Six months ago, I was injured, unhappily cross training, and doubting whether I’d run again without pain. This weekend I won a 50 mile race and was top three overall. Strange how things can turn around.
The Beacons 50 mile race is part of a race series in the Brecon Beacons, consisting of a 100 miler (considered one of the toughest 100 mile courses in the UK) and the 50 miler, which was on a new course for this year. I was attracted to it for two reasons: firstly, it came with 4 UTMB points and I needed them to go into the ballot for 2019; secondly, half of the race covered ground that I knew well from my own training in the Beacons and I knew it would suit my running style and abilities. It was advertised as a fully marked course, and I took some comfort in knowing that the first and final 10 miles would be very familiar to me, and that I could look forward to seeing some new mountains in the middle portion of the race.
Since my last race, I’ve been ticking over, doing a sort of marathon -style training plan, with track work once a week and an tempo run, and long runs, but none further than 20 ish miles. I didn’t over-push the training as I knew I was fit enough; a few longer runs and some hill sessions of a few hours along with my usual weekly mileage seemed to keep me feeling strong enough. A week in Cornwall allowed me to do a three and a half hour run on the coastal path, which got me plenty of ascent and a few Strava crowns to boost my ego and give me a bit of confidence in my climbing strength. I destroyed my Altra King MTs; the uppers tore off them, but they had done Transvulcania, Scafell, and a very gnarly coastal path run, as well as winter training. I decided to replace them with the new Inov8 Ultra Graphene shoe, which is zero drop and wide like the Altras, but the graphene sole is marketed as the grippiest around, and the kevlar overlays on the upper are supposed to make them nearly indestructible. I took a deep breath and ordered myself a pair (wincing at the cost), and am glad I did, as they were fantastic on the wet slippery Brecon rock. The hype around the graphene is true, the grip is outstanding.
The race went so well for me that it is hard to describe. It was one of those runs where time folded in on itself. There are hours where I simply was running, they slipped by like seconds, hardly noticed. The race had issues with the course markings being removed or tampered with and I did have to rely on the GPS trace on my watch for a lot of time. Even using that I got quite lost twice and was reduced to bushwhacking through trackless ferns and undergrowth. Despite that, I never quite stopped enjoying myself. The final climb was cold, wet, and with 45 miles in my legs I had a bit of a “type 2 fun” moment, but held my nerve. I ran it in, even managing a 5:30 kilometer at km 88 (god knows how). My watch said 91km, and 3,500m of elevation. It took me just under 13 hours, and I was only 38 minutes behind first place overall. First woman, third runner, no aches, pains, or blisters, stomach held together, head was solid, and I finished without needing my headtorch. Nailed it.