Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further past what your mind wants to let you. That’s what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you’ve never known’ – Rex Pace
When you start to think about people you really admire, it’s easy to come up with the same old answer every time, a celebrity or a sports star, people you’re detached from and are almost superhuman. It’s easy to forgot that actually real people are doing amazing things around us all the time, we just don’t notice it as much because it’s not trending on Twitter.
I admire lots of people in my day to day life; there are lots of female senior managers at work I aspire to be like, my mum raised two kids alone in a foreign country while my dad worked to provide for us, my dad and brother how work ethics that are second to none. All little bits of different people that I take inspiration from and wish I could be like.
Then there’s my husband Dave, who, as you’ll know has taken up running ultra-marathons over the last couple of years, which, as far as my fat stumpy non-runner legs are concerned is nothing short of bionic. A few weeks ago Dave undertook his second Ultra; the Kielder 100k, which he’d planned to do as a warm up for the EnduRun24 in May, but when that got cancelled, Kielder turned into race day.There are 3 distances you can do for the Kielder Ultra; 50K, 80K and 100K.
So, how did he get on? He and fellow runner Ryan who completed (and only bloody won!) the 50K leg tell all…
How did Kielder compare to any races in the past?
Dave: I only really have one ultra, The Wall, to compare to. Kielder is shorter (even the 100K distance) but that is where any prospect of it being easier ends. The terrain under foot is probably the most difficult aspect of the race. It is extremely wet bog for large portions of the first half of the race. There are also some very steep hills, far from runnable for all but the very gifted. The course is designed to take the most difficult path so doubles back and takes odd detours just to be awkward! It is very pretty though, if you can see through the fog…
Ryan: It was quite similar but less hilly than most races of late, however the terrain took me by surprise. I’ve ran many parts of Kielder before but not where the course took us, it was fantastic and brutal in parts.
What are your pre-race rituals?
Dave: This race was unusual because it took place on a Sunday. Most ultras seem to start on a Saturday,as they may go on well into the next day depending on the cut off times and the speed of the competitors. We were due to register in late afternoon so having stuffed the car full of equipment we drove up to the start/finish point. We were one of the first people to arrive so went and chose our camp spot and put up the tent. Registration was simple and pretty low key. After that we went for a short walk down to the edge of the reservoir to take in the view and soak up a bit of the spring sunshine. The race briefing didn’t add much information and the details which were added went over my head a bit. I found it difficult to retain any navigation tips and apply them to a course I hadn’t seen, especially without a map in front of me. After the briefing we cooked dinner outside in rapidly dropping temperatures before quickly deciding that the local put was the best option (tonic water only for me). I didn’t really feel nervous rather just impatient to get to the running. Out camp was quite comfortable, but it still took a while to go to sleep.
Ryan: This has changed in the last year, I used to have a bowl of pasta and half a bottle of wine! Recently I’ve been reading a book by Renee McGregor called “Training Food” no I’ve don’t drink the night before but still have a carb rich diet. I make sure my kit is ready and laid out for the morning, most ultras start really early so I like to be really organised and have no stress in the morning.
The weather was pretty dramatic early on, how did that affect you physically and mentally?
Dave: We weren’t expecting to wake up to a tent covered in snow! It made getting to the start on time more of a panic and made me a bit apprehensive. It also made it hard to know where you were placing your feet. I fell over multiple times and almost twisted an ankle on countless other occasions. My feet were soaked almost immediately from the start and stayed that way despite multiple sock and shoe changes throughout the day. They were uncomfortably cold at points and the wet going made me over concerned with the chance of blisters which contributed to some tactical mistakes. I did actually find that the deep snow on my lower legs felt like it was keeping them nice and cool so wasn’t a problem.
What was the hardest part of the day?
Dave: The hardest section is the first big loop (leg 2) that the 100/80K runners complete over Deadwater and Peel fells, due to the terrain and steepness. However for me, the third leg was worst as I changed shoes to get dry feet, but this left me in shoes that did not give enough grip. The paths were partly very wet clay/mud which was extremely slippery, and I fell hard twice in as many minutes. The logging tracks were also covered in the debris of logging activity, particularly stray branches which slowed me to a crawl.
Ryan: I found the lakeside paths the hardest, I’ve ran around them over 20 times but as I’m training for another race currently most of my training has involved running up big hills, the more undulating sections of the lakeside path were more difficult than previous times I’d ran on them. The guys I ran with had really good flat speed which made me struggle.
What nutrition/hydration kept you going?
Dave: I ate mainly jelly babies but I stuffed the odd bit of different food into my mouth at checkpoints. For hydration I used Nuun hydration tablets with water and some sports drinks.
Ryan: I’ve always been good with nutrition on races, I’ve luckily never suffered from stomach problems and can eat anything, I’ve been known to eat jalapeno pizzas! Recently I’ve switched to Tailwind nutrition, www.tailwindnutrition.co.uk it gives me everything I need to get round, it also aides my recovery. Since I’ve switched to it my results have improved beyond belief, it’s given me a new found confidence.
Who did you meet along the way and how important is it to have company?
Dave: I ran with a guy called Stu for some of the first leg. I like to talk to people early on to distract me from any nerves. I ran most of the exposed Peel Fell section with a lady called Cathy which was really reassuring because the visibility was terrible, the course markings not always obvious, and I wasn’t carrying GPS.
Ryan: The thing I’ve always like about ultras is the people you meet. As you’re not usually running at eyeballs out pace you can generally have a good chat and get to know people, you’re out on your feet for a long time so it’s a great way to pass the hours. I met Simon and Mark within the first couple of miles, we got chatting, it turned out I knew friends of Simon and knew who he was through the twitter ultra community. It made a huge difference, we worked as team really well, by that I mean there were times were one of us was struggle at some point and we stuck together to get each other through. I’ve ran on my own and in groups and can honestly say wouldn’t have got through the day as well if I’d been on my own all that time.
Dave had signed up for the 100K race but made the decision to drop down to the 80K…..
Dave: There were a variety of factors in the decision to drop down. Leg 3 was a disaster in terms of footwear, which slowed me a lot and made me concerned about falls. Being behind schedule I realised that the head torch I was carrying would not be up to the task of running off road in pitch darkness. I had thought I would only really need it at the start when there were lots of other people around. The conditions, terrain and to some extent, the hills were much more severe than I expected so I was concerned about how much this might have taken out of me. Also other runners and even some of my support crew were talking about changing to the 80K distance from early on, which planted the thought in my head. The deciding factor I think was that the weather changed so dramatically that by the decision point it was glorious sunshine. I had done very little proper running due to the terrain so decided a sunny 20K around the lake to the finish sounded much better than
more rough terrain and hills. This would allow me to finish at a better time for supporters and for the drive home.
The weather was sightly better by the afternoon!
What state were your feet in afterwards?
Dave: Not bad, I think maybe one small blister. The main problem only showing itself towards the end of the race was bruised big toes. More unusual for me has been that I’ve had a sore mouth, particularly gums for about five days after the event which made it painful to eat or have hot drinks. My main guess is that it is something to do with the electrolyte drinks but it could high glucose in food and other drinks, or just the amount of air breathed over the 12 hours running.
Ryan: Feet were fine, they got a soaking in the first 2 miles and again throughout the course. Touch wood, I’ve always been lucky with my feet, I on’t tend to suffer from blisters. I wear Injinji toe socks and Salomon Sense Ultra shoes and it;’s a combination that seems to work really well. After St Cuthberts 100km, race director couldn’t believe how good a condition my feet were in, he jokingly questioned if I’d actually ran the course!
What one thing will you take away from the day?
Dave: Well I coped better than I thought as this was my first real trail race. Finishing 6th with relative ease and finishing strongly (3rd best final section time) confirmed that starting slow and getting stronger is more fun than heading out fast and running out of steam.
Ryan: The two great friends I made in Simon and Mark, my first ever race win and a lovely new Salomon Slab 12 Set, my running pack of choice!
What’s the next date in the running diary?
Dave: July 16th, St Cuthbert’s Ultra, another 100K race. I’ve got some unfinished business to attend to!
Ryan: I’m doing the Highland Fling on April 30and then my first 100 miler attempt, South Wales 100, a beast of a race in the Brecon beacons.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing their first ultra run?
Dave: Firstly, have you considered something more sensible?! Before the race, test out decent kit and do as many training miles as possible without injury. On race day focus on nutrition, hydration and pacing.
Ryan: Get entered, get training and enjoy the whole experience. It’s more doable than you think, if you break it down into sections, checkpoint to checkpoint, it makes it much more manageable. One last tip, when you think you can’t possibly take another step, trust me you can, it’s amazing what happens when you push yourself beyond that point. As long as you keep moving forward, you’ll get there eventually!
Ryan Hogben has always enjoyed distance running after completing his first ever half marathon and building from there. He says he’s never enjoyed the shorter distances and after couple of guys at his old running club had done G2E, a 55 mile ultra along canal paths from Glasgow to Edinburgh, he took the plunge and was hooked. The Kielder Ultra was his 12th race of ultra-distance.You can follow his own running adventure here.
Thanks very much to Steve at www.granddayoutphotography.co.uk for allowing me to use his brilliant pictures!