The Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra, a 38 mile race, and the Glen Ogle 33 mile race are scheduled to be my end of season races. Jedburgh was last weekend (Oct 27) and Glen Ogle is this coming weekend (Nov 2). The plan was to do these as a bit of fun at the end of the year. I’d done both of them last year and enjoyed them, both for the atmosphere and the scenery.
The forecast for this year’s Jedburgh race was rather mixed and seemed to change from minute to minute in the days before the event. Eventually the forecast settled for heavy rain early on changing for heavy showers later. These would be accompanied with fairly strong winds making the not exactly tropical 10 degrees feel like a nice Scottish damp 5 degrees.
As this wasn’t a target race for me I set out with a different set of targets for the race and wanted to try some new things out especially on the nutrition side. I had been trying some things out recently in training to see how little food I could get away with and if I could tap into my fat reserves (I will at some point hook up with Napier University to find out what my metabolic efficiency is like), see my recent post on ‘Riding on Empty’. May aim was to only eat small amounts 2-3 times during the race, and with that hopefully still getting to the end feeling that I could run.
Along with that I had set a couple of smaller targets: 1) have a strong run on the tarmac sections: I often seem to slow down on tarmac sections in ultras and I wanted to mentally push myself there; 2) Keep a positive mind set and keep driving forward and try and overrule negative thoughts.
Firstly it has to be said that I in most parts achieved all of the above and in the event finished the race 4 minutes faster than last year.
I had my breakfast around 2:30 hrs before race start which consisted of 3 rashers of bacon and 3 scrambled eggs washed down with 2 cups of coffee one of them with a shot of almond milk. From 60 minutes before race start until 2:30 hours into the race I neither ate or drank anything. At around 2:30 hrs the first main climb started and I used that opportunity to eat. I had some cheese and a few slices of salami washed down with a very weak energy drink (approx. 100ml). On the return leg I had 2/3 of a nine bar about 10 min before coming into checkpoint 3 which is at mile 28 (and was around 4 hours into the race for me. At CP3 I had a swig of coke (around 100ml) and then with around 4 miles to the finish I ate another 3rd of a nine bar. During the 2nd half of the race I also consumed a further 400ml of the weak energy drink.
So much to the food intake part of the race, now to the race itself. When we got to Jedburgh the rain was on and off still leaving me somewhat undecided what to wear but eventually I settled for compression socks, shorts, t-shirt, arm warmers, cap and my Montane wind proof with my waterproof in the bumbag if needed.
Whilst sorting out my last few bits at registration I realised that my trail shoes didn’t have any insoles in them. I was a bit surprised that my girlfriend had taken them out. She hadn’t! Bad move blaming her. I still have no idea where they are though. Luckily I travelled down with another pair of trainers so used those insoles hoping that it wouldn’t cause any issues. It didn’t!
That was issue number one averted. Issue number 2 happened the evening before when my Garmin 310XT decided to finally die after letting in water 10 days earlier. Thanks to Facebook and the Ultra running community I was able to have a Garmin on my wrist during the race. Thank you Howard for the Garmin loan and everyone else who offered their device with less than 12 hours to race start.
Anyway, it was dry at the start of the race and I clearly had my race hat on as I set off somewhere down the field but after a short burst of speed settled in around 5th. I moved around 4th and 6th in the first few k and then settled in fifth for most of the first half of the race. We all went wrong after the first mile as we retraced the last 2 miles of the half marathon route which takes place later in the day (and Fiona ran a 4 min PB in that too). We managed to reign the leaders in briefly too as they added an additional dog leg.
Once back on the proper route though it was nice off road trails as last year but with notably less mud. The sun came out and we had views of some stunning rainbows. I remember going through 10k last year thinking: jeez that was fast. This year I thought: Jeez that was even faster! Over the first 10-15 miles I felt I was really pushing the pace compared to other races in the last couple of years where I would go out at a moderate effort and then see how I feel later on. I didn’t really want to drop out of the top 5. Moving into 4th seemed a good possibility too as the guy (Mark Caldwell I believe) in front of me had a tendency of going the wrong way even though the route was well marked. I had to point him in the right direction a few times.
They had predicted heavy showers so after around 14 miles we promptly got one. I noticed runners around me slowing down or stopping to put waterproofs on but I was hoping the forecasters meant for the showers to be just that. 15 minutes into this rather heavy shower I was starting to wonder though, but then it eased and eventually stopped and the sun came out. I got a heads up on the gap to the leader at St Boswells Golf club which was around 10 min at the time.
From the start it was clear that one of the runners (Neil McNicol) would be way out in front with a race being on for 2nd. Going along the Tweed after St. Boswells I had 2nd to 4th (Hugh Macinnes, Duncan Oakes and Mark) in my sights. We were all within 3 minutes of each other. So far I felt strong, legs were moving well and I hadn’t touched my food. I hadn’t even touched my bumbag as the waterproof stayed in there too. I just kept moving. When we reached the turn off from the Tweed I got caught by the guy (John Malcolm) so far running in 6th. We ran together for a bit but he was notably stronger so I let him go. Unbeknown to us we had moved up a place as Mark had gone another way again. We only realised when he caught us again before CP2. Steven Beattie caught us just before CP2 as well and the 4 of us ran in together in 4-7th places.
I didn’t stop as I didn’t have a drop bag so headed out in 4th place but both John and Steven came past me soon after while I was eating my cheese and salami. We all powerwalked well up the first Eildon hill, Mark following just behind. Hugh and Duncan were in view a bit higher up. No sight of the leader though. I got over the Eildons fine being mindful that I fell descending one of the hills during the recce run 4 weeks earlier. The wind at the top was ferocious leading to some comical sideways running. We gradually strung out having settled into our positions. I had an enjoyable descent off the Eildons and then aimed to get a move on once I hit a flatter sections. I was advised that I wasn’t far off 3rd which by my calculations seemed wrong and it was. With the pace John and Steven were putting in I was expecting myself to finish in 6th baring disaster up front in a major blow up or someone going wrong. At worst I would slip to 8th as looking back from top of the Eildons there was a huge gap behind Elaine Omand who was leading the female race.
I had a good run on the tarmac section running down to Newton St Boswells, pointed Steven in the right direction at one point before John caught up with me again. He should have been in 2nd place by now but went a couple of kms in the wrong direction before realising what he had done. Devastating! He did manage to catch Steven though and finish 4th.
I got back down to the river. Legs were getting a bit tired but mind and body were strong and I was still moving pretty well. At the point that I ate my 9bar I most likely had a longer walk break than intended but felt I needed it. Interestingly whenever I restarted running after a walk break it felt absolutely fine. I came into CP3 at Maxton where I had a 250ml bottle of coke and a 9 bar in a drop bag. Took the 9 bar with me and a sip of the coke.
I ran reasonably well up the tarmac road after Maxton which are around 2 miles into a head wind but then felt as if I struggled on the final 7 miles where my leg work rate didn’t seem quite what I wanted it to be anymore. On the other hand though I kept running with the exception of a few short walk when I felt the incline was steep enough. Half way down ‘Deke Street’, which is an off road field section I realised that I may lose 6th place after all. For the first time since John repassed me near Newton St Boswells I had another runner closing in on me. That seemed like a relative term as the gap didn’t seem to really come down and for the next 8km I was constantly looking over my shoulder. At around 6k I had some more 9bar hoping that it would help and in the event also added another walk break. I was expecting to be caught at that point – still nothing. Eventually I popped out onto the A698 and was guided to the correct route back into Jedburgh. Relief there as I didn’t fancy running up the hill to the A68 into a headwind. I should add that I had 12 Jelly Babies in my bumbag as emergency food should things go horribly wrong but over the last 10 miles I wanted to stay headstrong and not give into them.
The last 4km are split up into 2k tarmac, half a km off road and 1.5k tarmac. Once on the tarmac I looked back again and realised it was Elaine who was breathing down my neck. She was moving better on the tarmac section and this is where she finally closed the gap. She had paced her race really well but when she came past she was struggling and asked how much further – we had just come past the 1 mile to go sign for the half marathon and as we were now using the same route it would be the same for us. I let her move ahead as she looked stronger then she started walking, I passed her, she started running again to keep the lead. As she said though she was struggling as even over the last km she threw in several walk breaks. Huge credit to Elaine on a well paced run and a win including female course record in her maiden ultra marathon. I kept a nice steady pace to the end and crossed the line in 7th with a 4 min PB over last year’s race. The conditions were better which helped.
But as I said above this race wasn’t about a time or a placing, I was also willing to find out how much I would slow down, would I have to walk for a longer stretch because I hadn’t eaten. I ate little but felt strong throughout – cardiovascular strength and strength of mind. My legs struggled towards the end and I felt that I just wanted to finish. Regarding my other targets I was also pleased with how I handled the tarmac except for the final section and I had huge strength of mind with only a couple of moments where I just wanted to finally see the finish line.
This may be controversial but I am going to attribute the aching legs towards to end to the fact that I didn’t really run to my usual run/walk strategy for one and on the other hand that I went out quite hard at the start (at least for me). In recent races walk breaks and food breaks would go hand in hand and on Sunday I decided to just keep running. Up to 30 miles this seemed quite OK and then it felt as if the legs had been punished a bit too much.
Overall though the food experiment worked well and proved that I can complete a race such as the Jedburgh Ultra on very little nutrition. I intend to play around with this further as it is an interesting approach to racing and really makes some simpler tactics if I can get this right. I hope to delve into a similar experiment this Saturday as long as my left calf which has been bothering me since Monday calms down.
What this does show is that you can actually keep going. In many ways I believe I needed my head in the right place for this too so I could tell myself that I didn’t really need any food and I could make myself keep running when I didn’t really want to. Going from being used to eating every 20 min in a race to not having anything in the first 2:30 hours is a huge change. I can easily do it in training so why not be able to do it in racing. Other factors that may have influenced the performance on Sunday would have been a set of not fully recovered legs too as I had run 77k over the previous weekend which included 9 munros.
Thank you to Noanie and Angela for taking on running the event for a second time. The course is fantastic and the route marking was spot on this year. I was helped by the fact that I already knew my way around from last year. It always amazes me how much shorter things feel the 2nd time you do them. Well done to Neil and Elaine on their wins and to everyone else on completing the race.
Fiona had done the half marathon, saw me finish and we then waited for Carole to finish as she was giving us a lift home. Her verdict on the race was that it was too muddy. Before heading home we had a late lunch in one of the local pubs which went down nicely.
Related Links: Results