Rose Of The Shires Ultra- 3rd Place

Podium finish in my first proper ULTRA race!

The purpose of the race was more of a tick the box exercise in order for myself and Harry to be able to do our 100 mile ultra in June. However being competitive I also wanted to push myself over the distance knowing that the training up to that point has been going pretty well! The furthest id ever run prior to last weekend was during a 30 mile ultra myself and Tash ran back in 2019 ( Lulworth Cove) so the jump up to 54 miles was a bit daunting.

Harry kindly drove us both down to Brixworth Country park where we arrived at 7am ready for a  8am race start! After registration on the lake side we received our maps, applied chamois cream, did last toilet stops, had some food and got ready to start our race. The nerves were certainly there but different kind of nerves to a triathlon. A ultra is pretty simple… Run and don’t stop until you reach the finish. How hard could it be?

7:55am on the start line… The race director called us all forwards towards the line to which people were a bit stand offish. Nobody wants to be the person standing on the front of the line like a park run to be overtaken 100m into the race. We stepped forwards anyway as somebody had to and off we went. 54 miles, and one big loop around Northampton to complete! We started by running along the dam wall before heading into fields and farm land. The pace was easy and it was a lovely day as the sun was coming up. I had been suffering from a tight calf that week so it was a bit touch and go as to how it would be as I didn’t dare to run since Wednesday. It was tight but actually felt like it loosened up as I went along. I quickly settled down into pace and was in second place from the get go aiming to keep the first chap in sight and within reach. A ultra is such a long way there’s a lot that can happen over those miles you don’t really want to be getting competitive too early… HE SAYS!

I had created the route on my strata and synced it up to my garmin but because of the nature of the route strata didn’t allow me to plan a route through fields that weren’t actually paths so I made some notes to remind me to not follow my watch. I left the notes at home and at roughly mile 6 I took a wrong turn and went off at 90 degrees to the leader thinking ( He must be wrong) slightly smug I then found myself in a random field with no way out other than the way I came in from! Not a great start. My phone started ringing and it was the race director telling me I was going the wrong way and heading straight for a main road. Eventually I found myself back on track but must of lost 5-10 mins already. Clocking sub 7 min miles trying to catch back up I followed the trail of people along the route holding my phone in one hand and map in the other hand. Took another wrong turn and had another phone call from the Boss. By this point I was getting fairly frustrated and thinking of the extra miles I was adding on by making all these mistakes!

I got onto a roll and was gaining time and places and then after 16 miles or so I went through checkpoint 2 and found out I was only minutes behind a group of 5 or 6 runners. After 5-10 minutes I caught them up and saw harry in that group. We had a chat, caught up with each other and then I made the decision that I was going to push on t try and catch the leader ( NO CHANCE!)

Making multiple small mistakes, again the group caught me up. We laughed and harry kept saying ( We’ll see you again in 10 minutes) to which they did and we came into check point 3 together.

Filling up water bottles and grabbing a handful of sugary sweets and half a banana we staggered out and into the second half of the race. There was one female runner in our group of 6 who was looking really strong and overly chatty which made me think she wasn’t feeling the pain the rest of us were feeling!

I made another break away from the group ( Hopefully the last time) we passed through loads of gates, stiles, fields of cows, sheep, lambs, bulls also crossing recently ploughed fields which was hard under feet. The route was 78% Trail and 15% Road with some main road crossings to navigate too. Running through a big country park happily in second place now feeling okay I missed a turning and felt as though id gone round in a big circle soon to spot Rachel and Maxime (3rd and 4th) coming towards me! NOT AGAIN!

Off we went as a group of 3 with the others not far behind getting closer to checkpoint 4

I went through 30 miles in 4 hours which was still actually above course record pace but that didn’t hold for long.

We all started to split up around the 35 mile mark. I was getting tired and lapsed a bit of concentration and tripped over a rock falling on my knee and hand cutting it quite bad. Id spotted a runner coming up behind at this point and was worried it was 4th gaining on me. At checkpoint 6 ( the last one) I realised it was actually Rachel who had taken a wrong turning. The kind ladies at the pit stop sorted me out with a bandage as I filled up my bottles with water and grabbed some last snacks to keep me going for the last push to the finish. Rachel caught my up within 10 mins, passed me my sour snakes id dropped on the route somewhere, passed a few words and pressed on. I couldn’t hold that pace at this point and saw her disappear into the distance! I was pretty spent but I knew there were a lot of other runners behind who may of been feeling strong and catching me up so I didn’t want to hang about still.

53 miles, 54 miles ticked off and now its just a park run to go! That finish line couldn’t of come quick enough! I recognised the roundabout from when we arrived that morning and knew it was only a matter of meters to the finish. Came round the last corner, saw tash, Rolo, the other 2 finishers and that was it. Got some doggy licks, big hug, a medal and sat down for a good 25 mins before moving!

A great learning experience, challenge and all round great event!

Big well done to everybody that raced including Harry who came in joint 4th!!

Big thanks to GO Beyond for putting the event on, Tash for your support and Coach Billy who is a ledge!

I hope to be back at some point 🙂

Cheers

Coach Sam