Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dartmoor Discovery Ultra Marathon

Saturday saw the Westgates and the Lascelles duo at Princeton for the 10th anniversary Dartmoor Discovery 32 mile Ultra. A stroll in the park for Lin and Martin but a step into the abyss for us ultra virgins. Training included a week’s holiday to build up strength by laying and pointing a huge area of paving. Unfortunately this backfired as we both got dehydrated and backache.

Having checked the weather forecast Richard and I were among the few runners who wore coats over our vests; Richard also wore gloves and kept his coat on for the whole race. We started off slowly at the back and I thought conversation pace meant talking to everyone I knew, plus a few who I didn’t. Richard lagged behind for a while, then drew level, but the talking proved too much for him and he moved ahead. I spent the rest of the first 10K getting bored with the sight of his yellow coat an irritating distance ahead, before he pushed on out of sight. I prayed that he would be tempted to try and “race” the next 26 miles, fall apart as he nearly always does on a long run resulting in me beating him!

The second 10K was probably the most enjoyable, good scenery, lots of downhills, sunshine and feeling good. Nothing much to say about the route through Ashburton, which led to a long hard climb back to the moor. The weather now changed: thunder, hail and continuous rain. I wished I had brought my Everest Base Camp handwarmers, which I had optimistically thrown out that morning. Richard said he couldn’t feel his fingers towards the end and a marshal offered to pour out his special drink at the 29-mile refreshment station.

Make no mistake, this is a testing route but it does have some excellent viewpoints, streams, stone bridges, wooded hillsides, chocolate-box thatched cottages, sheep and ponies with foals. Shame about the cloud and rain, apparently it was 25degrees C in Milverton.

Organisation was excellent; friendly marshals and drink-station people. Split times were called at various points and our own special drinks were transported to any of the 10 stations. I had ginger beer towards the end and it made a refreshing change. At the finish there were free teas, coffees, bananas, sandwiches, biscuits etc. The moment runners crossed the line a blanket was wrapped around them, a real benefit on a cold, wet day. Unfortunately Richard didn’t blow up and finished in 5:33:22, but I wasn’t far behind at 5:46:42 (unofficial times) which probably beat him on an age-graded basis! (And I ran the last 10K about one minute faster than him!!!).

Lin and martin had a slightly slower run than last year with Lin persevering with some pain in her knee but still putting in a strong last 10K. Apparently her time will mean that Lin won’t get the No 1 race number next year!

Additional words from Richard:

My race plan was to run with Lesley and hopefully finish in just under 6 hours. Soon after the start I realised I didn’t want to run with Lesley – she talks too much! But I did set off slow and comfortable and it felt good in the sun. reached 10K at 58ish, 20K in 1:56ish, marathon in 4:25ish so the times were well on schedule for under 6 hours. The cold, hail and rain proved a bit of a challenge. A lady runner thought ‘cos I was well dressed that I was an experienced ultra-runner – no, just an old git who feels the cold! Last three miles were a real mental battle – took about 34 minutes running completely on my own but there were occasional supporters who really cheered me on. The blanket at the finish was so welcome and I must admit as I did some stretches on a stone wall there were a few emotional tears, relief at finishing, relief at staying ahead of Lesley, relief at not feeling sick and bad and having to lay on the ground in a recovery position! Phil England drank flat coke on his Ironman marathon section and this also worked for me on my two special drinks.

Good to see many familiar faces, a huge contingent from Teignbridge Trotters, Jonathon Day from AVR, Alan Littlejohns, and Kevin Day of Goyt Valley Striders, the organiser of the Shady Oak 10K which we ran as a warm up for the White Peak last year. Also met a geezer who has done all ten Discoveries, and he lives in Essex!

Respect to Lin who ran on through knee pain, must take an extra stubbornness to keep going in pain, especially knowing that on a better day you could be 30 – 40 minutes quicker. Respect to Martin for staying with her when he could obviously have pushed on. Naturally in similar position I would have stayed with Lesley!

PS from Lesley. Was this the hardest thing I have ever done? It certainly wins for sheer effort, but the final day’s walk to Everest Base Camp is just ahead as I was more exhausted afterwards. The effort of trying to get there while suffering from altitude sickness definitely took more out of me.
Postscript from Martin:
I took some pictures early in the race before the rain. Unfortunately the camera phone soon became waterlogged and I was unable to get any pictures of Lesley and Richard after the race ( or for 2 days afterwards until it dried out).
Lin running down the hill towards Ashburton, not much sun left.
Rain threatening Just before half way.

Its really raining now.
The highest, and the wettest point - so far - hope the lightning doesn't hit us!
Meanwhile, back in Dorset, in fact everywhere else but Dartmoor!