|The 52m Route|
It’s the first of GB Ultra’s series of the year and as such, the training took place over the hardest of the winter months. It’s been pretty grueling training in rain, sleet, snow, ice, darkness and everything else Winter has to offer but on the upside it did shake off all the Christmas indulgence!
|Start Line @ 6am|
Race morning was a very early get up at 4am to get to Waverton Village Hall in Chester for the pre-race briefing at 5:30 and a mass depart at 6am just as dawn was breaking.
The weather forecast all week had been for light rain all day but we weren’t complaining that it hadn’t yet materialised (although we were to find out that it had already done it’s damage over the preceding few days!).
Leaving Waverton we set off along quite lanes and a very well marked and signed course towards the River Dee. The mood and atmosphere were great and the trails a bit soft underfoot but good running! An hour or so running saw us arrive at the first pit stop just as the heavens opened (but a good opportunity to don the rain jackets whilst under the pit stop gazebo). We stocked up and continued along the River Dee into Chester passing the racecourse to the second pit stop in city centre Chester alongside the ancient walls. The rain had stopped so we were able to stow the rain coats in the running packs for the remainder of the day.
From Chester we picked up the canal to head out towards Frodsham, crisscrossing the M56 before heading into Dunham Hill Village and our 3rd Pit Stop (and opportunity for a very welcome hot cup of coffee!). The pit stops on the GB Ultra events are fantastic! So far, so good! The route had been muddy, I’d had a fall, but nothing really holding us up and we’d covered at least 20 miles in under 4 hours.
From Dunham though it all changed! Here was where the climbing started (which was still ok) and the mud became thicker and more troublesome (which was really not ok!)...
The views atop of Helsby hill overlooking the Dee Estuary and the Wirral were fantastic! The mud became progressively thicker, deeper and prolonged! At our slowest point we trudged just 2 miles through plowed muddy cornfields in 50 minutes. It had stopped being fun and was becoming a bit frustrating.
A brief respite as we dropped off Dunham hill into Delamere Forest followed before the final 10 miles or so in the worst of the mud, the pace and progress really slowing. A final, six mile trudge along the canal in the dark to return to Waverton just about finished us off! That was our quietest darkest moments. A couple of miles from the finish and my wife Karen and our dog Ollie appeared unexpectedly out of the darkness!?! Karen had been ‘live tracking’ our progress and had come to give us a morale boosting cheer on… Priceless! J
The frustration turned to elation as we crossed the finish line at 7:25, 13 hours and 25 minutes after we’d set off! We finished joint 159th out of 250.
The thick, clay-like or liquid mud slowed people’s progress to a walk and there were several falls and quite a few DNF’s. The last of the days runners finished in 18.5 hours which is an indication of just how tough the conditions were.
GB Ultra’s organise superb events, and other than the mud which was outside of their control this was no exception! The team and volunteer marshals really couldn't be more helpful and attentive! Absolute starts every one! Definitely worth doing and glad I have another Ultra under my belt (All thanks to Dave McD for spurring us on!) J