Trails and Ultra Trail Running

Monday 19 July 2010

10 days to Ironman UK
20 days to CS Track and Field


I’ve been thinking a lot about ultra trail running over the summer.  Unfortunately there’s a slight clash with Ironman training/racing and (as you can see from the running pics in the last blog) it can eat away at lean muscle tissue.  I’ve lost a good kilo in muscle over the last 12 months. 

My love for the great outdoors began when I hiked and camped along the Pennine Way with my brother in 2007.  We covered the 256 miles over the Pennines, Dales and Cheviots in 12 days.  I commented at the time that it was the hardest thing I had ever done.  We both ran ourselves into the ground, but limped away having had a great adventure – Report.  The same was true of the Coast2Coast (192 miles) walk the following year – Report.

Following this and a few personal ‘ultra’ runs I’d completed over the years both home and abroad ranging from 30-40 miles, I’d decided in 2009 to set myself a really big challenge.  I’d been reading up on some of the more popular ‘National’ trails and how ultra-runners paced themselves over ultra distances using various run/walk strategies.  I was also intrigued to know what light-weight equipment was carried and nutrition taken.  I didn’t go too deep with my research as I didn’t want to scare myself out of it.

In late spring 2009, before competing in Challenge Roth and Double Iron(man) UK, I’d already been looking at suitable national trails to use for my ultra run.  I wanted to make it both exciting and super-challenging.  The Offa’s Dyke trail is 178 miles long and dissects England and Wales.  It’s classed as a coast2coast run, has some beautiful scenery, and runs within 20 miles of my parents home at halfway, which I thought might come in handy!  I’d already read of a runner who’d training specifically to cover Offa’s Dyke in 3 days having to pull out through injury, and I was getting a little concerned about my decision to try to run it non-stop (no sleep!), especially after a strange illness I picked up at the DIUK a few weeks before.  Anyway, despite a few minor navigational problems and unbalanced nutritional loading, I was going very well.  I’d left my car at the campsite near Chepstow and started from the Severn at 7am.  I’d made it right through the first day and night, when my right knee popped on a road just outside Kington.  I couldn’t run after that and walking was becoming increasingly painful so, after a few hrs in the back of a Baptists Church in the early hours, I called my Dad and got a lift back just 80 miles in to the run.  Despite this, I still claim this as the best experience of my life. There is nothing more liberating and exhilerating than running over hills and through forests under a full moon with only the wildlife as company. I get a kick out of full on triathlon racing, but it doesn’t compare.Webpage Report

The reason I’m mentioning this here is because I want to go back!  I’ve been thinking recently of another (substitute/Plan B) challenge should I not qualify for Hawaii World Ironman Champs.  At my age (while my body is still relatively in one piece) I want to achieve as much as possible.  I’m not decided yet on whether to make it a non-stop or multi-day strategy.  I may take the bivvy bag and grab a couple of hrs in the first night to cheat the body into thinking its had a full nights sleep (I’ll find some old ruins or roman camp for this). A multi-dayer doesn’t excite me as much. 

I’d be looking at 8 Sept, as a full moon makes navigation over the hills a lot easier.  I’m not set on OD yet, here is a short-list:

Ridgeway – 85 miles (Overton Hill – Ivinghoe Beacon) Website
Cotswold Way – 102 miles (Chipping Camden – Bath Abbey).  Could be a good option as it would mean I bag a 100-miler. Wesite
Offa’s Dyke Path – 177miles (Sedbury Cliff – Prestatyn) Website

I’m walking the West Highland Way and Great Glen Way with my brother in August.  Plenty of time to check the legs and reconsider.  I’ll then work out my itinerary and gear.

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7 thoughts on “Trails and Ultra Trail Running

  1. the 102 miler would mean a good challenge and if ok the next step could be the longer Offa’s
    –where I’d be waiting enroute for you
    –again haha
    another idea would be a rest!!!!

  2. 100 miler sounds more reasonable, quite a milestone I reckon.

    Interesting you want to go back to it, I guess you remember the good bits and not the pain or discomfort !

    Let me know if you want support crew help on whichever one you choose to do.

    • Well theres always the option of pulling out of OD after 100miles or 200km. It wasn’t that painful until th eknee went. More from muscle fatigue. Cheers for the offer mate.

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