Isle of Wight ultra two-day challenge: 106km (65.8 miles) around the island
It was on Miriam’s walk early in the year that the event idea was first proposed, and it seemed like a great idea at the time. When booking so far in advance these things don’t seem so difficult. But once we visited the health centre and got our tsetse fly injections we knew were truly committed.
My training started with swimming 100 lengths in the pool and Paul started his training by flying as far away as possible. But then we realised it was a walking challenge. I managed to gather a few willing victims to help me train, gradually increasing the distances; 20, 25, 30, 35 miles. However, at no point did we train together. If we had perhaps we may have realised it would have been better to cancel. 😁
So, thinking we were fully prepared, off we went on our adventure. Paul kindly offered to drive us down to Southampton to meet the ferry but almost managed to leave my boots in the car. I’m not sure if was a deliberate attempt to handicap me but fortunately I discovered them just in time.
Arriving at our campsite in Chale on the south of the island we realised just how big this event was. 1,500 people were registered to take part in various versions of the ultra challenge. There were people running, jogging and walking the full, half or quarter routes as either a continuous event or as we decided to do, a two-day one with a short sleep half way.
There were numerous start times at 20-minute intervals. A short group warm up and stretch preceded our release at 8am. The sun was shining and the views were amazing. The initial volume of people meant a few queues through the narrow sections but as the day progressed we became more dispersed.
The route followed the cliffs in a clockwise route towards the Needles. There was no shade along this section and the heat soon began to take a definite toll on us, zapping our energy and making our feet hot.
There were rest stops located approximately every eight miles, where we could pick up snacks and drinks. It wasn’t long before we discovered, however, that we seemed to be picking up sore spots and blisters too. Each time I stopped and changed socks the blisters had developed just a bit more under the plasters.
As we turned the corner to follow the north coast, the route passed through some slightly cooler woods. The challenge here became the mud. This weekend Pete was off doing his Tough Mudder obstacle course and we had one of our very own. We slid, squelched and splashed through the sloppy paths in the woods. We were extremely glad to have boots and walking poles here.
The half way stop at Cowes seemed to take a very long time to arrive. Why is the last mile always the longest? We finally arrived at 7.30 (52km in 11.5 hours). Earlier in the day we had briefly doubted whether we had made the right decision to take a pause here to sleep for a few hours. The majority of the competitors had opted for the full one-day challenge. We now knew we had definitely made the right decision. We ate, rehydrated, showered, collapsed into the tent and slept till 4am. 😴
We repacked our bags and hobbled down the road to collect our breakfast. At 6am we were off walking again along a mixture of roads, paths and promenades through the busy tourist destinations of Ryde, Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor. The hot weather meant the beaches were packed with people relaxing on the sand, paddling in the cool water, drinking and eating ice creams. Why were we not doing that? Of course we tried to convince ourselves that they really did not look like they were enjoying themselves at all.😟
We finally got our first glimpse of the finish about a mile from the end which gave us a little spurt of energy for the last painful descent. We did however finish with a sprint across the finish line.
Despite this walk being my most challenging ever, the whole experience was made very enjoyable by the amazing countryside and views of the Isle of Wight and having some great company along the way. Thanks, Paul, for suggesting it.