This weekend, I discovered the perfect recipe for how to enjoy an ultramarathon.
Take one superbly organised race, set up by a local company passionate about their races.
Team OA seamlessly organised a brilliant race. This was only the second running of the White Rose Ultra, so I expected there to be some teething problems, but it was faultless. Entry and registration was straightforward, the route was very well marked all the way round, and the marshalls and volunteers were superb.
Add in a large portion of superb company for the race.
I ran every step of the way with the lovely Rhianon, and it couldn’t have made for a more perfect race experience.
We set off with the same goals in mind, of making the cutoff time and enjoying our first ultra, and we nailed it. We laughed for at least 90% of the race, even when swearing our way up some beastly inclines, and supported each other the whole way. The photo above perfectly summarises our race- side by side, step by step, getting the job done.
This failed attempt at a panorama shot also demonstrates the mood pretty well…
Sprinkle liberally with enthusiasm and generosity from the aid station helpers.
A special mention has to go out to the aid station volunteers. They stood in the cold and wind for hours upon end, helping weary runners. The lifesaving lady who held an aid station outside her house, and let us use her bathroom, was a particular highlight, but all of the volunteers were brilliant. The sugary cup of tea and two paracetamol at mile 20 that rejuvenated both my legs and my spirit. The face wipe at mile 25 that felt like a gift from heaven, as I cleaned the salt crystals and sweat off and re-found my game face for the final 5 mile stretch. All of these moments made the race so much easier for us.
For a backdrop, add in some stunning Yorkshire scenery.
One way to make the weary legs feel a whole lot better and to lift your spirits is to stage a race in beautiful scenery. The White Rose Ultra is around the Colne Valley in West Yorkshire, which has some breathtaking views. Even up some of the steepest climbs, as I painfully dragged air into my lungs and tried to force my reluctant calf muscles to work, I couldn’t stop staring at the views.
Make sure you’ve prepared the right utensils for the job
After much deliberation, I went with road shoes instead of trail shoes for this race, which were perfect on the roads, coped well with the hard packed trails, and didn’t fare much worse on the rare boggy sections of the route than trail shoes would have done. I layered up my long sleeved Nike Element top under a thin Haglofs LIM Proof Q waterproof shell jacket, and wore my long Gore winter tights. Instead of a hat, I opted for a Buff. This outfit was just about perfect; when I was warmer I rolled up the jacket sleeves and wore the Buff as a headband, and when it was colder on top of the hills, rolled my sleeves back down and tucked my ears back in my Buff. I also wore an Ultimate Direction women’s Ultra Vesta, and it was perfect; it carried oodles of snacks, plenty of water, and other essentials, like gloves, a beanie hat and paracetamol, in perfect comfort for the whole race- I barely noticed I was wearing it, even over 30 miles and 6 hours 49 of movement.
Create something that you can enjoy long after the recipe has been finished.
The theme of thoughtful and well-organised continued at the end of the race, where Team OA had laid on plenty of beautiful race t-shirts, with sizes that actually fit women, and lovely medals. There were ample cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and sports massages, all in a warm and cosy cricket club.
Make sure you have good support for whatever you’re creating.
I’m lucky enough to be an ambassador for Team Bear, who are hands down the most supportive race team out there. Bear, one of the co-founders was on hand all day, from delivering us to the race at the crack of dawn, to Sherpa duties and cuddles after I finished the race, to joining us for our post-race refeed where we nearly emptied a Harvester salad bar.I’m so incredibly grateful to him for looking after us so well, and helping to make our first ultra so brilliant. If anyone is in any doubt about joining the team, DO IT!
Rather than boring you with stats and race times, if you’re interested in the route, profile, or just how slow some of my mile splits were, my watch data can be found here.