Next ultra up was the Country to Capitol, a face from Wendover in Buckinghamshire to Little Venice in London, taking in a good length of the Grand Union canal.
My GP training practice now is in Wendover and the day it was allocated to me, I text my friend Alan saying “guess where I’m going to be working!” Without missing a beat, he text straight back “Ouazarzate”. He was along the right lines as they’re both race destinations we’ve been to together but the latter is in Morocco and the place you fly in and out of for the Marathon Des Sables!
Anyway, it’s a 45 (as always ‘ish’) mile race, put on by the company “Go Beyond Ultra”. We assembled at the Shoulder of Mutton pub, who were kind enough to allow a rabble of ultra runners meet there (I suppose at least we were non-sweaty and mud free at the start). I saw Alan, who I’d met previously at a London Pub Meet-up for people registered for the Marathon Des Sables 2015, and we’d been chatting online and putting together a group of 8 to share a tent with in the desert. He told me he planned to run with Michelle and invited me to join them. I was a bit afraid, thinking they’d leave me in their dust, but wanted the company so planned to just hang on as long as I could.
Off we went down the road, bottlenecking soon at various styles and gates, across fields and through pretty villages in the snow until we got to the canal. I was partly using the run as a sneaky recce of the locality as I planned to move there soon for work (and now do live here), and it looked like it was a good decision as I passed through places such as Chesham, the location of checkpoint 1.
It turned out I wasn’t too slow for Michelle and Alan and actually felt pretty strong. In fact, it wasn’t *me* saying no to 20 celebratory burpees at the 26.2 mile point, though I did get Alan to agree to a celebration photo, and a “pretend you’re absolutely knackered” photo.
The race was really well organised, and I very much enjoyed the checkpoint grub including sausage rolls and scotch eggs, though did have to drag Alan away from one pointing out he wouldn’t fit in the tent if he didn’t stop eating! We did struggle with pacing along the route. Unlike Brecon, it had no proper hills, so none of the natural walking breaks that are vital for an ultra unless you’re right at the top of the game. In a way, it can sometimes be less tiring to have a few hills along the way to break it up a bit, walk up inclines allowing time to eat something and cruise down the other side. We got into a bit of a run off too hard, realise we were going hard, drop back, regroup pattern. Honestly the pace was a little slow, and alone I could have comfortably finished an hour sooner, but in these long races, having company means more to me than a few positions on the results list. And it was good company. A theme which finished afterwards, when I met a group of friends in London (post shower and change) for a curry, drinks and a little dance for my birthday!