Pennine Barrier ultra – 23rd June 2018
Results out of 198 finishers. An incredible achievement for 9 Doncaster runners to complete the course!
|176||43||15:58||Marie Louise Taylor|
Martin Hookways Report:
This was to be only my 2nd race of the year, I was not at the level of ﬁtness I wanted to be at, and this was to be the toughest 50 I’d ever done. With this in mind I told myself I wasn’t going to “race” hard like had initially planned. It was great to see friends on the start line, but to line up with DAC team mates left me beeming with pride. I chose to run with my sticks from the start to get some good training with them ahead of UGB200. The race started and we set off, I had the biggest smile on my face as we heading into Malham Cove. It wasn’t long before the group I was in overshot the ﬁrst turn, resulting in us having to jump a wall and a big patch of nettles. Not my fault, honest.
Que dramatic jump. I settled into a steady pace, I walked the climbs, ran the ﬂats, had fun on decents and enjoyed the rolling trail chatting to fellow runners. The sun rises and it soon becomes evident that there was escape from the heat on the trail. About 10mi in as I climbed the busy Pen-y-Ghent, I felt my calfs start to pop. I’d taken on board 1lt of Tailwind & 2 salt tablets so cramping should not have been an issue. With this in mind I decided to take the decent slower than normal. Initially all felt good, so I decided to open my stride and have some fun. Sadly my calfs thought otherwise. A couple of strides in and both calfs locked up solid! What can only be described as a salmon dive followed, as was catapulted into the air, obviously what goes up soon comes down, hard. Big thanks to Chris Lawson for stopping to help me up, and the group of Hindu charity walkers who offered support. The problem was everytime I was lifted to my feet, my legs would cramp again and I would become a dead weight, crashing back to the ground. Eventually the cramps subsided and I was able to hobble down the decent. I enjoyed the next 2 climbs up Whernside and Ingleborough, chatting with friends and enjoying the stunning views. Sue crewed me at checkpoints and as normal was a rock, knowing exactly what I needed before I did. 35mi in and Sue loosened off my calfs at the Checkpoint.
At this point I heard that 55 runners had past the check point. That meant I was 56th and out of Gold medal position. With that I jumped up and prepared to head out. Sue reminded me that I wasn’t racing today but I wanted a top 50 ﬁnish. I thanked the CP and headed out. Still walking the climbs but letting myself go a little on the ﬂats and decents. I felt strong, I was surprised at how good I felt considering my lack of training this year & even more shocked that I was overtaking other runners. Luckily none of them fought back
I ﬁnished strong in 41st with a massive smile on my face. I collected my gold medal and sat to cheer everyone else in with a dram of whisky. All in all a crackin day out with DAC TEAM ULTRA, to see all club members not only ﬁnish but show so much grit and determination, made me one proud Ultra Captain. Well done Team.
Peter Vickers Report:
This was my first ‘serious’ race in a whole year, since I did Chase the Train and the Damflask relays in June 2017 in fact. So this was the end of a very long and hard journey of getting back to my best, after completing my training for the York marathon in 2017 but falling ill at the last minute for a demoralising ‘Did Not Start’. I then felt crappy for a while. At that time, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be doing the Pennine Barrier in June 2018. So this was a dream come true.
Training went well, although I didn’t go nuts as didn’t want to fall ill again – paranoid! Still, I’d done some pretty serious hill work, with 4000 and 4500ft weeks in the run up. I’d also done a few ‘long’ runs over 20 miles, but not too many. So on the morning of the Pennine Barrier what lay ahead was very much an unknown. I thought it would probably work out like the Round Rotherham in 2016: feeling OK until about 35 miles, then rapidly going downhill.
Simon Jennings (DAC) had done some awesome training, and I thought it would be nice to stick with him for 15 or 20 miles, just for the company, then let him go. We’d had a good 22 mile training run a couple of weeks before the race, and the chatting helped the miles to tick over. But I did want to take the first half of the race slow and not get carried away. So, I was quite determined to let him go at some point!
Things didn’t start too great. The pace seemed a bit fast, and I had a slight niggle in my right ankle at about 4 miles in. I wondered whether I’d chosen the right shoes – I used Merrell trail crushers, and these are very light and quite insubstantial. Good for speed, but maybe not good for ankle support over rough ground. Anyway, I just hoped it wouldn’t get worse, but I did wonder whether I’d be a DNF with an injured ankle after, say, 30 miles.
Another worry was when I realised it was warming up, and I’d forgotten to put any suncream on. I was set to be out in the hot June sun for 12 hours (so I thought), and was going to be burnt to an absolute crisp! Simon said he had some in his pack I could use, which was a total god-send. I didn’t want to slow him up, and we agreed I’d put some on at the first checkpoint, which was about 11.5 miles. So I knew I had to stick with him until at least then. Which was a slight worry, because Martin James was with us at about 5 miles, and I could only see the pace quickening. I thought I’d have to run faster than I wanted to, just to stick with the two of them until the first checkpoint. But without the suncream I was screwed, so I’d have to do it.
As it happened, the pace wasn’t too bad for me. We ran up inclines just a bit more than I wanted to, but it was fine. And it was a truly beautiful morning. The legs felt good, the ankle was just a niggle, and we were enjoying ourselves.
Things were ticking over nicely at about 15 miles. We’d done Pen-y-ghent now, and were jogging to the second checkpoint. I told Simon around here that I’d have to let him go soon, but he seemed happy to stick with me. Martin James was lagging behind us a bit now (he’d spent longer at checkpoint 1), but I was sure he’d catch up.
I was relieved to get to checkpoint 2 at about 20 miles in. I’d been saving my first tailwind for this checkpoint, managing on water and a peanut butter sandwich up to here. I was hungry, and had plenty of malt loaf at the checkpoint (which I was thrilled to see was on offer – I’d nearly brought my own!). Martin James caught us up at the checkpoint, but wasn’t having a great time – he’d fallen a couple of times coming off Pen-y-ghent. But he seemed OK. Simon and I set off for Whernside.
So far we seemed to be going too fast. We’d talked plenty about trying for 12 minute miling overall, which would be 5 miles per hour, and so 10 hours overall for the 50 miles. That seemed like a dream time (10 hours got 3rd place in 2017!). But so far we’d run plenty of 8, 9, and 10 minute miles, so we were well under 12 minute miling. Surely this was going to come back to bite us? I wondered about dropping off the pace, but checkpoint 2 had given me a new lease of life, and Simon was happy to walk all the way up Whernside anyway. So it was easy enough to stick together and enjoy the walk, sipping my caffeinated tailwind all the way.
The views from the top were amazing, but we didn’t stop. We’d been walking a long time, and this was an opportunity to do some running. I was also kinda buzzing now from all the caffeine. I set off quite fast down Whernside, and kept up the pace basically all the way to the road, and checkpoint 3. It just felt good, and I knew it would be really slow going up Ingleborough. I assumed Simon was just behind me, and I’d catch up with him at the checkpoint.
But as it turned out, Simon had slowed up a bit, and I’d got a bit ahead. I did all my stuff nice and slow at the checkpoint (more malt loaf – brilliant!) and was ready to go. Finally I saw Simon coming, and I waved then set off. I was still sure he’d catch me up, and pass me, and I’d let him go. The race was only just getting started, after all, with the really hard 20 miles still to come. I figured I had about 6 or 7 miles left, then the fatigue would really set in and I’d slow down loads.
It was all good up Ingleborough. I ascended nice and slow with a 23 minute mile for mile 30. Even walking up a steep incline seemed like a good rest from running, and helped me to take on lots of fluids. It was weird being on my own now, though. It was just starting to dawn on me that I had a chance of getting quite a bit ahead of Simon, with the long steady descent from the top of Ingleborough into Horton-in-Ribblesdale. I had been looking forward to this descent, as I could remember doing it with a friend a few years earlier. It was weird, though, as I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to leave Simon behind, and run on my own. This definitely hadn’t been the plan. I saw Simon briefly just as I was starting the descent, and he was on the way up to the top. So, he wasn’t that far behind. I’d surely see him again. But while I was feeling good, I figured I should run.
Looking back at the start of the long descent to Horton-in-Ribblesdale. I’d just seen Simon on his way up. It was the last time I’d see him.
I kinda flew down the three-or-so miles to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, without seeing any other runners, reaching checkpoint 4 at 35 miles. Now I was flagging, and wondered about using my second caffeinated tailwind. But the checkpoint folk reminded me that it was only five miles to the next checkpoint. Then it was the hardest section of all – the final 10 miles, starting with a big hill, and with no further checkpoints or support. I had to save my tailwind for that. So I set off with about 400ml of water.
At this point I was in 16th place. I couldn’t believe that. Really I was supposed to just be going for sub-12 hours, and a top 50 position to get a gold medal. I was starting to realise that I was having a great race. I still felt pretty good, and I knew I was going to walk all the way up to the shoulder of Pen-y-ghent, which would be like a rest, really. I figured I could let 20 people past me, and it wouldn’t matter at all. And that seemed kinda unlikely, because I hadn’t seen anyone for ages, and didn’t see anyone at checkpoint 4. The pressure was off, and I could just go as slow as I wanted.
I took it really slow to checkpoint 5, with plenty of walking, but somehow still managed to pass somebody. So now I was in 15th position. And there was also somebody (Rob Lister, it turned out) right ahead. I caught Rob at the checkpoint, but then he set off and I took plenty of time eating some chocolate covered coffee beans (brilliant!) and sorting my last tailwind. I had no ambition to catch him up. 15th position was absolutely fine! More than fine. I couldn’t really believe what was happening.
Now I was at 40 miles, and should have been really, really flagging. But I didn’t feel too bad. I’d walked a lot up to the shoulder of Pen-y-ghent, then I walked all the way up the final big hill during miles 40-42. Rob was in clear sight, and kept looking back, but I really wasn’t chasing him. When I got to the top, I couldn’t see him, and that was fine. I started jogging down.
But then I did see him a couple of times. I was actually catching him a bit. It was weird, because it was like I was chasing him but I really wasn’t! I was just jogging the downhills, and walking every incline. The legs were starting to go to jelly now, but I only had about 6 miles left, so that seemed fine – I could push through 6 miles easily enough.
I reached Malham Tarn and suddenly Rob was right in front of me walking. I jogged past him and thought I might as well carry on running for a while, just to get some distance between us. Then I started to see two others ahead of me. Surely I couldn’t catch them as well? I was going so slow, but maybe they were going even slower.
Between Malham Tarn and Malham Cove Rob caught me up and passed me, and seemed very determined (he’d end up in 12th place). I was happy to let him go. And anyway, the other two guys were struggling and me and Rob passed them quite easily. I was quite surprised – I was really struggling myself now, but these other two guys were going even slower. One of them popped a blister as I passed him.
The technical bits down to Malham Cove were horrendous – sharp, warped rocks everywhere and every step hurt so much. I’d had enough now. I tried to think up some motivational songs (Moana!) and that helped a bit, but not too much. But then suddenly I could see the finish – the field with the finish line was there in the distance, visible from the top of Malham Cove. It was a fantastic moment. I checked my watch and the average pace had slowly been ticking down over the past 5 miles or so, since the top of the last hill. It had briefly gone over 12 minute miling average walking up that last hill, but now was below that again, on about 11.55 minute miling. It was clear I could go really slow for the last few miles and still get under 10 hours. I was absolutely amazed – it was a better result than I ever dreamed was possible.
Coming into the finish line was amazing. I was feeling pretty emotional to say the least. And the support from people in the final half mile was fantastic. It was my best ever result in any race. And even more special as a comeback following a bad year. An amazing and unforgettable day on the hills.
Simon came in about 20 minutes later, in 19th place. I felt awful beating him! He’d trained so very hard, and was stronger than me in many ways. But I’m sure he’ll get me back next time. He’d still got an amazing time, and a much deserved place in the top 20.
A big shout out to the other DAC runners. It was incredible to get nine Doncaster AC runners taking part in an event as crazy as this one. It meant there was a really nice team spirit. Chris Lawson came in 24th, with a time of 10.43. Martin Hookway was next, in 40th place with a time of 11.10. Allan Carson and Des Savage were next, in 89th place with a time of 12.46. Martin James was next, in 102nd place with a time of 13.03. Then Michelle Ward and Marie-Louise Taylor came in in 42nd and 43rd place in the women’s race, in a time of 15.58. Amazing performances all. Some great stories to tell, but I won’t try to tell anyone else’s story here.
Big bowl of porridge 90 minutes before the start.
Peanut butter sandwich and water for the first twenty miles.
Plenty of malt loaf, then a caffeinated tailwind for the next five miles.
More malt loaf, then just water for the next ten miles to take me to 35 miles.
Some cereal bar and water to get me to 40 miles.
Chocolate coffee beans, then a caffeinated tailwind in a lot of water (1300ml?) for the last ten miles.
Not much I would change here – everything felt right.
Was a lot colder than I thought, and I ended up wearing my waterproof jacket for about half of the race. The rest of the time I had it tied round my waist, which worked well.
Never needed my map.
My reservoir was quite hard to open at times. Some people at the checkpoints helped me. Maybe I can get some lubricant for it. Need to look into that.
Can’t believe I forgot to put suncream on. Huge error, and Simon totally saved me by taking some in his pack. Can’t forget that next time!
My watch worked brilliantly. 40% battery left at the end. I used it mainly for the average pace.
My Merrell trail crushers were great for performance, but a bit insubstantial and flimsy for some of the tough terrain. Not sure I’d recommend them. They’re more for easy trails. But they did feel comfy for the whole race.
My Salomon running pack was brilliant. Nothing to fault there. And I’d definitely use a water reservoir again for an event like this.
It was fine running it in a vest. The only thing is that the suncream on my shoulders got rubbed off, and I should have re-applied. Got a bit burnt.
Thoughts on training
I didn’t do crazy miles at all leading up to this event. But I did do some quite solid hill work. I think that paid off well, as I had no cramp issues on the day, and the hills felt easy (I was only walking them after all).
Weekly elevation gain in the weeks leading up to the race:
I also did a few 20+ mile runs, but not many. About four. It felt good to do 22 miles at a steady pace two weeks before the race. I’d definitely do that again.
I probably over-tapered, but given my performance it clearly didn’t matter much! I’m happy to believe that all the hard work should already be done four weeks before a race.
Chris Lawson Report
I went into this race with mixed feelings about how I would get on. When I did the Chester Ultra a few months back I’d been doing a lot more miles and hills but had just picked up a niggly injury. My injury had cleared in time for this race, but I’d not been doing the miles and hills that I had done before Chester. As there were quite a few DAC runners I thought I’d just relax and enjoy the day.
I arrived quite late on the Friday night not quite knowing where I was going to park the van and sleep, only to find that I could park up in the field where the race started. I parked up, bumped into the Hookways and then wondered into the village where I found Peter Vickers and the Carsons, so I had a couple of beers and a chat before heading back to the van for a late night carb feed.
On the morning of the race it was great to see the rest of the DAC crew coming together and having a chat before the race started at 6am.
As the race started I thought I’d stick with Peter, Simon and the 2 Martins for a while as I know we all had plans to start steady. However, within the first mile it was clear that their steady was much quicker than mine so I held back and let them slip off into the distance. As my watch battery had died with 10 miles to go at Chester I decided not to start my watch until 10 or 20 miles in. Instead I relaxed and began to think about what I wanted from the race, which is something I often do in the first few miles. I decided my goals were a) to finish the race (always the first objective) and b) finish under 12 hours.
The first ascent went up Malham Cove and up to a hilltop just past the cove where we double backed on ourselves before continuing towards Malham tarn. It was good to see the other DAC runners going in the opposite direction after the double back, although I was pretty surprised at how much further ahead of me Peter, Simon and the two Martins were already. However, I managed to resist the temptation to try to catch them up and carried on at my own steady pace. The route past Malham tarn was a nice smooth surface with a gradual incline. This was NOT a sign of things to come.
As my watch was still not switched on, and I knew the first checkpoint was around 10 miles, I guessed that I’d be running for around 1.5 to 2 hours until I hit the checkpoint, so I switched off and ran as efficiently as I could and enjoyed the views. The first checkpoint seemed to come quite quickly so I grabbed a few small bites to eat, topped up my water and carried on with the minimum amount of stopping time. Soon after checkpoint 1 we reached the first steep ascent of Pen-y-ghent. The steps up the mountainside ahead where pretty formidable, and I could see a huge amount of people climbing the ascent in the distance like a procession of ants. It turned out that there were a few organised walks of the Yorkshire 3 peaks going on which made it pretty congested. The ascent was tricky especially as there was a long queue of slow moving people, so to get up at a reasonable pace I had to go the long and difficult way round groups of people, which seemed fine at the time but I knew I was using energy that I would need later on. However, I reached the top quicker than I expected and finally reached some relatively flat terrain that I could run on. I was surprised to see Martin Hookway not far in front of me at this point, as I thought he was much further ahead. He seemed to be struggling and then I saw him fall badly as I was reaching him. As I got to him I could see he was cramping up in his calves, so I tried to help by lifting his legs and rubbing his calves. I tried a few times to get Martin to his feet, but he’s a big unit 🙂 and a dead weight so I couldn’t get him to his feet. A couple of friendly guys from a big group of walkers on a Sikh walking event helped to get Martin back on his feet. Martin assured me he was OK and told me to get on my way, so I did, but if I’m honest I thought Martins run was over and he’d struggle to make it to the next checkpoint.
I continued onwards with no idea how far I had run and therefore no idea when I’d reach the next checkpoint. Eventually I couldn’t resist asking someone how far into the race we were. In my head I felt I had run around 15 miles, so I was pretty shocked when he told me we had done 19.5 miles! That was a real bonus, and within a further mile I reached the 2nd checkpoint. As I approached the checkpoint I was surprised to see Martin James there. I saw Martin Hookways wife and told her that Martin was really struggling and might not make it round. I had a chat with Martin James and we decided to set off together, the guys at the checkpoint said that we were around 45th place, which we were both pretty pleased with. Martin told me that he had seen Peter and Simon at the checkpoint and they were only 3 minutes or so ahead. At this point I started to get big ideas about catching them up. As we set off I saw Martin Hookway approaching the checkpoint looking absolutely fine and couldn’t believe how well he’d recovered from his fall and his cramp. From this checkpoint Martin James and I ran together for a couple of miles. As we started to ascend Whernside Martin started to drop off a bit so, like the great team player that I am, I left him and worked my way up the hill. It was great to reach the top of Whernside and the views were fantastic, but I was looking forward to some rest on the descent. Unfortunately, the descent was really tricky with some very steep and rocky paths. On reaching checkpoint 3 I was surprised to see Simon Jennings there, which reinforced my grand ideas about catching him and Peter up. The guys at the checkpoint said I was around 32nd, which was a huge surprise and gave me a boost. At this point I couldn’t resist the temptation to start counting the miles, so I switched my watch on, knowing there were around 20 miles to go. Immediately after the checkpoint we went into an increasingly steep ascent of Ingleborough. It was tough work with some really steep climbing. As I approached the summit I saw Simon coming back the other way and it was clear he had pulled away from me considerably so I gave up on trying to catch him and Peter up and focussed on trying to maintain my position.
The descent from Ingleborough was another difficult one and I could feel my running was becoming laboured. I tried to focus on running with the minimum amount of effort, just putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually I saw a sign saying Horton-in-Ribblesdale was 2 miles away, and I guessed the next checkpoint would be there. I plodded on thinking only of getting to the next checkpoint. I was really starting to struggle now. It was nice to see the checkpoint tent ahead as I went past the train station at Horton-in-Ribblesdale and as I approached I could see Simon setting off. I fuelled up and asked how far it was to the next checkpoint (I was getting desperate now). I was told it was only 4 miles to the next checkpoint, which was great news in a way, but also meant there would be 10 miles between the last checkpoint and the finish. At this stage I was only thinking about making it to the next checkpoint, so 4 miles seemed OK. However, the first 2.5 miles after this checkpoint were awful with some really steep ascents and my legs were starting to cramp up whenever I met any steep ground. I started to think that I might not make it round. I finally reached the final checkpoint and was determined to struggle through the final 10 miles to the finish, even if it meant walking much of it. I was told that I was around 28th at this point, so I was happy to drop some places between there and the finish. I set off with the aim of trying to run as much of the first 5 miles that I could, and then walking the last 5. We were now returning along the route that we had gone out on, and I’d forgotten the amount of descent there was in this section on the way out, meaning it was a steep ascent on the way back. I was really struggling with cramp now and took tiny steps to get up the hill. As I reached the brow of the hill I managed break into a slow canter which I tried to keep up as much as I could. Ahead of me I saw Malham tarn and my spirits rose as I knew it meant the end was approaching. I focussed on running with the minimum of effort and was surprised at how long I managed to keep this up.
Reaching Malham tarn was a great feeling, and I really started to feel that the end was approaching. The terrain smoothed out here too which was a big relief as the balls of my feet were getting quite sore now. I caught up and went past another runner who I’d not seen before which spurred me on a bit.
As I reached the top of Malham Cove I spotted the finish line in the distance and was elated. However, the route took us in a direction that wasn’t going towards the finish line, which was mentally tough to deal with. After some more tough and rocky terrain we eventually descended towards Janets Foss where I knew the route was a bit more even and gradual. The final route along the river toward the finish was a case of mind over matter, where I forced myself to run, albeit slowly. I was amazed to find I passed another 3 runners in the final 2 miles towards the finish, and when I finally reached Malham I think I might have even broken into a form of sprint towards the finish line (at least it felt like a sprint). The support was fantastic as I reached and crossed the finish line, and it was a huge relief to get there.
I bumped into Peter and Simon by the finish line and was hugely impressed to find they had finished 14th and 19th respectively. I found I had finished 24th, which was way beyond my expectations, but I still swore I’d never run an Ultra again (which is exactly what I said after each of the previous 3 Ultras I’d run).
Martin Hookway finished shortly afterwards which, given the state he was in after less that 15 miles, was one of the greatest comebacks I’ve ever seen. Much respect Martin!! We then waited and watched the rest of the DAC crew finish (which a quick trip to the pub in between). Unfortunately I had to head off before M&M finished as I had a ‘fun’ day lined up on the Sunday taking my son and his friends to Alton Towers as his birthday treat.
Overall it was a great weekend, with perfect weather, amazing views and great company. I still don’t intend to do another Ultra, but I dare say I’ll change my mind in a few weeks.