Friday, 20 January 2017

Ridgeway 40 - Highway to Hell

And so it came to pass that I was driving to Goring\Streatley in Berkshire at some stupid time of the morning with Josie to catch a bus back to Avebury - to start the Ridgeway 40.  The event is hosted yearly by the Long Distance Walking Association (LDWA) and is primarily for walkers, although in recent years has been used by runners as a cheap ultra event.  I had decided to use the event as my first ultra as it is a low key event and off the back of Manchester Marathon training the previous month.
Ready to start!

We caught the bus and chatted nervously, contemplating the enormity of the goal we had set ourselves.  As the bus arrived at West Overton (just south of Avebury) we could see the walkers and runners setting off.  No turning back.

View from the bus
Off the bus we quickly checked in and then set off.  The plan was a simple, run/walk 15/5 minutes the complete distance, but as with most plans this only partially work.  

We worked our way north towards Swindon and then east through Barbury Castle and on towards the A346 (Marlborough to Swindon road) at the 10 mile point, after crossing we climbed slowly up onto the Ridgeway and the north again towards Wanbourough where the path becomes a firmer track with shrubs and trees to give some cover.

Looking back towards the A346
We passed Wayland's Smithy and hit the 20 mile Check Point (CP3) near Uffington Castle Josie sat down and had the stare, I realised she was not going to continue but tried to encourage her.  She made the decision to stay and I set off again.  I knew the route form here, albeit having run in reverse at night, and there was little variation in the scenery.  The heat of the day started to take it's toll regardless of the fluids I was drinking.

The choice of shoes I had made was not great, the Altra Lone Peak's are fine for mud and grass but the lack of cushioning made the going hard on the stony baked track.  They had worked well up to 10 miles but now I picked my path carefully, trying to stay on grass where I could.  I had purchased some Dirty Girl Gaiters for the race and they paid off, no stones or dirt got into my shoes throughout the day.

At the 30 mile CP my body was screaming for me to stop.  I sat and drank two cups of sweet tea, ate some solids and decided it was time to get moving yet again.  I dropped down under the A34 and gritted my teeth.  The last 5 miles were mostly downhill, on road and more a case of mind over matter.  The trick for me is to focus completely on something special and keep the legs moving.  My legs ached, my feet ached and my near empty race vest seemed to weigh the same as the backpack I used to carry in the forces.

My Garmin announced I had hit the 40 miles as I entered Streatley, knowing full well it was nearly another mile to village hall in Goring.  I dragged myself into the hall, reunited with Josie, drank tea and ate cake - anything to put off the walk back to the car and two and half hour drive back.  I had survived.

Course elevation

The route can be found here on Google.

Would I do it again?  Yes, a well organised event and extremely cheap.

Shoes - Altra Lone Peak 1.5
Vest - Ultimate Direction SJ
Gaiters - Dirty Girl Gaiters
DRC buff

Fuelled on Tailwind, pizza and sandwiches

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