Hello and welcome to our latest Guest Blog post from Jud, bringing you the story of his first ultra race, the 100km Ultra Tour of the Peak District.
“Drunken bets usually end disastrously, but this one was life changing.”
I was at a friend’s Wedding, beers were had, and continued to flow. Then the Groom announced he’d entered the Ultra Tour of the Peak District a 100km run with a total of 3000m of ascent.
From never really running before, I was at the time training for a 15km trail race. With some cajoling from other guests, before I knew it, I had accepted the challenge to run this monster race with the Groom. I knew if I was going to do this, that I would need some help. As I was already working with Lynne from Global Therapies – who’s a qualified Fell Running coach and PT instructor who has a history of running, as does her partner Tim who is a Physio. Both of whom would become crucial in my attempt.
Over the next few months I ran a half marathon, marathon and 50km races – taking me from a recreational jogger to an Ultra runner – I was ready for the race. On the day I woke at 3am, knowing I had done everything I could to finish the race. I’d recce’d the course, spoken to friends and colleagues about their experiences of this type of run; I’d packed my gear, sorted out my nutrition and arranged a support crew. The weather forecast was perfect for me – cool, overcast with a light breeze.
At 6am when I lined up at the start line I had 3 aims:
- not to become a DNF
- to finish by midnight (18 hours)
- my cloud cuckoo of finishing in 16 hours 30 minutes (the 30 mins made it seem do-able)
By 25km I was nearly 2 hours up on my estimated times, then the sun came out and it got HOT. I’d started to suffer by 35kms and thought I’d gone off to quick. Just before the 50km checkpoint a quick run in to the bushes was required and I could feel rubbing in my shoes after running along the a 4km stretch of hot dry tarmac.
The checkpoint couldn’t have arrived any quicker – a change of trainer and fresh water got me back on my feet. Unfortunately when I was changing my trainers I caught and nearly ripped off a ganglion on my finger as I used my finger to shoe horn my trainer on. The blood flow from this was quite spectacular and as soon as I put plasters on it, it bled through.
Enough of that I had the steep climb up Parkin Clough to deal with (accompanied by Lynne) – the climb was challenging especially since I’d already run over a marathon. I used my hands power down on my thighs to get up the steep slope – it wasn’t until a passing walker screamed ‘your thigh, your thigh’ and looked horrified, that I realised that I might need something more substantial than a plaster. I glanced down and my right leg was covered in blood and it had also spurted up my arm. I panicked as I thought I might get retired at the next checkpoint, but another use for a Glossop Mountain Rescue Team Giraffe was discovered as a wipe and bandage. Lynne, I owe you a new one.
At last I felt as if I had broken the back of the run – I was over half way and from now on every step I took, every metre I travelled was one further than I had ever done before in a race. It was mid-day as I climbed up from Hope Cross up onto Kinder Scout – when I realised I had stopped peeing, I just didn’t seem to be able to get enough fluids on board – I was sweating uncontrollably and when I did pee, it wasn’t much and it stung!!!
The path leveled and I descended into Edale and replenished my water supply, I began to feel a little stronger and the pull up and over Hollins Cross went by quickly. Tim joined me at Castleton and started to tell me the worst selection of jokes known to man or beast but it helped the miles past as we climbed up Cave Dale and over to Bradwell and the final feed station and the 2nd marathon of the day completed.
Just a half marathon to go!!!
The array of food was spectacular at Bradwell – I should have seen the warning signs but I wasn’t hungry and ate nothing!!! The next few kilometres over Bradwell Edge is like running over a massive whale back of a hill. I felt relatively strong pulling up my mind started to wonder as to whether I might be able to beat my cloud cuckoo time of finishing in 16 hours 30mins.
At the bottom of the edge the path turns eastward and heads up hill, I remembered thinking in my recce run that this was a lovely shaded track that offered a section of cool air and a breeze. Not today though – my head spun, I had tunnel vision, stomach churned, my legs screamed with pain, I was dry retching and all hope of finishing left me. I called out to Tim – not sure what I said but I must have looked bad as when Tim turned round to look, his endless cajoling chatter finished – that worried me the most… I guess after 2+ marathons I’d hit the wall. My thoughts of beating my best time reduced to those of a DNF. I gathered myself. All I could remember was ‘relentless forward progress’. I wasn’t moving fast but I was moving and I wobbled into Shatton.
Becky had been working all day and had come over with friends Col and Corinne; she had been receiving updates from Tim and Lynne throughout the day saying I was going strong and taking it in my stride. Becky told me afterwards that as I stumbled down the road towards that I looked drunk and that it took me a few minutes to realise she was there!
The good news was that Becky had bought Lincolnshire pork pies, Quorn sausages and peanuts which my body had been screaming for since Edale – I eagerly scoffed some and instantly felt the strength return – I guess my body had had enough of fruit bars and needed something savoury. I stuffed my pockets and said “lets go” to Tim who was still running with me.
Becky later told me that she didn’t expect me to leave and was amazed at the difference the food made to me. I ran along the River Derwent towards Leadmill Bridge and slowly felt the energy coming back to my body. From the bridge the trail rises non-stop to the top of Carl Wark some kilometres away.
That morning a fellow runner told me how this next section had made more runners become DNF’s than anywhere on the route, including him last year. I had come so far now and at the top of Carl Wark I would almost be able to see the finish line, at that point I would know that it wasn’t going to claim me. I had had all day to mentally prepare for this and impressed myself as I powered my way to the ancient ruins of Carl Wark managing to catch the last few rays of the setting sun. The race volunteers cheered me on and told me I was currently 37th position and looked stronger than a lot ahead of me.
As I descended off Carl Wark and headed across the valley to Burbage Edge I was happy that it hadn’t stopped me today. I was met and cheered on again by Becky, Corinne and Col. The darkness came quickly and I donned my head torch, my vision limited to its narrow beam. I found my rhythm and the odd landmark signified I was making good headway.
I checked my watch and I was definitely back on track to beat my cloud cuckoo time.
The sky was clear and outskirts of Sheffield was lit up by the twinkling street lights.
I always feel as if the finish line evades me, this felt especially true today as a steady climb led me to run past the finish before a u-bend sent me back towards it. It loomed up over me and suddenly I was not running, my breathing slowed my pulse relaxed but my thighs and calves carried on twitching uncontrollably – probably not believing that I had stopped. I reached down to switch off my watch and tracker, and there was the time – 15 hours and 54 minutes!
Tired but elated – it was great to see my support team – Becky, Lynne, Tim, Corinne, Col and Patch (who’d completed the 50km Intro Ultra that day) – the latter was the Groom who’s drunken bet led me to complete my first Ultra Marathon.
I suddenly cursed myself as I found my mind wandering about my next race, but first, time for bed!