Report from Tamara:
As Neil and I got out of the car on Station Top at 8.29am, I was very grateful to Sarah Fuller for lending me a waterproof that actually works – this weather would be nowt compared to the Spine, but still it was wet. Having never raced more than a half marathon before, I was a little apprehensive as to how this would pan out. The plan was to go slow, walk up anything even remotely resembling a hill, keep the heart rate down, and if in doubt, walk: it worked a treat. I hadn’t believed Neil, saying that 17 mile training runs were enough and steady time on feet was all that mattered, but I was proved wrong. I’d also never started a race walking but I thoroughly recommend this approach when the race goes straight up the Chevin steps to Surprise View and is longer than 3 miles 🙂
Punk Panther ultras always have an option on the distance, which makes it less daunting for novices like myself and anyone having an off day, we all do! The Urban Legend had a choice of 50k, 57k and 66k, and the climbing looked moderate, from 3000-4300ft. Plus no navigation skills required, hurray! This was as much within my comfort zone as it was going to get.
Starting on home territory felt good. Off the Chevin, we took the fields to Yeadon, wiggled around to end up at the Tarn, stopped to use the facilities there; more fields and woods to Horsforth, stopped at a shop to get some Lucozade because we could; down the hill along the river a ways; coat on, coat off numerous times; then through loads of mini nature reserves and parks in Kirkstall and Burley – who knew?! Somewhere in all that we made the decision to do the longer route. I was very encouraged to get to 21miles in Hyde Park feeling remarkably fresh and knowing we were facing in the right direction – homewards! We had a pleasant stretch along the Meanwood Valley Trail through woods, over streams, past the llamas at the Urban Farm – and my first ever marathon distance ticked off. Thereafter, it was mostly fields and trail with a bit of road up to Eccup, Adel, through Golden Acre Park (another proper toilet, luxury ultra!), Cookridge – my fans cheering me on out their car window 😉 – and Bramhope.
CP9, at the top of Staircase Lane in Bramhope, was the crunch point – head straight back down the hill and finish (smiley face) or add on an extra 5 miles up Pool Bank, down Barhouse field, past aggressive dogs on farm, Blue Barn pet shop and back along Pool Road (not so smiley face). This is where local knowledge was a major disadvantage, and the ‘quit while you’re still happy’ feeling kicked in! I was having a lovely day out: the weather really wasn’t that bad; I was enjoying discovering new paths and places; and only a bit tired. However, the feet were wet and starting to rub, and the thought of those farm dogs and a mile or so of Pool Road was going to totally rain on my parade. We whizzed down the hill to the finish (Pool Methodist Church Hall) and a hot meal, hot drinks, loads of cake: all free and served with a smile. We then got taxied back to Otley by Matt, who’d done a 200 mile race a couple of weeks previously.
I officially did 57k in 7hrs 44mins, but for me, for once, the time was an afterthought. It was truly liberating to be so blissfully unaware of time – I judged the race and my effort by the fact that I had 3 and a bit pages of instructions to get through. The full results will be on http://punkpanther.co.uk/.
My lesson for the day: always know the distance between feeding stations. I hadn’t appreciated quite how much food and drink I would need AND at what point. I had one 500ml water bottle, 4 gels and hadn’t thought to stock up on goodies at the earlier CP, so we had to stop at a second shop – somewhere in between CP5 and CP7 – and get a Mars bar and another water bottle. Good job it was an urban route!
This felt like a very easy, almost luxury, introduction to ultra running: well organised; taped all the way round (only once did we suspect the tape had been messed with); friendly fellow runners; lots of well-stocked checkpoints; happy, helpful marshals (including many a proper serious ultra runner!); free entry, because we had marshalled previous races; and best of all, it was local – we only left the house 25 mins before the start. I will definitely be back!