Monday, 4 July 2011

Osmotherley Phoenix

So that's it! 16 months after getting off the couch and starting to run I am now a fully fledged ultra marathon runner.

The day kicked off at 5:30am with a couple cups of coffee and a kit check before heading for Osmotherley at 6:30.
Arriving at the car park at 7:00 and after another a final kit check it was time to make my way to the village hall nearly ½ mile away to register and pick up my tally. All done and it was now a matter of just mingling with other runners/walkers and waiting for the church clock to strike 9:00.

At the chime we were off and strait into an uphill climb out of the village before turning onto the Cleveland Way and onto the trails. The first check point came after a couple of miles which was just a bucket drop to drop a numbered token in before heading along the edge of Arncliffe Wood and dropping down the slopes to Scugdale.
After Scugdale, we were then getting stuck into the first big climb of the day onto Carlton Bank. Once at the top and the tally clipped at CP -2 we carried on along the Cleveland Way but reaching the bottom of Cringle Moor there is an option of climbing over the moor which in turn means climbing onto Cold Moor and Hasty Bank or take the easier but slightly longer route of going around the northern slopes. I went for the easier option but even this was rather undulating with small gullies coming down from the higher ground. At least getting into the shelter of the trees at Broughton Plantation was a brief respite from the sun that was seemed to be getting warmer by the minute. After dropping down the hill from the plantation I then came to CP-3 so taking a few minutes to take on water and a couple of home made cakes it was time for the next steep climb onto Urra Moor where CP-4 (self clip) was located at a trig point on top of the moor then it was time to leave the Clevland Way and head across the moor towards the next check point at Chop Gate.
It was on the way across the moor at mile 14 that I encountered my first problem. (Cramp).
I couldn't believe it, 14 miles of a 33 miler and and cramp was setting in in my left upper leg. I stood massaging it for a while but found it might be easier to walk on it for a while and soon eased and I was able to start running again.
CP-5 in the car park at Chop Gate was a relief with more cakes and I topped my water up for the next big climb onto the Cleveland Hills and once the cramp set in on the steeper slopes heading for the moor so resting it a while I then carried on and once the climbing was done it was a nice easy crossing of the moor before another ascent to Wheat Beck and CP-6.
At this point the 26 mile route turned off and because of the cramps it would have been very easy to have had a word with the check point attendants and taken the easy option but that isn't me. I set out to run an ultra marathon and an ultra marathon I was going to complete, no matter what.
Now for what I thought was going to be a tough navigational exercise turned into a rather easy section as all the front runners had laid the grass down in the fields and it was just a matter of following the trail of flat grass. It was only Blueberry Wood that I needed to get the map out as a few of us were baffled about which track to to take to got us to the next check point. As I had recced this section only last week and got it wrong I was a bit sceptical when we all decided to take the same turning as I had took last week but as it turned out I had missed a Stile and so going through that we crossed a couple of fields before hitting another track which took us to CP-7 at Hawnby.
That was the last manned check point and about 8 miles to the finish but what lay ahead was over 4 miles of climbing onto the Hambleton Hills. Just after leaving CP-7 I was hit with the cramp again and just told the others to carry on as I would be ok. Now on my own again and the cramp kept kicking in every few minutes I was beginning to wonder if things were going to get worse so I had to glance behind me every now and then to see if anyone was behind me but I never saw another sole until the race was nearly over.
After the climb over the moor I finally joined the Cleveland Way again and this point was
another self clip check point. Turning right it was now a gradual climb across the moor but the cramp had now started to hit the other leg and praying that they wouldn't both kick in together I could only manage a fast walk but when I got to the final descent all I wanted to do was get to the finish line so I started running again but even this wasn't easy as the trail was now bolder ridden and uneven but when I rounded one of the bends I could see two of the guys I had been with at CP-7 walking in front of me and I managed to catch the up at Oak Dale reservoir but unfortunately as we got into another steep climb the cramp came back with a vengeance and again I was left to fend for myself.
Making my way back into Osmotherley wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be as the organisers had manage to put a sting in the tail of this great event. After crossing a stream via a foot bridge I was hit with a flight of steps which just seemed to go on and on and every one was taken very slowly as my upper legs were now aching and I just did not want the cramp to set off again but every time I lifted a leg I could feel it agitating in the back ground. Once up the steps there was a narrow lane but I could still only walk this as the sun was full in my face and I could hardly see a thing.
After coming out onto Back Lane on the outskirts of the village I mustered up all the strength I could to run and as I it the main road it was another uphill run to the finish and as I rounded the corner the cheers and applause came out and that to me felt like my very own chariots of fire finish. I had done it. (Not fast but I had done it).

So now, 48 hours later, have learned.
For a start, I was using a 2ltr hydration pack with electrolytes added and though I was sipping at regular intervals, when I stripped the bag down I found that I had still only drunk 1ltr. So in future I need to drink more electrolytes and maybe check the pack from time to time. I will try and do it differently at the Grimsthorpe 70 as that event is a 7 lap event and making sure I drink a couple of bottles per lap could help.
Another thing I learned is that no matter what how bad the pain is, it is still possible to run through it. Even if I did have to hobble along now and then. 2 days later and I have already been out and done a couple of miles run just to loosen up a little which I think has worked and I hope to do a club run tomorrow on Tuesday.
I'm quite confident now that Grimsthorpe is possible and I'm aiming to run it in under 20hrs.

Click on the Garmin link to see the full route and stats.  

This is what it was all about.
One piece of paper and a cloth badge. I ran so far for so little but I'm so glad that I could run through the heat and the pain to get this prize. (That badge means more to me than any other medal to date). 
I have now gone from couch potato to 58 year old ultra marathon runner in only 16 months.
Just goes to show that anyone who is able can do the same if they set your mind to it.