Last Sunday I did the Bimblers Bluff 50K trail race in Guilford, Connecticut. It is apparently 32.5 miles rather than 31 (according to some people Garmins – personally my RunKeeper for Android measured it as 29.15 because the GPS craped out for a couple of miles).
This was a great race. The evening before I headed to KC’s Pub to register and the team there (race team as well as the pub team) were very friendly. I picked up my race pack, stayed for a beer and some good food, we sat outside and had a really good time.
Surprisingly I got to sleep fairly easily that night and woke fresh the next day. A quick bite to eat at 6am and then sorting out gear ensued. Around 7:15 I headed to the start, we had a quick briefing, our American friends sang their national anthem and then we headed off.
I lingered at the back a bit, not wanted to go off too fast, as we did a lap of the field and then headed directly into the trail. This was a great single track trail and bunched up for the first couple of miles causing a lot of start/stop but soon the field spread out and people got into their stride.
After a few miles on this, we reached a bridleway / track at which point we could start to move at a quicker clip. This was a good stage and I took the chance to talk to a few of the participants – a lot of great people, many of whom were doing their first ultra, just like me.
For some reason I was expecting an aid station around 8 miles, but it didn’t appear, so we cracked on over gradually more and more technical trail for another couple of miles until we crossed a road and got to the first (real) aid station.
I probably spent a little too long here – 2 or 3 minutes, but it was worth it, because as soon as we left the station it was an unrelenting climb to the ‘bluff’ – mostly hands on knees, powering upward with burning thighs. Worth it though, the views from the top were incredible, we could see for miles and miles.
After the bluff I kind of lost myself in my mind for a while and seemed to end up descending to a farm type thingy, a few houses, out buildings and a paddock with horses, then out onto a road, which we skirted for a couple of hundred yards to another aid station (16 miles). I was pretty dry at this stage, and made the mistake of taking a PB&J – Peanut Butter and Jelly (i.e. Jam) – sandwich, which just clogged up my mouth. I compounded this with a potato, too generously dipped in salt.
They were making grilled cheese sandwiches here also, but I didn’t try one, just in case the cheese didn’t sit well in my stomach. I was informed that it was around 6 miles to the next aid station and then just 10 miles to the finish afterwards.
I know I was a little ‘out of it’ by this stage because that statement didn’t phase me – in fact I’m not sure it registered at all.
The following 6 miles are a blur, kind of… I know I was catching people fairly regularly – maybe about 30-40 people from the 10 mile mark and I ran alongside a guy for a while, who I had seen the night before in the pub. We kept fairly even and got to the 22 mile aid station. The guy I’d been running with filled his Camelbak and scooted right out, whereas I lingered a bit again (too long). A few M&Ms and more water at this point. I may have also had a gel. Headed out again, the next stage was long, we were informed – 8 miles, but seems longer. How true. I bonked here – I’d been having some mild cramping of my thighs for a bit but come mile 24/25 I just ran completely out of energy. I’d shuffle along for a few yards then walk for a bit, it was miserable. I can see it clearly now, but at the time I didn’t really connect the dots and see that I needed energy. Anyway, after probably an hour of suffering this I must have taken a gel or something, but I found some energy – the next mile to the final aid station was okay.
The race team had placed Halloween figures along the route, which made things quite surreal.
At the final aid station, my legs cramped terribly – I had another salty potato, some M&Ms, filled my water bottle and headed straight off as the cramping pains I was getting, when I stood still, were unbearable.
I’m not sure if it was the knowledge that I only had 2.5 miles to go, or some food/energy consumption, but I started to feel better and made good time for the final leg.
Coming down the final short hill of the trail to the cheers of some spectators I heard someone on my shoulder – the final 50 yards became an all out sprint, I don’t know where it came from, or why my legs even responded, but it happened and I held him off.
All in all, a great race, I’d really recommend it!!
You can see the mile splits, altitude profile etc at http://runkeeper.com/user/kjhughes/activity/57315251
I had hoped for under 7 hours, but given the hilly and technical terrain I was pretty happy with 7:13. I was also pleased to be the first ‘British athlete’ home as well as setting a new British record for the course !! – okay, okay – I was the only British person there, but I’m taking it….
I shot a little video during the race as well, on my phone
- Better food / energy management – I was taking on only water because it was easier and quicker than mixing energy drinks. Probably need more food at the earlier aid stations
- Better electrolyte management – cramping is probably due to lack of salt, I should look into salt tablets for this.
- Better process at aid stations – think about what I’m going to do in the final mile to the station, otherwise I’m wasting time there.
- I can do an ultra. In fact I can finish anything I put my mind to.
NOTE: This race was done for charity sponsorship also, a very deserving charity – Help for Heroes – with your help I raised £554 for a great cause – thank you all for your donations!! If you didn’t get a chance to donate in time for this race, then don’t worry there’ll be others… or you could just nip over and donate anyway – http://www.justgiving.com/kjhughes