Written by Marcin Krzysztofik - http://wolnybiegacz.pl/en

Welcome to my blog after quite a while! Almost 2 months have passed since my last entry (http://wolnybiegacz.pl/en/kacr-2017-race-report/). In a nutshell, in August I was recovering from Kennet & Avon Canal Race. The 145 miles left their mark on my body and mind and, aside from an occasional trot I properly resumed my running in September. My aim was to do a reasonable mileage and condition myself for the upcoming race Cotswold Way Century. In September I even recced a couple of stretches of the race route in order to familiarise myself with some tricky bits. One week before the race I felt fit, strong enough and ready for the race.

The Cotswold Way Century race route

Cotswold Way Century is a 102-mile race in the lovely Cotswolds. It follows a designated National Trail Cotswold Way. The race starts in Chipping Campden, from where, with many steep ascents and descents, it winds along the Cotswold escarpment, finishing in Bath.

Chipping Campden, just by the race start
The route profile! The y axis denotes altitude in metres, while the x axis is the distance. Obviously they’re not to the same scale!

There’s a 30-hour limit to finish the race, with some internal cut-offs. It’s quite realistic to finish it under 24 hours. I had targeted 27 hours, which I assumed is a reasonable time for me, considering my state of preparation.

Race briefing by Kurt, the Race Director

On Saturday, September 23rd I left home in the morning and before 10:30 arrived at the race HQ. I had my kit checked, prepared my drop bags (to be accessed at miles 27, 47 and 80) and my finish line bag.

With bags left with the organisers I am ready to proceed to the start

Just before 12 o’clock I walked to the centre of Chipping Campden, from where the race starts. A few minutes after 12, 106 competitors set off for a long run!

Start!

Part 1: Saturday

I started relatively slowly, conscious that this was a 13-mile stretch to the first checkpoint. Moreover, it was quite warm, so I was extra careful not to get dehydrated.

With a few miles out of the way such groups were gradually falling apart

After the first ascent there was a long, flat bit, where the runners were able to spread apart while falling to each one’s respective pace. Once I reached the view point by Broadway Tower, I could then enjoy a long, pleasant downhill to the picturesque town Broadway.

Reaching Broadway Tower
Broadway Tower, a nice descent about to start

Having run through Broadway, the trail climbed up again. And that’s how it went on throughout the whole race pretty much: up and down, up and down. A lot of beautiful vistas, plenty of greenery so overall beautiful scenery. I reached the first CP in decent shape, drinking a lot along the way and regularly gorging myself on gels and bars.

Approaching the first CP…
… where such treats awaited!

The second stretch was the longest: 14 miles. However, the reward at the end of it was access to my first drop bag of goodies.

Somewhere past CP1…

My best memory of this stretch is the crossing of Cleeve Common where I was offered fantastic views of the area. Just before the hill, a fellow runner Thane Hall chatted up to me and for quite some time we continued together. It turned out that Thane runs his own running podcast called Runners on Trail (available on iTunes). He actually recorder some of our ramblings with the intention of publishing them in the 2nd episode of the podcast. It was an enjoyable conversation we had, due to common interests such as orienteering, or, of course, ultramarathons.

Thane at Cleeve Common
View from Cleeve Common

Chatting the distance away we eventually reached the 2nd CP. It took me 5 hours and 52 minutes to cover the 27 miles from the start. I sat for a while at the CP, changed my T-shirt to a long sleeved one, refilled my supplies and ate some bits and bobs. I also prepared my head torch, as it was obvious that I’ll reach the next CP after sunset.

I left the CP ahead of Thane, but at the end of a long, gradual descent he caught up with me and we continued together. After a series of ascents and descents we reached Leckhampton Hill where Thane fell back. It got dark enough there, so I installed the head torch on my forehead and started the night part of the race.

Part 2: Night

While at Leckhampton Hill I felt fairly positive, because there started the 25 or so miles that I had recced before. So, on the navigational front I felt confident. Past Leckhampton Hill Thane and a bunch of other runners overtook me as I was struggling on an uphill. I caught up with them though soon thereafter before Crickley Hill Country Park and we continued together until the checkpoint at Birdlip at mile 38.5.

After a bit of rest, food and drink, I swiftly moved on. It was very nice to meet Keith Godden there, considering that 2 months before I received from him the medal for finishing the Kennet & Avon Canal Race. Keith was manning the CP rather than running the race. He asked me if I’m up for some 145-mile racing along canals in 2018… No decision on that point yet 😊.

I was familiar with the stretch to Painswick, so I confidently followed the Cotswold Way. Confidently, but not very fast, as my legs felt tired. Some 2 miles from Birdlip, Thane and the guys swiftly overtook me and left me behind.

Ascent up Coopers Hill was a huge struggle and I lost my will to live there. I felt so exhausted at the top, that I was unable to take advantage of the subsequent downhill, where a few weeks ago I had so vigorously sprinted down. Focusing only on the next CP I shuffled like a zombie. I lost a few minutes at Painswick golf course where I took a wrong turn and a few runners overtook me. This was very frustrating. Eventually I reached Painswick and having jogged through the town I luckily reached the 47.5-mile CP after 11 hours and 18 minutes from the start. That was almost half of the distance in less than 12 hours’ time, so I was actually pleased with it and felt confident that my 27-hour target is doable.

I spent about 15 minutes there to gain some Energy, eat, and rest. I accessed my 2nd drop bag and stuffed my running vest with goodies. Some hot food and a cup of coffee re-energised me a bit, but still, I wasn’t looking forward to the next, 11-mile-long stretch.

Soon after the checkpoint I caught up some guys and with Thane who got a bit lost and for the next few miles we continued together in a group of 5 guys. After a series of viewpoints, a nice downhill followed. I took a caffeine gel which gave me a nice boost and I set quite a hard pace. Having recced some tricky bits before really helped me and I could barrel down confidently. The guys were in sight for some time but soon they fell back and it was the last time I saw them.

Continuing at a good pace I crossed the Stroudwater Navigation canal and soon thereafter climbed up the hills again. 2 miles later I checked in at the Coaley Peak CP. On the plus side, I was in a power mode and I was glad to have put 58.5 miles behind me. The downside was that this was the extent of my recce, so I head terra incognita ahead of me. In spite of, what I considered a strong pace, the 11 miles took me as much as 3 hours and 12 minutes!

Fuelled by hot noodles I continued. A bit of a flat land, followed by a steep downhill, followed by a painfully steep ascent up Cam Long Down and then descent to Dursley. After Dursley a slog back up and a funny, frustrating bit around the Stinchcombe golf course. Frustrating, because 2.5 miles could have easily been shortened to 300 or so metres. But rules are rules, if one has to follow the trail, one follows the trail.

Another landmark along the way was the William Tyndale Monument, standing atop yet another hill. When I passed it, it was still dark, but I was aware that sunrise was almost upon me. Indeed, soon thereafter, when I ran down to Wootton-under-Edge, where the next CP was, it was light enough that I no longer needed my torch. It took me 18 hours and 31 minutes to cover 70.5 miles. This meant ‘only’ 31.5 miles left. I had 8.5 hours for that if I wanted to stick to my self-imposed limit of 27 hours.

Part 3: Sunday

After a short break at Wootton I left towards the next CP, but going was very slow. My legs felt heavy and I had no will for running. On the upside, I was glad that my feet were in prime shape with no evident blisters or chafing. That made me force myself to run at least short bits at a time. My memories from this 9.5-mile-long stretch are blurred; I just remember that each mile was dragging on and I seemed to cover the ground painfully slow. I jogged n flats and easy downhills, otherwise pretty much marched. The whole stretch to Horton took me 2 hours and 33 minutes, resulting in roughly 10 mins/km pace. That was faster than on the 2 previous stretches, so not too bad!

During my short stopover in Horton I took advantage of my 3rd drop bag and took onboard supplies for the last 22 miles. There were only 7 miles until the next CP in Tormarton. Moreover, mentally it was an important milestone due to crossing of the M4 motorway which in my mind signified the proximity of Bath. I covered these 7 miles at roughly the same pace as the previous stretch. Cannot report anything from this stretch, apart from putting one feet in front of the other and regularly analysing the map to monitor how close the CP I was.

There were just 5 miles from Tormarton to Cold Ashton, but this stretch dragged on and my pace decreased to 12 mins/km. From Cold Ashton just 10 miles remained until the finish line, out of which 7.5 until the next CP in Weston. The stretch to Weston was tough and it felt like to cover each mile took an eternity. My legs were heavy: I would slowly lumber uphill and had hardly any energy to run or jog downhill or on flat ground. Nevertheless, I did reach Weston after 27 hours and 24 minutes from the start. My 27-hour target was obviously overshot, but I decided I will push hard on the last 2.5 miles to finish under 28 hours.

Uplifted by a rush of adrenaline, or endorphins (whatever), I ran hard through Weston, swiftly conquered the final climb and then ran hard down to Bath. I passed the Royal Crescent, the Circus and continued to push hard towards the Bath Abbey. At one point however, I panicked at one intersection. Have I just overshot the Abbey? Nooooo!!! After a moment of reflection, I fortunately realised that there were two intersections more. Indeed, the end was around the corner and I crossed the finish line in 27 hours and 57 minutes. I needed 33 minutes for the last 2.5 miles, so not too bad.

I reach the finish line, a happy and joyful man. It wasn’t easy to suppress my happiness 😉
OK, now with a hint of a smile

Summary

I was the 41st runner at the finish line. Out of 106 starters, 62 people eventually crossed the finish line; out of them 15 people under the 24-hour mark. The winner set a new course record of 17 hours and 34 minutes. What an amazing feat!

My Garmin Forerunner recorded a total distance of 166.5 km (104 miles), 11,910 calories and a moving time of 26 hours and 33 minutes. This meant as much as 84 minutes spent at checkpoints. Plenty of time wasted one could say, but I’d argue, that for the level of my fitness and preparation, completely necessary and justified.

The stats

While writing these words a week after the race I feel quite well. I had serious muscle soreness for 3 days after the race. My feet survived really well: I didn’t get any blisters at the balls of my feet (which is often my major hindrance). I had 3 insignificant blisters on my toes only.

I finished and ticked off the race, so job done. I am however not very pleased with my performance, because I know I was slow and that I could have finished the race much sooner, if I had had proper training and preparation. Because of a very intensive year, packed with too many races, I missed out to be in top shape. Lesson learned: in the future go for fewer races, but prepare better for them.

I’d like to finish with a positive note. Cotswold Way Century follows a spectacularly beautiful trail and offers a multitude of pretty sights. Not many roads, not much mud, lots of forested areas and well-equipped checkpoints make it a wonderful experience. As it’s also tough because of many hills to climb and descent along the way, it’s a viable candidate for one’s main race of the season.

All the best,
Marcin

Written by John Kynaston - https://johnkynaston.com

Saturday 8th October 2016

The ‘Lakes in a Day’ ultra was my fifth and final ultra of 2016 and I was really looking forward to it. When I was looking for another race to do at the end of my season it ticked all the boxes. My good friend Andy Cole had run it for the last two years and really enjoyed it. Also I’d heard lots of good things about the race organisers Open Adventure.

The main decision though was the route. I love the Lake District and wanted to do another race there. The two other races I’ve done in the Lakes, Lakeland 100 and Lakeland 110k are circular routes, whereas this one was an A to B down the whole length of the Lakes so I would see lots of different views and terrain.

I left Paisley at 5.15pm and drive down to the finish at Cartmel arriving just after 9pm. I was on my own for this one as Katrina decided looking after Micah while Laura was busy at a church event was more fun than waiting for me all day!!

The registration was very easy and relaxed. It was good to chat to race organiser James Thurlow. James had entered my ‘Guess My Time’ competition with a guess which would be the course record! He wondered whether anyone appreciated his joke!!

I had a good chat with a couple of guys who are doing the White Rose ultra in four weeks and had seen my video. They are doing the 100 mile version so I tried my best to give them an idea of what it will be like. It is 3 laps of 30 miles plus a 10 mile loop at the end. I reckon one of the hardest things will be the mental side of things. I hope they do well!

I was sleeping in my car so went to bed about 10.30pm, read for a bit before drifting off to sleep. I woke about 4am and dozed until my 5am when I got up. In the next half an hour I dressed, visited the toilet and boiled some water for my porridge. On the way down I realised I’d forgotten to pack my skins that I’ve been wearing for every ultra since 2008. I hoped I would cope without their protection!

In was still very dark but the guy next to me, Jim, recognised me from the Lakeland 100 and some Hardmoors events. He had also slept in his car but was feeling a bit cold. Once we were ready we wandered over to the coaches that were taking us to the start at Caldbeck. I did have a quick look for Andy who was running again but most people were on the coaches. I sat with Jim and we chatted most of the 90min journey to Caldbeck.

It was light by the time we arrived so I had plenty of time to get myself ready, take some photos and look through the route on the map for the last time.

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I was just doing a video clip before the start when Andy walks up so I interviewed him asking him for two top tips. Firstly he said make sure you take enough water for the stretch between Threlkeld and Ambleside as the only place to replenish is Grisdale Tarn and secondly watch the navigation between Ambleside and Cartmel.

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With a brief race briefing from James we were off right on the stroke of 8am. It seems all Open Adventure races start promptly. Maybe James should have a word with Jon Steele as all the Hardmoors events I’ve done start late!!!

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Photo thanks Mountain Fuel

Leg 1 Caldbeck to Threlkeld (10.29 miles)

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Even though I’ve not done the race before I was able to work out some mini-splits from previous years. In particular I had the gps trace was Kim Collison who won the race last year on my watch. The only part of the route I had done was the first climb up to High Pike as the Tour of Skiddaw goes the same way.

I was keen to start very easy making sure my heart rate was comfortable and I wasn’t breathing too hard. I had a slight problem with the first …. my heart rate strap wouldn’t talk to my Suunto but I was relaxed about it as I’ve done enough now to know what my breathing should be like if I’m trying to go steady.

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Photo thanks to Mountain Fuel

I’m always fascinated by the size of people’s packs. There are the odd ones where I really wonder how they have got all the compulsory kit in but there are far more that look as though they have two of everything and some extra. It doesn’t make sense to me to carry any more than you need to especially on a day like this one.

The weather was superb with no wind, blue skies and a very pleasant temperature. Plus the forecast was more of the same all day and it wasn’t wrong. I wore my favourite long sleeved green top, shorts, Drymax socks and Sketchers.  Plus a visor to shield my eyes from the sun!

Once we got onto the open fell and started climbing up High Pike I tried to count how many people I could see winding their way up the hill ahead of me. I reckon there were between 70-80 runners in front of me. I settled in behind two guys who were chatting about various races they had done and were planning to do which was really interesting. One of the guys said after only a year or two of running ultras he got a place in the Western States!

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Long line of runners heading up High Pike

Everyone that I could see was following the same path up the hill except for one guy in yellow who took off to the left and climbed higher sooner. I lost sight of him but caught him later on so it looks like he took a better line than the rest of us!!

I reached High Pike in 53mins 01secs which was a couple of minutes under my target. I had splits for 13hrs 30mins. My plan was to keep just ahead of those and if things went really well to achieve my gold time of sub 13hrs. I certainly wouldn’t be able to blame the weather.

A few people went past me on the downhill before the stone hut but I caught them again by the time we crossed over the first smaller river. It was quite boggy ground so my feet were wet but with the super qualities of my Drymax socks they were soon dry again.

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Heading down with Blencathra in the distance

There was another climb followed by a longer descent to the larger river called Graigiegill Beck. The route from High Pike to Blencathra was marked on the map as open route choice. I was following Kim’s line which took me off to the left with a few others whereas the majority were going right.

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Photo thanks to Mountain Fuel

We all came back together to cross the river. In previous year’s they had built a temporary bridge but the river wasn’t too bad so we had to wade through. It was deep enough to come up to my thighs but my feet were soon dry again. Did I mention how good Drymax socks are??

According to my plan I had 45mins to cover the 2.60miles to the top. There was a line of runners ahead so I settled into my pace and headed up. Over the climb to the top I must have gone past at least 30 runners. I didn’t feel I was pushing particularly hard but maybe others had gone off a little too hard on the first climb.

As I passed one group of runners a guy, who saw my poles strapped to my rucksack, said ‘I see you are using poles now.’ I didn’t recognise him but he said that I had run with him at the Lakeland 100 last year and when he dropped his poles I said, ‘Best place for them!!’ I apologised and moved on!!

It was misty on the top so the views were hidden a little bit but you could still see the ground below. As the race uses a tracker you don’t have to dip in anywhere but there a number of marshals to cheer us on and make sure we took the Hall’s ridge down.

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Reaching the top of Blencathra – this was the only poor visibility all day!

This was the only bit I did my aborted recce so I knew it was fairly technical and tricky for the first 5-10 mins before getting easier.  A few people commented that they had watched my video when I fell and cut my hand!

I was extra careful on my way down but still managed to overtake a few people. One guy said ‘I’m not very happy on this terrain as I’m a townie’ as I passed him.

Photo thanks to James Kirby

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It was getting quite warm now as I had finished off my first bottle of Tailwind I was looking forward to being able to resupply at the first feed station at Threlkeld.

My good friend Dave Troman had said he was planning to come out to see me pass through the checkpoint. I had said my plan was to be at Threlkeld for 10.50am and I was pleased to see I was going to be spot on. As I went past a farm there he was coming towards me with him camera out for a photo.

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Photo thanks to Dave Troman

We ran the quarter of a mile or so into the checkpoint chatting about various things. Dave told me he had done the Keswick parkrun and then jumped in the car with Tracey to come to see me. We have done so much running in the Lakes together so it was great to see him.

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Arriving at the Threlkeld with Dave. Photo thanks to Mountain Fuel

We arrived at the checkpoint in 2:47:07 which was very pleasing especially as I was feeling really good with no issues at all. Dave very kindly filled my water bottle with Tailwind and my soft flask with water while I had a couple of cups of orange juice, three pieces of melon and took with me half a banana and a bag of jelly babies. There was a whole variety of food available including massive cobs with ham and cheese but I didn’t fancy any of that!

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Getting my Tailwind out to refill. Photo thanks to Dave Troman

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Leg 2: Threlkeld to Helvellyn (9.02 miles Overall 19.31 miles)

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As I left the checkpoint Tracey was there cheering on the runners. I paused for a quick high five and sweaty kiss on the cheek (sorry Tracey!!) and headed off for the next climb up Clough Head. Dave ran out with me for half a mile or so and we chatted about doing some recce runs for the Ring of Fire race around Anglesey that I want to do next year.

Once Dave headed back I continued to run along the cycle track catching a few runners. I was really pleased with how I was feeling. Three hours into the race and I felt as though I was just getting going which was just as well as there was a big climb coming up next!

Just as we left the cycle track to cross the road and back onto the cycle track I caught up with Gus Bowman. I’d seen Gus before the race and he was telling me he had his 60thbirthday recently so this was his first race as a M60 runner! His wife was there taking photos and cheering him on.

I passed another runner just before leaving the cycle path. I tried to leave it open for him but it closed before he got there. I did apologise but he said, ‘Don’t worry. It is a race we are in!’

As I walked up the road before going into the open fell I got my poles from my rucksack and got them ready for the climb. I’d not used them until this point as I wanted to leave them until this climb. It was a good decision as the field was spread out by now and I won’t have to worry about stabbing anyone.

Not long after going through the gate a guy went past me running up the hill. My strategy is to walk all the hills and run everything else. I feel I could run some of the hills especially early on but I think it takes more out of you than you gain.

Sure enough by the time we reached the top I had caught him and at least 8-10 other runners. I was slowly but surely working my way through the field. I’ve done a spread sheet of the results and I reckon I was 75th at Threlkeld and 51st by the time I reached Helvellyn so I had gone past a few runners.

It was a long slog up Clough Head but I kept moving steadily. I do a lot of counting on the climbs. My favourite for this climb was to count 50 clicks of the poles then look up to see how far to go then head down for another 50. Sure enough you reach the top!

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View towards Keswick from Clough Head

It had taken me 1:02:57 from the checkpoint to the top which was a few 5mins slower than my plan but it was 3.49 miles against the 3.20 miles I thought it was. My Suunto showed that I had climbed 1926ft.

The views were absolutely stunning. Blue skies, no wind and lots of hills and lakes to enjoy. I didn’t stop to ponder as Dave had said that the next section to Helvellyn gave lots of opportunity to run. The race route basically follows the Bob Graham route along this ridge but don’t need to go over all the Dodd peaks on the way.

I packed away my poles and stored them in my waist band as I knew I’d need them again pretty soon. There were a few runners around me as I passed a few and then got passed by a couple. This was repeated a few times with the same and different runners.

There was one climb where runners were taking a different line. There were some runners ahead going higher before bearing right while others were heading right sooner and staying lower. My line had the higher line so I stayed with it but I could see the runners who had gone right sooner seemed to be ahead of me so I maybe lost a few minutes on that one.

I stopped at one cairn to refill my tailwind in my water bottle with the water from my soft flask. It took a couple of minutes but well worth it as it was pretty warm and I really needed to keep drinking. My main fuel supply was my Tailwind so I needed to make sure I was drinking enough. I did eat the jelly babies on this section to Helvellyn.

The view towards Helvellyn was superb. Striding Edge looked very formidable. I thought back to the first time I met Katrina. We had walked from Glenridding to Helvellyn over Striding Edge with a mutual friend. Katrina had never climbed a mountain at that point and she absolutely loved it even though her boots were two sizes too big! I remember thinking she’s the girl for me! I wasn’t wrong.

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The final climb to the summit was very busy with walkers and I caught up with a Dad and his young son and daughter. He asked what race we were doing and seemed impressed with how far we had gone and how far still to go. His son was keen to run with me!

It had taken me 2:30:42 for the 9.02 miles from Threlkeld to the summit. I had now been going for 5:20:42. My sub 13:30 plan was 5:33:00 so I was encouraged that I was ahead of schedule and maybe my gold of sub 13hrs might be possible. There was still a long way to go so I felt encouraged with how things were going so far.

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Leg 3: Helvellyn to Ambleside (9.15 miles Overall 28.45 miles)

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I didn’t hang around at the top though the views were amazing and I could have stayed there for a while to enjoy them.

One of the reasons I like doing a recce run is to really take time to enjoy the views. I find in the race I’m a lot more focused and wanting to get on with the race.

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Looking back towards Helvellyn

There was a good downhill section, then another short climb before a long descent to Grisdale Tarn. There were a few mountain bikers going up and down. I don’t think I’d fancy either way on a bike! I didn’t have too much water left so I rationed it knowing that I could refill at the tarn.

I was on my own but I could see a couple of runners ahead. I wondered whether I could catch them by the time I reached the tarn. The descent was quite steep but zigzagged down on large stones that had been laid out. In the race instructions we were told to stay on the path as they are trying to reduce the amount of corrosion.

I slowly caught and passed two runners on the way down. I remarked how quiet and still it was. I think it was in contrast to how busy it was on Helvellyn. It suddenly felt we were miles from civilisation on a glorious autumn day.

I mentioned to a guy in yellow that he had been a speck in the distance. He replied, ‘Don’t rub it in!!’ After the race he sent me this tweet ….

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It was good to reach the tarn and the stream. I stopped to drink some water then fill up my water bottle so I could add my Tailwind as I started up the hill.

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Photo thanks to Ian Corless

I knew the climb up Fairfield was going to be steep but I also knew that it was going to be the final big climb of the day. There would be lots of smaller ascents to come but this was the last longer effort.

I had my poles out again and returned to my counting, looking up, counting again. I must admit I found the final few minutes hard going. One of the runners I caught on the way down was now right behind me. I asked whether he wanted to go by but he was happy to follow.

After a few more minutes I paused to drink and let him go past as I felt I was trying to go at his pace rather than mine. I followed him up and it was good to reach the summit of Fairfield. The 1.07 mile from the tarn had taken me 32:15 which was by far my slowest mile of the race!

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View from Fairfield

I decided to stop for a couple of minutes to pack away my poles and reattach them to the outside of my bag as I knew I wouldn’t need them again for the rest of the race. As I did so I chatted to a group of walkers who were resting in the stone shelter.

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Looking back towards Helvellyn from Fairfield

They encouraged me that I was almost half way. I replied that the hardest half was now over, I was feeling good and ready to keep going to the finish and that’s how I felt.

I thought it was 4.10 miles to the next Feed Station at Ambleside but it turned out to be 5.69 miles. It did feel a long descent with plenty of ascent as well. There were some rocky sections that I was starting to struggle on and a couple of runners caught me. I find after 6-7 hrs of running my legs are tiring and I find it hard to skip down as others do.

But there were also sections of gradual descent on grassy paths and I was running really strongly on those sections and caught up with the runners who had passed me. So we all have strengths and weaknesses.

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Ambleside and Lake Windermere

Not too far from Ambleside I went right into a bog so both feet were covered in mud over my ankles. Initially I had thought I wouldn’t change shoes at Ambleside. I had put a spare pair of Drymax socks and Sketchers just in case as the race offered that opportunity.

As I ran down into the town I decided I would take a few more minutes to change my socks and shoes as I thought it would be good to have clean socks for the final 20 miles to Cartmel.

It felt strange running through the busy town of Ambleside after the quietness of the hills. I few people knew a race was going on so clapped and cheered as I ran past. Others had no idea that we had run almost 30 miles!

I reached the checkpoint in 7:47:50 which was just outside my 7:45:00 plan. The leg from Helvellyn had taken 2:27:08 against the 2:12:00 on my plan but I was still pretty close to my 13:30 plan.

The checkpoint volunteers were superb. Before I asked they brought over my shoe bag. I spent 10 mins and in that time I changed my socks and shoes, ate some pasta, drank some coke, refilled my water bottle with Mountain fuel and took some water in my soft flask for later.

There were other runners sitting and some seemed to be a lot more relaxed that me! They were sitting back chatting whereas I was all action as I wanted to get going as soon as I could.

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Leg 4: Ambleside to Finsthwaite (14.18 miles Overall 42.64 miles)

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I ran out of the checkpoint on my own but was joined by a lady who had been out for a run and was returning to her car. She said that people had mistaken her for a runner in the race and she been clapped through the town!

My feet felt superb and even though I took a bit longer in the checkpoint that I planned I knew that it was going to be worth it as it felt so good having clean socks and shoes.

I ran all the way to the road, crossed over and onto the cycle path. When it started climbing I walked as my plan was to walk all the hills from now on and run everything else. Not long after a runner in blue went past me running up the hill. I was impressed that he was running strongly but wondered whether I would see him again.

For the next couple of miles the route followed the road then went onto a lovely man made trail to side of the path. I was running strongly and slowly caught up with a runner in black and then I could see the runner in blue not too far ahead.

Once I caught up with him we ran together off and on for the next couple of hours. He was Alex Reilly. I’d had various quick chats with runners as I passed them but this was the longest chat I’d had all day and it certainly helped pass the time and miles.

Alex works for Rat Race as their marketing manager so it was interesting finding out about how that works. He had also done the Cape Wrath ultra this year which is the 8 day race in the north of Scotland. Alex is 27 so I did smile to myself that I was 30 years older than him!!

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Alex just ahead with the light starting to fade

We caught up with another couple of guys and the four of us ran together, separated and came back together a few times over the next few miles. It was a lovely section for running through the woods to the side of Lake Windermere. There were a couple of times when we were very close to the lake but most of the time it was out of sight.

As we reached the YHA HQ Alex was just ahead and the two guys were behind. We reached the road and I thought I saw Alex running down the road to just followed him. It turns out the route crosses the road and heads up the woods.

Once I turned the next corner I couldn’t Alex ahead and the line on my Suunto was off to the right of where I was going. I looked into the woods but couldn’t see anything but trees. Certainly no path so I carried on. I heard someone shout but couldn’t make out what they were saying but I suspected they were trying to help me.

Just when I thought I might have to turn round and retrace my steps I saw a gate and a path heading up into the woods. I decided to head up there and hope that it would rejoin the race route. I got out my iphone and checked on my app UK map and sure enough I could see that the path I was on would get me back on line.

It was a very steep climb and I thought that I had added some distance to the route but hopefully not too much. I also assumed that Alex and the other two guys would be ahead now.

My arrow and the line on my watch came together and I was relieved that I had not lost too much time. I went up the path a bit too far. I turned round and saw that the signs were there pointing right. As I had come up the path I had missed them.

route

Red line = race route Blue line = my route!

It was getting pretty dark by now but I was happy to be back on track and decided to try and get to the last Feed Station at Finsthwaite before getting my head torch out.  I assumed that Alex was ahead still but I couldn’t see anyone ahead.  I went past Ian Corless who set up his camera and large light to capture some night photos.

I ran into the final Feed Station in the dark at 11:06:42 against my 13:30 plan of 11:08! Pretty close. I was surprised that Alex wasn’t in the checkpoint and thought maybe I had lost even more time than I thought. I had a quick drink of coke, ate some watermelon and refilled my water bottle with flat coke.

I was keen to get going as soon as I could so after just under 3mins I was out the door.

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Leg 5: Finsthwaite to Cartmel (8.04 miles Overall 50.68 miles)

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Just as I left the hall Alex walked in! He told me later than when the guy shouted me he thought they were shouting him so he went back down and wasted some time. So that was why he was behind me rather than in front. I apologised and was on my way.

It was pitch dark as I made my way across the field and headed to the finish. I wasn’t sure of the distance but thought it was at least 7.50 miles. According to my watch it was 8.04 miles. I was still feeling good so was able to run all the downs and flats and walked hard on the ascents.

I was a slower on the more technical parts but happy that I was moving okay. I couldn’t see any light ahead and I don’t like to look behind so I was very much on my own.

After about 30mins a couple of guys caught me. They were moving better over the tricky stuff than I was but I was able to stay with them on the path and road. We chatted about our finishing time. They were keen to get under 13hrs.

I realised I wasn’t going to make that so had decided I wanted to be closer to 13hrs than 13:30 which kept me working as hard as I could. There have been times when I know I’m comfortably inside my goal that it’s hard to keep the intensity going.

Once we reached a trickier bit again they were away and I didn’t see them again until the finish. They told me they missed 13hrs by a few seconds!

I hoped that no-one else would catch me but if someone does there’s not much you can do! I was running as hard as I could and if someone was going better than me then well done to them! A runner in black did catch me and pushed on to finish 7mins or so ahead.

One of the two guys who went past had done a recce run recently of this section and said there is one final hill up a field before dropping down to the road for the final couple of miles into the village and the finish at the school.

Once the field arrived I knew I didn’t have too far to go. I took a split at the road to see what pace I could finish in. It was a small country road with no cars and downhill all the way to the village. I ran all the way and was looking forward to getting to the finish.

There were a few people out in the village and three ladies in particular gave me a big cheer as I ran past their house. The school was at the far end of the village so it seemed to take for ages to arrive.

I crossed the road and ran into the school grounds, under the finishing banner to be greeted by James. He gave me a medal and gave me my time 13:09:06.

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Photo thanks to James Kirby

I was really happy with that!  I explained to James by navigational mistake but as it didn’t cut any of the course it was fine.

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Over the next couple of hours I rang Katrina, had a lovely hot shower, a superb massage from two students from Cumbria University and enjoyed a lovely baked potato with cheese and beans.

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Students from Cumbria Uni who gave me a superb massage

It was good to chat to various runners who had finished and cheer others in as they reached the school.  Andy Cole came in on 11pm for a time of 15:00:41 Andy had enjoyed his day out as well.

I really enjoyed the race and have nothing but praise for James and all his team of volunteers.  I would definitely recommend the race!

Written by Eric Grant - http://www.lhtrailrunning.com

leman

The Ultra Tour of Léman holds a special place in my heart. First of all, there’s the fact of going around a lake that I’ve called home for 37 years - but the main reason is the atmosphere of this race that I love, “far from the madding crowd”. Every year, a great group of enthusiastic but low-key runners gather to experience this unique race, led by the organizer, Jean-Luc Ridet. I contacted him in 2013 when I saw one weekend a bunch of runners with backpacks and bibs running along the lake in Geneva. I volunteered the following year to help out, and I knew then that I had to do this race. As a result, 2015 became a test year with the 100km of Millau and in 2016 I participated in the UTL for the first time – stopping in Morges after 130km and 19h of running with the feeling that my legs were giving out. I figured it was in large part due to having done only six weeks before another race that I had been focusing on for a few years, the Swiss Irontrail - 201km with 11,000m of elevation (though I timed out at 140km after 42 hours) - and I had focused my training on the mountain running, figuring that transferring to road would not be a big deal! Ah, well, lesson learned...

So 2017, I trained almost exclusively on flat roads. A pain in my right foot in June/July forced me to reduce my training,but having finished the GUCR (233km) in May, I still felt fit and ready...

 

Friday evening I returned to the friendly family-like atmosphere of the UTL. A few well-known faces from the previous year and the 12h/24h Villeneuve race in April - Corrinne, Juan and Paola - and new encounters, such as Scott, an Australian expat from Nyon, Dylan, another expat from Lyon whose blogI’ve been following for a while, Sylvain from Brittany, Hélène from Dax in the Landes, and Ruthann, an Irish woman who had just in Nyon on a short-term work posting and figured, "Ah, there's a race around the lake, sounds nice!". She finished 2nd in less than 20h! Well, turns out she’s Ireland's 24-hour champion (225km). We know, because Jean-Luc takes the trouble during the race briefing Friday night to present all the runners individually. There are some very impressive CVs, of course, with treadmill records, Transgaules, Transeuropes, Etoile Savoyarde, Spartathlons, UTMBs, Tor des Géants and others, but in the end it is the slightly wonky world of ultra-running that unites us all. There are quite a few of us with far more modest CVs, and some for whom this is the first attempt at a 100+ miles. Everyone is really supportive of one another, since we are only competing against ourselves.

 

And then there's the staff, the volunteers, incredible. As one of the competitors, René Lecacheur, wrote after the race: "THANK YOU for your presence, your dedication, your patience, your kindness, your smiles, your good humor, your availability, your little attentions to us, your pleasure to be there. Receive our gratitude for all your support in difficult conditions (night, cold, wind ... etc), but you are always there for us, always with a smile. So Thank you!".

 

After the briefing, communal dinner then off to bed. I slept well but woke up in a strange mental state, as if I did not quite realize that I was going to run 175km. The sole of my right foot hurt very slightly, but in the end it would turn out to be never more than a slight bother even after 29 hours of racing – so ultimately nothing to complain about (damn!).

 

Villeneuve – Lugrin – CP1 (22,5km)


We head off with cool weather at 7am to the sound of cow bells. Right away René charges ahead (he’s vice-world champion for longest distance on a treadmill in 24h - 247km! – didn’t even know that this kind of stuff existed!). He came to win, even break the record... He’s followed by a small group moving too fast for me - then there’s me, at about 9km/h as planned. And then behind me, a slightly slower group... So, only 10 minutes into the race, I find myself alone. And I’ll stay that way- almost without seeing anyone in front or behind - for nearly 15 hours of racing... Ah, for someone who doesn’t like crowds, I got what I came for! A new journey of inner discovery awaits…

This first section is going well. I already plug in to a little music, I set my pace, forcing myself to walk a minute or so every quarter of an hour. The first few kilometers are in a natural reserve along the lake between Villeneuve and Le Bouveret, then we cross the border into France. We’re right on the lake, the view is magnificent, with steep mountains on the left, and I feel very fortunate to be here.

 

I had estimated my time based the GUCR and arrived bang on schedule at the first checkpoint in 2h30. Quick coffee, a homemade wafer by the daughter of Raphaëlle, one of the loyal volunteers of the UTL, and I charge off - forgetting my water bottle! But no worries, I wanted to get rid of it anyway, and I have a pouch in the backpack. Raphaëlle says she’ll also be at the last CP7, and I tell her that this year I count on seeing her there!


Lugrin – Anthy-sur-Léman – CP2 (44km)

Things are going pretty smoothly. Things are getting rather more urban with cars zipping past, requiring to be quite focused when the sidewalk disappears. Then we turn off the main road into residential areas – very pretty! I was already quite pleasantly surprised last year to gain a new perspective of a region I thought I knew so well… I pass the marathon distance in less than 5 hours, much slower than last year when I took off too fast, and I arrive again on schedule in Anthy in 5:15. A few quick nibbles and I’m off. Can feel my legs now, but nothing out of the ordinary…


Anthy-sur-Léman – Chens-sur-Léman – CP3 (64km)

I spend a lot of time thinking about the race, about what I will write on my blog, and time just flies, it's great – I even have to force myself to slow down. Then, as can always happen in an ultra (and usually does several times), the tables flip and I find myself finding the time very looooong. Last year, too, I started to struggle mentally here. There are parts of the road without sidewalk but overall it is beautiful, as you pass through Excenevex, Yvoire, Messery. Yet I’ve got the blues... Which might explain why, when I arrive at the third checkpoint, I blab on and on to the volunteers about the fact that I will see my wife and my daughter soon since I pass within 100m of our house. The CP, which I hit again right on schedule at 3pm, moved one kilometer from Chens because there is a 10km race organized for this afternoon. That's nice.

Chens-sur-Léman – Bellevue – CP4 (87km)

After Chens we head vaguely downhill to Hermance and into Switzerland and very familiar territory. I had retrieved my lost water bottle in Chens, but realized that I had not only forgotten to fill the bottle but also my back pouch, what’s up with that? No worries, I come across a water fountain and fill up my pouch, figuring that the lack of a sign indicating that the water is (or is not) drinkable means that it is… Right? A few minutes later I'm not very sure ... Anyway, whether it's psychological or something else (running and eating randomly for more than 8 hours), I start to feel nauseous. So I pop a Motilium pill... But that doesn’t seem to work too well, so I eat some candied ginger – and that works wonders!

 

Around 4.15pm I pass in front of my mother-in-law’s house. Last year I stopped here more than half an hour to chat with my wife and eat some tasty stuff I’d left in my mother-in-law’s fridge. But it was a weird experience – I'm not used to having my wife follow me on my races – and I didn’t want to stop for such a long time outside an official checkpoint, so we’d agreed just to meet up briefly near our home. I’m glad I did: I feel much better than last year when I was already suffering from very tired legs and a sore knee, even though the nausea has already returned.

 

Just before I get to Collonge, a cyclist slows down to my level and asks me what I am up to, then he explains that he is doing the Ironman Barcelona in a few weeks and that he is on his last long bike ride, which he should follow with a run but he is really not motivated... Sorry dude, not sure what to tell you...

 

I pass my daughter's school and call my wife to let her know. 10mn later we meet up in front of the Migros in Vésenaz with my daughter. They buy me an ice cream (mmm ...), my daughter hands me a Monster energy drink that I’d left in our fridge, and we sit out in the sun for a quarter of an hour - my daughter on another bench ten meters away because she says I smell bad! Then she tells me I have to hurry, I’m going to get overtaken! Oh, no worries about that darling! We are few and far between, and in any case if someone does, good on them! Then she tells me that I should just stay here. What do you mean!? Have I not taught you never to give up without a damn good reason – and this isn’t one! She says it's because she’s going to miss me tonight ... Oh, break my heart... But beyond the fact that I absolutely do not see myself stopping now, the prospect of having to get up and take the train on a Sunday morning to retrieve my car and stuff in Villeneuve sounds even more tiring than running another 100km around the lake. So I just blow a big kiss, hug my wife and off I go…

 

And immediately run into a former colleague. I don’t want to be rude, so I ask how she’s doing, kid and all, and I do really want to know because it’s been a while since we ran into each other, but finally I tell her I’m in a race and should get going. She understands, and I head off towards the lake.

 

The Monster kicks in, I’ve seen my wife and daughter, and the sun is glinting off the lake as the town of Geneva appears (last year it was raining): I’m in rare form, and I start to run more and walk less, and manage to keep that up till the next checkpoint. I spend 5mn talking with a woman on a bike who asks me about the race and encourages me. I feel even more like superman… There are a lot of runners out, so I try to make sure that my bib is visible ("see, 175km, that's why I'm so slow! ") But no-one keeps me more than a perplexed nod…

 

I arrive at Bellevue around 18:30 still within my most optimistic time predictions, so I start to wonder if I might not actually pull a good time, less than 26h? I was over an hour later last year and night had fallen.


Bellevue – Gland – CP5 (107km)

I am the only runner again at checkpoint 3, with three volunteers all to myself. I am offered a massage, I hesitate, I accept. I start to shiver, they give me two blankets, one for the shoulders, one for the legs. Then they serve me up some broth with noodles - mmm, that goes down well, almost the only thing that I can stomach with this recurring nausea which comes in waves between bites of ginger. This is only the 2nd time in about 30  ultras that I have nausea, and now there’s something new: the feeling that I have a pill stuck in my throat…

 

I am surprised to see Helen at the checkpoint, because she’s running the relay, but it’s good to see her. She’s waiting for her teammate Philippe who took off slowly as he’s suffering from a knee injury. She has a while to wait still. Meanwhile, she discovering Swiss chocolate! ... I ask how Dylan is fairing, as know it’s his first 100-miler (110!), and I was told he passed through more than an hour and half ago. So it would seem it's going well.

 

I leave after retrieving a new baggie of food for the next leg – I’ve left one at each checkpoint from here on – but the chips, Pims and Oreo cookies that I thought would be a real delight when packing them do nothing for me now. I actually throw away the cheese-flavored chips, ugh!, and just nibble on an oreo and a pims. It goes down ok, but I have to force myself a little. So disappointed!

 

I keep up a good pace, still run/walk-ing, until Versoix/Mies. Night’s falling but there are enough streetlights not to have to put on my headlamp. I run past Scott's wife who tells me that Scott is napping in the car...

 

Then my watch starts beeping: low battery. I plug it into my portable battery and store it in my backpack. I try to use my phone to track my running/walking, but soon realize it’s totally useless and give up, and give in to the pleasure of just moving along without focusing on time or pace…

 

This might have been a mistake - because it seems to take forever to reach the next checkpoint, which seemed so short last year and which is, objectively, the shortest distance between checkpoints. Yet I feel good and I thought I was moving pretty quick (relatively speaking). Several times I thought I was arriving in Nyon - but no! And when I pull out my watch to check my average pace, it’s dropped! I’m actually moving slower than last year?!

 

Feeling somewhat lonely now, I call my friend Anthony, with whom I did the Alpe d'Huez long-distance triathlon, then the Vichy Ironman (well, we participated in the same events, he just finished far ahead!) and who crewed me at the Swiss Irontrail and the GUCR. Then I try to call another buddy, Cyril, whom I've known for almost 30 years, with whom I did the Marathon des Sables and so many other races,- and who had accompanied me by bike for the UTL last year... Turns out he’s at a friend’s 50th birthday. 50th! Time flies. I don’t feel anywhere near 50!

 

I pass Nyon finally, then Gland arrives not too far behind, but I’m pretty damn sure there are sections of the road that weren’t there last year, or perhaps the kilometers have turned into miles…


Gland – St. Prex – CP6 (126km)

Last year, I already had thoughts of dropping at this checkpoint. I was fine this year, tired for sure, but legs ok. Apart from my latent nausea, all systems are a go – a timid go, like a stubborn mule forced to climb the mountain, but a go nonetheless….

 

I ask how Dylan’s doing, and turns out he passed through two hours ago, so he’s even gained time on me (not that I’d harbored any ideas of catching up), so I’m figuring he’s doing really well. Actually, I learned later from his blog that he was having to cope with signs of dehydration. Goes to show how easy things always look from the outside...

 

I don’t dally, pick up another baggy of food (beurk!), retrieve a more powerful headlamp (a Petzl Nao and its f**king intertwining threads, I really have to switch to something else) and off I hop. An hour later, I pull some Parma ham of my bag – rough going, but it’s real food and salty and greasy and that’s apparently what I need because it goes down ok. And I need fuel.

 

Then I slow down – I mean, to the point where even I realize that I am slowing down. I continue to trot intermittently, but there’s quite a bit of power walking going on… Still, no plodding, so gotta look on the bright side. That said, space-time distortion continues: I feel much better – and that I am doing better – than last year, but I still only get to St. Prex just an hour ahead of last year's time, which means I did the whole section from Bellevue much slower?! I’m telling you, they added sections to the road…

 

But I'm no longer alone at this point. I arrived in Rolle with no water, and couldn’t find any fountains with drinkable water (not making that mistake again!), so I fill my pouch in the bathroom of a pub (from the tap, I might add), and as I’m leaving I see another runner. I call out to him but he doesn’t hear me, so I charge across the road (all things being relative when I say “charge”) and tap him on the shoulder: it is Scott! He’s doing pretty well, he slept a little in his wife's car. But he’s tired and his legs are beat, and we are both happy to reduce our pace to a sustained walk.

 

And so chat for the next hours, about work and the races we've done... Scott is attempting to do 500km in 50 days in six races. Last weekend he did Swisspeaks, about 80km/50 miles and a lot of elevation on technical trails, and next weekend he’s doing the LG Trail, 115km with 3,500m of elevation from Lausanne to Geneva. Which explains his state of fatigue…

 

We arrive at 1 am in St. Prex where we both agree to take a proper break. I retrieve another food baggy, but I suddenly retch at the sight of the bars and gels and even the dried beef that I end up by throwing away with a heavy heart. One of the volunteers standing near steps back but I manage to keep it all down... A few pieces of ginger later and I feel better right away. But I’ll be unable to eat for the next 4-5 hours, which might explain why I have a hard time finding renewed energy.

 

Scott and I both realize sleep is an impossible proposition as the night is quite cool, so we head off for the longest leg to the last checkpoint.


St. Prex – Cully – CP7 (153km)

And it definitely feels like the longest stretch!... But the kilometers slip by as we chat, and I'm happy to arrive at Morges where I stopped last year... Then shortly after exiting Morges, Scott plays tricks with my mind: he sees a bus shelter and says that would make for a nice lie-down. I hadn’t dared suggest it! But when we pass the next one, I say “hey, what about a lie down”, but he’s not up for it, like he was joking or something, but I can’t get it out of my head, so on the third one we pass I tell him I’m going to nap as my eyes are drooping. I tell him to go on, maybe catch up later…

 

The nap lasts all of five minutes. There’s a breeze that just fills the shelter with cold air, so I decide to move on. I try again an hour later, same result. Then I hit the outskirts of Lausanne and enter a dark forest that runs all along the lake. It's almost scary! Which of course is when my Petzl decides to blink to tell me the batteries are dying - oops, must have forgotten to charge them. I recognize with some dry, detached humor the accumulation of errors I’m making on this ultra, a sign perhaps that I was not as focused on it as I should have been. I’m just lucky that it’s a road race where the temperature changes aren’t too drastic and there is access to civilization…

 

Anyway, I decided to enjoy the dark for a while, before realizing that I’ve hit a deadend and there is nowhere to go except into the lake… So I turn back until I see one of the race arrows – actually indicating I was in the right place. What the…? Ok, so I head back along the boardwalk, but this time take out my spare lamp and hey presto magic, there’s the path, just to the left weaving into the forest. Thank God for Light!

 

Oddly enough, it's among the moments in the race that I enjoy the most. The wooded park on the left, the lake on the right, the silence of the night... Then I see a telephone booth - a few broken panes but providing better shelter from the wind than anywhere else. So I curl up on the cigarette butt-strewn floor, actually quite comfortable, wondering again and the unique experiences an ultra marathon provides… It reminds me somewhat of past years of alcohol and drug-use, sleepless nights and aimless wondering in empty public places in the dead of night… And it’s briefly unpleasant until I realize how far I have traveled, that my intense fatigue now is due to 140 kilometers of running and there's no chemical crash…

 

I drift off a bit but eventually leave after about 10 minutes of fitful napping, pass through a port, and emerge on the edge of wide open space now occupied by a horse show... And I realize it's dawn.

 

I arrive soon after at Ouchy and that’s when I see Scott staggering ahead. He really doesn’t look good. But he's on the phone - with his wife, I think - and he waves vaguely to me as I pass. I slow down to stay just a little ahead of him, given him some space, but we’re really moving slowly. Something of a dilemma - if I keep going at this pace, I could eventually just give up; and that would certainly happen if he drops out and gets picked up by his wife. So I signal to him that I'm taking off.

 

Still, I look behind from time to time but can’t see him. I stop for five minutes to rest and wait for him, but he still doesn’t show up... Well, he has plenty of experience (finished, among others, a 250km race in the mountains in Japan – like the Asian Barkley's), he has a phone, we are in a city and there are already joggers out this Sunday morning so I’m not too worried for him, and eventually just “charge” ahead to Cully.

 

And that's where space-time distortion resumes, but this time it's entirely my fault. I’ve retrieved my watch from my bag but it seems like the charger didn’t work so I’ve turned off the GPS function and I have no clue of distances or speed. So I figure that by studying the bus stops, I can guess how long it will take me to get to Cully.

 

What a mistake! Since when are bus route maps drawn to scale? So at the beginning I feel like I'm moving fast, calculating that at the pace I move between bus stops I’ll arrive at the last checkpoint in Cully at around 7:15am - cool! Also weird: every time I stop to check the schedule, a bus arrives, as if to taunt me. And it's Sunday morning! I would love for buses to run on a Sunday like that in Geneva.

 

Then I pass through a beautiful village on the lake stupidly thinking that this is Lutry and I will soon reach Cully, but realize that in fact this is the old town of Pully. But it’s after this that my morale really takes a blow. According to the bus route, the distance appears about the same between Pully, Lutry and Cully... But it turns out that between Lutry and Cully there is a small town called Villette, which comes well after a really long straight stretch from Lutry…

 

Fortunately, the scenery is amazing, especially at this early hour, with the lake sparkling to the right and the vineyards to the left, and the train tracks in between. I feel like I’m in a miniature train set... And then I come across a gas station open early and buy a chicken sandwich. My nausea has not completely passed, but by eating it in small pieces, it goes down pretty well! Have to say that it’s been more than 4 hours since I’ve eaten nothing...


Cully – Villeneuve (175Km)

I arrive shortly after 8h at Cully, where Raphaëlle is waiting with a big smile, her kids running around with endless energy (apparently they slept real well in the car). I manage some broth, and salami goes down well too. Then I try to catch some sleep in another volunteer’s car – he stretches out the driver’s seat and hands me a blanket. But, once again after 5-10mn I give up.

When I get out of the car, I see Scott staggering in. He collapses into a chair, exhausted – and this is probably the first time I’ve really seen someone absolutely exhausted. He doesn’t want to give up but he realizes that he may actually be putting his health at risk. When I head out, he gives me a big smile of encouragement for the last bit. Whatever he’s feeling, it may be completely understandable disappointment but definitely not self-pity. 

The sun’s shining and it’s all downhill into Vevey, amazing. I remove my windbreaker and long sleeves that I wore during the night to put on a new clean t-shirt. I feel like a new man and I start jogging again.

From Vevey I can see the entire distance still to cover – but I can pretty much see Villeneuve! I know I’ll get there and if I push a bit I can make it close to the somewhat loose official cut-off time of 29h10 (which means an average pace of 6km/h for the whole race, taking stops into account). Just like at the GUCR, these last hours are really tough on the legs and feet, and mentally I just want to get it done, I will get it done, but struggling with the amount of time it will take… But I am not bored at all. The boardwalk is filled with strollers, and joggers too whipping by (as I once again try to make my bib visible!).

Then I pass the Chateau de Chillon and there it is, I am in Villeneuve. I pass the train station, I see the service station that marks the left turn towards Tronchenaz. Now I’m running along the river, with the soccer field on my left. And then they see me and I hear the incredible sound of the cowbells - and I get a hug from Jean-Luc, and Scott is there too and we give each other a long hug - I thank him for his support and helping me finish, saying how sorry I am he had to drop - and Dylan’s there too congratulating me ... Actually, almost everyone is there since I'm the second to last person to arrive. Helene will arrive a little less than an hour after me, a real warrior.
So at last the tour of great lake is complete – and I won’t have to return out of revenge but rather to enjoy the magical experience of a unique race.

Written by Katrin Silva - http://runkat.com

Cast of characters

Our Fearless Heroine:
Katrin, ultra runner in pursuit of another belt buckle at the end of the rainbow, otherwise known as the 100-mile Leadville trail run.

Supporting characters and sidekicks:

Katrin’s Brain, convinced 100 percent that she is tougher than she thinks she is and can do more than she thinks she can
David, Katrin’s loyal crew/cheerleader/photographer/husband combo
Rachael, Katrin’s loyal ultra friend who has agreed to help crew
Adrian “Speed Demon” Stanciu, Katrin’s elite runner friend, who has agreed to pace her for 20 miles . . . and then for 37 . . .and in the end for 50.
Assorted llamas

Villains, adversaries, and monsters to be slain:

Hope Pass – looming and evil, a powerful enemy
The Neverending Trail to Winfield, which has grown two miles since last year.
The Powerline Climb – a shapeshifting hydra with five false heads
Katrin’s Finicky Stomach, a whining traitor who crosses into enemy territory after mile 53
Katrin’s Various Other Body Parts – legs, eyes, knees- who follow the traitorous stomach one by one onto the opposing side

Act 1

Start to Twin Lakes

Soundtrack: A gunshot, then Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen)

Legs: We’re ready! We’re rested! We’re cold! We’re raring to go!
Brain: No, patience. We’ve got plenty of time . . .
Legs: We can run this uphill!
Brain: Really? Ok, if you’re sure . . . it feels good to pass a few more runners, hehe!
Stomach: . . . (content, happy gurgling sounds).
Eyes: Look! Turquoise Lake, how pretty! . . . Oooooh, Mt Elbert. Hey, our buddy Eric is up ahead, let’s go catch up! Hey, there’s an aid station!
David: You’re looking great!
Rachael: What do you need?
Brain: Should we stop and eat something? Nah, no time . . . Hey wait, why is the two-liter bladder still half full after 40 miles? Did I forget something?

Act II

Twin Lakes to Winfield

Soundtrack: You Can Get it if You Really Want it (Jimmy Cliff)

Hope Pass: I will make you suffer. Muahaha.
Brain: You don’t scare me. Up we go!
Legs: Ok. We still feel pretty strong.
Brain: I am superwoman. I can pass people while climbing Hope. Go Me!
Llama: Look at these pathetic things coming up the pass. Two legs. Inadequate. Phew. (spits in runners’ direction)
Friendly volunteer: Can we refill your pack?
Katrin: Yes, please . . . Oh crap, this is the first time since this morning. I ran 45 miles on less than two liters of water??? Why?
Lungs: Gasp . . . gasp . . . Still no oxygen up here, same as last year.
Legs: It’s still steep, same as last year.
Brain: Come one! Up and over! There you go!
The Neverending Trail to Winfield: Muahahahah . . . I am a mile longer this year.
Muahahah . . .one mile each way, makes two miles total. Not flat miles, no . . . Lots of uphill, lots of downhill. Runners can see the aid staton, and then I lead them away from t the aid station again. Complete despair is my goal, muahahahah! Muahahaha!
Katrin: Where is that (#%($^$ aid station?????
Never-ending Trail: I’m going to trip you, so you limp into Winfield with a bloody knee. Muahaha!
Katrin: Ouch! (^$(^^%#%

(an eternity later)

David: You look great!
Rachael: Do you want anything to eat?
Katrin: No time . . . one bite of sandwich will do. And one potato chip.

Act III

Winfield to Hopeless

Soundtrack: Everybody Hurts (R.E.M)

Adrian, fidgeting like a racehorse at the start of the Kentucky Derby: Let’s run!
Katrin, who doesn’t want to look pathetic in front of her fast friend: Sure!
Hope Pass: I am steep . . . I am endless . . . I don’t have switchbacks. Woe to all who climb my backside! Your hamstrings will hurt! They will cramp!Legs: We can’t go up there! Not again. Not without fuel!
Stomach: You should have thought of that 20 miles ago, when I still wanted to play this game. I quit. Bye!
Brain: You sorry bunch of losers! Come on, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. . . we’re practically standing still! People are passing us! No!
Katrin, bonking: Ugh, wait. I don’t feel so good.
Adrian: (muttering to himself) I thought she was faster than a snail . . . (aloud): You’re doing fine.
Hope Pass: You shall perish! You shall suffer! You shall regret ever signing up for this race!

(an eternity later)

Katrin: Yay! Downhill! Oxygen! I am alive!!!
Llama #2: I am cuter than you, human.

Act IV

Hopeless to base of Powerline climb (inbound)

Soundtrack: Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater

Brain: let’s catch a few people on this rocky downhill . . . we’re behind schedule. We want that big buckle!
Legs: ok, ok. We’re running on fumes here!
Stomach: I told you I quit. No, I don’t want another Stinger Waffle. No, not even a Ginger chew.
David: Let me take a few pictures! You’re doing great!
Rachael: Ok, headlamp, jacket, dry shoes . . . you should eat something.
Katrin: No time. I still have a shot at the big buckle if I hurry.

(Darkness falls. Our heroine and her valiant pacer/pack mule Adrian turn on their lights.)

Legs: Can we please, please, please have some fuel?
Stomach: I told you earlier, I quit. That means no.
Eyes: we’ve been wearing those contacts for, like, a long time now, and it’s dusty. And we’re really dry. Everything looks hazy.
Legs: Are we there yet?
Brain: Come on, stop whining!
Adrian: Wow, we just ran a ten-minute mile, 75 miles in. Maybe you can still get that buckle! . . .There’s Outward Bound. David! Rachael! Where are you?
(no answer). Ok, it looks like I’ll be pacing until May Queen. Eat something!
Katrin: Let’s go!

Act V

 Powerline climb to finish

It’s dark. It’s cold. It keeps getting colder. 
All music has stopped, except for drumbeats in a slow, ominous rhythm

Powerlines: I am standing between you and the finish . . . (sounding like Gandalf talking to the Balrog): YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

Legs: No! Not another climb! We’re done! We haven’t seen any glycogen down here in, like, forever. We quit!
Stomach: Great! You guys can just hang out with me and no nothing.
Legs: Good idea. Excellent. Quitting time, yay!
Powerlines: I SHALL TRIP YOU! YOU SHALL SUFFER!

(CRASH)

Katrin: Ouch! Not again! *$$*^@#<br< a="">>Eyes: We are seeing ghosts. Huh??
Brain: It’s ok, that’s the Space Station. Legs, it’s downhill to May Queen from here . . . Come on!
Legs: We’ll try . . . Nope, we won’t even try anymore. We’re done.
Stomach: Yeah, let’s party! Look, I am doing the limbo twist . . .
Eyes: Everything looks out of focus, but isn’t that May Queen?
Brain: Yes! And we’ve got three hours to still get that buckle. It’s not impossible. Come on! Move! Move, I said!
Legs: But it feels much better to not move!
Adrian: David! Rachael! Where are you? . . . It looks like I’ll be pacing you to the finish.
Katrin: I feel awful. I don’t care about the big buckle anymore . . .I just want this to be over.
Adrian: The faster you move, the sooner you finish.

(Several eternities later)

Katrin is dragging her protesting body parts behind her like a pack of unruly, spitting llamas. Her vision becomes more and more compromised.

Eyes: We quit! We’re joining the rebel side! Legs, stomach, here we come . . . yippee!
Brain: Hey! Get back here!
Legs: Are we there yet?
Brain: You ingrates! You lazy freeloaders! Keep moving! Come on. Left, right, left right . . .
Adrian: The boulevard goes this way . . . where on earth are you going?
Katrin: I can’t see a damn thing . . . everything looks blurry!
Adrian: You’re going off the road again . . .get out of that gutter.
Katrin: Where? Huh? What gutter?
Adrian: We’re almost there.
Katrin: Can I just lie down and die of hypothermia?
Adrian: No.
Katrin: Can you just shoot me?
Adrian: No.

(another eternity later)
The first hint of dawn inches up on the horizon.

Adrian, sounding relieved: Look! The finish line!

Soundtrack: We Are the Champions (Queen)

(The clock says 25:51. Thunderous applause from the six or so bleary-eyed spectators lining 6th street waiting to console other runners who have missed the big buckle cutoff by less than an hour)

Katrin: I sort of see it . . . let’s see if I can run across it.
(staggers across the finish line, veering off the red carpet)
David: You look . . . . finished.
Rachael: You look terrible.
Katrin (suddenly exuberant, though still half blind and barely upright): I finished! I finished!

The End

Epilogue:
My vision returned a few hours, two naps, and about a gallon of water later. Cloudy eyes apparently are a common condition among 100-mile racers. It’s harmless and temporary, but it did freak me out a little.

It’s a good time to be alive and running, especially in Leadville.

Spotted in the parking lot before the briefing. My next license plate!

Written by Marcin Krzysztofik - http://wolnybiegacz.pl

V3K (Vegan 3000 Ultra) is a mountain ultramarathon that I heard of for the first time about 2 years ago. Of course I got really keen to run it one day. Before I dive into the report, I can disclose that I finished the race. My result isn’t overly impressive, but I’m satisfied with my performance, considering this was my first such a highly technical race and the first ‘skyrace’ I took part in. My aim had been to finish the race, hopefully in a reasonable time somewhere around the middle of the pack. On top of that I had counted on beautiful views and had been excited to see parts of Snowdonia I’d never seen before.

Skyrunning

Skyrunning is a term for a specific kind of running events. These are generally mountain races with a lot of vertical gain proportionally to the race distance. Skyrunning encompasses a few categories: Sky (races up to 50k long), Ultra (races longer than 50k), Vertical (1000 metres of altitude gain) and Extreme (just hardcore 😊). Skyrunning originates from the Dolomites in Italy and over the years has become extremely popular, among others in countries such as USAUK or Poland.

V3K Ultra

V3K Ultra is the first race of Skyrunner UK National Series. V3K stands for Vegan 3,000s. Vegan, because the organiser is vegan and all participants of the race have to adhere to a vegan diet throughout the race. 3,000s, because the race route winds through Snowdonia and takes in all 15 Welsh summits over 3,000 feet tall. More on what these summits are can be found on Wikipedia. All of them are located in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The race is 54k long, while the sum of all ascents is over 4,000 metres, so considerable altitude gain. To make matters more interesting, there is a little bit of exposure and scrambling involved, so those with fear of heights might give this race a pass.

The day before

Together with my family we left Oxford on Friday morning (23rd June) and in the afternoon arrived at the event base in Tal-y-bont, just outside of Bangor. At 7 PM the race registration started. Before I started queuing to register I had met some friends: Maciek, Andrzej and Mariusz, whom I know from some previous races. Andrzej and Mariusz had ambitious plans to score high and finish under 10 hours. Maciek, similarly to me, pretty much just wanted to finish the race.

Maciek and I waiting to register

Once we collected our race packs we enjoyed some nice vegan carbo-loading to make sure we have enough calories to burn the next day. Then, just past 8 PM the race director welcomed everyone and delivered her race briefing, pointing out where to be especially careful, where not to cut short etc. After the briefing we went to our nearby Bed & Breakfast. I packed my race vest, prepared my clothes and went to sleep to get at least 4-5 hours of rest.

Start

The alarm rang at 3:30 AM (!). I ate some porridge and a banana, drank some tea, got dressed and just before 4 AM sat in a coach that was about to take all the runners to the race start in Nant Gwynant on the other side of the mountains. It took us about 40 minutes to get there. Then we experienced an onslaught of midges. I haven’t been exposed to them for quite a few years so I forgot how annoying they are. They quickly reminded me! I carried the bite signs with me even over a week after the race!

On the way to Nant Gwynant

Inspired by Andrzej’s and Mariusz’s plan I thought I’d give it a try too and stay not far behind them. To achieve that I made it to the start line and settled just a couple of metres behind them. At 5 AM 150 or so people set off!

Part 1: Snowdon

The race starts on a gently rising path which turns later into a tiresome climb up to the top of Snowdon. Over 900 metres of altitude gain, so no minor feat.

For the first few minutes I kept up with the front runners, but it didn’t take much time for me to realise that if I continued to maintain this pace I would be gone. Out of my league…

Snowdon conquered!

I continued at my own, slower pace, mainly walking uphill and letting others overtake me. After 1.5 hour from start I summitted Snowdon. From there a short and pleasant downhill run followed. Then a short uphill and summit no. 2, Garnedd Ugain was ticked off. Afterwards I enjoyed the most exciting part of the course: the knife-edged arete of Crib Goch, summit no. 3. Unfortunately, the rocks there made me realise that my Salomon XA Pro 3D shoes were inadequate for the terrain as they had no grip on the rocks. As a result of that I had to be extra careful and frustratingly slow; many runners overtook me on this stretch.

Crib Goch

Shortly the descent from Crib Goch started. On a scree slope Maciek appeared and quickly passed me and got out of sight: clearly, he was handling descents better than I was. With the scree out of the way I continued descending along a picturesque valley until I finally reached the A4086 road. After 2 km or so along the road I reached the first feed station where I replenished my water supplies, ate something and promptly continued.

Part 2: Glyderau

On the arduous climb to Elidir Fawr, summit no. 4 I caught up with Maciek and since then we stayed together for most of the race. With Elidir Fawr bagged we stayed on high ground, always above 700 metres above sea level. With a mix of walking and running we continued checking off summits 5, 6 and 7: Y Garn, Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach.

Probably descending Glyder Fach

After a steep descent from Glyder Fach we scrambled atop Tryfan, the 8th summit. Another slow and rocky descent followed, this time down into the valley and the A5 road. Maciek reached the road a few minutes ahead of me, but I kept him in sight when we run along the A5 for a short while. We soon reached the second feed station where I arrived 3 minutes after him.

With Tryfan presumably in the background (in the clouds)

At the lavish feed station I ate/drank some soup and drank a cup of invigorating coffee. I ate a few roast potatoes and some sandwich as I was very keen to break the sweet taste of gels and bars. At this stage I felt pretty exhausted and my legs and back were sore, but on the other hand I was glad that ‘just’ one, last part remained.

Part 3: Carneddau

Maciek lingered on at the feed station while I set off, being sure that he will catch up with me later. This part begun, similarly to the two previous parts, with a long climb up to the high ground, concluded with peak no. 9: Pen yr Ole Wen. Similarly to the Glyderau section now followed a bit of a flat, or gradually descending terrain suitable for running.

Summitting Carnedd Dafydd (I think)

Having bagged Carnedd Dafydd (summit no. 10) I could enjoy a fair bit of running until I reached Yr Elen (no. 11). At the following ascent Maciek caught up with me and together we bagged peak no. 12: Carnedd Llewelyn. A gradual and runnable descent followed by a short ascent and Foel Grach (no. 13) was ours. Then another runnable descent, short ascent and Carnedd Gwenlian (no. 14) was ticked off. Shortly thereafter, maintaining a nice pace, we bagged the last summit: Foel-fras.

Enjoying the last descent

What was left was just a few miles of gentle downhill to the finish. Most of it was either a grassy slope, or a runnable path, so we pushed on as hard as sore legs allowed. We had a chance to finish under 12-hours, so every second mattered. This really kept me going. Admittedly, the fact that we overtook 3 runners on the last descent was also quite motivating.

Finish

After the last grassy bit we were left with a final stretch of a minor road. We made it across the finish line 3 minutes or so before our self-imposed target of 12-hours! At this point I really need to thank for Maciek for sticking together with me on the final descent. He was clearly capable of running faster and finishing a few minutes ahead of me, but decided to cross the finish line together as we did most of the day’s running and walking together. We finished at 82nd place out of 149 finishers, the last of whom needed just over 17 hours.

Here we are about to cross the finish line!

At the finish line my wife awaited with the camera ready to immortalise our finish. Andrzej and Mariusz were also waiting there. They had a brilliant run, finishing together in around 9 hours at a top 20 position. Respect! Even greater congratulations to their friend Jarek, whom I just met there. He finished as the 6th runner in 8 hours and 34 minutes! The winner needed just 7 hours and 25 minutes… incredible!

Post-race rehydration begins under the watchful eye of my faithful fan 🙂

After the finish and when I settled down I really started to feel how exhausted I was. I was drained, sore and could hardly force the delicious vegan food into me. Luckily, at our B&B accommodation we had a bathtub to our disposal, so I could take a hot and relaxing bath to regenerate a bit. I got so relaxed that I actually felt asleep for 15 minutes or so while there 😊

The Polish crowd at V3K!

Summary

After my good results in April’s Harpagan (6th place, race report here) and May’s Kierat (37th place, race report here) the reality hit me hard and showed that I’m no good in skyraces. I’d need way more training, especially hill training, to improve. Despite that, I’m really glad that I completed the whole course in reasonable time and without any injuries. Interestingly, on Saturday, a few hours after the race I felt quite good. On Sunday I was sore but it was rather fine. However, on Monday and Tuesday DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) hit me with a brutal force! I could hardly walk, not to mention sit. Suprisingly, not only my legs were painful, but also arms and shoulders. It does actually make sense if you think of it, considering all the scrambling when I heavily relied on my arms or descended on all fours.

New trophies to my collection: a coaster and an edible, already devoured, medal

I very much recommend V3K as a race worth running. It has a great atmosphere. Unlike many other races it doesn’t seem to be very commercialised and you can sense the organisers’ and runners’ passion of mountain running. Combined with a great setting in beautiful Snowdonia and a demanding, technical race, V3K offers a memorable experience.

The race route
The altitude profile. Height in metres, length in kilometres

All the best,

Marcin

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