My training had gone well for the Stort 30 ultra. 2 weeks previous to the race i had taken myself to Bishops Stortford and run 20 miles along the river route. I started at Bishops Stortford station, ran out to Roydon marina and back to Sawbridgeworth in a time of 3 hours 22 minutes. This was slower than my road time but being off road that is to be expected, so based on that time I estimated a realistic time of 5 hours for doing the 30 mile ultra.
On the day i had to cycle 2 miles to a local station, Audley End to be able to get to the start on time. On arriving at the registration point it was pretty packed out, walked through and got my number, then went and got changed. When i came out i found a couple of my fellow Saffron Strider members, Nick and Rebecca White (who would go on to be the 1st female to finish). After a bit of chat i took myself outside of a bit of a warm up and checked my gear. Before leaving home I had made sure to have a good breakfast of porridge, banana, honey, large glass of water and a coffee. I was carrying 2 litres of SIS electrolyte drink in my camelbak, I also had maltodextrin tablets and some Powerbar gels that had added sodium and caffeine.
At 9am we were gathered and soon on the way. The weather was great, fairly clear, no rain and reasonably warm. As usual I was mindful that I was running my own race and to keep tabs on my pace. Down the main road, over the railway bridge and we were onto the tow path. Having run this already I knew what was in store. The first 7 miles were really muddy, very wet and well rutted. What I couldn’t account for was having 100 people ahead of me churning up the ground. Initially I was comfortable and holding around the 9 minute mile mark which is what I had planned.
Once down to Harlow mill area the tow path improves to a gravel surface and made the going easier. At the first checkpoint I managed to say a quick hello to race director Lindley while grabbing a drink and soon headed onwards. Around the Roydon area I started to feel my legs getting tighter which was a worry so early on, at mile 13 or so I had some twinging in the muscles and arriving at the 15 mile checkpoint I had cramp set in. This was a real blow having managed 20 miles 2 weeks earlier without any problems. I took on some more drink along with some salted peanuts and sausage rolls in a bid to get more salt in to my system along with another of my gels. I walked out of the checkpoint in a bid to give my legs a chance to recoup. After setting out again every half mile or so I would feel cramp coming on so I slowed to a walk to help stave it off and give my legs a rest. This really wasn’t how I had planned on things going! All I could do was run as sensibly as possible and give my legs every chance of making it to the end. Somewhere around mile 20 Keith Godden, director of the http://www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com/ asked how I was after seeing me struggling with cramp and was good enough to give me some electrolyte tablets. After carrying on I think I next spoke with Steve Harvey who told me about the ultras he had entered which helped distract me from the immense discomfort I was now feeling. After heading onwards I met Sue Albiston who I found out was Lindleys partner. We were both having a pretty hard time so for about the last 7 miles we encouraged each other on having short walking breaks followed by a couple of hundred yards of running. The last section toward the finish is up hill and this really finished my legs off. I was hoping to run the entire last lap of the field but my legs cramped badly and I had to walk to let it ease off, looking over my shoulder I saw Gin Craig close behind. Not wanting to be overtaken right at the end I managed to break into a jog for the last 200 yards crossing the line in 6 hours and 5 seconds.
It was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be doing more ultras in the future. With some analysis and hindsight I found out that a high intake of caffeine with sugar stops electrolytes being up taken by the muscles. In all I had about 400mg of caffeine, 4 gels, 1 pack of maltodextrin tablets and some food at the checkpoints. On the previous 20 mile run I had only plain gels without caffeine so this may be in part why cramp set on so early. Also I was running in fairly new shoes, the Salomon Crossmax are a great shoe but I had them only 3 weeks before the race. I now have a winter training plan and am looking for my next race…