Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 50k Trail Race 10th August 2014
I entered the 50k race of the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 trail running/walk event this weekend just gone as a debut for me to dabble with a couple of ideas. Firstly that, based on my relative short to long distance PBs, I might do better at longer distances and secondly that it could also provide good training due to my apparent predisposition to endurance running. It would also be nice to run an event which is much less time/pace focused.
My initial plan had been to run the first 5-6 miles with the leaders (assuming similar times to recent years of c. 3hr50ish) and see how I felt and then decide whether I could push on, based on my recent 50k run-commute I did in 3:40. I had purposefully had a light taper week and bit of a carb depletion (mostly to try and get my weight down a bit) and load the day before. I fitting in a sneaky Parkrun jaunt the dat before too, just to keep the legs fresh for Sunday.
On Race morning I filled up with a big bowl of banana porridge and honey before leaving the house and took 6 gels with me as a precaution (wise choice), as I didn't really want to be testing my fat burning capacity in an hilly ultra for the first time too!
Weather was looking ominous, but actually turned out to be reasonably good, got a bit wet at times, but the sun came out in the last 6-7miles and it got fairly warm. Milling around at registration I bumped into local Commonwealth Games marathon runner, Steve Way, who had decided to enter the race late instead of a solo 35 mile Purbeck Hills run. Don't say I blame him given how windy it was on the coast on Sunday! So then the plan changed a bit and I opted for the run with Steve for as long as it felt comfortable option....
We were off at 9am and the first few miles wound up the river valley north of Salisbury with a few stiles to navigate (good time being at the front, no queuing to get over!), followed by a very scenic lap of the Old Sarum Castle overlooking Salisbury. At about 7 miles we were suddenly joined by a third Italian sounding guy, who was clearly up for stretching things out a bit, so at that point I let him and Steve go on. I was fairly sure I wasn't going to be able to keep up with them going up the hills ahead! From then to around 15 miles was quite pleasant, a bit up and then a long descend down over a river and past a stately castle. Some-where around 15 miles I came into a field with no route arrow marking the exit which resulted in a moment of panic as I wondered which way to go, thankfully I was rescued by the guy in 4th place who caught up and had the route loaded into his GPS and we got going in the right direction again. Less than a mile later we came into a field to find Steve and the 2nd place guy in the same predicament, the cause was a herd of cows standing in front of the gate with the route arrow on it! A bit of cow shooing ensued and we were momentarily running in a group before the two leaders started to pull away again. I then lost touch with 3rd place going up the second major climb of the day, to compound things I started getting worrying twinges from my right ankle. Worried about a potential retirement I eased up a bit and tried adjusting my gait to try to alleviate the problem. Thankfully it eventually passed, but I did have an wife-and-car based escape route at 22 miles which would have come in handy if it hadn't.... At this point I was just in 'long training run' mode, no pressure to catch 3rd place (still in sight though) and just get to the finish.
Pretty wet at around 12 miles!
Last climb up to Salisbury race course actually felt good and I was glad to turn downhill at mile 24 for the run home. The last 6 miles are flat tarmac, but before that we had the entertainment of some low hay hurdles, where wheat had been harvested and the straw left in tall piles across the race route! Getting on to the road at Wilton I could see 3rd ahead of me, but my legs were starting to hurt pretty badly, so I wasn't trying to catch him. Never the less I slowly reeled him in and then nipped past as he stopped for a drink. It was then just head down and get on to the finish, the pace was decent on the road (comfortably sub-7 miling), but my legs were struggling with fatigue. The energy levels were good (thank you gels!) and with a few miles to good 2nd place came into view. Given that only a couple of miles earlier I had been told that 2nd was 7mins up on me I realised he must be slowing a lot, so tried to maintain my pace. He gradually inched closer, but even as we dodged passed ambling tourists outside Salisbury Cathedral with under a mile to go he was still holding a good 50yd lead. I finally got to him coming up the river footpath with under 500m to go and then gave it as much kick as I could muster into the finish straight to hold him off by 2secs at the line . Finished in 3:35:07 with legs shredded, the walk to the leisure centre for a shower was not much fun!
Overall an awesomely organised race in lovely scenery and very happy to bag a good result and training run.
A 'sprint' finish in a 50k,race - 3rd place just out of shot right...
Top 20 Results (full results available online here)