I went into this causeway crossing knowing that my legs should be fresh after tapering and my only major concern was the fact that it was a trail run. Trail runs for those not familiar to the comparison to road running are different depending on the trail conditions and the elevation / gradient. To be honest I was poorly prepared for trail running with only a mere 6 miler Cavehill trail run done before this event. With hindsight I overlooked the significance of this big time. I also overlooked the fact that my Garmin HRM footpod calibration is slightly incorrect when doing trail running too.
The run got off to a good start at 11am (at the rope bridge overspill car park shown above) with great conditions, mild weather with a light cool breeze occasionally.
The run was road, grass for the first few miles then went into the beach and rocks for a few mile after this, before the majority of the rest normal trails. Have to admit the scenery was spectacular with approx 40 participants there appeared along the route good atmosphere with plenty of smiles and occasional cheering on of each other ‘good job’ etc. I saw a few participants taking stops and regular photos taken using there phones. The causeway coast is absolutely beautiful I have to say. We started at the Carrick a reed rope bride car park and the route took us to Dunluce Castle and back.
I had 3 gels which I planned to take at 9 mile, 16 mile and final one about 25 mile to carry me through last few miles.
I was beginning to find it tough at about 12 miles according to my Garmin, but I knew that in 3 miles was the turnaround and return leg, so I knew I could rely on this to give me a bit of a lift knowing that soon I would be returning back. The only thing was at this part I couldn’t see any signs of Dunluce Castle and at one stage at the top of the ‘tourist’ causeway area rocks area, I didn’t see a turnoff sign. I ended up running the wrong way leading me to run for a mile or so before I realised I made a mistake and had to ask a few tourists for directions and got back on track. Later after this mishap I checked my Garmin again and was showing that I covered 17 miles – still with no sign of Dunluce Castle and my turnaround point! I was beginning to dismay!
My concerns were also not helped with the fact that I had used my second gel with only one left – with over half the route still to go. The only consolation to a degree was a reminder to myself was that I had dropped off my lucozade bottle at a 7 mile point into the race, so I knew that on the return journey that toward the end I would have some much needed energy liquid to boost me. Unfortunately I didn’t read the pre-race info re feed stations as it stated that only at approx 6 mile and 15 mile points they served banana, fruit cake, juice and water. for some reason i thought there was twice the amount of feed statiopns.
Looking back at the race now I maybe should have took a hydration pack as I only took 3 cups of juice at the 15 mile mark and my bottle of lucozade towards the end.
Finally I reached the halfway point and checked my Garmin which showed that I covered over 19 miles! When I saw this I compared this to my longest ‘road’ run done so far – 24 mile. I knew at this stage that the remaining half, if I managed to get through it was going to be very difficult, as it would equate to 38 miles (some difference than 24 mile!)
At the half way point I gulped down 3 cups of juice and took a banana and a bit of fruit cake to eat along the way back. As I started back I tried to eat the fruit cake but only could manage a couple of bites on my dry mouth, I was more able to eat the banana, which was a welcome solid food in my stomach.
On the way out I forgot to mention a had for several miles a pain in stomach similar to as if you have eaten something dodgy, with sharp pains in stomach. Thankfully they cleared up before the half way point where I got some foods in me. On the way back I decided to try and take in some of the views a bit more along the coastal route. The route was mostly a trail type along the cliff edge. Watching the sea coming in crashing against the rocks and the lovely inland where cattle grazed was very nice with the odd walker and seldom fellow participant in the race.
On the way back my body began to break down. My legs were increasingly getting heavier and sorer and with the sun in full swing and I think dehydration was setting in a bit. Thankfully I wasn’t getting any GI issues making me want to do number two’s but only the odd water stop behind the bushes a couple of times. Also I was very thankful that I had no injuries but my right knee definitely didn’t like the downhill’s very much. I quickly decided to take interval walks. These initially were only on going down hills to avoid the knee pain, but the uphills quickly reverted into walks as well. On the way back I did go through about 20 minutes of having a stitch, so eventually I was walking about a third of the time. I have to admit the return part of the run was pretty difficult for me, however I think this was down to poor planning (nutrition, hydration, lack of trail running, reliance of unreliable Garmin footpod mileage calculator). I think the most difficult thing to cope with was the mileage difference between 24 and as I thought 38 miles. I later found out that I really didn’t do 38 miles, I only did 50k / 31 miles, but my constant checking of my Garmin at the time of the race watching it climb eventually up to 38 really mentally drained my willpower. That was tough more than anything else to deal with.
Thankfully as I stated earlier I finally picked up my dropped/stashed lucozade bottle at around 7 miles before the finish which gave me a bit of an energy and hydration lift to carry me towards the end. After this as I ran/walked toward the end I was looking for the last marker /end point which for me was the carrick a reed rope bridge island. This seemed to take a long time before I eventually reached it and passed the finish line – at last! Thank God! My first ultra – yepee!
ps - got a couple of souveniors - a 100k tshirt (even though i only did 50k), whats with that? and a runnning vest sunburn ! i have emailed and asked for a medal, not sure if i will get one.
my messed up garmin reading -
If you want to get a good idea of the event check out this youtube clip of similar event the normal Causeway coast marathon - basically same route and organisers <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/3NKgFdZSEl0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
my splits -