The CTS Dorset Ultra was my first Ultra Marathon (53k overall) and my first race with Endurance Life. It was one hell of a run…
I’d say I wasn’t as prepared for the race as I’d like to have been, mentally or physically. I had researched the race quite a bit, mainly looking through pervious race reports – this actually scared me a bit. There were loads of reports of people missing cut offs, getting injured, getting lost etc – I genuinely struggled to find one of someone finishing. Then there was my knee injury. I had 3 weeks off, ran a marathon, then another 2 weeks off just before the ultra. That was about 5 weeks with only 1 long run. Not good. However, I had trained along the Jurassic Coast a couple of times before, including sections of this course – arguably some of the harder sections. I knew the first 10 or so miles pretty well.
I traveled down to Dorset from London the day before the race to stay with Jack, who was also supporting me along with Jahna and the dog Tilly during the race. I didn’t even think about support until Jack mentioned it – I’m SO glad he said something as it surprising how much seeing a familiar face along the way can really boost your mood! After smashing down a lasagne and some electrolytes, I got a surprisingly good nights sleep.
Race day. 50mph+ winds. Fairly mild.
I was hyped, I really wanted to run.
We got to base camp at Lulworth Cove in good time, I registered and put on my bib. We also got given a free T-shirt before the race, I found this a little backwards, but I’m not complaining. There was a quick briefing – something about avoiding running onto the minefields and keeping between the yellow markers, the usual stuff. We then all head over to the start line… via the porta-loos.
The Start Line
There were 5 distances for this race. 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultra (53k) and Ultra Plus (72k). The ultra routes passed through the finish line 3 times altogether in 3 loops. During the briefing we were told that the Ultra Plus runners would be sent off first, then 5 minutes later, the Ultra runners would be let loose. However, when we got to the start line, apparently we were told to run all at once. I didn’t hear this so stood around like a muppet watching everyone run off assuming they were the Ultra Plus runners. I got a bit suspicious when the start line started to look quite empty. I quickly unzipped my coat, threw it in Jacks direction and sprinted to catch up with the pack. Not my most graceful start to a race.
I knew this first section of the coast fairly well as it was where I had trained. I knew the hills that were about to come up. Mentaly this put me in a good place. We marched up the first long hill as a pack; the wind was giving us a little taste of it’s power. Once the path started to flatten out, the race was on. I started to overtake as many people as I could giving me enough space to sprint the downhill sections where I tend to make most of my time. The tactic paid off, I managed to catch the front pack and trudge up the next hill with them. This is probably the first race I’ve been in where I haven’t lost places on the up hills, I was feeling really good. During this section (nicknamed ‘the rollercoaster’) we were running into a headwind. However, the hills actually helped shield us from the wind a bit. It was only when we got to the top and while running the down hills that the we felt the full force of the wind.
It was then when we all realised that this was going to be a different kind of race.
On the first long downhill, there was the first casualty. Someone had been blown into a barbed wire fence that ran along the path. After checking if they were okay, he nodded and we continued to run. The wind made it impossible to run in a straight line, I was being blown all over the path, leaning into the wind as much as I could. It sapped so much energy. This was pretty much the story of the race.
I ate early and I tried to eat often. I had Chia Seed flapjacks, White Chocolate Cliff Bars, Shot Blocks and Salt Sticks. This combo seems to work very well for me. I aim to eat around 10 Salt Sticks per race (over a marathon) – so I had one around every 3 miles for Dorset. I also aim to have 1 shot block every 5 or 6 miles.
After getting this first section finished with, we started on our first loop back to the start. The wind was on our side. I took a peak at my watch and saw that I was running low 7 minute miles – this really boosted my moral and within no time I was on a downhill back towards the finish line. Jack was waiting at the bottom of this hill and together we ran through the starting line where the Half Marathon runners were cheering everyone while they we’re getting ready to start. It was a great atmosphere!
The first 12 miles were done. After a quick refill at the aid station and Jahna shouting “YOU LOOK LIKE YOU’RE ON DRUGS” at me ( to be fair, I was pretty hyped), the next section was a beach. A bloody beach.
After feeling so positive along the western loop, this beach really bought my mood down and as a result, I started to really slow down. This eastern loop seemed much harder. Things got serious – I put my headphones on. The hills were not as steep, but they went on for longer. They were also more exposed to the powerful wind. I had a couple of mega low points during this loop. I remember trying to take my mind off of the pain by trying to figure out what brand of shoes were leaving each footprint in the mud.
After running alone for a while I came across a guy shielding himself within a crevice in a hill, I asked if he was okay and needed a hand. He replied with a soft voice “I’ll be on my way in a bit”, I could barely hear him over the wind, but he confirmed that he was okay so I pushed on. I decided to put on my coat as I was starting to feel the cold for the first time. To no fault of the coat, I turned into a human parachute – the wind was just too strong. This was such a bad move, but I decided staying warm was more important than speed. It was here where I lost most of my places earned in the first section. There was one point when large groups of people started to overtake me, my moral hit a new low. I got pissed off with my music, I got pissed off with the weather, I got pissed off with myself. It was only when I looked at their bibs that I realised that they were the half marathon runners! My pace quickened a bit and I started trying to match their pace.
I don’t remember much more from this section, but I do remember hitting the beach again. I was in a pretty bad state. As I neared the end of the beach I heard a familiar voice, ’twas Jack! I quickly removed my coat/parachute and he stuffed it back into my bag as I was walking along. He encouraged me to start running again, I dibbed in, refilled my water and started the last loop. It was AMAZING to see Jack and Jahna again at this point, I was hyped once again. What made it even better was I almost ran into a car that contained Jacks mum Sue and brother Jay. I shouted 10k to go into the window and they waved excitedly as I made my way back up the same hill from the beginning of the race.
I liked this section of the course. I knew from this point that I would finish the race, it felt like a victory lap. I started to push myself again.
The hills were as big as they were the first time I ran them and the wind was just as strong. After completing ‘the rollercoaster’ for the second time, I kept my eye out for where I had to turn off. I saw a van over in a field where the next aid station was, so it was pretty obvious, not sure how people missed this in previous years…
Once I reached the van, I dibbed in and pushed along this flat section with a nice tailwind. I started to overtake a couple of people and got chatting with a guy named Rob, we were running the same pace. We chat for a good 4 miles which really took my mind off of any aches, encouraging each other up the last hill. We spotted a guy a way ahead of us and decided to try to catch him before the finish. I managed to overtake him on the last downhill and sprint around to the finish.
I had finished my first ultra marathon in 7 hours 11 minutes (41st place).
Jack and Jahna congratulated me and asked if I’d like anything.
“Just a cup of tea, a cup of tea would be perfect”.
As they ran off to get me one, I collected my medal and cheered people through the finish line.
I really, really enjoyed this race. The atmosphere was brilliant, the aid stations we’re minimal, but well stocked with water and the route was very well planned – I had no trouble following the markers. I’ve also got to give a massive thanks to all of the race marshals as well as Jack and Jahna. The conditions were horrendous, so they’re all absolute heroes standing out there for hours to keep us runners happy. Although it was tough, I’m very glad that this was my first ultra.
I will definitely be back for another Endurance Life race. Maybe during month with a bit of sun though! Check out their website here www.endurancelife.com
Inov8 Roclite 243
OMM Trail TShirt
Inov8 Arm Warmers
Inov8 Race Elite Raceshell
Salomon S-Lab Sense Shorts
Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra Set
Salomon S-Lab Gloves