#260 - Shotley 50 Race Report

#260 Shotley 50 done! (More like 52.7 actually!) For what its worth was actually a 50 mile PB... which is more a reflection on how tough my other 50 miler was rather than how quick this one was! A gentle bimble around the rather more undulating Suffolk countryside than I imagined it would be! Harder work too as legs were pretty worn out from the ten marathons last week and also caused by the main achievements of the day, 11 LDWA aid stations and I didn't consume a single biscuit, cake, pudding or sweet! It can be done! Though deliberately under fuelling yourself at ultras is not really recommended! lol


The LDWA events haven't been too much on my radar of late. Pages of instructions with lots of TR, BL and SLOTs over stiles and kissing gates down tiny overgrown single track paths and the ilk aren't exactly my cup of tea. I think its mainly the lack of maps and the ever present thought of getting lost that concerns me the most, not to mention that I seem to take utterly inordinate amounts of time to complete them. On the other hand they are infamous for their fantastic "aid stations" otherwise known as picnics, cake fests and general good value! Rachel was keen to do this one and quite late in the day I decided I'd keep her company, a leisurely jaunt around a flattish Suffolk route couldn't be too tricky I thought, it was a qualifier for the LDWA 100 should I ever want to do that and the alternatives for the weekend weren't too thrilling either! I'd originally left this weekend blank as rest before Lakeland 100 but having decided for some time to be skipping that was rather at a loose end otherwise!

My preparations had been rather filled by trying to compile a GPS trace of the route. Someone had kindly emailed me a rough one from 2011 that they'd made and I was refining it based on this years route and variations. That's another thing, often the route is handed out on the day, so zero chance to prepare a Garmin trace! (Which is roundly frowned upon by the traditionalists of course! At mile one I overheard a comment when my Garmin beeped by a couple behind me along the lines of "what could you possibly want one of those for!)). Whilst I wasn't able to get it precise as in true LDWA style you just get some map grid references which aren't much good for latching down a turn to 5 yards do at least give you a vague idea to a few 100 yards which way you should be going and would save getting utterly lost!


Being an LDWA ultra the "early start" was 0845 for the walkers and 0945 for runners (no 0600 starts here!) So we decided that we'd set off with the walkers (many of whom at these events set a fair pace!) and then try and pick things up a bit after a while as not to beat the check point opening times. Wasn't really expecting to see too many familiar faces at this sort of event but was nice to see Gil John, Rita Williams and Elaine Oddie. Had a bit of a chat and at 0845 we were off.

Rachel was basically going to do the navigation and I was going to keep an eye on things with the Garmin trace I had (which in some places I was a bit dubious about) which in the end worked well, though I wished I had my own set of instructions too as its an awful long day meandering around and on occasion an extra set of eyes would have helped I think.

It wasn't long before the field (maybe 150 in total took part) spread out a little bit and we settled in to a decent forced march type pace, the odd little jog to keep the miles at around 13/14/15 minute pace and out in to the wilds we went. Navigation early on tends to be pretty straightforward as essentially others are always in sight and tends to be more of a "checking" rather than navigating as you're just playing follow the leader. Which can be fatal! lol

Things were all pretty much OK for the first 5 miles or so before we hit the first bit of tricky terrain along the Stour Estuary, sand and shingle which was tough going. My left quad hadn't been terribly happy from before the start and here it began to start getting a bit sorer and in fact it would be a steady worsening all day on that front. I also noticed (and I had gaiters on too) that I got some rubbish in my shoes which was unusual with the "Dirty Girl" gaiters I wore. Several times during the day I had to empty them, and more often there was just a "something" that wasn't quite bad enough to stop to remove. I came to the conclusion that it must be something of a design flaw with the Cascadia 8s I was wearing as somehow it was working its way in. Grrr....

It was also during this early part that I decided that I was going to deliberately under feed myself! I had managed to turn down biscuits at the start and I figured out that typically I might have 300/400/500 calories of goodies at each check point and there were 10, plus the start and finish. So the potential to down 4000/5000/6000+ calories. Easily! LDWA events are famous for their cakes and biscuits and so on... and normally I would happily tuck in!

However I am trying to lose a few pounds in order to help my running and whilst I suspect very strongly that this isn't the approved method of doing it, shifting your body 50 odd miles fuel deficient is a good way I thought to burn a pound or two of fat!

So at each check point I steadfastly looked at the cakes, biscuits, pies, custard, sausage rolls etc and stuck to the sandwiches and crisps and was really rather pleased with myself ultimately that I was able to maintain the discipline as several times late in the day it would have been very easy to have grabbed a handful of biscuits to much on as really was very energy deficient for much of the day!

And so the day progressed!

Went past a lovely part of England called Flatford Mills - very much "Constable Country" a National Trust area that was very pleasant and I looked longingly at the little cake shops, folk rowing boats and enjoying picnics and did have a serious "so why are we doing this again?" moment! (Though on that note when I got home I noted that Mel Smith, the comedian, had dropped dead of a heart attack at age 60, but lets face it, bit of a porker... so maybe that's why we do it.)

Have to say I was pretty much OK for the first 30 miles or so, we were making decent enough progress, the running bits weren't terribly quick but decent enough, and seemed to a bit more up than perhaps I had expected... and a few more stinging nettles and brambles and general growth of stuff on narrow twisty paths than I'd like but was OK.

We did go astray really at just the one point, missed a finger post, but the Garmin trace had us off route so we quickly figured out something was wrong so didn't get too much "extra value"... once or twice things were a bit dubious or unclear and again that's when the Garmin traces are invaluable whilst they're not accurate to the yard, if you're 100 yards off in the wrong direction you can soon see it, so that was well worth the effort in the end.

The end game though was rather a struggle for me I must confess. My feet were gradually getting sorer, my left big toe especially (I lost the nail some time ago and is growing back, but I think digging in a bit at times) was very painful at times and my left quad was just getting worse and worse. Throw that in with an utter lack of energy by about mile 40 led to some pretty tardy miles!

Had hoped to be home by dark but wasn't to be, and LDWA events at night are real slow as you follow the turn half right for 14 yards, through the gap in the hedge, TR, BL to finger post etc rather than just turn right up the road for half a mile to the finish!

But got the job done in the end, was actually a PB for a 50 mile event (was actually 52.7) a not terribly impressive 14 hours 15 minutes (have done rather better in the first 50 miles of 100 milers mind you!)

Did treat myself to bowl of cereals at the finish mind you, but continued to keep the iron discipline up! Even on the Sunday, no "reward" days...

All in all I think on reflection an enjoyable day, Rachel did really well on the navigation and although was a bit of a struggle for me it wasn't like at any moment did I think I wouldn't get around. I don't think 50 milers are really my cup of tea, the biggest challenge of the day was would we finish in the light or dark. I should have prepared better, about mile 35 I was thinking I really should have taped my feet up 100 mile style to try out something different rather than just treat it as a long marathon and basically just show up and go, so that was a wasted opportunity.

Would like to have gone quicker but was "held back" at the start by the need to go slow and once again was never able to get going, I just get in this mind set that its a long forced march with a bit of running. Rather than a lot of running with a bit of a forced march mentality, very hard to shake that, and not found the formula for it yet.


Things I Learnt

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