Last weekend I took part in the AdventureHub Norfolk Ultra 100km race along the Norfolk Coastal Path from Kelling Heath Holiday Park, out towards Wells-Next-The-Sea (grammar is apparently not their strong suit up in Norfolk) and Brancester, then back again. I had originally planned on leaving October free from races to make sure that I was fresh for the Piece of String Fun Run in November after UTMB and my recent mountain marathon training weekend, but I had pencilled in the Norfolk race as a possibility in case I inevitably decided I wanted to get a run in and could convince Jen to let me disappear off for the day. The Norfolk coast is pretty close to where I live near Cambridge, and so I woke at 4am on Saturday morning and drove to the start at Kelling Heath.
The organisers had prepared a number of route cards and maps, as well as a very in depth power point presentation showing the most difficult sections of the run. Together with the route loaded onto my Garmin (and the fact that it's a pretty simple case of keeping the sea on your right on the way out, and on your left on the way back), I was comfortable that navigation wasn't going to be an issue. It was very cold at the start of the race, and I was itching to get moving. The countdown came and we were off! I was planning on running "to feeling" as much as possible today so I set off at a comfortable pace and quickly found myself in a small front pack of runners including Mark Collinson (winner of last year's South Downs Way 100). Of course Mark (and indeed all of the other runners in front of me) were actually running the marathon and not the ultra. I may possibly have set off a teensy bit quickly... But things felt comfortable so I wasn't too worried.
The terrain is pretty easy along this route, and in fact is very similar to the sort of terrain I am used to running on around Cambridgeshire: grassy banks along the waterways, fields, single track trails, all very very flat! The only terrain that was likely to throw up an issue were the two beach sections that we would have to negotiate on each leg of the course - one consisting of a 2 mile ridge of shingles at the top of the beach towards the first checkpoint, and another consisting of a 3 mile section of sandy dunes. Despite the forecast, the weather was pretty perfect, so we approached the first beach section to run the top of the shingle ridge under beautiful blue skies. I kept things steady over this section, trying not to waste too much energy running through the loose pebbles. Keeping a low foot fall, and landing relatively flat-footed seemed to be the optimum approach to this section and worked quite well for me. As we approached the car park at the end of the beach, it quickly became apparent that the first checkpoint was nowhere to be seen. Bugger. I had only brought a small bottle with me to avoid having to carry too much, but luckily had been drinking to thirst and so had plenty left to last me to checkpoint 2 at 13.1 miles (the turnaround for the marathon runners).