The Brecon Beacons ultramarathon became my main objective for the year. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Originally Scafell Skyrace was my A race for the year and UTS 50 my B. To cut a long story short I had the archetypal horrendous race at UTS, blown legs and got even more injured in the process. I didn’t recover in time to even make the start line at Scafell. I was gutted. However I searched the internet for a new objective and found this which would bank me some UTMB and ITRA points and also challenge me in a competitive field.
When training started again in July it went well. My leg was healed and I was falling back in love with running. Often running between 10-15 miles mainly along the South West coast path a few times a week plus a session and a long run. I tried to learn from my previous mistake of not listening to my body and belligerently trying to achieve whatever I had written in my diary. I decided to focus on the quality of my training and to not do more than 70 miles a week with a down week every fourth. This was to try to ensure I made it to the start line without any injury problems and didn’t miss big blocks of training altogether sat at home lame.
On the 25th of August I raced the crossing of Dartmoor organised by Pure trail. It is a 34 mile linear route from Belstone to South Brent across the moor. It was one of those rare occasions (for me) where a race goes almost exactly how you dream. I paced it well and had a great battle with a very talented runner called Matt Hart. I finished in 1st in 4hrs 28mins setting a new course record and managing to hit my goal of averaging under 8min mile pace. I was excited for another 3 months of training to really dial in my fitness before the Brecons.
On the whole training went well, I avoided any injuries and managed to hit nearly all my objectives, the only lapse came at Exmouth 10k where some bowel problems I had an ongoing issue with meant that I was hampered and didn’t achieve my targeted time. Overall I was positive and felt like my target of winning the race wasn’t a fantasy.
As soon as the horn sounded there were four of us. Steve, Mark, Mathew and myself. The first 3 miles are along pan flat canal path. Mathew quickly flew off ahead at what was possibly sub 6min mile pace. The three of us settle into an easy rhythm ticking off the canal averaging 6.54 pace. I knew the first feeling out of one another would come on the 1500ft climb of Tor y Foel. I feel like my main strength is climbing and so decided that I would attack the climbs as I am comparatively slow on the less technical descents and flat sections. I settled into my rhythm and soon overtook Mathew, Steve was by my side the whole way, with Mark tucked in behind us. First test and neither Mark or Steve had shown any weakness. We all descended to Talybont forest together. As we were ticking along the tramway I stopped to go to the toilet and everyone disappeared into the distance. I wasn’t concerned as I thought I would be able to catch them on the ascent of the gap. At the summit I rejoined the main group and we all ran down to checkpoint 2 together. I left first and they soon caught me on the road section to Pencilli, at this point I needed the toilet again and managed to get a thorn in my foot from where the hedge had been flailed. I reached race HQ just as Mark and Steve were setting out to begin their second lap, I was 4 minutes behind, but still confident I would see them again. My legs felt good and I was on my scheduled pace.
I attacked the steep climb of Tor y Foel again and retook third position and was sure I was gaining time. I started to feel a pain in my side, where my abdomen met my ribs, I was sure it was just a stitch or some cramping. However the pain became more and more intense and after leaving checkpoint one I had to stop running. I was trying to stay calm, but that didn’t work and I may have shouted and swore a bit whilst I was trying to stretch out my side hoping it would relieve the pain. I knew that any slowing from me would jeopardise any chance of winning. The pain wouldn’t go though. I was hobbling and then walking and trying to decide what to do. I genuinely considered throwing in the towel. I couldn’t see the point of stumbling the remaining 18 miles sliding further back the field in agony. I was amongst the tail end of the marathon runners and as I was bent over on the side of the trail considering my predicament, a kind man came to me to see if I was ok. I told him I was in fact not ok and wasn’t sure what to do. He offered me two painkillers and told me to try again. I took them and started to run a bit. They took the edge off and I started to just enjoy being in the Brecons on a glorious November day running some golden trails. I couldn’t run at full throttle but I did manage to run all the way to the finish and somehow kept hold of third.
Congratulations to Steve on the win and to Mark for second. They were only separated by 40 seconds at the finish and must of had a back and forth battle all afternoon. Force 12 put on an excellent event and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to run an ultra in the UK.
Personally I am frustrated. I know my performance is not representative of my best, but that is ultra-running. It is hard and long and any difficulties encountered are exploited by your competitors. I am looking forward to a rest before training commences again in January.
• Hoka one one torrent shoes
• Injinji socks
• North Face better than naked shorts
• Inov-8 Merino base layer
• Salomon S/lab sense 5 pack
• Tailwind nutrition
• Clif Bloks
• Torq gels
• Kellys homemade vegan flapjack