White Rose Ultra – Summer Edition 🥈

A trot around the WRU route in the middle of summer instead of winter seemed a good idea. The weather still took its toll though.

I was looking for another “easy” ultra about this time just to keep the legs ticking over after Leigh Track Marathon so the local WRU30 was a good option. It’s low key, easy to run and logistically involves no real effort for me so I entered and figured I’d see how it went on the day.

After seeing the winter edition being won in a pretty pedestrian 4:45 last year compared to the sub 4 the year before I felt that even without a significant base of 20+ milers week after week in the lead up I would have enough fitness and course knowledge to run somewhere around 4:30 which I felt would be unlucky not to win given the small field running this first edition.

We gathered at the start with the sun already pretty warm and the forecast for a reasonably warm day and at 9am went dashing out into the main road as the race started – leaders nearly running head-on into a car coming along the road around the corner. Not the most auspicious start and a marshal there next time might be worth considering.

Miles 1-10 (1:17:00)

Immediately 3 of us set off up the long initial mile drag uphill at a reasonable pace but not pushing at this point but it didn’t take much longer than a mile before the ultimate winner put his foot down and upped his pace fairly sharply and although I’d have been comfortable for several miles keeping tabs I knew I wouldn’t have been able to maintain it over the full distance and blown up so off he went – never to be seen again until the finish.

I settled into a comfortable pace with Marc who’d come down from Scotland to run this one having taken a wrong turn in the winter edition he was back to finish this one off.

We ran together for the first 8 or 9 miles before he pulled ahead running up one of the steepest parts of the course and I was happy to let him go realising that we’d been running around CR pace for to this point and I needed to ease off as the race gets progressively harder over the second half .

Miles 10-20 (1:31:00)

The middle third is pretty brutal, with the long slog up Old Mount Road only to come straight back down into Marsden and then straight up Wessenden Trail which is essentially a 4 mile uphill trail followed by a quad busting 2 miles downhill on the road.

There are two CP’s closely spaced here at the bottom and then top and I just filled up on water and grabbed a chocolate bar and carried on jogging up Wessenden. I knew Marc was only a few minutes ahead and Andy several minutes ahead but his family supporting said he was feeling the early pace but I know of Andy as a local runner on strava and figured he’d probably have enough to hold on for a win even through we were only at the halfway point.

I wasn’t so sure about Marc yet, he looked strong enough for sure but the while the temperatures weren’t insanely high – the direct sun and heat were really making it hard to stay comfortable and get enough water. I was sweating absolute buckets and it was still only late morning.

Just keep hydrating and plugging away. This race gets tougher.

Miles 20-Finish (2:00:00)

I was in and out of the final CP quickly as I didn’t really need anything other than more water – the temperature had continued to climb and it felt muggy without much of a breeze so I filled my bottle and poured some water over my head and carried on.

They’d told me Marc was only a few minutes ahead and looking rough.

I always take this sort of CP “advice” with a pinch of salt as I’ve often said the same when I’m marshaling to help a runner get a boost and I always make an effort to put on a strong “performance” at a CP because if they relay the message to the person behind that you came in and out looking strong it’s demoralising for them.

Still, my plan was basically just to get to the finish at this stage. A win wasn’t going to happen and if I closed Marc down then great but if not – it’s a decent long run in the legs which were starting to hurt a bit too.

As it happened, leaving the CP and running down to the bottom of the valley and Manchester Road, I saw Marc jogging down the road and closed him down fast as running downhill is something I relish and seem to be comfortably faster than many of a similar fitness level so I caught up with him telling me he was just dragging himself to the finish as the heat had zapped him.

I jogged on ahead a little but I was pretty much as done as he was at this point with the last 5 brutal miles to go so we both chatted as we walked up most of the steep climb to Bolster Moor (700 ft in 1.75 miles peaking at 20%+ gradient) and jogged the flat bits.

There was actually an additional water station waiting after the top which was most welcome even with only a few miles to go. Those out there for a couple of hours longer would definitely have been feeling the heat by that point so it was good to see that and we topped up water and grabbed a bit of Coke and just carried on.

We’d essentially decided between us to finish together as the race was over and there wasn’t really much at stake so ticked off the last few miles chatting and apart from a getting a random and crazy painful stitch with a mile to go we crossed the line together and by virtue of winning a coin toss I get the 2nd place trophy although our times were the same.

I’d hoped to run around the 4:30 mark but I was quite a long way off but not really too fussed on the day. Andy ran well and won comfortably in 4:27 – it was nice to finally put a face to the name of the person who’s taken a few of my Strava CR’s on his evening runs!

Finish time: 4:46:27 / Joint 2nd place

I hung around a for a short while but didn’t have much time for the party after as I had a family BBQ to get to so thankfully Wane gave us the glass trophies for the first 3 because there was quite a significant gap so doing all the presentations at once wasn’t practical. Always nice to get a podium spot.

The course as usual was well marked and easy to follow but I would say as local runner and someone who makes a big effort to un-mark other courses when organising or helping races – it’s disapointing to see nearly a month later that the course markers still haven’t been taken down on the stretches I run to work on.

It’s difficult for some races to get permission to cover privately owned land and it’s important organisers are on top of clearing up after themselves and runners where appropriate because it gives a bad impression of races if this doesn’t happen so I hope the markers do go sooner rather than later and don’t stay up until the winter edition.

Overall – a good day for a long run and nice to meet Marc but not my finest race to date but not one that I’ll dwell on as I plan for other races coming up.