I did today. Not every event will be as hot as this one, but I need to think about the long-term goal, which is to run a 100 mile event. To do this, I will need to prepare by running long distances and running the way I did today, will not improve my endurance.

Thank you so much once again Traviss and Rachel. Even though today was a tough one I very much enjoy your events. The atmosphere is great and everyone is so damn friendly. Even during the low points the amount of people like yourselves providing positive comments and smiles helped me feel so much better.

Happy birthday to crazy little Juno. xxxxx

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