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Beer Ultra 50km, 13 June 2020
8:32:58 (6:32:24 moving)
Easy to explain. Hard to fathom.
- 5 laps of 2 loops: 5x (2x (5km [3mi])) = 50km [31mi]
- Drink a beer at the start of each loop (in my case Peroni 330ml bottles)
- Drink a beer at the end for a total of 11 beers
- First lap (loops 1 & 2) – a social pace to learn the course
- After that – do your best
It was great to be able to share my 12in12 run this month. Thanks to Simon from my club TAC the beer ultra solved the need for creativity – sounded like a great idea.
My concerns going into this were based on a few unknowns:
- Would I metabolise the beer or just get hammered and fall over (or worse)?
- Would my body be ok after last month’s 100km?
- Would the drop in training mileage (due to the need to recover) mean diminished form and a poor performance?
- With the course unknown just how challenging was this going to be?
On the plus side I’ve discovered I’ve generally got the mental game and would probably be able to “tough it out” as required.
So, how did it go?
The “beer at the start of each lap” caught me out initially – start with a beer !! It was probably good to settle the nerves, though, and a small group set off easy to learn the course. Loop 1 quickly became known as “the hilly one” and at the end I was glad to have done that one first as it meant my final loop was “the flat one”.
The weather was perfect and loop 1 took us though fields and along hedgerows before plunging us down Colley Hill and along a bumpy, root infested, forested section of Pilgrims Way. The sting in the tail was, of course, getting back up Colley Hill – loop 1 was tough and I knew this was going to hurt later!
Mercifully the final section of loop 1 back to the start was short and flat and I weirdly found myself looking forward to the next beer as a thirst was building which needed quenching. After dispatching the beer it was off on the “the flat one” which took us over grassy fields and hard-packed paths amongst the woodland on Banstead heath.
It was amazing to be able to run with friends again and those first two loops re-kindled the joy of running. I’m always happy running on my own but there is something special about the camaraderie and shared experience.
After the orientation lap we had a bit of a logistical delay due to a locked van with the beers in it but soon enough we were set up in a nearby field, beer 3 was down and the real running could start. Well, that is, for the 3 quick boys at the front. An exciting race was set to unfold way out in front of me between Simon, John and Dan. For me, it was time to grind.
Several other folks from the club popped in at various stages and joined in for a few laps, some more than others. It added to the social side of the event and there was always someone to have a chat with while chugging the next beer.
As my run got underway in earnest I remember resolving to ignore my watch and just keep as steady as I could. All I cared about was clicking off the loops. “2nd Colley Hill done, only 3 more to go…”, “3rd lap down, 2 more to go…”. Pretty early on I got my music going and found myself really taking the day in and enjoying it. Loads of people had come out to enjoy the sun and view from on top of the hill and each time I ran past it seemed like a different group in slightly different light, almost as if it was a time-lapse.
Looking at the numbers it seems that it was around half way that things started to drift pace-wise. I never found the alcohol to have any material effect but I was probably not replacing salt quick enough as I started cramping on the way up and at the top of Colley Hill. I’d brought some salty flapjacks and my trusty Tailwind and the addition of these mostly sorted out the cramps.
The second half was tough. Really tough. But, in a weird way. Physically there was the usual sore legs plus my ITB knee pain was there but not too bad, no major drama. Energy seemed ok but things were just slow. I think I also felt my pace by contrast with the fast group. I forget on which loop I was caught and passed but it put me around 3 loops (15km) behind. A big gap. I think I started to feel frustrated by being so slow. My pace has never really bothered me but in truth I feel like I should be faster and stronger for all the miles I put in. Training has been unusual this year though, the monthly marathon has disrupted what would ordinarily be structured training plans and I think this has definitely been a factor.
On finishing my 7th loop I found that Dan and John were done, Simon came in shortly after. Dan had put on a blazing last 10km to take a brilliant win. Next for me was the penultimate “flat one” and on finishing it I found I’d done exactly 26.2 miles. Hmmmm. The guys were sitting having a beer. My marathon commitment was met. It was getting late and the light was starting to wane. This was a great opportunity to just call it quits. Thing is, I’d set out on the “Beer Ultra” not the “Beer Marathon”. To stop would be a DNF and that was just never an option.
So, I said my goodbyes and set off on the final lap. There was still plenty of light given our long days at this time of year in the UK. It was suddenly very quiet out on the course with almost everyone back at home. It was great to be checking off “the lasts”. I decided to take the the crazy “hands on knees” option up Colley Hill – a near vertical alternative to the main trail
I completed my final “hilly one” just before 9pm. Long old day but now I could see the end. I happened to notice a message from Dan on our group chat checking in on me (good lad) and I shared this update:
Light was low now and it was fairly gloomy. Still, there’s nothing sweeter than grinding out the last couple of miles when you’ve been out for 8 hours.
And then it was done.
It’s taken me longer than usual to write this one up. I’ve felt really battered both physically and mentally. More than usual and somewhat surprising for a 50k. I’m used to it on the 100k’s but my calves have been screaming all week (it’s now Thursday, 6 days on) and bruised ribs from a tumble I took on loop 8 have been really painful. All in the game.
The 100miler is now looming large and I’m really conflicted about it. Still not sure. The “net” of this one, though, was that it was just great to be out and enjoying the challenge with others. It was a challenge for sure but the shared experience was magic.