King of the Hill 6 hour race [Report]

A very local race and one I felt I had a chance of winning – could I hold on for the full 6 hours though?

Race information

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A 6 laps or win No
B 6 laps No

Pictures

A small but determined group for the first King of the Hill 6 hour race. As many "laps" up and back down of Wessenden Trail, 3.5 miles each way with 800ft of climbing on the way up. Managed 5 laps in 4:46 but a combination of tenderised feet from the wet and rocky trail and not being entirely sure I'd be able to complete another lap before the 6 hour time limit ticked over meant I ended up with 2nd place and 5 laps. Happy with that, about 33 miles and 4000ft of climbing done in well under 5 hours and a quick recovery to follow. Race report link in bio 👍

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Course

Trail run of 3.25 miles up a hill to a gate and 3.25 miles back down. Each climb is roughly 800ft of elevation gain. A “lap” is from the start point to the gate and back so about 6.5 miles per lap.

Lap times (6.5 miles total per lap)

Lap Time
1 51:50
2 52:55
3 53:00
4 59:00
5 1:10:00
Finish 4:46:00

Training

Nothing specific for this race, I’ve just been ticking over with easy mileage recovering from the Barry 40 mile track race 3 weeks earlier. This race is literally around the corner from where I live and on a hill I regularly enjoy running and the race was very much a low key, low stress “fun” day out.

My legs felt recovered enough from Barry 40 to feel confident of running 6 laps (about 40ish miles / 5000ft) so …

Pre-race

Not much to do which was a nice change, I literally had to drive 10 minutes up the road and apart from getting a range of kit as the weather was potentially going to be chilly (about 3°C) and potentially rain during the later parts of the race. As The top part of the course is also pretty exposed as it is part of some expansive Yorkshire moorland so having a bit of extra clothing is always helpful.

I have quite often suffered with nerves in the lead up to races, as I always tend to put pressure on myself to do as well as possible even if it’s not necessarily a goal race and this quite often manifests as stomach issues before or during the race but for the last few races I’ve been trying hard to place the focus on my own ability rather than that of others in the race and not worrying as much about them.

That’s had a big, positive impact so far and while I still have the same ambition to do as well as possible, it’s more dependent on how prepared I am rather than others so it was nice to line up for this one not feeling under any pressure and with a simple plan for running 6 laps and if that was good enough to win then great but if not – no big deal.

Race

My plan was as simple as my training and prep to be honest .. Go out fairly fast on the first lap and see if anyone came along. If not, I’d ease right back and if they did we’d probably have a chat and figure out what our respective backgrounds and goals were by the time we’d run the first lap.

As it happened, we went off at a pretty reasonable pace from the start and the eventual winner Jon and I were chatting on the way up. He’d figured 6 laps would be a good total too and was using this race as a training run for a 100 miler to test some fuelling strategy.

We climbed easily for the first lap and both had roughly 35 mins up / 25 down as a reasonable time for each lap which shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain for the duration. The early speed however meant we hit the top of the climb in just 28 minutes and came back down in a pretty swift 23 minutes.

Evidently he was a strong enough runner to feel comfortable at this pace and I figured at the turnaround I’d let him go ahead while I grabbed a gel and a bit of water and that was the last we ran together. He never really got too far ahead but was just far enough ahead by the end of the second lap to require a sustained effort to close the gap which I didn’t really want to do at this point early in the race.

The nice thing about out and back races like this are that you see your rivals so you either need a poker face when you cross paths or you risk giving them a boost. He looked pretty cheery for the whole day but I felt an hour or two into a 6 hour race is early and once you go past 3-4 hours is when things can happen so just ran within myself up and down for the next couple of laps and while the gap did grow each lap it wasn’t so big that a bit of a wobble from him and a surge from me couldn’t close if it came to it.

Ultimately, I got to the end of the 4th lap and just around the marathon mark in about 3:50 and headed back out for my 5th lap with 2 hours 10 left on the clock.

My legs were beginning to feel the effort a little at this point and my feet were pretty battered from running on the very wet and rocky trails so I had a quick change of socks and headed back off for lap 5 feeling a little fatigued at this point and having my first walk break heading up the first main climb but managed to start running again fairly quickly and kept a modest but steady pace all the way up.

Tellingly at the top my mindset switched and I knew with a bit of calculation that by the time I got back to the bottom I’d potentially only have an hour and a bit to do my 6th lap and with it not counting if I didn’t get back I started to switch off a little.

A lot of people ask about the mental aspect of races like this and track ultras with respect to going over the same ground for hours on end and honestly, I find these challenges really good fun. You share more of the race experience with your fellow runners no matter what paces you all run as you literally cross paths a lot. This course was good because it’s in a stunning part of the moors and some of the views are sensational even on bad weather days and at 6.5 miles up and down it’s long enough to have plenty to keep you interested.

Boredom is seldom the problem for me in these races!

The descent on the 5th lap was pretty slow and lacked the fluidity of the earlier laps as expected but normally I’m happy descending at any point but this was laboured and my feet were hurting a fair bit at this point as I reached the start line for the end of my 5th lap and about 33 miles / 4000ft in 4:46.

Decision time ….

I had 1:14 to cover 6.5 miles and 800ft of climb. Could I do it?

My last lap was 1:10 and I’d slowed pretty dramatically on the way back down and I knew at this point overall victory wasn’t happening as Jon had passed me a couple of minutes earlier as he headed up for his 6th lap (he took 1:11 for his) so I called it a day with 5 laps safe in 2nd place.

I’d had a really good run to that point and felt that a strong near 5 hour run where I finished feeling good would ultimately trump a 6 hour run with the final hour being a laborious slog up and back down.

Had there been a possibility of victory or being caught for 2nd I’d have absolutely gone out for that lap but sometimes in a low priority race it’s hard to make that final push when it’s not going to impact the overall result.

Jon came back in from his 6th lap with 13 minutes to spare so close to the cutoff but he looked comfortable still and a worthy winner for sure.

Post-race

I had a family Easter dinner to get back to so I’d been dreaming of a ton of lovely food and chocolate with a couple of ales after the event and waited to the end to see everyone else finish followed by a quick prize giving and headed off back round the hill and home without a long drive back or overnight somewhere which was great!

My legs felt OK having stopped at lap 5 and after a couple of days I’ve been back out doing some easy runs just to keep them ticking over.

I just found out that I’ve got a place on the Liverpool to Leeds 130 race in August along with taking part in an 8 hour mountain race (climbing 560m in 3km for 8 hours!) in May so this run was a good baseline to see where my endurance is at before I launch into a more serious training plan to see if I can survive 130 miles!

Thanks to TeamOA for putting on the race, it’s always fun to do a lower-key test event and if you’re on the lookout for a friendly and scenic race with no hassle in terms of navigation or kit then check out the 2019 event.