Race report – SDW50 ultra run @ 09.04.16, written by Gareth Rees (Club Chairman, Ironman and now ultra distance runner)
I’d been keeping a close eye on the weather reports for Saturday, to help me finalise my kit for the race, but it wasn’t until the last minute I made the decision to wear my heavy duty off-road trainers, which was definitely the correct one. The race started at 9am, quite unexpected for a triathlete, and I managed to perform a few stretches and warm-up slightly, again quite unexpected for a triathlete, before the starter’s gun.
About a third of the field were first time ‘ultra’ competitors and it was interesting, for me, to look at everyone’s different kit and running apparel. When the race got underway the crowd gave us a good cheer and you could make out an undertone of watches timers being started.
The majority of the first 10k from Worthing was up hill, starting with a steep chalky bridleway to the top of the ‘Cissbury Ring’, leading to Chanctonbury Ring’ and finally onto the South Downs Way (SDW). The final 10k of this section was downhill and I had to make a big effort to slow down and save my energy, feet and knees for later on in the race. The first aid station was welcomed and I filled up with water adding in my hydration tablets, and grabbed cookies, and pieces of chocolate & watermelon.
Each aid station was situated at the start of a hill, and with great advice from an ‘Ultra’ race finisher David P, I didn’t linger too long at any aid station and took my swag and ate it while walking up the hill.
My pace remained constant over the next section, only 8k, and I reached the aid station in good shape and looked for more fuel at Saddlescombe Farm. I picked up 2 cheese & ham wraps, which were freshly prepared, cookies, and pieces of chocolate & melon.
Mistake no 1, I didn’t fill up my hydration reservoir which subsequently ran dry after only 2k into the next section. Unfortunately, I had 14k to run over Ditchling Beacon and down to Falmer before I could re-fill. To get me through this period I slowed slightly and had one of my emergency caffeine gels which luckily did the trick. Getting down to Falmer was great and I was on the hunt for cheese & ham wraps. Unfortunately, I only found C&H sandwiches, which had started to go hard but ate them all the same. Melon hadn’t worked for me at the last food station so I moved to grapes. I had now run more than a marathon and I was closing in on my longest run to date (48k).
From Falmer I was headed to Southease station, around 11k, which was probably the toughest section for me. Not necessary the terrain but the physiological side of running this distance. Through a combination of positive thinking, reverse physiology and counting to 100, it got my mind and body back on track. Only 25k to go!
I overheard a spectator say to another competitor that there were 3 more long hills left, so take them easy, which I did also. When faced with the options at the remaining aid stations I was now struggling to find something that I could comfortably eat. Sandwiches, cookies and chocolate were now becoming hard work. Grapes and crisps seemed to fit the bill but only in small portions. Cola was a quick win and I downed 3 cups at each station.
The final stretch downhill, towards Eastbourne, was treacherous. Not only were both my hamstrings cramping, but the muddy and chalky section gave no grip so I descended very carefully and very slowly, while still slipping. When I reached the bottom I had 3k of pavements to navigate to the finishing line, which seemed to go on forever. I got to the track and was very pleased and surprised to see Michelle, Ray and Miles there with a HAT banner. I still had one lap of a 400m track to complete before finishing and was conscious of 3 runners behind me, so I found all the speed I could muster, without cramping and managed to hold onto my 90th place finish in a time of 09:09:49
Big thanks to David P for his advice and Michelle, Ray and Miles for their support and much needed lift back home. The best news of the day was that Crystal Palace won.