I was away on holiday for the past week, so was unable to get this report done in the speedy fashion that I usually do.
8 days ago, I ran the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 50km trail ultra marathon. It takes in 5 rivers, 4 hills (that have their own names), 3 large country estates, 2 castles and 1 Cathedral.
My plan had always been to run this for fun, not flat out, as part of my training for the multi race event here at Bournemouth marathon festival this October.
I arrived very early at Salisbury Fire Station and quite bizarrely as I pulled up in the car park, my brother and his running club friends pulled up alongside me. So I felt relaxed and got some welcome distraction and discussion. (Thanks for the following photo Nick D)
We signed in, pinned our numbers on, made out final preparations and visits to the toilet, discussed strategy and headed for the race start following the briefing.
Before I knew it, we were off.
The course included some spectacular scenery, much of it was only open to runners especially for this event. Despite it being mostly on trails, the event was very well marshalled and sign-posted, so I did not need the map that we were all provided with.
The views of the early sections of the course across and around Avon Valley as we ran around the outer ring of Old Sarum were spectacular, and we navigated our first kissing gate of the day, with plenty more swinging gates, stys and stiles to come.
Running on some ancient paths, we passed through the Clarendon Estate and got some early glimpses of the Cathedral and then a couple of highlights for me were running under a wonderful viaduct and taking in some views of Longford Castle. The check point here was wonderful, as all the check points were throughout this event; they were frequent, manned by very friendly, helpful, kind and encouraging people with plenty of water ready for runners to drink.
Some of the checkpoints had some fantastic looking home-baked goodies, some had chocolate, sweets, fruit and cordial, but I had all my race fuel with me and so only drank the water on offer. It was very hot weather, very sunny and I took on water at every nearly every checkpoint.
On that note, I know those of you that are regular readers will know that I eat a low carb high fat diet and fuel for races the same. My race fuel is my own take on the ‘Fat Shake’ written about in the Real Meal Revolution book by Tim Noakes and colleagues in line with their increasingly famous Banting diet. Prior to the race, I ate a couple of slices of bacon and asparagus frittata, then just before the race, I had a strong coffee with butter and then my shake was divided into two flasks that were held in the front of my Salamon 12l pack:
2 Tsps of Supernutbutter (the protein works brand)
2 scoops of Isopure Carb free vanilla protein powder
Half a tsp of raw cacao powder
A big pinch of sea salt flakes
A squeeze of maple flavoured zero syrup (the protein works again)
50ml single cream
500ml of coconut water
Other course highlights for me were Clearbury Rings, an old Iron age fort, the Yew forest where we had to follow the string, a couple of fields which made me feel like I was in the dream of Maximus from the film Gladiator where he glided his fingers across the tops of the crops in his field. There was so much more besides, including the race course, and the truly awe-inspiring Cathedral itself towards to the end of the race as we got close to the finish.
I was hurting towards the end as I had gone out too hard early on and run too fast up the early hills that I really ought to have gone slower up or power walked up, I did this in the latter stages, especially a very long hill that lasted about a mile in the early 20 miles. I think the distance gains made by running hard up hills like that are outweighed by energy conservation. I saw quite a few guys who had run past me on those hills struggling in the latter stages on the race. For me, the heat and a couple of technical downhill sections were what were hurting my legs; the distance and hills were not as tough as I had expected being mainly a road marathon runner to date.
The psychological skills arsenal got dipped into plenty during the second half of the race, in particular with regards to staying positive, using my internal dialogue effectively and lessening the pain of the final stretches on the roads coming into the city centre. Mainly though, my preparation for this, my first 50km event was very diligent regarding my psychological planning.
The finish line area was filled with lots of cheering, happy people.
All in all it was a really great event. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am going to go back next year to give a better account of myself. I have also signed up for my first 69 miler next June as the next step towards my goal of a 100 mile race next Autumn (2016). I had a day off after the race, but have since completed another 80 mile training week and my legs feel stronger than ever, I vow to go and get out on the trails a lot more in coming months – for the training benefits and the scenery.
When I had an exchange with record breaking runner Jez Bragg at the turn of the year when I planned to start running ultras, he recommended running on similar surfaces to those that you’ll be racing on. It seems like common sense, but something I need to bear in mind with the ultras I have lined up for next year.
Steve Way won the event in 3hrs 18mins, a course record, as I wrote on twitter, I cannot fathom how on earth anyone could run it that fast. Amazing stuff.
Here are my Garmin race stats and course profile etc. Though you can check it all out at Strava too if you wish:
I came 29th overall, and 5th in my age category which I am delighted with.
It had been my Birthday two days earlier and I had not celebrated fully as I wish to save myself for this event. My wife had organised a party with close friends and family in the garden, we ate pizza, salted caramel chocolate cake and I drank far too much of my favourite Belgian Beer (thanks Marc) brewed by Trappist monks. I wore my medal all night.