running

We did it! We ran an ultra!

It’s been a few days now since we completed our ultra and I’ve had a little time to digest what we actually achieved. I still can’t believe that I can say that I’m an ultra runner! It’s bonkers!

It was an absolutely amazing day, and I don’t say that lightly. I thoroughly enjoyed every last bit of it. I know that sounds crazy and you’re probably thinking ‘but some bits must have been really tough’ but honestly I didn’t struggle all day, which I was totally surprised by.

I think the reason the day was such a great experience was down to who I spent the day with. It was a team effort from start to finish, and I’m not just talking about us runners. There may have been nine of us who covered the 40 miles but we would never have managed without the support crew we had around us.

The support we received on the day, from our She Runs: Cardiff support crew and friends and family, was more than we could ever have dreamed. It seemed every five miles someone popped up to say hello or we reached a check point so the support was non-stop throughout the day. A special thanks to Gruby who managed all the support crew comms so that all we had to do was message every five miles as a heads up as to where we were so they could work out when to expect us at the next check point.

The support crew kept us fed and watered all day, who knew that cheese sandwiches, ready salted crisps and ice lollies were the right fuelling for an ultra. The ice lollies were a stroke of genius as it was so hot and I wouldn’t have thought about it until they were offered to us… and gratefully received.

It was an early start on the day with my alarm going off at 4.50am, who even gets up at that time unless they are going on holiday! Well me evidently, when I need to be in a taxi on the way to Ogmore at 5.40am. It didn’t take long to get there but the poor taxi driver did get a shock when he asked whether we’d like to arrange a time to be picked up to head home and we told him we were running back to Cardiff.

Kidney Wales had very kindly given us some vests to run in so a quick change and some photos and we were off…once we worked out which path we needed. This could have been a disaster but fortunately we quickly found the right path and were on our way.

As we weren’t right next to the sea I hadn’t expected it to be so sandy underfoot. I’d also not anticipated the number of sheep who were looking very disgruntled at us as we interrupted their breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning.

It didn’t take us long to reach the sea and soon we were tracking across east keeping the sea to our right. I must’ve sounded like a broken record as all I kept saying was that I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The scenery was breath-taking.

I’m so glad I wore my trail shoes as the grass was long in places and my feet got quickly wet but my shoes dried out fast. The ground was also fairly uneven in places as well as it was all trail for the first half of the run.

The first bit of the route was quite hilly, but they were shortish so it wasn’t that energy sapping. We almost missed the turning for the first check point but fortunately there were some other runners at the top of a flight of stairs who casually asked whether we were expecting a group of people to be meeting us. It’s just as well we saw them or we’d have been off in the wrong direction.

We headed down the stairs and at the end of the car park of Llantwit Major beach weren’t just the support crew we’d been expecting but lots of others as well. It was quite emotional coming into the stop as we’d not expected that level of support there. It was so lovely to see everyone and whilst we were fed, watered and re-filled our bottles and bladders we had a catch up with everyone. In that first 11 miles I managed to drain my one litre bladder of Tailwind it was so hot. The rocket ice lollies were a genius call by the support crew and were perfect for the quickly warming weather.

We stopped for about half an hour before setting off again on the nine miles to reach the half way point. Again the scenery was stunning as we ran and walked along the coast path chatting about this and that. A mile out from the next check point someone from work had offered to come out with water. After so much Tailwind it was really refreshing to have just plain water. I’d drained nearly another litre by this point.

A mile further on and we reach our next official check point, Porthkerry country park. We stopped for some lunch, oranges (I had no idea that they were exactly what I needed at that point until I had the first one) and a change of clothes and shoes. That freshen up made all the difference. It meant that I had clean and dry (read not dripping in what was probably by that time stinky sweat) top, shorts and socks on and I changed into my road shoes. A couple of minutes out from the check point I’d noticed the start of a blister coming so as soon as we’d stopped I’d taken off my shoes and socks and cleared any extra sand from my feet. I stuck a plaster on and Zoe, one of our support crew who also happens to be a doctor, taped the plaster into place so it wouldn’t budge. It worked perfectly. I was a little worried that after wearing my wider fitting trail shoes my road shoes would be really uncomfortable but decided I’d wear them anyway. The support crew very kindly took my trail shoes to the next stop in case I wanted to change back into them.

The next section of the race isn’t the most visually interesting as once you are through Barry Island its a slog into town and then back out again before you see the sea again. It’s the least prettiest part of the route and there was little shade along the way. I felt ok fortunately, mentally and physically but some of the others found it tougher going. I’d been planning to take my headphones for this section in case I needed them but they’d broken the day before so I was headphone-less but actually that didn’t matter as we chatted along the route.

We were lucky to meet family members on the stretch out of Barry unexpectedly to pick up extra water but also I took some paracetamol because I had a headache coming, most likely the heat and tiredness.

Nine miles on from the previous check point we stopped in a layby on the outskirts of Sully (glamorous I know). It was just as well we were due to stop as my watch had started to flash that the battery was low so whilst we refuelled I charged it up. I’d tried to not charge it up on the go as it’s a touch screen and the idea of losing my run 29 miles in was horrible. In line with the rest of the day I had another cheese sandwich but there was also watermelon (another perfect ultra snack as it turns out) and Gruby had made brownies, which were delicous. Some of the others opted for a cup of tea too!

It was only five miles to the last check point on Penarth Cliff top. Time for some more water and another ice lolly before the last few miles across Cardiff Bay Barrage and into Cardiff itself.

We all stuck together and supported each other along the route, by now we were all tired having been on the go for a long time but we knew that there wasn’t long to go. As we got within a mile of the finish people started popping up either to run with us or to give us a wave on the last stretch. We’d not expected it and it was a lovely surprise. As we came down the last road at the finish line were our families, support crew and also lots of our She Runs: Cardiff members who’d come down to cheer us on. Even writing this now it still brings waves of emotion. We had a lovely celebration and it was great to be able to stop and chat with everyone.

I am so proud of all of us and what we achieved, runners, support crew, friends and family. It really was a team effort.

So far we have raised over £1600 for Kidney Wales, which is just amazing and I know that the charity really appreciate it. They have been hugely supportive of us across their social media channels.

If you do have a spare pound or two our sponsor page is still open and the link is here.

Time to slowly get back to running! I’ve been told that even though I might feel fine it’s sensible to take it slow so that’s what I’ll be doing before I ramp back up again for the actual VOGUM in August.

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