In 2015 I went into the Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra marathon not expecting a PB (personal best) as I had run the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2 months prior and didn’t feel fully recovered. I finished the Jedburgh race with a 7 min PB.
This year – 2016 – my run mileage was much lower than it had been in recent years – down by nearly 30 % but my bike mileage was up significantly – approximately 100 %. I had credited the PB at the Highland Fling to this shift but felt that I had run even less going into Jedburgh and wasn’t convinced that the shift would still work.
As with 2015 though I would go out with a PB target. That said, the plan was rather loose to Ross Leslie’s surprise.
During the Highland Fling Ross went off at a rather high pace which he eventually paid for in the 2nd half of the race where I had passed him to finish the race over 30 min ahead. After that experience and reading my blog Ross thought it would be a good idea to run with the man who seemed to know a thing or 2 about pacing.
In my opinion it is probably less about pacing but about running your own race within your abilities knowing the distance that is on the cards that day. That said, Ross could be excused for not having a plan at all for Jedburgh as when he was in the car heading to the Jedburgh start he didn’t even have a race entry. He was on his way there to either help or spectate.
Over the course of an hour milling around at registration Ross went from being part of a relay team to having a full distance race entry and borrowing kit from others to be able to race the 38 mile course – or maybe run it with no pressure attached.
This was to be my 5th Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra and the forecast was the best we had over those 5 years. It didn’t disappoint on the day with very little wind and temperatures up to 15 degrees. It turned into the perfect autumn day with the leaves in the trees being every colour you could imagine. The sun put this natural wonder in its best light on the day.
Ross and I started out together. I tapped away at my usual steady pace but definitely had less of a plan than usual or at than I had at the Fling or at Jedburgh last year. I meant to look at my data from last year pre race but work put paid to that. So I tried to find the data in my memory storage during the race.
What I could recall was roughly 80-85 min to Maxton, around 3 hours to the top of the 3rd Eildon and then have around 100 min left when leaving Maxton on the return leg.
I did say prestart that I’d be happy not to get a PB as I had this thing in my head that as long as I got a PB I’d continue to come back to the race.
Ross and I let people go up the trail as I usually would but once through 10k we did start picking the odd run up again which was something of a new experience for Ross. We passed through Maxton in 85 min which seemed fine and I felt good. Neither of us stopped as neither of us had a drop bag. I didn’t bother with one at all for the race and planned to refill my water somewhere if necessary.
So Ross and I pushed on for Rhymers Stone chatting away about business ventures, other races and other competitors. The one place on the course where competitors got lost the previous year was well marked this time and I think you really couldn’t get lost this year anywhere. Ross did though have a good guide in me anyway as I am getting to know the course very well.
It was the easiest race to prep for as there was no worry about how cold the wind would be and if it would or wouldn’t rain as none of this was even remotely on the horizon.
We did pass a few relay runners which surprised me but otherwise worked our way up through the field and got into the Rhymers Stone checkpoint about 2:25 hours into the race. Ross picked up a gel or energy bar from the table on the way through and then we progressed to ascending the first of the Eildon hills. I let Ross get away a little and catch up with Andy Johns while I took on some food. After that I powerwalked my way up to them, handed Ross my buff I wasn’t using as the sun was beating down causing us all to sweat profusely which was unexpected at the end of October in Scotland.
It was at this point that our joint run ended as I continued to power walk strongly up the Eildons and flew down the descents. I had paced Ross to this point and hoped that he could take advantage of this.
Topping out on the first Eildon I felt the first onset of cramp which was concern at it had usually come on around 10k later. Well I would have to manage this for longer then. The 3 hour mark for the 3rd Eildon was spot on and if things continued to go well then I would be getting a similar time to 2015 and highly likely be under 6 hours again.
Leahn Perry caught me descending down towards Bowden and claimed that I wasn’t easy to catch. With the ease that he pulled away I had my doubts but I gave me a confidence boost.
At Bowden we run through a children’s play park just before the checkpoint. Last year we were kindly asked to make use of the apparatus on our way through. This time it was a definite part of the race course including the slide, wobbly bridge and climbing wall. If I was going to get a PB this added to the difficulty. Thankfully I got a brief rest after to refill my water bottle.
I was now back into the realm of running on your lonesome wondering when/if I would see another runner. I passed Fraser McCoull on my way into Newton St Boswells who was happy to be running well again. I also for the first time since I have done this race came past the last runners who were yet to start the Eildon loop as I rejoined the return leg. This too gave me a confidence boost as I felt that I must be ahead of previous schedules. As in previous years slowing down to powerwalk uphill or power climb steps caused my legs to cramp so I stuck to running up these which made for a couple of comedy moments when I would jog up a flight of steps past another runner.
Maxton on the return leg never seems to arrive. Knowing where it is and how far it is to get there seems to make this worse as I tried to work out when I would get there. At one point I thought I could be there inside 4:10 hours then, 4:10 seemed possible, then maybe 4:15. Eventually I passed through in 4:18. Again, no stop, as no drop bag, I probably would have just cramped up anyway, and the marshal was thankful as she couldn’t read my number from a distance.
So I had 102 min to finish in under 6 hours and 97 min to finish with a new PB. I felt confident but knew that this wasn’t much different to 2015 with the pressure kind of being higher because I started to want to go sub 5:55. Last year I ‘only’ wanted to go sub 6.
Once I hit the road climb after Maxton I saw Nigel Sheckleton ahead of me who I had an almighty battle with in 2014 in a futile attempt to go sub 6. It took me a while to catch Nigel though as he seemed to speed up and slow down but eventually I went past when we went up the muddiest patch on the course. Not long after club mate Kirsty McBirney came past me as part of the Harmeny ladies team. I was aware that the leading team was just up the road so could watch as Kirsty reeled her in and took the lead. Harmeny too both the men’s and women’s relay team top prices.
I went through 10k to go with just under 5 hours on the clock and still comfortable in a good finish. Just after I exited Dere Street on runner caught up with me then slowed down, then caught up again and slowed down again. This went on for the best part of 5km and puzzled me for a while. Once we hit the final road crossing he passed me. He revealed after the finish that he felt it was useful not to pass me as he wouldn’t go to hard. Fair enough. I’ve been in situations like that myself.
Last stretch, 4.5k to go and 5:30 hrs on the clock. This is in the bag isn’t but the final stretch into Jedburgh and to the finish always is longer than you’d think. As with coming into Maxton I was having visions of a sub 5:50 then maybe 5:52, or 5:53, damn that 5:55 is getting close.
I crossed the line in 11th place in a time of 5:54 with a 1 min PB. Phew. Pleased with that and based on my commitment this would mean a return in 2017. In the meantime though that return is very unlikely my fiancé and I are getting married the week before the 2017 race and those intend to be on our honeymoon on race weekend.
Having produced a PB at Jedburgh every time I turned up with no specific training for that race I intend to make it a target race one year soon to see what I could do. I guess something between 5:30-5:45 could be on the cards.
We stayed down for the weekend enjoying some post race drinks with some of the race crew and competitors at the Belter’s Bar. We had a great night’s stay at Hundalee House before Fiona took on the Jedburgh Half Marathon the following day in a bid to go under 90 minutes which she achieved finished 3rd in her category.
Ross finished in a very solid time of 6:15 hrs.