The Jurassic Quarter Ultra Marathon – Power Tears and Steps!

Michelle Maxwell Marathon, Nutrition, Psychology, Racing, Running, Ultra Marathon

IMG_4760Its May 20th 2016 and I’m sat in my car with Chris at Portland Bill lighthouse, Weymouth. The rain is coming down so hard that the wind screen wipers can’t keep up and we can feel the strength of the wind against the side of the car in the exposed car park. Yes, it’s another ultra-marathon day on the Dorset coast! The inaugural Endurance Life Jurassic Quarter, just 46 miles of some of the most stunning British coastline to run and hopefully race.
Despite the weather, there are the usual 100s at the start line and the customary banter between athletes. I was nervous, but also feeling confident as I’d raced along sections of the race route along the coast-path before. The weather was the same for all of us, so it was time to get on with it!

The first section was pretty rocky and very slippery from the rain, skirting around Portland Bill, and heading into Portland itself. I had 5 ladies in front of me, which was new to me in an ultra, but I kept my head, we were only 3 miles in!
Past the Port buildings and onto the causeway leading to Weymouth itself was nice and flat, I settled into a pace (probably too quick, but very comfortable 7.30-8s) and chatted with a lovely chap called Chris. We chatted for 8 miles, overtook all the ladies but one, and then went past each other a few times as we stopped for family.IMG_4761

Once through Weymouth it was onto the hills I loved this brutal section from the CTS Dorset. Huge ascents and descents, with a kit check around 18 miles in.  Running past the beautiful Durdle Door, the weather had started to calm a bit, I felt buoyant and enjoyed running down the big cobbled steps into the Lulworth Cove Checkpoint to meet the family. Halfway and feeling great! Great to see the family, huge boost. I was slipping a lot on the long descents, so decided to change out of my Innov8 Race Ultra 270s, into Mudclaws for some more grip, at the halfway checkpoint. I have never changed shoes before in an ultra, and was slightly worried about it, plus the time wasted, but I hoped it would make up time in the second half. My faffing with shoes though meant the 3rd lady was coming into the checkpoint as I was tying up my trainers. Time to ensure she didn’t come past me!

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Onto Lulworth Cove beach, barely any actual beach and big waves! Hard to keep my feet dry and very rocky! Still, very mood lifting, and boosted me on again up the cliff and onto Tyneham. More monstrous ascents and descents, but this time with 100s of steps up and 100s of steps down, plus quite a few very muddy, slippery sections. One hill was a real low point, really steep up with tiny steps. I slipped and hit my knee right on top of the bad scar from my accident last year, really painful and dropped my peanut butter bar! So annoying! I really wasn’t sure how I was going to get down the other-side as my legs were wobbling so much, but somehow I did, slipping and sliding down the side of the steps. My knee was black the next morning, but no lasting damage.

Checkpoint 3: What a relief to see my kids! I could hear them when I was down in the valley, they were on the top of the cliff. ‘Come on Mummy!’, another huge boost. Scoffed down some peanuts, and onwards. Just 13 miles to go! The next section was the toughest yet, I got lost and found myself at the top of the cliff, and saw other runners below on a lower narrow path. I realised my mistake quickly, I had followed a normal yellow footpath arrow, not a Dorset Coast path arrow. Another low moment, a few ‘power tears’ as Damion Hall calls them. I had to talk myself round, ‘There is no point in crying, no-one can see, it’s just wasting energy and is dehydrating!’. I found my way down, through some long grass and tagged along with another lovely chap… on we trotted. More bewildering ascents and descents and steps! Finally, we came into the outskirts of Swanage, through a quite delightful woodland park with the welcome sight of people out on weekend walks.

Then just as we think we’re heading into the last 3 miles up the road out of Swanage, Endurance Life had added a final twist to the route. I know, why not send them along the beach and up the cliffs. Except, it’s not just a sandy beach is it! It has enormous breakers spaced a couple of 100 metres apart. Being slightly vertically challenged in my stature, I literally had to climb up and down the other side! Not what you need after 43 miles! The tall guy I was with just stepped over them. Grrr!

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The finish was amazing, running along the final stretch to Old Harry’s rocks and seeing Chris and the kids waiting in the pouring rain. Huge smiles on their faces, I dug deep and they decided to run into the finish with me. 2nd lady, 17th overall in 8 hours 34 minutes, another tough day out.

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Definitely not a coastal path ultra next time!