There are three answers to this.
I’ll start with the biggest factor. Simply, I wasn’t fit enough. That might sound an odd thing to say considering I did finish it but I was really under cooked for this. There’s reasons for this and mainly it was following a summer of low mileage.
In June I went into hospital with kidney stones. The stone was too big to leave but the hospital couldn’t remove it as they didn’t have the right equipment available. I had a stent fitted and was put on list for the removal of the stone and also the stent. While I could run with the stent it was uncomfortable and I would pee blood afterwards. My running through this was massively reduced at around 20 miles a week. Not enough to train for a hard 50.
I had the 2nd part of the operation on October 6th, 7 weeks before race day. In that period I did manage to get my mileage up to a maximum of 45 miles in a week but not consistently. I also focussed on the distance and while I was running hills they were nothing like those in WW.
Not that I’m doing that race ever again but if I were, and if you are considering it, you need to train hills. Not run-able hills but hills where you are scrambling on all 4’s. Then once at the top run straight back down again. I lost the ability to run down hill more so than moving up hill.
There were times, particularly through the 4th lap where I thought it was over and I wasn’t going to make it. I was really struggling and yet summoned enough to do it. That comes down to experience and sheer determination. I went deeper and darker than I have ever gone before. This must be what people talk about when they say that when your body tells you you’re done you actually aren’t. There’s more in you and you need to tap into it. I definitely did that through this race. It’s kind of awesome to have done that. As much as I wanted to quit I didn’t.
The second thing was I underestimated the course and the challenge it presented. It’s advertised as 50 miles with 9,500ft of gain. My Garmin showed 51.7 miles and closer to 11,000ft of gain. I trained by running 15miles with around 1,200-1,500ft of elevation. Nowhere near enough. What was I thinking!!
The third thing was the issue with my diabetes that I have written about here.
The combination of those factors nearly saw me DNF. The closest I have ever got to those three initials.
So what about the race?
It’s amazing, Wendover Woods is a beautiful wood. Lovely scenery and an unbelievably challenging course. The first lap, the only one I probably enjoyed(!), was a real treat - running in a new place in really great conditions was a real treat. The course was incredibly well marked (although I did go wrong twice!) the aid stations were great. The people working those stations were AMAZING. It was a long day, it was an incredibly cold day and yet they were there smiling and helping everyone with such enthusiasm and care. Just AMAZING.
Finishing in the dark was pretty cool too. My new head torch was a real win on kit with 300 lumens being perfectly adequate (Petzl Actik). Also my Salomon s-lab 12 litre vest that I work out of the packet was every bit as awesome as the 5ltr version I have. They say you shouldn’t wear kit you’ve not tested but it was fine.
At the finish you get a medal (probably the heaviest ever) and t-shirt. There was lots of congratulations and support. There was soup too - pasta, vegetables and potatoes. Importantly it was hot and savoury.
Looking around and there was lots of disrepair. Broken people all with beaming smiles.
Ultra running might hurt but it’s worth it.