Hello Buzzers 😊 I’ve finally got around to reporting back on the inaugural Dulux Revolution Ultra Trail event that I took part in on May 10th! I started writing this not long after the event but life has been so full on that several events have happened since 😂 I signed up for the ‘walk’ wave back in February, before I was back in proper training as I knew it would keep me motivated through the post-op recovery period. My physio advised against taking part in mid March when I was finally discharged from her care, saying it would be too soon, but she hasn’t met the impatience and drive of a Buzzer before 😂😂 She’d had exactly the same hip surgery that I did but six weeks earlier than me and had conceded her place in July the RTTS. I just had to know if I’d still be able to do an ultra, as I have a 100k Challenge again in September (deferred from last year). The worst that could happen was I’d DNF, but at least I’d know. Besides which, everyone knows I’m bonkers anyway 😂😂
Would the operated hip, knee and ankles be up to the job? Would I manage it on so little distance training. Well, the short answer is yes indeed I did! It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t pretty, I couldn’t run much at all after the first big hill but the challenge went down 😁 52.75km of the Chilterns and Thames Path completed in 9:28:57. If you want more detail....read on 😊 For those who like their stats -
The long journey to Bath and back two days before for my 6 monthly AS check up didn’t help the preparations much - travelling any distance always shakes the bones up & results in even less sleep than usual and being more sore. What nearly kept me from even reaching the start line though was the mother of all migraines the night before. As usual, I insisted on getting all things domestic done before packing my race gear. So the family laundry took up a large chunk of the day. By lunchtime I had a headache. This often happens after travelling and running because of the ‘advanced degenerative disease’ as it was described on a recent MRI in my neck. Meh! It still works 😂😂
By 6pm it had developed it had developed into a nasty, nauseous, very painful and light-sensitive migraine - it had been a very busy week before and quite stressful and I really should have got my gear ready well before Friday! At least I’d had the foresight to write a detailed list and prepare all my food in the morning before any headache started at all, so zombie like, the race kit eventually got packed by about 10pm 😊 For the first couple of hours after it started at least I could still just about think - the rest is a complete blur. All I can remember thinking was “please just let this go by morning”. I took all the meds, tried massage, different neck positions, lavender oil and massage and nothing worked 😕 The good intention of going to bed early went out of the window 😕 A nice hot soak and another dose of painkillers finally helped it to ease a bit and I eventually crawled into my pit at 0030, knowing full well I’d have to be up at 0430 to allow enough time to get going. Hardly ideal but no panic though, I’m so used to functioning on far less sleep than desirable 😂😂 Oh the irony though - the migraine backed off until I lay down in bed then the change in neck position set it off again 😢 It took an hour to find a position that actually made it possible to nod off (I so dislike this body sometimes!). Out of the available 3 hours left to sleep, I managed to sleep for a couple of them so I can’t complain really.
As is usual, the bad headache aspect was there in the background when I woke up, just waiting to be triggered again but I’ve learned over the years that if I’m careful and do the right stretches, it stops it returning most times 😊 So, stretches done, last minute kit check and food packed, ankles and left knee heavily taped and all ready to leave by 0645. I had to be in Marlow by 0800 for an 0830 start so we left plenty of time to get there. Lots of time for last minute pack checking and general faffing with gear. I was so impressed to find that I could leave some of my food with the crew who would take it to the Marlow checkpoint which we’d come back to after the 18 mile Chilterns loop, so at least I didn’t have to carry all of my food as I usually do 😊 In retrospect it would have been better to carry the sarnie and crisps and leave the large serving of home made rice pud (food of the Gods for me during an ultra) at the checkpoint, especially since I didn’t eat anything until I got back to Marlow anyway but I’m sure the rice pud enjoyed the trip 😂 The rules stated that no ‘crew’ were allowed, but supporters were allowed to support anywhere along the route except at checkpoints but not allowed to provide any supplies otherwise you’d be disqualified - bit harsh when you have to feed yourself!
The atmosphere of excitement at the start was was brilliant. Inaugural events can be ‘interesting’, but since this was being run by the same organisers as Race to the Stones/King/Tower but with Dulux as a sponsor, there was never any doubt in my mind that it would be anything other well organised and very efficient with great support 😊 I also knew the walk wave (only 40 people) would likely be full of slower runners rather than walkers, so fully expected to be tail-end Charlie the whole way - something that I knew would likely get me down but hopefully, recognising this before the start and mentally preparing for it would help (who am I kidding 😂😂). I just didn’t want to be the last one keeping everyone waiting or the slowest that everyone feels sorry for 😬 I was hoping to run/walk myself for once but that idea would be put to bed atop of the first big hill!
The chap in charge of the start line had some great banter and soon had us all laughing. Even funnier, he was quite vertically challenged shall we say, so had to stand on a chair on the uneven grass to be seen and he had several good wobbles which was so funny to see! No mass warm up here though (as advertised) thank goodness, although I understand the later runners waves did. I must admit that I’m not a great fan of those mass warm ups anyway as I’d rather do my own stretches instead of jump around wasting unnecessary energy! 8.30 on the dot and we were off. Within a few metres I was out in front with another lady who had a very similar walking speed.
That didn’t last long though - as soon as we were out of eyeshot of the start, some of the walkers started jogging as I’d expected - I was going to myself once I’d warmed up properly. The first 3km section was through the back streets of Marlow - nice gentle inclines that stretched the hamstrings. It wasn’t too long before we were in the Chilterns proper and the hills started coming. My plan was to walk up the hills then belt down them (I love running downhill). Hopefully I’d have enough in the legs then to run/walk the flat Thames Path section later. The very first decent hill was short and steep (not worth getting the poles out for) and I rapidly realised that I’d have to use plan B - fast walk the lot! I was really surprised how much the operated hip ached going uphill so the strength still isn’t there yet and it needs a lot more work yet! The right hip was sharply painful with every uphill step and the left knee and both ankles also made their presence felt despite the heavy taping - this wasn’t what I’d hoped for or expected😕 Still, if that’s how it was going to be, nothing for it but to buckle down and get on with it - no way were my joints going to defeat me! I still hoped that I might be able to run the downhills but that plan went out of the window as well. This wasn’t entirely because of the joints though, but because of the track surface - loose pebbles everywhere and the last thing I wanted to do was end up on my backside or roll an ankle or worse!
The pleasure of being in the Chilterns again though was immense. Absolutely stunning scenery, red kites overhead, birdsong all around. I wish I could have looked around more but to be honest I had to concentrate so hard on the trail to be sure of my footing and stopping to look around wasn't part of my plan. The trail was mostly through great beech woods, open meadows with just a few road sections through small villages. I was really surprised that I’d been going for an hour before the first runner passed me - I thought it would be sooner than that. Not too many people seemed to have overtaken me so I was pretty sure I wasn’t last yet. Three distances were being run on this first section (10k, marathon and ultra), all with slightly different start times but the first runners didn’t set off that long after the walkers.
I reached the first CP in Hambleden around 11km in 1:42. Just a quick loo stop (although in reality, a loo stop wearing already sweaty compression leggings is never really super speedy 🤣 Sorry, probably too much information!). I had enough water/coke/juice to cover the next loop so just picked up a bag of crisps on my way out. The second hill seemed never ending - one of those with a steep first section that when you reached the top was followed by a seemingly endless lower gradient slope up into woodland. The poles came out when only a few yards up that first bit but I couldn’t use them properly as one shoulder was still giving me grief after skiing a couple of months ago (too much poling!). Head down, I just kept plodding, cursing quietly, and eventually the top was reached. At the top was the only muddy section of the whole course where heavy forestry plant had been working in the woods. I’ve seen far worse and at least my feet didn’t get wet so it wasn’t much of a problem at all and at least it was fairly level 🤣 Knowing that the biggest ascent was out of the way felt good 😊 No way could I have run the descent - by now the hips, both ankles and my left knee were quite unhappy.
This loop returned me to the same CP in Hambleden (19km in 2:57). The hills, loose surfaces, high humidity and lack of a hot drink had taken their toll and left me feeling pretty sapped. I’d eaten and drunk regularly, though as I found out later, I need to up the quantities! The first opportunity to get a hot drink would be at Marlow at the 31km mark, but at least the hills were done and the Thames Path was only a few km away 😊 4km later came Medmenham. There was a nice straight road section ahead but we were directed away from that towards ......... another hill! OK, it was only 50m of elevation but my hips had really had enough of hills. I must have looked a bit grim as three separate competitors stopped to ask if I was OK. It was a case of walk until the muscles were threatening to go into spasm, then stop and stretch, then start again. Slow but steady with multiple short stops and I was so glad to reach the top. It was a narrow path, quite fascinating in one section which ran through a long brick lined tunnel - that’s the only thing I remember besides the pain. Only another parkrun and I’d get that reviving cup of tea and maybe I’d even take a short stop and eat some of that heavy rice pud in my race pack.
That ‘parkrun’ seemed to last forever and I started to feel very disconnected from everything and quite strange. I really did just want to stop and at that point. I’d been eating and drinking little and often but it felt like I’d done too much too soon and it was the thought of a cup of tea and a sit down and hearing HD in my head that kept me plodding. In reality, my pace didn’t actually change that much, it just felt slow.
Supporters were not supposed to be allowed at CP’s so when I saw Richard at the 31k CP near Marlow I thought I was hallucinating 😂 He’d asked and the staff had said that supporters were very welcome at CP’s! Off came the pack and down I sat. I was absolutely soaked in sweat and it must have taken all of about a minute to start shivering. Although it was sunny, pleasantly warm and very humid, I suddenly felt so cold! Stopping moving always does this to me no matter how hot it is. I put on an extra layer and Richard gave me his nice thick jacket and went off to get me a cuppa. I knew I had to get some decent nutrition in so started on the rice pud - at least it would make my pack lighter! I didn’t intend to eat the lot, but the more I ate, the better I felt so down it all went 😊 The Race crew had brought my food package to the CP as promised but that sarnie seemed very unappealing on a gut full of rice pud so Richard took it away with him for later if needed. I couldn’t even face one of my favourite home made macaroons. A bag of crisps made a nice afters though 😊 Richard returned with a cup of tea. We had to provide our own cups and as you’ll notice on the finish photo - I took a lidded vacuum cup so I could carry it with me without having to stop too long. Now, whoever runs an ultra that provides hot drinks but no sugar? Fortunately, I always carry spare sachets 😁 I spent far longer than intended there (26 minutes) but I suspect if I hadn’t, I might not have got much further. The tea went with me - it was still too hot to drink and it saw me through the next hour and made me feel even better!
Ahead lay 22km of Thames Path and now I was on very familiar ground. I knew there was nothing too horrible ahead other than several flights of steps on river crossings but I was well over halfway now, and being back in control mean the stubbornness returned with a vengeance. The hip, knee and ankle pain had become a dull ache, constant, but tolerable. The occasional little jog made me feel mentally stronger and changed the stresses on the joints so the pace was a little better.
I didn’t even slow down through the next CP - a quick look see told me there was nothing there that I could eat so on I went. I have no idea now where it was other than in some kind of park. That’s was when Mr Garmin decided to give a low battery warning so then I had the performance of connecting it to the charger while still wearing it.
Onwards, onwards and now I started to pass a few people - yes! Not only was this getting done but I knew that I definitely wouldn’t be last unless something disastrous happened (I know it shouldn’t be important but it was). At one point I remember meeting a footpath diversion sign that directed me up a long flight of steps to the road. I was at the top, walking up and down looking for the next sign when another walker below shouted up that I’d gone the wrong way. He’d seen me make that turn from a distance and hurried up a bit to give me a shout. That was so kind 😍
The last CP was at 44km (somewhere near Dorney Reach). Richard was there as well and another gorgeous cup of tea was made while I availed myself of the sani-privy then ate yet more crisps - all I wanted was salt. I’d taken S-caps with me but hadn’t used them as it wasn’t that hot. Now I realise that I should have used them because it was so humid and I sweated pints! No wonder I’d started to feel weird after the hills. Only a 10 minute stop this time. On the way out there was a bucket of Freddos perched in a tree - well it would have been rude not to so a slack handful went into a pocket 😂😂
The last few miles I really picked up both mentally and physically. I knew this challenge was going down, I knew I could still do an ultra - damn that was a good feeling 😁 I could soon hear the noise of base camp across the river - so close, yet still about a parkrun to do. A look at the watch and the realisation that if I pushed a bit now I could probably finish in about 9.5 hours - slower than I’d hoped for but faster than I’d thought possible at several points! Finally up and off the Thames Path and so grateful that this was a long winding ramp up to the road rather than steps. On the final approach the entrance to Windsor Racecourse and cyclists were still coming in from their own massive challenge (155 miles!). Last time I finished a race here, the finish line was near the entrance to the racecourse - this time it wasn’t and that seemed tough at the time. Still. As kept up the pace and was absolutely determined to run and Barber that finish line. Cyclists all around me were shouting “well done” and clapping and that helped more than they’ll ever know 😊
When the finish line finally came into sight, some 1.5km further on, it truly was the most beautiful sight. So many flags of so many different colours and the number of supporters lining the finish area was just unbelievable. People who’d been out all day doing their own challenges as well as their families, were still giving every finisher an absolutely fantastic welcome. Cow bells were ringing, everyone seemed to be cheering and shouting. I quickly looked behind to see who they were shouting for but I was the only one approaching the finish. They were cheering me home and that was so emotional! The volunteer who was giving out medals at the finish line gave me hugest hug and was genuinely so happy. I think my expression at the finish line says everything 😊 52.75km - almost 33 miles - done and dusted in an official time of 9:28:53. Nice bling too! Despite having to walk nearly all of it, I still average 15 minute miles too! I’m back guys, I’ve still got it and was so happy about that that I was bouncing around all evening (that’s a post-ultra first too!)😁😁😁
So would I recommend this challenge - most definitely. It’s incredibly well organised, the signage was brilliant on the Chilterns sections, sometimes a bit sparse on the Thames Path section but there’s little scope for going wrong. So whether your a cyclist, runner or walker, give it go next year 😊Now all I have to do is write up the second half of May. Meanwhile, a big birthday today but at least now I’ll get free prescriptions and get better age graded scores 🤣🤣🤣
Happy training everyone 😁
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