Training, Travel


December 3, 2021

I’m ashamed to say it’s been around 10 months since I posted on here… I could use COVID as an excuse and a lockdown, but to be honest I have just been a tad lazy with it/very busy with work and also launching Cadence and Cake.

In the past year (or two!) I have had a hiatus from long course triathlon – this was partly a decision I had made pre-covid to have a break, but then extended by the loss of travel and closing of pools. The plan was always to get a few ultras under my belt to see what they were about… and I am pleased to say I have actually got 4 in over this time.

Thankfully you can read about the first two here and here, I missed a review of the Hardwolds 40 (which actually ended up being 47 miles!!), but I am back with another and my first ever multi-stage ultra.

Last weekend, I took on the Ultra X 125km 2 day ultra in the Azores. It included 18k feet of climbing, a 75km day and a 50km day with some camping in the middle. Safe to say, I was wildly unprepared having not looked at the course AT ALL before the event!

I definitely have the distance in my legs… but the technical skills required for such a course? I definitely wasn’t ready for it.

I flew to Lisbon from London on the Thursday morning and had a touristy afternoon by myself around the city. I managed to work out the Subway system (read as: I made friends with two American girls, asked where they were going and followed them), I visited the Time Out Food Hall, had a delicious lunch and Flora & Fauna, strolled by the water and even went to an art gallery. It was a very lovely day and I felt like I managed to cram in a fair bit of touristing into an afternoon!  My Dad arrived late that evening, and we both jumped on an early flight to the Azores the following morning.

The Young family are notorious for being un-prepared with everything. We’ve even been known to turn up to races without a hotel even been booked, so the fact that we had a hotel and it was directly opposite the race registration, and a 5 minute walk from the race start was an absolute miracle.

Naturally, we rocked up to registration and kit check with no kit – thank goodness for that conveniently located hotel.

You know just from registration that an Ultra X event is going to be good vibes – lots of familiar faces and super friendly people, and at this point I was blissfully unaware for what was in store.

Race day:

The best thing about ultras is how chilled they are – you rock up super casual with a big pack of food (I even had a slice of pizza wrapped up), water, head torches, survival blankets… the start gets called and you begin a pretty steady plod, knowing you’re going to be out ALL DAY, with plenty of walking stints and chatting to different people. As someone who doesn’t love racing due to the pressure and anxiety it seems to cause me, an ultra is great – I just don’t feel the same as I do lining up for anything else.

Honestly, I wish I could give you a breakdown of the race, but frankly it was all a blur of incredible views, insane climbing (scrambling), lots of falling over, more climbing, even more painful descending, crazy jungle terrain, great check points and pain. One memorable moment was getting stuck up to my knee – no exaggeration here, in a bog with 3 people having to pull me out and then Dad had to go back and literally dig out my shoe. I became known as ‘bog girl’ at every checkpoint!

The first day was 10k feet of climbing, which meant I ended up finishing in the dark (which I hadn’t anticipated). We arrived at the camp were around 10 big tents that sleep 6 were set up, and our bags had been dropped off. The camp provided hot and cold water for dried food meals, and not much else! If you know me, I am not much of a camper… thankfully I was so tired I didn’t struggle too much! I had my dried Fire Pot Porchini mushroom risotto (surprisingly good!) followed by some kind of dried chocolate mousse, had a massage from the Osteo (life savers), and got straight to bed!

Generally I do not sleep well, but somehow in a tent on the floor with 6 strangers I got a full uninterrupted 6 hours! I did wake up thinking I could barely walk to the toilet, let alone run another 50km with 8k feet of elevation!!

Day 2 really was a struggle from the gun… I had quad DOMs so sore that every step felt like someone was taking a punch to my quads! Straight out of camp we hit a HUGE climb, and the rest is another big blur of pain, hills, views, pain, and fun… I think?

To say it was a relief to see the finish line is an understatement of the century… the video of me finishing literally hears me say “thank f*** for that” and nothing else!

I am not sure if this review/race report has really done the race any kind of justice, or if it just sounds like someone really complaining about it… but if you didn’t realise, I did infect have a fantastic time! It really is a spectacular event and course. It is fantastically organised and the Ultra X team are truly brilliant. If you are looking for an ultra event… Ultra X is definitely a company that should be on your radar!

It’s safe to say that I wasn’t thrilled about my performance or result, and I am very confident in the fact that technical courses are definitely not my strength, but none the less I had a fabulous weekend and happy to have my first multi-stage event under my belt. It was also good to suffer again and be challenged after a long time off.

For now, I am enjoying a week of R&R before Ironman training kicks in… I may have something booked for 2022!

Em x

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