I entered St Illtyds 50k trail race in September last year, long before the saga of the arm. I had thought this would be one of the races I wouldn’t make it to. I certainly wouldn’t make it if I didn’t finish Manchester Marathon (I had decided that St Illtyds would be DNS if I didn’t finish Manchester). But I finished Manchester. So Sunday 6 May came around, and there I was, collecting my race number from two very nice ladies in Burry Port yacht club on a very misty May morning. It was chilly but that would soon prove to be deceptive for how hot a day it would become.
A race briefing from Nathan and Tori and off we went. But not before Adam came out with the best line ever – “There are so many happy people here but this just isn’t a happy occasion”. Henceforth to be used on all start lines the country over.
The first four or so miles were fairly flat. Another deception. Then we started to climb, up through a beautiful bluebell wood.
At this point I slipped on a step and landed on my bum, on the wooden edge of the step. An instinct for self-preservation clearly kicked in as my left arm flew up in the air to protect itself. I suspect I have a big bruise on my right bottom (I haven’t checked).
My first experiences of an ultra checkpoint was good, where I discovered a hankering for cheese and Pom Bears. I also discovered that they gave me good energy and didn’t upset my stomach, so them (and chipstick crisps) were my go-to at the aid stations. I really fancied some of the sweets but decided to limit those in case the sugar had an adverse effect. Saying that, a few fizzy sweets were consumed because they’re my favourite thing.
Onwards and up and down, and up and down. When you thought it could continue going up, it did. And the downs were no help because it’s an out and back course so we knew we’d have to climb up them on the return leg.
Checkpoint two done and then there were tears. You didn’t really expect there to be no tears, did you? Don’t you know me at all? We had been warned about a field of cows that we should have run through, but the better option was to run through the next door field as the cows had been attacking people. However there was no stile into the second field and we had to climb over a fence, which meant putting your weight in your left arm on a fence pole. Which I can’t currently do. So I dealt with it in my finest way by crying and saying “I can’t do that”. With a bit of encouragement, I managed to get to the top of the fence then the only way down was for Brian to lift me off. Poor Bri. Thanks, Bri.
I’m not going to go over the race itself in too much detail. It was over 30 miles and that would be really boring and I think I might have also blocked a lot of it out because there’s a lot I don’t remember. The summary, however, is:
- Very hot (luckily the checkpoints had sun cream!)
- Lots of animals – alpacas, sheep, cows and horses
- Stunning scenery
- Checkpoints with fabulous fabulous volunteers
I’m now a big fan of checkpoints. Well stocked, with very friendly volunteers helping to refill water bottles and feed us. Crisps, sweets, bread, sausage rolls, fruit, and best of all, Coke! Big fan of checkpoints (did I already say that?) Also a big fan of the volunteers. It only strikes me now how brilliant they were. I mean, I knew they were great. But they clearly recognised when you were getting to the point where you just needed help. They simply took my bottles from me, sorted them out and gave them back to me, no fuss, no drama, but just lots and lots of help.
The utterly fabulous Kat from Racecheck popped up in a couple of places for what I’m sure were incredibly sweaty hugs. So lovely to see a friendly face on the way! I hope she realises how much of a boost it was seeing her there.
Where there were houses a few residents were in garden cheering us on, and one lady asked if we wanted to come in and have a glass of squash. She said if she’d known about the run she’d have set a table out for everyone. She would have had a lot of visitors. Staying hydrated was tough in that weather. I had a 1 litre bladder of water and two 350ml bottles of Tailwind which all needed refilling at most of the checkpoints. I also made sure I had a good drink of water and Coke at all of the stations. The difficulty with the bladder was because it was on my (hot) back, it wasn’t long before the water went warm and was really disgusting to drink.
I met up with Rach and Graham somewhere along the way back and walked pretty much the whole of the last 10 miles with them. Tiny bits of jogging but not much by then. I was struggling with my feet but otherwise felt OK. We got lost, going up a huge (unnecessary) hill then having to go back down it. We also got lost and took a detour on the last mile or so back into Burry Port. I don’t know whether we missed the marker tape or if it had been taken down. Having to walk past our hotel and carry on to the finish was tough.
Luckily the original 10 hour cut off wasn’t in place any longer because of the weather. I say luckily because it took nearly an hour longer than that for me to finish.
10 hours 54 minutes, 70,725 steps, 4,314 calories, 32.75 miles, two “detours”, two lots of crying, rather a lot of swearing and I was finished. It still hasn’t sunk in yet. An utterly brutal course (Nathan said at the briefing that if you can do St Illtyds you can do any 50k and we all laughed nervously – I suspect he’s right), amazing scenery, and great company.
However, my advice for you from the race is this – put your fruit pastilles where you can easily reach them then you won’t have a big tantrum two miles from the finish because you can’t reach them. You’re welcome.
Thank you, St Illtyd, whoever you are. Your race is a stonker. As is this medal.