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.
Remember that whether you have recce'd or not, this course will be marked, re marked and checked constantly throughout the race with the intention that navigation never be an issue for you on course. Nevertheless you must concentrate throughout the race because of the number of turns/ markings you will see. It will be very easy to wander past a marking or a turn if you are in a daydream.
The Gruffalo Resides in the Woods at Mile 1.
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.
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.
Last year the winners came home in an average of 9 min miling. If it were unrunnable bushwhacking, those kind of times would simply not be possible.
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 15 hours to get this done should you require them. 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. 10000ft 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 15 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 two 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.
- 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.
The fifth and final 100 of our 2019 season sees 250 runners toe the line as usual, with a raft of different goals.
34 are hoping to finish their fourth 100 of the year and complete the Grand Slam. Of those, particular mention goes to John Melbourne. John needs to run 20:21:09 or better to take the new mens record from last years champion Peter Windross. In the womens standings, Karen Doak leads Rebecca Lane by just 8 minutes coming into this final race.
The Grand Slam table is available here.
Here is a quick preview of the leading runners coming in to this weekend.
Laura Swanton: 2018 winner here in 18:27 as she capped off her Grand Slam record setting year, Laura also finished on the podium at all of our other 100s in 2018. She started 2019 with a win at the Arc of Attrition 100 before winning Devon Coast to Coast. She has recently run long, at the end of last month she ran Tooting 24 hour and looks to have made just over 100 miles.
Laura with her first Centurion trophy after winning this event in 2018
Amy Sarkies: Amy set a new Wendover Woods 50 mile record at the end of the 2018 season, racing home just a second inside Sam Amends existing mark. That followed an excellent third place at Lakeland 50. This year she opened her account with a second place at the SDW50 in 7:22. It looks to be her first 100.
Amy set a new course record at last years Wendover Woods 50
Edwina Sutton: Centurion Ultra Team runner Eddie has an ultra career spanning back to 2011 with many notable wins and records to her name. Earlier in her racing days she set the SDW50 course record which was only betttered this year for the first time. She has amongst other things also taken home the crown at the Chiltern Wonderland 50 and finished 2nd in the British 100km champs. This year to date she has picked up a win at the Devils Challenge multi-day over the South Downs Way, but dropped out of the SDW100 in June with a foot injury. She has been working her way back to fitness and therefore has a primary focus on finishing what will be her first 100, as she returns to full strength.
Eddie running to victory at the CW50 in 2016.
Samantha Lloyd: Samantha took 3rd at this years SDW100 and has previously finished in the top ten at Wendover Woods 50, SDW50, NDW50 twice and was 5th at last months CW50.
Catherine Stoneman: Catherine has a 2nd at the Pilgrims Challenge and a win at the Serpent Trail 100km to her name so far in 2019.
John Melbourne: John as mentioned already leads the Grand Slam standings this year. He has run under 15 hours twice so far in 2019, at both the TP100 and the SDW100, finishing second in both. The NDW100 was a tougher day out but he got it done and will certainly want to finish an incredible year well at this race.
John Melbourne at this years NDW100
Geoff Cheshire: Geoff ran out front of this years SDW100 until deep into the race, where issues compounded to force him to drop at the final check point with 4 miles to go. It was a charging John Melbourne who passed him just before that point. Geoff has previously taken home victory at the Chiltern Wonderland 50 and race to the stones. He has a great deal of ability and if he has a good day here will go fast.
Geoff winning the CW50 at this very location in 2018
Henrik Westerlin: Henrik has some impressive accolades to his name. In 2014, he ran a then Danish 100 mile record of 14:42 at Rocky Raccoon 100, having shared the trail with this author for the final loop and running off to beat him by 8 minutes at the end :) He has represented Denmark on the Trails and at the 24hr format and finished 5th at Spartathlon. In 2019 so far he's had a 15th at the competitive Ultra Trail Mount Fuji and solid finishes in half a dozen other ultras. It will be great to see him racing here in the UK.
Ian Hammett: We had Ian down as a DNS as two weeks ago he ran a superb 7th at this years Spartathlon. The winner of this years TP100 has decided to toe the line here too so it will be fascinating to see how quickly he can bounce back from another long effort.
Peter Kaminsky: Peter was our SDW100 champion in 2015, a year when he also ran this event and came home in 5th place in a time of 16:29. In a short space of time he ran 100 ultras and had wins at various different distances on the way. He then took a couple of years off before last year racing a dozen ultras again in 2018 though not to quite the same standard as before.
Stephen Marks: Earlier in the year, Stephen finished just behind Geoff at the 43 mile country to capital, in third place. His pace on the flat is excellent and with the experience of going long, having run Lakeland 100 in the pairs division with running partner Dean Oldfield for each of the last five years if he can put both things together here he could run a blazing fast race.
Paul Russhard: Paul had a superb run for 2nd at this years NDW50 where he finished just over 7 hours. Earlier in the year he won the Pilgrims Challenge on the same trail. In 2018, he was 2nd at the NDW100 having led much of the way before a hard charging Matt Dickinson ran though late on for the win. In 2017, he finished in the top 5 at the first three 50s of the year. He has lots of fine performances behind him and if he comes in with his race face on he will push the front.
Alistair Palmer: Alistair finished 5th at the CW50 last month and that followed a win earlier this year at the Testway 50. Last year he ran home 2nd at the SDW50 and took 5th at the SDW100 in a solid 16:35.
There are at least five other guys in the field with the potnetial to run well inside the top ten, so we are looking forward to a really exciting race.
Follow it live from 0900 Saturday via the Live Timings Page here, and via our social media channels.