Well it's been several months since my last post and to be honest there hasn't been much going on and training has been pretty much stuck in 2nd gear. So I decided not long ago to enter a local race in Bishops Stortford. The Stort 30.
The Stort 30 is a new race for the ultra running calendar organised by the guys at http://www.challenge-running.co.uk/ . I have always wanted some organised races in Essex (being local it's suits me travel wise) so this was an opportunity not to be missed so I signed up pretty much a few days after being announced.
The objective for today was not one of seeing how fast I could go over the distance but to mainly to spend time running in my back yard (not practically) with my mate Johnny and to get a decent run in the legs as days like this are few and far between at the moment.
I set off from home with nothing more than just a coffee for breakfast and arrived 15 mins before the race briefing. I caught up with Allan Rumbles (@ogeerunner on Twitter) who I had been chatting to for ages but never met. Always good to put a face to the words, Allan don't worry your not that bad looking :) I also met up with Johnny and met his wife.
The briefing was straightforward and race director was very clear and concise about the course. Directions wise it should be pretty straight forward but we were given directions anyhow just in case there was a need to refer to them if there was any doubt. We were told the course was mostly gravel paths but with about 40% of the route through grass / mud and given the rainfall the previous few days it was probably best to have shoes with grip. I on the other hand had road shoes and would have to try my best not to slip over :)
All the runners (about 60 in total) gathered outside for the start and within a couple of minutes we were off, running around the field for a couple of laps. Johnny and I started off at quite a swift pace and settled into a pack of about 6-7 runners. We navigated a little bit of tarmac before reaching the riverside. The mud was fairly slippery but it wasn't too bad apart from a few slips. We arrived at the first water station (6 mile mark) in around 47 minutes which was pretty quick going but I felt good and grabbed 2 cups of water before going on my way again. I settled in with 5 others who were running with me chatting away about the route, other races done, the usual subjects of discussion:)
I consciously slowed down a little bit here because I wasn't going to maintain that pace I had started out at so I let a few of the other runners go on ahead. We reached the next station around 11-12 miles and again grabbing some orange squash (couple of jelly beans that I nearly choked on) before plodding on. My friend Johnny and I were running pretty much together and it was good to be pretty much chatting and running all the way to the half way mark. The route proved to be tranquil and time pretty much slipped away as we chatted. There something magnetic about keeping your eyes on the river winding in and out of the land.
When we arrived at the check point (15 miles) in around 2hrs 10mins we noticed that we had not seen many of the runners who had been running ahead of us. It appears some of them must have taken a wrong turn despite the fact I found this the easiest race to have navigated, follow the river to halfway and then follow it back :) Simples..
I took 1-2 mins to grab a couple of drinks and a quick chat with the marshalls / race director who are a great bunch of people by the way before we turned around and started to head back. Within the next couple of miles we saw many of the runners who were ahead of us point and say "How did you get ahead of us", we responded in turn and said "It was practically impossible to get lost :)". That poin kept coming up.
During the next 5-6 miles I started to feel a soreness in my back and right inner thigh but we were still making good progress so pushed throught it. We reached the water station (around 20 miles) in just over 3 hours. I spent a couple of minutes here and grabbed a handful of plain crisps as I had a craving for them and washed it down with more water before walking out and seeing how my leg felt.
It was within 5 minutes of leaving here that my right leg become quite painful along my right inner thigh when lifting my leg so I decided to walk for 5 minutes or so to see if the pain subsided which it did but the pain in my back was still there and this was aggravating me. I said to Johnny that I wasn't going to be able to run the next 9 miles without mixing in some walking but he didn't have any issue with that and the point of today was to run together and enjoy the morning for what it was. Top lad.
For the next 9 miles I knew that I could run / walk in but along with the leg pain I had back pain also in my upper left back something I have never had before so that was bothering me. I looked at what was I anticipate that the constant need to stabilise myself in the road shoes on slippery mud didn't help and this was causing an imbalance in my right leg and upper lower back. During the last part of the race we were overtaken by a few people who had caught up, I didn't mind to be honest as this was a training run and it I was not in shape to race hard and with the leg / back pain it was not a good plan anyway. We reached the last water station and I made sure I took the opportunity to stretch the legs out but it was difficult to target the sore muscle / tendon in question on the inside of my leg before moving on and getting this race done.
Having left the station I knew I could easily keep up running for 5 minutes / 1-3 minutes walking for the duration. Having navigated easily back to the start we arrived at the Race HQ with just a lap of the park left before finishing. We crossed the line together finishing the 30 miles in 4hrs56mins18secs. I immediately sort after a Coca Cola and Cake, always a great combination post run :) ha ha.
Although things didn't go exactly to plan I enjoyed the day immensely and sharing it with running buddies made it all the better. It turns out that a runner in the race got a little upset about the lack of signs / directions out on course. Personally I thought it was the easiest navigation I have face in a race and I am notorious for having little sense of direction except when it comes to moving forwards :)
Overall it was a great day out, great company, great organising by the race director, big thanks to the friendly Marshall's and rewarding for everybody involved. Highly recommend for veteran or newbie to this distance. Will be back next year that is for sure.