So this was my first race after returning back from running across America. I have been so excited about it as its right on my doorstep, with the base camp being in beautiful Bakewell. Unfortunately, another fall at work a few days ago meant that I only completed half of my intended distance.
You might remember back in 2016 I took on the Thames Path Challenge and had the most amazing time on the route. I met so many amazing people, the event was organized perfectly and you couldn't have asked for better weather. Well, the terrain couldn't have been more different this time around, 100km to cover with around 2,500 meters of climb and some of the most stunning views you could ask for. I always seem to forget that most of these places are right on my doorstep.
The morning was like most before a race. My start wave was at 7 am (the second one off I believe), and after a very quick race registration a chat with some of the other people there, it was time for the race briefing. Not forgetting the obligatory, over the top warm-up that no one seems to have the coordination to do at 6.30 in the morning!
After just 2km we were all greeted with the first incline on the event, 150 meters of elevation gain over no distance at all. I swear I heard everyone groan when they crawled over the top. The route took us through the grounds of Chatsworth House before heading along the river towards Calver and the First Aid station. If I'm being honest, I think the aid stations are the only reason that I take part in the Ultra Challenge races. They are always packed to the rafters with such a variety of snacks and food.
As we passed through some beautiful valleys and amazing hilltops during the next 14km I started to feel that something was not quite right. I had managed to slip on the stairs at work just days before and broken my little finger. In the morning I had taken my pain killers like usual without even thinking about if they'd affect me during the race. My footing seemed to be off slightly and I was getting a bit wobbly on my feet every time I tried to bust out into a run. In the back of my head, I decided to see how I coped up until the 50km mark and the make a decision on the rest of the event.
After I left the 25km rest station I really got into my stride. I met my parents for a quick ten-minute catch-up and some encouragement to keep going. Put my headphones in to listen to a live recording from Nightwish, and despite still being wobbly I started to run part of the course again. It's times like that moment I really understand the appeal of trail running. I was having an amazing time whizzing down the steep rocky pathways, even though with how I was feeling I shouldn't really have been moving so fast!
The part I was most looking forward to hitting, The Monsal Trail, ended up being the most disappointing part. After spending so many days as a kid walking and playing up and down the trail, I was so excited to finally run an event along it. Unfortunately, after having so much fun on the downhill sections it turned out just a little boring.
Ultra races are pretty much eating competitions with some running inbetween.
By the time I had hit the 48km mark, I think my brain had decided that enough was enough. With rain due to start in the late evening and my balance not being great, I thought it would be best not to risk slipping and damaging my finger even more. Despite having an operation already booked in for it, two breaks are still better than three!
So, I finished at the "halfway point" of 52km and withdrew my place from the full 100km. Thankfully they still allowed me to be a finisher of the half challenge and I gained my t-shirt, medal, and finishers drink. Despite my unfortunate injury I still thoroughly enjoyed the event. There was no way you would have been able to tell that it was the inaugural races as it was run so well. I'll definitely think about taking it on again next year, although I'll be needing a buddy to push me through the night stage.
So even though I didn't finish the 100km I set out to do, but did finish the half challenge, does this race count as a DNF? If you want to sign up for next year's event they have a super early bird deal on registration available at the moment!