The Grim Reaper Ultramarathons: pre-race rambling

I am returning to Grimsthorpe and the site of my first ultramarathon exactly one year on! This time around I’m more experienced, happier and a lot more relaxed about running far. This time last year I was preparing to run the 40 miler, this time around I am preparing for the 70 miler – 7 ten mile trail laps, to some that sounds impossible and awful. To me, that sounds like a recipe for good pacing, heart rate monitoring and the chance to experiment with what might work when I get to running my first 100 miler next year.

Originally the Grim Reaper 70 was my A-race for 2015, I wanted to try and win and I wanted to try and run as close to 11 hours for the distance as possible. This all changed on May 28th when I signed up to row across the Mediterranean Sea. What didn’t change was my commitment to the race that started me off as an ultrarunner. I had planned to attend the race even if I wasn’t fit to run/hike it after the row – the atmosphere at Grim is amazing. It’s like a small, close knit ultra running festival of food, family and fun! I have adjusted my goals somewhat but I will be there on the start line at 0930hrs on Friday morning. I’m not aiming to win, I’m not aiming for a podium spot and I’ll be happy to finish the race in 13 hours with a smile on my face having had a blast out on the course.

Thanks from both of us to the Race Director, other solo and Team runners and crews for an amazing first ultra experience!

Grim Reaper 40, 2014. In 2015 I’ll be running the 70 miler and Gabrielle will be running her first ultra in the 40 miler! (We also both have shorter hair and I have no beard this time around!)

Another thing that is going to make the Grim Reaper special this year is that Gabrielle is running the 40 miler! She signed up on a whim this past Saturday – she said my ocean row had inspired her but I think she’d been thinking about it after a strong showing at her first trail half marathon two months ago. I think it’s absolutely amazing that my girlfriend is going to run her first ultra in the same place I ran my first, exactly a year on – I’m looking forward to being out on the course and giving her encouragement as the day goes on. There is no doubt in my mind that she will finish and I suspect her competitive side may appear if it seems she might be able to gun for my 2014 time of 7:24! Whatever happens I will be proud to be there to witness and support it.

Nutrition and pacing were my downfalls last year in the 40 – I went off too fast and found that I couldn’t eat the energy biscuits that I’d baked whilst on the move so I had to revert to Haribo and tangerines. Along with this I also ran out of water with about 3km to go on every lap because it was so hot and humid! This year, I’m taking a larger handheld bottle and will have a soft flask ready to pick up at the end of each lap should the same problem occur. As for nutrition, I’m planning on two gels per lap and then eating real food at the end of each lap from mile 30 onwards. Pacing wise, I know the average pace I need to run 11, 12 or 13 hours and I’ve learned a lot over my last few races to know that I need to stick to a slower pace early on – I have also learned that around the 35 mile mark I begin to feel quite strong for some reason so I’m hoping that will happen at Grim too! I do have a plan to monitor my heart rate quite closely for the first 40 or 50 miles but we will see how that pans out on the day.

The only worry I really have is, funnily enough, cows! Last year there were a number of marauding cows out on the course and I got caught in a pretty hair raising stampede at one point during the later stages of the race. I really hope that this year they are properly fenced in and managed a little better as, aside from the fear during the stampede, it was quite annoying to have to stop for a couple of minutes a few times while marshals (and braver runners) cleared the path of bovine obstructions!

So, that’s all folks, end of the pre-race ramble! I’m away to cook some aid station real food and to pack before Gabrielle and I head to Grimsthorpe at lunch time tomorrow.

Peace & Blessings x

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