Well, what a windy day that was!!! I couldn’t believe how the conditions looked for the Butcombe Trail Ultra on Saturday: forecast was extremely windy (51mph winds) and incredibly wet until at least the time I could even hope to be finishing. Anyway, the organisers decided to proceed stating that the conditions would be ‘interesting’ and it would add to the ‘fun’ for us runners….
Thankfully, despite incredibly high winds and showers, it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared when we started at 8am. The route had changed this year so started and finished at the Swan in Rowberrow (getting the climb up and over Dolebury Warren out of the way early) and with a detour down to the Rodney Stoke Inn around half-way which meant a hideous climb back up ‘Steep Lane’ once we’d checked in. Other than that the route remained gorgeous and breath-taking (in more ways than one!), with checkpoints at some fab pubs along with way: the Ring ‘O’ Bells pub at Compton Martin, The Queen Vic at Priddy, The Rodney Stoke Inn (clue to the location in the name), The Lamb at Axbridge and The Queens Arms at Bleadon before heading back via Banwell to the Swan at Rowberrow. The marshals and support at each were incredible as was the buffet laid out for us despite the challenging weather!
I felt pretty good for the first half of the route although the winds remained energy zapping for most of it. The worst windy places definitely being around Litton Reservoir; the approach to Priddy (I believe I narrowly missed a tree falling down just after I’d entered Buckley Wood – there was a horrific sounding almighty crash…..); coming across the top of the Mendips from Priddy towards the gliding club above Draycott; Cheddar Reservoir (the spray from the water was nicely refreshing though!); and from the top of Kings Wood across to the bottom of Crook Peak – it was insanely windy and you simply couldn’t run. I just kept my head down and marched on praying that it wouldn’t rain as well and that I wouldn’t fall over. After I’d come down from Crook Peak, so around 35-miles, I really felt like I wasn’t going to make it – my stomach hadn’t felt great since the stop off at Rodney Stoke and I’d had a really dry mouth for some time; things which I’d never had happen before. Even attempting a bit of my usual sandwich made me feel like I was going to throw up, so decided against it. Not long after that when I stopped for a toilet break I actually fell in to the chosen bush (it was a comedy moment now I think back) and then after than smacked my leg on some upturned tarmac at the roadworks not far afterwards! Thankfully I didn’t throw up and decided to give all nutrition other than water a break for an hour – after that I had a caffeine energy gel and it all went fine from there. It also meant I was more in the mood to try and maintain my placing too, which I’d been told at the Queen Vic was second lady; I think I lost first lady at Kings Wood although I’m not sure how as she seemed to be going strong. Better still though was that in the last ten-miles the wind decided to die down a little and was actually behind me blowing me across the golf course near Bleadon – happy days indeed!
Needless to say it was a huge relief when I got to the final few miles by which point anything with a slight incline meant walking and anything going down-hill was agony – there wasn’t much in between. I’m chuffed I found the energy to run the last mile or so back up to the pub and hearing everyone cheering was wonderful. On hearing I had made it first lady too was also incredible, especially as when I’d started out that day all I’d hoped to do was get round and see whether I could still make the distance. I managed 10th place overall out of 65 runners who finished, in a time of 9:28:45 (just under 20-mins quicker than last year). I have to say though that what did make my day and helped me more than they’ll ever know was the amazing support from my lovely hubby Julian and the fabulous Rich Support Crew (aka Joanna, Andy, Sprocket and a bike horn!!); they all kept my spirits up and made me smile even when I felt like pants – I can definitely recommend their help if you ever decide to give it a go……(you know you want to really😉)