Conditions were absolutely perfect for this. It was a warm January night with a light south wind. I set out from the village of Stanton travelling southwards towards Bedworth following the trail clockwise as I had done twice last year. This time my goal was to beat last year's best time of 6:36. If I could do sub 6 hours, that would be a bonus. I figured if the temperatures were sub 0, I would have the best chance with greater oxygen density and firmer terrain. But with the unseasonably warmer temperatures and dry conditions for at least a week, I couldn't turn this down.
I set off with about 1.5l of water, 1l of electrolyte, Sis Gels and Chia Charges, setting my phone time to go off every 20 minutes for regular intake. With a forecast of cloud, it was a safe bet to wear just a t-shirt under my back pack.
The miles quickly went by, and I felt faster than before. I pushed myself just a bit harder as well and soon found I was in a strong position against my previous times. I knew I had to get in front because the last 10 miles would be the hilliest.
I had learned from from my previous navigational errors and that helped shave off the extra 2km due to missed turns and poorly signposted waymarkers.
When I reached 43km, I felt my right ankle swell and stiffen. It wasn't strained, but was starting to play up and limit my progress. Knowing I had but 10 miles to go, I ploughed on, favouring my right ankle, but maintaining pace as well as I could. There were a few sections I had to walk as my energy output and intake were stretched.
I was pleased to finish about 28 minutes faster than my previous time, but knew I would have to take it easy until my ankle would heal. there was no bruising visible, so while I pushed a bit harder than I should have realistically, it was worth every step.
Next time I'll get sub 6.
It's open season on this trail. It's well groomed. There's no reason someone can't beat this time this year.
It would make a great multi-loop race.