The Wye One Way 50
Date: 12th October 2013
Distance: 50 miles (actual distance covered 54.55)
Elevation: 1,860 m
This was the third race in a series of 4 that I had booked to do with Might Contain Nuts (MCN). My build up to the event was poor. I had done a 50 mile challenge a few months previously. However, since then had only had a chance to go out for 2 or 3 20ish mile training runs. Thus, didn’t feel that physically prepared. Therefore, in the weeks before the event I spent a lot of time mentally preparing.
The day before the event I left with the plan to arrive at the Woodlands Outdoor Centre in Glasbury-on-Wye, the finish point and the overnight accommodation, at about 7:30pm. Allowing me enough time to relax and find somewhere to eat, should the food available onsite not be to my liking. However, as I sat in a traffic jam, no more than 15 miles from my home.
All I could see what the ETA ticking over. I was now getting stressed and concerned about arriving too late, missing checking, not being able to get anything to eat and then spend hours driving around trying to find somewhere open.
I arrived at the centre at 8:30pm, half an hour before check in closes. I grabbed a spare bed and made my way to the dinning room. They where still serving, and did so well into the night. As I sat eat, others in the dinning room where sitting there studying the map, looking at elevation, route, etc. I had decided to only give it a cursory look. Mentally I didn’t want to know too much. This way I wouldn’t be aware of what was coming up, and less likely to reach a check point and decide I could not do the next section and pull out. As it turns out a good plan.
My glance at the map I knew the first half of the course through the mountains and hilly and the second half way in a downhill direction and this is all I wanted to know.
Back in the bedroom I meet my fellow room mates as I laid my stuff out and packed my bag for the next day, we discussed what time would should get up the next day to catch the 6:00am bus to the start. 5:00am was agreed and the 3 of us settled down to get some much needed sleep. That was until some late comers bundled into the room looking for spare beds.
As various alarms went off it was time to get going. Bag checked and rechecked I made my way to the coach for the hour long drive to the start. I used this opportunity eat a bit more and catch some extra sleep as this was going to be a long day.
We arrived at the start with half an hour to go. I waited until there was about 10 minutes to go before removing my coat and tracksuit trousers and dumping them in the baggage van. Ready for the off as the sun was just coming up. I knew it would be at least 12 hours before I finished, probably more like 13 or 14. The general plan was to run at a comfortable easy pace, walk up the hills, and take on carbs every 30-40 minutes.
Within half a mile we where going up hill. Didn’t seem too bad so I kept my poles in my bag. I was in a large group of about 20 people stretched out single file along the path. The course was well marked and I was happy to follow the person in front. However, somehow we missed a sign. The next thing I knew people where walking back towards us. Maps out we stood around trying to work out where we are and how far off course we where.
I had a Garmin eTrex GPS mapping device with the route on it. I had brought because I have been lost on these events in the past, and my map reading sucks. I pulled this out of the pocket on my pack. From this point on when I was not sure out came the eTrex.
I worked out we where over a mile off the course, and it would be over a mile to get back on course. Great 4 miles in and 2 miles up already. Nothing can be done about it now just work my way back up the hill for over a mile and re-join the course. On the positive side it had reversed the order of the little pack I was running in so started to catch the slower guys.
A quick fill up of my bottle at Check Point (CP) 1 reminded me I was not drinking enough, so made a mental note to drink more or I would suffer in the latter stages. A check of my GPS watch showed just over 7 miles covered. We should have done about 4.5 at this stage. So pressed on to the next check point. Between CP1 and 2 there was a large section of tarmac as we ran down road. Due it being downhill and on a slight angle I could feel a dull pull in my left knee, not help by off road shoes on tarmac.
From CP2 the road changed to a gravel path across a bridge to more tarmac and gravel paths. It was fairly flat and nice views over the reservoir. Good opportunity to relax a bit and refuel as the next section was bound to be up hill.
As I approached CP3 we cross the reservoir and the photographer was out. He took this great shot.
Arriving at CP3 a quick refill of my water bottle, I was now drinking enough. It was a steep uphill section. Poles deployed I worked my way up the hill to join a woodland access road at the top. The next section was a combination of access paths and roughly made roads and then more tarmac. Where possible I ran on the grass section as I was concious of that dull pain in my left knee.
This was one of the longest section of the course. The weather looked like it was on the turn and I was heading up into it, so I stopped to put on my running tights and rain jacket and eat a bit more.
It couldn’t have taken me more than 5 to 10 minutes. However, in this short space of time at least 10 people past me. What was of concern was the guy walking next to this older lady picking up the signs. He checked I was ok and he continued up the hill. Surely he was not a sweeper, I must be way inside the cut off time.
I set off up the hill after him and soon past him and the older lady and caught up with a young lady doing her first 50. As we continued climbing we started the question if we where going to get pulled at the next CP. I checked my watch even with the extra miles we where well inside the pace. The course changed to downhill, I was not going to take any chances so rapidly descended make the most of this downhill and technical section. Passing mountain bikers struggling up the hill I felt a bit bad about leave this lady on her own. However, no point both of us getting pulled.
As I arrived at CP4 in a village. This is where the marathon had started so 26 miles to go. There where a couple of guys I had seen at the last race in the series. They had passed me in this at the late stages, so was it pay back time?
As they chatted to the marshals I quickly refilled my bottle and set off ahead of them. I was walking and eating so they slowly jogged past me as we headed out the the village.
The course changed to tarmac tracks. I tried to keep to the grass bit in the middle. Then I felt a sharp pain in my left knee and hobbled to a stop. I walked a little and it eased off but still hurt.
I was between check point so in any event I would need to make it to the next check point to pull out. I hate taking pain killers during a race as it can mask all sorts of issues that will cause you issues later. But nothing for it, I could not make it to the next check point as it was, so out came the compulsory first aid kit. I took 2 ibuprofen tablets drank and eat and started walking.
The pain killers kicked in, as did the caffeinated gel, the weather changed for the better and the course changed to trail. This was the kind of course I love, off came the jacket, away went the poles and I was off. If my knee flared up again I would pull out at the next check point. But I was feeling ok so time to push it a bit.
As I ran through this technical wooded section, I would catch a glimpse of a couple of runners ahead. As I got closer it was the guys that where at the previous check point. I was soon able to catch them and pass them. Just the mental boost I needed.
Arriving at CP5 I didn’t want to loose any time to the guys behind me. Quick chat to the marshals, as I had seen them and all the previous events. They said if I didn’t see a sign follow the Wye way signs, as it turns out this was great tip and cut out a lot of potential stress later.
Through another technical wood section I emerged onto a section of road. I could see from my eTrex that I needed to turn off so I did down what I thought was the path. It was actual a driveway. I spotted the course signs in the field next to the drive. So had to run back up the drive and found the gate for the footpath 10 meters from where I had turned.
At this point I was meet by another runner who had also missed the turn but ran up the road past it. She was running with her dog. We passed each other a few times on the next part of the course until I pulled ahead. The section followed the river as was through fields, woods and peoples gardens. There where some amazing houses on route, a truly beautiful area.
CP6 was in the town of Builth Wells. From here it was through the town and up hill on a B road. I had seen a small group leaving the check point as I arrived. But the road twisted and turned so much I could not see them ahead of me. The course came off the road and back onto trail.
It was starting to get dark. I held off getting the head torch out as long as possible but as I approached another wooded section there was nothing for it. I stopped put my jacket back on, as there was a light drizzle, put on my head torch and refilled the pockets on me pack with gels and bars, and headed into the woods.
I came out of the woods, it was now night and almost walked passed the CP7. Refilled the bottle and asked if I needed to go down the road. The marshal answered yes so I set off. The drizzle had turned to rain and as ran down the road I missed the sign to the footpath. A stroke of luck the race director was driving up the road spotted me and pointed me in the right direction.
Back on track the next part of the course was across fields and through very steep and twisty wood section. The MCN team had been out and put glow sticks on the signs which made the course easier to find in the dark. Even so I had to stop a number of times and scan around to find the next sign. When they said at the race briefing the had put out over 500 signs they where not kidding. Most of them seemed to be in this later sections as the path twisted and turned through some fairly heavy wooded areas.
Even after 40+ miles I was still able to run at a reasonable pace. So I ran when the course let me and walked when it didn’t.
Entering some fields you had to “encourage” sheep and cows, waking them up at times, to move out of the way of the gates and styles, as well as off the mud track the formed the path. With concentration levels high I had to keep reminding myself to eat and did so on the field section.
My phone had rang about a mile out from CP8. It was stuffed away in a pocket and difficult to access. I thought twice about answering, was it the race director calling to tell me I was out of time and to drop out at the next check point, or checking where I was as I had missed the check point. As it was by the time I had stopped and unpacked the phone it had stopped ringing. I was my wife checking I was ok. Didn’t want to worry her so I left it until I finished.
Arriving at CP8 I was a bit shell shocked from the last section. It was very tough and even though it was mostly downhill the twisting section in the woods difficult so it had taken me over an hour to do 3.5 miles.
There was just one more check point to go, so 2 more sections and both around 3 miles each. I tired to pick up the pace and covered the next 3 miles section in 40 minutes, considering the time taken to open gates and spot the course I was flying. It was a case of open and close the gate, scan around for the next marker or find the path, run and repeat.
CP9 was in a village. I ran down the road looking found the marshal sitting in his car. He congratulated me on getting so far, I was waiting for the but you can’t continue. He checked I was ok and then asked if I had GPS so I didn’t get lost. Therefore, cautiously I started the next section, checking and double checking I was on the right track. However, no need to be concerned. The course was well marked and flat by comparison.
As I looked behind I caught a slight of a couple of head torches bobbing along. With no reference point I could not tell if they where 1 mile away or 100m. I was not taking any chances. I had worked to hard to give up places now, so I went for it.
As I came up the path into the village I could see someone ahead. I felt a bit bad overtaking someone with a mile to go so I slowed. They where frantically looking at the map as we entered the village. I ran slightly ahead to encourage them to run with me. However, when I looked behind they where walking so I left them. The thought of getting caught by someone else at this late stage spurred me on.
I entered the grounds on the centre and ran around the taped route and cross the finish line. Strangely even though I had been up since 5:00am, had run with the earlier mistakes 54.55 miles, and it was nearly 10:00pm, I was in good shape and felt like I could have continued.
My new nutrition plan and products, Mulebar, seemed to have made a massive difference. The last 50+ mile ultra I did I felt terrible afterwards and could barely walk to the car let alone consider going any futher.
I called my wife. Got a rather nice meal from the canteen, showed and went to bed. The next morning I was a bit achy, packed my stuff and made my way home. Another great event by the MCN team and looking forward to the next one in December.