Being Ultra Prepared

I have been mulling over the whole ultra marathon thing for a few years now. At least the last 10! However, I think the seeds were planted a long time before that. A love of mountains and moors, biking, mountain biking, cyclocross, a little fell running, plenty of fast moor adventures, and three years at college learning to be an outdoor pursuits instructor were all things I did a lot of when I was younger.


Dartmoor really is fantastic. This is one of my favourite photos I have of the moor (do take a look at the whole set on Flickr).

I was a Ten Tors regular and as part of the training I remember one year, probably 1993 or 4, doing the O.A.T.S  Walk on Darrmoor. 29 miles in one day, Ivybridge to Okehampton. The first time I tried this, it took me 10h30 or so. I went back the next year having trained hard and did it in 8h15, one of the fasted walking teams. What really stood out that second time was the fell runners, while my team kept up for the first few miles, they were faster, carried less, and didn’t appear to need to stop. The fastest time was around 5h30.

About 10 years ago I read something in the Sunday papers about a ultra running, tales of events across the world, South Africa, Africa, America, people were achieving great feats of human endurance. I guess this was a cognitive milestone!

This seed germinated and has slowly grown. When, in 2008, I turned 34 I started running again after a 15+ year break, spurred on by a birthday gift of an iPod nano and a nike+ sensor. I actually started logging my runs using TrailRunnerX. I did run mush, according to my running diary around 12-14 miles a week. Over the next few years it got more serious, and then through 2013, notwithstanding the coeliac blip, I have now managed to cover distances I never managed before. Some of this might have been an event focus; signing up to run the Great West Run also meant signing up to my own expectations as well as a training schedule.

The post GWR week has been an easy running week so far, not many miles, but one of a growing sense of excitement that my body is actually capable of doing this kind of thing.

I read about the Dartmoor Discovery a couple of years back and have made a pact with myself that I will run it in 2014. The year I turn 40.

The DD is a 50k road ultra, not much more than a marathon, but those Dartmoor lanes are pretty impressive and have a mighty climbs and descents.

In looking at how I might prep for this, and working out what local events their may be, I have found the Exmoor Ultra. 40m from Minehead to Lynmouth and back. It’s in 23 weeks time. It is mixed road, coast path and trail.

That should be long enough to train up right?

Now, I haven’t done much trail running recently, but I did dig out my old trail shoes and take them with me on a recent overnight training course down in Plymouth. I enjoyed a fab, dark, wet 3 miles on the Roborough Downs. My old trail shoes need replacing though, for something lighter, faster drying and lower to the ground! Three days on and the shoes are still drying out! However, it was a lot of fun, and I look forward to getting out to Haldon to run some more tracks and trails. On Haldon it will be possible to run for 15-20 miles without too much repetition and plenty of hills for good measure.

I have also noted the 100KM Race to the Stones event…

There is a pile of stuff I need to sort out though. Not least to find some funds to do this kind of thing.

On top of event fees, for anything over the 50K mark and for the Exmoor Ultra in March 2015 (a UTMB 2 point qualifier) I need to acquire some equipment!


On top of the list are the following:

A lightweight, breathable, stretchy waterproof coat and trousers – OMM have the fantastic Kamleika Race Jacket and matching trousers and that would certainly tick this box

A pack. there are many to choose: the Inov 8 Race Elite 16 or Race Pro 18, Nathan Sports Vapourwrap look great, but the OMM Ultra 15 looks perfect and is such great value, I checked it out in Runners Need today, very, very impressive.

Some decent trail shoes (and some more road shoes in due course). One of the pairs from this list or indeed, the Merrell Mix Master or Skechers GoBionic Trail would be equally perfect!

If you happen to have an episode of overwhelming generosity and fancy helping me out – please do get in touch!

I also need to work on my nutrition. Just as I experience in my day to day life, most people completely fail to understand gluten free, and most foods seem to contain gluten.

One of the issues with coeliac’s disease is that even a crumb of wheat can trigger an auto immune reaction, so cross contamination is always a worry.

Lots to think about, and when I have worked through some more, I will post up a training plan soon. I have found one I like the look of. Sensible and it seems well reviewed, and would be enough to get 50M fit.

Call for comments:

  • Does anyone have any kit they would never leave behind or any recommendations?
  • Do you have any training advice?