Total number of miles – 60 (over two days -30/ 30)
Total number of Meters climbed – ~1200 meters
Total Drinks – 3 liter of water in the camel pack, 8 cups of water / juice at the aid stations
Total Food – 1 pack Cliff gel shots, 1 salt stick tablet and very large handfuls of trail mix, jelly babies and some tortilla crisps at the aid station, 1,200 (ok, not that many but it was a lot) of 9Bars ‘s original flavour energy nutrition bars. 2 packs of oaty biscuits and a bag of peanuts. + the evening meal/ breakfast provided by XNRG
This is my second XNRG Pony Express. Just as good as last year (but without the lovely hot weather) the New Forest is an amazing labyrinth of a place with no signage anywhere, it’s amazing any one gets out alive.
Last year there was a large presence from the Serpentine running club, however due to other commitments there would this weekend only be Jen and I. Although today I would not be running with Jen as Kelly and I are training together for the Transalpine and so used this race to build up distance, get used each other running styles (and moods!) and generally have a great time. In fact the Pony Express was impressively difficult – the majority of races I do are mountain/ hill, which always means you are walking sections, however being predominantly flat, there is constant pressure to run which is both great and tough going! Peter was at this race too and it was great to see him, all we needed was Saxon and we had our old team back again! Peter did awesome on both days, though used some lame excuse about getting lost on Saturday – as if you could get lost on the Pony Express route! 😉 The top three winners of the races were very kind people, we were chatting to many of them during the day and in the race (as they over took us and shared blank looks at the maps) with a couple of reports of them holding open gates for the slower runners behind them, they all certainly said well done to us as they ran past which is always nice to hear. Races and organisers like XNRG are great at attracting some of the nicest of the the English population (and Ireland I should point out as one of our fellow runners had flown over especially for this race).
The course pretty much covers the entire new forest. Open bracken rolling landscapes with fern and bush to dense forests with lush greens. I have seen enough trees now for a lifetime. I didn’t see any snakes this time but lots of Ponys (always in the road)! The start / finish is in Brockenhurst with an overnight in Ringwood and each runner is provided with a route card and an occasional 1:25000 map section where diversions are needed or for special instructions. Also this year I had downloaded their GPS file for use with my Garmin. I will not provide a full discription since as usual I prefer the photos to do the talking. Unlike me, I actually did not take the camera on the second day but regretted it was there were some great sights, but you get the gist from day 1’s.
Some of my highlights included:
– The evening talk from Liz. Liz is an independent qualified nutritional therapist who is an advocate of 9Bar. Her evening talk on engergy production and the effects/ impacts on our bodies of foods was very interesting
– Being met at the end of the days by Ang and Russell who were on hand to eat the 9Bars and generally listen to us moan about our legs.
– The aid stations. Surely the best part of a race – snacks, sweets, drinks, I always stay at them too long but they are great place to have a bit of banter. Also took some salt and vinegar nuts, which I found great and a move more towards food than energy gels. Good learning for the Transalpine.
– The orienteering side of the race. There are places where people have removed a lot of the tape, I think the XNRG arrows had been left alone (except one which was pointing to the floor – actually quite funny but also annoying). Most of this we were warned of and XNRG had also this year added paint arrows to the floor to help with navigation. We did inevitably stray a couple a mile or so off course here and there. We had an OS map but the new forest is a massive maze and getting lost was simply easy. Here is one section we got lost (spot the difference between the routes!). We should of course just back tracked to the correct path, but we can now call ourselves ultra explorers! as well as ultra runners! having jumped barbed wire fences, ran alongside galloping horses and through dense forest!
– Another area where I blindly followed the GPS and completely ignored Brian’s/ Neil’s (the family who own/ run XNRG) was the Waverley enclosure. We were supposed to take a different route (we were given a map), however by the time that point came up I was happy following the arrows on my pre loaded GPS and of course steered Kelly and I into a short bog detour and it took soooo long to get out (see below – we should have gone straight but headed left into the swamp to visit Shrek)!!!!!
– Passing Richard Branson’s New Forest retreat/ Manor house / Hotel (Rhinefield House) – amazing building
– Kelly’s show getting stuck in the mud and her shoe coming off. Unfortunately I forgot to get a photo before helping her – though Kelly was pleased
The rest of the story…