Helen Watkinson reports from the Cardiff Ultra at the weekend in sunny Wales:
Sunday was a beautiful day up in the Welsh Mountains. After an early start (4.30am!), we got the coach 50 miles north to Brecon. After collecting our race numbers and having a leisurely breakfast in the race headquarters of Theatr Brycheiniog we had a quick photoshoot before setting of on our way to run home.
This is a beautiful course along the Taff Trail (also Sustrans cycle route 8) which winds it’s way back to Cardiff through a variety of scenery.. We started off along the canal path, before turning out in country lanes, national forest parks and reservoirs.
After crossing Tal-y-bont Reservoir and the first checkpoint we faced our first major climb. This was a very long, slow, steady climb that went on for ever (at least a good few miles) before a further steeper incline then a well needed descent into another National Forrest park.
I first attempted this 50 mile race last year, and even though I’d put in so much training with long runs back-to-back on Saturdays and Sundays I really struggled. So this year I’d decided I would crew Cédric and support him on the pushbike.
However, 10 days before the race, there were a few places left, and feeling confident after my London Marathon PB, I thought I’d give it a go, seemingly not really worried that this year I hadn’t run further than a marathon distance!!
I started well and I felt comfortable for the first 25-30 miles. I was taking it easy, aware that I wasn’t really prepared for the distance, but still managing to run most of it, other than the hills, which I’d already decided I would walk.
At the third checkpoint, around mile 29, I took a handful of dates and home-dried banana pieces out of my rucsack, topped up my platypus, had a stretch and continued. I was surprised that I didn’t really feel hungry before this, maybe my raw porridge and banana/date smoothie for breakfast had filled me up more than I thought!
I found the stretch did me the world of good, as when I got going again, I felt as though I had a completely new set of legs. So I decided every 3miles/5km I could stop to stretch and could always walk if necessary.
I kept looking forward to my ‘break’ every 3 miles and although I was keeping a steady pace, I felt I was running faster after stopping, rather than just plodding on getting slower and slower over time. I also got into the routine of running a mile/walking a minute.
It was a glorious day and probably a little too hot for a 50 miler, but I think that helped me through, as it was such a lovely day to be outside in nature.
I phoned Cédric at 12noon as arranged, 4 hours into the race and I remember being further ahead and feeling better than at the same time in last years race, although I was apprehensive of the forthcoming 35mile area (where I remember phoning Cédric in tears last year saying I couldn’t go on!). Cédric was just a few miles ahead of me, however, he was really struggling this year so we arranged to speak again at 2pm, after 6hours running.
I got to the 35mile point, and felt pretty good, I kept waiting for the wall to hit me, but luckily it didn’t and I continued feeling pretty strong and confident that I’d finish the race.
After the last checkpoint at mile 40, I did a bit more 1 mile running/1 min walking although the stretching got more frequent to every 2 miles, then every mile but I gave myself this to look forward to as they only way to get through it.
Cédric had been struggling more and more as the race continued, however he finished in an amazing 8.51.19hours only a few mins slower than last year. He is in the middle of training for the Forestman Ironman in a couple of weeks, so I think his body was exhausted with all the training, whereas mine was recovered after London as I hadn’t really run much for one reason or another.
I ran into the finish area, cheered on by bemused supporters and the organizer holding up a medal for me to run into straight over my head. He held me upright (as I could hardly stand on my own!) and congratulated me asthe first vegan lady home (although probably the ONLY vegan lady!)
I was shocked to have finished over an hour (1hour, 3 mins) quicker than last year, especially without any really long training runs, so I’m not sure how that happened. I was even more ecstatic to find out that I’d come in in under 9 hours!!!! at 8.59.54hours and as the 10th lady. So very pleased – another PB, but NEVER AGAIN!!
I can’t find any event photos of me, but there’s a good one of Cédric cruising into the 10 mile checkpoint.