Monday, 6 March 2017

Imber Ultra - Some days you should stay in bed.

The Imber Ultra is a local race which is organised by my running club, Avon Valley Runners (AVR), and it starts in the neighbouring town of Westbury.  The route covers 33 miles of self navigating footpaths around Salisbury Plain using the Imber range path.

I arrived at the car park and caught the minibus to the start at the leisure centre, to be met by many AVR club members working around the course throughout the day.  I met Mina whom I had run with at the Pilgrim's Challenge (I had managed to talk her into running the Ultra) and we chatted briefly before the start.

The weather was due to be heavy showers, strong winds and possible localised thunder storms - what could be better?  The ground was waterlogged from days of rain, not normally an issue - but lack of sleep, my head not being in a good place at the start of the race meant I probably should not have run it.

The runners were called to the briefing just before the 9am start and then with a bell ring from the Town Crier we were off with a lap of the leisure centre field, to shake out the competitors, before heading down the lane and into the first muddy climb at 1 mile up onto the Plain.

Once up onto the Plain the route heads south to the military camp at Warminster, through the camp and climb up on to Battlesbury Wood.  At 7.4 miles we arrived at CP 1 at a road crossing before climbing up on Scratchbury Hill, across to Cotley Hill, overlooking Norton Bavant.  The wind at this point was behind us and the rain was holding off.

The course at this point heads east, near Heytesbury, and becomes open and desolate before a mile long rutted narrow track with copious amounts of mud and water.  Along this track I managed to slip and face-plant the bank, luckily no damage was done and we arrived at CP2 on the edge of Chitterne village at 13.5 miles.

Another hill

Pushing on the path is fairly flat past Copehill Down German Village and small convoy of Armoured Personnel Carriers cut across our route, something you don't see on every ultra, and then north towards Tilshead and CP3 at 18.5 miles where a much needed hug from Denise Ellis helped me keep going.  At this point the wind was hitting us from the side but the rain still held off!

Armoured Personnel Carrier crossing the route

From Tilshead the route runs parallel to the A360 until Gore Cross, at 21.5 miles, where we hit the road and turned west and straight into the wind.  The route also climbs at this point, for 3 miles, and I used sign posts to run between to keep up some momentum.  Coming down the hills were bunches DofE "youths" who cheered us on - a much needed mental lift at this point.  Through CP 4 at 22.5 miles and climbing again.

Once finally up on the level again the wind was full-on in our faces and the early hills had started to take their toll but I knew the route and realised there was only one more hill to climb at 27.5 miles, which was also CP5.  The miles were slow, running between two signs and walking to the next one, and the wind relentless.  Occasional showers passed over us so quickly there was little point in reacting to them.

I eventually hit CP5 and then pushed on to Bratton Camp where I saw Matt Charlton waiting for me. He had travelled out to the course and received a massive hug for his troubles.  My heart and head lifted a touch and I pushed on yet again for the last few miles past the chalk pit.  The turning off the Imber path needed a quick check of the notes and eventually, after three of us conferred it was decided we were on the right track.  Back down the natural muddy chalk steps to Westbury, a quick dog-leg, back along another track before the final few meters along the road and the bell of the Town Crier to alert the finish that I was on my way.

I crossed the line at the leisure centre in 6:32:10, 63/103.  It could have been worse, my head was not in the race and I really doubt if I should have run it.  Friends, on or off the course, helped me around. It's done.

The prize was a mug, a very wonderful mug, and well worth the miles.

Would I do it again?  Maybe, I like the mug!!

Shoes - Altra Lone Peak 3 (new shoes!)
Socks - Sealskinz waterproof socks
Gloves - Sealskinz waterproof gloves
Jacket - Decathlon wind/waterproof
DRC buff
Vest - Ultimate Direction SJ 

Fuelled with Tailwind, Torq gels and energy bars.

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