After reading some of the inspiring blogs from last weekend’s epic West Highland Way 2014 race, this blog may seem pretty dull. It is not about an epic battle between two ultra runners; it is just about running against the trail, the clock and myself. I was in the lead at 30 metres and at 30 miles I still had the lead, setting a new course record of 4:05.

There saved you from having to read the rest of blog…

dsc_3639

The 30 mile Intro Ultra is part of the Dig Deep Running Weekend, taking in a smaller loop of the Ultra Tour of Peak District. Do not be fooled into thinking that it is the little brother of the UTPD – it has over 1250m of ascent and covers some technical rocky paths and steep climbs, including Parkin Clough up Win Hill.

The weather had been really good leading up to the race, drying out the trails and the organisers decided competitors need to only carry a windproof instead of full waterproofs; I carried the superlight Montane Slipstream QL weighing only 66 grams which fitted perfectly in the new Montane Bite 1 bumbag. I’m not normally a fan of bumbags, however, the Bite 1 fits really nicely round my hips. I also opted for the Anton Kupricka look running – topless in the hot sunshine, thankfully no-one screamed ‘my eyes! my eyes!’ at my pale topless body!

The race starts at Wirlow Farm on the edge of Sheffield and heads out to Burbage valley and the first checkpoint, then across the rocky boulder trail along the top of Stanage, before heading down to Yorkshire Bridge. My legs were feeling great hopping across the rocks on Stanage compared to how they had been feeling in the two weeks leading up to the race. I was cruising down the road to Yorkshire Bridge at 5:40min/mile; the whole way down the road you can see the next climb – the steep relentless climb of Win Hill.

10410849_706676209398713_3564820001251216659_n

I summited Win Hill in 1hr 45min bang on my planned schedule time of running 4hrs 15mins, I felt like I was flying down Win Hill in my HOKAs. I went through 15miles in 1hr 57mins as I got near to Hope…could sub 4hrs be possible I thought? Even with the two remaining climbs left to contend with I knew it wouldn’t be possible.

I surprised the marshalls as I ran into the well stocked Bradwell checkpoint arriving at 2hrs 14mins. I just grabbed my drop bag and filled my water bottle up and heading back out on the race route to face the horrible steep climb up Bradwell Edge. The climb starts with an inconspicuous tarmac track that tires the legs before a muddy path zig-zags, hugging the side of the hill. With the dry weather the trail had dried out making it possible to run up the climb.

10500480_662545390504426_3363285702040374670_n

The route then dives back down into the Hope Valley and for a brief couple of miles is flat as it follows the Derwent River, and then begins the climb back up to the Burbage Valley. This year I decided to stick to the road up towards Ringinglow (I had checked with the organisers before) as I had reccied it and it was only marginally longer then cutting through Winyards Nick, however, it meant I was able to keep my tempo high. I summited on Carlswark in 3hrs 30mins and as I left the checkpoint I knew I was going to run 4:15. However, I didn’t eat anything as I left the checkpoint and I was going to pay for the schoolboy error.

Running along Houndkirk Moor felt loads easier than two years ago when I set the course record for the inaugural UTPD, and before I knew it I was at Lady Canning Plantation and arrived at the top of the Limb Valley at 3hrs 54mins, sub 4:10 could be possible!

As I swung my left leg over the stile my left abductor cramped up…I knew I should have had that Clif Shot! The cramp eased off as I began to push the pace down the Limb I was on a mission chasing a time. Keeping my pace as quick as I could until on another short climb my right abductor cramped; why didn’t I have that Clif Shot earlier? I was clock watching the whole way down the valley…sub 4:10 was possible…I finally crossed the finish line in a new course record 4hrs 5mins and 30mins ahead of last years winner Michael Sprot ?  Results

10393545_706676206065380_2258326625804887582_n

There was hot food available for all competitors, perfect refuelling as I waited for Jen to finish her first Ultra Marathon, she cruised round the route in just over 7hrs. I was back up at Wirlow Farm in the evening to do a talk on the Peaks and troughs of Ultra Running which was well received…”If you ever get an opportunity to go to one of Marcus’s lecture you should take it! A very inspiring and informative individual.”

The Dig Deep Weekend was a superb well organized weekend of racing, thank you to all the welcoming and supportive marshalls at the checkpoints and the rest of Ian’s team for a cracking weekend and booking glorious weather.

Photos by Summit Fever

I used –

4 Clif Shots

OSMO Active Hydration

MONTANE Bite 1

MONTATE Mountain Trail Shorts

MONTANE Vizor

HOKA Stinson Trails

Injinji 2.0 Trail Performance Socks

Julbo Trail Sunglasses

Checkpoint Splits

Time                   Dist miles         Pace min/mile

Burbage             53:45                   7.05                  7:38

Stanage             15:03                   1.95                   7:42

Stanage 2          1:52                     0.25                  7:37

Win Hill             34:57                 4.01                  8:43

Pindale              20:12                  2.90                  6:58

Bradwell           8:54                     1.25                   7:07

Bradwell Edge  16:39                  1.46                   11:25

Shatton              14:09                  2.16                   6:33

Road Bridge      20:15                  2.58                  7:51

Carls Wark        23:55                  2.38                 10:03

Limb Valley       24:31                  2.87                 8:33

Finish                10:43                   1.52                  7:04