Ultra Mad Lizzie

Maverick Adidas Terrex Frontier North Downs 2021 – Race Report

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Date: Saturday 18th September 2021

Official miles: 54 km / 33.6 miles

Strava says: 34.06 miles

Elevation: 4,336 ft / 1,321 m

Weather: hot and sunny

Start: Tillingbourne

Route type: circular

Conditions: very dry trails

Website link: Maverick Race

Describe the route in three words: hillier than expected

Maverick North Downs fourth lady Lizzie Gatherer

Maverick Frontier North Downs – Race Report

This ultra was just 20 minutes from home and I thought an ideal training run to get me back up to fitness for Hardwolds 80 in November. I’ve had quite a lot of time off since the Faccombe Backyard and have only really just got back into training over the last couple of weeks. I met up with my friend Julia and her husband Steph at the start, it was their first ultra and they planned to run their own races. Steph told me he planned to finish in around 6 hours, I said ideally I was hoping for between 6 and 7 hours but it was more important I just did the distance and got time on feet.

With Julia and Steph at the start of the Maverick North Downs Ultra

It was lovely being at a larger event post lockdown, no masks or social distancing, hurrah! We started a bit late as the guy on the microphone seemed to be enjoying telling us the ins and outs of the event and finally at around 9.06am we started. The start wave was officially from 9am to 9.15am and there were runners across all four distances of Short 11 km, Middle 22 km, Long 45 km and Ultra 54 km starting within this window.

Maverick North Downs 2021 begins!

Steph and I ran together for the first few miles, he was great actually as he was keeping an eye on the pace and telling me we needed to slow down. It was clear he was a faster pace than me so I held back a bit around mile 3 so that he could get ahead, I didn’t want to make the mistake of trying to keep up with him and then burn out. Steph had told me that the first 5 miles were mostly up hill, when I hit 5 miles and was still going up a hill it made me chuckle. I’d actually mis-read the elevation metres as feet so the whole course had a lot more elevation than I had anticipated.

Very early on, on this extremely well signposted route, there was a lady staring at her watch claiming we were all off course, I trusted the blue ribbons and correctly carried on.

I approached Checkpoint 1 Pitch Hill Car Park (10.3km) and knew there was nothing I needed so I went straight past. I checked the time and was pleased to see I was on about 1 hour and 3 minutes, this was on target for my between 6 and 7 hour finish. So far the route had been stunning woodland trails and sandy tracks. It was really bright and sunny, I was constantly putting my sunglasses on and then taking them off again as the light was really flat in the shade of the trees. I reached a wide flat sandy path and tripped over a hidden root, there was no saving myself,

I committed to the fall and as I slid along the path on my elbows and chest I called out, “This is spectacular!” the woman behind me commented on what a distance I was travelling!

I sprang back up and continued running, I looked at my right elbow and realised I had quite a large graze. It didn’t hurt though, later on in the race, it did start throbbing somewhat. So far the route had been really well sign posted, the signs were blue, which made them difficult to spot against the green foliage but they were frequent.

Well signed routes on Maverick races

A ‘long’ runner ran with me for a bit and we chatted, we came to a field and continued following the trail, one sign and then some tape…. it did not feel right, but the tape continued. We then were confronted with the sign that you never want to see (but I always do on nearly every race!) runners coming towards me, plus a race official on a bike with an armful of blue tape. Some absolute idiot had decided to re-route the course, for a laugh I suppose. This meant we had to re-trace our steps. The official told us to turn right onto the road and we would soon pick up the sign posts again. I could see Steph running in the wrong direction and called to him to turn back.

We frustratingly continued on our way and sure enough, picked up the signs again. We were back on a trail and I could hear thundering feet coming from behind, it was Steph. This guy has a lot of energy! It wasn’t long after the sign fiasco until Checkpoint 2 Leith Hill Road (17.8km), I did stop there to re-fill my bladders and was surprised at the array of plastic cups filled with Coke, this was supposed to be a plastic free event after all. I stubbornly rooted around for my reusable cup and asked the marshal to kindly fill it with Coke.

Aid station at Maverick North Downs

Steph and I ran together again for a bit, I told him about my fall. He soon broke away but I caught him shortly after on a hill, this was around 2 hours and 15 minutes / 12 miles into the race. My tactic of slow and steady up the hills works wonders! I stopped for a quick selfie with Leith Hill Tower behind me and the path down from there was lovely, a bit technical having to avoid tripping over the roots and Steph sped on ahead again.

Stephan Peters enjoying the technical downhill at Maverick North Downs

The following 10 km or so between checkpoints was more lovely woodland trails, certainly very undulating! As I passed along a forest track, I had two men behind me and I realised that this would be a great place for a wild wee as other than them, there were no other runners around and a lot of things to hide behind! I was surprised whilst having my toilet break that no one came by.

I remember running through a fabulous corn field and seeing a huge hill ahead of me, I had a feeling I’d be getting better acquainted with it! I was right. I crossed over a railway line having to pass through gates either side and check there were no trains coming, I was aware of a lady behind me and I listened out for the gates to work out if she was catching me at speed or not. There was a comfortable gap. I then found myself at the bottom of the most ridiculous hill. It was a combination of steep track with the odd set of steep steps thrown in for good measure. There was a bunch of kids making a hell of a racket coming down the hill, they looked like they were perhaps doing their Duke of Edinburgh award. They were swinging from the tree branches and balancing on a branch going across the path, I felt a bit nervous at passing through such a big group of riotous teens but actually, one of them very sweetly held the branch down for me making it much easier for me to step over it. I could finally see the gate at the top of the hill, there was an extra steep bit just before it, wow, I could do with my poles! I passed through the gate into a grassy area, more upwards travel required! I eventually rounded the top of this horrible 122 metre hill and spotted the third checkpoint, thank goodness for that!

Checkpoint 3 Ranmore Common (28.8km) I re-filled my bladders and had a Coke, I chomped my way through three refreshing watermelon slices and the marshal told me I was second lady, cool! I told her it wouldn’t be for long though as there was a lady behind me. I left the aid station and realised that ‘second lady’ didn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things due to the 15 minute start wave, but I would let myself think that as it would keep me running if I felt I needed to walk.

I recall running along a narrow trail and could see a lady casually walking up ahead. Eh? She must just be on a walk, not a competitor? I ran past her and looked back, she had a number on. What? If I’m second lady, and she is a lady, and she has a number on, and now I’ve passed her…. that makes me first lady? Whaaaaaat? I fell over. I am so uncool.

A bit later on I passed some more runners and a couple of walkers. I then realised that the ‘long’ runners must have now joined back up with us so that lady was in fact on a different course than me, I wasn’t first lady after all. It was a nice feeling whilst it lasted.

So far all the aid stations had seemed to come along quite quickly, I’d always been pleasantly surprised to see them which is a much better position to be in then desperately wanting to see one! It was however, a very hot day. I was regretting only eating watermelon at the last aid station and wished I had picked up something salty. I was drinking more and more and knew that by the time I got to the fourth checkpoint I’d be really low. I seemed to be running with Steph again, who told me the checkpoint would be very, very soon. I think he was getting a bit fatigued by now, I had not long ago thought to myself, “Hurrah, only 10 miles to go!” but then Steph said to me, in an alarmed tone, “We’ve still got 10 miles!” I told him that meant we were on the home straight now. We passed a guy on a bench who told us we had a really enjoyable path of around a mile and half and then we’d find the aid station, phew, I needed water and I needed salt!

I was relieved to see Checkpoint 4 Combe Lane Car Park (40.7km) and hunted for something salty, ready salted crisps, perfect! I re-filled my hydration bladders, had some Coke, grabbed the crisps and set off at a brisk walk. It was after this checkpoint that I passed Steph for the last time, he had run an incredibly strong race but was just running out of steam at then end. It was around here that I saw a lady studying her watch, claiming we were all off course, I carried on and there was the blue ribbon. I think she was the same lady I had seen right at the beginning too! Sometimes I think you can be too dependent on your tech.

I saw a guy in a green tee shirt and pony tail who I’d actually seen quite a lot, he was the guy just behind me when I stopped for a wee, I saw him at every aid station hanging around, and then he’d come thundering past me. I now saw him walking along the track faffing around with his kit. We’d chatted briefly earlier, after the third checkpoint where he’d told me I was like a metronome up the hills and I’d surely retain my second lady position. I saw him now, having his faff, and I told him we had to stop meeting like this, he was a fast runner and should stop mucking about! He said that he was a faffer and was struggling today, I told him he was strong, he was near then end, he was doing great. I like to think my pep talk worked, as about 5 or 10 minutes later, he came thundering past me, I cheered him on and that was the last time I saw him so he must have kept his head in the game and stopped with all the faff, his result: Steven Devonshire 6 hr 30 mins 47 secs.

Steven Devonshire 6 hr 30 mins 47 secs

Often towards the end of ultras bizarre things happen. As well as the lady studying her watch (with a blue marker ribbon about 2 metres from her!) there was a super fit looking guy, fresh as a daisy, who came steaming past wishing me luck. I saw him again not long after I had passed Steph for that final time. He was having a leisurely chat with his girlfriend/wife. He sprinted past me again, and I saw him later chatting with the marshal who was about 800 m from the end.

He sprinted past again. I couldn’t help but think, what are you doing man? Stop chatting and win the damn thing if you have this many beans!

I smiled as I reached 30 miles, really not long to go now. I had planned to have my gel with 4 miles to go but I could not find it anywhere. The last two long runs I have done I had a caffeine gel with 4 miles to go and it seemed to work well. I don’t usually use gels. I think it had fallen out when I did my epic elbow slide, as even after I had got home, I did not find that gel. I ate my malt loaf instead. I found myself on a super sandy hill. Actually, a super steep sandy hill. I had to walk this beast. I did a double take as a lady power walked by, I looked at her number, it had a nice big capital U for ultra, God damn it. I can’t possibly let her overtake me now, I’m at the end! I ran, who cares about this hill, I am not allowing this. I ran to the top, there was a steep downhill track, don’t be a baby, get down it, think of what you did in the Welsh mountains. I ran down that hill with my heart in my mouth, I was not letting her beat me! After a while I relaxed a bit as felt I had got some distance between us. I was now on 32.5 miles. I heard someone behind me. Nooooooooo! It was she! The power walking woman with compression socks over her leggings!

Sometimes I say things without thinking. I blurted out, “I’m upset that you’ve caught up with me, I’ve been in second all this way!” As soon as I said it, I regretted it, how unsportsmanlike like I must have sounded, I was sort of joking, but sort of serious. I asked her what time she started, she said around 9.10am – 9.15am. I said I’d started at five past so even if I stayed ahead of her now, she’d still beat me. She came by and gradually pulled away, a much stronger runner than me (Harriet Hanna 6 hrs 45 mins 31 sec), I was a bit gutted, but consoled myself that this was just a training run, I was not supposed to be racing.

Third lady – Harriet Hanna 6 hrs 45 mins 31 sec

The countryside was becoming less country, there were more houses now. The speedy sprint guy with the girlfriend/wife was chatting to a marshal. I reached the marshal and they told me I had around 800 m to go. I was quite surprised to be honest, the end was suddenly upon me! I ran along the pavement and sure enough, here was Tillingbourne school, I crossed the line beaming.

I was handed a medal, and a bizarre choice of refreshments, an iced coffee or a cider? I took the coffee, not sure driving after running 34 miles and downing a cider would be a good plan.

Steph completed in 6 hr 56 mins 42 sec and my friend Julia in 8 hr 49 mins 06 sec.

Fourth lady – Lizzie Gatherer 6 hrs 48 min 58 sec

What’s in the snack pack?

1x pesto, mozzarella, tomato and avocado wrap

2x Nakd bars

1x gel

1x malt loaf snack size

Crystallised stemmed ginger

Mints

2x 500ml bladders water – 1 plain, 1 with Hi 5

Spare Hi 5 tab

Sunglasses

Gloves

Innov8 Trailshell waterproof jacket

Long sleeved spare layer

Vasaline

Safety pins

Compeed, plasters, surgical tape, spare socks

OMM ultra flexi cup

Whistle

Survival blanket

Odd choice of after race refreshments!

What I wore: Saucony Ultra ST, Stance socks, Garmin Forerunner 35, buff, Sweaty Betty power leggings, Blaze tee shirt, Dirty Girl gaiters, Salomon Adv Skin 12 running vest, sun cap.

Maverick races have really nice bling!

Lead up:

The two days before were rest days with a 30 minute stretch the day before. This is part of my training for Hardwolds 80 in November so I didn’t really taper. I had done three back to back runs the week before – 27 miles, 21 miles then a shorter hill effort and sprint session of 6 miles with Blaze.

Maverick North Downs starting area

Morning preparations:

Breakfast was the usual 40g porridge with 200ml Alpro Oat milk, mashed banana, frozen berries stirred through and a dollop of jam. I did a quick stretch and roll of around 10 minutes before I left the house.

Summary

I felt really good throughout. The day was hotter than anticipated but I stayed on top of my hydration, really pleased with how I fuelled myself too (I had a Nakd bar around 2 hours in, half a wrap around 3.5 hours in, the other half a wrap around 5 hours in). I remembered to eat when I had 4 miles to go (often I forget or just can’t be bothered!) and I had no stomach issues. I managed to run the majority of the hills, just a few of the really steep ones I sensibly chose to walk. My legs were good afterwards too, often they can be quite sore but now issues, just tender soles of my feet (probably the heat and didn’t have wet feet to cool them down for once!)

Finishing the Maverick North Downs Ultra

Lessons learned

All in all this was a good training run, I could have watched my pace a bit more at the beginning but I don’t think it had a detrimental effect. I woke the following day without DOMs, ran 11 miles and actually felt really good.

Maverick North Downs finisher’s medal

Results

Chip time: 6hr 48m 58s

Strava time: 6hr 49m 04s

Overall: 28/64

Lady: 4th

Maverick North Downs 2021 – click here for results

Photo credits: Jake Baggley, Phil Hill, Adam Hughes, Leon Kong.

A selfie at Leith Hill Tower on the Maverick North Downs Ultra

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