Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Pilgrims Way Challenge

The Pilgrims Challenges is a 2 day ultra across the North Downs Way, UK. Day one is 33 miles from Farnham to Redhill, day 2 is a return leg totalling 66 miles. I had been doing some long runs in the Falklands and wanted to test myself over an ultra challenge.

I prepared my race pack with enough food and water to last me for the entire race, with Emma providing me with one top up at one of the checkpoints. Unlike some of the others I didn't want to stop at any of the 4 checkpoints. Even though the entire route is marked my the North Down way sign posts, there was a few places where mistakes could be made. Thankfully I had prepared by downloading the gpx file to my Suunto Sport. This meant I could check the map at key points and had the confidence knowing that I was on track. This was re-assuring on day 2 when I ran out front by myself. After the first 8 miles on day one, I found myself running with one other who was training for Marathon Des Sables (as was a few other competitors). We decided we had enough of a lead to take a bit off the pace and save our legs for day 2. This helped in the leg burning sections such as the steps up to Box Hill. We took this at a walk (which may have been quicker) in order to save our energy. The amount of mud was more than expected and there was sections I was slipping everywhere. However, my Inov8 Roclite 305s  were excellent at dealing with this. We finished day 1 together in joint 1st with a 15 min lead over 3rd place. It would be a matter of who could recover the best.

My legs were pretty heavy that evening so I had a massage and went for a walk and did some stretching. The next morning my legs were very stiff and sore. I didn't know if I could run the race, let alone be competitive. However, after a mobility warm up and different pair of shoes I felt some what ready to run. We all started out slower than the day before and I could tell others were also in for a long day. I pulled away about 5 miles in without too much effort. The rest of the day was more about survival rather than racing. I targeted slower runners and walkers who where set of 1 and 2 hours before us. Getting to 20 miles was tough, but knowing I had an off-road half marathon still to go was tough mentally. Being out in front helped me motivation, as did seeing Emma at the checkpoints.  I crossed the line in first place with a comfortable lead over the 2 days. I great race, but I won't be doing any more 2 day races or ultras for a long time.

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