Written by Phil Amos - http://outforabimble.blogspot.fr
So I haven't posted much on here since I started it.. best intentions seem to get derailed by everyday life, and spending time with the family took a bit of a priority, especially as I'd signed myself up to a few little races this year.
Bit of a back story
I always fancied having a go at the NDW100 since I started this running malarky. Alan, the man responsible for getting me into this running thing, had mentioned fairly close to the start of my running journey how there was a group called Centurion running, who organised 50 and 100 mile races, and that he had met the fabled Nici, face of Centurion at Rat Race Dirty weekend. At the time I couldn't even begin to contemplate that sort of distance.. hell I struggled to run down and back to the local reserve from home.
So this idea of running Ultra's as I soon found out they were called seemed like an incredible feat, yet the idea of running the length of the North Down's Way managed to get lodged in my head.. especially after doing a few loops of the Darnley trail, and then finding Ranscombe Farm.
Once I got over my first year of running, I started looking for something a little less road based and a lot more trail based. I enjoy running in the woods and fields and trackways.. there's so much more to see.
I happened across Saxon, Viking & Norman running, a group who organise all sorts of marathons and timed races very local to me whilst looking for something to do to test myself, as I was quite peeved at how I'd done in the Royal Parks Half. I ended up signing myself up for the Ranscombe Spring Challenge while sitting next to my wife in hospital, during a quiet moment in her labour. Unwittingly I booked the Sunday, as I knew we had an NCT catch up on the Saturday, without realising it was going to be our first Mother's day. Bad Daddy! Anyway, I had a great day, only running for 6 hours out of the 8 available as I'd promised I'd get home so I could spend at least some of our first ever Mother's day with my wife and daughter, but it also ended up being my first ultra at 30.4 miles and just under 6 hours.
I ended up signing up for a few more.. it's a nice hilly course, roughly 100 ft elevation climb per mile ran.. once averaged out and local.. so low impact on the family.
I got chatting to Traviss a little bit after finishing Summer event, which I went into thinking I'm aiming for 50 miles so I can use it as qualification for the NDW100 with Centurion. I managed a double Marathon in 10hrs 37, and that would have been enough to qualify me for the race I had always wanted to do. However Traviss suggested that actually the SDW100 would be a much better starting race for an introduction to 100 mile running, and as he'd done rather a lot of them himself all over the world, I took his advice. He also said that if I wanted to do the SDW100, I'd be very sensible to try and do the SDW50 first as it covers the last half of the race, which is likely to be run in the dark.
I went home and signed up that evening for the SDW50.
I think shortly afterwards they announced that they were going to be running their first ever 50 mile grand slam, and the little collector inside me said.. oooooh I want some of that. So I then started watching for the dates to be announced.. and subsequently found myself signed up for the NDW50 (well NDW100 was the overall plan anyway.. wouldn't hurt now would it getting a bit of practise in) and then the Chiltern Wonderland and Wendover Woods. Oh and at some point I must have suffered some sort of mental breakdown as I went and signed myself up for the SDW100 and the NDW100 for this year too. Oh dear. I'm now running the same number of miles as the 100 grandslam, but due to the extra hilliness of some of the 50's I'm going to be covering a lot more elevation (47,800ft rather than the 28,340ft for doing the 100gs)
So.. that kind of brings us to the start of this year.. Alan had also signed himself up for the NDW50 (probably about 5 minutes after I did looking at our race numbers) so I had a training partner! We started doing recce's from Farnham, heading East along the NDW.. started off with half marathonish kind of distances (both of us have babies) and also dragged him along to the Winter Ranscombe Challenge in January where he knocked out his first ultra :)
I also upped my weekly mileage.. fitting it in mainly on Monday nights running back to my Mum's from various stations along the way and eventually all the way from work. I also wanted to get out and do the last half of the SDW50 before the actual event to give me a bit of confidence on the day.. which I managed to do on a nice Sunny Sunday in March.. a month ago today in fact.
Back story done.. onto this past weekend!
So plan was to drop Maz and Sadie off at my Mum's on Friday night, on my way down to Worthing so they could drive up Saturday afternoon and see me finish. Scuppered before it even started! Maz had a migraine so went straight to bed, and I had to sort Sadie out, get her changed and settled then head off on my lonesome to my single bed overlooking the sea.
Had a good trip down, parked on the seafront and headed upstairs with all my kit around 10.30pm... got everything laid out (took about an hour once I got all my bottles filled and everything double checked) then hit the sack at about midnight. Saturday morning came.. alarm went off at normal work time and I was up.. made use of the facilities, had some tea and a berrocca, made use of the facilities, had some porridge, made use of the facilities had a shower.. got dressed, made use of the facilities.. normal race day pretty much. Packed everything away, drop bag checked, race pack checked, everything else in a carrier, then went and checked out and headed to registration.
I'd done a quick drive by the night before on the way to the hotel so knew where I was going.. and was directed to the end car park. There was a light drizzle falling, so had my spare jacket on which would end up in the finish line bag. Into the registration hall and there was a buzz of chat and a throng of people.. over to the kit check table and all they wanted to see was that the main torch was working and I had a warm long sleeve top.. through me a bit as I was expecting to get everything out. Promptly shone my torch right in the guys eyes.. I was a tad flustered, and come to think of it I'm not even sure if I apologised! I think it was at this point I started thinking I had packed too much.. but never mind.. on with the day. Away from the kit check desk I just dumped stuff on the floor and repacked my bag.. panicking because I thought I'd lost my kit check token already, then realising I'd put it under my foot so I didn't. Next onto the registration queue.. alphabetically organised.. easy.. surname A.. first line.. and there I was.. oh yeah, I changed my on the day mobile number as my usual phone was too big.. no not the emergency contact.. oh.. ah well.. I think next time I'll just put my usual sim in my little mobile.. caused far too much confusion and lines through numbers that should have stayed etc.
Now time to put finish line bag in the back of the van, have another a quick trip to the facilities, fill up my 2 smaller water bottles for my shorts with filtered, chilled water.. and try and relax. Found a spot in a locked doorway and just sat there for half an hour or so.. until I sensed a gradual movement towards the exit.
Rain had stopped and we headed over towards the starting field. A few words from James, including that we would have a nice following wind pushing us all the way to Eastbourne, and the countdown was on.. Fenix 3 was poised and ready to go (awesome bit of kit btw.. just my two pennies-worth) and the hooter went.. start.. and away we went.. slow to start off with.. narrow gate to get through then onto a road, then up some hills.. more and more hills.. some narrow with lots of people bunched together.. but gradually widening the closer we got to the SDW itself. I started to find myself in the middle of a bit of a group.. which was spread out in front and behind me.. seeing the same faces, rather than a sea of faces.. I just settled into my stride.. from the beginning I'd decided I was walking the hills running the downs, and as much of the flats as I could.. just had to get my pacing right, and the gradient in my head that I would decide constituted a hill.. first aid station felt like it was the longest trek, and by the time I got there I was starving.. I managed to pick up a single jelly baby, a cookie, and some coke.. that was it. Ah well.. that's what gels are for lol. Was a bit confused as I knew I had to get my number taken at each aid station but couldn't see anyone who was writing it down.. had to ask a friendly guy in a Centurion T-shirt, who pointed me up the road slightly at the guys on the road crossing.. ah ha!
Crossed the road, walked up the hill and off running again, and that was pretty much the order of the day.. got to 25 miles in 4 hours 50.. so that gave me a good boost. I covered the first half quicker than I'd done the second half on the recce run... so was still on track for my 10 hour self imposed target. (I'd told my parents and Maz I was hoping to be at the finish for 7.. and didn't want to keep Sadie awake too long)
Aid stations came and went, and I gradually got more efficient getting through the,.. the trick is to trust the guys filling up the flasks while you get your grub.. second to last aid station at Alfriston and only 9 ish miles to go.. 4.5 to the next aid station. I decided I would make sure I filled my empty flasks with enough to get me to the finish, as I had about an hour and a half til the 10 hour point. Had a bit of a laugh when the volunteer said only 20 minutes to Jevington.. 4.5 miles in 20 minutes.. I think not! Clocked the hot drinks on the way out.. doh.. probably for the best though.. save the cuppa to the end, and off I went.. had done this bit on the recce so out and over the bridge and left was alreeady keyed in my head.. the bridge is one of the key navigation points for the course, as SDW foot path goes right and down towards Beachy head apparently.. we need to go left.
As seems to be the norm by this point, out of the aid station and we find a hill.. this is a pretty big never ending one.. and I get chatting to a guy who seems to be motoring up the hill about the same sort of pace as me, had dropped Maz a text on the way out of the aid station and she had told me she was having fish and chip dinner... so that slipped it's way into the discussion. He managed to get a bit of distance on me by the time we came down into Jevington, and think I saw him last on the route a good way in front of me.. or so it seemed, on the last hill up to the trig point. I skipped going into the aid station at Jevington as I had my eyes firmly set on a faster than 10 hours time at this point.. I knew it was going to be close, and didn't feel I needed the extra couple of minutes for items I probably wasn't going to use.
I also didn't remember just how long that last hill was until I'd given up ever seeing the top.. but I finally got there and thanked the guys in the tent who were manning the trig point.. Managed to spot the sports-ground and running track finish line this time round (as opposed to on my recce, where I picked the wrong path and couldn't see jack) as I started down the very narrow, steep chalk path down from the top and then I got a weird cramp start up in my shins.. slow down to a walk again and wait for it to fade out.. all the time verbally abusing my legs and telling them it's all down hill from here.. eventually the feeling of it wanting to cramp went and I managed to get a bit more speed up again. I do love running down hills.. even on very narrow technical paths.. I would not have wanted to be doing that sort of speed by torchlight though.., so glad it was still before dark. Got down into the streets of Eastbourne and over took a guy along Royal Parade (or something like that) I was properly running now.. which was a bit of a mistake.. as I got to just opposite the pub/beefeater thing by the hospital and felt my thigh start to cramp. Slowed right down to a walk to try and walk it off.. but foolishly let the adrenaline of 2 guys cheering me on to it's just round the corner spur me on to a run.. for about 15 yards.. before my first proper full on cramp hit. Doh! Walked it off cursing my stupidity, and got running again ASAP.. by the time I'd crossed the last road and rounded the corner I was moving again.. and the cramp was easing.. running along towards the stadium entrance I could see someone standing in the path who looked familiar.. had a bit of a teary eye when I realised it was my Dad come out to see me.. especially when he started jogging alongside me.. I haven't seen him run in years! Up to the final corner and I could see the stadium.. he told me to go on so off I went.. saw my Mum and Maz and Sadie as I entered the stadium and heard them cheering me pretty much the whole way round the lap of the track.. as I came towards the finish line I could see Sadie toddling about so I made a beeline for her, with mum shouting at me.. .you've go to finish, I picked Sadie up and carried her across the line and then gave her a big cuddle.
Was an awesome moment.. both Mum and Maz were crying, Sadie was happy to see me.. and I had a medal from Mimi Anderson.. race done in 9 hours 58 minutes.. sooooo fricking happy with my time :)
Few photos taken that I don't even remember being taken, and then T shirt and finish line bag were with me.. and it was into the hall for Hot dog and tea!
Awesome day, awesome event.. role on NDW50 in 5 weeks time!
Thank you too everyone who volunteered, and the organisers.. I still didn't really get to say hi to Nici.. will have to make sure I actually catch her when she's not in the middle of something for the NDW and say hello!
Written by Niall Corrigan
“Well this was a stupid idea.” That’s the refrain that was going through my head from the moment the starter said go. I was running along a sandy beach with about 70 others, we were all hemmed in to the soft dry sand by the nearly full tide and it was not what you would call an easy start. Portstewart Beach at 7: 30 in the morning is an interesting place to start a 40 mile ultra.
Stupid because why? Why, because, after struggling across the line in the Kerry Way Ultra three weeks ago I had promised myself a rest. Instead, I spent 5 of the intervening 21 days pushing a mocked up Reliant Robin across Ireland for a charity fund-raiser (www.bumbleance.com) and another day pushing the same vehicle around the Dublin City Half Marathon in a time of 2:30. Then I got talked into taking part in this event and here I was.
Very early on, within the first 3 or 4 kilometres I knew I was going to have a tough day. My legs were heavy and tired, the feeling of deep fatigue lurking just below the surface.
OK says I, what do I do now? Common sense would have said, back off and take it easy and just enjoy the day. Instead, my brain came up with the plan to keep going at the pace I was going and see how far I’d get before the wheels came off and then see what might happen. I of course opted for the second choice and off I went.
I can’t say I was going fast, because I don’t do fast, but I was going at a good pace for me and I was running all the uphill bits. Now this is not a hilly ultra by any means, it’s undulating with a lot of steps. I ran the hills and bounced up the steps, keeping a good rhythm as I went. All good; so far.
The Causeway Coast Ultra is one of 5 events that take place on the same piece of stunning coastline on the same day. Ultra, Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k and Challenge Walk, something for everyone. The Marathon is a straight forward out and back from race HQ at Portballintrae to Ballintoy Quarry and back. To make up the Ultra distance, competitors are bussed out to Portstewart and run the 13 miles or so back to HQ and then run the out and back marathon course. Still with me?
The first 13 miles of the Ultra are a mixture of sandy beach and civilized coastline, promenades, seaside parks and a bit of road. Easy going and smooth. After running through the marathon start at HQ the character changes and you are in to an area of outstanding natural beauty. Underfoot it changes from concrete to trail, stony and rocky in places but overall very runable.
We were being treated to perfect conditions for running. A chilly start had given way to a pleasant day with some wind and good cloud cover but no sign of rain. Somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean a low system was generating a big regular swell, and all day we were treated to the sight of magnificent rollers breaking loudly on the rugged basalt. The surfers were out in force.
In and out, up and down, following the complex convolutions of the tide tortured landscape. The scenery was ever changing and majestic. We ran past the Causeway Hotel and dropped down amongst the hordes of tourists visiting the Giants Causeway, a UNESCO world heritage site, through a narrow gap and into the most amazing amphitheatre of cliffs vividly displaying the hexagonal character of the extruded basalt.
What goes down must go up and the climb up away from the sea is narrow, stepped switchbacks that give amazing views over the land and sea. This bit I walked, there was no running this.
At the top we turned left and continued along the cliff top. I ran ok for another few kilometres but suddenly I started to feel it. A little uphill section forced a retreat and I was down to walking pace. My legs were no longer under my full control and muscles started to misfire, I was kicking stones and getting the first prickles of cramp. I had electrolyte tabs in my bag but not enough water to dissolve one so I just kept moving towards the next water stop. I usually carry Dioralyte sachets with me but had neglected to pack them this morning. I was suffering a bit now but I was actually enjoying myself, pushing myself deeper into the red zone to see what would happen. This lasted about four k’s and then became tedious.
About this time I passed a bit of litter on the trail, a Dioralyte sachet no less. I passed it by with a wistful glance and about 20 seconds later my brain processed the fact that the sachet looked unopened. I stopped and went back, unopened it was and I started to stuff it in to my pocket for later use, when I remembered the advice of a running buddy I had heard recently who recommended pouring the contents straight into your mouth and drinking water to wash it down. I checked my soft flasks and reckoned I had just enough water to do the job. Yeuch; thanks Laurence. But it worked and I felt a little better for a while.
Kilometres 32 to 44 were tough mentally and physically. The out and back nature of the course play with your head in unexpected ways. I seem to spend a lot of time on long runs doing mental arithmetic, distance, pace, time, etc but I couldn’t seem to make the sums add up on this one, maybe another sign of fatigue. I was harbouring thoughts of quitting all along here, excuses like, the race didn’t mean anything to me, I didn’t need points, and others kept running through my head while, thankfully my legs kept running through the course.
Another long section of soft sandy beach was exactly what I didn’t need at this stage so that’s what we got. A beautiful beach on any other day, but a pain in the hole today. This section of beach leads on to Ballintoy Harbour and eventually on to Ballintoy Quarry, the turn around spot. 5 hours in, a marathon done (told you I wasn’t fast) and another half marathon to do. Onwards and upwards, out of the quarry and heading for home.
The beach section was a little bit easier on the way back due to the outgoing tide revealing wet hard packed sand and I ran a good proportion of it. For the undulating cliff top I was running as much as I could but even the down bits were tough due to a stiff right knee. Run walk, run walk.
This has to be one of the friendliest events I’ve ever taken part in. As I mentioned before there are 5 different races taking place on the same course on the same day and the differing start times mean you meet competitors from each event at different stages especially, if like me, you are out there all day. I had passed a few marathon back markers soon after their start. I had seen many more on the course as they made their way back against me. I had nearly been engulfed by the half marathon start near the turn around and I passed through the gathered pack of 10k runners as they waited for their off in a cliff top field in the middle of nowhere. All along there were shouts of encouragement and the refrain of “well done ultra” as they spotted the green race number. A special moment was passing through the 10k start with a couple of half marathoners and I unashamedly milked the applause like a golfer walking down the 18th fairway on Open Sunday.
Soon after I left them the 10k runners came thundering past on the narrow trail where it’s best advised to stay to the left as the drop to the sea is about 200 feet. I did my best to get out of their way but walking in the long grass was difficult so I apologise to any runner who I didn’t get out of the way quick enough for. I tried to latch on to a few of the mid packers but this didn’t last long but it helped pass the time. The course on the way back thankfully neglects to drop down to the Giants Causeway, staying instead on the upper cliff path. Nearly home. One last water stop and one more cliff top convolution and the town of Portballintrae comes into view. The finish PA can be heard on the wind. Another sandy beach lay ahead and I couldn’t remember if this was run on the way out. But no, this beach is bypassed by means of a sand dune boardwalk. Cross the bridge and up the little hill to the finish and a great welcome, a medal and a bottle of beer (non-alcoholic for some bizarre reason).
A good day out, a few lessons learned, a deeper understanding of my limits, I think, and a head full of amazing imagery from a spectacular setting. A highly recommended event.
Written by Martin Bell - http://thedeterminedrunner.wordpress.com/
Two years of training & it was finally here.
I’d managed to train as hard as i could for this race & could only hope it was enough, as i’d never tackled anything quite like this before. As it turned out i think i got the training bang on, getting up at 5am most mornings for a full year beforehand & going out no matter what the weather threw at you definitely helps build a spot of stamina & a summer of Munro bagging is certainly what’s needed to complete a race like this.
I’d had the usual aches & pains & plenty of trips to the physio, including a trip the day before flying out thanks to several weeks of back & neck pain! I have to admit i was starting to worry about standing on the start line a week before.
2014 CCC Training Plan – This was my 17 week record of training runs, basically a weekish time off after the Highland Fling & then get some hills in for the CCC.
When we arrived at Chamonix (Ally from the shop had come along to help support), it was Monday afternoon & with the race starting on Friday morning, it meant i could relax, register & try not to get stressed. This worked out ideally, Tuesday was a total downpour on a biblical scale so it was stay indoors & catch up with Breaking Bad (typically it was in the 20’s back in Aviemore with wall to wall sunshine!) I did make it out on Tuesday & Wednesday for a couple of 3 milers just to keep ticking over, but mainly sat on my arse resting for the remaining days. Ally was making full use of being in Chamonix & heading straight up the nearest mountains & once Tuesday was over we had some great weather. Wednesday was also registration day, were you have to stand in a queue for about 90 mins waiting to find out if your kit met the requirements & you were given your race number.
Restaurant on the right was pretty bloody rubbish but had not too bad a view! Rivers were raging after the Tuesday downpour. One of many folk flying on a glorious morning & the eventual finish line.
Tuesday night we were out to meet a few other Brits who were in the UTMB & we watched the winners come through for the TDS, this was an amazing experience with the floodlights on & cowbells being rung. I definitely left feeling on a high after watching that finish & was itching to get going myself.
Bit of Ultra runner star spotting went down -With Luis Alberto Hernando (top left), Xavier Thevenard winning the TDS & With Mike Wardian.
Well Friday morning arrived & the alarm went off at 5am, a last minute check of my bag & kit which i’d already checked about 20 times, then a spot of breakfast & we headed off to get the coach that was laid on to get to Courmayeur. Ally was checking out his bus map, so he could get to as many checkpoints as possible & that looked like a feat in itself! He was going to be up all night trying to stay awake, just to give me some encouragement for the few minutes i’d see him! Once we got to Courmayeur it was time to find the toilets, we found the queue 1st & after standing still with the queue not moving for about 40 minutes, i gave up & ran around a sports center trying to find another one! I’d left Ally with my bag at the entrance & with only minutes to get to the start line i’d come back to the entrance to find no Ally & no bag!! Panic was now kicking in, i thought i’d done the training & got to Courmayeur only to be beaten by a sodding toilet queue! Thankfully Ally turned round the corner & off we went to the start. It turned out there were 3 start waves & you went into the pen according to your bib number, mines was the last pen, but i thought nothing of it & didn’t mind starting almost right at the back, i was just enjoying the experience whilst wishing we’d get going.
You start running through the streets of Courmayeur with the crowds cheering you on & within about a mile you start going up, nothing too mental just yet but you knew this up was just the start of things to come. Soon enough you’re on single track going through the trees & you realize the pace is dictated by the people in front of you & there’s no room to overtake. I didn’t think too much of this to start with as i knew going off too quick is the worst thing you can do, so i just got on with it thinking it’s a long way & there’s no hurry yet. Pretty soon i was starting to regret starting at the back, especially when i reached a clearing with what must have been several hundred people trying to get down a steep narrow path.
Once i got moving again albeit very slowly i could see that i’d be stuck in a queue for flamin ages. If you zoom on this picture you can see a winding queue of frustrated wanabe runners all the way over the top. I was now looking at my watch more often whilst thinking of my checkpoint times i’d set myself, each time i’d look at my watch i’d be thinking ‘right i’ve got 40 mins to get over the top here’, ‘ok it looks like i’m going to be a little behind on the 1st checkpoint’, ‘ now if i get there in 10 mins i’ll be bang on an hour behind’. By the time i got to the 1st checkpoint i was about 1hr 50mins behind on my schedule! (Note to self, get in the 1st wave next time!!).
The route itself looked like this:
I made a point of every approx 30ish minutes to eat a chew bar of some sorts & take some water on board, i did this right from the start. When i got to checkpoints i’d refill my 2 x 500ml soft flasks with water (even if they were only 1/2 empty), i wanted to leave each checkpoint with full water supplies, not knowing what lay ahead. I’d also eat whatever they had on offer at checkpoints, not tons (initially) just enough to make sure i was constantly fueling. Foods ranged from bits of salted crackers/chocolate/oranges/salty noodle soup at the smaller checkpoints to full on spag bol/more soup/sandwiches/coffee etc at the bigger checkpoints. Feeding wasn’t pretty, i’d ram about 5 bits of cut oranges down my throat, soup & some biscuits in about 90 seconds flat! Oh cheese, can’t forget the cheese, oh & salami, in fact its worth doing the race just for the food!!
The picture on the left is up some hill somewhere in the alps! On the right is chatting to someone that had done the ‘fling’ earlier this year as we approached ‘La Fouly’ & my 1st sign of Ally, spotting a friendly face whilst running through 3 countries in the rain certainly does help give you a lift, i was coping fairly well anyway but after a few words with Ally i was certainly smiling & running slightly faster. As you can see, i was making full use of my poles, in fact i’d say i used them every step of the race bar the 1st & last few hundred meters. I’d thought from the 1st moment of going up hill that if i can use anything to my advantage i’d be stupid not too. Almost everyone else i saw only used poles going up & some whilst going down, i’m pretty sure i was the only person (at my end of the field) that used them going up, on the seldom flatish sections & on the downs. I’m convinced they helped keep me fresher for longer (that sounds like an Ad for something!). Poles are awesome to run with, but you have to practice beforehand, i’d been using them a fair bit in the 6 month lead up.
Since i’d reached the top of the 1st climb & there were opportunities to overtake, i managed to keep overtaking people, in fact that was all i seemed to be doing & that feels pretty good, i just seemed to keep a fairly even pace on the flats, work slightly harder than folk around me on the ups & discovered much to my surprise that i was pretty quick going down, especially on the twisty techy single track downs that others were being hesitant on, i just seemed to be a little more fearless (or possibly stupid). I’d meet Ally at certain checkpoints & he’d say ‘do you know how many folk you’ve overtaken in the last section?’ & he’d tell me some figure that sounded pretty good, but i was feeling pretty good, others around were stating to look pretty beaten up but thankfully i was still ok.
By the time i’d reached Champex-Lac i’d overtaken 551 people since the 1st checkpoint. It was also dark & i’d resisted stopping & putting on my headtorch because i didn’t want to lose any places, so the last few miles to Champex were pretty tricky running on trails trying to gauge the ground from other runners lights. This was a major checkpoint & pretty busy, i’d been running for 11 hr 30 mins at this point & was fairly hungry, i got myself a 3 course meal (yes that’s right 3 courses), found a seat & started wolfing food down my neck, it was at this point Ally appeared & thankfully got me the best tasting coffee i think i’ve ever had! I sorted out my Petzl Nao headtorch, gave Ally my sunglasses/sunhat & ipod that i hadn’t used & headed out into the night & the pouring rain.
I knew i had 3 mountains coming up in the dark & set about passing anyone that came into my view, the ups on these hills (they are of course bloody big mountains, but hills sound nicer to me) went on for a lonnngg time, but my spirits were kept high as i’d march past another headtorch then another, you don’t run up these things, its a solid walk & just keep going. I’d pass a few folk that were just standing still, trying to get their breath back. On that note i’d best mention the altitude, the air is noticeable thinner & at points its a little tricky breathing if you’re pushing yourself. I found taking water on board particularly hard, as every time i did whilst high up, i’d be gasping for air for the next minute, so i ended up paying attention & trying to drink on a flat section & not when i was breathing out my arse!
It rained a fair bit during the night & the course resembled a ‘Tough Mudder’ at points, it didn’t matter how much grip you had on your soles, when they’re clogged up they’re clogged up, you just have to adjust the way you move. Other points were like running through streams, being fairly steep & it raining the fastest way for the rain to come down the mountain is down the path. I didn’t mind this too much as i just thought it’s the same conditions for everyone & just got on with it.
The last time i met Ally was at Vallorcine (i had seen him at Trient as well, he’d been busy getting about!). Vallorcine was the last checkpoint before the final mountain. I’d been going for 18hr 25 mins at this point, but still felt reasonable. I changed my socks to a fresh pair, gazed at the person lying on the ground on a drip with lots of people rushing around them, had a bite to eat & drink & said fair well to Ally with a ‘see you in Chamonix’. I left feeling tired but nothing too bad, had a wee chat with a guy from Edinburgh that was walking & then pushed on. As i approached the climb, i began to feel very tired all of a sudden & i’d developed a really sore stomach, things were getting grim. I started to imagine things like i had liver damage due to the paracetamol i’d taken earlier to ease my back pain. I was struggling to keep my pace & before long the people i’d been passing at the bottom & had caught me, i felt like i was holding them up & became one of the many i’d passed by having to sit on a rock for a few minutes & try & sort my head (which seemed to be somewhere else) & my stomach out. I could hear ambulances in the valley below that were obviously ferrying runners backwards & forwards. I was thinking how long would it take for medical help to reach me 3/4 of the way up a mountain with a steep climb, i decided it would take bloody ages & i should just get my arse into gear & stop feeling sorry for myself & get to the top of this bitch of a mountain!
I reached the top of Tete aux vents after 21hr 10min, pretty much around dawn. I still felt like crap but i was at the top & i was feeling slightly better knowing it was just downhill from here. As i went down i started overtaking again & a new lease of life came over me. They say it’s ‘darkest before dawn’ & that couldn’t have rang truer for me, now it was back into there’s someone ahead ‘let’s av em’, i started running like a lunatic coming down, i’d be passing people like i was in a 10k race, i was flying! I kept this up for a fair while then started to think if i keep going like this i’ll end up crawling through Chamonix, so i applied the brakes & made sure i would have a strong finish through the town. I entered Chamonix & had some small crowds cheer me on, this was feeling pretty good, crowds already, albeit small but they’ll be huge at the end. There’s Ally waving me on, there’s another runner ahead, he’s mine, there’s the final couple of turns, hold on where is everyone? Ahh it’s 8:25am they’re all having breakfast!!!!!!!!!
My time was 23 hr 2 mins (my goal time was 23hr) & i ended up in 765th place meaning i overtook 978 people from the 1st checkpoint at the top of ‘Bottleneck Mountain’. 1900 people started & 1423 finished.
On the left are my splits & on the right are notes i made afterwards on what i carried/ate, what i needed & what i could have done without.
Would i do it again? Hell yes, i’d make sure i started further up the field & i’d make sure i had plenty of hill training & 8-10hr training days including hiking & get using those poles :)
Written by Iain Ridgway - http://iainsrunning.blogspot.fr
This was planned to be my last major race of the Spring season.
Cayuga 50 is a new race up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and organised by Ian Golden. When I first thought I'd be in the area for the race I emailed Ian to see if I could get an entry and he was great. He had a package laid out for 'front runners/elite runners' which was a great help.
The race is basically a 12.5 miles out and back with 10-12,000 feet of ascent. GPS readings will be pretty poor as the race runs up and down tight gorges. Almost entirely on single track or forest trails with constant hills and almost no totally flat running.
On arriving on Friday I did a quick 3.5 miler and then headed to meet others at Ithaca Beer where there was a race Q&A session and then back to the cabins where we stayed up chatting with the Trails Roc crew, and their dog Picasso, who were nearby. On Saturday I ran another 7 miles of the route which was basically the first loop and then headed into Ithaca to watch the Films in Motion Film festival which was in the area for the race and we then headed to Ian's for a BBQ (I got some more dog time with Ian's dog Indy, he's a tailless (he won't say how) collie/Australian Shepherd cross) before an early evening with the race starting at 6 am. The atmopshere was great from the off, Ian had managed to get together a strong field with runners travelling from all over to attend, with Matt Flaherty coming in from Indiana, Michael Owen from Ohio, Yassine Diboun from Portland and Chris Vargo from Arizona, with plenty of other strong runners from the local regions. From international races I knew of Ben Nephew, Dave James and Brian Rusiecki, and more locally Michael Daigeaun who had just ran a 2:24 marathon and had been dominating local ultra's.
My plan was top 10 at least, top 5 if all goes well.
Despite the strength of the field the start was pretty steady, much more conservative than Ice Age. I sat in behind the front group and felt pretty comfortable, certainly not over doing it and soon enough the group split as 3 or 4 went off hard and the rest formed a nice group. I was quite happy as we went through the first aid station and up the first major climb. It was pretty cool early on but due to push towards 80 later in the day and as we popped out of the trees it was already heating up. I was running with Yasssine and chatting away and felt good as we started the first major descent to the main turn point at 12.5 miles, Yassine had opened up a gap on the descent but I was conscious to take it easy and hit the climbs hard. After grabbing food I turned to climb the steps up the gorge and there was just nothing. My legs just seized. I've never before felt so bad so early. I went from feeling great and fancying a top 5 spot at 11 miles to feeling like I wanted out at mile 13... I looked at my watch and it had 'auto paused'... basically I was going so slow it thought I'd stopped...
I'm not sure what went wrong, I think the lack of hills in training had caught me. All i wanted to do at that moment was lose the route and DNF... unfortunately the route was well flagged so that wasn't going to happen.. so I plodded on up and even on the flats was struggling to hold 10 minute miles. My groin/pelvic region just felt on fire with constant pain in my groin (which felt similar to a past issue which was psoas pain). I'd stupidly played 7's rugby on Thursday and think had caused a few issues in my psoas/periformis/groin regions which were now really affecting me.
I think I was 9th, 6th - 9th, were all tightly bunched and a few others seemed to be in view which was why I fancied 5th still as I tend to finish well and you can normally bank on 1-2 people in the top 10 blowing up especially as it was due to be a hot day. Pretty soon though as I plodded through the top fields I was passed, 10th - 11th - 12th.. and I stopped counting. I was pretty set that I'd run to the start point to start the second lap and call it a day. Even on the descent I just felt in pain but not any actual injury, just constant discomfort. I really don't like to DNF (Did Not Finish), especially in trail ultra's (I've twice DNF'd in road ultra's both times with hip issues (once due to running in an arm cast and once due to periformis syndrome) when my goal times had gone so I dropped out to prevent further issues and target other races). But in a trail ultra, unless your health is at risk (badly over heated/dehydrated), or you do have an injury which will only get worse, having a rough day isn't an excuse. As I got closer to the turn around point I knew I was just being a soft lad and would have to push on and hope things changed. I knew I needed ibuprofen and at the next aid station stopped for a while and got 400mg off a helper. I also grabbed a load of fruit here and really hydrated. Time wise I was pretty certain I was going to be out for a long time. As I turned back to start the last half a fair few others were coming in and this did help fire me up a bit as I realised I could well end up well down the field so pride does kick in. At this point a young lad on his first 50 joined me (Cirus) an I decided just to follow him and hold his pace and this seemed to help, at first it seemed hard but maybe as the ibuprofen helped I could feel myself freeing up and it became easier but soon we stopped to find another lad in big bother so took a few minutes out seeing how he was, he was on the verge of blacking out, kept almost fainting and the two knew each other. A helper was also with him and after offering them drink and gels she said she could cope so we carried on, but it certainly made you want to look after yourself for the rest of the race as the heat was really getting up. We ran together and my aim was just chase his back, hit 30 miles.. ht 50k.. hit 33 miles (2/3rds).. just keep mentally chugging away. I spent so much time looking at my watch that I inevitably did the classic toe clip and went flying down again, as I'd done on one of the recce runs, grazing my knee, chest and hands again; instinctively yelling out, I called out to Cirus that I was OK but he stopped and checked, it was like that the whole race, with people looking out for each other, it was a really friendly event despite the competition element.
Despite feeling pretty ropey I was actually starting to plod through the miles again and we were soon catching other runners and making progress and I pushed on at the next aid station and felt I was climbing pretty well up the major climb again, I grabbed another 2 ibuprofen here, Cassie Scallon (one of the top US female ultra runners) was helping out as she had to miss the race due to a broken leg and thankfully she got me some more. I was pretty confident if I could keep going to the last turn around I'd then be able to push on knowing it was the last stretch. I still wasn't running great but was certainly running better. After the major climb through the woods it's a good few miles through the forests and fields up the top again before the steep descent and here I almost ran into leader Chris Vargo. It was way earlier than I expected so I guessed he was an hour ahead of me which wasn't good so that was another kick up the arse. I'd expected to see Michael Owen first, who was leading and looking great when we passed on the out and back at the half way but he'd also succumbed to the heat and dropped out at the last turn around. Soon enough a few more passed and to a man everyone looked shagged... it was kind of comforting to at least know everyone was just struggling - Yassine seemed to be the only one who looked great, early on I thought he was struggling but he looked better at mile 40 than he did at mile 4... Almost all our splits would end up pretty horrific, mine were 3:40 and 4:15 and most seemed to lose 20-30 minutes + on their last lap, which is over 1 minute per mile which shouldn't be happening.. maybe it was the heat, maybe we did all actually go off to fast but I did feel 7:30, and still do, was a reasonable target..
As I climbed back out of the turn around point up the gorge steps I was getting info that runners were just ahead and soon enough I caught a glimpse of two as the course flattened out and I passed two more who had stopped or were taking time out to rehydrate at various road crossings and aid stations on the final 12 mile run in. The two ahead were a good 400m plus ahead through the boggy fields but I caught them quickly and was now pretty sure top 10 was still possible. I asked a few and was told I was in 12th and that the next guy was 3 minutes ahead.. as I entered the penultimate aid station there was still no one in sight and 3 minutes over 6 miles is a chunk to get back. But I still had Lucifers Steps, these are a flight of steps a good few hundred feet high and plenty of more climbs along the way so it was still a possibility. The trails are uneven but not overly technical so I was able to get a decent stride going and but still I was getting told I was minutes off the next guy. At the top of Lucifers steps we were told it was 0.5 mile to the next Aid Station, which it was probably more, but it helped to push me on knowing from there it's almost 3 miles mainly down hill. Finally I saw Brian ahead and again that really pushed me on and I moved past him just at the aid station, I just grabbed a gel and pushed hard here, the last mile is entirely down hill so I told myself it was just 2 miles of hard work. My watch had died so it was just counting down points we'd pass. I kept glancing back and still hoped to see one more but noone was in sight and I finished in 7:55, which ended up giving me 10th. I'd actually thought it was higher and initially the results said 8th but were revised to 10th. There were timing issues on the course so online tracking was off.
The rest of the day was spent recovering and hanging out at the finish area. Ben (who had a cracking race to finish 5th) and I headed for a sit in the river and then showered before heading back to hang around with others until the prize giving. I ran the race in the race sponsor's socks, farm to feet, so won $100 in free socks off them, I also got a free pair of Scott trainers for taking the fall and a baby's water bottle because Ian thought he'd seen me running without a water bottle.. Matt Flaherty won a grooming kit for his task.. It's worth staying around for prize givings just for freebies, Ian was basically calling out anything to win the free pies, socks, trainers, sunglasses and I think most went off with some prize. Plus like with cycling there were prizes for winning climbs, sprints and overall leader.. and with a $10,000 prize pot for a few it was a lucrative race. I'm not yet a USATF member so unfortunately missed out on an official top 10 in the US champs.
We stayed at the finishing area until the last runners finished about 9 pm, supporting the race sponsors as you do.. well drinking their beer. Then a group of us headed out to support the same race sponsor at the tap room at the Ithaca brewery, with Scott, Brad, Matt, Chris, Dave and Cassie. A few of us then headed back to one of the cabins for a BBQ and show support for the race sponsor again.. with a group from the Philly/NY region but by midnight we were all pretty shattered.
A great weekend. A great area which will hold the USATF championship again next year so definitely one to attend. Ian has put a lot into the race to make it a great event, both on and off the trails. I'd never been to the Finger Lakes region and already we're planning on another trip back this summer and to attend other races in the area later in the fall.
Overall not sure if it was a shite performance or a good one, it's always pleasing to hold on in and come back like I did, and I did end up with the top 10 I at least wanted but should have been higher and quicker had I prepared better. Certainly I'll race next year again but do more hills, climbs seemedto go well, I just didn't seem to have the conditioning to cope with the descents which I'd normally breeze through.
Scott Dunlap's great blog is here which has a race report and pictures: http://www.atrailrunnersblog.com/2014/06/cayuga-trails-50m.html
Some day I'll find my watch dongle so I can download my race data....
Written by Matthew Hearne - http://www.svp100.co.uk
Two years ago I broke my leg during the CCC. This year I returned for revenge!
The CCC is part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc series of races, the main event being the UTMB, which is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour. The CCC follows much of the same route as the UTMB, but is shorter at ‘only’ 101km in length. However, the race itself still involves >6,000m ascent and attracts over 2,000 runners each year, and is taken very seriously! Believe me, this race makes the Davos 78k feel like a walk in the park!
Both the UTMB and CCC attract some of the best trail runners from across the world, and are incredibly popular meaning that the races themselves are oversubscribed year after year. As such, not only do you have to earn points to enter these races, but you also need some luck in the ballot. To enter the CCC in 2016, you now need to acquire a minimum of 3 points by having finished, between 01/01/2014 and 31/12/2015 exclusively, 1 or 2 races from a pre-determined list found on the UTMB website.
I had entered the CCC back in 2013 as an inexperienced mountain runner. Paying more attention to the beautiful glacial scenery than the trail, I had tripped on a root and fallen off the mountain path, colliding with a tree. This left me with a fractured fibula and a very painful 10k hobble to the next aid station, where I was subsequently withdrawn from the race by a doctor.
I had applied to enter the race again in 2014, but was unsuccessful in the ballot. Fortunately 2015 was to be my year, so it was time to tackle this beast again! I was determined not to look at the glacier this time round, unless I was static with camera in hand. The geographer in me loves the alpine scenery far too much it seems!
Training for the race had been less than ideal, although I’d managed to squeeze in quite a few hilly marathons throughout the year, and a few ultras. The race calendar had included the Ashurst Rail to Trail marathon (4th place), the Peddars Way Ultra (4th place), the Mill Hill marathon (4th place), Eco Trail de Paris, Boston marathon, The Pony Express, Comrades marathon, and the Stour Valley Marathon Special (2nd place). I’d also completed Ironman Bolton, a number of runs up a snowy mountain whilst in Zell am See, a run up Lions Head in Cape Town, in addition to a few hill sessions on Hampstead Heath. However, my training had definitely lacked any decent mountain trail running as I had a bad snowboarding injury earlier in the year which had limited my ability to do anything too technical!
From the UK, it’s very straightforward to book flights direct to Geneva, where there are regular transfers to Chamonix. I flew via Swissair (mmmm, free Swiss chocolate) and booked my transfer using AlpyBus. I had also managed to secure accommodation in Chamonix through Airbnb, and had found a lovely ski chalet a short walk from town, which had a sauna and jacuzzi! That’s how I roll! Chamonix is a great place to stay for the race, as there is so much going on in the town during the week. It’s also where the CCC ends, so you can easily crawl back to your accommodation and then watch the UTMB finishers later in the evening.
The CCC itself begins in Courmayeur (Italy), and buses are provided by the race organisers to take you to the start. The gun fired at 9am on what was already a warm day. As we set off, I was wearing leggings and a t-shirt, and I didn’t feel remotely cold. The start of the race is brutal, with an ascent from ~1,200m to over 2,500m of altitude, which provides an exceptional panorama, facing the Mont-Blanc and the Grandes Jorasses. The climb feels like it goes on forever, and poles were definitely helpful. I know many Brits dislike the use of poles (calling them ‘cheating sticks’), and I can see that they are not good from an erosion perspective. However, not only were they useful for taking some of the weight off the legs during the ascents, but they saved my skin a couple of times during the race. On one occasion during the night I slipped on the trail, but managed to catch myself with the poles rather than landing on my bum. Also, during the initial ascent, one of the competitors in front of me misplaced his pole. It slipped on a rock and headed straight towards my groin! Fortunately I was able to use my pole to parry this strike, which clearly saved me some discomfort! It’s easy to get injured in the pole fight at the start of the race, so you might as well take poles to defend yourself. After all, would you turn up to a duel without a sword?!
The distance between the aid stations throughout the race can be quite considerable, particularly later on in the race. 17km might not sound like much, but when you are travelling at an average pace of 15min per kilometre, it can feel like an awfully long time until you get your water bottles refilled. Due to the heat, it became necessary to take things slowly (I kept on saying the Swahili word ‘polepole‘ during the climbs, which means slowly and gently) and become resourceful. Many runners were taking advantage of the unofficial aid stations set up by locals and the pipes on the mountain that were flowing with fresh water. Taking a drink from one of these icy cold sources was certainly one of the most refreshing things I experienced whilst battling the 20-30 degree temperatures on the mountains, where there was little shade from the glaring sun. Fortunately when you did reach an aid station, they were generally well stocked with snacks and drinks. However, there is definitely an emphasis on self-reliance throughout the race, so it’s essential to be carrying food reserves to keep you going on the long treks between aid stations.
The aid stations themselves were fairly chaotic affairs and reminded me of raves I’d attended in fields when I was a teenager. Runners were sitting around wide eyed, drinking as much fluid as possible whilst trying to work up an appetite, caked in sweat and mud. Supporters were allowed access to help runners, however some of these supports often ended up hindering other runners! I was running low on energy and queued for food at the half way point, where a supporter decided to push in front of me because she had a hungry child with her. Only acceptable if the child is running the race! Still, the volunteers at the aid stations were superb, often helping to top up water bottles, and the selection of snacks and drinks was excellent. It was particularly nice to be able to get hot food at the half way point, particularly as energy levels were dropping at that stage. It was also the first time in my life I’d eaten an orange and a lemon, as I was desperate for some natural sugars and extra refreshment during the heat of the day.
There is quite a large amount of mandatory kit you need to carry with you for the race. Most of the items are very sensible to have, as they are there to either protect the environment or protect you! You are required to carry a couple of head torches, in addition to spare batteries. Only the winners are able to reach Chamonix before dark, and most people will be out on the mountains overnight. I was amazed by the amount of runners I saw resting their eyes by the side of the trails throughout the night. I very much hope their alarms roused them from their slumber in order to finish the race. As one point my eyes became very heavy and I was tempted to have a kip too. I think it was the combination of exhaustion, the heat, low blood sugar levels, and possibly the effect of altitude. I’d also felt very sleepy during my ascent of Kilimanjaro last year, although that was twice the altitude of CCC’s highest point. After gobbling a gel and trekking to the next checkpoint where I downed a couple of cups of Coke, I felt like a new man. I don’t think I’d have the self discipline to cat nap for 20 minutes and carry on racing, but perhaps this is a skill I need to learn.
Aside from the poles and the head torch, probably the other most useful piece of equipment was Compeed. I went into the race with a tender foot and this only became worse as the race progressed. On the final descent I misplaced a foot on a rock, and the skin tore. If it were not for Compeed, I genuinely believe I might have had to hop 4 miles downhill to the finish, as I could not put any weight onto the foot prior to applying the second skin.
You never feel lonely during the night section of the race as there are always other runners around you, due to the size of the field. Despite this, I’m always more motivated if I’m buddied up with someone, and on this race I met a friendly Brit called Paul. He found me sitting on a rock having a rest at about mile 15, and then caught up with me again around mile 30. At that point, we decided to tough out the rest of the race together as it was good to have some company and entertaining chat. Having a buddy also helps you through the dark moments when you simply want to quit. We were able to push one another along when either one of us felt low, and it was hugely helpful having someone there who knew the route well. It’s also good having someone to sense check your hallucinations with…are there really supporters over there at the top of the mountain in the middle of the night, or just a herd of cows with bells on their necks?
Possibly one of the most memorable moments, apart from the run through town at the finish, was looking up at night and seeing a snake of head torch lights twinkling on the mountain side, rising upward towards the heavens. Despite being beautiful to look at, I decided it was best not to look upward for long, as it could be quite demoralising seeing how far you still had to climb. This was particularly true at night and towards the end of the race, as there were plenty of false summits and the distances between aid stations felt rather distorted.
The run into Chamonix was amazing, as you weave through the streets of this beautiful town, past bars and restaurants with crowds lining the route cheering you onward. You only get this royal treatment and rapturous applause if you are one of the earlier or later finishers, as many runners finish in the early hours of the morning when the streets are relatively deserted. At the finish line, you are handed a rather fantastic gilet for your efforts, but sadly there is no medal to acknowledge your accomplishment. Still, I’m sure the gilet will be worn with pride for many years after the event.
What did I learn? Well, I leaned how important it is to keep taking on board energy throughout a long distance race. If you can’t eat or hold food down, you are going to be in big trouble! It makes sense to carry a variety of snacks and energy products with you and not to always rely on aid stations. I also learned how important foot care is. If your feet feel uncomfortable, it will alter your running style and will no doubt lead to other issues. Definitely carry plasters and padding with you, and take time to sit down and clear your shoes of stones or twigs. I learned how important it is to have a reward mechanism to motivate you. I carried a small container of Coke during the long climbs and would treat myself to the drink at the summits, something I’d really look forward to. It made such a nice change to consuming energy drinks or water, and the caffeine and sugar definitely helped keep me strong on the descents. Finally I learned that sometimes the adventure is more important than the race. For me, this event was all about completing the distance and conquering the terrain. I was racing nobody but myself and the cut-off times, which was a pleasurable feeling!
So, the big question, would I run the UTMB after that experience? If you had asked me this question during the race, or shortly after, I would have told you where to go. I literally could not have gone on for more miles after finishing the race, as my feet were battered, blistered, swollen and bruised. However, on reflection, I’d love to at least attempt the longer race, particularly after the learnings taken from the CCC. The CCC is a damn tough race in it’s own right and will break many. This year, only around two thirds of runners completed the course within the cut-off, earning themselves 3 points to put towards entry to the UTMB. Perhaps if I manage to accumulate enough points over the coming months I’ll put my name into the hat, looking for another excuse to visit Chamonix alongside so many other wonderful people.
Finally, a big thanks to the organisers and volunteers, in addition to my mate Pip who I started the race with, Paul who I finished the race with, and the rest of the ultra running community out there. In particular the Run247 and LikeTheWind crews, and fellow Serpentine RC members. It was also fantastic seeing so many others out there…you know who you are!
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