Race Review – Hardwolds 40 Ultramarathon 2021

The Yorkshire Wolds are often described as a ‘hidden gem’, and it’s true that they’re not as well-known outside Yorkshire as the Dales and the North York Moors; but for those of us who live nearby they are well-known and well-loved, providing a great hilly training ground with some fantastic trails. So when the Hardmoors folk announced a brand new event in the Wolds I couldn’t resist entering!

The first thing to say about the Hardwolds 40 is that it isn’t 40 miles long. Hardmoors events always offer great ‘value’ so the route was originally planned to be about 46 miles long. It starts in Beverley, and the first ten miles follow the Hudson Way trail, a former railway line. At Goodmanham the route picks up the Yorkshire Wolds Way, which it follows as far as Settrington Beacon. It then drops down to the village of Settrington, following the Centenary Way from here to Malton. In the week before the race the finishing venue had to be changed, adding about another mile to the route. Happy days!

In the run-up to the event I’d followed an eight week training plan that Kim Cavill had done for me, with five runs and two strength sessions a week, plus some yoga. I’d used the Endurancelife Northumberland marathon as my longest training run, with the Hardmoors White Horse Half a couple of weeks later. I felt my training had gone well, but four days before the event I hiked up and down Scafell Pike whilst spending a couple of days in the Lake District and did wonder whether I’d live to regret that!

I was really looking forward to this event, and got Steve to drop me off nice and early at the start venue, Beverley Rugby Club. As I signed on and got my tracker fitted there was a real buzz in the air. Apart from the face masks and staggered start it felt almost like old times, and it was great to chat with some of the Hardmoors family. We set off from 8 am in groups of 30 two minutes apart.

The main challenge for the first section was not to go off too fast. It’s ten miles of flat trail (the former rail line) and Tarmac to Goodmanham, with the first checkpoint at 8.5 miles. I kept my pace down to around ten minute miles, knowing I should conserve energy for the big hills later on. This wasn’t a road marathon! Lots of people flew past me, excited to be racing on easy terrain. I wondered how many of them I’d see later in the day. The weather was dull at this point, but quite warm already.

From Goodmanham the route undulated nicely for a few miles through grassy farmland and the lovely grounds of Londesborough Hall. The second checkpoint was at 11.5 miles – where this most flattering photo was taken! I was really enjoying the route and chatting to people along the way. At one point the group I was running with had to take a slight detour to avoid a group of cows and their calves that were blocking a gate we needed to go through, but it wasn’t too far.

The day began to warm up as we left the Wolds Way temporarily to descend to the next checkpoint in the village of Millington at 18 miles. This is a place I know well – I sometimes park here to do training runs along the Wolds Way. It was also the first drop bag point, and I drank a small chocolate milk from my stash and then ate a ham sandwich as I walked up the huge hill from the village back onto the Wolds Way. Hardmoors checkpoints are always really well stocked with snacks and drinks, and the drop bag facility means you never have to carry lots of stuff.

There then followed two quite steep descents and climbs before a nice, gradual descent on Tarmac towards the village of Huggate. After a road climb from here the route goes down into another valley, followed by a long, grassy drag up towards Fridaythorpe. It’s the sort of trail that looks flat, but is in fact a very gradual uphill. The sun was now fully out, the weather felt hot and humid, and the steepness of the Wolds valleys meant there was no breeze to take the edge of the heat. I was pouring with sweat and don’t think I’ve ever drunk as much during a race. People were starting to suffer, and one poor chap I passed was throwing up – he thought because he’d drunk too much. Luckily he was with a group of friends. At the next checkpoint at Fridaythorpe (26 miles) I really enjoyed some flat Pepsi, plus the thought that we were now over halfway!

Next up was beautiful Thixendale Wold (another descent and climb, obviously!) before arriving at the next drop bag checkpoint at Thixendale village hall (30 miles). I drank some more chocolate milk and picked up another sandwich, but couldn’t face eating it, so pocketed it and pressed on. I did have a bit of Perkier peanut bar and some Clif Shotblok on the way out of the village though. I really love a bit of Shotblok when I need a boost!

After a walk up a couple of big hills after Thixendale all the steep climbing was behind us (thank heavens!) with some lovely, runnable terrain towards the medieval village of Wharram Percy. The amazing Wolds scenery helped to ease the pain of the climbs! I passed quite a few people on this section, many of them slowed down by the effects of the heat.

The route from here undulated gently and passed through the grounds of the Settrington estate to reach the final checkpoint at Settrington Beacon (39 miles). More fabulous views all round! There was a bit of a party atmosphere here, with music and cowbells, and more gratefully received flat pop! From here we left the Wolds Way and descended down a road for a good mile (yay!) into the village of Settrington. Here we turned off the road and onto the Centenary Way for the final part of the journey to Malton.

I was slightly apprehensive about this part of the course as I hadn’t managed to recce it and it wasn’t well-marked, but tagged on behind two guys who looked like they knew what they were up to. After a mile or so we reached an unmarked crossroads of trails and weren’t sure which way to go. While we were pondering whether to get the map out, another chap caught us up from behind, looked at the GPS on his watch and confidently said it was straight on. After we’d been running for about half a mile he changed his mind and said we should have gone left! So back we went. We must have wasted 10-15 minutes here. I don’t blame the bloke who sent us the wrong way, as navigation is everyone’s individual responsibility, but it was frustrating.

We were only about three miles from the finish now, but my calves were starting to cramp up and I was ready to stop. I had my last square of Shotblok and tried to push on. Luckily the way through Malton to the finish at the sports club was well-signed (if a little uphill!) and I managed to pick up the pace and smile as I came in. My finish time was 10:27:57. I’d originally hoped to get close to ten hours and cursed the extra off-route minutes. I really thought I hadn’t done very well as it had been a tough day – much hotter than forecast – but in the end I was happy to be 63rd out of 185 overall, 17th out of 51 women and 4th FV50 out of 12. According to my watch the distance (including the two unscheduled detours!) was bang on 48 miles. Despite the heat, I did feel stronger than I have done towards the end of previous ultras such as the Hardmoors 55 and 60, so hopefully the regular strength training I’ve been doing since last October is now beginning to pay off. I just need to make an effort to eat more towards the end of races. When I stopped running I suddenly realised I was actually quite hungry and wolfed down the sandwich I should have eaten nearly twenty miles earlier!

Steve was waiting for me at the finish, but Covid rules meant we couldn’t really hang around. The race swag was a fab wooden medal, a coveted crossed swords t-shirt (love the colour!) and a drinking bottle. Fortunately Malton is only about 40 minutes from home, so I was soon enjoying recovery KFC and a well-earned cold beer whilst watching the highlights of the first day of the Tour de France. Parfait!

So what’s next? My big challenge for the summer was supposed to be the UTMB OCC in France, but I’ve deferred my place due to travel restrictions, so now I’ll be doing the Hardmoors 55 in August, postponed from March due to Covid. Hopefully it won’t be even hotter! The Hardmoors Farndale Marathon on 1st August will be my longest training run before that.

Happy summer running folks!

Race Review – Hardmoors 30 Ultramarathon 2021

The Hardmoors 30 traditionally takes place on New Year’s Day, but was postponed this year for obvious reasons. The event usually starts and finishes at Fylingdale Village Hall, near Robin Hood’s Bay, but due to Covid regulations it started and finished on this occasion in the car park at Whitby Abbey. The route forms a kind of skinny figure of eight through Ravenscar, down to Cloughton then back to Whitby, following parts of the Cleveland Way and a disused railway line trail known as the Cinder Track. It’s 33 miles long rather than 30, but that’s Hardmoors value for you! There’s also a 15 mile option. Both are well marked and marshalled.

This was the first race I’d taken part in since I did the Hardmoors 55 six months ago and I was really looking forward to running and racing with other people. It was also my first day out at the seaside since I can’t remember when! It was brilliant to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for ages at the start. The weather was perfect for running: cool and fair, with not too much sun or wind. The race was organised under strict Covid event regulations and we were all warned to be on our best behaviour and remember to socially distance! All runners had been asked to predict how long the race would take them, then given a start time based on this. We were called up to the start in socially distanced groups of six, where we had our temperature taken and told to remain masked until we set off.

I actually think staggered starts work really well, as it avoids congestion on the course. The first few miles were along the Cleveland Way, and it was great to take in the coastal scenery and breathe some fresh sea air. The trails were really hard, as the weather had been dry with no rain for at least a couple of weeks. I’d worn hybrid shoes rather than full-on trail ones in anticipation of this.

The route undulates for a few miles, then descends into Robin Hood’s Bay, where we picked up the Cinder Track. The first checkpoint was seven miles in at Fylingdale.

The track is flat for a while, then starts to climb very gradually to the highest point of the course at Ravenscar, one of my favourite places. It’s fairly easy running for a while, although the Cinder Track can be a quite gravelly and dusty in places, making your feet and legs really dirty! After about three miles we turned off the track and onto a road – a really steep road – leading up to the ancient beacon monument above Ravenscar; the second checkpoint at 11 miles. This was hard enough to walk up, never mind run! So it was very slow progress for a bit, followed by a drop down through a field to the village. Here we picked up the Cinder Track again, and the terrain was very slightly downhill for about five miles. This is a good opportunity to make up a bit of time, and I clocked several miles at well under ten minute pace. Turning off here towards the coast leads to the checkpoint at Cloughton Wyke, which is just over halfway. I arrived here in just over three hours. All the checkpoints are well stocked with water and other drinks such as Pepsi and Irn Bru, as well as a range of sweet and savoury snacks. The Cloughton point also had Tailwind energy jelly.

One of the Hardmoors mottos is ‘Suffering = Fun’ and the ‘fun’ in this race really starts in the second half. Heading off up the Cleveland Way back to Ravenscar, the route is like a rollercoaster! It’s constantly climbing and descending steeply, sometimes right back to sea level, via steep steps or stony tracks that really give the legs a battering!

Technical descents are really not my forte, so it was slow progress along here for a few miles, and my calves began to complain. Spending lockdown in York with no access to big hills certainly wasn’t ideal training for this event!

From Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s bay the terrain is slightly more forgiving, mostly gentle undulations. Howerver, the descent into the village is immediately followed by a vicious steep climb up the hilly main street to re-join the Cinder Track for a couple of miles. This is uphill, but gently so, and quite runnable if you take it easy. A sharp right turn down a grassy track through a field then leads back to the Cleveland Way for the final few miles back to Whitby.

By now it was mid-afternoon and the trails were busy with walkers and dogs, but most were happy to let us runners pass and give some much-appreciated words of encouragement.

After a few more smaller climbs we were almost back at Whitby Abbey, and I realised that if I sped up a bit I’d come in at just under six hours. It’s amazing how you can find that extra bit of energy when the clock is against you!

My finish time was 6:58:34. I was 120th out of 222 runners overall, 29th out of 76 women and 5th out of 19 in the FV50 category. Considering my lack of hill practice I felt OK with that, but there is definite room for improvement now we can travel to train! We had a choice of a metal or wooden medal, so I plumped for wood in the hope that it was the more eco-friendly option. I also think it looks really attractive. There was also a choice of t-shirt colour, featuring the all-important Hardmoors ultra crossed swords.

Although I’d been cursing the tricky ups and downs in the second half of the race, I really did enjoy myself. The weather was perfect and for a few hours it felt like the world was getting back to normal. Hopefully it won’t be too long now before it does!

Running’s Coming Home!

Has anyone found this third lockdown a bit tougher than the previous ones? Maybe it’s been the sheer Groundhog Day monotony of it all, the bad weather, the dark evenings… as someone who works in public health I know it’s been necessary, but I think we’ve all just had enough now. I’ve never lacked motivation to train during lockdown – maybe because there’s always been an event on the horizon and I’m a hopeless optimist – but mostly because running with some structure has been my main means of staying sane. I was disappointed when the Hardmoors 55 had to be postponed (understandably) when it was due to take place on 27th March, just two days before it probably could have happened, but there we are. Hopefully these blocks of training will pay off in the long run!

Now we have a roadmap, spring is in the air and (all being well) real races are going to happen in a few weeks’ time! The first one on my calendar is the Vale of York 10 on 18th April. This was cancelled last year, and it’s still not certain at this point whether it will go ahead, but hopefully we’ll know soon. To be honest I’m doing it because it starts and finishes in our village! Even if it goes ahead I’ll just be trotting round, because I’ll be tpaering for the following weekend when it’s the Hardmoors 30 at Whitby, which should have been on New Year’s Day. We’ll probably have staggered starts, but it will be great just to be up on the Cleveland Way by the sea with the Hardmoors family. I’ve missed that so much. Another event on the spring schedule is the fabulous Endurancelife Northumberland in May, which had to be postponed from February – so should hopefully be a bit warmer than last year!

Endurancelife!

As the year progresses, the schedule starts to get a bit crowded with events that have been postponed or rearranged following the pandemic, such as Endure 24 in July, which I was planning to run solo. My main concern at the moment is that the Hardmoors 55 has been provisionally rearranged for 21st August, which is the same week as the UTMB OCC – which it took me three attempts to get into, but I finally did! Obviously I can’t do them both within a few days; but will the OCC happen? Will travel to and from France even be possible? The French are well behind us with their vaccination programme, so it’s hard to say at this point. I guess the picture will be a bit clearer in a couple of months. The idea of running the Hardmoors 55 in summer weather is very tempting, but I may never get into the OCC again. First world problems, hey? I know I’m very lucky really, and do appreciate that.

I’ve really been missing big hills during lockdown. During this time I’ve personally felt it’s not right to travel to go for a run, but it’s given me an opportunity to really get to know the trails in my local area, and I’ve worked out routes of varying distances that I regularly run.

Luckily there are a few undulating bits! My training plan for the 55 from coach Kim Cavill featured some regular tempo hills sessions, which are basically longish hilly interval reps. They’re hard work, but hopefully helping my legs to build some stamina. I also think the strength sessions Kim has given me to do have helped me to run better and feel stronger. I’ll certainly always include this sort of work in my training from now on. I can’t wait until 29th March, when we’ll be allowed to travel out of our local areas. I’ve booked the week after Easter off work and will definitely be heading for the North York Moors and the Wolds for some ‘fun’ runs!

How’s your 2021 schedule looking?

Stay safe and keep running folks, the end is in sight  🙂

Working With a Running Coach

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work with a running coach? I certainly have from time to time. I’ve thought it might be good for me to get a training plan tailored to my own requirements – especially as I’ve got older, as most plans don’t take account of age – but then I realised I’d actually have to be accountable to someone who might judge my cake and alcohol intake, so I didn’t take things any further. When I used to train for road marathons I’d follow my trusty Asics Sub 4 plan. Now that I’ve moved on to longer, off-road events I generally use the plan I took from the Race to the Stones website when I ran that in 2017. Both seem to work pretty well. But lately, at times such as when I’ve started to fade towards the end of an ultra, I’ve wondered “Is there a way I could do this better and finish stronger? And if so, what would I need to do?”.

Continue reading “Working With a Running Coach”

Win a Copy of the Cook Book In Their Footsteps

If there’s one thing I love as much as running it’s cake. Some would say I only run to remain cake neutral! So I love the look of In Their Footsteps, a new cook book produced by the owners of a local tea room near Ripon. It’s in one of my favourite parts of the world, and I ran the Burn Valley Half not far from there in the summer. So I’m delighted to have a copy of the book to give away to one of you lovely people!

Continue reading “Win a Copy of the Cook Book In Their Footsteps”

Race Review – Burn Valley Half Marathon

When I entered the Burn Valley Half a few weeks ago it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought a hilly half marathon would be great training for the Hardmoors Rosedale Marathon in August and, ultimately, the Snowdonia Marathon in October. Also, the race starts and finishes in the Yorkshire Dales market town of Masham, famed for its breweries, and we’d been promised beer at the finish. But that was before the heatwave! And then the woman who runs the nearby campsite where we stayed the night before cheerfully told us she believed Burn Valley to be the hardest road half marathon in the UK. So when the day came I was kind of dreading running up and down hills under a scorching sun on baking Tarmac. Oh well, what doesn’t kill you etc…

 

I travelled to the start with my friend Colin, an age group duathlete who didn’t seem unduly bothered at the prospect of the hills or the heat; but then he is currently training for Rat Race’s City to Summit and knocking out brick sessions all the time. Obviously in a different league to yours truly! I’d heard a few days previously that over 300 people had entered, but there were only 227 finishers on the day, so clearly some people had been put off by the weather forecast. I approached it as a training exercise and decided I’d be happy to plod as slowly as necessary to avoid keeling over with heatstroke. Signing on at Masham Town Hall was quick and efficient, with minimal toilet queues.

After a race briefing including the news that an extra water point had been put on (thank God) we set off bang on time. After a circuit of the market place we ran out of town and started climbing up to Swinton Castle. That one wasn’t too bad on fresh legs. After dropping down from the castle the route winds through the Burn Valley, taking in several decent climbs along the way. The biggest of these comes at about halfway, with a gradual climb of about a mile up to a war memorial to the Leeds Pals. I must admit I wasn’t feeling too good at this point. Apart from being hellishly hot and sweaty, my belly felt a bit weird. But fortunately we then turned left and began a gentle descent down Colsterdale with beautiful views.

I’m not sure whether the second half was easier than the first or whether I just felt a bit better! We climbed up and down through the villages of Healey and Fearby. I’m sure all the runners were really glad of the numerous water points laid on by the lovely marshals. I drank a bit and poured some water over my head at pretty much each point. Locals also turned out to support, some of them spraying hoses across the road. It was then back up to Swinton Castle again, where I inflicted a rather sweaty hug on my friend Phil, who was marshalling there. From the castle it was downhill for about the last mile and a half back to Masham. I was pretty glad to see the 13 mile marker, and a shout of “Come on Knavesmire” powered me round the square to the finish, where my husband had cycled out to meet me. At the end we received a banana, some Yorkshire tea, a can of beer and a t-shirt.

My finish time was 2:16:44, reflecting the tough route and the heat. I was 169th out of 227 overall, 53rd out of 92 women and 13th out of 24 in the W50 category. I was a bit narked that there were only large t-shirts left when I finished. I wasn’t fast, but I was a long way from last. It’s not much use for me to wear, but at least it has the course profile handily printed on the back for future reference!

 

Overall I’d really recommend this event. It’s really well organised with a fun, challenging and very scenic course. I’m really surprised more people didn’t sign up for it. Masham also has some great pubs and cafés for cooling post-race beer and/or ice cream. I’d love to do it again next year. Hopefully it will be a bit less hot!

Race Review – Top of the Wolds 10K Challenge 2018

I recently decided that I have two goals for the autumn; to have a last attempt at a sub 50 10K, and the Snowdonia Marathon. The first is because I figure if I don’t have a proper crack at sub 50 now it will be too late because I’ll be too old. The second is because I’ve heard such good things about Snowdonia that I decided to do that instead of an autumn road marathon. Besides, I’ve started to find road marathons a bit boring and have also realised that many hours of pounding on Tarmac doesn’t do my dodgy hamstring tendon any good. So I’ve decided that to prepare for these two goals I need to run more 10Ks and lots of hills; the Top of the Wolds Challenge seemed a good way to do both at the same time! I love the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and did quite a bit of my Race to the Stones training there last year.

Organised by the Yorkshire Wolds Runners, this race starts and finishes at a village called Warter and is basically a tour of Nunburnholme Wold. It’s a fairly bijou affair and has only about 300 places available. With a very civilised starting time of 10 am, I left home in York at 8.30 and got there with plenty of time to spare. Number pick-up was on the day, and signing on at race HQ, Warter Community Centre, was very efficient. There was ample parking on the field next door, and plenty of toilets, some in the hall and some temporary ones outside. I paid a visit, warmed up, then went to the loo again just because I could. I must admit when I entered I didn’t realise how seriously people take this race and, looking round, realised I should probably have worn my club vest. We were started by the town crier of Pocklington, which was a novel touch!

The route is a mixture of road and trail. I’d plumped for road shoes, as there didn’t seem to be any technical terrain on the route map, and that worked out fine. The first couple of miles were on undulating Tarmac – a couple of inclines, but nothing too testing. Then we got to The Hill. Nunburnholme Hill is what this race is all about really – I think that’s why it’s called a Challenge rather than just a 10K! It goes on for about a mile (although it feels more like about three when you’re going up it) and is quite steep in places. After a while everyone runs out of steam and adopts a walk/jog approach for the rest of the climb. I say everyone – I’m sure there were some super fit types at the head of the field who ran all the way up, but nobody in the middle of the pack with me! Luckily there were some motivational signs like this to help us along.

The weather certainly wasn’t helping us – so warm and humid, I was actually wishing for a bit of rain before I got to the top. In typically cruel fashion, the race photographer, Tom Flynn, was lying in wait at the top of the hill and captured my best tomato face! The view was spectacular though.

Fortunately what goes up must come down, and the overall trajectory for the second half of the race was downhill. It also involved a lovely bit of trail, through some woods and across some fields, with two water points en route.

There was a final vicious little uphill as we came back into the village, then ran round a field to the finish, by which time I was a proper sweaty mess. I really had no idea how long this race would take me, but was very happy to squeak in just under the hour at 59:06; 151st overall and 16th out of 48 in the F45 category – another event where there is a V50 category for men but not for women. Why?!

After crossing the line we were given a fab medal and a ticket for some tea and cake in the community centre. I think the cake was provided by a local deli, and it was fantastic!

Overall this event was brilliant – excellent value, well organised and marshalled by lots of lovely, friendly people. I’d definitely do it again. Also great training for my next event this weekend – my first Hardmoors marathon, the White Horse. Eek!

 

Top Tips for Marathon Monster Month

If you (like me) are following a standard kind of 16-week raining plan for the London Marathon (or indeed any other marathon at around the same time) you’re probably now just into what’s known in running circles as ‘Monster Month’ – the four week period where you do your hardest block of work, before you start to taper. It’s a time when you can build on the previous nine weeks of training to give yourself a bit of a beasting before you start to back off a bit in the three week run-up to the big day.

It’s also a time when you might think either a) “I’m starting to feel really good now” or b) “Why in the wide world of sport did I ever sign up for this?” I’ve done quite a few cycles of marathon training now, and I’ve felt both ways at various points! But I haven’t run a road marathon since London last year, so feeling I’m slightly nervous about this year. I’m not a running  expert by any means, but I have learnt that Monster Month is a time when you have to look after yourself if you want to make it to race day feeling on top form. So here are my top tips for surviving it!

Listen to your body and don’t be a complete slave to your training plan. If you pick up a niggle or feel ill, don’t try to push on through just because the plan says you have to run today. Better to take a couple of days off than have to give up completely because you aggravated something by ignoring it. Nobody gets through a whole plan without missing a few sessions – that’s just life.

If you do have a niggle that doesn’t go away after a couple of days, or gets worse when you run, see a physio. They’ll probably be able to help you find a way to manage it if it’s not serious. The longer you leave it and the worse it gets, the harder it will be to deal with.

Look after your immune system. Hard training puts a huge strain on it, and will make you more susceptible to any bugs floating around. I sometimes take an Omega 3 supplement after a long Sunday run for its anti-inflammatory properties. If I feel like I might be coming down with something I take some immune-boosting echinacea. Pay attention to hand hygiene too, which is how most bugs get passed on.

Get plenty of sleep. Sleepy time is when your body can rest and recover from all the stress you’ve put on it in training.

Look after your feet – they deserve a bit of pampering. I absolutely love the Body Shop’s Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue Cream. And if you have any issues with your shoes, sort them out now – don’t wait til two weeks before the event to get new ones!

Eat well – plenty of protein, good carbs and lots of fruit and veggies. This really will help to fuel your training and recovery. Monster Month isn’t a time to diet, but neither is it an excuse to eat lots of junk, especially if you’re looking to lose a few pounds. Although I do like a bit of cake after my long Sunday run!

Keep booze to a minimum; it makes more difference than you might think, even if you don’t feel hung over. I know from personal experience this can be hard if you have the sort of friends who think it’s weird not to drink alcohol when you go out, but it really is worth it. I find if I drink on Friday and/or Saturday I don’t run as well on Sunday. Although I do like a glass of red with my post-run Sunday dinner. Well it’s got antioxidants, hasn’t it?!

Get a sports massage halfway through the month if you can. Your legs will deserve and appreciate it! And make sure you do plenty of stretching and foam rolling – but not too hard with the roller.

Most of all, enjoy it! I always think an event is as much about the training as the big day itself. Embrace the challenge and be proud of what you’re doing, especially if it’s your first time. Don’t look upon a long run as punishment. Get your tunes going (if you like) and settle in for the ride.

Monster Month is also a great time to experiment with different running fuels. The more I run long distances, the more convinced I am that keeping well fuelled is as important as training to success. Obviously different things work well for different people. Personally I’m happy to eat ‘real’ food in an ultra, when I’m running slowly, but I can’t do that in a faster road marathon. I used to always take Clif Shot Bloks in marathons, but struggled to eat them at London last year, and I think that’s why I slowed down near the end and didn’t quite hit my four hour target. This year I’m planning to take gels, although I’m not sure which ones yet. I like SiS isotonic gels, but find them really difficult to open on the run. Last weekend I tried an OTE gel, which was much easier to open and  tasted good, so I might take those – but I’ll try some others in training first. One thing’s for sure, nailing your nutrition will definitely help you to avoid the dreaded Wall!

Do you have any top tips for Monster Month? I’d love to hear them. Good luck with it anyway!