Race Review : Easter 50K

This one was not on the race calendar, even up to last month. The original plan had been to run the Highland Ultra in April, and to run the SDW50K a few weeks earlier in prep, and to run the Steyning Stinger marathon a month before in prep for that. But I decided on deferring the Highland race by a year and so the house of cards came tumbling down.

I was not 50 mile ready by any stretch of the imagination, despite the efforts of my coach to get my curvy ass in gear so dropping down to 50Ks (31 miles) became a happy, cheery, relaxed kinda ting.

But now, without three day at Highlands, and SDW and Steyning (as I dropped down to the half), I was down at least 4 towards the 100MC and needed to fill the gap. And so I added a few races including the XNRG Devil’s Challenge in May and this, the Ultra Challenges Easter 50K in Windsor. And there is nothing more relaxed than an Ultra Challenge event. You get unlimited time, as there are a LOT of walkers in field, huge CPs and even a hot meal at the end. #UKHOTFOODCHAT And I have done a few of them and know the form.

Hotel Schitzophrenia

I had initially booked myself into the Holiday Inn, but the mid to low budget chain was charging London prices, and the race HQ was at the Windsor Racecourse in the west of the city, so I binned that and booked a room into Charles House about 15-20 min walk away.

Charles House sent far too many emails for my liking, most including registering my details on 3rd party sites and I feared for the security of my data, and not for the first time in my life (after all, I have used active.com).

They do not give out keys, they use the last 4 digits of your mobile phone as a way of getting into the building and the room. Cool. However, that is where the high tech, modernisation ends. For the hotel is a ropey old end terrace on a  busy cross street opposite a busier Co-op supermarket.

The decor is that of the mid 1970s, with nothing matching and questionable materials.

It did have two full radiators and a heated towel rail and I would come to appreciate the location of the Co Op and the radiators fully within an hour of being there because I decided to go and get my race pack on the Friday pm, You can collected it before you run, but with an 8am start, and being told the registration lines will mean you should be there an hour earlier my logic was that if I could get my bib and pack no, ahead of time, I would gain an extra hour in bed. There was one minor issue – the weather.

Yes, so I started walking to the racecourse and it started to rain. And the rain got harder, and harder. I could have turned back but I had a hat and a hoodie so persevered. When I made it to the HQ it was muddy as Hell, and blustery too. I felt sorry for the volunteers putting up the tents and flags for the next day but was now on a mission. Pack collected, there were only 4 of us doing this, I squelched my way back to the Co op, got all the food I needed for the night and the morning (saving me heading out for takeout or dinner) and made full use of the radiators to dry my sopping wet clothing, the only clothing I had for the next day after my race.

The Day of

Next morning I felt relatively rested. I had enjoyed some sleep, despite the traffic noise, and heat in the room *what with the radiators being on. It had stopped raining around 6am and was forecast not to rain at all during the day. This had been a problem for me as it dictated the pack I would take.

I normally wear a WAA hydration pack with 2 soft flasks. However, my horrendous race photos from Steyning put me right off wearing this as it separated my moobs, and sat atop my belly shelf. Not a good look. So I bought a fanny pack of sorts, that has space for a solid bottle and enough from for phone, keys, and gels. I was not a huge fan of it bouncing around my backside so the day before I went to Mountain Warehouse in Windsor on the High Street and bought a different pack that has the bottle on your hip, that was also large enough to store my ultrathin Omm waterproof jacket. I also bought a long sleeved base layer.

I wore black short, black socks, and a dark grey t-shirt over the pale blue base layer and a black baseball cap. I was determined to look less fat in these race photos, even though there wouldn’t really be any as Ultra Challenges don’t do photos.

There was a lot of standing water on the way and cars hydroplaned through it, drenching anyone close by. And we made it to the racecourse in time to drop our bags off, and pay the extortionate £5 fee for the privilege, and ignore the warm up.

Is that a giant frickin’ rabbit

The Route

A figure 8 on it’s side, more of an infinity symbol, with the racecourse being the start, mid-way point and finish.

How I did

I was out with the earliest wave, supposedly runners, but as I guess you can nominate the wave you want, there were plenty of charity walkers too. Still, going out with the runners, we soon left them behind and we ran back past my hotel to Windsor and Eton Riverside station and then out of Windsor. It was fine. Nice, paths, no one around as it was early on a Saturday. But, after crossing a road and going onto trail for the first time, we hit mud. And it was deep. The two person wide woodland paths were more than ankle deep in mud and muddy puddles in which you could lose a shoe. Immediately it was clear we couldn’t run on this. So we hopped from patch of grass or patch of grass, trying not to slip

The mud was so bad at times people grabbing bushes, tree branches, and iron railings to make it along the outside, and then we hit an underpass.  When I reached it people were edging their way along bricks above the water. It was a bottle neck. (See photo bottom right in the collage above)

It was  tough going, we were jogging when we could but there was very little chance to get a good head of steam.  We were slow, but at the half way point of the first lap, so about 12.5Km in close to Runnymede, we hit the first checkpoint and made the turn for home.

This would not be easy either. Not initially anyway, as the next field, that had a concrete path bisecting it, was under about 4 inches of icy water. Despite my trail shoe of choice for 2023 Altra Lone Peak 6’s being good, they are not waterproof, and I had no waterproof gaiters too. And so my socks got drenched. 13K into a 50K.

It made for an uncomfortable 12K back to Windsor, but then I had a brainwave. I stopped at Windsor and Eton Riverside Station and, rather than heading to race HQ, I went back to Mountain Warehouse on the High Street, and bought a dry pair of socks, a new T-shirt and long legged hiking trousers, with one eye on the second half of the race.

But the second half was very different, heading out west towards Dorney Village. It was 17K to the next checkpoint, but my legs were warm and my feet dry. This made me happy. What made me happier still was that this part of the course was not muddy. It was gravel track around a nature reserve that was above the water table, so dry (ish) too. We could run. And so I stripped back down to shorts, and gave it a bit of a go, running the 17km to the final checkpoint in my normal racing speed, or target racing speed anyway. I overtook a lot of runners who had burned themselves out in the first half of the race and felt pretty comfortable.

And then it was the last 8km, on the riverside walk, that was crazy mud, until we hit Windsor one last time and past people just going out for the 25K charity walk, and people just starting their second lap. They would be out there until 10pm. I was done by 3.

The Bling

Was ok.

The Bag Drop Debacle

Despite paying £5 for the privilege of leaving my bag at the race. EVERY OTHER RACE IT IS FREE! They fucked up. And all our bags were drenched and covered in mud

I was pissed off but glad I put my change of clothes in a carrier bag in the waterproof backpack. It didn’t stop it being covered in fricking mud though. The assholes.

And I was done. And…. only 8 minutes slower than my 50K PB. So without my stopping at Mountain Warehouse, and then to change socks and put trousers on, and later take them off, I would have smashed my PB. I guess that makes it almost guaranteed I will next time out right? LOL. No. But we can but dream.

In Summary

100 Marathon Club #78 was a bit stressful. The weather, mud, changes of clothes, and the ball ache of potential rail strikes caused me to be anxious the whole time. I am looking forward to running dry trails in road shoes with the sun on my back. That would be good.

I am glad I didn’t run SDW50. I would definitely have DNFd that one. But am glad I did this, and it paves the way for a better experience and time at the Big Way Round, Winchester and the Devils Challenge next month where I hope the weather will be kinder.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE EASTER 50K? Yes, if the weather is better

WOULD I RUN THE EASTER 50K AGAIN? Yes, if the weather is better



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