Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Sussex Trail Events Downslink Ultra.

St Martha's Hill North Downs Way.
The Downslink Ultra is a 38 mile Ultra point to point race from St Martha’s Hill, Surrey to Shoreham- by-Sea, West Sussex using the Downslink footpath and bridleway. The trail crosses the Low Weald and mostly follows two former railway lines. The course is mainly flat after the first section so can lead to some fast running. The Downslink Ultra is an ideal first Ultra for anyone wishing to step up a distance.
I first ran the Downslink 5 years ago and I believe it was Sussex Trail Events first race, The Race Directors are Jay, Chris and Danny all whom are runners themselves. The guys now put on a good number races over the course of the year. Which include the River Series which numbers in four races over the course of the year? There events are all good value for money with a great crew of regular volunteers and well stocked aid stations. There is normally hot food and a shower at the end of most of their races.
This year’s race was on Sunday 1st October. There is a shuttle bus for around 50 people from the start for £12.00 to the St Martha’s Hill. I had missed out on this but Sarah Sawyer kindly offered me her place. Race morning I was up at 5.30 am. My stomach was playing up and did toy with just getting back in to bed. It had been raining heavily during the night with more rain forecast. I got a taxi over from Brighton which cost an arm and a leg. It was raining when I arrived and I stood near the outdoor toilets trying to get some shelter. James Elson appeared and we had a chat it is always good to see him, James is Race Director for Centurion Running another great organisation for running events.
When the buses where loading Jay offered me a lift with him. So I drove up with him. Once there I said hello to Marina and a few other’s and got ready for the race. We started just after 9, the first couple of miles are downhill and the trail is quite sandy. The going underneath is easy but muddy and sticky in places. The first check point is 8.5 mile away. On the way you pass through woods and countryside. It is quite humid and I am soon sweating. My pace at this point is around 10/min pace. I am not planning to run to hard. I am coming to the end of peak training with my A race is in a little under 3 weeks.
I soon get to Cranleigh  Snoxhall Fields -  8.6 miles the first CP, I have over 9 miles on the clock. I had a little to eat top up my water and move on. My stomach is still a bit dodgy and I take a comfort break in a well-hidden location! The trail or path skirts the edge of Cranliegh and the path is smooth and easy to run on.
Heading onto Slinford. Picture courtesy J.Lavis
The next aid station is at Slinfold 15 miles in, we pass through quite a few old railways stations on this course and one is Slinford I believe. The trail also runs by or through little towns and villages. The trail on this section is mostly tree lined. I arrive at Slinford, Jon Lavis is on hand with his camera. And I say hello to Jay who is at the aid station. I get some food and water and head off walking while eating. I am not really feeling the love! The next CP is at Southwater Country Park another 5 miles away.
The trail is pretty much the same tree lined and muddy in places I feel a bit bored and plug into some music but this soon bothers me. It is getting overcast and it looks like the rain that was promised is coming. I look around trying to enjoy the view and take in the bird sound to tackle the boredom I am feeling. I have forgotten how hard it is running on the flat. I break it up now and again with some short walk breaks so my legs get to do something different.  I am in and out of the next aid station and I make my way to the next CP, The Cat & Canary Pub – Henfield - 27.5 miles. I am running slower now and I am aware I am not going to come in near my time 5 years ago. I just focus on ticking over and reset my goals accordingly. These are to have a good time and treat this as a longer endurance run. I get to the cat and canary and find myself repeating to Chris something I keep saying which not helpful. I hear myself and note I need to stop saying that!
Picture Courtesy jon Lavis
I head off with a lady saying you look really fresh well done. As my thinking changes I begin to get a bit hungry to finish, it is raining and I am in my element now, throw in some crap weather and it brings the best out in me. My pace starts to pick up. I put my waterproof minimus smock on and decided to get a wriggle on!  I round a corner and Jon is there again with his camera. I give him the thumbs up as I pass. I start to take places and I soon arrive at Bramber Castle around 33 miles on my watch. It is lovely to be greeted by Lisa and get a hug. I move on quickly and leave 3 other runners here. I am on it, I start running and intend to get to the finish as quick as I can, I get to the River Adur and at first I am confused by the signage, I soon figure out I do not go down the river bank. It is a shorter route and tempting for me to go down. Instead I follow the correct route I hit the hard packed trail and run, I am feeling good as I get around the path I notice other runner going down the river bank. They must have got confused by the route markings, it bothers me and I am not letting them overtake me. I get a spurt on as one of the 5 runners comes off the river bank; another runner has stopped to tell them they went wrong.

I get up on the path and I am now running strong, I am counting people off and this is my motivation to keep moving and get the job done. I am now past 8 runners, my legs feel a little stiff but I am having fun! I pass 9 and 10 surely I cannot pass anyone else. More runners come into my sight; I am running at decent pace not fast but running well. 11, 12 runners I have passed. I cross the toll bridge and I can see 3 runners ahead heading down the horrible uneven path that run along the river and airport. I don't think I will catch them. I have been sucking down on a gel and with the exertion of the last 4 miles I am feeling a bit sick. I know this path well, it was my playground as I child. I decide as hard and uneven as the concrete blocks are I am going to run it. I catch the last few runners up and pass them. I get the finish feeling good but a little out of sorts feeling sick. I was glad to finish, I did not stop for the lovely vegetable chilli on offer. I head home after asking a few people I know how it went for them. I was happy with the outcome and a few days later I have recovered well. I did a short recovery run last night and my legs where good. 

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