Ridgeway Challenge, Part 1: Build-up to the event   7 comments

Update: The race finished better than I should have hoped.  Full details here.

Ridgeway Path


I am running in the Ridgeway Challenge this weekend (this post due to publish about 20 hours into the effort when, hopefully, I will be on the bus home but more likely am hobbling along hours from finishing); it is 86 miles on a rugged 5000-year-old footpath from Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring to a finish just past the centre of the stone circle encompassing the World Heritage Site village of Avebury. I was a bit nervous about even finishing the race despite the fact that several of my drinking buddies back home do longer races over hillier and rougher terrain than this several times per year. I have been posting the Run Week in Review since just after I started training mid-January mostly as a sort of post-mortem tool for when it all goes tits up. {Note: since I hate reading training blogs almost as much as actually doing the training, I tried to make these marginally more entertaining at least to myself if not to you lot.}

cum thru 27 august 2015

Blue was my target mileage from 19 January, Red my actual mileage thru Thursday 27 August. That bump on the end is the current run.


My only other race at an ultramarathon distance was due a bet I had with my First Sergeant in Indiana back in the early 1980s. We had met each other out on a long run a few weeks after I got to Fort Harrison (now a State Park) and as we approached the gates the penny dropped that I belonged to him; for the next few months, whenever a training platoon pissed him off, Top would drag me out in front of them shouting, “listen up, yay-hoos. This is my Spec4 and he’s going to run you to the mountains,” which I would proceed to do.  At Fort Harrison, the landscape is so flat that if you sat on the back of a donkey you could see the Sears Tower 180 miles to the north or at least the Gateway Arch 170 miles WSW. The mountains are a little farther away.

Seal of the Fighting Typists, Propaganda Brigade

Seal of the Fighting Typists, Propaganda Brigade


Top had to drop out of a local marathon due to some temp orders to DC and gave me his entry adding something like, “that’s in my name, Commie, so you better not fuck this up.” I told him I could do it twice and still beat the Hoosier Losers I’d be pooled with and he mocked that I probably couldn’t even finish once much less go around twice. I remember betting the case of beer for him versus a bottle of bourbon for me but it was never completely clear if I had to beat the last official finisher (which I did not at just over 6h 30m) or the official cut-off (which was 8 hours to my roughly 7:30). Regardless, we both paid up as a matter of personal honour.  Not long after this, ‘there was an incident’ that foreshortened my military career (which, coincidentally, began due to another incident which resulted in similarly large stacks of paperwork and Byzantine legal wrangling).

But I digress (or is it regress?). The upshot of that exercise was that I was more-or-less crippled for the next several days and vowed never to do anything that stupid and pointless ever again. Breaking that vow for shorter — but easily as stupid — events has been a regular feature of this blog and, indeed, my entire life subsequent to that weird period but, in defence of the Ridgeway Challenge try, I actually prepared for this stupid event intending to finish and still be able to enjoy the Bank Holiday the day after.

The plan was simple:
1 – Walk all hills (anathema to my last four decades of hoofing).
2 – Eat constantly.
3 – Walk 5 minutes every half hour (minus the hill walk time).
4 – Start slow. Then, slow down.
5 – Stay hydrated and keep on top of the mineral balance.

The walking (1 and 3) has been an uncomfortable addition to the training and going slower than usual is harder than you might think. On the proving run (which was meant to be the Wysis Way), I continued to run a couple of minutes per mile faster than intended (item 4) despite adhering to the walk rules.


Maltodextrose, B12, minerals, electrolytes, other vitamins packed to look like a narcotics bust

Nutrition (2 and 5) has been a bit easier. I found that 60g maltodextrose, a crushed multi-mineral tablet, and some extra potassium chloride in a liter of water is easy to sip, replenishes glycogen, and the fluids don’t rocket straight through my decrepit kidneys (the packets do look a bit like narcotics, but I only packed codeine for opiates). Before I left for the hotel, I cooked, froze, and packaged a couple of pizzas cut into sandwich size portions to have midway between each of the checkpoints along with a package of fig bars and a loaf of banana bread. The Check Points are all supposed to be well stocked with food and drink, too, and I had a drop bag waiting for me at the halfway point so I didn’t have to carry ALL my provisions.  And, there are plenty of pubs in the first half of the route.

There were mandatory items each runner had to carry including a torch with spare batteries, a cell phone, and high-vis kit for nighttime road crossings. I also opted for an mp3 player and a digital camera along with a dry shirt (and a full change of dry kit for the halfway point stashed in my drop bag), plus some moleskin for blisters and a space blanket just in case (I have really low blood pressure and have been known to have core body temperature crashes when exhausted). Oh, and a map of the route (which isn’t entirely marked), a compass, and tube of Astroglide (for my nipples and chafing…don’t judge me!).

With all of that in place, a room booked in a pub near the shuttle stop in Tring for the night before, and advanced tickets booked for the rail journey there was nothing left but to head out.


shoes Ridgeway ready



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: