Chiltern 50 September 29, 2018
5:30 am, we have just driven to a field in Princes Risborough to get a coach to Henley so we can run back to the field our car is in several hours later. It's dark and chilly, we're hoping the sun rises before we have to get out of the shuttle. I haven't slept for 3 nights, but I know a long physical day will sort out the jet lag.
The coach is mega toasty and filled with lovely excited sleepy people. Driving the distance before completing it on foot really gives you an idea of how far 50k is. Another selfie dear, really?
Here comes the sun.
Hats are on sale at Henley - perfect timing for the chill. Kev is shaking so hard he's spilling tea. It's just like the end of Thames Path 100 with bone chilling mist off the river. It's beautiful though. Package pickup is effortless and we are able to get organized quite easily. Bibs on packs, event pass secured, buffs on, coffee made.
7:30 am start after a zumba warmup. Should I be alarmed if I'm knackered after 5 minutes of zumba?
The first 2 km is through Henley then we turn right and ascend into countryside. As we top out into fields we can hear the other waves starting below us. There's a light frost on the grass and mist in the valleys. Although I feel horrible I can still appreciate how beautiful everything is. In between the bouts of swearing and complaining.
Yes, I have the enquiries?
The sheep are marvellous, we are going to spend the whole day with them.
I feel so wrecked physically for the entire first leg I can't imagine finishing the distance. Kev is super positive and cheery throughout which makes me want to kill him, except I barely have the energy to keep moving so I have to focus on that.
We pass through woods, fields and some small backcountry roads that people are driving suspiciously fast on.
Swyncombe mid point stop 13 km 2:10:40
We decided in advance we would run together and enjoy every detail instead of thinking about time, the event itself was designed as an end of year celebration for the Ultra Challenge series. At the first rest stop Kev acquires some Freddos and I pick up a pain au chocolate that is bigger than my head. We are already winning.
As we head into leg 2 a few unexpected things happen all at once, there's an immediate long downhill, the sun climbs higher so I heat up and the pastry I ate gives me energy. This is okay.
We are on the Chiltern Way! I think.
We run all of the first 4 kms and they go by quite fast. The next stretch is a mix of road crossings, mad cyclists and a few ups and downs as we head for midway. I realize that eating is giving me energy for the first half of the leg but I need more calories to get through the second part.
There's a sharp left turn to head toward midway, this field is full of stabby plant stalks. Ouch.
Field Farm (Lewknor) midway 25.5 km 4:22:42
It's beautiful. Yes, that is a person dressed as a crayon.
Lunch is perfect, exactly what I like/want/need. Coke is heaven.
This break gets extended a bit so we can enjoy the sun, the food and the sitting. Packs are refilled with water, layers are removed and off we go again.
Ahhhh a huge hill. This is near the top.
We pass through a small town with tempting shops and bars before heading back into the countryside. I love those parts, it's totally surreal. We are being spoiled with endless blue sky and sunshine, temp is around 20° C.
Another nice downhill takes us into Sheep Valley. It's not really called that but it should be.
Then up, up, up. This is me plodding up the hill (slowly) behind Kevin.
Eventually I can almost breathe again. Then we go back up another steep section. My legs are complaining quite a bit now, I probably am as well. But look at these beautiful poppies.
Excellent timing for some stile-yoga. The route is very well marked, I'm happy to say even we did not come close to taking any wrong turns for a change.
Another lovely field of sheep....followed by a huge hill.
The last couple of kms into the rest stop are eternal, we're passing through a town, my feet hurt and I can't wait to see the turn arrow for the cricket ground.
Bledlow Ridge mid point stop 40 km 7:45:53
Look at this beauty - pick n mix! Gummy bears taste better in the UK and I will fight you on that.
I'm not able to stop shoveling food into my face long enough to look decent in a photo. This bar is a chocolate covered flapjack, it's so good. It's like the Challenge people asked in advance what things I'd like to see except they didn't, they just knew. Coke at every stop, YES.
Pineapple for sir.
Okay, there's only 10k left let's go. Time to head out. A nice downhill first past horses. Onto a narrow road and up. More up. When cars pass we have to enter the roadside hedge, it's very alarming. It's not one way either, how does anyone drive around here?
I was under the impression the next section would be flat followed by a lovely downhill into the finish. No. We have a few small downs, and a few more ups, a lovely down where we come across bewildered people standing outside a pub with drinks, a road crossing and another up. There are apple (crabapple?) trees along the route and as we trample the fruit underfoot it smells like fresh apple cider.
Here's the downhill. It starts out nicely in woods then we abruptly lose 90m down a slope so steep stairs have been carved into it. My toes!
We pop out into a field, and there in the distance is a big white tent - the finish area. Less than 2k left now.
Before you know it the end is in sight. I am running as fast as I can in this photo and it looks like I've stopped.
Glass of bubbly and medals collected. Sun still shining. Dinner on.
We have a lovely sit down in the tent and enjoy a fantastic dinner of pork roast and stuffing and possibly the best roast potatoes in the universe. Then cakes! The pink one is our favourite.
Brilliant. It was a tough start for me, but of course things got better as they always do. Thank you to Action Challenge for nailing this event and taking the absolute best care of all of us. You guys rock.
FYI this went so well a full Chiltern challenge has been added to the AC schedule for 2019.
50 km in 9:51:49, approx 1020 m elevation gain. 1 hour of rest stop breaks, zero regrets (except for signing up for a Half the next day). 100% happy.