This was one monstrous race, under estimated by many, with a DNF rate for the UTS 50 mile at 22.3%, and 71.7% for the 100 mile. I chose the 50 mile event as my ultra for May and I was so glad I did, it was amazing, but not everyone would come to agree with this.
Since my April ultra, training had been just ok managing to get in around 100 miles running and 50 on the bike, I would have liked to have done more but I did what I could and it was enough to get me over that finish line in 45th place.
The week building up to UTS I was nervous not normally do I get nervous before races but I did a bit with this one, my nerves were from packing my bag making sure I had all the mandatory kit in there. I get scared that im going to turn up at kit check and I’ve forgotten to put something in and because im always faffing like Mr McFaffer I don’t leave any time contingency to go and get what I might have forgotten, I would be gutted if I got turned away from a race for forgetting one of my 4 spare batteries or something.
Bag packed Thursday evening and drove the 5 hours on Friday to the caravan park where I was staying in my camper-conversion, registered, kit checked, and then back to the van for some fish and chips and to re-pack the bag, they kit checked every item, which I was happy about as my nerves could finally politely do one, once and for all. Alarm set for 3 am, lights out, Good Night John Boy…..
I didn’t get a great sleep but who does the night before a big race, so got up at 3am, Breakfast was on, fresh coffee, porridge, weetabix and two fried eggs… I always make the effort to have as much as I can for breakfast as it helps me get going at the start of the race meaning I can normally make it to at least the second checkpoint without having to consume anything but fluids. At the start line there were only 2 portaloo’s, and a queue already lining up like a conga line at a wedding but surprisingly I was good to go, not to go to poop, to go to race, so the race director gave his speech and a silent ( it was 5am in the middle of the town ) countdown from 10 and we were off Straight into a 1,500 ft climb.
The first two miles of ascent I wasn’t feeling comfortable at all, my lower back was giving me jip. I’d had an accident when riding a bull at a rodeo show once, he bucked me off ( as they do )and I landed hard on my lower back I was young, drunk and stupid backpacking in Oz and it has never been right after that, it’s always pretty stiff but it was painful now and I was bricking it, this wasn’t good at all, it is my show stopper, ive had it seize up once before on a normal day and I couldn’t move for ages.
So I stopped, stretched it and walked a bit, still ascending, still painful, I was scared of having to pull out at this point. I had a bum bag ( fanny pack ) on which had my emergency kit in it, this was around my waist with the pack at the back, I’ve worn it before but never with as much weight in it, could it really be? I whipped it off, turned it round stretched and started jogging, ” ya little dancer” the pain receded and then went. I was so happy, although I did have this stupid big fanny pack on looking like a lost tourist in my own country, all I was missing was the cannon camera hanging around my neck and I was good to go to asking random people for directions.
Starting early really has its benefits for me, I feel happier knowing that I have a large daylight window of time and I get to see the sunrise, which was spectacular. The first part for me was pretty runable and comfortable, the new runners were doing well really light, and breathable there were a few bog and wet sections and they dried out really quick after these, but I was finding a flaw with them, the grip. The springing bubble looking bits had too much surface area and when planted onto a large rock acted like a base of a ski, this wasn’t good and because the first part wasn’t really that technical, even up and over Snowdon, I never really found this out fully until after the drop bag section where I had the opportunity to change into my Inov8’s. I changed my socks at the drop back section and stocked up with a few more tailwinds. I had packed way to much into my drop bag as it was my first race with one and i’m a better safe than sorry type of person.
The aid stations were fantastic, well stocked with lots of hot and cold foods, soups and drinks, the volunteers were super helpful filling bottles up offering you all sorts of food, asking how you were and generally talkative, this was a massive help. I try to make the point not to sit down at the stations only to change my socks or sort my bag out, normally i’m pacing around the room whilst fueling up, probably this is where I gained the extra mileage. Checkpoint 5-6 was my low point, it was around a 17km ( 11 mile ) stretch that didn’t seem to end I was feeling it a bit in the legs but more so my ankles the trainers were really pissing me off by this point as they were no match for the technical terrain, slipping on the sharp rock’s on the accents and decent’s, I fell several times and rolled my ankle a couple which hurt and knocked my confidence, which I never recovered from and tread lightly from there on in, as much as I always wanted to have a helicopter ride I didn’t want it to be on a stretcher in a mountain rescue helicopter.
I’d got chatting to another runner, Tomasz, in that section, which helped to get through the low point, normally by this point in a race i’m by myself and start to have the “serious” chat telling myself “why” and “to dig deep” but that wasn’t needed as we chatted about work and family and so we continued together to the end. Around the 43 mile mark my watch started to die, I had the lead but battery packs were in my drop bags 20 miles back which I didn’t fancy going back for. I thought this is going to be tough without the watch as I was using it lot for reassurance by this point as to how far was the next checkpoint, I was becoming dehydrated quicker and running out fluids plus it was going to be another unfinished run according to garmin but luckily my new running buddy had a battery pack, hallelujah, the garmin comes back to life as does our spirits.
Last checkpoint at the base of Snowdon, we had a quick stop, hydrated with water, filled up the bottles, a few flapjacks and stepped onto the miner’s trail, an actual nice runable part. We ran the roughly 2 miles to the start of the climb and hiked to the top, the light was fading fast but I was determined to get to the top before the sun set and we did. That feeling that you have reached the last peak and that its home straight from there is overwhelming I got a couple of pics and it was on with the torches and a careful decent on the “ski” trainers under torch-light. I finished in 17 hrs 31 min a far cry from what I had set out to do, but that was before I knew what lay ahead.
So June ultra is the big 100 miles, Pennine Barrier, followed 7 days later to a trip to the Pyrenees for the Buff Epic Trail ultra, then back here for the Scafell pike marathon 8 days later and just 6 days after that is my July ultra Lakes Sky Race, and in between this on the 2nd July I turn 40, midlife crisis? maybe…
Thanks for reading.