Posts Tagged ‘ultramarathon’

God’s Own Backyard Ultra

Saturday, May 21st, 2022 | Sport

A backyard ultra is a type of ultramarathon in which athletes have an hour to run 6,706 meters and get back to the start line for the next lap. If you don’t make it back in time, you’re out. The race goes on until there is only one person left standing; everyone else is a DNF.

I think I originally dismissed the event as being too close to Race to the Castle. But when that got cancelled, and Elenor wouldn’t shut up about it, I decided it was worth another look. By this point, I had already invited a bunch of friends over for a Eurovision party and so I would have to drop out after 11 laps. I said to myself “what’s the point if I can only run 72 kilometres.” Then I heard myself saying it and decided that was probably plenty of running for normal people 😂. And the whole discussion might be academic as I might not make it that far.

The first six laps

If you’re going to go deep at a backyard ultra, the entire first day is basically a warm-up. But it doesn’t feel like that. Probably because, again, three hours of running is a very long run to most people.

I ran the first lap with Kevin who was looking to get his second ultramarathon in the books (which he achieved!). The course heads down the canal and then loops back through Bramley Falls Woods. There is just over 90 metres of elevation gain per lap, which is not horrendously hilly. But for someone like me who mostly trains on the towpath, it’s pretty hilly!

After sussing out the course I switched to my Nike Vaporflys and went out in search of glory. This proved trickier than I imagined: some of the crossroads in the woods left me unsure and it took me a while to spot the red ribbons that guided the way. While experienced trail runners would have zero problems, again towpath-boy over here felt pretty proud that he had successfully navigated a marked course.

I was eating some heavy food at the start: sandwiches, fridge raiders, stuff that I would normally avoid in triathlon but works well in a slightly slower event.

Lap seven

The seventh lap is a nice milestone because it takes you through the marathon distance. Except it didn’t go so well.

Halfway through running through the woods, I tripped and hit the deck. One of the benefits of trail running is that you have nice soft dirt to fall on and so I got away with some grazing of my leg and dirt all over my hands, left leg and left arm. No broken skin or any use for the first aid training I was on last weekend.

It did knock the confidence out of me a little, though, which slowed me down. My energy levels crashed towards the end of the lap so I knew I needed some sugar. This was an issue because I was getting back in 45-50 minutes which gave me 10 minutes for food and a toilet break. But after lap seven I had to fit in washing the dirt off, assessing the grazing on my leg, and eating more than I normally would have on a given lap.

Laps eight and nine

After lap seven I switched to my Hoka Bondi X for some extra-cushioned running. I was tired by this point, though, and kept tripping over more things. No further falls but I started to rattle my confidence.

Then on lap nine, I fell over again. I didn’t go down, but I did roll my right ankle, which is the one I broke in December. For a minute I thought “oh no, it’s all happening again”. But I decided to spend a few minutes sitting in the dirt to see what was going on. The pain went away and I had full functionality of it so luckily I was able to continue running.

A big thank you to everyone who stopped to check on me, help me back to my feet and the marshalls that came to find me. I was back up and walking by this point but I felt well-looked after nonetheless.

Laps ten and eleven

After lap nine I had given myself permission to crack open the caffeine. I only do this when I know I have enough caffeine to maintain the caffeine buzz for the rest of the race. This is usually halfway through the marathon at Ironman but impossible to tell if you were going for the win at the backyard.

The Red Bull tasted so good. I think it perked me up a bit as I stopped tripping over things. That said, I was using a deliberate strategy of pushing a little harder on the towpath and a little easier on the technical descents, to mitigate any issues.

By the end of lap ten, I was eating mostly sugar, not wanting any other fluids or food of any kind, and generally feeling like my stomach was getting tired of this nonsense. It was a warm day so I was drinking twice as much as I usually would but it still did not seem to be enough (but my wee was still a lovely straw colour, so who knows).

Lap eleven was one of mixed feelings. I knew it was my finish line which is always a bit of a boost, but I was also tired, sore and ready to stop.

I think if I didn’t have a deadline, I could have done some more laps. But maybe not too many more: my right hip was sore in the same way that eventually forced me to stop running at Endure24 two years ago. It was definitely more sore at this point back then, but still noticeable enough that I think it would have become an issue down the line.

The end

I completed 11 laps which is officially 73.77 kilometres. Garmin measured less distance which I attribute to GPS in the woods. That’s not quite as far as I did at Endure24, but the longest I’ve done being out on course the whole time (if you discount the short breaks between laps).

At this point, I waddled off home, grabbing as many juice and ice lollies from the shop as I could. I felt grim once I got home and had to sit on the balcony for a bit to avoid growing up. Standard exhaustion/dehydration kind of stuff.

Congratulations to Keith Robson who finished 32 yards. Thank you to all of the organisers and marshalls for putting on a great event! And thank you to the people who brought the ice pops and the chips: it truly is a team sport.

Around The Park, Around The Clock 2022

Thursday, May 5th, 2022 | Sport

Last year, Toby organised Hyde Park Harriers’s first Around The Park, Around The Clock, a backyard ultra that consists of 5km loops that take place on the hour, each hour, for 12 hours. While this makes it somewhat easier than other backyard ultras, there is obviously no such thing as an easy ultramarathon.

This year it returned in the same format with ten of us taking on all 12 loops and many others joining us for many of them and the accompanying club picnic. Well done to Sam, Jon, Chloe, Robyn, Jed, Curtis, Rich G and Toby for completing all of the laps.

The weather was slightly kinder this year. There was no heavy rain at the start and it as a touch warmer, too, ending in a pleasant summer evening but without any sunburn.

Thank you to Naomi and Steve for the photos.

Around The Park, Around The Clock

Thursday, August 12th, 2021 | Sport

Last weekend, Hyde Park Harriers ran our first backyard ultra. I say Harriers, for legal purposes I need to make it clear that Toby technically “organised” the event and that we all participated at our own risk. And a lovely job he did, too.

In the “standard” backyard ultra format, you run a 6 km loop every hour and anyone who does not make it back to the finish line for the next hour is eliminated. The winner is the last person standing. The winner normally turns up around the end of the third day after nearly 500 kilometres of running.

As this was our first one, we made it a little easier: it was a five-kilometre three laps of Woodhouse Moor course and time-boxed to 12 hours. People could drop in and out as they wished but around nine of us completed all 12 laps (or 36 laps, depending on what you count as a “lap”), resulting in 60 kilometres of running.

It was raining pretty heavily at 8 am when we started but despite the weather, a large group of us kicked off the running. As the day wore on, it became warmer and less rainy which was much appreciated given we had 20-30 minutes to cool down between laps. My cumulative time was just over 5:48, so I was averaging around a 29-minute 5k. More importantly, my hips held up just two weeks after Outlaw.

Well done to everyone who took part and thank you to Toby for organising, everyone who brought food for the club picnic that took place in the middle, the good people who watched our stuff at base camp and Tim for letting us use Coffee on the Crescent as toilet facilities.

Cabot Trail

Monday, April 12th, 2021 | Sport

The Cabot Trail is a 298-kilometre loop road around Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It’s also a Conqueror challenge that I recently completed running around. This one took me around three months to complete which maybe suggests I have not been running as much as I usually do. Too much cycling!

Training Essentials for Ultrarunning

Saturday, February 13th, 2021 | Books

Training Essentials for Ultrarunning: How to Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance is a book by Jason Koop. Koop is an ultra coach and I like his book a lot. It challenges some conventional logic but does so with a heavy dose of academic referencing and modern theory on training.

One of the major premises of the book is that you should focus on fitness. This is often forgotten about with ultras. Many runners, including Laz Lake, will preach the benefits of miles and miles of training. And it is true you need to run a lot. But ultra runners should also do tempo runs and interval training. Why? Because if you increase your VO2 max by 10%, that makes running slowly 10% easier, too. And even running slowly is hard when you have to do it for 160 kilometres.

He follows a reverse periodisation model where you work on the least important things farthest away. In a traditional periodisation model, you would work on base fitness and add in speed work later. But Koop starts with speed work and then moves onto getting increasingly specific to the race as we move into the season.

If you want to deep dive into ultrarunning training theory, this is a great book.

Relentless Forward Progress

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 | Books

Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons is a book Bryon Powell.

I have read so many books on ultras recently, I am not going to say too much about them for fear I am confusing different books. But everything about this book was very good. On balance, I prefer it to Hal Koerner’s Field Guidem which is also a good read. But the advice in Powell’s book feels a little more practical, comprehensive and accessible.

Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 | Books

Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning: Training for an Ultramarathon, from 50K to 100 Miles and Beyond is a book by Hal Koerner (pretty obviously). Koerner is an ultrarunner who has won many of the famous American ultras including Western States, Javelina Jundred and Hardrock.

It is a solid book with plenty of advice. I would recommend it to anyone getting into ultra running.

Alps to Ocean medal

Sunday, January 24th, 2021 | Sport

Last month, I completed the Alps to Ocean virtual ultra, which is a 290 km run across New Zealand. It is always a pleasure to receive one of the medals because The Conqueror put so much effort into theirs.

Alps to Ocean virtual ultra

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020 | Sport

Yesterday I finished the Alps to Ocean virtual ultra running challenge. It’s set in New Zealand and, not surprisingly, takes you from the mountains down to the coast. Not all of it is on Google Street View so the views are not as good as they otherwise might be. There are a couple of postcards along the way. Total distance 289.7 km which I completed in a leisurely 87 days.

This is the fourth Conqueror “ultra” I’ve done, plus GVRAT and three “real-world” ultras. I had only done two until 2020 started but it’s been that kind of year.

LEJOG

Friday, October 16th, 2020 | Family & Parenting, Sport

With COVID forcing everything to go virtual, for this year’s father’s day, we got my dad the Land’s End to John o’ Groats running challenge. It is a 1,744.2 kilometre ultramarathon that winds its way up the UK via a needlessly indirect route and we undertook it as a family.

We set a 140-day (20-week) target. Early days went well because I was polishing off the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee and even when I stopped running as much everyone else was crushing it. This included a week where my parents walked about 100 miles around Flamborough that pushed us even further ahead.

In the end, we finished in 103 days, 5 weeks ahead of schedule. The biggest contribution came from my dad who filed 542.8 km of the distance himself. We finished it off with a socially-distanced walk using a WhatsApp video call.