31.6 miles, 5,928 feet of climbing, similar amount of descending. Ludicrous gradients, Caribbean heat and humidity thanks to an early arrival of Summer.
These were the main ingredients for this inaugural ultramarathon on the British Virgin Islands. Seventy competed including 27 individual entrants.
Top three finishers were women, with Bridget Klein from St Croix sweeping the men off the roads of Tortola with time of 5 hours, 25 minutes and 59 seconds. Kat Brownsdon from Virgin Gorda was second (5:43:30:02) and Pam Terry, also from St Croix, was third (5:57:53:86). Another Crucian runner, Tom Cripps was the first man with a time of 6 hours, 2 minutes and 43 seconds.
The last individual got to the finish line five hours after Bridget. 27 individuals started, 23 finished.
Top 3-person team completed the course in 5:08:33:83, top 2-person team in 6:06:56:15.
The race started at 5.30am with an “easy” flat section along the south side of Tortola. Flat and cool with the sun coming up behind the runners, the race started in Road Town, and proceeded to the first water stop at West End 10.5 miles later.
After refueling, the runners went off-road for a couple of miles as they ran around the dirt road of Steele Point to Smuggler’s Cove, and then onwards to Long Bay.
After a short sharp climb out of Long Bay at mile 13, a reasonably flat run followed along the north coast of Tortola through Apple Bay and Carrot Bay.
Runners were welcomed at the end of Carrot Bay by the first big climb of the day. Five switchbacks to the half way point and the second Aid Station. 375 feet up over 3/5 of a mile, average gradient 12%, one 20% switchback.
After the half point it was a jarring descent into Cane Garden Bay, with a climb out the other side. Then back down to sea level and Brewer’s Bay, followed by the final big climb of the day out of Brewer’s, and up to the Ridge Road which runs along the spine of Tortola. The Brewer’s Bay climb came 19 miles into the race and offered the competitors 925 feet of vertical gain over 1.25 miles.
An undulating run along the Ridge Road brought great views but direct sun and little breeze. Road works meant that the roads were dusty too.
Runners kept heading East past Josiah’s Bay and Lambert Beach, and to Balsam Ghut, home of the BVI’s prison.
After passing the prison, the runners (and now some walkers) headed down along the north east coast of Tortola towards Beef Island and the finish. Guana Island, Great Camanoe and still blue sea framed their run.
The descent from the Prison back to sea level took competitors along the last unpaved section. It was mid-morning, the sun was beating down, it was windless, shadeless, dusty.
Runners descended to Beef Island bridge and the last stages of the race. Almost finished, but competitors had to complete a nasty little circuit around Little Mountain before running past the airport to the finish line.
27 individuals, 13 3-person teams, and 2 2-person teams paid their toll in blood, sweat, and a few tears.
Here’s to 2016….