Wendover Woods was the last of the 4 races in the Centurion Running 50 Grand Slam.
Achilles and ankle issues in the couple of months before this race had me getting to the start thinking that I’d be scraping the cut-offs at best.
As it’s 5 loops I had the ‘fall back’ of stopping after a while and just driving home, so I thought I’d have a go anyway.
Wendover is a good couple of hours drive for me, so I opted to stay locally the night before. I drove up on the Friday, arriving at Premier Inn around 6ish. After a short back and forth with the guy on reception about me definitely having a booking, even though he couldn’t find on the system, I realised I was actually booked in the Holiday Inn !!
Anyway – the Holiday Inn was a fair bit closer, only about 10 mins drive from the start. I checked in, had dinner in the bar and then sorted out my kit for the morning.
Race morning was the usual kit check, get race number, hand in drop bag and the like. Lots of people milling around, and a few familiar faces I got to say hello to.
I didn’t know what to expect in terms of terrain – lots of short sharp hills and long gentle descents said the website – so I thought I’d just take things easy for the first lap and see how things went…
A bit of descent, then a steep path up to near the cafe and the Gruffalo. Another runnable downhill section and into the woods again, down and over a field… I think it passed close to the midway aid station but hung a right and diverted you up a couple of hilly sections before a lovely long gentle descent to the aid station. A few snacky bits there, then up a hill, hang a left for an out and back section with a steep incline (snake hill?).
Essentially it was exactly as the website described – some short sharp hills and long runnable descents. I pretty much found myself walking the hills and running the descents, for the whole 50 miles. Normally I’d be taking walking breaks after ~30 miles, but the nature of this course is that the descents are at a perfect angle to just job down, regardless of tired the legs are.
I remember rolling my ankle pretty badly at around 8 miles, and thinking my race (and Grand Slam) might be over – but I hobbled on a half mile or so and the pain eased.
I think I got the first 3 loops done in decent light, then headtorch on and cracked on – I had a good feel for the route by them, and of course it’s Centurion so the route is *very* well marked anyway.
All in all, I loved this race. I love the format, I love the terrain and I was pleased to finish in 13:43, which I’ll take given the (lack of) training.