3 Ultra Marathons in 3 days
Events organised by Saxon, Vikings and Normans Marathons & Challenges (Saxon-Shore.com)
This is the first time I had attempted such a challenge and one that I was excited to attempt but equally worried how my fitness and ankle injury would hold up.
Day 1 - Relativity Run Challenge
Not the most inspiring of courses. Race director; Traviss described it as grey, dull and boring. The sky was grey, the sea looked grey, the white cliffs looked grey, and the concrete path that we would be running along would be grey. What more could you ask for? Some strong blustery winds. Sure… You’ve got it!
This course consisted of a 6.7 miles out and back and half of that would be running directly into the headwind.
I started off at a comfortable pace, somewhere in the region of 9:20 min/mile and I would stick to this for the marathon distance, varying pace by about 20 seconds per mile, dependant on whether I was running into the wind or not.
Once I had achieved marathon distance, I headed out for one final lap and relaxed a bit. Dropping my pace to 9:45 min/miles with the wind behind me and even slower into the headwind.
At around the 31 mile mark, I let myself walk for a bit. Mostly so that I could recover for the next day. I walked most of the next 2 miles into the headwind before I turned around with the wind behind me, ready to cover the final 1.7 miles.
Due to the cold and the walking that I had done, my legs had seized up a bit so running became tricky. I broke the final sections down and ran 0.25 miles and walked 0.1. This seemed to help get me through and I crossed the finish line covering 33.5 miles in 5hrs 29mins.
Day 2 - Soul Cake Day Challenge
The day that the buff was my friend.
This event would be at the same location as the previous day. As I pulled up into the car park I was astonished to see the sea waves. They were crashing up so high and spraying half the path that we would be running on, in freezing water. The wind the previous day was bad. This was so much worse. Near on gale force winds, but hey ho, I had a job to do
Walking around in the morning, I could feel the ankle injury was a little sore, so again I took ibuprofen just prior to the event starting. It seems I took this 15 minutes later than I should have, as the pain in the first mile or two was horrible.
I am a runner who tends to run on his toes and my heels rarely touch the running surface. Today, I altered my stride so that my heel did make contact, giving myself a full range of motion. This seemed to help. My calves were a little sore from the previous day’s festivities and this change of gait seemed to help this too. After mile 1.5, we reached the turnaround point and ran into the fierce wind… It was not pretty. It was around this point that any pain in my calves and ankle were forgotten about. My mind was now focused on moving in a forward direction into the gale. It was the sort of wind that could knock you off balance.
So, the next 3 miles or so were spent going straight forward into this and the pace dwindled, naturally. I pulled my buff up, covered my face and this took a lot of the wind chill factor away. When heading into that wind, I continued to use this tactic throughout the day. It had already taken a while for my legs to wake up and although this effort did seem to help that, my pace was lower than it should be, but as I reached the next turnaround point, at around mile 5 and I had that wind behind me, it felt like I was flying. It certainly cheered me up a little. I tried to forget the fact that I would have to run into that headwind another 4 times.
So the laps passed without too much incident. I slowly worked myself up through the field maintaining a fairly consistent pace, except into the headwind.
At mile 27, I managed to run my fastest mile of the day, which was weird. I was certainly feeling quite good and in the miles after I had reached the marathon distance, I didn’t need to walk anywhere near as much as the previous day.
Day 3 - St. Andrews Day Challenge
Preparation for day 3 was much the same as day 2. I ensured I got a little bit of a walk the previous evening. I had a stretch. Dunked the legs in ice-cold water for 10mins, which is the last thing I wanted to do on a bitterly cold November evening, but it seemed to help me recover. I had a decent meal. I ensured I was well hydrated and got myself an early night. That all went to plan. The only thing that gave me any concern was that my big toe nail on my right foot had turned a blackish colour and there was a blood blister just above it. In fear that the nail would wobble about and give me grief, I decided to wrap some tape around it. This would become a mistake later on.
So anyway, I turn up at registration as late as possible. I hear the end of the presentations and the race began promptly at 8:30am. From the very beginning my body was in no mood for running, every step felt like a huge effort. I started off around mid pack somewhere and the pace which should have felt comfortable, felt rather testing. Many people were overtaking me and I felt that I could do nothing about it.
Through gritted teeth, I made it through that first lap of 4.37 miles. Traviss greeted me at the end of the lap and I shared my concerns. He said all you need to do is put one foot in front of the other. Although obvious, I had overlooked this simple concept. I was focusing on the pain around my body, but it was still very much possible to put my right leg in front of my left and vice versa and then repeat for as long as desired. So that is what I did.
Lap 2 was very much easier than the previous lap and lap 3 even more so. The pain had eased off and I was starting to enjoy the day. Gradually, I started to overtake those that had overtaken me, and my pace started to improve. There are a couple of hills on this course, one rather sharp one which caused me some concern, not so much going up it. I knew I’d be walking that as otherwise I’d exert too much energy. Going down it was my concern. My ankle injury presents itself more often when I have done some steep downhills, due to the significant landing forces going through the body. I could feel the pain gradually getting worse as the laps went on. So in the latter stages, I decided to walk down this hill.
I managed to complete 8 laps, which is 35 miles, in 5hrs 51mins and a total of 102 miles completed in the 3 days.
Oh yes the mistake... After this event, that big toe was quite painful. I waited until after my drive home to inspect. Once I’d hobbled up the stairs and taken of my shoes and socks I was greeted by quite an ugly sight, blood blisters now surrounded the toe nail and I can only assume that the tape caused this to worsen.
Along with the amazing medals, Saxon Shore also provide fantastic goody bags, my collection from the last 3 days is quite an impressive one and now I have all this to tuck in to :-)