Ultimate Trails 110km – 26th June 2015
My longest run prior to this race was the 53 mile Hoka Highland Fling and since then I had done 4 big runs, they had a fair bit of elevation which proved to be good for spending time on my feet. The first was the WHW Training weekend where I did an out and back from Tyndrum up to Rannoch Moor and back. The second week was a double ascent of the Devils Staircase in horrible weather which was mentally draining.
The 3rd week I went down to the Lakes to do a course recce of the route. We got lost multiple times and only made it a quarter of the way up Nan Beild Pass (10 miles out) before turning to go back.
The final and most beneficial training was support running with Alan as he did the WHW race. I got to spend almost 2 sleepless nights with the crew, and ran with Alan for around 7 hours, finishing my leg at 2am – Probably the most beneficial because the Ultimate Trails starts at 12am.
I wore my Salomon Hydro vest but this time used the 2 soft flasks knowing there would be aid stations every 10km to quickly re-fill the water/nunn/coke combinations. Deciding to wear my trail shoes was a gamble as I hadn’t put many miles into them really prior to the race and they rubbed a little. I borrowed my friend Lesley’s Silva Ninox II torch which ended up being really bright and a great help! After checking the weather I decided to take some sun cream – Really glad I did too!
I drove Victoria (running her first ultra ‘Ultimate Trails 55km’), and our supporter Astrid down to Kendal on the Thursday. We went sightseeing round the town and ate a good hearty meal in the Wetherspoons with a Guinness! The sleep we got was terrible because some guys were stomping round at 5am.
The Friday morning I drove us to our cottage in Ambleside and struggled to get parked on the street.
Firstly we went to Rothy Park to see the layout of the area (visit #1), but it was too early to register so we headed back into the town and into the local coffee shop where I met Andrew to chat about the race and our plans for it. Andrew went on to finish 3rd overall in the 110km race, wow!
After we checked into the cottage we had to go back to Rothy Park again to register (visit #2) and go through the kit check. Vicky decided to bring all her stuff too and save time from registering tomorrow for the 55km.
I tried to get some rest upstairs but just ended up playing through the race and my expectations in over and over again. After dinner we went down to hear the compulsory safety briefing at Rothy Park (visit #3) before coming back and trying to get 3 more hours sleep.
I think I ended up going downstairs to get all my feet taped up and kit re-packed around 11pm and by then Rob and Steph had arrived. Once I was all ready, I got escorted down to Rothy Park (visit #4) by Vicky, Astrid and Rob to see me off. The place was buzzing, I hung around with friends as long as possible before they ushered me into the starting chute. At the pre race briefing it was noted that the distance would be cut by about 4 miles and the race would start 15 minutes later. By 12:15 we were off!!
Ambleside to Kentmere – 12.4km
As soon as the race started, loaded of people shot off at a pretty quick pace, I just kept quiet going through Ambleside into the woodland hills at a relaxed pace.
The first pass I had luckily recced earlier in the month so I knew what to expect. I took it nice and easy going up there, constantly keep turning around to see the headtorches snaking up the mountain behind me. Having done this section before I knew it was slow going on the ascent because of all the loose stones but ended up running down it with my tractor beam lighting the way! Got into the Kentmere aid station and went straight to re-fill my water, take some jelly babies, crisps and a cup to Nunn.
Kentmere to Mardale Head – 22.22km
I knew Nan Beild Pass was a pretty tough climb, it was still dark so took it pretty easy going up here. The path weaved its way up to the summit and I kept turning around to see all the head torches snaking up behind me.
Nan Beild Pass went on forever!!! It was cloudy and there was plenty of summits before finally seeing the real summit all the way in the distance! I had some Honey Stinger chews from my pack, as it’d be a while since the last aid station and I was feeling peckish.
The top of Nan Beild was a great welcome sight with 2 marshals here and a union jack, I was hoping it would be getting light now to offer spectacular views of the lakes but not just yet because it was still pretty early.
The descent to the carpark at Mardale Head was brutal, it was really wet and full of loose stones. I had to use my hands multiple times to get down some of the stones too because they were huge. I got to the checkpoint around 3.30am which was in a car park, filled my bottles with water and Nunn, grabbed loads of Jelly Babies and a mini flapjack before heading on.
Mardale Head to Bampton Memorial Hall – 35.18km
I carried on using my headtorch as it wasn’t really light enough to take off yet. The route now ran the full length of Haweswater Reservouir and by 4.20am I got the most amazing view of the day and took a few photos:
As the route changed here we had to run a few miles on tarmac as we had to avoid one of the villages. I had thoughts about just stopping here because I wasn’t enjoying this tiny section but luckily that soon passed after 10/15 minutes. A sharp right turn before heading into Bamption Memorial Hall for breakfast bacon rolls.. Or so I thought!
There was no bacon when I arrived but I saw some of those instant porridge pots and put some boiling water in, took a little cup of coke, refilled my Nunn bottle and my water bottle before having a seat while I ate. I wasn’t really rushing but I was trying to get the porridge down as I had hoped for bacon rolls. As I was just about to leave a marshal came out with bacon rolls cut into quarters, I took one as did everyone else – They went as soon as they were put down!
Bampton Memorial Hall to Howtown Bobbin Mill – 50.13km
I ran out the same way I ran in, having a chat with Anne Cook who I met at the Fling a few months prior, this past a few miles before I bumped into Ozzie again as we headed up a gradual climb onto Askham Moor, I got chased by a very nasty sheep! I think because it was 6.30am it was hoping I was breakfast…
Got a wee view of Ullswater before making a nice descent down to the checkpoint, this was a cottage with some books about running , I refilled with Nunn and water, ate a fair few jelly babies, a cup of coke and some mini flapjacks before getting out of there, it was also good to have a proper toilet.
Howtown Bobbin Mill to Glenridding – 60.06km
Pretty much this full 10km section was running through a valley with a mountain pass way in the distance and a sharp wee descent to the checkpoint.
I think this section was in the 55km so as I was running though the valley I was thinking “Jeez, why did I get Vicky to sign up to this for her first ultra, she’ll hate it”…. And me!!!
I’d been running for just under 8 hours before I started a really tough climb, my legs felt good, I was hydrating well and the jelly babies were going down a treat so far, I felt good and just took it nice and easy. Got a few photos of the views which were stunning and was chatting to a few people including Ozzie who I ran into pretty much all day.
The descent was great, I loved running down at a pretty fast pace picking my route, the only issue was near the road before Glenridding there was no sign and no marshal. We needed to take a left turn which a few of us in our group had taken (luckily). Then there was about a kilometre along the paths by the road into the centre of Glenridding. I tried calling Vicky as she’d be getting ready for her race at 11am, but had no signal on EE. Luckily when I got to a checkpoint, a guy I ran with let me use his phone (Vodaphone) to call. I said to Vicky “It’s great!! You’ll love it but climbs are pretty hard”. This checkpoint had a big selection, I filled up on Nunn and water in my bottles again, half a mini pork pie, a cup of coke, some salted nuts and jelly babies before heading out for what would be the toughest climb of the day (5th big climb).
Glenridding to Dunmail Raise – 71.81km
At 9.20am I had a tough little climb out of Glenridding which I thought was the end of it for a while. The sun was shining so I kept reapplying the ‘ice cream’ smelling sun cream and had to whip on the sunglasses!!!
I got to one of the many valleys and was looking for the pass in the distance but wasn’t sure where it was, soon enough it appeared and looked pretty far away! The climb up this was really hard work for me (this was in the 55km), I remember thinking I was near the top and there was loads of huge rocks and loose small rocks to get around – Grisedale Hause.
Once at the top there was a stunning view of Grisedale Tarn. I thought “Oh no” because I saw marshals stood halfway up another mountain, turns out that was for a peaks challenge so luckily we didn’t have to go up there. We had to run all the way around the tarn before a really tough descent to the next checkpoint.
I spoke to a guy about Lakeland 100 for a while going down here and had to use my hands to climb down the big boulders again. Once we got to the road we thought we could see the checkpoint but it wasn’t, it was just a load of cars parked at the side of the road haha. Another 15 minutes further along the trail we came into the checkpoint.
Finally, I got to the checkpoint and Ozzie was not long behind me, I was so thirsty. I got 1 bottle filled with water and the second bottle half filled with NUNN, they wouldn’t fill it properly and said the next checkpoint is 10km away, I had a few jelly babies and went on my merry way.
Dunmail Raise to Borrowdale Institute, Rosthwaite – 82.72km
I dispute the official distances between these checkpoints as this was way over 10km because I’d ran out of liquids at 10km thinking the checkpoint would be there but it was probably another half hour run away.
The climb out of here was really tough again and through a beautiful forest so I never really knew how high we were climbing until we reached the top and got a look back, I was with Ozzie at this point again and got to use his walking poles for a wee bit, fantastic!
By 43 miles in we had reached the top of this climb and got a selfie.
There was a long stretch of moor land but not many flags so I took what I thought was a path with about 5 guys following me, after a few miles I stopped dead to look about and saw a flag a few hundred yards up a small climb away, oops! I rejoined the correct path for some running before I felt my little toenail rip off! I stopped, assessed the situation, took my sock off and taped it up, it was fine. When I thought we got to the checkpoint it wasn’t again so I diped my feet in Watenlath Tarn and splashed water all over my face.
There was a short wee climb before another fun descent to the Rosthwaite checkpoint. This one was generously stocked and I had a few glasses of coke, filled my bottles and took a plate with some Cornish pasty, chocolate shortcake and some salted nuts. There was meant to be pizza here, I have no idea if it had been eaten and they’d cut up a cornish pasty but I was glad of the real food! We all sat eating in silence then a huge crash next to me, some guy had totally flattened a wooden chair haha!
The best thing about this checkpoint was the guy I met a while back when I almost ripped my nail off, he offered me a toe cushion for my toe with some gel inside, this was a LIFE SAVER!
Borrowdale Institute, Rosthwaite to Stickle Barn Tavern – 96.44km
I’d heard that this was actually the toughest climb on the route and there was tons of switchbacks, they weren’t wrong!
The route started with a long valley before taking a right turn over the river and into a another long valley for good measure. This was a great run, I was super excited to cross over 53 miles and step into new unknown territory! I ran for consistently alongside the river, looking for where we would pass through the mountains before a nice descent into the final checkpoint.
As we crossed the river it started theascent up the hundred and fifty single track switchbacks! This really took it out of my legs, I even sat down thinking I can’t do this, that was the general thought of the day when I saw passes.
Once at the top I said hi to the marshal and 3 of us descended down quite a nice easy going descent, not overly technical but plenty of switchbacks…
Suddenly my armpits were chaffing! How is that even possible? I ran though it for a few miles as I didn’t really have many options without any sort of cream to use. I took both my tops off and didn’t put back on the base layer because I thought that was the culprit and just put my normal T shirt back on. I could see the final checkpoint in the distance and ran fast to get to it and sort myself out.
I didn’t want to spend too long in the final checkpoint as I really wanted a seat but figured I could just run hard to the finish and sit down there.
I took a full bottle of coke, a bottle of Nunn, some jelly babies and a chip before heading out through the pub and cheering crowds in the sun.
Stickle Barn Tavern to Rothay Park, Ambleside – 108.17km (FINISH)
I was running well with a guy I’d spoken to a few times from Blackpool, as I crossed a field of cows I heard someone shouting my name, it was Rob who was doing the 55km route which crosses the path, great timing to meet during both our races! I got stopped by an Asian couple asking for directions, I felt bad but had absolutely no time to explain a route to them I have no idea about so I pushed on.
My plan was to run the final 10km pretty hard, like I ran the final 5km of the Fling hard. I struggled on some of the climbs but managed to keep running good for the official photographer.
I left David and carried on running super hard and passing runners who were struggling now. I ran all the way up until the last climb, I suddenly saw David again who felt great too so we hiked the final climb as hard as we could and agreed to run down together and finish together which was nice after a long day. The final descent was glorious, I knew it was in the bag from here and it felt great to run so late in the race.
Just before the finish chute his family were calling him over so he said to me, on you go I’ll be a few minutes and I took off like a rocket, sprinting as hard as I could! I didn’t even see Astrid cheering or taking photos but just sprinted to the finish.
I finished in 71st and managed to get under my 20 hour goal in 17 hours 45 minutes 50 seconds.
After I collected my medal, stopped my watch and grabbed a T shirt, I walked outside the tent to find Andrew there with a big grin on his face waiting to see me, Astrid had come over too and we all chatted for a while.
I sat on the grass with Astrid for a while telling her all about the race and drinking my protein shake. We went to get my free meal of lentil chilli and after that went back to the cottage for a shower before heading back down to the park.
Once back down at the park we sat and waited for a while to see Rob come in from the 55km, after he came in we did the same, went and got food and also changed.
Finally, back down to the park and we saw the girls come in together with their headtorches on, we quickly limped to the finish and gave them a hug. I look angry here but I was just exhausted and wanted a sleep.
The girls went and got some food and we all headed back to the cottage for some Cava.
Perfect race strategy
No tummy issues: Jelly Babies, coke and electrolytes are the way forward
Lacking nutrition supplies at some checkpoints
Overall though it was a really well organised race and I would love to do this race again one year! It was my first 100km and feel I could improve my time next time I do it.