Saying no to the Chrimbo Limbo with the Winter Cross Ultra

Race coverage from Stephanie again, as she ran the beautiful Winter Cross 50k – our favourite distance to run together – in that odd little period between Christmas and New Year. It was obviously post-Christmas however as she found and consumed Cadbury Creme Eggs at the aid stations! Read on to hear how she certainly earned that ginormous medal, as well as something to add to (start) a trophy cabinet! –

After encouragement from a friend after a cross country race, I randomly entered a race in that awkward gap between Christmas and New Year. One last race to finish off the year. Amy and I’s favourite distance, 50k, there was also a 45 mile option, but I decided to be sensible (if you can call running an ultra sensible). I kind of forgot I’d entered, but knew my legs would be okay to get round, just not worry about the pace. When a few weeks before Christmas I twigged that I had a race coming up I decided to have a proper look at the website. Despite my original friend not actually registering I saw some familiar names on the entry list – Nina from my club, and Stephen and Joanna Turner, Grand Slammers in 2017 and an ultra running power couple! Knowing there would be friendly faces on arrival stirred my spirits. The course is organised in a cross with 3 out and backs for the 50k and 4 for the 45 mile option. This is excellent – you are never further away than 10k from an aid station or the nice warm village hall with all your kit, snacks, toilet and an aid station.

We arrived in the dark, many having to have scraped their cars, and my car lovingly pinged the whole way there as the temperature dropped each degree below zero. Having the village hall meant we all congregated in the warm to eat, drink the tea and coffee lovingly provided and huddle together for the race briefing inside. A slight detour to start as there was black ice everywhere so we started on the trail, 400m to the puddle of doom. Flashbacks to my only ever ‘mudder’ race but then the trail was on Meon Valley trail, run-able and pretty flat for leg one, just 10k back to the village hall through the puddle again. I chatted away, stripped off the superfluous layers and flew in to the hall to dump the excess. I was feeling strong and my 4:30 aim seemed manageable.

Leg Two heads East (N,E,W,S) along the South Downs Way, and it is much more open to the elements. When we were off the frozen black icy roads, we had three choices, walk on frozen mud, walk on frozen snow or walk on frozen ice. There was no running happening here. 8k to the aid station, 8k of watching my pace slip and attempting not to fall or break an ankle. I hit my snacks, I got my phone out and thought ‘I’ll be a good little guest blogger and take photos’ but it was so cold my iPhone shut itself down. I was pretty grumpy. I ran in and out of the aid station, grabbing some squash and carrying on with my gingerbread Trek bar I’d bought back from America, bribing myself with my dried bananas bought back from Chamonix by Amy. This section felt like it took forever. but I perked up returning to the village hall. The hall had CREME EGGS!

Creme egg scoffed, double squash downed and I whizzed out of the hall, with a shout of ‘one more leg, let’s do THIS’ to the (super friendly and encouraging) marshals. I was nervous heading out on this leg, my lovely friend Sydnee was coming out to meet me, but I was WAY behind schedule and worried about more frozen surfaces. When I passed Sydnee at 3km in (with 17km to go) I was not happy. She told me to ‘go race’ and that I was doing well, but as she disappeared into the distance my little face welled up and I left her an emotional voice memo. Dried bananas came out and got scoffed. The road was drying up and this section was the most run-able of them all. After the little break down I actually enjoyed this leg the most. Cola and Doritos at the 40km point gave me the last boost I needed to run all of the last 10k back to the hall and Sydnee promised she’d come to keep me company for a few miles at the end.

Less than a parkrun to go and Sydnee’s smiling face appears and we chat all the way to the finish, I’m feeling pretty strong and enjoying it. Maybe I should have done the 45 mile! I turn in to the hall car park and finally get to take the turn towards ‘finish’ rather than ‘aid station’. A good 40 minutes after I planned, but I hadn’t planned for -2 degrees. Or a grump. Sydnee had peeled off before my last 600m-ish and reappeared past the finish, but as she did, she said quietly ‘did you hear what I heard?’ SECOND LADY!!

Woooooooooooo! We shuffled into the hall, past some pannetone and squash back to the tea and coffee point, in between downing two sugary coffees, Sydnee had a look at the trophies and I sidled up to the results processors. ‘Excuse me, is there a trophy for second?’ Luckily the answer was YES! So as well as a bloody amazing medal, I came home with my first trophy! For everyone else there was also hot soup, as much tea/coffee as you could manage, bread rolls and more creme eggs etc. After the ceremony we celebrated the only way that seemed appropriate – we went straight to the pub and drank cider out of it.

I loved (and only hated a tiny bit) Winter Cross 50k, the race organiser with the great briefing on the stage, the frequent aid stations, access to actual toilets every 20k (dreamy) and enthusiastic marshals would have been enough to have been heading back next year (or any other second wind event) and now I’ve got a title to retain!


    • Amy
      7th January 2018 / 8:34 am

      Thanks for reading Maria, the race looked like one we can all aspire to!

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