Scott Garrett is a Sport Therapist here at Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic and is also a very keen runner. In this blog post, Scott shares his White Rose Ultra Marathon journey.
Having done a fair bit of endurance events over the years including many half and full marathons, 2-day mountain marathons, alps trails, coast to coast, obstacle racing etc etc, towards the end of 201 I was persuaded to give the White Rose Ultra marathon a go.
I normally run anywhere between 25 and 50 miles per week in training with a few cross country, fell races and 10k races thrown in as I love the competitive nature of these events. However, I have never ran more than 26.2 miles in a single event in one go so I thought “yep, let’s give it a go”.
I had 3 options, 30 miles, 60 and 100. Cross the last two off, maybe next time! 30 miles would be the beginning of my ultra-running career. After all its only 4 miles up from a marathon, Right!
Well unlike road marathons which I still class as a race, I was not going to set myself a time limit. This was more of a challenge than a road marathon race, plus there was an 8-hr cut off point for completing the run. It was all about getting around in one piece. I had two months to prepare but was coming off a good summer of half marathon racing and well into the cross country season, so training was not a shock to the system.
I built up to 35 miles per week in weeks 5 to 7 and tapered back in week 8. My long weeks included long slow steady hilly trail runs of 13 miles as this was what I would be racing on, 8-mile tempo runs and a few short and sharp 5 mile runs to keep up my speed. Some runners, especially experienced ultra-runners put in a lot more longer runs during the week and regularly run between 60 and 100mile per week. As I had 8 weeks to prepare I was not going to be able to do this, so I focused on quality over quantity. My long runs were up to Tanfield and the Derwent walk.
During this time, I upped my prehab routine, which included massage, physiotherapy, osteopathy and podiatry. If I was putting in the miles I did not want to break down before the main event. I’m a firm believer in looking after your body and your body will look after you. I booked myself in for weekly sports massage (I usually get one a month) to loosen off fatigued muscles which helped me train longer and more regular. I had a couple of physiotherapy sessions to sort out any little niggles and stop them getting worse. (I suffer from arthritis in my right ankle and chronic tightness in my right hip flexor caused by years of football). The Osteopath was able to correct any postural defects I had which can lead to future problems and I saw the Podiatrist to assess my gait and running biomechanics. As well as prehab treatments at the clinic, I also kept up my resistance training at the gym as a strong core makes activity much easier.
As the day of the White Rose Ultra approached, I experimented with different foods and fluids on my long runs and practiced running with a kit that was mandatory for all runners competing in the Ultra run. I also carb loaded and prepared what I was going to wear on the day in advance. I’m fitted with a pair of saucony trail running shoes, perfect for the multi terrain of road, fells, trails and bogs. These were recommended from our specialist podiatrist as they were bespoke manufactured to my feet and running style.
There were 14 runners from my local running club taking part in the run, we all made the journey down to Huddersfield on the night before the race, everyone super excited and some nervous as they have never run such a big event before. I’m used to fells and cross county, so the terrain was not a concern for me. Though, admittedly, that night I was like a kid waiting for Santa!
I only managed around 5 hours sleep and I had my alarm set for 5.30am. I usually get 8 hours sleep a night as it helps the body to recover but when your excited it’s hard to sleep.
A quick breakfast of porridge and toast, with lots of water and electrolytes for hydration and then my running club and I made our way to race HQ ready for the start. We got there with 30 mins to spare so plenty time to check our kit. Map, compass, waterproofs, whistle, phone, warm insulated top, food and water all in a small back pack. By 8am, I was standing on the start line at the front as usual although I never will long distance events – a man caan only dream.
Bang! And we are away. The first 10 mile were fantastic, brutal hills, unreal scenery and lying in 25th position. Mile 12 I reached the first check point, this is where you can get pulled from the race for not carrying the mandatory equipment and it’s also stocked with food and water. Quick water change and I forced down some banana and jelly babies, which perked me up a bit and off I went.
Passing through a couple of villages and slippy cobblestones, I eventually reached checkpoint two at mile 18. Another refuel and the end getting closer, so I thought.
I was challenged by more and more gigantic hills, it was easier on the legs going up than it was going down. My thighs were screaming.
Mile 20 was a bad mile for me. Top of the moor and the conditions were cold and windy whilst plodding through two miles stretch of bog. This is where I started to feel dizzy and sick. Migraine tablets in my kit came in handy. Looking back, I think the sickness was caused by eating too much sugary snacks earlier in the race and not enough savoury or salty foods, it is important to balance your sugar and salt levels when competing. After 20 miles I could not stomach anything even though my body needed fuel, I did keep taking regular sips of water.
I managed to pull myself together both physically and mentally for the last few miles although my legs were burning more and more when going down the steep hills. I thought I had cracked it with a mile to go until someone decided it would be good fun for us all too run up the steepest hill of the race. Torture. It was a 350° ascent in half a mile.
Mile 29 took me 19 minutes despite me usually being a 7-minute miler during a marathon. By this time my quads and calves had just about had enough.
Luckily the final mile was a gentle downhill slope and though I may not have finished in 1st place, I was more than happy to have finished in 60th place.
After the race:
After these events its important to refuel on fluid, carbohydrates and protein and a meal of chilli and rice provided that. A quick wash and although I had a good stretch I was looking forward to my post race massage the following day.
The next day I was pleased I had thought ahead an booked my sports massage as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) had set in and a sports massage would help reduce it massively.
I also reflected on the race, yesterday I said never again. However! You forget the bad parts and look at the good points – great scenery, personal achievement, keeping fit, meeting new people and so on.
Looking back, it was a brilliant experience, I have learnt a few things that I can do different next time. There is always a next time!
Next Challenge, the Lakeland 55.