Up & Down at the Pewsey Downsaround 35 Miles
A few weeks ago I mentioned it was about just getting back into some sort of running shape, but more recently I’ve felt I’m recovering adequately. In the 7 weeks prior to the LDWA Pewsey Downsaround I completed the Punchbowl 30 Miles, the New Forest Challenge Marathon and the Larmer Tree Marathon; and also found the legs to fit in a handful of other races and orienteering events.
Friday 25th March (the weekend before the Pewsey Downsaround) was a 30 mile walk with Chris. The following afternoon (Saturday 26th) I ran in the Newport to Ryde 7 mile race getting at PB by 4 minutes, and Monday 28th saw a PB by a minute in the West Wight 3 Hills race.
Now it was time for 35 miles of Wiltshire Downs’ finest.
Sunday 3rd April
An early start again!
The earliest ferry from Yarmouth (IOW) was at 06:25 which meant we’d be arriving in Pewsey with not much time to ‘faff’ about before the 08:30 start time. Mum and Dad were to walk the 17 mile route whilst I was out enjoying(?!) myself, navigating the 35 mile route.
Starting on-time, at an easy pace, I aimed to treat this as a training run and I wanted to enjoy it, plus it was a foray into unknown distances. After 3.5 km the first real climb of the day showed itself – 125 metres in 1.5 km (ramping up to 20%) – the Giant’s Grave. A gentle walk up the hill and it was soon back to running. Settling into an easy pace I got talking to a lady named Lisa as the route followed the ‘Mid Wilts Way’. We parted company at the first manned checkpoint, as I rushed through, at around 12 km.
The pace felt comfortable so I pushed a little around ‘Milk Hill’, past the first White Horse and onto the ‘Wansdyke Path’. On the map the ‘Wansdyke’ gradually descended and looked like you could get the pace up a little and relax at the same time. In reality it was a lumpy and rough dyke and it certainly wasn’t easy going. There was a well-groomed farm track running parallel, which some runners took, but as it wasn’t the official route (according to the map and instructions) I stayed on the dyke and watched a few increase their gap to me.
At around 20 km the route took a left turn, off the Wansdyke, towards Bishops Cannings. It was shortly after this I bumped into Lisa again (she caught me up) and we chatted and navigated for a while until we were joined by David Woodall around the 23 km mark. David had been running not too far behind the faster runners, but lost sight of them along the Wansdyke and took the wrong left turn (too early) – putting an extra km or so, and time spent relocating, onto the route.
Staying as a group of 3 we chatted between ourselves, almost not noticing climbs coming and going, and soon found ourselves descending from the radio masts at Morgan’s Hill towards the 2nd manned checkpoint at 28 km (17.5 miles). Thinking I wasn’t drinking much or didn’t need much water, I refilled only one water bottle and made away from the checkpoint quickly. This was an error, as I was soon to find out!
The next few kms were mostly walking, up Calstone Down, up towards Cherhill Hill Monument. The weather was kind and the sun out, my legs felt good and I felt in control, which gave a chance to tuck into another gel and down plenty of water during the climb. On cresting the climb, around 32 km (20 miles) I had a few sips of water left, and I said to Lisa and David that they should get going and not worry about me, to go at their pace as I was taking it easy and would get going in a bit. Not to bother them I didn’t tell them of my water situation.
With 11 km (6.5 miles) to the next manned checkpoint I knew I was going to have to nurse it and was likely to start suffering with no water. Protracted periods of walking following, running only the good downhill surfaces and some of the flat. At 39 km (24 miles) I approached Avebury through a marshy field and for some reason soaking wet feet felt like a relief! Knowing I’d have water in around 30 minutes I put on brave face whilst running through Avebury, whilst inside I had the hump with myself. This wasn’t too dissimilar to that at the Larmer Tree Marathon, but I hadn’t been sick and was going at an easier pace. During the climb after Avebury, towards the 26.5 mile aid/check point, I turned around ‘the hump with myself’ and looked at it as mental fortitude training; something useful if I’m to run longer distance events in the future.
On reaching the checkpoint I refilled and drank one bottle, making sure I left with 2 full bottles too. Immediately I was in a better place and felt happy. For the following few kilometres I continued to take it easy, took on S!Caps and a couple of gels.
Around 47 km (28.5 miles) I was caught by a pair of runners, Nichola Newton and Dave (??). I was also starting to feel a whole lot better and there was running still to be had from those legs. We chatted a little and I pulled away slightly on approaching Gopher Wood. I was looking forward to Gopher Wood and thought it would be muddy, which would take my mind off things. It didn’t disappoint! A sharp descent followed and it was the last checkpoint, and only 5-6 km remaining.
Arriving in the small village of Oare around the 52 km (32 miles) mark, we were a group of 3 again as Nichola and Dave had caught back up. We ran the last handful of kilometres together, discussing times and whether we could slide in under 6hrs 45mins? If the route was 35 miles exactly I thought it was doable, but I believed it would be over and likely to be 35.5 miles. A marshal/helper at Knowle (34.5 miles in) confirmed this saying “only one more mile left”, we pushed on towards the end regardless.
Nichola, Dave and myself completed the 35 mile route in an official time of 6hrs 47mins (equal 10th back); and despite the water problems earlier, I felt I could have kept going for a few more miles. Lisa ended up finishing 21 minutes ahead, with David W 11 minutes ahead of myself. The first person to complete this year’s Pewsey Downsaround was Dan Connors in a speedy 5hrs 27mins!
About 250 people partook the various Pewsey Downaround routes; 10 miles, 17 miles, 26 miles and 35 miles. With around 70 runners and walkers opting for the 35 mile jaunt.
The week following I’d been very fatigued and fighting off a cold, so have taken it easy and at the time of writing this feel a lot better. The 30th April I’ll be walking (attempting to walk) 72 miles around the Isle of Wight in 24 hours as a walk leader in the Isle of Wight Walking Festival. 3 weeks later is the Ox Ultra Marathon (37 miles).
Food Drink Consumed
Before: one tea cake with jam.
4 x Accel Gels Vanilla (4:1 Carb/Protein energy gels, no caffeine)
3 x Accel Gels Raspberry Cream (4:1 Carb/Protein energy gels, 40mg caffeine)
1 x Accelerade 2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel (100mg caffeine)
6 x Jelly Babies
5 x Succeed Electrolyte Capsules S!CAPS
Pewsey Downsaround 35 mile route and elevation
Taken from my watch’s gpx data, Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.
Full stats, laps, and pace of my run at the Pewsey Downsaround are viewable at Strava. Full results are available at www.ldwa.org.uk/Wiltshire/W/4336/2016-pewsey-downsaround-results.html.
Total climbing: 4501 ft
Total descent: -4472 ft
Total Time: 06:49:10