The Canalathon by Canonball Events

I didn't announce it really on social media, or talk much about it at work. If I was asked I would skirt around and brush it off, as at times I was afraid of a DNF [did not finish].

I'd picked up my running and done some training, if late and little of it, definitely not sufficient for such an event, but it was training none the less and  I could, in a fashion, run.

So I wasn't especially nervous or worried about the biggest run of my life. I think I wasn't worried as such because I could, if I and when i needed, I could walk. there was no navigation. Also the cut-off time was a generous nine and a half hours. Ideal for the runners doing their first ultra!

What did bother me was the wake up time. I'm not a morning person, and with all the best intentions I'll either wake, then sit around, or wake later and sit around. The wake up time should've been 5:30. Wake up, come too, get dressed, eat, check kit, wait for taxi to meet friends at pickup point. The wake up time was 4:30 thanks to daylight savings :(
I don't sleep well generally, and less so on an event night, but when the clocks move ... I fret that I'll oversleep, the time will be wrong, my phone won't change. etc.

My hub always checks my phone as he goes to bed later than me, and everything was fine.
I got up, took all my things down, put in bacon and hash browns and put the kettle on.
My taxi arrived, and after directing him to pick up point, I watched the sun rise as I waited for Pauline and her hub to pick me up. It was going to be a long day!


We arrived in no time! We went to get our bib numbers, I was asked my name.
"Cheryl, Cheryl Stupid!" I joked. The girl laughed and said I'd be fine while handing me my race pack. Pauline chatted with the event hosts as she knew them well. Using the loo we then went to the car to wait, it was a cold morning.
It was soon time for pre-race and final instructions, we listened, then jogged round the car-park, through the gate, and onto the canal bank. No turning back now [there wasn't room to...]

 I need to work on my race face
I felt anxious, and in my opinion it's true that the first mile is a lie.
And the second and the third mile!
I began to apologise to Pauline for being a slow runner and that we'd have to walk, take a long time.
Pauline was, as usual, having none of this and began her pep talk. We'd run, we'd walk, we'd re-fuel. It wasn't a race to the end. it was an endurance to the finish and it didn't matter how long it took.
We were soon into mile 5 and I felt better.

 Manchester about 5mile in

At around mile 7 the 100km runners began to come toward us. The first being Craig Holgate. He looked strong and made it look so easy. Both envious [well why wouldn't you be] and with up most admiration we cheered and clapped them as they passed by. Inspirational.
We chatted as we ran and walked, the weather kept changing, coat on, coat off, and we were soon at mile 10 [or just over] and the first food station.
I was happy to have 10mile under my belt, 
The weather had turned again and we were in a downpour. Reaching the first food station in mile 11, we glugged flat coke and pressed on.
Drinking as we went, heads down until the rain eased and the coats were again off ...

At around 8-10mile one runner was sat tending to blisters. So early! 'Good luck' I thought, then I realised that I hadn't cut my toe-nails last night...
I remember feeling discomfort before mile 13, and knew then I was going to lose toe-nails. 
My little toe hurt too. A blister? I was wearing toe-socks and briefly toyed with the idea of addressing my feet, then decided it would be too much fuss. I'd have to take off my trainers, roll up tight leggings, faff with toe socks, then put my socks and trainers back on again. 
>The trainers! I'd opted to wear my Gortex pair.
They were obviously too stiff and hadn't helped the situation. I'd ignored my own, and many other runners rules of pre-race and race day What Nots and Dos'.

I had toyed with the idea of Live blogging, but the weather wasn't the best, so I opted to randomly text my hub when and as I could, to let him know how I was doing :) 

 11:51 Mile 14

Paulines' hub had arranged to drop the car at the finish in Yorkshire, then cycle to us to be our support. Expected at mile 15, he arrived. We were leaving Rochdale, heading for Littleborough.
He chatted what the going was like up ahead, the canal path, undulations, passed us both gels and pork pies and took photos. A welcome addition to our run! Felt like a real ultra runner with a crew ;) 

Coming up and into mile 17 and the Calderdale Summit, we were chatting with a couple of runners before passing them by and one commented it was downhill from here, Yes it was! We were at the highest point of the run! 


The canal path had changed drastically from the Manchester asphalt with warehouses over looking it, to something much more beautiful. I was enjoying the scenery, and for a while, the weather!It was a good day for a run :)

                                                                  13:21 Mile 20

Probably the best milestone of the day! 20 mile and only half past one :) Just 10mile to go. I could run 10mile just fine! I run 8-12mile on my local runs [admittedly not after 20mile ...]

The second food station was due at any time too :) Again we had flat coke and pork pies :) Pauline chatted to the Marshall then realised we hadn't crossed the time cut-off strip on the floor! she pushed us over and we carried on laughing, I was still eating my pies!
We had left the canal now and it was unsafe to use at this point due to the flood damage in December 2015 and into the New Year of 2016.

It made a nice change to run off the canal and through the town of Todmorden
As we ran it was around this point that Craig Holgate passed us [again] heading for the finish. He looked strong. We watched as he handed his water bottle to a man at the road-side, then a little further along took gels from a woman. This was a man that ran like this often. We later found out that he finished the 100km Ultra in 7hours 47mins! Amazing!

We ran along side another runner. Pauline was chatting while I listened. She had only the day before completed the Liverpool to Manchester Ultra! After run / walk and chatting awhile she carried on ahead.

The detour wasn't as complicated as we first fretted [well I did] and we were soon back on the canal. 

12:30 mile 25

  The next, and final, food station was at mile 25 [ish]. Paulines' friend and, event manager, was waiting there to see her. The weather had changed again and we huddled under the taupe out of the downpour. I had three cups of coke, and a couple of jaffa cakes. We chatted to the Marshalls' and had our photo taken, then carried on. Just 6mile left. Just a 10k. Just over an hour ... OK then! I was actually going to do this!

We got back onto the canal for the final leg. Hebden Bridge
The heavens opened. Thunder banged. Lightening flashed. It hail stoned. 
Our worse weather yet of the day. Thankfully we hadn't far to go now! 

The Storm

I began counting down the miles. Five. Four. Three ...
We joked my usual inspiration finding, 'just 3mile, that's 5k, just a park-run' but it felt forever and at the time, never ending. My feet were sore, my legs were tired, the weather was awful!
 How far we'd come, how far was left

>I took a photo of the sign for the last 2mile, and then Pauline said 'there's the finish'! I'd never felt so relieved! We picked up our pace a little and crossed the line. The sun had come out again, there was a rainbow in the sky :) We hugged, had photos and chatted with the finish Marshalls'. It was over. I'd done it. My first 50km [31 mile] Ultra Marathon and it only took 7 hour and 35 mins ;)

Crossing the Finish

 Final text: Done!

Thoughts on my running during the Ultra? I think I had a good endurance pace at the start, for the first 11 mile. The the walking overtook the running. I'd like to better this definitely. Run longer than I did. Maybe at a better pace too.

Thoroughly enjoyed this Ultra! I was was apprehensive at first but the no need for navigation and generous cut-off time made this a perfect first ultra for beginners, and a fast flat run for the seasoned Ultra Runner. The marshalls were brill, standing out in all the weather for hours [some of us aren't hares!].

This is an Ultra I'd like to take part in yearly if I can. After all I have a time to beat ;)


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