The Country to Capital Ultra is a 45 mile trail race organised by Go Beyond Ultra events. The event follows a route from Wendover in Bucks down to Little Venice, near Paddington, mostly following footpaths through the Chilterns via Chesham and Chorleywood and then across to the Grand Union Canal footpath near Denham through to Uxbridge, West Drayton and in towards London. This years event was on 12th January.
A field of over 250 runners set off from the warmth and hospitality of the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Wendover with a long day of running ahead of us. The weather before the event hadn't been too kind , so the Chilterns were always going to be muddy. Most people wore trail shoes. I wore my Saucony Peregrines, which turned out to be a good choice. A route book was provided but, for those of us who aren't the greatest navigators, there were certainly enough opportunities to get slightly lost, especially in the first half of the course. I therefore took the decision to tuck in with a group who were going at roughly my pace and seemed to know where they were going. Apart from a small deviation, this strategy seemed to work.
We went through the first 2 checkpoints in good spirits. It was a grey, bleak day but we were dressed for the occasion (most people wore thermal tops with long tights, hats and gloves, with some extra kit in a small rucksack) and at least the rain stopped before we started running. Some of the muddy fields had been slippery but we had the promise of getting over to the canal footpath which shouldn't have been so bad. The canal path also had the promise of being flatter than the Chilterns and would give far less opportunity to get lost! I think I must have put a little too much effort into the muddy Chiltern Hills because I got to the
It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon. Apart from the odd bridge, the route was at least flat now although it was pretty muddy. I almost managed to slip into the canal at one point while going around the edge of a big puddle. That at least gave me a little extra burst of adrenaline! Its funny how time seems to slow down when you're struggling in an ultra. Some of the surroundings were a bit bleak and the canal boats with their smoking chimneys looked very inviting but I carried on with a jog/walk for a while. I came to the bridge at the point where the Paddington arm of the canal turns left (about the only point to make a wrong turn before the end!). This gave me a bit of a mental lift. It was only a half marathon to the end. Even with a bit of walking, I should be o.k. One good thing about an ultra is that if you go through a bad spell you still have time to recover.
After checkpoint 4 and a bit more fuel, I started to get going a little better. I wasn't exactly racing away but I certainly felt both physically and mentally a little better. After checkpoint 5, the terrain underfoot improved, the surroundings seemed brighter and it became easier to get into a rhythm again. I finished in a time of 7:50, which was a relief after the rough patch I'd had. I'd even finished before it got dark. The marshals and support crew at the end were just as good as out on the rest of the course. They'd had a long, cold day as well. I certainly appreciated my hot cuppa and getting warm again.
Overall, I'd enjoyed the event. The organisation was very good. For those interested, you even earn a point towards UTMB qualification. I've rather foolishly entered the Thames Trot too. This is also organised by Go Beyond Ultra. With only 3 weeks between events, recovery isn't going to be easy. Ill let you know how I get on...