It makes for a slightly different Sunday when you’re eating pasta and drinking hydration tablets at 7am.
The Ultra Warrior wasn’t on my radar until last week, in fact Total Warrior hung in the balance until last week. I’ve not run much recently, #pelvisgate destroyed my speed and my endurance and my confidence and due to reasons not important to this story, I had decided to withdraw from the Saturday race this weekend.
And then I thought…actually, why shouldn’t I do the Ultra? Even if I managed one lap and was in bits I could stop. There was nothing saying I had to run for the full 5 hours. And that was it, decision made. I was in the Ultra ballot.
I like a plan. My brain works very rationally, and as such if I can picture exactly what is going to happen and when I perform better. I knew the course was 10km (6.2miles) and after deciding that that the first 0.5mile and last 0.5mile didn’t really count I convinced myself it was a 5 mile lap.
The format for the Ultra is as follows;
You get 5 hours to complete as many laps as possible. At the half way point you get timed so half laps count too. After 5 hours a klaxon sounds and wherever you are on course, you stop.
Now the only thing that annoyed me is that even if you’re 400m from the finish and the klaxon sounds it would only count as a half lap.
Having said that, I focused on completing 3 full ‘5 mile laps’ and worked out how fast I would need to be in order to do this allowing for adequate pit stop time after each lap.
3×5 Mile laps. In 5 hours. Easy right?
It started easy enough, I hung back at the start and made sure I didn’t race into leg it. I knew if I raced off I would be knackered and so I adopted the slow and steady approach throughout. It worked. Leg it isn’t my favourite obstacle, but in a year I’ve gone from walking the uphill to running the entire thing so I’m definitely getting better at it.
I entered the first field and was quite happy, strawbales to scale don’t really faze me and then it was into the woods and down towards Log Bog Jog and Cement Mixer.
And this is when it became apparent that Total Warrior had really upped its game on the mud front. It was thick, it was deep (neck deep in parts and I’m 5″10), and it just zapped any pace you had in your legs. And it just got deeper. By the time I reached it for the third time it was verging on impossible to get through. My lovely friend Noel was marshalling here and offered words of encouragement (and crisps) on each lap.
After that, the course was exceptional. The usual mix of climbs and crawls and walls made for an ever changing route, and the diversion into the trees after Bonnie Banks changed it up a bit from last year.
The mud Hell came back at Human BBQ and The Trenches and again, it was chest deep. The course was very slippy today, and sections of the course that were normally easily runnable became a case of just don’t fall over.
Law Breaker is a killer. It’s a vertical climb and always where I start to question why I’m even there but again, once I was at the top today it was plain sailing. Grand National and The Alps proved to be relatively easy today and then we crossed the timing mats to record our first 0.7 lap split.
The Plunge (normally my absolute fear) was amazing today. The water wasn’t awful and it was reinvigorating to say the least. It was like having new legs again and the downhill straight after was welcome.
More mud again at the Tunnels and in the final woodland section, with Feeling Ropey becoming increasingly harder as the day went on.
Each time I exited the forest into the field that housed Log It I started to feel sick, and each lap it was a low point for me.
But after that it was the Slide (three times today and still intact), then Pasadero (flotation devices over water), Back It Up, Peaks of Pain, Monkey Bars, then the Finish.
Well it was really. Until lap 3.
I started with 1:35 left on the clock. After discussion with Claire (best pit crew leader EVER) we had decided that just getting to the split was the plan. 2.5 laps was very achievable but there was a ? over whether I would make 3.
At Human BBQ Tim relayed I had 51 minutes until the klaxon sounded and actually if I was planning on completing 3 laps I had to shift. Ok, shifting commenced.
Hit the split with 30 minutes to get home.
Through Log It, down the field, 10 minutes left.
Decided whilst walking (yes walking) to the Slide I wasn’t going to make it. Sat at the Slide for a minute being pathetic. 8.5 minutes to go, half a mile left.
This is when I panicked. The only thing worse than not finishing three laps was to get to the last obstacle and hear the klaxon. What did I want? Did I want to push or did I want to accept 2.5 was my lot? I accepted 2.5 was my lot. I was being pathetic. I felt sick, I was dehydrated, I’d had enough.
Then there was Tim. Who appeared at the other side of Pasadero and bluntly informed me he didn’t care I was about to puke and he didn’t care I was sore, I was finishing and that was it. He was here to get me home.
And he did. I exited the woods and saw Back It Up and burst into tears. He literally pushed me up the hill. I pulled myself through the obstacle and had 2 minutes left.
“I can’t run anymore” I said. “Ok don’t run. Walk with a very fast pace” he said. And we did. And then I jogged and then I was at theMonkey Bars and Dave was on the mic shouting to Charlie (who was holding the klaxon) that it was going to be ‘very very close’
Very very close my arse. There was no WAY that I was not crossing that finish line now. Fell off the bars (standard) and literally threw myself over the line where I collapsed in a heap and cried some more.
Three laps. In an official time of 4:58:42. Three full laps. Plan executed.
Today was incredible. The Ultra is beautiful. It is hard, it is physically draining, it is a drain on every part of your body, and all it came down to was how badly I wanted to get those three laps. And also being reminded I would of been in a worse mood had I failed to do that.
Today was a comeback of sorts for me, it has been a hard year, I’ve not performed as I’ve wanted to and I’m not in any sort of ‘shape’ just now. I’ll never be a super fast runner, but I can knock down miles and keep going. I can make a plan and I am stubborn enough to get it done. Mental determination plays as big a part in things like this as physical strength and speed do.
I was lucky enough today to share the field with a couple of friends, and watching Nicola collect her prize for 1st female after completing an incredible 4 laps was very emotional. I wouldn’t have run if she hadn’t been there today and although she lapped me (took her 2.5 laps though) it made my entire year to share a podium with her today.
And Graham, who I’ve met through OCR this year absolute flew round and chalked up 3.5 laps to his name. Bodes well for us heading to Europes Toughest Mudder next year.
Events like this don’t happen themselves and Claire made sure I was fed and watered all day and was on hand to provide the ‘didn’t take you for a pussy’ line when I needed it the most. She wins the title of best pit crew leader forever more.
Total Warrior, again you have stolen my heart and I am so pleased to have done the circuit this year. You never ever fail to deliver an exceptional race. Don’t ever change.
See you in the mud in June…💛