1. Malt loaf makes my guts explode: I quite like malt loaf but had never had it in a race before. What could go wrong? After a couple of pieces at CP1 and CP2, my stomach was gurgling like mad and I was convinced I was going to crap myself, possibly to death. After two poop-less toilet stops at CP3 and a public toilet shortly after, I was reassured it was “just” bloating, but that didn’t stop it feeling like I was being punched in the guts with every stride.
2. Malvern is Hilly: Ok, it was the Malvern Hills Ultra, but bloody hell. The stretch from 20 miles to the turnaround at 26 miles and back to 32 was really tough up over North Hill and Worcester Beacon.
3. However bad you think it is, it always gets better: From mile 20 to mile 32 I was in agony, but shortly after that it subsided and I was able to run a something like a normal pace again.
4. However good it gets, it usually gets worse: by the time I hit mile 40 the fact I’d eaten almost nothing due to feeling sick hit me like a sledgehammer. I choked down some gels, including a Torq one with 90mg of caffeine in it which worked for a bit, but I haven’t felt that dead on my feet since Fen Drayton last year.
5. You can always rely on the kindness of strangers: When I was struggling at mile 42 or so, a guy came out of his cottage and asked if any of us wanted some water. I was desperate for the water and the short break it’d give me, and the offer managed to shake me out of the dismal mood I was in for a bit.
6. You can always rely on the idiocy of strangers: The kind stranger had filled my bottle with fizzy water, so of course ten paces away from his cottage my water bottle was spraying water all over me like a fire hose.
7. Runners are awesome: I ran almost the whole race with a guy called Mike. He fell quite badly early on and I stuck with him to make sure he was ok, and at the 26 mile turnaround, although he’d gone ahead while I was making a pit stop, he waited for me and we set off from there together. So many times in the home stretch I told him to go ahead as I knew I was slowing him down, but he stuck with me, telling me to get on with it and shouting (mostly encouragingly) at me to keep going. I’d have been out there at least another 30 minutes if it wasn’t for him, and his wife who kept meeting us at points along the way and helping fill bottles, point us in the right direction etc.
8. Navigating well is easier than running fast: In the last 10 miles we passed the same group of walkers three times in 40 minutes, missed three turnings, and had to climb over a barbed wire fence to get back into the field we were supposed to be in. Even now with the map in front of me I have no idea what we were doing.
9. There is no feeling in the world like ending a race that’s gone really badly: I was happier to finish this race than I was to finish the LGF 6hr that I won. That’s how bad I felt.
10. My “bad” is getting better: After all that, I stumbled across the line in 9:56 and 6th place, after running somewhere in the region of 56 miles (against the 52 mile course) with 8,500ft of ascent. If I’d laid off the malt loaf I reckon I could have saved at least 30 minutes, and the detours in the second half cost at least the same again.
So a few things to focus on for the Apocalypse 50 in two weeks’ time. I'll be malt-loaf free and glued to my map the whole way this time for starters...