UK Ultra South Downs 100km
A 100km race from Arundel to Eastbourne following the South Downs Way and some other trails, finishing along the coast around Beachy Head. Temperature in 2021 and 2023 was in the low 20’s.
2021 9:26, 1st Female and course record
2023 10:16, 1st Female
Training volume in build-up:
2021 - a big mix of long runs in the south downs and long bike rides. I would fit in a long run up to around 30km in the week as a run commute over the downs and would do long hill reps on a Saturday and a long run on the Sunday. My longest run in the build up was probably around 50km.
2023 - having moved to France in January after recovering from Covid I gradually built up my mileage, first focusing on a half marathon race in March and then focusing more on improving my running in the mountains and on technical terrain. My longest run in the build up was a 69km race which was a mix of runnable and more technical trails. I then switched my training to more runnable trails in the build up, with my longest run after the race in April being around 40km.
Training intensity distribution:
For both years I kept some faster sessions in there, with tempo trail runs, hill reps and some track sessions with my running club.
The couple of longer long runs in training and then also the tempo trail runs. I think in 2021 the hill reps were key to condition my legs to the downhill on race day whereas now I train in the mountains, in 2023 it was more important to seek out more runable trails to prepare myself to race on the South Downs.
In 2021 I didn’t have a strategy as such, I started out at a pace that felt good and pushed a bit on the first hill, I realised I was dropping the other women at that point so pushed a bit longer before settling into a pace that meant I could take nutrition on board better.
In 2023 I went into the race fitter, stronger and with more experience than previously and I hoped to be able to break my course record. This however went completely out the window as a I felt off from the word go. I ran slower to allow for how I felt, fuelled well and got myself to the finish. The strategy became keep moving forwards and keep fuelling.
2021 was a mix of gels, energy drink and bars but no real strategy other than to keep eating.
In 2023 I went in with a much better and tested plan. Using Science in Sport, I would take one gel and one chew and hour (equal to 60g carbs). I also started with 2 x 80g carbs in my bottles with 2 x 80g ready to top up at aid stations.
For both races I started with energy drink in both bottles with 2 more bottles with just the powder ready in my bag. I then filled up with water at each aid station (I couldn’t tell you how much but 2023 was a bit hotter so I was definitely drinking more). I was also using salt tablets.
Hoka Torrent 2 (both years, but not the same pair)
Key items of kit:
Arm warmers - both years the race was chilly for the first couple of hours so arm warmers are a great way to keep the chill off and then be easily taken off as the day warms up.
Being fitter going into a race doesn’t always mean you will have a better race. Be ready to change your race strategy and adapt your plan. Keep fuelling, keep moving and focus on your B goal when your A goal is no longer possible.
(Hour 7 athlete Bethan Male crossing the finish line in 2023. Photo: Mick Hill)