My first Ultra – Kielder 50K

I decided, once I got back from the Malta Marathon, that I needed a new challenge. Although I haven’t done much off road running I really enjoy it so I signed up to my first Ultra, a 50K trail starting from Kielder. After Malta I only had a month until the Ultra so just kept running the way I normally do rather than any special training. I like to get a few races out of one block of marathon training!

Being on a low carbohydrate diet I have been experimenting with what works best for me when running. Fasted runs seem to work best for me, however running on three Baby Bels in Malta may have been a bit of a mistake!

We turned up at Kielder Forest on the Friday afternoon and registered. I felt relaxed and was really looking forward to running in such a beautiful place. The weather forecast was great.

After a carb loading tea of stir fry veg, cheese, nuts and of course, a couple of glasses of red wine I settled down to sleep. I heard the Ultra ultra-runners setting off (80 and 100K!) at around 05.30 and was glad to be still snuggled up in my sleeping bag.

Breakfast was cheesy scrambled eggs and coffee. I had never run far with a rucksack on but we needed full kit for the race, as well as bladder bag full of drink, and some snacks. I knew there would be some food at the two checkpoints but wasn’t sure there would be anything suitable for me. It felt really heavy being full of water!

The start was really calm and friendly. There was a totally different atmosphere to a marathon or other shorter race. I came across a fellow Colt Karl, who I recognised from Kendal Tri. After a short briefing we set off into the forest. The first part of the run was tricky underfoot as there were lots of tree roots and windy paths through the forest.  Having had three broken ankles in the past I was keen not to be carted off injured after only a couple of miles in so I took my time and picked my way through.

Then came the mud and watery bogs, great fun but a bit chilly on the feet and hard to run in places. The terrain varied from bogs, forest trails, fire tracks, grass, deep mud, with a few fallen trees to climb over. I was having the time of my life! I was one of those annoying runners who keep saying ‘Isn’t this amazing’!

The first check point was 14K at Kielder Castle. There were bits of food, coke and toilets. I had a couple of sips of coke and 2 flapjack bits and ran on. The way was well marked with pink arrows so navigation wasn’t a problem…until later in the course!

I ran on to the second and last check point at 30K. Still feeling great, I swigged down another bit of coke and 2 more flapjack bites. I had taken a bag load of spare food but hadn’t needed any of it so far. I was drinking a lot of water though as it was a hot day! I ended up stuck at this check point for quite a while as I couldn’t get the top back on my bladder pack so the organiser came over and offered help!

Off I went again for the last 20K. After a really well marked first 30K the last 20K was badly marked! There were no marshals from this point and very few arrows. No pink arrow sprayed on the ground and quite a few people looking lost!

My Garmin showed passing 26 miles, so this was the furthest I had ever run. I was still feeling good, plenty of energy but legs starting to feel a bit tired. Then, I took a wrong turning and ended up in the forest feeling lonely! No signs, no people, nothing! I got to a gate, still no signs so I turned and ran a mile back to where I had come from. I found some runners who also looked confused and after a chat we decided to try a different way. We came across Kielder Reservoir and thought if we stick by that then we are on the right track.  At this point, I was glad not to be running the longer course because getting lost on a 100K run would not be fun!

So I was into the last 5K and still feeling ok. I was running the flats and downhills and run/walking the up hills by this point. I still didn’t want to risk hitting the wall (or breaking an ankle!).

I arrived at the finish to a lovely welcome and a medal. My legs seized up a bit once I’d stopped running and I could feel where my rucksack had chafed my back but apart from that I felt pretty good.

I realised I had not been running on all cylinders in Malta. I had been tired, low on iron (which I found out afterwards) and just felt very flat. My run at Kielder felt much more like my normal self. I absolutely loved it and cannot wait for my next Ultra. I didn’t care about a time or have any goal except to enjoy it and finish feeling happy. I did that. I love running 🙂