Sunday 22 May 2016

Dukeries Ultra 30 - We Did It - We Are Awesome!

Just for Frankie.

Robey - the CRC Mascot -
Breaking his virginity in!
When I started to write about our Dukeries training journey, I wasn't sure if Frankie had run an ultra before and I made the mistake of phrasing my query, "are you an ultra-virgin Frankie?"  Well of course, ever since then, he's been talking (to anyone who will listen and even those who aren't listening!) about how we're all going to - and I quote - "break our virginity in together!"  We've had no end of giggles about it and as much as Tina explained that he'd mixed up two phrases, it stuck.  When Kathryn joined our last long run Frankie waxed lyrical about her virginity and even asked total strangers on race day whether they had broken their virginity on that day! I even heard him say to one young lady, "have you popped your cherry today?"........ so just for you Frankie.....

Yes, oh yes! We did it! We totally broke our ultra virginity! Smashed it! Go Us!

It's Friday now and I can't believe that this time last week, I was still an ultra-virgin :-)  So before the memories fade.... here's my take on the big day.

Earliest Start Ever

I only realised a couple of weeks ago that the race starts at 7.30am.  Because we have about a 1 hour 15 minute journey to Retford and needed to allow time for picking up numbers and plenty of loo stops, this meant a 4.45am start.

Kathryn and Emma arrived to pick me up and we drove up to Caistor to meet Frankie and Tina who were taking us the rest of the way.  Once in the car, Frankie reiterated the strict vehicle rules - no smoking, eating, drinking or drugs.  I promptly tucked into my banana sandwich as Tina and Kathryn chomped their porridge.

We arrived in good time and to my delight there was no queue for the ladies loos - unusually the men were queuing and this state of affairs continued until it was time to run.

We soon met up with Sarah, Mike, Kate Brown, Hodders and Rodders, Dame Kath and Sue and John who were going for a walk and were the first of our many supporters on the scene.
Funniest Race Brief Ever

The race brief was conveyed all the important information loud and clear. This restored my confidence that we wouldn't get lost. Race director Ronnie Staton also managed to make the brief entertaining..... imploring us to please not die out on the course as the paperwork would be a nightmare and it might jeopardise the future of the event!  He told us about the vegan food he had put on for after the race and that as the cricket had been cancelled, we have been given their cricket tea, rather than waste the food ...... Ronnie announced that that would be convenient for "you meat eating fuckers" ... which raised a laugh.  All these little amusements helped calm the nerves.

And, They're Off

Wading through stagnant water.
Race brief and final loo stops done, sun cream applied back packs checked and donned, it was off to the start and the race was then underway quickly.  The fast boys and girls set off enthusiastically, the dogs in the canicross  set off excitedly, whilst Sarah, Tina, Kathryn, Emma and I set off chatting and wondering when we'd eat our first sandwich!

Less than a mile in, we hit the same water that Sarah and I encountered a few weeks ago on the Dukeries 10, only this time, it stank. Rank!  We thought it might have dried up a bit since February as the weather has been relatively dry, but it would seem that this is a permanent water feature!

However, we were grateful that the shark had gone  (or perhaps it was just dead in the water and that was what was causing the stench!) and we waded through in determined fashion, only glancing back occasionally to see whether Dame Kath was doing breast stroke or front crawl!

The weather was warm so we knew that we'd soon dry off and we continued at a lovely steady trot... on our way to glory.

In the zone.
We have been accompanied on our training runs by Mike and Frankie, who have supported and encouraged us.  Without their presence today I wondered whether we would walk more, kind of letting ourselves and each other off because we were more interested in having fun. However, we ran much more than I thought we would - in the first half only really walking to eat or wait for someone to come out of the bushes from using the facilities.  We therefore progressed much quicker than expected.

Periodically I was messaging Jayne and Cheryl as they were coming over later with Chris to be at the finish for us.  They reported later that when they got my message to say we were at mile 19, they started to worry that they wouldn't get here on time.  They hadn't accounted for us slowing a little during the final miles and as it was they arrived in good time.

I think it would be fair to say that Sarah had the time of her life. She looked relaxed in her gait, floating over rough ground and down slopes with scary tree routes and silly steps with apparent ease.  She looked as happy as a pig in poo!  

Throughout most of the run, Emma, Kathryn and Sarah could have probably gone a little quicker than Tina and I, but we had planned to stay together, so that was the deal.  Tina revealed later that she had groin pain from about mile 10 and I admire her for pressing on.

We chatted, ate and drank our way around 31 miles and despite feeling a little sore in my hips and pelvis, I had a great time. The fuelling strategy was good.  I never stopped eating the day before and I'd practiced with sausages and cheese and pickle sandwiches in training. Add a few gels and it seemed to be about right.  I didn't hit the wall at all, although I was pleased to see the finish funnel!

There were three check points where we had to make sure the marshals took our numbers to prove that we had done the whole course.  At each check-point there were aid stations, where friendly marshals checked that we were all OK and topped up our water bottles, and gave us drinks and offered sandwiches - peanut butter or jam - and biscuits.  They were also happy to take photos of us, which was really kind. Everything was so much more relaxed than a road-marathon, where it feels more of a pressure to run the whole way and record a decent time.

Here we are in the tent at the 2nd check point - about 13 miles in. We look pretty good, don't we?
30s and 40s start to merge.

After the first aid station those running the 40 miles took a different direction to those of us doing (a mere) 30 miles. They would go off to do their extra 10 miles and then rejoin the 30 mile route at the second aid station.  As we were eating and chatting, the leader of the 40 came through and passed us, closely followed by the second placed chap, Mike’s mate Dave.  We set off again and about 10 minutes later Mike came past, looking as fresh as a daisy twirling away in his Union Jack tutu.  A kiss for Sarah and a few words of encouragement for the rest of us and he was on his way, soon disappearing out of sight heading to catch up the leaders.  Mike finished in second place, behind Dave.

There was a quite a gap before the next of the 40s passed us but then they were coming thick and fast.  What was brilliant about this was the friendliness of the whole thing.  As much as we applauded them and said “well done”, this was returned the same with, "well done you too".  I can't get over how relaxed it all was.

Chatty Distractions

Random accidental leg photo.
We met and chatted to a lady called Carol.  I renamed her Marathon-Carol after she told us that she was part of the 100-marathons club and was due to complete her 100 in the next few months - I think she had 19 to go. She was taking it steady today as she'd been having a few injury problems - not from running as such, but from falling over!  One of her mishaps included tripping over a tree root and breaking some ribs! Ouch - she was still recovering from that whilst running this 30 miles. Respect.

We met a young woman who we'd seen at the start and Sarah commented -and Tina and I agreed- that she looked like Sue Walker from the back - similar size and shape, hair and running gear.  She caught up with us perhaps half way through the run.  We got chatting and I asked her name because I knew if I didn't, I'd just start calling her Sue!  Her name was Laura but amusingly, she said we could call her Sue if we liked, so she became Laura-Sue. It was her first Ultra and some of her running buddies were doing the 40.  She'd hooked up with a couple of people to run with earlier on, but one of them got tripped up by a dog at the start and hurt himself quite badly.  He tried to go on, but eventually had to pull out, and his friend took him home.  So I think Laura-Sue was quite pleased to find a friendly bunch of people to tag along with and she ran with us on and off for the rest of the race, coming in with us at the finish.

Support on the Route

Quite apart from the super-supportive volunteers and the '40s' passing us, we had some extra personal support along the route.  Just after the Cresswell Crags check point we were greeted by fellow runner Claire Bates and her husband Ian and girls, Martha and Edith.  I can't tell you how good it was to see familiar faces and the distinctive blue of the CRC hoodies. There was much cheering and waving from all of them and much posing from us. What a boost.  We were lucky to see them.  Sarah had given them an approximate time that we would be there - about a half hour window.  They then headed off and caught us again a few miles further down the route, which was a real surprise.

Great photo by Claire - can you tell we were pleased to see her?  Look at Smiley Sarah - bubbling with joy!
How lovely is this picture? Martha and Edith - our own personal bike marshals! Photo by Claire
As we headed off Claire told us that there was more support down by the ford.  Who should it be but the King and Queen of parkrun tourism, Peter and Paula Speechley.  I had the pleasure of first meeting Peter and Paula on New Years Day this year, when they ran their 250th parkrun over at Hull.  Again, it was good to see familiar faces and get a bit more encouragement. 

Approaching the Bridge and Ford - Photo by Peter Speechley
The water actually looked appealing but I was worried the stones beneath might be slippery. Photo by Peter.
Just before the final check point - whoop whoop - who should be see but John Rainsforth and camera.  Another much needed lift. I was certainly slowing by that point and my pace was only a tad quicker than granny-tapping (picture an old lady running for the bus - her legs are definitely doing a running motion, but she's not covering much ground). No matter how tired I am, I can always crack out a smile for the camera. 

Photo by John Rainsforth
At that point we had to run parallel to the road, use a pelican crossing to cross the road (on peril of disqualification for non-compliance) and then back up the other side of the road.  As we looked back across, there was John again, ready to take the below photo from across a very busy road. Skills John.

Photo by John Rainsforth
Bless us. Look at our faces. We all look happy, but Sarah looks ecstatic. I was overwhelmed with pride in all of us and so pleased for Sarah. After all the injuries and set-backs and wondering whether she'd even make the start line, it couldn't have gone better.  She was saying that she thought it might start to get mentally hard after 22 miles (our longest training run being 21.6), but she never floundered at all.  I had a minor internal wobble at 26.2 because I was in unknown territory on distance, but the end was in sight.  I saw the whole event as 10 parkruns and my spirits lifted when there was just one parkrun left to do.

The Finish

We planned what our finish would look like. I had some Lincolnshire flag bunting in my bag, which we unfurled as we came down the final straight. We could see Chris and Cheryl holding the Lincolnshire flag.  We could see Robey the Panda - our CRC mascot, who had been released for the event by his landlady and minder, Jayne McConochie and fellow CRCers who had come to support us at the finish, Andrew, Claire and family and dog, Rachel, Mike's mum and dad, Paula and Peter and Mike, who had already finished the 40 and Kate, Andy and Frankie who had already finished the 30. 

We've done it!  Cheryl, Chris and Frankie watch as we approach the funnel. Photo by Mike.
It was fabulous to see them all there and the noise of cheering and clapping was amazing and humbling and uplifting all at the same time.  I feel sure that we got the noisiest welcome at the finish line - CRC are SO good at support.

We'd barely crossed the line when Sarah announced, "we're doing the 40 next year!"  Although this was slightly tongue in cheek, I seriously think that if even one of us had said at that point, "go on then, I'm up for it", that is what we would be doing!  I suppose it was inevitable that Sarah would end up as crazy as Mike! 

Needless to say, after getting up at 4am and spending the best part of 7 hours running, the finish was pretty emotional.

6 months training, 31 miles today.                                     My first sighting of Robey the Panda

Runners, supporters and Robey the Panda at the end of a fantastic day. Picnic time! Photos by Mike

Photos by Mike
The running was a major achievement.  But equally important has been the cementing and strengthening of the bond of friendship during the training and on the run itself.  There's a great feeling of camaraderie between those who have run together on the day, which extends to those we've trained with and those who have supported us throughout and been there for us on the route and at the end.  I'm sure I speak for all of the runners when I say a massive thanks to those who turned out for us. Sarah, I would have never have attempted anything like this if it weren't for you.  Mike, thanks again for planning our training runs and for all the advice and reassurance along the way. 

Caistor Goes Ultra - We're on THE TUBE!

Obviously, I can only tell this whole story as I see it, but the video below, by Peter Speechley, perfectly captures the essence of the day and features not just the Fantastic Five (although we are truly fantastic!!!), but our fellow CRC Ultra-runners and supporters.  Thanks again Peter.

As always, this post is much longer than I meant it to be.  But I just can't shorten it without losing important bits that contributed to the whole experience.  

The next post will be about the very next day,
NLHM Cheryl's first half marathon.

1 comment:

  1. This is brilliant Fran brought a little tear to the eye.


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