Causeway Coast Ultra. 2012
The best preparation for ones first ultra trail run is to avoid savage personal training workouts 3 days before! I did tell him that I had a long race on Saturday but it must not have registered. Anyway, when I woke Thursday I was as stiff as a board, couldn’t pull up the handbrake on the car or manage steps in any dignified way. Friday wasn’t much better and after about 5 hours in the car driving up to the North coast I could barely straighten my legs. I took strength from the fact that running on tired and sore legs would stand to me for longer distances and that in regular training; I never go far enough or long enough to get the opportunity to really do this.
So, 5am after listening to the wind howling all night got up and had porridge and a jam sandwich and headed off to register. I knew that it was going to be tough weather conditions when I could hardly open the car door against the wind! Sat beside the wonderful Aisling Coppinger on the bus to Portstewart beach and had great chat. What a wonderful athlete she is and a total dote as well.
Quick photo on the beach with the lads, all looking a bit perished, for Pat O’Keefe’s gallery and then we were off along the sand into the wind before turning around and allegedly having the wind at our backs for the next 26 miles or so. Legs were doing ok although a bit stiff but going up the steps to get back onto the road, I had to go up one at a time and go down sideways on the other side. This was going to be a long tough day. LOL
Route was pleasant alongside golf courses and some roadway with a huge sea swell to keep us company for the entire day. About mile 9 I was running along a beach when an older woman with a dog asked me “was I running for God?” I told her we were running for 40 miles. In a cross voice she told me that I should be running for God!!
At Portballintrae (13M) there was a table with yummy cake. Don’t know how I missed the water container. I had expected bottles or cups but didn’t see any so I kept going. I had a minor wobbly going over the bridge just past the feed station. It took me ages to get across crying and snivelling and trying not to be sick but then I was on the way, trying not to think that I would have to do it again later.
Scenery was awesome as we passed the Giants causeway and up the steps to the cliff top. Route was mainly worn grass track, bit muddy in places, so was easy underfoot. Stiles were a pain and the many steps up and down the steeper inclines were killing my already butchered quads. I reassured myself it was great training!!! At times I was bent double making progress into the wind and within moments without changing direction it would push you in the back forcing you forwards before pushing you back again .It reminded me of day 3 in the Quadrathon.
I had another 2 pieces of cake and happily filled up my bottle at about 21.5 miles. It wasn’t long until we were winding our way downhill to a beach with huge slippery boulders to scramble over. At this point, the marathon runners were on the turn around and the leading Ultra runners were hopping like fleas effortlessly across them. I spotted Aisling concentrating hard and making great progress. Go Ais! Was she leading ultra lady? I reckoned she was well ahead. Eventually I made it to the far end of the beach and met Peter Ferris who told me the turnaround point was about another 2-3 miles ahead “seriously”. Fe*k! Half marathon had started by now and nearly got trampled by a herd of runners coming towards me and all battling impatiently to get across the stiles at the same time. Luckily one or two let me cross and so I battled uphill out of Ballintoy to the turnaround point which I clocked at about 28.4Miles. I made steady progress on the way back and one of the 26extreme girls was advising me that the distance would likely end up being 42ish miles but that when I saw the 10k race start that it was definitely 6 miles from there. I plodded on and thought the mark would never come. My battery low warning had come on my new 305 a few miles back and I didn’t acknowledge it by pressing enter. I didn’t realise that it has stopped the clock. So hadn’t a clue how far to go or what kind of time I was looking at. Eventually a feed station with flag appeared and the thought of another 6 from there was soul destroying. Had some more oranges and cake and then found we were only 5k from the end. Yippee. Headed off and luckily there was no one on the bridge at the same time. Reckoned I got across in less than 4 mins and then it wasn’t far to the finish line.
Gentleman Graeme Coulhoun took my chip off and offered me a drink, from the beer table at the finish line. Plenty of others were still standing around supporting finishers and having the chat. Inside you collected your buff and T-shirt and grub. Later my time was text to me and final chip time on website was 8:32. I am very happy with that. I know I could do it faster on fresh legs, knowing exactly the route (went astray a few times) but the experience of gritting it out on tired legs was worth far more than a faster fresher time. GO ME!