Sean reports: Following a lengthy string of comments to a Facebook status back in March, Lisa Maughan and I ended up entering the 30-mile multi-terrain White Rose Ultra. A little later in the year Sara Richard, during a run with the beginners group, had been talked into joining us.
Following London Marathon this had become my A race for the rest of the year. I knew this was going to be a tough cookie and serious training needed to be done. After months of 5 days a week training, which in included hill rep sessions and back to back long runs, I managed to improve my fitness to a level needed to complete this event. Lisa and Sara had also been working extremely hard in their training and we accompanied each other where possible in training.
Before we knew it race day was here and it was time to reap the rewards of the hard training and have some fun. With my fantastic support crew (Elaine and Niamh) we picked up Sara early on Sunday morning and headed to Marsdan. Arriving nice and early we met up Lisa and final race prep got under way. Following a few last min decisions about what kit to wear and numerous trips to the toilet (Lisa and Sara) we were ready.
We were called to the start line and we bumped into Neil Jones (who is planning to join the club) and following good good luck wishes and a race briefing the starting gun went off. Normally upon hearing a starting gun everyone runs off as hard as they can, today was different.
The race got underway with a gentle downhill jog for about 0.5 miles where we turned a corner to see the start of the 4.5 mile climb in which we were going to gain about 900 feet. Having wished I had started the race not wearing my jacket I stopped to remove it and stow it away in my pack and I lost sight of Lisa and Sara, so onwards I went. Before the race I had made the decision to walk most of the up hill sections and run the flat and downhills, after mixture of running and walking and enjoying the scenery I had made it to the highest point of the race and the first drinks station at 5 miles.
Stupidly I thought that was the toughest bit of the route done, oh how I was going to be proven wrong later. I briefly stopped at the drinks station and under Sarah Fuller’s orders I had some cake and water. The next section to 10 miles was mainly downhill, sounded great but my quads took a pounding. Just before the downhill section Elaine and Niamh were waiting to give support as I passed. I learnt they Lisa and Sara were about 5 mins ahead. I pushed on to the next drinks station.
I soon learnt that people who do an ultra are a totally different breed of runner. On the odd occasion I overtook someone (I know, I over took someone I could not believe it either) or someone overtook me we would have a chat for a while before pressing on.
The 10 mile drinks station came and went and before I knew if I had done a half marathon. I felt good and the race walk/run plan was going well. However the relentless uphill sections were starting to take it toll and I was starting to feel it. There was drinks station at 15 miles and I had made it to half way. Refuelling with sweet and savoury snacks I pushed on up another hill.
The first half of the race had a few steep hills, however the second half had lots of energy zapping up and down hills and not many flat bits. Just before 20 miles I found Elaine and Niamh again, Elaine was directing runners down the correct path while Niamh played played with the horse who had come to say hello. Just at that moment, Lisa’s husband Carl rolled up on his bike to say hi and he was informed that Lisa and Sara were about 30min ahead.
I had made it to the aid station where again sweet and savoury snacks were devoured. By this point my legs were starting to wonder what the hell I was doing, but I refuelled and went on. I ran some of the next section with a couple who were doing the 60 mile option. At this point I knew I was going to finish, after a nasty downhill section (Jonny lane is a slope in comparison) we had arrived at the 25 mile station. More cake and jelly sweets.
The final 5 miles were the hardest in the entire race! I was pleased to pass the marathon distance point but at this point I was sick of bloody hills!! Legs were tired and sore and now we had stiles to climb over and marsh land to cross. But before I knew it I could see the finish, across the valley. One more mile to go and I summoned some energy to jog home, thankfully it was gravity assisted. Rounded the corner to be welcomed home by Elaine, Niamh and Sara (Lisa had to dash off) and all the other fellow runners and supports. I had done it!
I learnt a lot during this race, the ultra community is really friendly and welcoming community, you learn to push you body past pre-perceived limits and you get to eat cake. Yes it was tough but I loved it and this is just the start for me!!
Lisa and Sara completed the race in about 6hrs 35mins and I completed it in about 7hrs 35mins. But the times are irrelevant to me, my aim was to complete it and enjoy it. Job done.