Andover Trail Events
This was a bonus race. I had looked the race a few times but in 2019 it was not affordable, even if it did fit in well to the training program for my 100-mile race. On a 26 mile training run from Bristol to Bradford-on-Avon, we were joined by Lucy Payne, who had worked with Andover Trail Events and was running the Testway 40 for the first time. We chatted about the race and the fact it looks great and would fit in well with my training, but left it at that. A few days later someone posted on Facebook that he and his friend couldn't run the race due to injury and were donating their places. Lucy contacted me and I swept up the two places.
We spoke with Lucy, who was being crewed by her husband and she invited us to share their car for the race. On the day of the race, we arrived early at Lucy's, met her husband James and were introduced to the mad hound that is Aela. The drive to the start was a little longer than we thought and arrived in just enough time to grab race numbers, use the loo and watch the 50-mile runners line up. The 50-mile race does a 10-mile loop before joining the course we would be taking.
|Race start at Likenholt, near Andover.|
As the tail end runners of the 50-mile race disappeared from view the 40-mile runners lined up on the start line and the usual start-line banter began. On most road races the runners tend to go into a self meditative state, blanking out those around them and trying to concentrate on the race plan and ensuring the start goes to perfection. On an ultra, you tend to take the piss out of each other and the race plan is to finish. The top 5/10% will be in their "zone" but the rest are thinking about what they are going to eat at the end of the race.
We were off, out of the starting arch, turn left and the left again, turn straight up the first hill, wonderful. The first mile of an ultra is normally the time I take to settle my breathing from Darth Vader mode to a "let's get this done" mode - no such luck. The route is a mix of terrain and heads south-east towards Hurstbourne Tarrant at 5 miles before climbing up into Doles Copse, the largest climb of the day at mile 6, all of mile 6.
The descent from Doles Copse is 2 miles and leads you along the back gardens of St Mary Bourne, before another half mile climb towards Middle Wyke, on through Lower Wyke at 10 miles. The route goes south from here, passing through Harewood Forrest, skirting Middleton and then Forton, before heading south-west to cross the A303 and back into Harewood Forrest. At 16 miles we passed 3 large "animal" sheds in various states of decay but obviously still in use for something, a great reminder of why I'm vegetarian.
Another mile climb out of Harewood Forrest and the route headed south towards Wherwell, where we met James, ate a little and changed tops before heading through the village and crossing the Test river, heading across Chilbolton Cow Common and into Chilbolton at 19 miles. It was around this point that the front runners of the 50-mile race started to pass us, looking fresh at 29 miles and passing us like they were on a 10km road run.
|Caroline crossing the Test in style|
The route heads through the village of Mottisfont before heading south again to Kimbridge, to the outskirts of Romsey where we crossed the Old Salisbury Lane and through Roke Manor Quarry and gravel pit at 32 miles. There was a sign, "Danger - QUICKSAND", really? Throughout my childhood, I had watched films from the 1940s and 1950s where the baddies would ignore the signs and meet their demise in a swampy grave, or the good guy would be saved by his horse or dog who happened to have a rope with them. I grew up with a quicksand escape plan in my head, only there was none in Middlesex, only a few large muddy puddles where on occasion I may lose a shoe. Quicksand had been one of the disappointments of my youth, and now I didn't have time to explore.
|Squabb Wood, that was fun|
On through Squabb Wood, a muddy and waterlogged path that had us picking our way slowly to the kissing gate at the edge of the wood and then across a flooded cow field and then onto Romsey at 34 miles, south along the A3090 footpath before passing through a gate and then three miles of following the edge of a woods, our water all but depleted, before cutting east and onto roads and heading south again. By 39 miles and no sign of a checkpoint we stopped at a kennel and they topped up our water, around the next corner and there was the Checkpoint, I think it could have been a few miles back as most people we spoke to had also run out of water some way back.
|Lower Test Nature Reserve|
Mile 40 was basically looping under the M27 and then down to the Lower Test Nature Reserve, a wetland with a wood footbridge spanning it. The final three-quarters of a mile was weaving through the streets of Totton until we turned the final corner and under the finish arch at the Empire Hall. My watch showed 41.8, close to 40 miles, but who's counting. It wasn't the fastest finish but we were both happy with 8 hours and 37 minutes.
Caroline had finished her first 40-mile ultra, and with all of her long runs, had finished strong. We collected our medals and some water, tried the veggie chili and undercooked rice but decided we'd eat the remaining pizza when we got back to the car. Lucy and Adam finished at 9:07.
The drive back was spent mostly eating, drinking and reminiscing. Thanks for a lovely day out Lucy and James!
Result 08:37:05 - 28th & 29th/46 finishers
Kit Altra Olympus, Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket, Salomon adv skin 12 set, Garmin Fenix 3.
Nutrition Tailwind, pizza, marmite wraps, peanut butter and jam wraps, Aldi pressed fruit bars and a few Cliff bars.
Again? Yes, this is a well-managed race and good value for money. The route is multi-terrain and extremely picturesque.