Monday, 23 December 2013

The Druids Challenge and my first DNF

The Druids Challenge is a multi day event hosted by It's three days out on the ancient trail The Ridgeway. Day one starts at Ivinghoe Beacon. It's the longest of the three days at 30 miles finishing Day one at Watlington. Day two is a little shorter at 27 miles, carrying on from Watlington to Wantage. Day three is a 28 mile stretch from Wantage to the finish at Wroughton. Covering 84/85 miles. What is really appealing about the race and the reason I decided to enter was, part of the cost was the overnight accommodation in a School hall and a leisure centre the second night. The chance to spend time with other runners not just out on the trails, but to socialise in normal clothes. Also, as a lot of runners who take on this challenge are running the MDS, they have somebody talking on both nights about their experiences of the MDS. A runners weekend where we can talk endlessly about running and not get the roll of the eyes non running friends give.

After a few failed attempts at convincing a friend to join me (That'll be you Michael) I decided to jump in and go for it. I knew it would test my abilities, mainly my recovery. After doing some research, mainly on what to do for recovery, I bought myself some decent recovery compression skins and compression calf guards. Also a lovely eye mask and ear plugs. 

I soon found out after checking the names on the start list that Stefan Klincewicz was also running the event in preparation for the MDS. My new font of knowledge! I met Stefan at a local 10k but we recognised each other from the NDW50. Stefan only lives in the next town, so I now had a buddy. (Not needed now Michael). I tapped Stefan up for information about transport. He recommended the train. So train it was. By luck rather than design, we actually meet up at Clapham Junction on Day one. Also meeting with first time ultra runner Pawel Taterek. Although after talking to him on the train, he is no plodder! 

After what seemed a short train journey we were at Tring station and being picked up by the mini bus the organisers had put on for us. Taking us up to a local farm just below Ivinghoe Beacon. It was here the first nerves set in. This wasn't my first ultra, and I have completed several this year prior to this one, but I felt out of place. No reason to be though, the ultra running community is very open and friendly. I was made to feel welcome very quickly. 

We collected our numbers, I was number 13 for the weekend. I was determined to prove it was a lucky number, but as the title says, I failed at that! We all grab a hot drink and set about sorting our kit. Stefan and myself were setting off at 1100 in the main running pack, the walkers were setting off at 10 and Pawel was in the fast buggers setting off at midday. It wasn't long until we had to drop our kit bags off at the vans and make our way to the mini buses which will take us up to Ivinghoe Beacon. 

The weather up to this point had been ok, but the forecast wasn't the best. Saturday looking the worst, Friday and Sunday should be ok. We collectively made the short walk to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon, in the rain! After a short race brief, Neil Thurbon, the race director let us go. We were off. All of us trying to take the downhill running carefully as the chalk in the ground is like ice when wet. The weather had set in, and would stay for the day.

The day was pretty uneventful for me. The route is stunning but there was a lot of head down running to constantly keep an eye on my footing. The weather never really let up, tights weren't a good choice and the water proof jacket wasn't as water proof as hoped. As the darkness drew in I was starting to feel cold and got my buff and hat on. At the last aid station the head torch came out and I was feeling a little low. I was soaked and was wondering what had I started. It wasn't long after leaving that aid station that Nicky Chrascina and Danny De la Hey. They kindly gave me company and we ran to the finish of day one together in a time of 7hrs25. Thank you guys! 

After locating my bag and getting my bed sorted, time to hit the showers. Although once I got there I realised I forgot my towel and had to walk back. Not what you need after doing 30 miles. Once clean and wearing the new compression clothing I was eager to hit the pub, which was next door. My team Coventry were playing AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup on live tv. Typically though, it was a rather lovely old pub. So bangers and mash was ordered with a Guinness and a diet coke. Stefan and Pawel came too along with Jeremy Isaac and a couple who's names I have forgotten. Sorry. Jeremy had some very interesting stories to tell of his experiences running MDS. Even about the best way to have a poo, I shit you not. The food and the Guinness were the perfect remedy for a long day on the trails and I was ready for bed. 

Day two arrived and I felt like I hadn't slept. Although the compression gear had worked a treat. After a good breakfast I got my kit together and loaded it on to the van. I was off at 7 with the walkers after having a slower day than expected. The weather was rather nice and a bonus. Although it was predicted to change back to wind and rain. After the race brief, I set off with Nicky and Danny. Considering it wasn't long since breakfast we were already discussing roast dinners. As you do. If runners aren't talking about running, it's likely to be food. We decided to make good while the weather was good and started to run everything except the hills. It didn't take long to get to the aid station and get some grub in. I had started to notice a niggle on my left knee. It wasn't a race stopping niggle but I was a little concerned by it. We soon set off downhill and were making good time, although the knee wasn't good. Unfortunately due to the weather the day before, the course was muddy. Although in trail shoes I was struggling with my footings in the trees. After a few several misplaced steps I had to walk. I had already dropped back from Nicky and Danny and thankfully they had carried on. I didn't want to burden myself on them. Sorry guys. 

I decided to take stock of my situation and get some food on. I was worried, my first real thoughts of a DNF. Then the rain came. I pushed on, but I was getting cold, I had sweated under my waterproof and the wind was now making that moisture cold. Wearing tights had led to chafing, despite the body glide. I was struggling. I was only around ten miles in. My knee was throbbing and I wanted to sit down somewhere warm. But I'm stubborn. I decide to attempt to push on walking. I can do 15 min miles, I'll get day two done and reset for day three. It wasn't going to happen. Over the next few miles crossing fields to North Stoke I struggled to get to 3mph. The ground was soaked and I just couldn't get the purchase to move forward quickly. This wasn't a problem, the problem was I wasn't generating enough heat. I was getting cold and soaked. This was bad. After much talking to myself I decided to make the decision to drop at the next aid station. I was cold and soaked and my left knee was throbbing.

2013 Druids Challenge was over for me. I will be back!

1 comment:

  1. Bad luck on the DNF... Better to give in to the inner voice though than to do some real damage through bloody-mindedness and sitting-out 6 months recovering from something nasty.

    I see you're in for the Gutbuster (I take it its the 10M rather than the 10k?) I ran it last year and am doing it again this - although in fancy dress this time as a Blues Brother. In case you haven't done it before, you need to wear trail shoes, the ones with the deepest tread the better!.. Last year it was highly amusing watching all these pavement-pounders trying something different for a change and turning up en masse wearing their normal nike road (fashion) trainers. Going around Silchester which has a camber on the path they all kept toppling like skittle through having insufficient grip! Also the fields will be very soft, going down to ankle depth in the sandy mud for the most part... The last couple of miles are a killer: an unrelenting slog up a slight incline through muddy fields, but at least they have mulled wine and mince pies at the finish!