GB Ultras Debut Race

Marathon des Sables , tent mate and gentleman, the best word to describe him, Wayne Drinkwater, surprised me a year or so after our sandy adventure together when he announced he had formed GB Ultras to put on a series of ultra-marathons. 

Wayne 'Kenny' Drinkwater at the 2014 Marathon des Sables

The first in the series and his debut as race director was the L2M or Liverpool to Manchester race, and I was delighted to sign up, it would be good to catch up with Wayne, and the event was sure to attract more veterans of Tent 126 (our Marathon des Sables tent number). 

Training has taken a back seat to work and has been derailed by several injuries over the last two years. Happily I got to the start-line of the L2M injury free, under the direction of the brilliant Kris King of Beyond the Ultimate Coaching. This would be the lowest training mileage I had logged prior to an event longer than 20 miles; as an average for the 13-week build-up, I'd estimate no more than 30 miles a week, likely closer to 25. I managed just two long runs, two 18 mile outings, and one 20 mile bimble in preparation. 

Logistics

L2M is a point to point race, as the name suggests. Logistics though are relatively straight forward with train stations within a couple of miles of the start and finish (Start: Fazakerley, Finish: East Didsbury). 

I agreed with Tent 126 veteran Stephen Braithwaite and Garry Vernon who have met at several Hardmoors races to park at the finish train station and hop on the train to the start to register the evening before the race start. We walked a couple of miles up the road to our digs at the Premier Inn. A few beers, lots of laughter, and a pretty good feed later, I hit the pillow.

Stephen 'Brother' Braithwaite and tent 126, Stephen is modelling the 'dayglo' sand gaiters

Race Day

The race has an early start at 06:00HRS, we therefore met in reception at 05:00HRS and took a taxi to the start. 

MISTAKE 1 - No Breakfast

MISTAKE 2 - Left my race food in my finish bag

The start was lively with lots of runners, a tad cold but not unbearable. Wayne gave a comprehensive race brief and we were off.

I ran with Stephen and Garry for the first few miles but then started to pull away. I put in a good stint for a marathon c4:09 and kept a reasonable but slowing pace up to the 30-mile mark. I had passed through a few well-stocked CPs but had only grazed on a few sweets and a mini pork pie. I was starting to feel pretty strained and could feel the pace dropping off and reached for my standby race fuel of choice 33Shake Chia Energy Gels (see MISTAKES 1 and 2). I compounded these mistakes by missing a CP, ignoring a tonne of tape and arrows that pointed off the trail and into a field, instead picking up the arrows that directed you back onto the trail further down.

The Trans Pennine Way Trail, which the race follows, is through the Liverpool to Manchester sections, hard-packed, mostly flat and mixes a variety of urban environments. There are parts of the course that feel closer to the countryside; these pass through pleasant villages; add in some lake and riverside views, and overall I was pleasantly surprised by the course. I think the route will appeal equally to experienced ultra runners looking for a fast time and new ultra runners who want to focus on running rather than navigation and will be reassured by the proximity to towns and cities. 

With little training and no food inside me, no great surprise the last 20 miles hurt a good deal more than the first 30 and took nearly as long! 4HRS for the first 25 and 5:30HRS for the next 25 miles.

Reaching the outskirts of East Didsbury, the will had left me and so had the course - I was lost ...

The final few miles caused a problem for lots of runners, it should have been simple, follow the river, but somehow we had made is difficult, there were runners on both sides of the river all waving at each other and shrugging. 

I sat down, pulled out my phone and referred to Google Maps, sitting down was a mistake, a nice grassy riverside bank, a little sunshine before the hail hit and I was perfectly happy for a few minutes, cheerily waving runners by. 

I finally picked myself up and followed Google Maps to the finish. Crossing the line in a respectable 09:26HRS. Which earned a Silver medal (first 100), and set the challenge of going back for a Gold medal (first 20), clever touch Wayne! The medal has a heft to it, that's hard to believe, a lump of solid metal a few centimetres thick, I am proud to add it to the collection.

Stephen and Garry, who must have been making time up on me, for the last twenty or so miles, ran in just a few minutes behind, Steve clocked the most miles having taken the most 'interesting' route to the end. 

A few celebratory drinks, tea for me, and we headed back to the cars, another race completed, some great time on feet logged, a t-shirt, and medal earned. 

Kit

Ran in my tried and trusted Altra Lone Peak 2.0, the best pick from my trail shoes, many ran in road shoes though, and this was probably the best option and the one I will take when I run it again.

Road tested the new INOV8 Race Ultra Vest 10. Fantastic pack, lots of space and pockets, almost no bounce, soft flasks with bite valves and long tubes; all the convenience of a bladder but with all the upsides of bottles, genius. It sits tight but comfortably to your body, I barely noticed it was there.

New shorts, Helly Hansen twin skin, light compression and over short. Very comfortable, almost no chafe a real www.megavalue.com bargain at £10.

Summary 

Wayne should be very proud; a slick professional race; great start and finish venues; an awesome medal and brilliant volunteers; well stocked and regular check-points. 

I ran well for my fitness level but didn't apply myself as well as I might in the second half of the race, I have never before sat down and waived runners by in any race and whilst I was happy to do so at the time, the places and time dropped was needless.

It was awesome to spend time with Stephen and Garry, I'll be back for more GB Ultras races and for a Gold medal attempt another year.

 

 

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