The Osmotherley Phoenix is an excellent beginner off-road ultra. Its sufficiently longer than a marathon at 33 miles to be considered by far from the easiest step-up and the various hills on-route also reinforce the "bragging rights" of the first time ultra-ist. Not to mention excellent value, organisers with true passion and and a great atmosphere on amongst both the competitors and those at the attached village show at the end. 3 pubs in a 100-yard square at the end - need I say more???
I was back for my third stab. 2007 I entered as my first ultra and found it very challenging. The hills being nothing like what I'd run before in East yorkshire or in road races, or shorter trail, fell and XC runs. For a long time I thought I was last back that day, a mid afternoon darkening of the sky confused my tired mind and I was convinced I may be out into the night. As it was, after a painfully slow run up the Drovers Road and Cleveland way back to Osmotherley, the sun reemerged as I descended to the finish late afternoon. I also got my first "spot prize" :¬) By 2009 I was much more experienced having done at least 3 ultra-length runs. I started hard, running with Mark, but wilted in the sun on the moor before Wheat Beck. Cramp then kicked in on both calves and occasionally other leg muscles. My walk, run, cramp!, repeat; plod along the aforementioned Drovers Road and moortop path from Hawnby to the finish took a neverending 1hr 56minutes. That was slower than for the same section two years ago. Thankfully I still PB'd by one-and-a-half hours. Room for improvement.
So 2010 could be better. With another dozen or so marathon or longer distance runs in the bag and a slightly cooler day than 2009, things looked good. The only worry was that last weekends sore throat had developed to a complete loss of voice the previous week and then some pain swallowing. I'd also started feeling a bit rough and tired physically so I went to the docs. Thankfully, the antibiotics I was prescribed seemed to be helping by the day before the event.
I ran with Mark again from the off. I was feeling better for longer this year, the climbs seemingly smaller and not so ominous after the bigger beasts I'd been tackling int the Dales and Lakes. But again, the faster pace of this event over the Fellsman and recent lakes recces and perhaps being a bit less than 100% saw me running low on energy before Wheat Beck. Just when I wanted to capitalise on the long moorland descent and push for a sub-6, my stomach tightened and breathing became that bit more difficult as my glycogen supplies seemingly hit a "warning" level. I couldn't keep with Mark and I limped in at slower pace to the CP. A belt of weak orange juice really helped - not sure why I'd been eating drinking quite well before so I don't think I'd got my hydration or eating wrong - and I was now running with a vigour somewhere between where I had been pre- and post- crash and was able to run at Marks pace for awhile longer.
I was at Hawnby 11 minutes quicker than the previous year and then marched up the Drovers road and banished my demons by running most the way on the moor paths to Osmotherley and hard down the final long descent. A new PB awaited, 6:22, and that last section took me just 1:35 this year, a saving of 21 minutes from 2009. I was pretty happy with all this and didn't feel so wiped out to give me negative thoughts about the upcoming 100! (a 33 "gone bad" could really have ambushed my mental preperation at this stage).
The other thing I love about Osmotherley is the après-run. Even before I got to the campsite for a shower and some proper food I'd had three pints at the village show chatting with fellow runners Mark, David, Steve (great PB!), Claire (first Phoenix) and Nick (great round after recent injury lay-offs). I was thankful of a lift back to the campsite. After some good pub grub and further pintage later I was a bit wobbily and merry, both in mood and level of intoxication.