I took a slightly more prescribed approach to my nutrition for this race. Normally, in an ultra marathon, I wouldn’t like to predict how my stomach would cope at various stages of the race, but this time I knew the course well, having spent a number of recces on the route and was able to put together a plan based around more exact timings.
As ever, I spent the week before making sure I was well hydrated and the day before, as I went down to register and meet up with the rest of the Team Mountain Fuel athletes, I sipped through a bottle of Blackcurrant Xtreme Energy drink.
It was a 6:30am start for the race so, instead of my usual porridge, I had a Morning Fuel breakfast which sits a bit lighter in my stomach. As I jogged down into town for the start, I carried a small soft flask with water to sip in the final 30 minutes before the off. I had a 500ml bottle of Xtreme Energy made up for the first section over Walla Crag, Ashness Bridge, Watendlath and through to Rosthwaite. I didn’t feel the need to eat during this first 85 minutes, just concentrating on drinking as I settle into the race.
At Rosthwaite, I just part filled my bottle with water for the short section to Honnister but made sure I was nibbling some salted flapjack to keep the levels topped up.
At Honnister (1:53 hours), I knew that the next section was the longest of the race and wanted to make sure that I had enough liquid to last the full section. This was the reason that I carried my soft flask which just gives that bit more adaptability. I left with 250ml of water and 500ml of Xtreme Energy for the run over into Buttermere and round Crummock Water to Rannerdale.
I drank the water during the short climb and the first part of the technical descent to Buttermere, still nibbling on the flapjack, eventually switching to Xtreme Energy on the final part of the drop. Part way along the lakes, I had a mouthful of beef jerky which really hits the spot, being very savoury and a lovely variation.
By now, I was covering the ground with ease, having good energy levels, feeling like I was on a charge and, as I approached Rannerdale (3:20 hours), I knew that my energy levels were good enough to run all the way up the valley to the col. At the checkpoint, I refilled my bottle with another Xtreme Energy, grabbed half a banana and set off on a mission to catch 2nd place.
Apart from one steep section, I ran right up to the col, knowing that from this point I was going to start sipping on a fruit smoothie which I would take about 30 minutes to finish. During this next section, I was really starting to race with some pace and managed to catch and pass 2nd place, but could just about see the leader some 6 minutes ahead. I was definitely on a roll and thought that there might be an outside chance of catching Patrick.
I finished the smoothie just before the Rolling End checkpoint and had another mouthful of beef jerky, preparing for the final 45 minutes with a final bottle of Xtreme Energy. My energy levels were fantastic and I was really able to force the pace over this last section, running most of the time at sub 7 minute/mile.
Patrick was just too strong for me, but I managed to close to within just over two minutes by the finish. It was great to feel that good in the final stages of an ultra and to finish with a big smile on my face.
As soon as I finished, I drank a bottle of Chocolate Ultimate Recovery Fuel mixed with soya milk – my personal favourite.
Every one of these nutritional components was pre-planned which seemed to take the stress of thinking on-the-hoof out of the equation, though I think that for me, this is just about the limit of distance where I could pre-plan to this degree and knowledge of the course was critical in this process.