The Berghaus Trail Chase

I’ve just finished my first multi (two) day race at the Berghaus Trail Chase and it’s been a tough, fun and motivating weekend and performance wise for me a bit of a mixed bag due to a stupid navigational error on day one.

There were three courses available and I chose to run the Black course which was 20.2 miles on Saturday followed by 13.5 on the sunday and the nice format of runners starting the second day in the order they finished (so the leader on day 1 was the first to go on day 2) meant that there was a real element of tactical running required to leave enough in the legs for the second day where you were chasing those who finished ahead of you.

Day 1 – 20.2 miles (or in my case … 26)

I should say right from the off, the course marking on the Trail Chase was superb on both days. There was no navigation needed but as happens from time to time when you get in a bit of a groove and you’re chatting with someone it’s easy to miss a small flag and before you know it you’ve cruised along more than 2 miles of open trail and .. well, your race is done.

That was the tale of day 1 for me. A stupid early mistake around mile 4 or 5 meant I had no hope of being competitive in this race and my morale eventually sank as the miles rolled on and my original aim of running the 20ish miles in about 3 hours eventually turned into more like 3:25, the extra 5 miles added another nearly 50 minutes and put me pretty close to the back of the finishing field on day one and somewhat demoralised.

I didn’t quite take enough water with me either having assumed that I’d be able to refill my small Ultimate Direction soft flask from streams but it turns out the North York Moors are a pretty dry place and I struggled a bit in the constant wind and with a slight lack of water. Another small bottle would have been good.

Overnight camp

All the competitors from all three courses converge on the overnight camp at the end of the first day and it makes for a great atmosphere with food and drinks served at the village hall next to the camp field and as soon as the tent was pitched I went off for dinner and to rehydrate having taken too little water and finding no streams on the North York Moors.

I had some trouble getting my dinner and the queues were pretty long as I think the catering crew had underestimated that pretty much everyone wanted food so it took me an hour to get some chilli but I guess these things happen and at least it’s an easy one to solve next year by simply taking pre-orders/payment for food.

Low morale

My morale and interest in the race after my stupid mistake was pretty low. I felt it made the remainder of the race pointless for me and I pondered just jogging it easy on day 2 but thanks to a call with my wife who reminded me that I should pull my head out of my butt and that I should race doubly hard tomorrow because nobody wants to hear about the one who pulled out or gave up but that the best stories come from the days where you put it all on the line and chase a lost cause.

Motivational stuff indeed and I went to bed with that in mind.

Day 2 – 13.5 miles

My legs actually felt pretty good in the morning and I figured today was definitely an all or nothing job and with the added twist of it being a chase I went off fast with the intention of catching at least 3 or 4 folks who had set off in front of me and making 10 minutes or so.

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The course for the second day was much more suited to my style of running, I struggle a bit on wide, non-technical trails but on steep and technical climbs and equally steep and technical descents I know I can make up massive amounts of time – especially on the downhills where I think I overtook everyone I ultimately passed on the day moving up to about 11th place overall from somewhere down in about 26th I just managed to catch and pass fellow Trail Team friend Graham in the last mile having watched him leave 26 minutes earlier.

Graham ready for the chase. Day 2. #trailteam2014 #trailchase

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With that, I ran over the finish line feeling happy with the run on day 2 and annoyed about day 1 but thinking about it, the chase part of the race probably would have been a bit of an anti-climax if I’d have run to my potential on day 1 as the people in front of me would probably have been simply better and beyond catching one or two at a stretch I think I’ve have been lonely and held my position.

As it happened, the thrill of the chase was very much there for me on day 2.

What went wrong?

Beyond me missing a marker on the incredibly well marked course (totally my fault), I ran fairly well but faded quite fast around 18 miles and I guess the reality is that while I’m running about 40-50 miles a week, I’m not getting in a big mileage long run and you can’t hide from that at the back end of a race effort at the distance. If I’m to continue trying to race higher mileage courses, I need to address this.

I also didn’t have enough water for the first day and relying on filling up in streams didn’t work as there were none. It wasn’t critical but I definitely felt a little thirsty in the later miles on day 1.

My head wasn’t in it running into the camp after the long first day and it’s not often that I can’t motivate myself to carry on but I really didn’t feel up for it after that.

What went right

After the pep talk from my wife Ally, I snapped around and also talking to the trail team guys and David Beech who was also racing they all had roughly the same advice which was to forget about it. Day one was done, there’s nothing more can be done by brooding and to just go back out and race day two as a new race. I’ve not a multi-day race before and that bit of advice worked well, my legs felt surprisingly good and I just went flat out from the off.

Nutrition courtesy of Torq gels once again worked really well. I used 5 gels of various flavours on day one and I think 3 on day two. I didn’t carry anything else in my race vest food wise.

I ran really strongly downhill and I’m getting ever more comfortable using that strength in my race tactics and not chasing too hard on uphill and flat sections then ramping the pace right up when descending, especially on technical terrain.

Kit

I have written at length in a review about the Berghaus Hyper Smock and I didn’t really need it much as it didn’t rain but it’s great having it in the pack but I also wore my Berghaus VapourLight Fast Shorts which I wore for 3 days straight in Chamonix with no problems and again here for 2 days and I have to say that while they’re longer than I would normally choose – they have have two great features:

  • They don’t ride up in the crotch like so many shorts leaving you looking like you’re wearing a nappy
  • The long side pocket on the leg is the perfect place to put empty gel wrappers

The other bit of kit I find indispensable these days are the Argentium tech tops we get as Trail Team members. I only needed a long sleeve version and wore it both days. They dry quickly and don’t stink like the inside of wet shoes so are good for a couple of days if you have to pack light.

I’m looking forward to running and racing offroad as the weather gets worse and I think I’ll need to invest in a heavier weight jacket when the weather gets gnarlier as it’s easy in this terrain to get cold and drenched relatively quickly.

Improvements for the event

The Trail Chase is organised by Shane Ohly and his team of extremely hard working volunteers and for a first time event it was pretty slick with only a couple of areas I’d look review.

Food and drink at the overnight camp – I think they were a little overwhelmed numbers wise so it took some people a while to get some hot food after a long day on the trails. Not something that would be difficult to fix and nobody went without so hardly a big one. Another one was that it was quite hard to find water right after the race. I’d have liked to have seen a couple of jerry cans knocking around the finish line or in the camp site if possible.

There were plenty of prizes at the end but I though it might have been nice to include or at least highlight the person who chased and caught the most people – after all, that’s the theme of the event.

I enjoyed my first experience of a multi day race and catching up with Trail Team members Graham, Kirsty and Martin as well as Simon and Julie and also David Beech was nice.

If you’re interested in trying out racing over two tough days but need a little comfort blanket in the form of a well marked course(s) and solid organisation then keep the trail chase in your bookmarks for next year.

Updated: Results are in – 14th overall (24th place for day 1, 5th place on day 2)