A really exciting overall race awaits this coming weekend at the 6th North Downs Way 100. Who will make it to become our first ever finisher at the new conclusion of this race at the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford....
Debs Martin-Consani: Undoubtedly the lady to beat. Debs is coming in off the back of a superb run and victory at this years South Downs Way 100. We're proud to have her running in our team colours and it's almost certain that she'll have one eye on the course record coming in to this one. With her past results and if conditions are right on the day it's certainly in danger.
Annabelle Stearns: Annabelle was second at the 2015 SDW100 in a superb time of 19:01. Her advantage here is her familiarity with the trail having won the NDW50 in 2014 and 2nd this year to Holly Rush.
Wendy Shaw: The lady with the most significant career at our events. Wendy is Grand Slamming again - this will be her third completion of all 4 events within a calendar year. In 2014, Wendy was on track for another great finish at the NDW100, but pulled up at the very last aid station, Dunn Street, with issues she felt she couldn't surmount. One of the bravest and smartest decisions from a runner that we've ever seen. She is fitter and faster than ever and after a slower than usual TP100 this year, she will be looking to make amends and cement yet another podium finish at one of our 100s.
Neil Kirby: Neil has had a sensational year to date. Wins at the SDW50, NDW50 and SDW100 mean that he comes in to this as clear favourite. He has fought some epic battles at the front at all three races this year, but every time hung tough and often suffered through to some superb gutsy wins. Neil races from the start, but always within himself. Having dropped out of this event last year, he will want a fourth trophy for the shelf here but also to make amends for stopping short in 2015.
Davide Grazielli: The nicest guy in ultrarunning. Davide has made regular journeys over from his home in Italy to run our events in the past. Most notably perhaps the SDW100 in 2013 when he placed second to Robbie Britton, having had his flights cancelled at the last minute and opting to drive all the way to the UK! He has experience, speed, endurance and a superb string of results behind him, including but not limited to: 3rd place 2015 100 miles Sud De France, 2nd place 2015 NDW50, 4th place Lakeland 100 2014, 25th 2015 UTMB.
Barry Miller: Barry has been getting stronger and stronger over recent years. He's previously finished both the Centurion Grand Slam of 100s as well as the US Grand Slam. Perhaps his best ever 100 was our 2013 Winter 100 where he set a best of 17:14 for 3rd overall. This year he has taken things to the next level with a 2nd at GUCR in a time of 27:22. Put that together with his experience and knowledge of the trail and you are looking at a potential winner here.
Paul Russhard: Paul stunned us all when he went out at this years NDW50 like a bat out of hell. He laid down splits never before seen all the way until Box Hill. We kept expecting him to explode, but it didn't materialise. He did eventually fade to 3rd overall but the gutsy display showed that he has taken his running to the next level. If he goes out in a similar way here it will certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons!
Paul Radford: Paul has had some solid results in his background, a 5th at the Winter 100 in 2014, 2nd at the Ridgeway the same year, 10th at last years Cappadocia 110km Ultra Trail in Turkey and this year a 6th at this years NDW50. He will want to go better here...
Ry Webb: 2nd at this years NDW50 and just 8 minutes behind Neil Kirby, Ry will want to put that result alongside his experience of the trail having finished 4th at this event last year and step up on to his first 100 mile podium.
Lawrence Eccles: Lawrence has a massive range of results behind him. From Spartathlon to Dragons Back, TDS to Lakeland 100 and the Spine. He's raced all terrains and environments. In 2015 he stepped up in to the bigger leagues with a 7th at Lakeland and the same placing at Dragons Back, with a 56th at Sparta and a 16th at TDS. This year a 22nd at the 80km du Mont Blanc sends him in with great shape.
Incredibly deep fields in both the mens and womens races make this one of the most exciting prospects we've ever had at a 100 mile event.
Follow the race live from our homepage over the weekend of 11th and 12th June 2016. Race start 0600 Saturday 11th.
Debbie Martin-Consani: Our team runner is one of the best known names on the UK Ultrarunning scene. Debs has a huge wealth of experience in going long, with too many accolades to mention them all. In recent years she has been a regular fixture in the GB 24hr team, bringing home many medals in the process. Her previous notable wins include Lakeland 100, Crawley 12hr, Thames Path 100, Devil O'The Highlands, White Rose 60 and the GUCR (overall winner). With podiums at countless other presitigious races also behind her, her biggest lesson to all around her is in pacing. Debs consistency over the longer events is incredible.
Debs on her way to 2nd at the Autumn 100 2014
Jess Gray: Jess has had an up and down start to the year with a win at the SDW50 and then a late DNF at the NDW50 with an injury, so fingers crossed she is fit enough to run well here. She has a great track record so far in a relatively short ultra running career with wins at Ridgeway, Royal Parks 50km, the NDW50 in 2015 amongst them. This will be her first 100.
Sarah Sawyer: Sarah has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. With her first foray in to the 100 mile distance at the 2015 TP100, she learned a lot and came back to run a 19:47 at the 2015 A100. With a 5th at the SDW50 earlier this year she will be looking to put pace and her experience together for a super strong day here.
Wendy Shaw: Wendy features every time on a preview. With over 10 previous Centurion 100 mile podiums, rightly so. She lifted her game to the next level at the 2015 A100 with a 4th in 18:54, the question is this time after a rockier TP100, can she go all the way.
Kit-Yi Greene: 5th at the SDW50 in 2015, 4th this year, this is her first 100 but her consistent pacing could be the key to a superb debut run.
Maree Jesson: Previous 2nd at the NDW50 and with wins at the Druids Ridgeway challenge and Northants 35 in 2015, she is a capable runner, if very new to the sport.
Maryann Devally: A long list of Top 10 finishes at a variety of ultras, Maryann's previous best at a Centurion Race is her 2nd place at the 2015 NDW100 in a little over 21 hours. She's off to a good start in 2016 with a win at the Oner over 81 miles in early April.
Nick Taylor: Nicky has a 3rd, a 4th and a 5th at the Lakeland 100 in the past, as well wins at the Rodopi 100 mile and Ultimate Trails 100km in 2013.
Stellan Fries: There won't be a person amongst last years staff and volunteers that would be sorry to see Stellan win this race. He led the event coming in to Jevington aid station mile 96 before taking a massive detour and spending nearly an hour lost in the woods. When he eventually came over the line it was in 5th in 17:24. He's capable of something under 16 if he can stay on course!
Neil Kirby: Neil has won both of our 50s this year, the SDW50 in 6:35 and the NDW50 in 6:57. His form is great, but with a late DNF at the NDW100 in the past, the question is whether he can bring his 50 mile form up to this distance. If he can perform to the same level he is sure to be challenging for the overall win.
David Barker: David had a superb 2015, most notably at our events, with a 3rd at the TP100 before a great closing quarter of the Autumn 100 for a 15:58 4th overall. Clearly he is one to watch with a PB in that realm.
Duncan Oakes: Always smiling, a fact which belies his incredible ability to run strong over the long stuff. Duncan is a previous NDW100 champion and has wins at too many races to mention, but those as extreme as Arc of Attrition (twice) and the Hill Ultra. His 15:19 at the Autumn 100 in 2015 for 3rd was a PB. He should certainly be worrying anybody that is out ahead of him early on.
Jason Lewis: Jason was 6th here in 2013 with a 17:14, but has since gone on to rack up a really impressive list of finishes and wins, including a sub 24hr LL130 for victory in 2015. This year he's already off to a great start with a joint win with Duncan Oakes at the Arc of Attrition and a Bob Graham Round.
Paul Bennett: Paul was joint 3rd here in 2013 with a 16:58 and has a number of other SDW100 and UTMB finishes to his name. His pace is exceptional and he will be looking for something at least as strong again here.
Paul Descending Early in the 2015 Event
Mark Grenyer: 17:11 for 3rd at the TP100 earlier this year, a cracking start to his 2016 campaign. Can he go on to as strong a second 100 in a much deeper field....
Dean Oldfield: Dean was 5th at this years SDW50 and 8th at the NDW50, he's off to a great start this year already and will be looking to continue that.
Sam Robson: 2nd back at our first SDW100 in 2012, Sam has rediscovered some of his tell tale consistency and will be looking to shoot well under 20 hours again here.
Jack Blackburn: A real danger man with a number of very good results at shorter distances including most notably a 6:29 for 2nd at the 2015 SDW50. This is his first foray in to 100s but clearly he has the pace to cause an upset.
Jez Isaac: Jez has twice podiumed at the NDW100 and has a massive back catalogue of finishes in endurance to his name. When he runs strong, he is very strong indeed.
David Pryce: 2nd at the TP100 in 2015 with a 16:56 David is coming in off of an 18:11 for 7th at this years TP100 and has wins behind him at the Chiltern 220km and the Piece of String Fun Run. Tough is his middle name and he will be looking for a PB here for sure.
Leonidas Athanasopoulos: Legend of the sport, Leonidas has a back catalogue of results to be proud of. Wins at Rodopi 100 mile, Panellionios 100km, 12hr Bahnlauf and a 25 hour Lakeland 100 included.
Tim Landon: 3rd at TP100 2014 in 17:48. 12th at the SDW100 the same year in 18:14.
A relatively short preview this time, as the depth in the field looks to point to some very clear front runners. However, as always there are likely to be a lot of dark horses I have missed - capable of sweeping up the pieces if things go awry for the stand out runners.
I've also added a legends section for the first time. I intend to focus on just one stand out person in the field of each event who qualifies for legend status. This time it goes to someone we haven't seen in a while....
Craig Holgate: It would be unfair on the competition to write everyone else off but with respect to the rest of the field this looks set to be a one man time trial against the course. Craig is still the incumbent TP100 record holder, with a 15:11 in his first ever 100 miler back in 2012. Since then he's gone on to represent Team GB on the trail and at 100km numourous times, clocking an incredible set of performances at that distance, bringing his PB down to 6:53 at the World Champs last year. Craig's list of accolades is simply too long to recount here. But this is not the same runner we saw in 2012. Back then he was still something of a rookie at the ultra game. He now has a great number of ultra distance races under his belt including things like 5 straight Thames Trot victories & 2 NDW50 wins including the course record. Craig is a part of our Ultra Team and has been an inspiration to all of us as he churns out an absolutely incredible level of volume, whilst handling a big commute from Ely to London every day and being a great family man to his wife Abbie and two girls at home. If the course is in good condition I fully expect him to better our all time 100 mile record, Mark Perkins' 14:03 at the SDW100, and truth be told he is capable of running close to or under 13 hours on this course. Which would put him in the GB All Time list at the distance and even higher on trail. Fingers crossed we get to witness something truly special on race day.
Craig on his way to breaking his own Record at the 2015 NDW50
Terrence Zengerink: Terrence has 8 consecutive Comrades finishes to his name, and a handful of 100 milers too. With a PB of 19:36 for 5th at the TP100 in 2013 in atrocious conditions, he should go many hours faster than that this time. Many may remember him too as the man that won the 2013 Piece of String with an epic 130 mile finish never knowing when or where that finish would come. He is one tough cookie.
Ian Thomas: One thing is for sure, Ian will be up the front early on! He has a penchant for going hard early and has had some pretty epic blow ups over the years. However last year he started to dial things in and stormed his way to a 2nd place 24:09 finish at the 130 mile Leeds Liverpool Canal Race, and then a 31:33 at Spartathlon. If he can hold himself back early on we should see a time well under 20 hours on the clock for his finish.
Jeremy Isaac: Jez's experience is deep, and he has learned some hard lessons at this distance, but has recorded some superb finishes over 100 miles, particularly his 3rd place at the NDW100 in 2014 with an 18:01. He also finished 3rd there last year. It would be great to see him run significantly quicker than that here.
David Pryce: 2nd at the 2014 TP100 in 16:56 and closing hard on a fading Ed Catmur, David has proven pace over this distance that's only surpassed by Craig. If he's in shape, it'll be about picking up the pieces behind and he looks most likely for a podium place either way.
Sam Amend: Much like the men's race, there is one lady with a completely different level of speed to anyone else in the field. However, unlike Craig, Sam doesn't have the depth in ultra running as yet - this will be only her 4th ultra I believe, and her first 100. Her road running background is astounding, with a list of wins as long as your arm. PBs include 2:42 at the marathon (She has run around that time many times over) and a 77 Half, her step up to ultra's came in 2011 with a 3rd overall and 1st lady at the Druids. She then seems to have taken a hiatus before in 2015 she ran a 50, and earlier in 2016 broke the Course Record at Country to Capital despite having spent some time off course. If she can pace it right and find the endurance in the back half, we could see something really special.
Wendy Shaw: Wendy is a double Centurion Grand Slammer, and has finished all previous editions of the TP100 with 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places. No doubts here as she has recently found an even greater level of speed, she will finally want to take home the crown at one of our events. This I make it will be her 13th finish at a Centurion 100, with only one drop, at mile 99 of the NDW100.
Rob Treadwell: I haven't seen Rob's name for a long time but was delighted to see it pop up. Back in 2010/ 2011 he took home wins at the Ridgeway Challenge and Cotswold 100. It looks like after a break of 3-4 years he made his way back in to ultras in 2015 and to be honest if he is in his old shape, I should be listing him in the above category and not the legends field!
No time, but no excuses. Debbie Martin-Consani talks to fellow team runner, Edwina Sutton who won silver at the British 100km Championship – only nine months after having her THIRD child.
Tell us a little bit about your running background?
I was a jack-of-all trades at school and represented the county at netball, hockey, athletics and cross-country. The 800m was my speciality, thanks to the geography teacher used to drag me to the track to train. I’m so glad he did, as I have never lost that bit of raw speed.
When I went to university I played hockey for three years and still ran, but just recreationally. Once I left university I realised I wasn’t going to play any better hockey, so started dabbling with triathlon. The dabble turned quite serious and I competed at a high level for a few years. Even from with a running background it was my bike leg that proved to be my strength, with not many women – or men - being able to match my power. The 25-30hrs a week of training plus a full time job as a PE teacher was a real juggle, but I loved being an inspiration to the kids I taught. Two of them who used to join me on recovery runs are now professional triathletes.
Practising time management from a 16-year old at school has stood me in good stead for having a family and trying to achieve my athletic dreams.
What would you say are your greatest sporting achievements?
Tricky, I think I have lots of ‘moments’ during races when I think ‘yes this is the best moment ever’: Paddling in the Pacific Ocean at the start of the Triathlon World Championships with 2,000 other athletes; dropping the ‘hammer’ along the canal during Country to Capital 2014 and reeling in all the boys; laughing my head off at Paul Navesey as we shoved cliff shots into our mouth at Downslink Ultra after he went the wrong way (it’s a straight path); and winning the SDW50 after spending the previous three weeks with my foot up.
DMC – I should also throw in that Eddie was 15th in her Age Group at the Ironman World Championships 2009 in Hawaii with an impressive time of 10:48. Her Ironman PB stands at 10:07.
Eddie Post Race with the Family
You got back into training quite quickly after having Evie in July. How did you physically cope with that?
Firstly I do not advocate getting back into training straight away after having a baby, but to listen to your body and getting proper advice from a qualified personal trainer.
With my first child I took much longer, but I was much more confident third time round. I knew what I was doing and how to mend my diastasis recti (split abdominals) and juggle feeding and exercise. I also committed to weekly osteopath and massage appointments. My body was very much a constant work in progress, but I listened to it very carefully. I can’t say I rested when I was tired, because I didn’t, but I didn’t push it and did heaps of easy running.
I also worked very hard on my core by myself and also with my osteopath. It wasn’t till the week before the ACP that I had my final appointment and she said my pelvis was level again. She pushed me hard and often 2-3 days after appointments I would feel absolutely battered, this did hamper training, but I have tried to constantly think of the long term project and that this year is really just about getting fit again and hopefully at the pointy end of races.
The first three months were brutal, as I felt so unfit and was carrying about 20kg of baby weight. It was slow progress, but it was always progress. Every session was part of the bigger jigsaw and I tried to not be overly concerned with one session, but take each week as another step forward.
I didn’t bother with dieting as I needed the energy and I knew the weight would have to come off in its own time.
How did you find training around feeding a baby, running after two exuberant boys (Finlay 5 and Rory 3) and working as a running coach?
There is literally not a moment in the day when I am not doing something. I breastfed the baby for seven months and that was even more a juggle as running had to be fitted in with her feeds, as she wouldn’t take a bottle.
I would have my kit on before she woke up, feed her, throw on back pack and run for three hours till she needed feeding again. Sometimes I would run around the block until she needed feeding again. I found it very tiring feeding a baby and looking after the boys. Although I am big advocator of breastfeeding and I think you can train and feed a baby at the same time, sometimes something has to give and it’s usually the Mother’s energy levels that are the first to go.
In the final month of feeding I was definitely starting to feel that I had given all I had to give. When Evie was weaned, the difference in my training and energy was huge. Plus I didn’t need two sports bras anymore, which saved me some washing too.
As for the boys, they are mad. Being boys, as long as they are fed and are out playing in the fresh air, they are happy. I am very lucky that they both love being active and also love watching me race.
I absolutely love being a running coach and personal trainer, after spending 12 years as a PE teacher. I have a real core of fantastic athletes. They are all different, all hard working and I feed off their enthusiasm and dedication. Often this means 2-3 hours of work in the evening after training and putting the kids to bed, but it keeps my brain active. I get to give back to the running community and seeing and helping others achieve their dreams is just as important to me as achieving my own.
What did your training week look like? How did you manage to find the time?
Every week is different. I normally set out with a plan and then mix it around as the day/hour dictates. Being flexible is absolutely key. Don’t get me wrong I always get all my training done, but sometimes that means two runs a day, going out super early, going out at lunch time, getting someone to watch the baby for 45 minutes and running on the treadmill whilst the kids play around me. My biggest training saviour is my running pram.
About 25-30 miles of my easy running Monday to Thursday is done pushing the pram. Not very easy, but I just wouldn’t be able to fit it all in otherwise. I have run with all my babies and do enjoy it. Everyone I meet in our village calls me “The crazy lady who runs with the pram”.
I run with boys the mile up to school and nursery every morning and go from there. It’s a set in stone routine, which means I get my first run of the day done. I have thought this often means my recovery runs aren’t very easy, but I like to think none of my competitors are pushing their babies around whilst they are training. Marginal gains people.
After having Evie, it took a while just to get my weekly mileage back up to a decent level. I managed about 60-65 miles whist I was feeding and held 75 miles for a couple of months before ACP. I also did 3-4 strength sessions a week, which really helped my running form and power without adding in extra mileage.
I was able to introduce one tempo/interval session into this. Sometimes two, plus a long run. But I found I was still adapting to the mileage and the long run was still causing some muscle damage even as close to four weeks out from the ACP.
In a normal week - and how my training will go into May - will be one rest day a week, two interval sessions (one long rep marathon type effort and one shorter paced effort) a long run of up to 3-4hrs and the rest all easy running. I probably won’t go over 85 miles a week, as I don’t have the time and don’t see the benefit. It’s all about quality.
Eddie Mid Race at ACP
You a big advocator of strength training – and planking. Do you think that helps with endurance running?
Absolutely. There is no way I could have got through the 100km on my cardiovascular fitness alone. At 50km it came down to strength and form. Holding myself correctly from the tip of my head down to my toes allowed my body to work at its most efficiently. Plus when the wheels started to come off, I had my strength to fall back on. I concentrated on holding myself correctly, driving the knees and using my arms to propel forward. Focussing on this killed time over another three miles.
I am very proud that I got my body back strong, functioning well and injury free. I do mainly body weight movements and exercises, which mean means I can do them around the kids. Heaps of squat, lunges, holding my body weight in movements and kettle bell work to mix it up. I think runners who don’t do strength work leave themselves susceptible to injury.
Your first post-baby A-race was last weekend’s Anglo Celtic Plate. Was that always the plan?
Yes I looked at the ultra-calendar during labour, counted forward 8-9 months and there it was. It also helped we knew Perth well, as my in- laws live just up the road. It excited me as a distance and I thought the relentless pace would pay towards my strengths.
You hadn’t run a qualifying race, so how did you make the team?
I entered the open race, thinking I wouldn’t get selected. I almost didn’t want to, as I knew it was a big ask to get fit again in the tight timeframe. I also knew every week I was making huge gains in fitness and there would be a big difference between my running at end of Jan and end of March.
However I got an email from the selectors saying they were going to announce the team, which I had been provisionally selected for, but had to prove my fitness in a 50km road race by the end of February.
Of course there aren’t any road races of that distance in the depth of winter so Walter Hill, the England selector, offered to come and watch me run up and down outside my house on a 2.5 mile loop. I toyed with this, but decided I would regret it if I turned it down so I agreed.
Walter set a target time of 3.50 and I cruised it round in 3.38 and got my selection. In hindsight I ran it too hard. Who wouldn’t? It was the furthest I had ran in two years and my legs were destroyed for 10 days after. But we live and learn. It did give me a good confidence boost and was very thankful for the special treatment and my personal makeshift race.
How did the race go? You were leading for quite some time.
In my head the race was a massive disaster, but in my heart I am so proud with what I achieved. I think I am capable of something with a 7hrs in, but looking back I just didn’t have that back end of endurance training to maintain the pace that I could hold for 5-6hrs.
I made a catalogue of errors, which I’m not ashamed to share with you. I’m not perfect. To start with I hadn’t left the baby for the night before and I didn’t sleep a wink the night before worrying about what I was doing. Could I run 62 miles? Should I be running? Shouldn’t I be at home with my children? What sort of mother was I?
Of course, it was all pre-race massive jitters, but 4am came round with no sleep and I was literally sick to my stomach with fatigue and worry. I managed a few mouthfuls of soaked oats. Normally I eat a massive bowl of porridge, but every mouthful was coming back up.
Then I got my period. Sorry guys - skip the next few sentences - but it’s a major issue for us ladies. It was truly awful. I had cramps, portaloo dramas and my legs just didn’t have any spark. When I knew I was going to get my period on race day I did seriously think about not starting the race. I always run terrible at this time, but I tried to convince myself it would be ok and I do think I managed it the best I could.
The first four hours of the race went to plan. I didn’t feel particularly great, but I was trying to just trot along and enjoy the scenery/headwind/seeing Bryn/three step incline and then simply repeat.
After probably 4.5 hours my quads just blew apart. I have felt that pain before in ironman marathons and it didn’t scare me, but I had hoped it would be 6-7hrs into the race when I had to battle down the hatches and work hard, but it was 35 miles or so into the race. The prospect of almost 30 miles of that pain made me want to weep.
Through all my training, I had focused so hard on getting to the start line that I don’t think I had allowed myself to face the truth that I just didn’t quite have the endurance to perform at the level I wanted to. Having an international vest on was a huge pressure and in hindsight meant the race probably became more important in my head than in the long term it really is.
I spent the rest of the race thinking about my kids and concentrating on moving, when all I wanted to do was lie down on that sweet soft grass. I went back to basics and repeated left-foot-right-foot and for the last 10 miles, I simply counted to 100. Literally not thinking about anything but counting to 100.
Melissa Venables crept up on me and went on to win. I knew she was coming, but I was so scared that my legs would just give in completely, so I just concentrated on getting myself to the end.
I was bitterly disappointed, but I didn’t deserve to win that race. Mel ran the better race.
Eddie and Mel at the Finish
How did you deal with mental aspect of running 42 loops of a park?
The laps didn’t bother me. I almost enjoyed it. I totally zoned out of the lap number and concentrated on my splits and pace. Although in the last couple of hours, I wasn’t really comfortable with everyone seeing me suffering every 12 minutes, but James Elson kept shouting at me, “one lap at a time” and that’s what I did. I just focussed on one lap at a time. Though the moment my lap counter shouted: “one lap to go, Edwina”, I could have kissed her.
It looked like your support (Husband Bryn) was struggling to get you to eat. Do you think that effected your race?
I wasn’t struggling to, I just wasn’t. I guess as my race plan went out the window, I lost where I was with my feeding. Not having a proper breakfast set me into a negative balance to start with and although I tried to shove in more calories at the start, I started feeling hungry within about 30 minutes.
My stomach cramps meant solid food wasn’t working and really all I wanted was coke. By 50 miles I was literally downing litres of the stuff. Bryn still hasn’t recovered from every lap trying to make me take a gel and me just shouting ‘COKE’ in his face like our 3yr old. So many errors, but we both learnt a lot from the experience and that is invaluable for going forward.
And we now have a new term in our household for anyone having a major tantrum. It’s called a lap 32-er.
Do you have a recovery plan?
With the kids there is no recovery. It’s brutal, but it’s life. The week after an ultra I massively fail at parenting as I struggle to change nappies, cook meals and household chores take forever. But being busy and active – carrying scooters, pushing swings, lugging about car seats and walking the dog – get the blood flow going. A lie in past 5.30am would be nice, but I try and focus on the controllable things in my life - lots and lots of good food and water, early to bed, family walks and fresh air.
What’s next for 2016?
The million dollar question. Obviously when a race doesn’t quite go to plan then you immediately want to set another goal, have another crack at it and get training again, but I am mighty aware of the big picture and know I need a bit of down time. As do the family.
I don’t have any other races entered, but will either head back onto the trails and have a go at getting selected for the GB world trail team or will focus on running a decent 100km. Though I didn’t put the race together I thought I could on Sunday, I definitely enjoyed the distance and think six months down the line I would be in much better shape probably both mentally and physically to put in a decent performance.
Though I am desperately disappointed with the outcome of the race, I am very proud of the process it took to get me there and so grateful to my husband and the Centurion family for all their help. I’ll take a deep breath, let the race and all I have learned from the experienced sink in and go from there.
Would you like to have another go at 100km?
Watch this space.
What are your top three would-love-to-do races for the future?
UTMB, Comrades and Western States
Well, here we are. The 2016 season is here! And to kick it all off we have our biggest starting field to date with an expected 400 runners converging on Worthing College this coming Saturday 9th April ready to run the 50 miles to Eastbourne.
For many, this will be their first foray in to ultrarunning. But there are an equal number of highly experienced guys and girls too. With a team of over 100 volunteers out on course getting them there when times get rough.
As is tradition with our events, I've put together a quick snap shot of those who will be looking to push the front end of the field. Please do comment if something is incorrect or somebody is missing. We'd love to know!
We're really excited to welcome a deep women's field to this event.
Jess Gray: Jess burst on to the Centurion scene when she took home 2nd overall/ 1st lady at the 2015 NDW50. Jess has racked up a fine string of results since starting in 2014 with wins at Royal Parks 50km, the Chiltern 50km from XNRG and last year the Ridgeway 86 in a superb 14:17 good for second overall. She will have her sights on a solid performance here ahead of the SDW100 in June. A third at the season opener Country to Capital will have no doubt fired her up even more for this one.
Amelia Watts: Amelia placed a superb 5th at the 2013 Marathon Des Sables and later that year went on to record wins at UTSW60 and Dusk Til Dawn 50. In 2015 she finished 4th at Race to the Stones and finished UTMB in a time of 33:28 good enough for 18th overall.
Claire Shelley: Our 2012 SDW100 champion, Claire recently lowered her marathon PB to 3:04 with a stellar run at Seville in February. Claire's experience is huge, with a string of ultra finishes behind her and wins at races as prestigious as GUCR and the Oner. One thing is for sure, she will run her own race.
Linn Erixon Sahlstrom: Linn has some strong finishes behind her over recent years, culminating in a couple of wins in 2015, at the Imber Ultra and at Endurancelife CTS Sussex. She's run under 8 hours for 50 before and will no doubt be looking to do the same again.
Susie Casebourne: Susie is a veteran of many Centurion events and over the years has clocked up wins at Caesars Camp 50 and has two previous SDW50's to her name including a 2nd in 2013.
The men's field looks wide open with no clear superfast runners as we've had in the past (Mark Perkins, Paul Navesey, Victor Mound are the previous winners). Certainly it makes for a very interesting race and possibly one that will come down to the wire. No doubt there are a couple of speedsters lurking that I've missed however....
Nick Greene: Nick has started 2016 well with a sub 6 at Country to Capital and a win at the Peddars Way 47 miler two weeks later. Nick has been a feature at Centurion events on both sides of the fence for many years. He has 3 SDW100 finishes including a 17:57 for 10th in 2014. In 2015 he went better at the TP100 and came in 2nd with a time of 16:52. Along with super finishes at classics like Leadville, Highland Fling and the Ridgeway, Nick also has a best at the SDW50 of 7:03 and will certainly be looking to run under 7 this time out.
Ollie Sinclair: Ollie has a deep ultra background, with a career in Ironman before that. He has been a feature on the UK scene for a number of years and in his time has won and held records at some classic races such as Hardmoors 55 and Caesars Camp 50. He'll be looking for a strong outing here after a solid 2015 including a hard earned slog of a finish at the NDW100. He knows how to tough it out!
Warwick Gooch: Warwick has featured in previews a few times and rightly so. His experience over recent years has racked up, with a Centurion Grand Slam in 2014 in a stellar time including 2 Top 10s. With a GUCR finish and a solid Autumn 100 in 2015 he'll be looking to get 2016 off to a flier.
Wyclef Forbes: Wyclef ran home for 2nd at the 2014 Race to the Stones in 9:06, and has second places to his name at Marlborough Downland and Endurancelife CTS Anglesey.
Fresh from winning last weekend’s Anglo Celtic Plate 100km in 6:58, we talk to team runner Paul Navesey about his successful debut at the distance. (Pictures: Debs Martin-Consani & Steve Navesey)
Tell us a little bit about your running background? How did it all start?
It seemed like a very simple way to get a bit fitter, plus my pacing was so terrible I didn't have to run far to feel I'd worked pretty hard! After running around by myself for a bit I joined Crawley AC who have an incredible ultrarunning history. I learned a bit more about training properly, pacing (although I was still a bit sh*t at it!) and different races.
Now I train with an excellent group of Sussex athletes, the training is hard but great fun and very productive! I have read quite a bit on running from the 70s/80s and this is getting towards what I imagine they were doing when they ran the outstanding times that are often not matched today.
You’re a fan of cross-country running. Do you think that helps with ultra-running?
I'm not sure its conventional prep for 100km on the road but I do love XC racing. In the build up to ACP I ran pretty much a full XC season. Racing all the county league races, Sussex County Champs, Southern England Champs and finally the CAU Inter Counties as part of the Sussex team 2 weeks before ACP. The races are short, fast and very competitive.
(Paul brings home the individual and team wins for England)
When you are so successful at traditional road race distances, why did you want to run 100K?
I had some spare gels that needed using up and I can only put so many on my porridge...
It was just a different type of race and having followed previous ACP and World Champs races online it started to intrigue me. I had only run ultra-distance races a couple of times on the road before at Dartmoor Discovery and thoroughly enjoyed those races. It’s also nice and simple, no pack to carry etc. It just combined what I enjoy about running which is putting on a vest, a pair of short shorts and going racing.
You hadn't run a qualifying race/time for Team England, so the selectors maybe took a bit of a gamble of you. Did that make you want to prove yourself more?
True! I'd not run a qualifying time at any of the required distances (50k, 40 miles or 100k). In fact, I didn't even have a recent marathon time to quote. I had entered the open race anyway so I was always going to be running the event.
I am not sure if they would consider it a gamble but providing them with 10k and XC results maybe didn't make me the first choice... So I was quite keen not to screw it up!
What races did you do in the build up to the Anglo Celtic Plate?
I actually raced quite a lot more than I have done prior to previous ultra races. Plenty of XC races but I also raced Chichester 10k, Brighton Half Marathon and Milton Keynes 20 miles.
(Paul is a bit humble here, so I thought I’d add he ran 32:00 for the 10K, 1:08 for the half and won the MK20 in 1:52:13. Fast, eh?)
What did you training week look like? Any favourite sessions?
Favourite sessions have to be joining the training group for long reps at Tilgate Park. Really hard work at times but lots of fun!
A typical week in build up to ACP would have been something like :
Mon - Long reps
Tue - Easy running.
Wed - Long run or track session
Thu - Easy running
Fri - Rest
Sat - XC race or long tempo run
Sun - Easy running or road race (If not racing today then no Sat race or session).
You led from the start. Was that your plan?
I had a good idea of how fast I could run the 100k. I just wanted to get right down to it from the start, it wasn't planned it just happened that no one else joined me. It could well have backfired. I feel I may have over-reached slightly in the first half, but I was confident in my preparation and it was a bit late to go changing the plan by then!
(Paul led the race from the gun)
Who was your main competition?
When the teams were announced I was very keen to see who my team mates were. First up Anthony Clarke from the infamous group at Bournemouth AC and their Steve Way Wednesday night marathon sessions. Chris Singleton, also very quick over the marathon and ultra-trail races. Nathan Montague, the only member of the men’s team to have run the 100k distance on road before. So even without venturing to the other national teams there was plenty of competition! Scotland for example had Marco Consani and Wales had Daniel Weston. Both having previously run 100k at the ACP in solid times.
Luckily.... we have Strava! It was great to see how the other guys were preparing and great to see the England team looking strong in the build-up. I got to meet Chris at the Inter County XC champs as he'd earned his Lancs vest for the event. Nice to know I wasn't the only one trying to run a hilly XC race in the build up to a flat road 100k.
How did you deal with the mental battle of running 42 laps?
I was never worried about the number of laps, I spent a fair amount of time running with CR team mate Robbie Britton over the last year or two and he's got a pretty positive way of looking at lapped races... and he's had to run a lot more than 42 laps.
I was never going to get lost (Once other team mate Eddie told me the direction I was meant to be running) and never more than a few minutes from crew with food, drink and any information I wanted.
Any highs and lows?
Actually no major lows. I was warned about the final 30k and sure enough, going in to that my legs really started to complain. That was the only low as I saw my lap times drop off from where I wanted to keep them. Something that although I was told about, was a bit unfamiliar to me, I know I can work on that now.
On the flip side, loads of highs. From cheers every lap, the announcements in the final few laps, starting the last lap and obviously the finish.
Having seen the rest of the team on the course at points it was great to see them all finish so strongly. I am a big fan of team events.
Did you have a specific nutritional plan?
I had a very simple nutrition plan. As much as I like food and eating I just opted for a Mule Gel every 3rd lap, an S-cap on each hour and coke to finish!
(Paul heading out through the start finish area)
Was your support crew an important part of your race success?
Yes, without a doubt. They were incredible. From passing gels and water, giving me information, guarding portaloos to taking photos. Can't thank them enough.
(Paul with his family and crew at the finish)
What’s next for you?
I am going to be spending my summer racing track and shorter road races. I'd love a GB vest and another crack at the 100k, so I will also be very interested once there is more information on the World 100k event.
Assuming you have another crack at 100km, what do you think you could do to improve your already fantastic time?
I will have another crack at it. I have a couple of ideas, first of all is improving speed, improving my marathon pace and then increasing the volume of my long runs slightly. I don't want to make drastic changes so will use a very similar training process as I did but better.
(Paul Navesey with Edwina Sutton pre-race. Eddie captured 2nd in the ladies race).
What’s your favourite running gear?
A pair of arm warmers! It’s a good day when you can dig out a vest and arm warmers for a run or race. Easy way to control temperature and a very handy place to stuff some food!
Thanks, Paul. Very insightful. So all you need is arm warmers, a few gels and a portaloo guard…? Oh and some kick ass speed.
Follow Paul on twitter @paulnavesey or find him on Strava. Be warned though…his training speed might make you cry.
Here it is. A blog about running around a 1km tarmac loop for 24hrs.
I think a few people were under the impression that Athens 24hr earlier this March was my first attempt at the distance. It most certainly was not. My illustrious 24hr career has so far involved some total car crash performances BUT, I learned a little at each one. And they were so important in laying the foundation for having a good race.
A few years ago when some of my closer friends started getting themselves Team GB National jerseys, I decided I'd really like to try and qualify for something. At the time, I was woefully short of both the speed and endurance that I would have actually needed to get any of the Ultra Distance Teams: 50km, 100km, Trail, 24hr. But I'd run a lot of long races and thought that the 24hr had to be my best option. Through 2012-2015 I shoe horned 24hr races in to the beginning or end of seasons often on the back of A races, just to see if I could 'run the standard'. Well I didn't get anywhere near.
When I started trying, the minimum standard for the GB Mens' 24hr team was 231km. As we have gotten stronger and stronger over recent years with the likes of Robbie Britton, Marco Consani, Pat Robbins, Steve Holyoak, John Pares, Dan Lawson etc, running bigger and bigger numbers, the standards have gone up. And the team level required for the 2016 Euro Champs was set at 240km or roughly 150 miles.
In 2015 I ran 2 x sub 15hr 100 milers, and had a crack at Barcelona 24 again at the end of the season. I had a really good 10hrs or so but the wheels came off, I'd gone too fast, my legs just didn't have enough miles in them after the 100 in Mid-October, and I stopped 11hrs in. Marco went on to show how it was done and ran 256km to win the race and solidify his well earned place in the squad. There was still one place left in the team.
So I abandoned all other first half 2016 plans and focused 100% on Athens 24hr in Mid March.
The differences this time were:
a. I knew I had the speed and endurance. The two faster trail 100s were hard but not debilitiatingly so. Sure I would not have wanted to carry on for another 50 miles but I came out of both pretty well.
b. My marathon time came down from half a dozen efforts in the 2:50's, to a 2:43 at Seville in February, so that was a good sign. The only other race in the training block was Country to Capital where I managed to turn in a suprising win.
c. I can really pack away a large amount of calories during longer runs and that is a major advantage for this format (see below)
d. I had a 12 week training block focused on one thing - going long on flat road.
e. I had a half decent runner with a top knot who just happened to finish 3rd in the World Champs last year crewing for me.
f. I had no more excuses.
I went out to Athens with confidence. Richard Brown the incumbent 24hr Team Manager emailed me to say 'just go and do what we all know you are capable of'. That fired me up.
Robbie and I arrived in Greece and took the bus to TGI Fridays where the waiter left me a love note. The next morning we got up and travelled over to the disused Airport & Olympic facilities. At 5pm we began. The loop is a 1km circuit on road out on to a disused car park.
There were some characters out on course. Most prominent in my day was Lithuania. Lithuania went off like a rocket. I've seen this many times at many different events and ignored it, but his first km was in the 3:30 range which was truly extraordinarily optimistic. We also had a man running the 48hr who we quickly ascertained was cutting the course in half as a charade of 'going for toilet'. Robbie and Dan Lawson had him DQ'd after some fine investigative work.
Lithuania (Aleksander) and I
My plan was - nothing under 8 min mile pace. Unlike at Barcelona where the first 60 miles were under 8 min mile pace. I ignored the rest of the field and focused in. I was about 5th or 6th through the marathon and on a sort of 5:15 lap / 8:20 mile pace. The difference was I knew I still had to be on that pace at 100 miles. After 6 or so hours, it started hacking it down and a keen wind brought a miserable period. But it passed. Robbie was feeding me like you wouldn't believe. I'd written a nutrition plan, and he definitely took it to the letter which was just what I needed. He managed during the race to crew me flawlessly, write down what I ate (see bottom of this post), get the 48hr cheat DQ'd and tweet the shit out of the race the whole time.
7 hours in and Lithuania was lapping me out of all contention, but his blow up was surely inevitable and anyway I was there to do a job. 240km was all that mattered.
My splits were all good and I ran a really good 3 hour section up to 100 miles to come through just a minute outside my PB in 14:37. Robbie then pointed out that this was irrelevant and threw a cherry tomato at my head. Again.
Past that point the maths started to really eat me alive. I just kept working on running every step, aiming for just over 10km an hour and giving myself a shot for when it got really tough. Between 15hrs and 18hrs into the race I had my first and only real low point but it was a 3hr one. I didn't stop running and I kept eating, but my body clock was now in the small hours of the morning UK time, and I'd been up for 24hrs with the 5pm start time so I just had a dip. But then almost with the click of a button, I felt ok again. My 2 year old, Louis, normally gets up around 0630 and afterwards I realised that right around that time in the equivalent point of the race, my body seemed to say it was ok to be up and running again.
At this point, Lithuania had destroyed the race. His 100 mile split was a staggering 12:35 and he'd lapped me 20 times. He then slowed to my pace, I told him what I was there to do and we fell in step for the hours of 18 - 22 in to the race. This was a really good period where we just got it done. We hiked a 50 metre section of very gradual incline at the start of a lap and then ran the rest. So all of our miles were in the 9:40 - 10:30 range and that was just what I needed to do. 200km passed with 18:54 on the clock and I knew then that things were looking good.
About 2hrs to go and Dan Lawson (who's own 48hr had not gone to plan but stuck around to support), appears with a Magnum. What a moment. Just after, another toilet stopped separated my partnership with Lithuania and I began to unlap myself ever so gradually as he hiked it out to the finish.
With an hour to go I had 236km on the board. I always think in those times to Brian Morrison collapsing on the track with less than 300 metres to go in the lead of Western States in 2006. only to be DQd as Scott Jurek and others picked him up and helped him over the line. The km that took me from 239 to 240 was however a DAMN good feeling. All of those demons floating away on the breeze from 4 years of thinking about running a good 24hr.
With 29 mins to spare, Robbie snapped a picture and I went out on lap 241 slowly on to the finish from there with a final total of 242.497km or 150.6 miles. Lithuania walked his way to 260km. A massive total. Ok he was on pace for a WR for 10 hours or so but despite a really crazy pacing plan that is a great showing. Third place was around 205km.
A massive thank you to Robbie for all of his help this time. But also to Paul Navesey who crewed me for the previous 4 total shit shows. Nothing to do with his exceptional crewing, just my poor running.
Thanks to Richard Brown, Dan Lawson and his family who stayed all day to support me when their own races had not worked out. To Richard for putting up with me talking a good game for about ten years.
Thanks to La Sportiva, Gu Energy UK, Julbo and Petzl for the support. I ran the whole race in a trail shoe. The Helios SR - it's that versatile. I am hoping that is some kind of WORLD RECORD for that shoe.
What's next? Hopefully I make the team for the European Champs in October. I took the 6th and final remaining slot by reaaching the standard. I hope I can do it justice if I make it, certainly it will become my sole focus for the time being.
Here is what I ate:
Hour 0 Gu , 200m water , 200 water , Biscuit, S cap
Hour 1 Mars bar, 100 water, Gu, Cheese, 200 water, 3 pringles, Scap
Hour 2 Mars bar, 100 water, 4 Pringles, 100 water, Gu, 150 water, Biscuit, Scap, 100 water
Hour 3 Mars Bar, 100 water, 4 Pringles, Gu, 150 water, Biscuit, Scap, 100 water
Hour 4 Mars bar, 150m water, Biscuit, Gu, Cheese, 100m water, Scap
Hour 5 Mars Bar, 100m water, 6 Pringles, Gu, 100m water, 5 Pringles, 100m water, Biscuit, Scap
Hour 6 100m water, Mars bar, 2 pringles, 100m water, Gu, 100 water, 3 pringles, 100 water, Scap
Hour 7 Mars Bar, 50 water, Gu, 100 water, 3 Pringles, Scap, 100m water
Hour 8 Mars Bar, 100m, water 2 pringles, Gu, 100 water, 2 pringles, 100 water, Scap
Hour 9 Biscuit, 100 water, 2 pringles, 100m water, Gu, 100 water, 3 pringles, Scap
Hour 10 100 water, Mars bar, 50 water, Gu, 100 water, 3 Pringles, Scap, 100 water
Hour 11 Biscuit, 1.5 pringles, 100 water, Gu, 3 pringles, 100 water, Mars bar, Scap, 30 water
Hour 12 Biscuit, 100 water, Mars bar, 100 water, 2 pringles, Scap, 50 water
Hour 13 Small cheese, Cherry tomato, 100 water, 2 pringles, Small cheese, 3/4 Biscuit, Cherry tomato, Scap, Swig water
Hour 14 Small cheese, Square of pizza, 100m water, Small cheese, 2 pringles, 100 water, Swig Coke, 50ml coke, Mars bar, Scap, Water 100
Hour 15 2 pringles Biscuit 100 water 2 pringles Swig of coke Scap at :45 100 water, Swig of coke
Hour 16 100 water 50 coke Biscuit 200 water Coke and water - 150m 3/4 Biscuit Coke and water - 150m Scap
Hour 17 Small cheese, Tomato, Small cheese, Tomato, Coke and water, 150m Coke and water 100ml, Mars bar, Coke and water 150 m, Scap, 100m water
Hour 18 Half a Mars bar 100m water and coke 2 peach slices 100 m water Mars bar Scap 150m water and coke
Hour 19 Scap, Water, Water and coke, Peach slices
Hour 20 Cheese, Tomato, Cheese, Tomato, 150m water, 100m coke
Hour 21 Coke, Water, Cheese, Cherry tom, Magnum, Cookie, Scap
Hour 22 Coke, Scap
Hour 23 Coke
Notes on the North Western Fells
As I get around to finishing running each of the 7 Pictoral Guides I thought I'd put down a few notes and pictures on that group of fells, with a few suggestions for routes. Please treat these as a laymans guide to some good days out in the Lakes, but please refer also to this post for an overall picture and crucially the things you need to think about before heading out in the mountains.
Word of warning that you must pick up the relevant maps for much of this to make sense.
I'm not going to descibe the intricacies of any of the individual fells, you can get the books for that, but I have spent a good deal of time putting together routes linking valleys, tops, ridges and tarns. There are a few specific routes in these groups which have been truly exceptional.
Finally, be aware that this barely scratches the surface of what is available in terms of exploration of this terrain.
The North Western Fells fall in to 3 groups. The Newlands Valley Fells. The Buttermere Fells. The Whinlatter Group. There are three logical days out that on those bigger groups. There are also a few outliers which make for good short easy walks.
The North Western Fells are almost unfailingly exceptional. None are boggy slogs like their more central associates. Rock is ever present but it rarely impedes screaming fast descents. And the views over the coast where Lakeland drops away to the west are spectacular on a clear day.
Most or in fact all of the fells in this group make straight forward enough excursions, but there are a few lower outliers that don't make logical sense as part of an extended route. These make for great easy family days out.
Castle Crag: Stands alone as a rocky prominence above Grange in the Borrowdale Valley. This is actually Wainwright's lowest fell. A short drive from Keswick, parking responsibly in Grange Village by the River, you can join the Cumbria Way on a flat path, before climbing the western side of the Fell on a short, well made track. There is some loose slate but only a short section.
Sale and Ling: These two fells up around Wythop Mill mark the end of Lakeland to the North West. Reachable within 20 minutes of Keswick via the A66, both are gentle grade climbs of a mile or so, offer stunning views and are achievable in all conditions, even with 2 stone of child on your back.
Louis on Ling Fell
Newlands Valley is just stunning. It's not surrounded by the highest peaks, but the ridge lines of the fells reach north like spiny fingers towards Keswick and Skiddaw, creating a narrow corridor of exceptional beauty. This view from the top of Dale Head looking North down the valley gives a perspective.
From Dale Head summit. On the left Hindscarth. Ahead in the distance Skiddaw group.
Maiden Moor is on the right.
Bob Graham Leg 5, the final leg, takes one from Honister Pass up to the top of Dale Head, around to Hindscarth, then Robinson, and down her flank to Newlands Church and Little Town before the final 5 mile run in on road to Keswick.
Left to Right - High Spy, Dale Head (Distance), Hindscarth, Robinson.
Whilst Leg 5 is a great day out, that group of fells is better done in a bigger horseshoe. By starting at Cat Bells, a natural ridgeline ascends over that first summit, on to Maiden Moor and High Spy, before a drop to Dale Head Tarn. A steep pull up a grassy slope deposits one on the summit of Dale Head, before commencing the leg 5 tops of Hindscarth and Robinson, before the drop back down to Little Town and a couple of gentle flat miles back to the foot of Cat Bells. This is a reverse of the Fell Race, The Anniversary Waltz. Navigationally this is a very straight forward line.
The path up Eel Crag from Sail Pass
The sister race to the Waltz, Teenager With Altitude, is a much more signifcant route taking in Causey Pike, across to Outerside, then a big pull up to the King of the Buttermere fells - Grassmoor. Off of Grassmoor via Whiteless Pike. Up to Newlands House, High Snock Rigg (not a Wainwright) then on the remainder of the Waltz Route via Robinson around to Cat Bells. More information here. Circuit is around 16 miles with 7300ft of climbing.
The View over Rannerdale Knotts (near) to Red Pike from Grassmoor Summit.
The Teenager and Buttermere Sailbeck Fell Race Routes are truly the pick of the bunch. You can pick up the maps (pictured) from Pete Bland Sports (online and with a shop in Kendal), though as always in the Lakes it is worth taking the relevant OS Sheet for the area too. Please don't copy and paste them from here, they are featured merely to show the routes as opposed to long written descriptions. For those familiar with the Lakeland 100 route, the Sailbeck links the fell tops seen to the left and right as you climb up from Buttermere check point towards Sail Pass and down to Barrow Door. Highlights include the line up Causey Pike and the run from Eel Crag all the way down across Wandope and Whiteless Pike before the steep drop to the finish. Circuit is around 10 miles with 4700ft of climb.
Whiteside from Grassmoor
Finally, one should not ignore the ridge across Whiteside and up and over Grisedale Pike, the towering giant of a mountain which looks like it has a motorway driven up it from the A66 approaching Keswick.
Here is a line I took in April 2015, starting out from Buttermere and linking together the western group of Buttermere fells before dropping off of Grisedale Pike to Braithwaite. This was one of the best days of running I've ever had. Link to Strava File.
The group consisting of Graystones, Broom Fell, Lord's Seat, Barf and Whinlatter make for a logical round. My chosen route was to start at Scawgill Bridge, taking the fairly extreme initial climb up Graystones before a sweeping view over the coast presents at the summit. From there it's easy if slightly boggy running around to Broom, Lord's Seat and then to the classic Barf with it's rocky escarpment overlooking the A66. From Barf I took a direct route through Whinlatter Forest to the peak. There are scores of tracks in there and they do not correlate necessarily to the map. I ended up in a fairly desperate manoevre climbing directly up Willybrag Gill, actually in the water itself. It's worth coming at it from the East via the Forest Park. This circuit is circa 8 miles with 2500 feet of ascent.
Here is a link to my strava file of this route.
Country to Capital organised by Go Beyond is a classic season opener to the UK ultra calendar. Low key and low fuss. The course divides up in a similar way to some of the longer standing US classic 50 milers in that it's a race of two halves. 22 miles on a hot potch of footpaths, bridelways and road to the Grand Union Canal. Then a 20 mile straight shot down the towpath to Little Venice. At 42 miles with about 1000 feet of climb, it really isn't going to get any flatter than this at a trail race, in fact it's a net down hill so it doesn't count.
Race day dawned this year cold, dry and sunny. Conditions could not have been better and rarely has the course been in better knick.
The first 400 metres have become known as Race to the Gate. An event within an event. The origins of this initial sprint were founded after it was recognised early on, that the sharp right turn off of the high street could only really be negotiated one at a time so that it was worth hammering it down the perfectly graded initial road descent to beat the rush. This has developed in to a hunt for pure glory. In 4 previous outings I've had 4 second places. This time I wanted it all, my hopes bolstered when serial nemsis Tim Adams pulled out the night before with a broken fingernail. Except I mentioned to Dan Gritton at the start that he should go for it too, and he promptly dropped me like a sack of shit. Whilst there was a yawning gap to 3rd place, Dan was well ahead of me. My 400-800m pace is awful right now. Though it's possible his performance didn't count because he isn't on strava and thus didn't contest the current (greatest) leaderboard (of all time) for that segment.
Diving through the gate in to the alley, we were both completely wasted so I jogged with Dan and waited for the wave of front runners to join us. Dan looked and sounded like he was at the circus. Before the race I had talked about running a 5:30ish overall time. I assure the reader familiar with the outcome, that this was not 'hot-dogging'. The race is a great leveller because who really knows what kind of shape they are in come mid-Jan? As Chris Brookman, Jon Ellis and Svein Ove Risa caught up to me at the head of the field, I fell in line and at the top of the first of 2 'climbs' on the course, I was still with them so I stuck around. If I'm honest, I expected to be dropped without having to go harder than I was willing to at that point, but that didn't happen.
We rolled on as a group of 4 to Check Point 1. Chris, Jon and I all knew the route so that saved any messing around. Svein had no clue so he stuck with us like glue. Everyone seemed to be coping well with the pace.
Down the Chess Valley and up through the short woodland climb, the group splintered for the first time and there were some horse impressions to be heard from behind. I took the opportunity in the run up to Check Point 2 to push it a bit on any marginal descents and see if anyone went off of the back. My La Sportiva Helios SR, the greatest shoe of all time were handling the mixed terrain well, but I took a big heel skid on some ice on a short road descent ending up in the ditch to the side, however managing to keep it upright was my omen that this was to be a good day. As we got to that second check point, Chris had fallen back just a little, Jon stopped to get something and Svein and I hammered straight through. Checking back on the rollers to Denham and David Hellard was now in third keeping us in sight probably for nav reasons but seemingly unable or unwilling to close the gap. With only a couple of miles to the canal I had a frank conversation with my man Svein. I told him the directions once we hit the canal - 7 miles or so, turn left, see you later - and he asked me if I was planning on dropping him? I told him no that was for him to kick on ahead if he wished.
As we hit the towpath, my watch said 7:02 average pace. My plan was just to try to hold it there and run as even a set of mile splits as I could. Something in my mind seemed to be able to rationalise this being do-able. Last time I ran this stretch of canal, I shat my way to the finish from there in 5+ hours having already covered 125 in the GUCR, in comparison this shouldn't be too bad.
Svein stayed on my shoulder and I decided then that he probably couldn't pass me otherwise he would have done. As we neared check point 3 I decided to put the boot in, hitting the dibber board and kicking the aid station table in one fell swoop like a total amateur. It was so embarrassing. I managed to stay upright however, and I think the shock was enough to scare Svein. I held the same pace to the left turn at which point I checked behind and couldn't see him.
The 'I'm running in the moment, just feeling the natures' is probably the right attitude for 100 milers, but in a straight time trial on a totally flat canal path, that approach is not correct. I decided this was the day to try to 'channel Zach Miller' (4:17: Vid. Another Vid) instead and basically just grit my teeth and run as hard as I could. Plumbing for a Gu gel every 20 minutes as I had from the start gave me just enough fuel in the fire and looking back on the canal as an overall it's one of the most pleasing sections of a race I've ever run. My watch at the finish said 7:03 miling on it, so I'd dropped about 30 seconds on the canal over my average split. I knew where they were too, fumbling a gu on to the ground 12 miles out, and hiking the ramps by Saino's with a mile to go (those ramps suck).
I figured from the canal turn that my time was likely to be around 4:56, but the urge to run under 5 was the over riding one. I knew that if I could sustain that I probably wouldn't get caught and in the end my splits from every section of the course were the fastest, so that was borne out.
In the end I finished in 4:59:19, a pleasing 20 secs under my team mate Danny K's 2014 time, though I have resisted the urge to mention it so far. Ed Catmur's CR 4:48 is light years ahead.
The standard in UK ultra's continues to rise. The average of performances this year were way above any that have come before in part due to the gradual improvement and longevity of so many in the sport. There aren't rafts of new names cropping up, it's the same guys and girls who are putting in the work year after year, accruing that vital base mileage that yields stronger performances. There are no short cuts in this sport!
-Thanks to the guys in our little lead pack for the company at the start, it made the time fly.
- Congrats to my main man Drew Sheffield for bagging his 8th consecutive C2C finish, the only person to have kept such a record going. I can't wait for you to be that weird guy that people point at in a few years time and go, 'that dude has done them all. Surely there are other races out there?' Maybe they already are.
Drew & Claire (Photo: Tim Adams)
- Congrats to Sam Amend making the transition over from the road too for a super ladies course record despite some nav issues. And to Susie Chesher and Jess Gray for pushing her close. It's great to see closer, faster women's races. Our team runner Debs Martin-Consani ran the race too (below), getting in some early season miles and happy to enjoy the day, a solid work out as she builds up to her main season races ahead.
Drew, Debs, James. The Team at the Finish (Photo: Nick Greene/ Debs Martin-Consani)
The line between what might be considered running vs climbing and mountaineering has blurred drastically in recent years. Sky Running has been around for many moons but in the last 5 years has seen a massive elevation in profile thanks to renewed sponsorships. Mountain ultra's have become the pinnacle of many a runner's racing career. They are the culmination of experience and time, a realisation of the energy required to move fast and light, often simply to exist safely in the mountain environment.
This summer over the course of one week, over half of our our ultra team were in the Chamonix Valley, their days and schedules converging at various points to combine in to various training sessions. The Alps in general are spectacular not because of their relatively modest overall altitude, but because of the level of prominence the surrounding peaks and their dramatic terrain. The relief from valley to the summits is breathtaking. The area demands exploration and to do that to the fullest, both running and climbing become important.
Here in the UK, the Lake District offers perhaps the greatest range of accessible terrain. It's possible to get serious pretty quickly in terms of steep ground, yet always be within a short distance from a valley or decent descent option. It's breathtaking beauty never ceases to amaze. One will often find themselves reaching for a camera but most of the time put it back in the pack, because what it'll produce just won't do justice to the experience as a whole of being there in person.
There are 214 Wainwright's in the Lakes, a catalogue of mountains as such. There are scores of other outstanding fells and 'tops' that didn't make Alfred's grade. Similarly there are one or two inclusions which make no sense at all. You may affectionately come to know a couple of fells by variations on their true titles. Armboth (Arm Bog) and Mungrisedale Common (Mung Bog) are undoubtedly two of the most sodden places in England and fail to inspire on an almost dazzling scale. However these are the exception. The majesty of almost every fell in the Lakes is awe inspiring. You are likely to come away with stories from a visit to each one.
As ultra runners, sometimes we can use a break from the cycle of training and racing. Some are better than others at doing so. I've spent the last year or so racing hardly at all and had the most enjoyable period of running in 10 years by a long stretch. Towards the end of 2013, I started to recognise that I'd been chasing arbitrary goals for too long. A bucket list of races, times and PRs to aim for at various distances, a volume of racing that wasn't healthy or sustainable. Then somewhere that all faded in to the background and I'm left with the overwhelming desire, not to race at all.
I've frequently been overwhelmed by what I've found in the Lakes. The way the land, the weather and the people who reside within that environment interact. In winter time, getting to the top of even a lowly peak can be taken away by the weather. We spent a whole week near Coniston one February where the cloud base didn't move above 200 metres and it rained and snowed the daylight hours of every day. That's absolutely typical of winter in the Lakes.
Alfred Wainwright compiled his 214 peaks in to 7 volumes, each focused on a different area of the Lakes. The beauty of those particular fells are the opportunities they present and by visiting the higher ground opened up in part by Wainwright's descriptions, the Lakeland landscape begins to make sense.
As a family we've picked lower/ outlying peaks as mornings or afternoons out. It's hard work carrying a toddler up peaks, but there are some that harbour accessible, relatively gentle inclines, putting them within reach of anybody with a healthy heart and lungs.
Holme Fell with Louis at 6 Months
They've also challenged me to work on my own mountain skills. Being up high in the Lakes when the weather is in, is an incredibly exhilirating experience. It is necessary at times to use all the experience you have to negotiate the terrain safely, particularly in mist or in the dark.
Paul Navesey Descending Hall's Fell, Blencathra
I haven't approached visiting Wainwright's fells in any specific order. There are the stand alone summits that can be reached easily enough from the valleys, but which offer no logical route to additional peaks. The great opportunity with the books isn't there. It's that they enable one to string together groups of fells in to the best running days out I've ever experienced. In April of this year, we stayed in Newlands Valley and spent the morning walking around Buttermere. I ran back on a route over the North Western Fells. It was the best 5 hours of running I've ever had. A day when the weather clears, the wind drops and the Lakes shine in all of their glory.
L to R Mellbreak, Crummock Water and Grasmoor from Whiteless Pike
Red Pike over Buttermere from Grasmoor.
Another Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts dwarfed in the foreground.
The adoration isn't universal. Some local people feel quite differently about Wainwright's guides. They have opened up the opportunity for tourists and 'Peak Baggers' to head directly for remote peaks for no other reason than to tick them off of their lists. In many instances, that involves driving a vehicle as close as possible to the foot of the fell, often blocking farm access or passing spaces, disturbing the peace and tranquility of otherwise remote valleys, and leaving nothing in return for the local community. The same thing happens in Scotland with Munro-ists, in Wales wih people after the 3000's and most every other mountain range going.
Somewhere in there is a balance. What getting to know Wainwright will do, is open up the opportunity for non-Lakes residents to gain a much great understanding of the landscape and how the area links together.
My plan is to write a short piece on each of the 7 books. To give a few ideas for exploration, days out, fells to do with the family and those to put together in to the best of the Lakes. Of course, many of the best routes can be experienced by simply showing up with six or seven quid to a fell race.
Alternatively you could run them all in one go, as Steve Birkinshaw did in under a week in 2014, bettering Joss Naylor's 7 days and 1 hour. His blog is here. A video of his adventure is available here. It is well worth a watch.
I hope that the posts will give a few ideas to those heading out in to the fells for the first time. The most important thing to be aware of is the weather. That was brought home all too clearly last week when Storm Desmond brought 350mm of rain down on Honister in under 24hrs, a UK record, and the widespread flooding of Cumbria as a result was absolutely shocking. Always check the forecast (MWIS & the Met Office), always let someone know where you are going and always make sure you have enough kit on you to get out of trouble by yourself. Lastly and hopefully this goes without saying, don't venture in to mountains of any kind without a map and a compass and the knowledge of how to use them.
I'll link the posts from here as I send them up. The North Western Fells are up first. After all, it's the yellow book....
Could this be the most competitive men's/ women's Centurion 100 miler yet?
The start list for this Saturday's A100 is chock full of solid experienced runners who will all have their eye on the prize. Perhaps the men's field contains a clear favourite in repeat Centurion 100 mile Champ Ed Catmur, but there isn't otherwise a stand out name that looks set to run away from the rest of the field. The battle behind Ed looks set to be an epic, with the chance that if Ed suffers his usual late race fade, he may be overhauled....
In the ladies race, we have Sally Ford - winner of all 3 previous 100s in 2015 and going for the Slam with a 4th title, up against reigning champ and course record holder Sarah Morwood. What a battle this could be. Behind those two and similar to the men's field, there is a good number of exciting solid female runners who will be waiting in the wings should things not go as per the script....
As usual with this course, nothing matters until mile 50. The first loop times we see are usually off the scale leading to some almighty blow ups late in the day. Perhaps this race more than any other lures people in to neglecting their pacing. We'll see who emerges on top once the carnage has time to unfold but one thing is for sure, look for many of the early leaders to fade in the second half.
Ed Catmur: 2013 Champ, 2nd in 2014. A man with a 2:32 marathon PB and so much experience is capable of running close to 14hrs on this course, and perhaps this is his race. Ed won the NDW100 in 18:02 a couple of months ago but slowed greatly in the final stages. At last years W100 his 3:03 opening lap was followed up by a 5:56 final spur. If he can run a solid final 25 he can and should be running clear of the field as usual.
Ed at our very first event in 2011
Dave Ross: The journeyman. Dave's odyssey of racing continues on in relentless fashion. The Grand Slam record holder is looking for his 5th 100 mile finish of 2015, and comes off of the back of the Stage Coach 100 just 2 weeks ago. Can he recover in time to race as hard as usual? Almost certainly.
Duncan Oakes: Perhaps the most solid performer in the field. Duncan's last handful of 100 mile results read 1st NDW100, 5th CWC, 1st AofA, 3rd WHW, 3rd LL100. You can't argue with that. He perhaps doesn't have the out and out pace of Ed, but he'll be competitive all the way to the finish and fades less hard than most.
Ed Egelie: This man has 3 finishes to his name on this course including a 17:44 in 2013. He has reached new heights this year and is running his best season yet. Look out for him to break the 17hr barrier.
Ollie Stoten: Ollie has a couple of 100 mile finishes to his name and 2015 wins at the T60 night race as well as a very impressive early season victory at Country to Capital. Getting stronger every year, can he go all the way this time.
Sam Robson: Originally in for the Slam but stopping during the first 2, Sam's form is an unknown but he has some fine results historically to fall back on.
Peter Kaminsky: 2015 SDW100 Champ after Stellan ran off course with 5 miles to go, and behind Sally Ford in the overall Grand Slam standings for 2015 by jus 26 mins, he'll have his eye on two prizes here....
Barry Miller: Barry brought home 3rd at this event in 17:14 in 2013. He's since gone on to finish the US Slam and ran Western States this summer. If he's in shape he'll be hoping to repeat perhaps his best ever run from a couple of years ago.
Barry during the 2013 Event
Warwick Gooch: A super solid runner with lots of 100 mile(+) experience, similar to Duncan, he rarely fades and knows how to get it done mentally. Still remembered foremost for his stellar Caesars Camp win in 2012.
Ziggy Stardust: Zig, the salty ol' dog, has a couple of half decent results to his name, but comes in to this looking for 'a different view on things'. If he starts which is not yet a given, it'll be more about his celebrity pacer than him.
Linn Erixon Sahlstrom: Linn ran close to Sarah and Debbie in the 2014 edition of this event before dropping. She has some good results behind her including wins at CTS Sussex and the Imber Ultra in 2015 - she'll be looking for retribution here.
Sarah Morwood: Reigning champ and with mostly extremely good results in 2015. She picked up the wins at the SDW50, Race to the Stones and just a couple of weeks ago the 3 x 3000 up in the Lakes. These amongst others. A DNF at UTMB may play on her mind a little but unlikely, she's always smiling and is a joy to have at events but is a fierce competitor and she will want to win this one.
Sarah flying in 2014
Sally Ford: Champ at the first 3 x 100s of 2015 including most recently a course record at the NDW100. She'll be looking to make it the Slam of wins, but also finish first outright in the Slam overall by holding on to her 26 min advantage over second place Peter Kaminsky.
Sarah Sawyer: Sarah bagged her first 100 mile finish at the TP100 this year, and went on to win RTP Ecuador this summer. Look out for a strong second half and for her to close down anyone ahead.
Wendy Shaw: This must be Wendy's 11th or 12th feature in a Pre Race Preview. She perhaps doesn't have the speed against the front 2, but she knows how to get it done and finish strong. Has well over 1000 Centurion miles to her name. Experience counts for so much here.
As usual if anyone is missing that you feel warrants a mention please do leave a comment. Live timings will be available on the website during the event.