Butcombe Trail Ultra
James Panton has written a race report on the Butcombe 50-mile trail ultra (a self-navigation ultra in the Mendip Hills) which took place on Saturday 27 April.
I wasn’t sure how I was feeling the morning of the race. Tired definitely. A busy week, pre-race nerves and a windy night didn’t allow for a good night’s sleep.
Up out of bed. Coffee. Only half my breakfast. Buffeted down the M5 to the race HQ. Parked, loo, registered. Race briefing and then we were off in what seemed like no time at all.
The rain had more or less stopped. But the wind. The wind dominated the day. Hat, gloves, tee, long-sleeve and jacket. Had to keep moving to stop feeling frozen.
It was fairly soggy underfoot. My trusty Mudclaws were the right choice after all. Up the first climb and the views were spectacular. I’d started towards the back but I was moving to keep warm and began overtaking. I’d stay with a group for a while then my legs would take me down a descent or up a climb and I’d find myself alone again.
Second checkpoint and Jen was there. She was amazing throughout the day, following the course around, letting me know how I was doing, making sure I had everything I needed.
The wind had been behind us for a while now and was pushing us along. But once out of checkpoint three we were facing into it and it brought us all to a crawl. Some were pairing up and taking turns to draft each other. We occasionally lost balance. It was some of the hardest running I’ve ever done. There weren’t going to be any course records today. Sunglasses on to protect my eyes. Stiles were starting to become a problem with legs unwilling to contort themselves over. More wind. The sun was trying to break through and the slow striptease had already started. Wraps with Nutella alternated with gels to keep me fuelled. More wind. Wind, wind wind.
The slog had really set in. More checkpoints. Lovely people supporting and cheering. Updates and messages from Jen. Bit of a queasy moment after an oddball gel didn’t go down so well. Harder to take in food after that.
Another big climb and straight into the wind again for what would have been a lovely running stretch. It was an agonising trudging stretch. After what seemed to be too long, down and out of the wind. Struggling now with insufficient calories. Started being overtaken. I was disappointed but then realised these were runners on the 56-mile course. I was only overtaken once by someone on the 50-miler.
A few words with another runner on a climb. Lots of chats throughout the day. Everyone was so friendly. This 56-miler was moving well and pushed ahead. Another descent, another climb. I caught up with him near the top. He was struggling a bit, I was struggling a bit. We pushed each other on. Thanks, Adam, for getting me through the final 10 miles.
Two kilometres to go. I was spent and was slowing us down. Adam pushed on, trying to finish in under ten hours. I trudged up the very slight incline. 200m to go. Heard cheering. Knew I’d have to come round the corner running. Took a deep breath and went for it as best I could. Crossed the line and fell into Jen’s arms. So happy to finish.
Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and fellow runners. Really wonderful race. You did yourselves proud!