|Spout Hill-17% of hurt|
I arrived at the start of the Croydon Ultra this morning at about 7:15 am to see other runners had started to collect near to the cricket pavillion and the race organiser, Ian, had set up shop nearby. As is normal at these events the same old faces seem to surface with the obligatory 100 Marathoners attending to no doubt do a recce on the event, I think the two gentlemen I spoke to have about 800 between them!
Registration was swift and efficient with me getting the lucky number 7 ( I was well chuffed as it was a prime number....long story) so dumping my race box and quickly donning my remaining kit we were called to the start line, 12 for now but the course was soon to have 22 of us attempting the course.
The course was made up of two sections, the first took us South of Croydon on a tough little hill number which I relished as I soon found myself second in the field eating away at the hills and miles to take me to the top of the course and out of the suburbs into the surrounding countryside, being very aware that this was the section that would batter the legs I took a "Walk the hill, run the flat" strategy which worked really well and I was pleased I studied the course gradient prior to attempting it as there were some choice ones in the bag, one was 17% and at 12 miles into the run certainly pushed the right buttons however I soon stopped grumbling when a one legged gent with a prosthetic limb came in the opposite direction. All was looking good for me now, it was a downhill section but the heat of the day was coming through and I soon found myself getting the halfway mark in 2 hours and 11 minutes, I was on fire and was well on for a sub 5 hour if I could keep the pace.
At the checkpoint I grabbed some gels, stocked up on water but was now a little miffed as the guys who were behind me had miraculously made up about 10 minutes on me and come in from the other gate... no prizes in this race but it irritated me a little. I moved off quickly in hope that they would squander the time and I was off for the route to Catford.
This is where I can safely say the wheels came off in my race, at the start I took hold of the race directions and placed them in a plastic sheath and had not realised there were basic maps in the rear and attempted to follow the (very poorly) written instructions finding myself in a park area looking for a cycle path that was not obvious and wasting good time running backwards and forwards until we came out on a road to then find we were in a completely wrong part and wasted even more time trying to get back on track. By now the two guys who had caught me up had gone ahead and I attempted to find my way through the network of paths which soon found me lost again and had me doing a 1 mile detour as I tried to get to a named train station so that I could resurrect my navigation. By now I was in a real grumbly mood as I knew my great work at the start of the race would have been squandered and lost.
I was soon back on track and I found that the bad route directions failed me again as I spend way too long looking for a non-existent checkpoint that took me yet another 2 miles off course and had me irritated as I was now short on water and we were in the hottest part of the day by now I had wasted a good 30 minutes of race time looking for my way.
I decided to return to home and my mood was raised when I saw other runners coming in the opposite direction some between 4 and 5 miles behind me and so I raised my pace. Water very low now I was soon on scrounge mode looking for anybody washing their cars or gardening and just as I was about to give up on water I saw someone who was all too happy to oblige. Now with water I had 4 miles to go and on finding the correct route made my way home noting that my 30 mile time was 5:15 and would have been an enormous PB had I got back to the clubhouse but it was not to be so I just went into concentration mode and just knocked out the last three miles with the intention of just getting back in one piece.
As I turned into the cricket club at the end I saw Ian waiting for me with cold drinks and snacks a very welcome sight after a very hot and dusty 33 miles. All grumbles and moans were left on the course and we had a good laugh and joke which was great as it just reinforced that these types of events are just brilliant. Results in saw me come in 6th which I am very pleased with and I know that had I not had the various map issues would have certainly come in fourth or possibly third but we will never know and frankly I am not too worried just very pleased that my fitness has returned.
Ian put on a great show today and it was just misfortunate about the directions. This was an inaugural race which are always the most difficult as it the first time they are "tested" by runners. The Croydon Ultra is a welcome addition to the South London and Surrey area and I hope that it will become a permanent fixture in the years to come