Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

October 15, 2010

Rowbothham Round Rotherham 50 mi. (60 mi?) 16 Oct 2010

I started at 6 a.m. with the walkers (faster runners started an hour later), to give myself some proper warm up time with no runners to distract me, and to save myself the possible chance of finishing in the dark.  It all backfired, though, since we started in the dark, it was cold, I hadn't pulled out my map yet, or figured out the "wainwright style" of picture navigation http://www.hmarston.co.uk/rhac/trail/rrr_map/rr_map.pdf, or seen the route markers on the course.  I started working my way (by running) to the front of the walkers, stopped when I could see no one ahead of me, and stuck with two guys to make sure that I wouldn't get lost.   Little did I know by that time we were already off route, as at least 20 walkers around me all missed the "DON'T GO UNDER THE BRIDGE" note at 4k.   By the time I started wondering if we were correct, realized that the two men with me were first-timers as well, we were at 10k distance, and I pulled out my map to check myself.  Luck would have it, there was a woodyard at just that location, matching the map, and we went on farther, although nothing else made sense.  At that point I didn't realize how accurate that wainwright map of the course was supposed to be.  

  Anyway, we finally realized that we were off course, but how far off course?.   We wasted some time questioning dog walkers trying to figure out where we were and see if there was a shortcut back to the course.  But it seemed that there really wasn't, and we had to come all the way back to 4k to get back on the course. 

My GPS track of the RRR to the first checkpoint.  Notice the large detour almost to Barnsley.
I wasn't laughing much, at the time...unless you count slightly hysterical laughter that covers up the real desire to sit down and bawl.  There was a moment of pure terror...the two guys and I, were running back to our missed junction, and we had just left one guy behind, thought he had stopped to pee or something.  We met up with a bicyclist who was following a runner, and thought he was on the right trail but had also gone wrong.  We had to convince him he was wrong (to help us find our way back, a bike is handy), and the guy supposedly relieving himself in the bushes never showed up, so the other guy went back to look for him, and didn't come back.  So the bike guy promised to return, and took off looking for both of them.  They were all gone at least 10 minutes, which is nuts, and here I am still on the wrong trail by myself wondering how 3 people could disappear.    In that moment, it all came crashing down how wrong we had gone, and I refused to look at my GPS distance to that first checkpoint, where I started my clock over again.    When I got home, I finally looked at it, and realized that I had covered over 20 miles to get to the 10 mile checkpoint. 

Anyway, so there I was, sitting in the middle of a bike path, waiting forever for three people to maybe reappear.  It was a moment to either snap and call a taxi home, or take a deep breath and try to find some mental strength to keep going.  Finally the bike comes back, and the first guy, but not the other guy.   They reported that they couldn't find him, finally called his cell phone, and he stated that he thought he had found a quicker way back to the trail, and left without telling us, to do just that.  These two guys were buddies, so that seemed kind of harsh.  I guess stress makes people make bad decisions...I'd rather be lost together than alone.

We were soon back on the right path, bike guy took off ahead.  By that time it was 9 a.m.  And we were 4k from the start!  I started wondering when the first checkpoint closed, and figured out I better start booking it if I was going to make it.  I even called the emergency number to see if they would keep it open for me to come through.   The guy left with me was going too slow, so I had to push on by myself, and I told myself I could do this....and I did.   I eventually caught up with the deserter friend, who HAD found the trail ahead of us, but probably only because we had wasted so much time waiting and looking for HIM.   Passed him, too, and finally made it to the checkpoint.   Later I heard that the two men behind me got lost (again), and never made it to the first checkpoint, so I was the last one through there.   By that time I was quite out of water, thirsty, and determined to still finish because this is my qualifier for the 100 miler next year.  

I filled my water bottles and started off again...I think every checkpoint from then on, I caught a few more people, mostly walkers who had also made navigation errors at the same spot.  I heard lots of stories of the 4k missed turnoff.   Having run an extra 20k (at least) in addition to the course, I hit the 68k checkpoint at 10 hours 40 minutes.  I figure that would have been around my proper finishing time (had I not gotten lost), maybe I could have pushed to finish just a bit faster as I still had running legs up to that point.   From there, I was pretty wasted, and it started getting dark.  Having navigated almost the whole way on my own, I felt comfortable doing it, but in the darkness I wanted to be with other people.  Couldn't find anyone until full dark, when I caught up to some very fast walkers who took me all the way home, but it was slow going.  Finished in 14:35, ouch. 

So, I never saw any runners start to finish, which was a bummer as I had a few friends I was hoping to see.   I liked the course, fairly flat, the fields weren't too muddy, and the two rainshowers were minimal.  On a rainy year I don't think it would be as nice, though.  The little bit that fell while we ran, made the clay of the fields (we crossed quite a few right through the middle of freshly plowed sugar beets and winter wheat) stick to my shoes like glue and added pounds to their weight.

 In retrospect, I think I was underconfident of my running abilites and navigation skills, and probably could have run the whole distance.  If I do this one again, in good form, I will probably start with the runners and make a proper go of it.  I did manage to pass about 30 people, so I didn't finish last, and became somewhat a minor celebrity at the checkpoints, as the people manning them had been told of a runner that went really wrong, and still managed to keep going and finish. 
I'm still shaking my head.  I want that one to do over.   Maybe next year.  

October 8, 2010

Pathfinder Challenge 15 mi. 9 Oct 2010

I completed a 15 miler on Saturday with a new friend I met at the Tuesday evening interval run in Harrogate. Helene dragged me around the moors at a fairly fast clip, and by the end of it I was struggling to keep up. Fifteen miles seemed to be an appropriate distance the week before the Round Rotherham 50 miler, but after some fast runs and bikes during the days before, it was a few miles too far. I determined to take it very easy the rest of the week, to be well rested for Rotherham.

The run itself was mostly over the North Yorkshire Moors, and I’m sure the views would have been beautiful if it hadn’t been so foggy. I was very happy to see a well-stocked checkpoint midway through the run. I swear the table under the tent was almost sagging with the amount of home-baked goodies on offer. I probably would have gotten delayed at the checkpoint much longer sampling the wares, but Helene and her friend Cath, following us via bicycle, were itching to get moving again. The paths were pretty dry and runable, so we finished in just under 3 hours, which was fast for me and probably just a walk in the park for Helene.