Following a lengthy string of comments to a facebook status back in March 2014, Lisa Maughan (fellow club member) and I ended up entering the 30 mile multi terrain White Rose Ultra Marathon. A little later in the year Sara Richard (fellow club member), during a run with the beginners group, had been talked into joining us. The three of us had done marathons before and now we were about to break our ultra virginity.
The White Rose Ultra Marathon was Hosted by Team OA in the fabulous Colne Valley in God’s own country…. Yorkshire the heart of Great Britain!
They gave the choice of a 60 or 30 mile options.
After completing this years London Marathon, the White Rose Ultra had become my “A” race for the remainder of the year. Looking at the course map and profile, I knew this was going to be a tough race and serious training was needed. I found a 16 week first 50k training plan on the Internet which suited my training opportunities.
After months of 5 days a week training, which in included hill rep sessions and back to back long runs on the weekends, I managed to improve my fitness to a level needed to complete this event. Lisa and Sara had also been working extremely hard in their training and when possible we accompanied each other in training.
In the final month leading up to this ultra I was running really well, the weeks of hard graft were showing and as I started my taper I was feeling confident of completing the race. Although there was always doubt in the back of my mind if I would finish, 30 miles is a long way. Before we knew it race day was here and it was time to reap the rewards of the hard training and have some fun.
Leading up the the event I had been doing lots of research and trial and error on what would be best for me to wear on race day. Finally I decided on a long sleeve running shirt, club vest, A400 long skins, shorts over skins, cushioned running socks and Mizuno Wave Cabrakan 5 trail shoes. My pack was a Nathan X-Treme hydration pack and my jacket was a Marmot Mica. I managed to stow all the compulsory kit in the pack and also took soreen lunch box bars and Torq energy gels (black cherry).
With my fantastic support crew, Elaine (wife) and Niamh (daughter), we picked up Sara early on Sunday morning and headed to Marsden in West Yorkshire. Arriving nice and early we met up Lisa and final race prep got under way. Following a few last min decisions about what kit to wear and what to carry oh and the numerous trips to the toilet (Lisa and Sara) we were ready.
We were called to the start line and following the good luck wishes from Elaine And Niamh and the pre race briefing the starting gun went off. Previous experience of hearing a starting gun everyone runs off as hard as they can, because every second counts, but today was different.
The race got underway with a gentle downhill jog for about 0.5 mile where we turned a corner to see the start of the 4.5 mile climb in which we were going to gain about 900 feet. Just prior to the start of the race it had been raining so I decided to wear my jacket. However, within the first mile The rain had stopped and I was getting warm so I stopped, removed my jacket and stowed it away in my pack. At this point i lost sight of Lisa and Sara, but I knew they were quicker than me so was not bothered and onwards I went.
Before the race I had made the decision, after talking to our club ultra experts, to walk most of the up hill sections and to run the flat and downhill sections. After mixture of running and walking and enjoying the scenery I had made it to the highest point of the race and the first drinks station at approximately 5 miles. Stupidly I thought that was the toughest bit of the route done, oh how I was going to be proven wrong later. I briefly stopped at the drinks station and under the expert instruction of Sarah Fuller (club member and ultra expert) I had some cake and water.
The next section to 10 miles was mainly downhill, sounded great but my quads took a pounding. Just before the downhill section Elaine and Niamh were waiting to give support as I passed. I learnt that Lisa and Sara were about 5 mins ahead of me and I pushed on to the next drinks station.
I soon learnt that people who do ultra marathons are a totally different bread of runner. On the odd occasion I overtook someone (I know, I over took someone I could not believe it either) or someone overtook me we would have a chat for a while before pressing on.
The 10 mile drinks station came and went and before I knew if I had done a half marathon. I felt good and the race walk/run plan was going well. However the relentless uphill sections were starting to take its toll and I was starting to feel it in my hamstrings. There was another drinks station at 15 miles and I had made it to half way. Refuelling with sweet and savoury snacks and a drink of water I pushed on up another hill. Now I was counting down the miles.
The first half of the race had a few steep hills, however the second half had lots of energy zapping up and down hills and not many flat bits in between. Just before 20 miles I found Elaine and Niamh again, Elaine was directing runners down the correct path, apparently a few had taken the wrong path, while Niamh played played with the horse who had come to say hello. Just at that moment, Lisa’s husband Carl rolled up on his bike to say hello and he was informed that Lisa and Sara were about 30min ahead.
I had made it to the aid station where again sweet and savoury snacks were devoured. By this point my legs were starting to wonder what the hell I was doing, but I refuelled and went on. I ran some of the next section with a couple who were doing the 60 mile option. At this point I knew I was going to finish and after a few miles they pressed on ahead.
After a nasty downhill section (ski jumps are less severe) we had arrived at the 25 mile station. This was the final checkpoint of the race. During the course of the race I had been sipping on electrolyte drink from my backpack bladder. This had unfortunately ran out at about mile 23 so I refilled the bladder, ate some peanuts and salted pretzels and with a handful of jelly babies I left the checkpoint.
The final 5 miles felt like the hardest of the entire race! I’m not sure how much that was due to very tired and sore legs or if it was actually hard. I was very pleased to pass the marathon distance, now I was in unfamiliar waters as I had never gone beyond 26.2 miles before. It was at this point I was sick of bloody hills, normally I loved hills but now I hated them. My legs were very tired and sore at this point and a string of stiles to climb over is not what you want to see.
We passed through the final few fields and marsh land to be greeted with the final climb of the race. This late on the final hill was very tough and with screaming legs I reached the top and before I knew it I could see the finish. The finish was back at the cricked pavilion which was now visible across the valley. Approximately one mile to go!!! Down the track away from the pavilion to where the track met the road and it was then back down the road to the finish.
I summoned some energy from somewhere to jog the final mile home, thankfully it was gravity assisted. Within the final 400m I realised what I was about to achieve, I was about to complete a 30 mile ultra marathon and at that moment with clenched fists I swore out loud to all of those people who had ever doubted me!
Having now composed myself again I approached the entrance to the cricket field and with one clockwise half lap of the ground I was welcomed home by Elaine, Niamh and Sara (Lisa had to dash off) and all the other runners and supports. I had done it!!!
I climbed the steps to the club house and embraced Elaine and Niamh. I ventured inside to make sure I collected my finishers shirt and medal. I grabbed a bacon roll and coffee and chatted about the day, exchanging experiences before heading home.
I learnt a lot during this race, the ultra community is a really friendly and welcoming one, you learn to push you body past pre-perceived limits and you get to eat cake. Yes it was tough but I loved it and this is just the start of ultra running for me!!
Lisa and Sara completed the race in about 6hrs 35mins and I completed it in about 7hrs 35mins. But the times are irrelevant to me, my aim was to complete the race and enjoy it. Job done !!
Here is a link to my strava page.