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Breathing in the forest air, my heartbeat and footfall are settling into rhythm as I climb the trail... The autumnal canopy is scattering bronze, copper and golden jewels like a carpet beneath my feet. Ducking under a spiderweb laced with diamonds of morning dew, I see the stag as he scampers deeper into the forest.... My muscles and heart are pumped as I push up and out of the tree line and onto the ridge. Climbing up onto the top of the world, and a panorama I silently soak in. A buzzard lazily flaps away from the cairn. Now the fun begins as I run down the trail, twisting, turning, feeling every contour of the earth beneath the soles of my feet. A log to jump, a branch I scoop under, my feet going quicker, quicker, dancing down into the tree line as a fox darts across my path.... This blog is based on tales of my trail and ultra running exploits. Enjoy!!!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Pilgrim's Challenge

After the Longmynd Hike I was hungry for another Ultra, so one lazy afternoon I was googling and what did I find? Extreme Energy.

"Hmmm... how about this Pilgrim's Challenge thingy then Jim? Looks ace!"

A 66 mile two day race on the North Downs Way.

That was it, we were not going to miss it. Changing shifts, sorting childcare, training on the hills and counting down the days... and what a fantastic online build up XNRG provided!

After kissing my son goodbye we headed down to Farnham on the eve of the event and stayed in a Travelodge. Carbo loading comprised of a few beers and a big fat pizza... well we needed to relax a little!

Rising before sunrise we arrived at the venue, the field was iced with frost and coloured with subdued flags. We make for the tent and WOW! So warm, bustling with athletes, hot drinks, gels, bars, buffs and smiles.

We started at 9am and I had not the faintest idea of how to pace myself for a two day event. I soon warmed up and got chatting to people. So many people had done so many impressive races... double Badwaters, MDS, Spartathlons!

 I loved Box Hill, the endless steps up and the sandy beachy descent. The sun was shining and the views truly breathtaking. I decided to push on and see what I could really do. If I pushed too hard and had to crawl Day 2 then it would be a lesson learned :-D
The competitors were so friendly, I was given a gel by one of the elite 10am starters when he found me having a "bonk" in the woods.
The checkpoints were perfect the likes of myself who crave savoury food during long runs. I grew stronger and faster, the tunes went on and I crossed the line having done 33 miles in 5h38m.
Plodding into the digs at the school hall, the first thing that appealed to me was two very fit looking guys giving massages... it'd be rude not to!

A constant flow of hot drinks, a great meal and an inspirational talk by James Adams made the perfect evening....

Day 2...
Well we all knew it was coming and I must have been one of very few who WANTED snow. I love snow!! We got snow alright and I was so relieved the event was to continue with a few tweaks to checkpoints and starting times.

Day 2 was so very tough but absolutely amazing... It was like Narnia, everything was so quiet, muffled by the snow. My core muscles had a true work out ducking and diving under the heavily laden branches. The checkpoints were a godsend... vivid bursts of colour in a totally white world. Friendly faces and a load of scrummy food.

I pushed myself really hard throughout the day, as I ticked the miles off, running as much as I could and finishing the 33 miles in 6hrs and 18mins. Back into that lovely warm tent for tea, cakes and the Second Lady Medal for the whole 66 miles! Wow, was I chuffed :-)