19 Nov 16 by James Elson

2016 Wendover Woods 50 Preview

The final event of 2016 and a brand new one, the Wendover Woods 50 is going to be a great spectacle. The course consists of five 10 mile loops, each with just under 2000ft of climbing for a grand total of 10000ft of climbing fun. 

For a deeper look in to the course, you can check out our breakdown here in our notes for runners. 

It's certainly the case that patience will pay huge dividends in the later laps. Expect some to go off hard and pay the price with an early bath or a painful grind to the finish. 

With 47 people looking to complete the inaugural 50 Mile Grand Slam of 4 Events in one year (the latest table of results is here), there is set to be some jubilation and most likely some heartbreak too at this one. Janette Cross leads the ladies standings and Warwick Gooch the mens. Hold on to your seats!!!

It's great to see a deeper level of competition at the front end in both the men's and women's fields. Here's a quick run down of some of the likely contenders. 

MEN

Jon Ellis: After his run at this years Chiltern Wonderland 50, there is one clear favourite coming in. It's really hard to compare performances race on race but ceratainly with regards to the Male Performance of the year, Jon's would be a clear favourite amongst the 50s and a top 3 overall (Mark Denby's A100 and Craig Holgates TP100 down as the other two). He led from the gun and ran extremely well over the closing miles, despite holding a lead of over an hour on the rest of the field once Neil Kirby had stopped at the second to last check point. He really showed his class that day and it will be great to see him match that performance here. 

Jon Eliis at the CW50

Neil Kirby: Winner of this years SDW50, NDW50, SDW100 and NDW100 - Neil was flying until the CW50. He changed tactic there, coming in off of no taper and wasn't able to sustain Jon's pace once they'd pushed through Bix at mile 17. In the end he stopped short at that one, but he will want retribution for that here and it will be great to see those two go head to head again. Living in Eastbourne, Neil gets some good climbing in his legs on the SDW so he will likely fancy the set up of this course.

Neil at the SDW100

John Stocker: Our new Grand Slam 100 Mile Record Holder, with podiums at our last three races including the Chiltern Wonderland 50 he will both be looking to complete the 50 Mile Slam and do so in style. He ran the NDW50 with his wife Leanne so looks unlikely to challenge for the overall 50 Mile Slam title however. 

Sergiy Ionov: Flew on to the radar with a 27:27 for 13th at this years Spartathlon. That is a really stellar effort, but of course on the road. That being said he has also finished top 50 at the MDS, a 27 hour Lakeland 100 and taken a podium place at the Wall this year, suggesting he is good on a variety of terrain. 

Mark Innocenti: Mark had a good NDW50 this year, finishing 7th overall, but gets a mention here after a strong Stort 30 mile race last month where he clocked 3:16. This is a hugely different proposition but clearly the top end pace is there for him and he will be looking to step it up from his super debut 50 on the NDW.

The 50 mile Grand Slam record (this is the inaugural year) looks to be heading in one of three directions - Warwick Gooch (22:20), Dean Oldfield (22:36) or Nick Greene (23:39) - all three could be competitive in this race too, however this course could easily set a runner back multiple hours should they have a bad day, and there are a host of runners on 25:** hours behind them that could come through for at least a podium position. 

 

LADIES

Sam Amend: Sam has unmatched raw speed (2:42 marathon) and comes in to this one with a first and extremely solid full year in ultrarunning behind her. Having dabbled in the past, she kicked off her 2016 campaign with a new ladies course record at Country to Capital, fending off Susie Chesher and Jess Gray whom have both gone on to super performances later in the year. Sam then moved on to the TP100, finishing 2nd overall to Craig Holgate and shattering the best all-time female 100 mile time we'd had at one of our events (this has since been bettered by Susie Chesher at the A100). She then moved on to 100km and won the Energia race in 8:09, a superb first 100km effort but one she is undoubtedly capable of bettering. Sam's recent run at the World 50km Champs saw her earn her GB vest. 

Jess Gray: Jess had a great start and end to the year with a third at Country to Capital, a win at the SDW50 then in October a 2nd at the A100 in a superb time of 16:42. In between she stopped short at the NDW50 and SDW100 so she will undoubtedly want to come through and finish the year on a high with a good result here on a course that's very close to home. 

Sarah Sawyer: Sarah has had a great year with lots of varied racing across different distances and terrains. She's able to turn her hand to each discipline successfully and most recently ran an 18:39 for 3rd at the Berlin 100 and a 2nd at Racing The Planet's Atacama Crossing in October. 

Sophie Carter: Much like Sam, for raw speed Sophie is in a class above, in fact probably a class above almost all of the men too, with a 2:48 marathon PR. Recently she came home 1st/ 7th overall at the Stort 30 and although on a flat course, showed good sign that a conversion to trail and ultra running may go off with a bang. 

 

With Live Timings after each 10 mile loop, tune in to the home page from 0800 Saturday 26th November for tracking and updates.

This is a brand new race on a new course. The format is 5 x 10 mile loops, returning each time to the field in which you will register on race morning. There is one other aid station at 5.5 miles in to each 10 mile loop. So effectively 9 aid stations and then the finish. 

The point of this post is to give you an insight in to the course, the possible conditions and how to best prepare during these final few weeks to race day.

Many of you have recce'd the course so are by now familiar with the terrain and are well placed to think about the format and your race plan. Some of you cannot get to the course before race day and/or are new to this area and this format so this post is designed to give you some key pointers to think about in order to have your best day out on course.

The Gruffalo Resides in the Woods at Mile 1.

FORMAT

Laps are not to everyones liking, but if you are running the race then you have signed up for a race including 5 x 10 mile loops so we are taking it for a given that you either like a looped format, or giving it a go for the first time to see!

The benefits of laps are: Familiarity with the course during the later loops. Sharing the trail later in the race with runners at differing ends of the speed spectrum. A natural break down of the race in to smaller chunks than 50 miles point to point offers. Regular access to both our aid stations and your own provisions (you may access your drop bag each 10 miles).

Some potential challenges of laps are: Repetition of the course. Sharing the trail with faster runners who come past looking as though they are out for a 5km. A natural break down of the course in to the perfect point to quit every 10 miles. Regular access to aid stations and your own provisions where you may be inclined to waste time.

Think about the positives, not the challenges. And if you complain about having to run the same loop 5 times, it will fall on deaf ears of the Race Director who twice this year has 'had' to run 24 hour races on 1km road loops. We choose to do these things for fun!!

THE COURSE

The course is tough. No doubt. It contains specific challenges - but these things are relative. Despite some runners returning from recces with reports of experiencing 'unrunnable bushwhacking', 100% of this course is on legitimate trail, some of it is just a bit more challenging that you get on a National Trail.

The course is characterised by a variety of different trail formats.

About a third of the course is wide open groomed trail or dirt road. Descents tend to allow for some very quick running. Ascents on these can be steep but some are runnable.

A Smooth Runnable Trail Descent in Wendover Woods

About a third of the course is on narrower trail/ single or double track which if dry makes for good running downhill, and will yield quickly to a good efficient hiking technique uphill. If muddy and wet some of these sections will become tougher going particularly later in the race with the passing of many feet before. 

An Uphill Section of Trail Towards the End of the WW50 Loop

The final third of the course is a mixture of challenges which are the signature of this course. We wanted to include features that you can reflect on and try to explain to your mates post race about just how epic they are. There are five climbs on the course that in anyones book are very steep and probably unrunnable for all but a few at the sharp end of the race. The bonus is that these steep climbs are short. In reality the longest they will last is just a few minutes each. BE PATIENT, go easy, hike away. The top will come. Some have some small sections of stairs, you may even need to use a few trees as resting posts along the way. That's ok! From the top you get a nice runnable descent on the other side - of every single one. There are two descents which are narrow and rutted and require a steady footing, one down in to a field we have dubbed Power Line and one down a section of what is actually the Ridgeway National Trail which resembles somewhat a ditch and is challenging because it is filled with loose branches and stones. These sections last no more than a couple of minutes.

The Snake - A Steep but Wide Climb in the Second Half of the Loop

A Steep Section of Single Track At The End of the Loop

Gnarking Around - One of the Steepest Sections on the Course. 

COME PREPARED WITH....

You need not fear the race or the route. Rather come armed with:

- Patience. A sensible pacing plan early on will reap huge benefits later as you find yourself trotting past runners who went out too hard, on very straight forward runnable sections. We expect a large number of runners to stop after 3, 2 or even just 1 loop. The excuses will as usual run the full range. Most of those who stop will simply be beaten psychologically. Probably having gone too quickly. Don't come to us and complain that the course was too tough to finish. You have 16 hours to get this done should you require them. That is an average pace of 3.13mph. MUCH OF THE COURSE IS GOOD RUNNING which means that even if you take a large amount of time to make your way up the few very steep (and short) climbs - as long as you keep moving, focus on an even effort and don't waste time in check points, there is an extremely good chance you will finish. 

- A good hiking technique. Practice during training. 9500ft of climb is not excessive in the world of MUT Running. Relatively, UTMB has the equivalent of 16500ft of climbing per 50 miles for example. However it is substantial and requires runners to be efficient in switching between running and hiking. If you want to bring poles, bring poles.

- Condition your quads. Descents, even shallow ones offering relatively good running, turn to painful plods later on if you race the early downhill miles and damage your quads.

- Time Targets. We've set a 16 hour cut off at this race, rather than the usual 13 hours we allow at our other 50 mile events. The reason for this is that the course is tougher than the other three mainly in that it contains more climb and will therefore be slower going. We have a large number of 50 mile Slammers starting this final event and we want to give each of you but especially those runners every opportunity to finish this final race. Not to be beaten by a tight time target. The fact that we have added three hours to the overall cut off should tell you something about how difficult we rate the course vs the other three 50 mile events we stage. Plan for that. If you are coming in to this with a plan to run your 'flat 50 mile time plus 1 hour' we strongly suggest you offer yourself a little more slack in your pacing plan.

- Footwear: The Age Old Question, what shoes should I wear? A decent trail shoe with good grip is advised. If it's very muddy, in some places it won't matter what you've got on because you will be slipping around whatever the case. BUT if you wear something with good grip you stand a much  better chance of making good time and preventing slipping and sliding around on the vast swathes of the course which will be good going no matter what the weather.

Relax, Enjoy, You Got This.