Equinox24 – My first Ultra Race

I cannot remember when or why, but I had fancied trying out Equinox24 for a while. I missed the cut-off point and put it out of my head, but a friend wasn’t able to go, so it decided to purchase the ticket from her. This was with around 4 weeks to go. I had very little preparation for it, but I’m pretty fit anyway. I had races every weekend running up to it, but I did decide to drop out of “Mow Cop Killer Mile” which was on the Thursday before. I wanted to be as fresh as I could to try and take on such a challenge.

My aim (and don’t ask me why I picked this distance) was to complete 100km. Many people had told me I would “smash it” . I was confident I was fit enough to do that distance, but as I had only done a half marathon distance before and Europe’s Toughest Mudder (ETM – an 8 hour overnight OCR) in which I completed 25 miles. I wasn’t sure whether it would have the endurance or the “legs” to keep going. Time on the feet would definitely be the deciding factor.

Equinox24 = Europe’s Toughest Mudder

Equinox24 was based at the Belvoir estate, on the border of Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. It’s route and area was very similar to Tough Mudder and ETM so when I saw the course map, I was trying to match the course to what I remembered from ETM. The village and parking was the same as ETM whilst the 10km route was almost identical to the 5 miles ETM course – indeed when running the first few laps, I could see where several obstacles had been filled in (or not).

Set up and ready to go

I took the Friday off, I wanted to ensure I was set up and fresh ready for the 12noon start on the Saturday. I thought that driving down and setting up on Saturday morning would not have been conducive to a relaxing start. I got there around 3pm and I was surprised how many had already set up. I was fortunate to find a spot next to the course and near the solo transition area. It was such a good spot, some of my friends who were also participating used it for their own transition area as they weren’t so lucky. I have laid out all of my kit in different areas, knowing that in the middle of the night and fuzzy headed, it would be easier to have items to hand rather than scrambling around to find things by torch light. All that was left for me to do was to take a stroll around the event village and to get my bearings.

The event village was quite large and situated in the centre of the course next to the start finish line. There were plenty of catering stands so had you not brought your own food, you were well catered for. A bar for the serious racers and several running equipment/apparel stands. CEP and swimzi both looked interesting, but I didn’t want to try anything new at this stage of the race! A good PA system fed out upbeat music through the whole weekend.

Saturday 12noon came around very quickly. I was ready with my first race kit (Newcastle AC) vest, 361° Ortega Trail shoes with enertor comfort insoles and shorts. After a few selfies and a traditional Jaegarbomb, we were pretty much ready to go. There was a briefing at 11.40 but no one could hear what the announcer was saying, so we just lined up awaiting the start. It was to be a mass start with the 10km runners, solos and teams all going at the same time.

The course route

I planned to run the first lap with a couple of friends as a warm up and to help keep my pace down. TBH I think we still went off a little fast and finished the first lap in 1h 6m. The route started with 1/4 of a lap of the camp site and out into the estate. The first 3km was a loop with a long but gentle elevation, mostly over trail. For those who did ETM this was almost exactly the same start out towards the area which included quagmire, KOTS, Blockness, agustus gloop and Arctic enema.

The route comes back almost to the campsite and then over the bridge up a very long elevation (not that hill) which was all road, before turning back at 5.5km (and water stop). (Liberator, birth canal, t boned and funky monkey).

At 6km we went down “that hill” only to have to turn around and come back up it. It’s a short hill, but with a very steep incline. Up to this point we jogged the whole lap, but remembering the mantra “jog the flat, run the downs and walk the hill” we steadied into a walk up the climb. If luck was on my side, I was to climb it another 9 times so had to keep power in my legs.

Doubling back on the road route, for a short part before diverting off out to more trail and past the remains of mud mile. The route then rejoined the road and back over the bridge before heading back into camp and the final 3/4 of a lap to the start / finish.

I really enjoyed the route, there was always teams/participants in the camping area to cheer you on, whilst as you doubled back on several parts of the route, there was never really much of the course where you were truly alone. Around 50% was run on trail whilst the other half was on road although you could run on the grass verge if you wanted.

Managing my time and my body

I ran the first three laps consecutively with only a short transition between them with times of: 1.06.26, 1.04.15 and 1.09.49 before taking a break of around an hour and took my time to have soup and rolls. I knew I had plenty of time and wanted to manage my body and my intake as effectively as I could.

I went out for my next laps and told myself to take it easier and take my time – again there was no rush. I had also decided to change out of my Ortega 2 and into my 361° Stratomics road shoes which also has the entire comfort insoles. The route was very hard due to the recent dry weather, and the trail shoes with stability and control it’s primary function, were just too hard on my feet. The Stratomics were much more comfortable as they are designed for high mileage. If there was any sort of race, it would be against my body (especially my feet), not against the clock. My times for laps 4 and 5 were 1.20.43 and 1.18.31 both a run/walk combination. The 5th lap was especially nice, this was sunset and it being an awesome dry weekend, the view across the vale of belvoir was stunning. I had my headtorch with me, but I beat the darkness back before really needing it on.

I’m a forefoot striker (who knew?)

The 6th lap was a much slower time of 1.44.49. this was due to the blisters on my feet caused by the hard ground (and now I also know I’m a fore foot striker). I put blister plasters on and walked that lap as “active recovery”. Fortunately for me, they were a little uncomfortable but didn’t threaten my race. I can’t exactly remember what time I got back, but I decided to take another long break, eat more soup and rolls and wait for my friend to come in. This was the first real “night lap” and did this with my Black Diamond Spot – I have two of these already from my kit preparation from ETM. They’re great value and water-proof. Highly recommended for trail running of any type. My plan at that point was to do one more lap with her and then get a few hours rest before completing the three laps early morning.

Unfortunately Jo came back very late, she was suffering much more with her feet and blisters. So much so that the medics had advised her not to run any more. She decided to to go back to her tent and take a rest to see if her feet would recover any more. It was quite late by then (around 1200) so I also decided to get some sleep and finish 4 Laps in the morning.

5am is not the best time to get up!

I set my alarm for 5am, I figured with 4 Laps I should do with with 8 hours. As long as you were across the start/finish by 11.59.59 you could go for #onemorelap. My maths said if I walked 3 laps that would be 11am giving me plenty of leeway to get to start the 4th lap. Boy it was really difficult in getting up – it was cold and dark (obvisously) and I didnt really want to get out of the sleeping bag. I was grateful for the rest, but I really could have stayed in longer. It took me a good 20 minutes to get up and dressed. Thankfully, all my cold gear was out and ready. I dragged myself out and back onto the course. The light was starting to break through as I had started and once again, I was able to get to the highest point of the lap for a great looking sunrise. As with ETM, the sunrise gives you extra impetuous as you know the end is coming.

Lap 8 I managed to catch Jo who had also made the journey out of bed and onto her blistered feet. She said she would do this one, miss a lap and go out for the final lap with me to finish. Lap 9 and she decided to stay out rather than rest. Our friend Carl came by on course and walked the last few km with us and helped to keep our mind off things.

Before we went out for the last lap, we had the traditional Jaegarbomb and went out just after 11am. We knew we had time and took it easy. Jo and I just talking to keep our minds off the blisters, whilst counting down the kilometres. We met up with a fellow solo runner with around 2km to go and we just chatted away about the last 24 hours. Finally, the camp was in sight and the finish line! It took 25 hours in total – a few blisters and a little longer and tougher than expected. But I had done it, completed the target 100km!

My last lap times were: 1.42.17, 1.39.58, 1.42.17 & 2.06.18

Would I run it again? Hell ya. My only change would be the target distance, I wouldn’t have one. I would run what I wanted, when I wanted. If that was 50, 70 or 100km, I wouldn’t mind. It would be a day to enjoy and savour.

Equinox24 course map
Equinox24 course map

 

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