9Bar Ultra 90

I arrived in Northampton on friday the 21st of January and trudged my way to the Park Inn hotel, the starting point for this years Ultra 90 organised by Ultra Race. I was slightly concerned that my training in the build up to such an event with the festive period and a move to Manchester making it particularly difficult to fit in some big mileage, however I felt a positive attitude would get me through to the end. I was greeted by Rory and Jen of the Ultra Race team, this certainly helped with the confidence levels. I went to sleep ready to take on the 1st challenge of 45 miles in 1 day, which is a fair few miles more than I had previously done of 28 miles. The day kicked off with my alarm rudely awaking me at 6.30am I sorted my kit, food, hydration and then taped the soles of my feet. I had found this approach had worked preventing me getting blisters on a previous race so thought I would give it another shot.  As I entered the breakfast area I was greeted by a room full of lycra clad and fluorescent yellow people. The time went very quickly before the start time of 8am but I heard enough to find out that the youngest competitor was 19, the oldest a 77 year old man and there were competitors from Germany and Sweden.

The race started and early on it felt like a plaster was being pulled off and then put back on the base of my foot from the tape which had clearly come off already, but I was ever hopeful that the constant pounding of my feet would at least press it on. I quickly settled into a good rhythm and switched between a number of groups throughout the day. Early on I realised that the thought of the food at each check point was becoming of greater interest as I ate up the miles. The route itself was alright it was along a canal with no detours to include any hills, this made it a perfect opportunity to test out running and walking something which is crucial in training for the Marathon des Sables. Towards the end of the race was where it got interesting as I started to pass people who had possibly gone off too quickly or maybe I was starting to finish too strongly. Then I spotted up a head a wee man in yellow bobbing along who looked very comfortable after 44 miles, I thought there is still time to over take. It then occured to me that it was the 77 year old, who was currently beating me. I wasn't impressed so decided it had to be done and I had to dig deeper to make sure I got passed, simpler said than done. I am still convinced he was also picking up the pace towards the end however as I drew near we still managed some encouraging words, it all occurred just in time as the finish line appeared. I finished extremely happy with a time around 8 hours 20 mins, not bad for my first 45 miler. However on inspecting my feet my initial reaction of the tape did the trick was quickly changed to I have 2 huge blisters on each arch as a result of trying to prevent them, I hadnt felt them at all. I also realised that I was very hungry, so quickly munched down burger, chips and an extra portion of chips it was fantastic! I had a shower and a bath later on in the hope it would soothe my muscles for day 2.

Day 2 started slowly, after spraying the breakfast area with musseli and feeling slightly naseaus I reached the start line eager to get through this early feeling. Those first 9 miles to the check point were horrible with my legs feeling like they were being tightened by a screw each step, this was my IT bands starting to go! I carried on through the 1st checkpoint and grabbed some soreen malt loaf on the way which did help, I was thinking all the sweets I had eaten the previous day was now a bad idea. As the miles went by my pace was slowing drastically with my muscles tightening and small niggles beginning to crop up particularly my knees. I managed to reach the 3rd checkpoint with two other competitors who pulled out at that point, I felt that I could go on even after a brief break only meters further on. However it was not to be after passing around the 33  mile mark I had to pull out due to my legs feeling rubbish and not wanting to risk injury. I was gutted.