After managing 40 miles in a team at Endure24 I started looking for longer races. Convinced by Jen to join her on the Centurion Running 5o mile event, South Downs Way 50 (SDW50) for the following year I also put my name on the waiting list for the Chiltern Wonderland (CW50) event in September and forgot all about it. Come August and I get a message telling me I’ve reached the top of the list and have a week to take up a vacated spot. After discussion with the wife I sign up and wonder about doing some training.
Unlike shorter events, ultra events from 50 mile up tend to have mandatory kit lists. These vary with length, location and likely weather but as a minimum tend to be 2 litre of fluid capacity, head torch, emergency whistle, survival blanket and a waterproof jacket, sometimes trousers as well. The last two are where you start to learn you know nothing about what waterproof means. Most of the running jackets you have aren’t technically waterproof. As a minimum the mandatory jackets are typically 10,000mm hydrostatic head. This may sound like Greek or even Geek, but is essentially a measure of how much water the fabric can withstand when tested. 10,000mm means the fabric didn’t allow water through when underneath a 10 metre tube filled with water. If coupled with taped seams (essentially all joints in fabric have a permanent impermeable tape attached from within) you have a waterproof jacket that won’t allow rain in and will pass kit check. Makes sense? The downside of this spec is cost. You can easily spend up to £200 on a jacket, so worth shopping around for one. If you’re last minute shopping then Cotswold Outdoors, Tog 25 and Millets all have items to fit the bill.
With just over a month to go before the event I decided to do a long run wearing the hydration vest (a posh version of a rucksack, now favoured for ultras) packed with all the gear I needed to carry. I chose to run a 9 mile section of the nearby Greensands Ridge. Starting in Woburn, cutting across the abbey grounds and ending by Millbrook proving ground near Bedford, it provided a fairly easy to navigate route with few made roads or paths.
Throwing a few gels and energy tablets into the pockets as a last minute thought I set off. The route is beautiful and I ran with deer, pheasant and munkjac. Although setting off in the evening it was hotter than I expected and the 1 litre of water was being used up far quicker than I expected. Once at Millbrook I could feel a big drop in energy and took one of the gels, added an energy tablet to my remaining water and set off back. 6 miles from home it got dark and I had to pull out the head torch I’d carried just for the weight but was glad I had included. The remaining water was rapidly used and I thankfully stumbled over a tap outside Woburn Abbey and refilled.
Finally getting back to the car after covering just under 20 miles I learnt a lot from the run. 1 litre of water was insufficient for 20 miles. I needed more food, having properly bonked on the way back. Wooded sections are a lot darker in early dusk than you appreciate and despite a warm evening my sodden top and a gentle wind was cooling me considerably and I could have done with a dry top to swap into. My running vest, a cheap own brand item from Decathlon was good. Some of the pockets weren’t as easy to reach as the more expensive Salomon items but overall I’m pleased with it and have finalised what I’m carrying for the CW50.