In the interests of only me (rather than you, the reader) going over old ground, this will not be the usual race report in which I painstakingly recount every step of my journey from Wendover to Little Venice. I’ve done that before. Instead, here are five things I learned from this year’s race.
1. My sense of direction is suspect
Despite having done this race twice before, several of my confident assertions that “I recognise this field” resulted in me, running club friends Francis and Sydnee going off course. Not for very long, but still – not particularly helpful.
The biggest diversion I took, ironically, was at the official diversion point. Unable to follow a simple arrow, I took the original route and wasted 10 minutes circumnavigating a field for no good reason other than I couldn’t be bothered to check the map at that point.
On the plus side, I was just getting into my stride – at 17 miles this was possibly the longest ‘warm-up’ period in a race I’ve ever experienced – and so didn’t mind too much. I also simply decided that it wasn’t going to bother me, despite the fact that this bonus loop effectively put paid to any chance of getting a PB. instead, I made a game of steadily chasing down as many people as I could from there to the next checkpoint.
2. People are amazing
As if running an ultra isn’t impressive enough, there are always people who surprise and humble you. First, I met a woman who had “failed” at the 145-mile Grand Union Canal Race at mile 111 last year, and wanted to check out the last 20-odd miles. Just four weeks after having her gall bladder out. On the basis that the doctor told her “no strenuous exercise” and she wasn’t pushing herself today.
Then there was the woman I bumped into at the final check point whose race plans for the year had been thrown into disarray when she discovered just recently that she was pregnant. A wise decision? I’ve no idea. Amazing? Absolutely.
3. Fuelling really helps
Well, yes. I honestly already knew this, especially in ultras, when you’re trying to keep moving for a long time. But this time I made a concerted effort to get calories down me very often. As well as having a bottle of Tailwind on the go at all times, I had regular Gu gels, a Clif bar and a couple of jelly babies. I’m sure this is one reason I never felt low on energy.
4. Going faster doesn’t always mean more pain
Around mile 37 my legs started feeling a bit sore in various places. Given that I hadn’t run this far since October 2016, this perhaps wasn’t a surprise. In the past I’ve been guilty of letting pain beat me, mentally. Watching the miles tick by wasn’t actually helping me so I switched the view on my watch to time, listened to some music and made a conscious effort to speed up, rather than slow down. I’m not really in peak shape at the moment so it wasn’t all that pretty but I didn’t manage to increase my speed and the pain definitely didn’t get any worse for going slightly faster. It might not always work but it’s worth a go.
5. Worst time, best feeling
This was my slowest time at Country to Capital, albeit only by around six minutes. Part of that I can put down to my diversion, and part to not being at full fitness. But while it’s easy to get bogged down in PBs – and make no mistake, I was aiming for one at this race – going slower needn’t mean a bad result.
Thanks to my fuelling, course knowledge (okay, only the last bit on the canal) and attitude, I finished feeling fairly strong and more importantly, really satisfied with my efforts. Taking the positives out of situations is something I intend to do a lot more this year, as there will doubtless be a few lows in my quest for the Centurion 50 Slam.
Thanks to GoBeyond for another great day out, to my Fulham Running Club buddies, and well done to everyone who ran the race.
Distance: 44 miles
Time: 7h 48m
Position: 113/328 (305 finishers)