The line between what might be considered running vs climbing and mountaineering has blurred drastically in recent years. Sky Running has been around for many moons but in the last 5 years has seen a massive elevation in profile thanks to renewed sponsorships. Mountain ultra's have become the pinnacle of many a runner's racing career. They are the culmination of experience and time, a realisation of the energy required to move fast and light, often simply to exist safely in the mountain environment.
This summer over the course of one week, over half of our our ultra team were in the Chamonix Valley, their days and schedules converging at various points to combine in to various training sessions. The Alps in general are spectacular not because of their relatively modest overall altitude, but because of the level of prominence the surrounding peaks and their dramatic terrain. The relief from valley to the summits is breathtaking. The area demands exploration and to do that to the fullest, both running and climbing become important.
Here in the UK, the Lake District offers perhaps the greatest range of accessible terrain. It's possible to get serious pretty quickly in terms of steep ground, yet always be within a short distance from a valley or decent descent option. It's breathtaking beauty never ceases to amaze. One will often find themselves reaching for a camera but most of the time put it back in the pack, because what it'll produce just won't do justice to the experience as a whole of being there in person.
There are 214 Wainwright's in the Lakes, a catalogue of mountains as such. There are scores of other outstanding fells and 'tops' that didn't make Alfred's grade. Similarly there are one or two inclusions which make no sense at all. You may affectionately come to know a couple of fells by variations on their true titles. Armboth (Arm Bog) and Mungrisedale Common (Mung Bog) are undoubtedly two of the most sodden places in England and fail to inspire on an almost dazzling scale. However these are the exception. The majesty of almost every fell in the Lakes is awe inspiring. You are likely to come away with stories from a visit to each one.
As ultra runners, sometimes we can use a break from the cycle of training and racing. Some are better than others at doing so. I've spent the last year or so racing hardly at all and had the most enjoyable period of running in 10 years by a long stretch. Towards the end of 2013, I started to recognise that I'd been chasing arbitrary goals for too long. A bucket list of races, times and PRs to aim for at various distances, a volume of racing that wasn't healthy or sustainable. Then somewhere that all faded in to the background and I'm left with the overwhelming desire, not to race at all.
I've frequently been overwhelmed by what I've found in the Lakes. The way the land, the weather and the people who reside within that environment interact. In winter time, getting to the top of even a lowly peak can be taken away by the weather. We spent a whole week near Coniston one February where the cloud base didn't move above 200 metres and it rained and snowed the daylight hours of every day. That's absolutely typical of winter in the Lakes.
Alfred Wainwright compiled his 214 peaks in to 7 volumes, each focused on a different area of the Lakes. The beauty of those particular fells are the opportunities they present and by visiting the higher ground opened up in part by Wainwright's descriptions, the Lakeland landscape begins to make sense.
As a family we've picked lower/ outlying peaks as mornings or afternoons out. It's hard work carrying a toddler up peaks, but there are some that harbour accessible, relatively gentle inclines, putting them within reach of anybody with a healthy heart and lungs.
Holme Fell with Louis at 6 Months
They've also challenged me to work on my own mountain skills. Being up high in the Lakes when the weather is in, is an incredibly exhilirating experience. It is necessary at times to use all the experience you have to negotiate the terrain safely, particularly in mist or in the dark.
Paul Navesey Descending Hall's Fell, Blencathra
I haven't approached visiting Wainwright's fells in any specific order. There are the stand alone summits that can be reached easily enough from the valleys, but which offer no logical route to additional peaks. The great opportunity with the books isn't there. It's that they enable one to string together groups of fells in to the best running days out I've ever experienced. In April of this year, we stayed in Newlands Valley and spent the morning walking around Buttermere. I ran back on a route over the North Western Fells. It was the best 5 hours of running I've ever had. A day when the weather clears, the wind drops and the Lakes shine in all of their glory.
L to R Mellbreak, Crummock Water and Grasmoor from Whiteless Pike
Red Pike over Buttermere from Grasmoor.
Another Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts dwarfed in the foreground.
The adoration isn't universal. Some local people feel quite differently about Wainwright's guides. They have opened up the opportunity for tourists and 'Peak Baggers' to head directly for remote peaks for no other reason than to tick them off of their lists. In many instances, that involves driving a vehicle as close as possible to the foot of the fell, often blocking farm access or passing spaces, disturbing the peace and tranquility of otherwise remote valleys, and leaving nothing in return for the local community. The same thing happens in Scotland with Munro-ists, in Wales wih people after the 3000's and most every other mountain range going.
Somewhere in there is a balance. What getting to know Wainwright will do, is open up the opportunity for non-Lakes residents to gain a much great understanding of the landscape and how the area links together.
My plan is to write a short piece on each of the 7 books. To give a few ideas for exploration, days out, fells to do with the family and those to put together in to the best of the Lakes. Of course, many of the best routes can be experienced by simply showing up with six or seven quid to a fell race.
Alternatively you could run them all in one go, as Steve Birkinshaw did in under a week in 2014, bettering Joss Naylor's 7 days and 1 hour. His blog is here. A video of his adventure is available here. It is well worth a watch.
I hope that the posts will give a few ideas to those heading out in to the fells for the first time. The most important thing to be aware of is the weather. That was brought home all too clearly last week when Storm Desmond brought 350mm of rain down on Honister in under 24hrs, a UK record, and the widespread flooding of Cumbria as a result was absolutely shocking. Always check the forecast (MWIS & the Met Office), always let someone know where you are going and always make sure you have enough kit on you to get out of trouble by yourself. Lastly and hopefully this goes without saying, don't venture in to mountains of any kind without a map and a compass and the knowledge of how to use them.
I'll link the posts from here as I send them up. The North Western Fells are up first. After all, it's the yellow book....
Could this be the most competitive men's/ women's Centurion 100 miler yet?
The start list for this Saturday's A100 is chock full of solid experienced runners who will all have their eye on the prize. Perhaps the men's field contains a clear favourite in repeat Centurion 100 mile Champ Ed Catmur, but there isn't otherwise a stand out name that looks set to run away from the rest of the field. The battle behind Ed looks set to be an epic, with the chance that if Ed suffers his usual late race fade, he may be overhauled....
In the ladies race, we have Sally Ford - winner of all 3 previous 100s in 2015 and going for the Slam with a 4th title, up against reigning champ and course record holder Sarah Morwood. What a battle this could be. Behind those two and similar to the men's field, there is a good number of exciting solid female runners who will be waiting in the wings should things not go as per the script....
As usual with this course, nothing matters until mile 50. The first loop times we see are usually off the scale leading to some almighty blow ups late in the day. Perhaps this race more than any other lures people in to neglecting their pacing. We'll see who emerges on top once the carnage has time to unfold but one thing is for sure, look for many of the early leaders to fade in the second half.
Ed Catmur: 2013 Champ, 2nd in 2014. A man with a 2:32 marathon PB and so much experience is capable of running close to 14hrs on this course, and perhaps this is his race. Ed won the NDW100 in 18:02 a couple of months ago but slowed greatly in the final stages. At last years W100 his 3:03 opening lap was followed up by a 5:56 final spur. If he can run a solid final 25 he can and should be running clear of the field as usual.
Ed at our very first event in 2011
Dave Ross: The journeyman. Dave's odyssey of racing continues on in relentless fashion. The Grand Slam record holder is looking for his 5th 100 mile finish of 2015, and comes off of the back of the Stage Coach 100 just 2 weeks ago. Can he recover in time to race as hard as usual? Almost certainly.
Duncan Oakes: Perhaps the most solid performer in the field. Duncan's last handful of 100 mile results read 1st NDW100, 5th CWC, 1st AofA, 3rd WHW, 3rd LL100. You can't argue with that. He perhaps doesn't have the out and out pace of Ed, but he'll be competitive all the way to the finish and fades less hard than most.
Ed Egelie: This man has 3 finishes to his name on this course including a 17:44 in 2013. He has reached new heights this year and is running his best season yet. Look out for him to break the 17hr barrier.
Ollie Stoten: Ollie has a couple of 100 mile finishes to his name and 2015 wins at the T60 night race as well as a very impressive early season victory at Country to Capital. Getting stronger every year, can he go all the way this time.
Sam Robson: Originally in for the Slam but stopping during the first 2, Sam's form is an unknown but he has some fine results historically to fall back on.
Peter Kaminsky: 2015 SDW100 Champ after Stellan ran off course with 5 miles to go, and behind Sally Ford in the overall Grand Slam standings for 2015 by jus 26 mins, he'll have his eye on two prizes here....
Barry Miller: Barry brought home 3rd at this event in 17:14 in 2013. He's since gone on to finish the US Slam and ran Western States this summer. If he's in shape he'll be hoping to repeat perhaps his best ever run from a couple of years ago.
Barry during the 2013 Event
Warwick Gooch: A super solid runner with lots of 100 mile(+) experience, similar to Duncan, he rarely fades and knows how to get it done mentally. Still remembered foremost for his stellar Caesars Camp win in 2012.
Ziggy Stardust: Zig, the salty ol' dog, has a couple of half decent results to his name, but comes in to this looking for 'a different view on things'. If he starts which is not yet a given, it'll be more about his celebrity pacer than him.
Linn Erixon Sahlstrom: Linn ran close to Sarah and Debbie in the 2014 edition of this event before dropping. She has some good results behind her including wins at CTS Sussex and the Imber Ultra in 2015 - she'll be looking for retribution here.
Sarah Morwood: Reigning champ and with mostly extremely good results in 2015. She picked up the wins at the SDW50, Race to the Stones and just a couple of weeks ago the 3 x 3000 up in the Lakes. These amongst others. A DNF at UTMB may play on her mind a little but unlikely, she's always smiling and is a joy to have at events but is a fierce competitor and she will want to win this one.
Sarah flying in 2014
Sally Ford: Champ at the first 3 x 100s of 2015 including most recently a course record at the NDW100. She'll be looking to make it the Slam of wins, but also finish first outright in the Slam overall by holding on to her 26 min advantage over second place Peter Kaminsky.
Sarah Sawyer: Sarah bagged her first 100 mile finish at the TP100 this year, and went on to win RTP Ecuador this summer. Look out for a strong second half and for her to close down anyone ahead.
Wendy Shaw: This must be Wendy's 11th or 12th feature in a Pre Race Preview. She perhaps doesn't have the speed against the front 2, but she knows how to get it done and finish strong. Has well over 1000 Centurion miles to her name. Experience counts for so much here.
As usual if anyone is missing that you feel warrants a mention please do leave a comment. Live timings will be available on the website during the event.
A quick fly through the possible contenders for the title of Champion at the 5th edition of the North Downs Way 100. Race Start Sat 8th August at 0600.
The Course Records at this event belong to Ed Catmur, 15:44 from 2013 and Alice Hector who ran 20:10 in 2012, a time which stands 1:44 faster than any other lady on this course.
Ed Catmur: Ed is the existing course record holder and has run the event 3 times, finishing 4th, 3rd and 1st. Last year was a slower race for him as he faded to a 19:44 but he rarely stops and has marched out a few 100s rather than simply drop, to his credit. When he raced Anthony Forsyth in 2013 to the only ever sub 16hr time on this course, he ran a brilliant race and with the strength of a few behind him, may get pushed to do the same again here. This year he's already raced 3 100 milers, finishing 1st at the Spine Challenger and the Jackpot 100 in Nevada, going on to pick up 2nd at the Malvern Hills 100 in May. Recently he dropped from the Dragon's Back but perhaps that will leave him in better shape for this race.
Peter Kaminsky: Always smiling, Peter was our SDW100 champ in June of this year. He is a prolific racer with almost 100 Ultras behind him in the last 6 years, including many victories. Perhaps most notably his win last year at the 230km Tour de Ruhr, and a sub 30hr Spartathlon finish. He is running the Grand Slam and currently sits around an hour ahead of Dave Ross' 2014 GS Record.
Peter with his trophy after winning the SDW100 back in June
Luke Ashton: We've seen Luke run a number of Centurion 100s in the past but he recently turned in one of his best with a 2nd to Peter at the 2015 SDW100 in a superb 16:52. That coupled with his 8th here last year put him in great shape to step up from two 2nd places at our events, to his first win.
David Pryce: 2nd at the 2014 TP100, David was pushing Ed Catmur all the way in the final stages of that event and I am sure the man who also won the 2014 Piece of String Fun Run will want to push for the win here.
Oliver Sinclair: Ollie has been on the circuit for almost 10 years now and has results to his name which impress. He's won Caesars Camp 50, The Pilgrim Challenge on this very trail and had the Hardmoors 55 Course record until Kim Collinson bettered it this year. He ran the NDW50 back in May to a top 10 and has recently returned from Davos. We will see whether he can push the other four (and perhaps others) this weekend....
Sally Ford: So far in 2015, Sally has raced the TP100 and SDW100 and won them both. She has come in to her own this year after steady improvement in results. As a Grand Slammer I am sure she has her eyes on 4 victories but this may be her sternest challenge yet in what is, time-wise, our toughest course.
Elisabet Barnes: Elisabets win at this years MDS catapulted her in to the main stream so I am not sure if this race will still feature in her calendar, however it would be great to see what she can do if she runs. She has raced four ultras in 2015 and won them all - nothing yet as long as 100 miles....
Wendy Shaw: I mention Wendy every time. 10 Centurion 100 milers, 8 podiums, Grand Slam record holder - but as yet no win. She will be looking to get revenge on this course after last year where she heartbreakingly but sensibly decided to stop at Dunn Street with just 4 miles to go.
If you'd like to mention someone who is missing please do so by commenting below. The website homepage will change to show the live results feed link from this Friday.
A quick preview ahead of this weekends 2015 Petzl South Downs Way 100. A big thanks to our title sponsor Petzl who have once again stumped up the cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed men and women. The women's field in particular is an exciting one. So who might walk off with a nice pay day....
Sally Ford: Sally won the TP100 in early May with a new Course Record time of 17:33. Along with her victory at the Wall Ultra last year, probably her best performance. If she has recovered well and conditions are good, it will be great to see how close to Jean Beaumont's SDW/ Centurion All Time 100 mile Record of 16:56, she can get.
Wendy Shaw: 9 Centurion 100 milers, 8 podiums, no wins. Need I say more? She will be there again to fight for that first win and keep her stakes up in the Grand Slam.
Jenni Ball: Winner of the 2014 NDW100. Jenni hasn't got the depth of experience of the previous two but on what is undoubtedly our toughest course, she persevered for the win and will hopefully be coming in to this one with eyes on a second trophy.
Jess Gray: 3 ultras. 3 wins including one 1st overall. Most recently taking the crown at the 2015 NDW50, missing out on the Course Record by under a minute. This is Jess' first 100. Can she nail it??
Dave Ross: The original journeyman, Dave Ross loves a race. He recently claimed his 11th Comrades finish, and has a string of 100 milers behind him to go with his circa 300 marathons/ ultras. He is also our Grand Slam Record Holder. He comes in to this event with from what I can see, the fastest 100 mile Trail PB of the field, having picked up 3rd here last year with a superb 15:58. He has been suffering with some PF issues but if he can stay on course and use all of his experience he could well head in to Badwater next month, with a win behind him.
Nick Greene: 2nd at the 2015 TP100 in 16:52. Nick is amongst a special band to have finished all 3 previous SDW100s. Every year he seems to improve (10th in 2014) and if he has bounced back out of his TP finish he'll be looking to podium yet again.
Tim Landon: 18:14 for 12th in 2014. Also 3rd at TP100 earlier last year. Tim can run wild at the end of a race, but can also blow up. Let's see if he can hang tough this time out.
Paul Bennett: Previously 3rd in 16:58 where he ran home with this years TP100 winner, Max Wilcocks. Paul can be found half of the time in India these days, which means his training is sometimes erratic, but always high on quality. He knows how to suffer and has enough experience and base fitness behind him to surprise himself and land another podium at least.
Neal Beacher: Paul's training partner. A man with a big smile and a pleasure to have at any event. He is on fire at the moment, according to Paul, and is capable of sub 16 so let's see if he can deliver!
Sam Robson: 2nd here in 2012 in 17 and change, Sam's up and down race results continued at the TP100 where after a great finish at Sparta, he returned with a DNF in the first race of the Slam, having led the first 20 miles at a blistering pace. Which Sam will we see on the day!
Finally a special mention to the three most inspirational people in the starting field this year. James Binks, who has marked almost every one of our races since 2011, turns out to race. At 71, he will be the oldest competitor in the field but don't let that fool you as he completed the MdS yet again just a few months ago. Peter Johnson is an idol. A legend. The type of man who when you ask him how many races he's done, he genuinely doesn't know. So you look it up and find things like 11 x GUCRs, 8 Ridgeway's and over 100 other ultras. Finally, Ken Fancett. Ken is going for his 3rd Grand Slam. He recently finished what I make to be approximately his 40th 100 mile race at the TP100 in 20:49. At 65 I think most of us would take that kind of ability. He truly must be one of the leading athletes in the world for his age group.
We look forward to welcoming around 250 runners to the line on Saturday morning!
This years NDW50 comes hot off of the back of the TP100 just two weeks prior. Conditions underfoot are currently dry and fast and we're expecting another superb race from some of the runners below. As always please leave a comment with anyone you think could feature at the sharp end but has been missed.....!
Craig Holgate: Flying the flag in yellow, the Centurion Ultra Team Runner and existing Course Record Holder, it's hard to look past Craig for another win here. However that comes with a caveat.... Two weeks ago Craig ran the ACP 100km representing England where he came home in 7:01. With this so close behind he will be treating it very much as a B race and in preparation for some other projects this summer. Craig being Craig however he will want to run his best whatever his legs may tell him. Only one person has ever come within 20 minutes of his 6:47 in 2013. Hopefully he can threaten his own best.
Davide Grazielli: One of the nicest guys in Ultra Running and a true fan of the sport, residing in Italy Davide has been getting stronger over recent years with some superb performances. He ran 2nd at SDW100 in 2013 (having driven to the race from Italy after his flight was cancelled!!!!), 4th at Lakeland 100 last year, 3rd at 100 miles Sud De France and a win at Quadrifoglio Raidlight Ultratrail della Val Taro 100 Km. He's the man to watch behind Craig for sure.
Bartolo Mora: Another Italian who finished 5th at the SDW100 in 2013 and who's resume is a list of top 10's at trail races from all over Europe in recent years.
Oliver Sinclair: Ollie's Ultra Running career has consisted of impressive results from as far back as 2007. Some of his win's have come at Caesars Camp 50 and CTS events, but two more notables - his victory at the Pilgrims Way on this very trail and until recently his record breaking win at Hardmoors 55. If Olllie is in shape he is going to be right there in the thick of it.
Dan Afshar: Dan has been around for a long time in the sport and has some good results behind him. He was right out front of the NDW50 in 2013, but spiralled back to 15th after a rough section after Box Hill. Can he hold on to a more even race this time.
Gemma Carter: Gemma has a 6th in 2011, a 4th in 2013 and a 2nd last year to her name at this event. She will be looking to go one better this time for certain.
Sam Scott: Sam won't thank me for this inclusion I'm sure but she is one tough gal. She picked up 7th here last year, but her resume is extensive, from the Bob Graham Round, to TransAlpine to UTMB she's done the long tough stuff and picked up plenty of podium places and wins at shorter ultras too.
Maria Carla Ferrero: COming over for the race from Italy, Maria took 2nd place at the 113km Morenic Trail in 2014 and will be looking to enjoy her first taste of UK ultra running.
The first 100 of the season is upon us. With a warm dry winter, the course is in good shape though with some rain expected this week the usual sticky spots may still apply. As always, however, the field is expected to go out hard and it remains to be seen this year whether anyone can hang on to the early pace. Our 2012 event saw Craig Holgate blitz the course in 15:11 and Mimi Anderson run away with the win in 18:50, times which haven't been threatened since, although in 2013 the conditions put pay to that all on their own. Can anyone come close this year?
As always, this preview comes with the usual caveats. It's compiled by me and largely using nothing more than hearsay plus a bit of investigation on DUV Statistik. If you know of someone who's missing and could contend please do leave a comment.
Martin Bacon: Martin has finished all 3 TP100s and was champion in 2013 in appalling conditions. His best of 17:41 in 2012 was good enough for 3rd that year behind Craig and Robbie Britton, 2014's 7th being his lowest finish position. Although he is the first to admit that youth isn't on his side, he likes to go out hard and mix it up from the gun. If he can hang tougher than he did in 2014 he could well be in contention come the final stages. Certainly with his Sparta finish in 2014 he will take confidence in to this race.
Gary House: Gary makes the preview by virtue of one particular stand out performance, his 130 mile Leeds Liverpool Canal time from last year, of 23:41. Pat Robbins may well have disappeared out of sight for the win, but Gary's time is very solid indeed and clearly he knows how to get a result on the flat trails the TP has to offer.
Max Wilcocks: Ultra running's answer to George Clooney, Max has run a couple of cracking 100's, most notably his 2013 SDW100 where he finished 3rd in 16:58. He has a number of sub 7hr 50 milers behind him and a 3rd place at last years Race to the Stones 100km. Just recently he posted a 49 mile final training effort on the track at Crawley 12hr so if he is fresh and recovered he will be looking to go all the way here.
Chris Howe: Chris' legendary low training mileage doesn't seem to affect him often when he shows up to races. He's finished UTMB twice as well as the SDW100 and in the last couple of years, racked up some solid wins at shorter distance ultra trail events in the UK. Our main man at Profeet Rich Felton puts him on a sub 17hr potential finish on a strong day and that should be good enough to put him in contention.
Sam Robson: Sam will be going in to the first race of his 2015 slam with high hopes for sure. He has raced well in the past at the SDW100 finishing 2nd in the first year of the race, 2nd at the Viking Way Ultra in 2013 and putting in a very solid Spartathlon in 2014 where he finished in 32:04. Sam is perhaps capable of much more, could this be a really stand out run with which to kick off the year....?
Nick Greene: Final nod goes to Nick Greene who will be there to pick up any carnage from the early pace. Nick is a super solid runner and has focused on this race. With a 14:48 at the Ridgeway for 4th last year and a sub 18hr SDW100, he could well be looking at a time somewhere a good ways south of 17hrs, potentially good enough to walk off with the win.
A few stand out names on the female runners list this year.... (Sally Ford added)
Mimi Anderson: Mimi comes in to the TP100 the course record holder and 2012 champion. Her racing history is too deep to mention here, her results over a long period of time outstanding - having taken part in and won many of the world's longest ultra's over the last 15 years of her ultra career. She knows the course and knows how to run long and flat trails.
Elisabet Barnes: Elisabet has turned in some astonishing results of late. In the last 6 weeks alone she won the Marathon Des Sables and this past weekend clocked a sub 3 at London. Previously this year she won and set course records at Country to Capital and the Pilgrims Way. If she is at the TP to race it's certainly going to be fascinating to see what kind of level of performance she can turn in but on recent evidence she could set a new benchmark without a shadow of a doubt.
Sally Ford: Sally finished 6th in 2013 and 2nd in 2014, bettering her time to 20:19 overall so the question remains can she go all the way this time out? She has notched up a number of wins, podiums and top tens at a variety of ultra distances in the last few years so is undoubtedly going to get stronger and stronger.
So here we are with the first race of the 2015 Centurion season! The SDW50 is our biggest field of the year and our fastest race. With British ultrarunning going from strength to strength the fields are getting deeper, despite the growing number of events. It's fantastic to see some drama unfolding at the front end as runners begin to push each other and hence overall times, to the limits.
This preview comes with the usual caveats. It's compiled by me and largely using nothing more than hearsay plus a bit of investigation on DUV Statistik. Usually it's pretty close to the mark, but if you know of someone who's missing and could contend please do leave a comment.
Paul Navesey: Where else to start with the Centurion Ultra Teams' finest, the reigning champ and Course Record holder. His 6:11 last year was a stellar performance and one he ran by himself, right from the gun. Paul is his own harshest critic in terms of standards and immediately began to analyse where those 11 minutes (and more) could be found. He's capable of going a lot quicker than he did in 2014.
Victor Mound: Possibly Paul's biggest threat this time out. Victor is a name we are bound to hear much more of, at just 21 years of age and with a couple of eye opening performances behind him. Victor picked up 4th last year, coming in just under the 7hr mark. His 1st place at CTS Dorset in December brought him home over an hour ahead of second place which was a stand out performance. His short distance speed is better than anyone else in the field, recently clocking 14:53 over 5km. He also nailed a training run on the last part of the course just a few weeks ago stealing most of Paul's Strava Course Records on route..... This will be just his 4th ultra from the looks of things but he will certainly be pushing the pace.
jon ellis: Not much I can say here because he recently ran what looks like it was his first ultra, but my it was a fast one, taking home third place at Go Beyonds Country to Capital (43 miles) in 5:13. If he can replicate that kind of speed over 50 and on a course with a lot more gain and descent, it could get interesting.... Looks like he has a couple of sub 3 hr marathons to his name too.
Paul Radford: Paul's ultra resume feels like it should be a lot longer than it is because he's been competitive on the scene for the last few years, but in reality this will only be his 6th ultra. From those however, he has 4 top 10s to his name including most notably a 14:14 for the 86 mile Ridgeway Challenge last year, losing out only to Nathan Montague's CR. Paul knows the course having run it last year and with a strong early season performance at Country to Capital behind him he'll want to shine here.
David Pryce: David has been getting stronger and faster since his start in ultra running back in 2011 and his first year of 100s in 2012. Second place at the TP100 in 2014, followed by becoming the first and only finisher at the 214km Chiltern Way Ultra and a finale of winning the Piece of String Fun Run to end the year, he clearly has the mental and physical attributes to keep improving and certainly should be looking at a sub 7hr finish.
Jack Blackburn: My man Richard Felton at Profeet has put his runner forward last minute as a contender. With a 6th at the RPU 50km and 4th at Race to The Stones in 2014, it'll be interesting to see if he can match Richard's prediction of his going a way under 7hrs....
Sarah Morwood: This is shaping up to be a superb race. Heading the list is Sarah Morwood, who has run 5 x 100 milers, winning 4 of them and finishing just outside the Top 10 at UTMB. She ran strong enough across 2014 to earn herself a slot in Team GB's Trail side for the World Champs this year and has run the SDW50 before finishing 3rd in 2013. Having also won the SDW100 in 2014, she'll want to be doing the same here for sure.
Sarah Perkins: Sarah was closing hard in the final stages last year to finish 2nd to Edwina Sutton's course record. That was followed by a 2nd place at the UK 100km Champs in 8:25 (both were preceeded by a win at the Thames Trot). Sarah will be hoping some coaching from Team CR runner and husband Mark, has paid off. She ran home with a win at the Steyning Stinger earlier this month so she should be in shape to look to go one better this year.
Emily Canvin: In 2013, Emily did the double, winning the SDW50 and the NDW50. Her SDW win came from some good running but also a bit of luck as she picked up from navigational errors of runners ahead. Her NDW50 was a superb run and at 7:49 is the course record there by over 20 minutes. She's kicked off 2015 with a bang, running home second in the Thames Trot. She will be looking for something special again here.
Gemma Carter: Gemma has recently made the headlines, running a World Best for 50km on the treadmill, coming in just under 4hrs and ahead of Tracey Deans effort in late 2014. On the trails, Gemma has picked up 6 top 10 places in her 7 ultra finishes, most notably perhaps her 3rd at the SDW50 last year in 7:32. She rounds out the contenders for what will be a fascinating race.
Rocky Raccoon continues to be a great early season throw down. In it's 23rd year, it's seen everyone from Anton to Hal to Scott to Karl to Mike to Ian come and race and this year it was also the US 100 mile Champs.
The trails are great. 5 x 20 mile loops isn't the same as point to point and you'll probably scream at the roots and resent the rollers by the end but at 5500ft total climb you aren't going to get much flatter and faster for a 100% trail race.
Here's some photos I took last time....Hi Paul!
This was my fifth time at RR100. It was my first 100 in 2009, my first DNF in 2011 and since then I'd been back twice, running 20:19 in 2012 and 17:32 in 2013.
My pacing plan this time was simple. I wrote down Jenn Shelton's 2007 splits for her 14:57. Of course, on trail the weather/ ground conditions could ultimately decide the outcome more than my ability so I wasn't about to hang on those splits if it was out of my hands. The day prior to the race however, some of the other Brits and I: Pete Goldring, Chris Mills and John Volanthen went for a couple of miles out on the course and it was in perfect shape. Smoking fast. The weather looked good. So my pacing plan was ON.
0600 Saturday and we disappeared in to the darkness on loop 1. As usual a couple of guys went screaming off of the front. David Kilgore ran the first 2 loops in 2:19 and 2:20 respectively, pretty damn fast! (But then he was on the phone by mile 50....) That left a small train of 5 of us cruising along by the power of Petzl Tikka RXP (worlds' comfiest headlamp) until the light came up. my Centurion co-coach Ian Sharman, Liza Howard and I ran together from Damnation Aid Station through to the end of loop 1, #livingthedream. Ian was running well within himself and Liza was after the US women's trail 100 record and the cash from Altra, the time to beat,14:45. I booted a root at mile 19 and crashed on to the trail lifting my toe nail off in the process, but other than that it was smooth all the way. Together we dispatched the first 20 miles in 2:32 (Jenn Split: 2:40). RAIN DANCE!
There was no messing around this time. I didn't need anything to get around the course fueling wise, apart from my handheld UD bottle, some water and 20 Salted Caramel Gu's. At the end of each lap I had to divert 50 yards off course to my drop bag and grab 4 gels but by that time my bottle was refilled by a heroic volunteer and I was straight back out again. I managed to keep my total aid station time during the race to 8 minutes, and 5 of those were at the start finish. No crew required!
I ran with Liza for a lot of loop 2 and we cruised through the marathon mark in 3:20. Ian pulled away a little and made his own space and ran his own race as he likes to do. Loop 2/ 40 mile total time 5:11 (Jenn Split: 5:20). STEADY NOW!
At the start of Loop 3 it started getting noticeably warmer and I had that dry salty face starting to happen, so I starting popping S! Caps more regularly and drinking just under a litre per hour. It worked. Most of this lap I ran with Paul Terranova. I've never seen anyone float around the trails like that. It truly was effortless. We blew through 50 miles in 6:36 and back around to the start finish in great shape with the clock showing 8:00:05 (Jenn Split 8:13). 8hrs is 8:00 miling flat and I knew I would have to spectacularly collapse now to drop behind 15hr (9:00 mile) pace. This was the part I'd trained for, too. I wanted to run well to 60 and then concentrate on running as much as I could from 60 to the finish. Each mile run at this point was another one that I couldn't lose time on. Confidence just built and built through loop 4 and although I slowed, it was no more than I would naturally expect during miles 60 - 80 of a race. I came in off Loop 4/ 80 miles in 11:08 (Jenn Split: 11:20). BRING IT HOME!
On loop 5 I hooked up with Henrik Westerlin from Denmark. We'd to and fro'd through the day but now our races aligned and we pushed each other to run almost everything when on your own it's all too easy to drop in to a hike. At mile 87 it got dark and at mile 95, I finally started to fade. I'd put it all out there for the last couple of hours and physically I was walking that line between pulling a whitey and well, not. We reached mile 95.6 Park Road aid station in 14hrs dead. Henrik had 47 minutes to go under the Danish 100 mile trail best. I sent him on, hiked a half a mile and came good again. At mile 99.5 I passed Traviss in a lot of pain. He'd taken a fall on the roots and cracked his ribs, giving him trouble breathing. Like the pro he is, he simply dismissed my concerns and shouted 'DON'T WALK NOW!'. So I ran in a scant few minutes ahead of 9th place in a time of 14:50. I'LL TAKE IT!
Ian ran out the winner in 13:32. He was visibly feeling bad on loop 3, started loop 5 a few minutes behind the leader, but by the end had a 26 minute margin of victory. A really classy performance.
Nicole Studer set a new US 100 mile Trail Best of 14:22. A couple of weeks after 2nd at Bandera 100km.
Liza finished a little over 15:30, not her perfect day but a superb effort all the same.
Of the Brits, Pete Goldring came in with 17:50, a big PB. Chris Mills finished his first 100 in 24:20 and John Volanthen made it in under the one day buckle cut for 4 from 5 finishes. Traviss' ribs took him out at mile 60 but with 30 odd 100 milers finished behind him, nothing further was required as proof of a smart decision.
Exceptional organisation, a superb course and a great day running around in the woods. It's a big PB for me and one that I put a lot of hard work in to. From that point of view, a really satisfying few months of effort.
Numbers/ Gear/ Stats
My aim in training and racing was to keep it as simple as possible. Trim out absoutely everything that was non-essential.
- 12 weeks averaging 97mpw w/ 100,000ft of climb. That was 650 miles more than my '12-'13 training block for the 17:32.
- 101 consecutive run days from October through to 48hrs before the race, replacing total rest days with easy 25 min/ 5km recovery runs. That really helped me make running through the winter a habit, rather than start cutting sessions due to weather, time or daylight.
Gear for the race:
- Centurion Team Vest, Salomon S-Lab Shorts, Drymax Lite Mesh Socks, La Sportiva Beanie Hat, Brooks Pure Cadence Road Shoe. 1 Stick Body Glide. Petzl Tikka RXP.
Fueling for the race:
- 15 x S! Caps. 20 x Salted Caramel Gu. 1 x UD Handheld & water.