How I discovered I was supposed to be running 86 miles at the weekend... (The Ridgeway Challenge)


Why had I signed up? What was I thinking?

Well, I ran the Country to Capital in January, it had gone well considering my ongoing head injury recovery, so I'd decided to see what I could aim for towards the middle of the year - this would give me plenty of time to build up, plan train, judge my ability and so on, etc etc.

Then I completely forgot about it.

In my defence my short term memory is still a bit of a mess, and it's possible I did just completely forget as soon as I'd entered. Also, there were no follow up update or reminder emails that you usually get for these sort of events. So it was a bit of a surprise to learn from twitter that I had four days to prepare. Right.

So what to do? Do I DNS? Do I try to finish? or something else?

I'd been OK for a few days at the start of the week, but then it all went wrong towards the end with night after night without sleep. The night before the race and I'm still awake at 4am:

The general advice was ah well, take it easy, go to bed, listen to your body.

Fuck that.

The weather forecast had been promising, albeit it was starting to look like it might be a little warm.
I decided to go and play. For one thing I *had* got a long run planned for the weekend, since I'd missed one the previous week, so this made sense. Total sense.


I had absolutely no intention of finishing, this seems odd to say and will confuse and/or annoy some ultra people. There's a big "death before DNF" attitude around and "even if I have to death march for 30 miles, I will finish". This isn't me (I think I've mentioned this before)

My plan was - I'll start, there's no point *not* starting, hopefully I'll see some familiar faces around, then I'd see what happened. Perhaps I'd only get a few miles down the road, perhaps I'd get half way. We'd see. I could have a play and see what my body could do in the heat.

Pin skin man

At the start. I saw the "skin-pin man" seriously? what. the. why? To be fair, he seemed like a nice enough chap, we had a little chat, but really? unless you're getting lots of publicity or charity money? why the hell would you do that?

Signing on the marshal admired my nails and congratulated me on my kit colour coordination. 👌

I had no drop bag, so, was just a matter of sitting in the shade and waiting for the start.

A few minutes later Dan Lawson's "The Running Dan, run-truck" pulled in, oh brilliant! I hadn't realised James Elson was running, and Dan was the current course record holder. Was he running too?
As James walked around a couple of people near me said they'd heard he was going for the record. OK now that was hilarious, and I do have a huge amount of respect for him, but that surely had to be some sort of wind up, I didn't know if that was James or someone else at the time - later finding out that it had been Dan spreading the news. Classic.

After the long long hike to the start line, we gather for the briefing and we're off.... now it's really getting hot, so I ponder quite how to manage this. I have a think and conclude I'll go for the "how far can I go full on(ish)" tactic, can I get to half way?

I see skin man and a few others going like absolute animals off the start, hitting the first hills at an utterly mental pace. Crazy. OK Yes, I'm hardly running sensibly (for me), but I have no idea what they're doing, unless they really are that good.
About 10 miles in I pass him. He looks totally destroyed, and his skin is looking very sore. I guess he wasn't that good after all. 😀

At one point I pass a huge buzzard just metres away dipping into a field, just fantastic.

I chat to one or two others as we race along, and after we pass through Wendover I realise that I'm coming up behind James. Ah, OK. now here's a dilemma, clearly I *shouldn't* be up here, this isn't the level of running I can do or should be doing if I was intent on finishing.

So. Do I trot up for a chat, knowing that James will consider me a complete and utter idiot, or do I gracefully pull back a little bit? I decide I'd like to say hello and have a chat.

Perhaps I'll be able to dig out a few nuggets of information about the POSFR. (I couldn't)
So I trot up and we run together for a mile or two chatting a little, I *try* to make clear I'm not planning on finishing, although I'm not sure if this is a sure fire way to lose someone's respect who takes this stuff seriously and is currently on a mission to finish all the races he's failed at before. Oh well. I've done dumber.

After a while I drop back a little (ok a lot) and press on in my own thoughts.

Follow the stripe

I'm still aiming for getting to half way, and I think I can hold this pace that far.

I said it was hot

A couple of miles before the marathon distance the heat hits me hard, and affects me quite badly. I realise I've lost my ability to run in a straight line without full concentration and I've got an on-off head pain (a symptom of my head injury).
I *thought* I'd got the hang of running in the heat - I've had both heat exhaustion and heat stroke before, and know how it feels, how to deal with it, and thought I'd figured out how to prevent it, but clearly haven't quite cracked it yet..

I had been taking plenty of salt and water but clearly it's just not enough in these conditions (and pace).  I make it into the 26.2 aid station, a lovely marshal looks at me for a moment and states clearly "I'm retiring you here".
Ah. That bad huh?
I negotiate a little, explain how I'm feeling and what I'm going to do now and reassure her I'm not just going to just run off.
I lie down in the shade, raise my legs, and take on a huge amount of coke and salt.
I send Cara a message immediately so she can head over to get me if needed, and I start moving about to judge how I feel.
After half an hour or so, I feel fine(ish) again, not only that the temperature has finally started to drop slightly. I seek out the marshal and she's really happy to see me up and about, I guess I must look somewhat better than the first time she saw me 😁. She wishes me luck and suggests I catch up with a group that's just left to stick with.
I let Cara know I'm on my way to the next checkpoint now, but I feel a bit bad now that I've dragged her out and I have no choice but to stop at 34, I can't really suggest her waiting about for hours if I do fancy trying to get on to half way.

1206249. sx318
I catch up with that group in front and we have a lovely chat for a few miles. Then I decide to pick up the pace a little and get on with it since I know I'm not going to be going on any further and I don't need to pace myself. I get to the 34 checkpoint, graze on the snacks and let them know I'm dropping.

Physically I don't feel too bad, everything's a little tired and sore, I could probably walk/run on, but I know I'm just not going to get any further than half way I'm spectacularly under-trained.
So I'm feeling fine. I had no intention or expectation of finishing so I'm not feeling any disappointment at all. Time for home.

The organisation and atmosphere for the event was just brilliant, just the right level, everyone was really professional and experienced, pretty sure I'll be doing this one again.

I get out for 10 miles the day after, pleased to mentally tick off the "that was the distance I'd wanted to cover" box, and again feeling fine now.

So what's next.

It's the Piece Of String Fun Run, a race you can't train for. So that's ideal for me.

Lactate good

In other news I'd seen some interesting research on TBI (traumatic brain injury) and lactate, which made me feel a bit better about the amount of exercise I've been doing. Admittedly it's mostly referring to and concentrating on the time immediately after an incident, but learning how lactate is involved and used within the brain is fascinating. Perhaps it's actually helping.

Lactate Shuttle Theory, Relevance for Traumatic Brain Injury. 

I certainly feel good when I'm running, even on bad days, it doesn't seem to make matters worse so I'll keep going.


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