Hey hey hey party people. Here is my latest race write up from November’s White Rose Ultra 60.
This race wasn’t as ridiculous or as mentally eventful as the UT110, so I’ve decided to give a run-down of some memorable snippets, rather than a blow-by-blow account of the race. Here’s how the White Rose Ultra 60 unfolded for me…
Location: Golcar, West Yorkshire
Distance: 60 miles (2×30 mile laps)
UTMB points: 2 points
The aim of the run
I’d entered this race with a view to it being a training run and to troubleshoot any kit issues before a longer race in February. It was to be a training run to put some miles on my legs. So with this in mind, I didn’t really think too much about kit preparation until the day before I left for Huddersfield. The whole thing didn’t actually feel real until I clocked off work at 5.30pm on the Friday night.
Preparation for this race had been pretty sloppy, by anyone’s standards! Before it, I hadn’t run more than 20 miles since the UT110…in June. I’d been keeping fit and active in between, of course, but I hadn’t really kept up with my long runs very well at all. Whoops.
I’m normally very organised, but for this race, I seemed to have adopted a ‘let’s see what happens on the day’ approach. Ballsy, or stupid – I’m not sure which!
Since I’ve taken a temporary retail job for the festive period, with work alone I’m on my feet for a minimum of 45 hours a week. I worked up until the Friday before the race, which gave me Saturday to rest my legs. I continued running daily up until the Wednesday, then gave myself three ‘run-free’ days before the race. I’m fairly used to not sitting down for the most-part of my week, so not having fresh legs is the norm for me. I don’t know what I’d do if I was sat down all week…probably scratch a hole into the desk!
Getting to Huddersfield
Now that I’m back in London, getting to the start-line of races is generally much easier than when I was on Craggy Island. I caught a train to East Midlands Parkway, and then the Megabus from there to Huddersfield. Someone on the Megabus had an egg sandwich. Of course.
When I arrived in Huddersfield I checked in to my hotel: a spectacularly old fashioned disabled room.
Pre-race diggs. I'm all about the glamour me. I have landed myself a disabled room with no kettle…but with a fridge, a microwave and lots of tv channels. Shame I won't be here tomorrow night to get the benefit of a ground-floor room with no stairs! Happy I can have my porridge hot tomorrow before the race. Day? Made. #running #ultra #ultramarathon #endurancelife #trail #trailrunning #inov8 #likealass
This is quite embarrassing to actually admit, but the night before the race was a bit of a disaster on the food front.
I had picked up some last minute food bits at Sainsbury’s while mooching around Huddersfield that afternoon. One of those items was a granola cookie. This was a big mistake! I ate the cookie at the hotel, and then ate my dinner – porridge – and then a chocolate bar. And then another chocolate bar. The taste of sugar from the cookie made me crave more and more sugar. Even though I knew it wouldn’t end well, and that I was possibly sabotaging my own race, I didn’t keep any of it down.
In terms of what fuel I had actually taken on and kept, I have no idea. It was foolish, but I just felt so anxious about having eaten the sugary foods. The one thing that I did eat and keep down, however, was a bag of Hula Hoops. Not a great start to the race by any means, but this blog is here to be honest about what went down, so here it is!
The race started at 8am, and I really didn’t want to get up crazy early to eat, so I had breakfast at 5.30am. This gave me more or less enough time to eat, digest, ‘etc’ before the off.
Breakfast for me was the usual affair of porridge with chia seeds and a spoonful of peanut butter. In addition to this I had a peanut butter and jam sandwich, plus a couple of mugs of coffee.
Breakfast alone was probably something in the region of 800-1000kcal. As a number this seems high, but I don’t mind too much since I never eat for the first two hours of the race. Breakfast that morning had to see me through the first 4.5 hours of the day – two of which were running.
Wish me a safe passing! Cut-off is midnight. Bus back to work is at 11pm…hoping to a) have an enjoyable and safe run, b) make it back for my bus…else I'm not making it to work in the morning! See you in 60 miles Inshallah #running #ultra #ultramarathon #endurancelife #trail #trailrunning #inov8 #likealass #lululemon #whiteroseultra
A big part of success – or ‘failure’ – in running long distance can often boil down to some very basic functions: eating and pooping.
That morning, I think I’d had one too many coffees: things were not looking happy on the toilet front. I’ll avoid entertaining anything too graphic, but to be blunt, I had the shits.
I normally carry in my race kit a whole plethora of drugs – paracetamol, Immodium, indigestion medicine, ibuprofen – but in starting my kit prep the night before I left for the race, I hadn’t packed any Immodium.
This resulted in me asking around the other runners if they had anything for an ‘upset stomach’. This wasn’t my finest or most dignified hour, but I’d rather ask than not!
It turns out nobody had any medicine. Wonderful. I realised that I would just have to deal with what my body threw at me along the way.
I don’t know how, but my stomach seemed to settle right at the very last minute. After the last mad dash to the bathroom, I didn’t incur any issues. Which is just as well, since I’d forgotten to pack any tissues!
Piss poor preparation leads to piss poor performance.
I generally swear by this, but my head was not screwed on at all for this race.
‘Don’t try anything new on the day’
We have all been given this advice. And sound advice it is!
Quite why I often ignore it is beyond me, but the WRU60 presented a unique opportunity to test some bits of kit over 60 miles. Since I was just running the race to put miles on the legs and to test my kit for Febuary’s 100, I decided that I would try out some new bits and pieces.
The Salmon S-lab pack: prior to the WRU60, I’d used this pack once over around 20 miles. I nearly used it for the UT110, but I chickened out as it didn’t feel like a good fit. I generally always use my UD Jenny pack. It turns out the Salomon vest was a delight. It didn’t bounce, chafe or rub. Hurrah. Salmon pack, I’ll see you on the 100!
Bottles and bladders: I always use a bladder, rather than body-bottles, but from past experience, when your hands are cold, filling up a bladder can be a bit of a faff. Of course race marshals almost always offer to do it for you, but you still have to take your whole pack off to refill it. For the WRU60 I decided to use the Salomon body-bottles. I found these enormously helpful in that I could see how much I was drinking, rather than relying just on the weight of my pack to gage how much I’d drank. It was also a lot easier for refilling at the aid stations.
The Inov8 Roclite 280 shoes: prior to the race I’d worn these shoes perhaps 8-9 times, one of which was the 4 hour job in Switzerland. They had been comfortable in the race in Switzerland – despite being brand new – so I decided I’d take them out on a longer test run. This was a bit of a risky strategy, but I just had a hunch they’d be OK, so I went with it. I left a second pair of shoes at the half-way point, just in case. It turns out they were OK. These shoes were a real delight to run in. Sure, I got a blister on the top of one toe, but over 60ish miles, that is almost to be expected.
If there’s one thing that can turn my mood sour, it’s being somewhere near the end of a race, but not knowing what time it is.
I nearly lost my rag in the UT110 when I was nearing the finish line but didn’t know what time it was, or how much further I had left to go. I was in some kind of mini-rage. When I found out that I had four miles left, rather than around two, I nearly cried. I was keen to avoid this happening again!
When I bought my Garmin (Forerunner 110), I didn’t think that I’d need a battery life of longer than 8 hours. Little did I know! My Garmin will generally die around the 8 hour mark if I’m using GPS, and I can rely on my phone to be dead by the end of a long race, so I’m often left for the final hours of a race not knowing what time it is.
In longer races, I’m generally not that fussed about what pace I’m holding since the terrain and ascent inevitably change what pace is suitable to run at.
For this race, I decided not to bother using the GPS. I used my Garmin as a watch, rather than for any other function. Any watch would have done just fine! I paced myself by what felt right for me, rather than by my watch. I’m happy to say that it all worked out fine.
The aid stations were every five miles, so it was easy enough to keep a tab on how far I’d run, and how much further I had to go. Just knowing the overall time was plenty enough information for me. I felt calm knowing what time it was, and how long in total I had been out for.
Seeing a 14 minute mile as you’re climbing a hill might be helpful for some people, but since I generally run by feel on long distances, I don’t really gain much benefit from knowing my exact speed.
My ‘splits’ looked more or less like this:
First 30 miles: 5 hours 45 (then 5 minutes or so at the bag drop to restock my munchies)
Second 32 miles: 6 hours 40 (which included leisurely stops and chats at each aid station)
Had I not have got lost (see below!), my second lap would have taken around 6 hours 15. So all in all, pacing by feel seemed to work out fine for me, and I’ll likely adopt not using a Garmin for my next long race.
The only thing that I don’t like about this is that I don’t get a pretty ascent profile – but I can pinch one off another runner at some point, since we (mostly) did the same course!
The ‘bog of doom’
Somewhere around mile 2 (and later, mile 32) there was a bog that is fondly known as ‘the bog of doom’. And bog of doom it was!
Since I hadn’t read the race route or looked at the profile, every part of the race came fresh and as a surprise. My hopes of keeping my feet dry for the race, therefore, were enormously unrealistic! Both feet vanished into a vat of swamp around the 20 minute mark. Quite what this swamp contained is best left to the imagination, but I will highlight that it was in a field full of cows. I need say no more!
The obligatory fall
Yes yes, I know. I seem to fall a lot in races. It’s never on the tricky terrain either!
At mile 28 I was running down on some slippery concrete slabs. They weren’t very even, but they weren’t proving much of an issue. So on I trotted.
When terrain becomes predicatble, it’s easy to zone out and not concentrate on what is under foot. This is always when I am likely to fall. In this case, there was a tiny, rogue rock at the side of the pathway. I caught my foot and then superman-skidded across the concrete. The concrete was wet with muddy water, so that wasn’t delightful. I caught both my knees, my elbow and my right hand. I’m still pulling tiny bits of pavement out of my fingers!
Thankfully the bark was worse than the bite, and although my cuts stung a lot, they weren’t enough to bother stopping for.
Shit, I’m lost
After the mile 35 check-point I was back in space-cadet mode and I missed my turning. This was the first time I’d ever found myself off a course, and I panicked.
I knew that I was doing quite well, and I really didn’t want to muck up my run by getting lost. After around ten minutes of running in the wrong direction, I hit a cross-roads. Since I couldn’t see any arrows, the logical thing to do was to turn back on myself and retrace my steps. Thankfully when I asked some dog-walkers, they pointed me in the right direction. Adding an extra 2 miles onto a 60 mile race isn’t ideal, but it has given me a sharp wake-up call to be more vigilant when I’m out there!
When I thought that I was lost again somewhere around mile 45 I nearly cried. I really couldn’t handle being lost again – especially in the dark. But thankfully I continued along the road and eventually saw an arrow. What a relief that was!
Singing in the dark
The WRU60 was also the first time I’ve ever had to run in the dark on my own. I’m a massive wimp, and despite the fact I love running in the dark, I do find it quite daunting if I’m on my own.
You can only imagine how much I bricked it when I saw two men in tracksuits walking towards me in the pitch black in the middle of the hills. These guys were probably just coming in from a walk, but I was acutely aware of the fact that I was a lone female in the middle of nowhere. The runners behind me were a good twenty minutes behind, so I felt really quite vulnerable.
After that, I ran along with my iPod in, refusing to acknowledge any ‘night noises’ of the hills. I sang along – out loud – to my music until I reached the road. The hills of Yorkshire were serenaded with Beyonce, Rudiemental and Candi Station. Hills, you are welcome.
Water intake and peeing
The weather on the day of the run was glorious – blue skies, sunshine…and heat. I hadn’t anticipated that it would be quite so hot, so it was a big surprise that I ended up with tan lines at the end of it!
I’m generally terrible at keeping hydrated, but it was so hot that I drank way more than I normally would. I drank 500-1000ml of water between every aid station. My main aim was to stay hydrated, but not take drink too much in one go.
I didn’t use rehydration salts or salt capsules as I prefer to get salt through my food, which you will see in the next section!
Once the sun had gone down and it was dark, the weather was really quite nippy, so the water intake level reduced, and on went my jacket. I could see my own breath after sun down!
It was at mile 49ish that I felt – for the first time in the race – an urge to pee. Since my last bathroom break before the run started, it took me around 11 hours to pee again. This really highlights just how important it is to keep drinking when you’re out in hot conditions: I must have been sweating bucket loads to be drinking so much and not needing to go to the bathroom.
I didn’t get any mid-race cramps, stomach pains, sickness, or big energy crashes during the race. For me, that tells me that my nutrition was on point.
I never really know what I’m going to want to eat after the first 5 or 6 hours of a race, so I left myself a selection of sweet and savoury bits at the half-way bag drop.
I generally aim to eat 200-250kcal per hour when I’m racing – except for the first two hours, in which I don’t eat anything.
Everyone is different in how much – and what – they can stomach during a race, but here’s what I ate along the way:
1.5 Cliff bars, two packets of Hula Hoops, two packets of Walkers, 1.5 salami sandwiches (on white bread), a few squares of flapjack, a mini mars bar, and then in the last 10 miles I had a couple of Haribo on top of some flapjack.
I don’t like using gels if I can help it – not because they are artificial or whatever, but just because I don’t find they are very sustainable for me. I will generally avoid sugary things until I know that I’m near the end of the race. So for that reason, I stuck to mostly savoury bits until I knew I only had 10 miles left to go. I can eat some Haribo here and there for the last 10 miles, but I cannot do it for 60 miles!
By the time I reached the 50 mile point, I felt strong and my legs felt great. In fact, I remember thinking ‘I feel like a tank right now – now it’s game time’.
There was a longish downhill section at around mile 51, and I was flying. Or at least felt like I was. I also had the most barmy thought of ‘If I had to, I could head out for a third lap’. I’m glad I didn’t have to, but it was so encouraging to have this feeling of knowing I could do more, when I’ve got a 100 miler approaching.
After this race I can really appreciate how much of a difference getting your fuel intake can make to a run. That’s not to say I’ve nailed it by any means, but the WRU60 went really smoothly on the fuel and energy level front, so for this reason alone I’ve gained a lot of knowledge from the run.
The finish line
A car of runners passed me around a quarter of a mile from the finish – unfortunately I couldn’t hear the encouragement they were shouting as I was enjoying the Bee Gees too much. All I can remember was thinking ‘I wonder what they are thinking right now. I’ve just run 59 – well, 61 – odd miles, I’m covered in blood, but here I am running along the road grinning from ear to ear!’. That was a lovely feeling.
I came into the finish line with smiles, had a chat to the male winner of the race, packed up my stuff and walked in the pitch black to the nearest pub so I could call a cab.
The post-race nutrition
I’ll say upfront that I will never claim to be the best example to follow for anything running related. I just go with what I feel is best, which is the best advice I can give anyone.
After being dropped in the town centre of Huddersfield, I found a scuzzy little take-away near the bus station and had a chicken fillet burger, cheesy chips, and a can of diet coke.
It was just what I fancied!
Getting back to work
The whole run was about having no pressures or expectations, just to go and test the water with my kit, and get in a long training run. I did, however have one pressure. This was: The race cut-off is at midnight. My overnight bus back to work is at 2300. So I had to make pretty darn sure I was going to finish with enough time to leg it back to my bus, or else I’d be late into work the next morning!
Thankfully I finished with plenty of time to catch my bus.
I managed a total of around 3 hours of sleep on the bus, and then headed straight into the gym when I arrived in London. When I say gym, don’t be mistaken here, I mean showers at the gym! I’d travelled back on the bus with sweatpants covering the fact that I had blood from my knees to my ankles, and was covered in mud – and all other manners of brown countryside matter.
After a hot shower, a very large coffee and some toast, I was ready to do a 8-9 hour shift on my feet that day at work. I was tired, sure, but if I want to race, I have to make it work around my real life. Don’t race, or race and suck it up – that’s what it comes down to!
Time: 12 hours 31
62 miles, 8000ft of climbimg and 12.5 hours later…! Second lady home. Happy days! Got lost and added an extra two miles to my route. Caught my foot on a rock at mile 28 and bust both my knees and my elbow open. Much blood! Mile 50 aid station and my legs felt like machines. Nutrition today just worked. Boiling weather today, but I had a lovely run and thankfully didn't have to dig too hard to get round. Now eating chips and cheese, about to get my bus back to London for work. #running #ultra #ultramarathon #endurancelife #trail #trailrunning #inov8 #likealass #lululemon #whiteroseultra
The two-year anniversary
Incidentally, this run fell on the two-year anniversary for when I bought my first pair of running shoes. A complete accident to race on that day, but a romantic coincidence all the same.
This race was beautiful – the course was varied and the scenery was stunning. We were very lucky with the weather, which only added to how lovely the day was. The marshals were all really helpful and encouraging. The aid stations were well stocked, and the day as a whole was enjoyable and well organised.
The one thing that struck me about this race was how relaxed the organisation felt – not in a ‘relaxed = sloppy’ kind of way, but in that the organisers seemed relaxed and were having fun. It wasn’t one of those horribly knobby or high pressured start-lines, there was just a lovely atmosphere at the event.
Would I do it again? Absolutely!