Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra 2013 : Race Report

The Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra was first held last year, a year that I entered but had to pull out due to illness, this year I was fit and healthy and ready to put to bed unfinished business.

Recover, Race, Train, Taper

I ran the River Ayr Way Challenge on the September 14th, the race went well, slicing off 50 minutes from my 2010 time ran in the easier downhill direction.  Recovery went really well, within 6 days I was more than ready to get back running and kicked off training with a relatively quick 6 miler.  I was surprised at just how smoothly I was moving so soon after the RAW so made the decision to do the Trossachs 10k the following weeked.  To prepare for the 10k I did a tempo run in the middle of the next week and then straight into race just two weeks after completing the RAW.  

The Trossachs 10k went well, outside my PB for the route, but considering that I had done just one tempo run in the previous 6 months and so shortly after an ultra I had every reason to be chuffed with my time of 40:54.  Straight after the race I was back into proper training building my mileage up to 40 to 45 miles a week, with a number of 15 mile runs culminating in 21 miler just 8 days before the 3 Peaks Race.  

To help develop my fat burning capacity almost all my training runs had been done fasted, missing breakfast and then running before lunch. My 21 miler was a real test of this strategy as I ran it fasted, without taking any water of food with me, I also ran it 7:55 min/mile pace giving me a PB for the route, and at a pace that would have resulted in a 5 minute marathon PB had I continued on.  I finished this training run feeling strong and maintained good energy levels throughout, no hints of hitting the wall. As much as this was a good training run and strong stimulus to physical adaptations, this long run really cemented my confidence in my fat burning ability.

After a solid month of training I then tapered for a week, only running twice at race pace - 9 min/miles. Taper madness hit though, compounded by a fall on wet slippery steps in the dark, I found myself stiff and various niggles with my calves, hip flexors and back.  After feeling so good in training it was frustrating to have a week where I felt old beyond my years.  

The forecast had been looking quite good through the week, so my family had decide to come along an support the ultra and the various other running, wheel chair and cani-cross races.  The night before the race my wife checked the forecast to find that strong winds and rain were now forecast, the thought of entertaining 3 girls in such conditions was too much so I was left heading down on my own.  I found myself quite daunted by the forecast too, I had been looking forward to race day and found myself dreading it.  Eventually I shock myself out this funk, rationalizing that the weather could be no worse than this years Stuc O'Chroin hill race or Devil O'Highlands race.

Race day, Sunday 27th October

The struggled to get to sleep and only got 2 hours sleep before I got up at 4am.  I stuck to the breakfast that I had eaten before the Devil and RAW, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and this time ate beetroot rather than drank beetroot juice.  To add extra fat for energy and to lower the Glycemic Index (GI) of the breakfast I cooked the eggs with butter, cream and coconut oil.  I believe keeping the GI low is important for a pre ultra breakfast so it doesn't compromise the bodies ability to stay fat burning efficiently right up to when I stand on the start line - to avoid wasting precious glycogen stores that I'll need when racing.

The two hour drive went quickly, starting off in heavy rain in the dark and then watching the day break and with it the rain turning to showers and then eventually blue sky as I passed the Eildons.  The three hills looked imposing isolated in the relative flatlands that surround them.  I say relative flatlands, there really isn't much flat ground as the area has lots of rolling hills and valleys.

I arrived at the Jedburgh Ruby ground car park shortly after 7am.  I left my car with a great view of the Abbey, if it had feelings I'm sure it would have loved me for it!

I registered and rather too leisurely got ready in my car, double checking that I had everything and had put on glide and plaster on all the places that might chaff when running for hours soaked through. During my final preparation I checked my watch to find out that the briefing was under-way so I donned my final bits of kit and headed over to club house to find the briefing finishing.  I really need to get better at pre-race prep.  I tracked down the support vehicles and added my drop bags, then joined the mass movement of runners and supporters from the car park to the race start.

Race start : 8 am

The race started promptly at 8am and for the first time in five races I was actually ready and headed off in initially the middle of the pack of 108 starts.  I kept my pace down at around 10 min/mile pace and found myself swallowed up by lots of enthusiastic runners by the half mile point.  A mile in and I settled into position.

A mile and half along the main road I was expecting the route to go right onto a trail that takes you past a sewage works and then over the river, but instead all but two of the many runners ahead heading straight on, keeping on the path beside the road.  There were bollards lined up beside the path so seemed right, but I couldn't help but feel that we were off the route published on the event website.  I wondered if a route changed had been announced at the briefing and cursed myself for missing it.  It turns out there wasn't a route change, only that junction hadn't been marked or marshalled and that mass of runners just took the 10k+half marathon route.

It was easy to just quell this concern over the route as the view of all the runners stretched ahead on the path beside the road was really impressive, rarely do you get to so many runners clearly in an ultra.  I had finished in 21st during the Devil in a field of a similar size so head set myself a goal of getting into the top twenty, this meant that I'd need to pass almost all the runners ahead as the leaders were now out of sight.

I was in no hurry to chase my target position, my plan was to use my heart rate (HR) monitor to guide my pace and suppress my ego and impatience, this would be my third ultra experiment with this pacing strategy having used it with success during the Devil O'the Highlands and RAW races back in August and September.  Like these previously races I set a target HR of 160, 15 below my Lactate threshold, and planned to ease off any time I exceed this, and push on faster when dropping to far below.   Race day adrenalin usually means that I hit this heart rate pretty early in a race and so it was the same as we headed up the hill and found myself loosing places just to keep the HR down.  Patience, Patience, Patience, but boy sometimes doing the physiologically optimal thing requires restraint!

Once we crested the hill I was able to let me pace increase without pushing HR higher and started catching all the places I had lost and more.  After a short section along the main road without a path we arrived at a marshalled point where we were guide down to muddy path through light woodland - joining the St. Cuthbert's Way.  I queried the route change with the Marshal and what route to take on our return, they were just as unsure as I was though.

Once down on the path I continued steadily catching runners, chatting for a minute then moving on. The path then crosses grasses pastures and like the terrain the sky open out two, the showers and clouds had blown away leaving bright blue skies.  Jacket off and stowed I really enjoyed this section, a warming sun, rainbow shining in bright sky, like minded individually stretched out on the route around me, what more could you want from an ultra?

The route then heads over the river via bouncy suspension bridge which was fun, but required a little care with the wet boards.  The next few miles of trail were along field boundaries and through woodland heading steadily uphill.  The first sustained uphill I found my HR heading up towards 170 despite taking it really easy, and had to back off several times, and for the first time in a few miles found myself no longer catching runners ahead.  As soon as the route would level I'd steadily catch and over take runners.  The route through the woodland was muddy in places but mostly good going under foot.

At around the 5 mile point the the route leaves woodland and for the next three miles heads out over fields and through rough ground between fields.  I knew the route would continue heading uphill but didn't quite expect how undulating it would continue to be.  The now familiar pattern of keeping position on steep up hills and overtaking on flatter and on descents continued.  The ground was mostly pretty solid underfoot save for one section where the path had turned into more like a ditch with the bottom sodden and very muddy.  To avoid getting our feet wet we all danced down this section jumping from side to side, fun but rather wasteful of energy and strength.

At the 8 mile mark the route joins a country lane and heads downhill towards Maxton.  It was really noticeable how much more efficient my gait was and in particular how much elastic recoil helps when running on roads, something that mud totally robs from you.  Continuing to use my HR monitor as a guide I opened up and cruised down this section at 7:30 min/mile pace, over taking dozen or so runners.  I felt a bit of out of place running this section so fast as everyone else hadn't seemed to adapt their pace to the road and downhill, it probably looked like I was running foolishly hard only a 1/4 way in to the race, in reality I was working no harder than any other point so far, just running completely relaxed pace assisted by gravity.

Maxton Checkpoint : 10 miles, 1:32:37, 45th place

Having watched John Kynaston's video of the route arriving at the Maxton check point felt familiar - Thankyou John :-) The Marshals found my drop bag, I left my empty bottle and wrapper and I headed quickly on my way, taking less than 30 seconds.

The route then descends down to the follow the river with a mixture of board walks, steps and grassy fields and muddy trails.  The river was swollen and fast moving.  Not long after Maxton the sky filled in and a heavy rain shower changed the character of the day once again.  Jacket on, hood up I was focused on trail in front of my feet and reeling in the next runners ahead.

On the route to St. Boswells I steadily overtook quite a few runners, my own pace had kept pretty constant throughout the race so it was down to other runners now slowing either due to fatigue or the realization that we were only a third through the race.  The rain blew through as we approached the town gifting us with another rainbow.  Running through the streets of St. Boswells was a nice break, but kinda odd be back in civilization after running through the country side for two hours, it was also great see spectators cheering us on.  I took just four minutes to pass through the town and then we were back on the trail and running beside the river.

The field had started to spread out so often I was running on my own, there was never too big a gap ahead but the trail meanders in and out of the woodland so you rarely get to see more than fifty meters ahead.  I would spend five minutes on my own then up would pop a runner ahead, I catch up quickly, and then run with them for a while if their pace was similar then find myself on my own again.

Having others for company was particular useful at some points as spotting the painted arrows marking the correct route was difficult in places.  Typically was more down to relaxing too much and just following the route ahead and not looking actively enough than the actual arrows being difficult to spot. Florescent arrows on boards would have been useful at the more easy to miss points.

Shortly before the route departed from following the river I was lucky to be with a local runner who knew the best route when the path split avoiding a narrow section very close to the river.  At this point I spotted Donald Sandeman with another runner ahead who had taken the narrow river path, we called to them but I'm not sure they back tracked.  I passed Donald at the 24 mile mark during the RAW, but here passed him at the 14 mile mark.  Was I going faster thanks to my better training?   Was Donald being more cautious sooner?  Either way it was good to see a familiar pair of tartan shorts on route :-)

Not long after we passed a golf course, joined the old railway line with it's leaf covered cobbles that made for a somewhat uncomfortable running surface.  Then I was guided safely across the busy A68 and then finally a clear view of Eildons and only a mile of steady climbing to get to the next check point.  I was out on my own again and slowly catching a group of runners ahead that were talking more walking breaks than myself.  Again my HR monitor was my guide, the steeper parts I'd walk, but as soon as the HR came down I'd get back into a jog. I didn't catch them until the check point just beyond Rhymers Stone.

Rhymer's Stone Check Point : 17 miles, Elapsed 2:43, 26th Place

I stopped for just 15 seconds at the check point, just the time it took for a marshal to find my drop bag and for me to pass on my empties.  I unpacked my drop bag and stowed everything whilst walking up the track beyond the check point.  Passing through check point so efficiently gained me three places as the group of runners that had been ahead sorted themselves out.

The routes ascends along a narrow path before passing through a gate and then out onto the open hillside.  I briskly walked this section eating and soon found myself being aware of heavy breathing not far behind, for the first time I was being pursued rather than being the pursuer.  I wasn't prepared to give up start giving up position so pushed on strongly up the hill, with my HR exceeding my 160 target, a first sign than my ego was overriding my pacing strategy.

Looking up the hill ahead it was great to see a line of competitors snaking up the hill and moving well. I knew I wouldn't catch many on the hills but felt confident that I'd catch most by the next check point back at Maxton.  I arrived at the summit with the lead of the pursers and we made brief introduction before being blasted by the gale force winds at the summit.  It was exhilarating to be leaning into wind and with great views around.  The showers had thankfully passed through so it was clear when passing through over the Eildon summits.

We both headed down from the summit with glee and within a few strides I found myself slipping on the wet grass and tumbled over.  I dusted myself off with a quick check that I hadn't lost anything from my running pack, and immediately got back running.  Thankfully I didn't feel any new aches after the fall, only damage was my confidence in my grip and small hole in my shorts where one of the safety pins holding my number had ripped off.   I didn't loose too much time and by the next climb was back chatting with my summit companion during the brisk walk up the second summit.

At the top of the second summit a father and young son were playing in the extreme winds and found the boy blown right into my path and gently bumped into each other.  He was having a great time and like me found it all hilarious ;-)

The descent from the second summit was very steep by stony rather than grassy so I was able to descend with confidence and speed so passed my summit companion and closed in quickly with two other runners that we passed soon after the bottom of the steep descent.  One of them I recognized but could place them, we shot passed to quickly to chat so it was only a little after I realized it was Craig MacKay that I had run with for an hour during the RAW.  Sorry Craig for not being sociable - were were getting too carried away have fun.

The ascent up the final summit is much more gentle and can be run comfortably so I settled into a easy jog keeping my HR down.  I then found myself passed rapidly by a gaggle of four runners that were attacking like it was a short hill race.  I was startled by this testosterone filled charge and couldn't help but get caught up in the bluster, trying not to loose too much ground on them, my competitive instinct overriding my cautious and deliberate approach to pacing.  A glance down to my HR monitor watch brought some sembalance of sense, my HR was was up and 170 and heading rapidly up towards lactate threshold.

Anaerobic metabolism is very inefficient at using glycogen stores, only producing a tiny fraction of the power output per g out glycogen as aerobic metabolism,t the wasted chemical energy is wrapped up in the lactate that is then passed on via the blood.  This lactate is then cleared through the Cori cycle where the lactate is used muscles, organs as fuel, or convert back to glycogen in the liver - this reuse and conversion process is inefficient though.  It's far better to just avoid going anaerobic and stay efficiently aerobic.

I know all of this, but still I let myself get carried away.  I did however back off substantially after checking my HR, and let the runners fight it out themselves.  We passed the final summit and headed back and downhill, but I had lost 100 meters on the front runner, and 50+ meters on the three others.  I had never experienced quite this explosion of pace in an ultra before so forced myself back into my own running bubble - made sure I was pacing sensibly and eating and drinking regularly.

After the open hill the route then descends through woodland, then a short section through a field and then a park area just before village of Bowden.  I catch two of the runners, one of which was my summit companion, they both report they also rather got carried away on the 3rd summit, the terrain reminding them of their fell racing heritage.  I'm back in my groove and pass them, and pass the 3rd of the gaggle wh was another 50 meters ahead, but stopped at Bowden when meeting up with family.

The forth of the gaggle, who I later find is ultra newbie Ed Crockett, was nowhere to be seen, even down a 200m stretch of straight road that leads out of Bowden.  This stretch of road is very short and the route then heads left down a narrow path between trees and brambles.  A mile further on and the route joins a country lane that takes you into Newtown St. Boswells, on a straight I glimpse a couple of runners several hundred metres ahead but neither is Ed.  In the RAW and Devil I wasn't passed permanently by anyone from the 1/4 way mark onwards, so I was impressed that Ed was running strongly this far into the race but also keen to try and reel him in, to keep my record intack.

Bends in the road and housing around mean I passed through Newton St. Boswell without seeing any other runners.  I reached the end of the Eildons loop completing the 9 mile loop in 1:45.  Once back on the original route back to Maxton I took a short walking break to check texts that I had received but not read as my phone was buried in my pack and wrapped up to avoid it getting wet.  Several good luck messages sent me on my way.  I also took the opportunity to take a couple of pain killers to keep a lid on discomfort that had started to develop in my hip flexors and quads.  Despite a little discomfort I still felt strong and full of running and got back on my way.

I ran on my own all the way to St. Boswells, not seeing a single runner ahead thanks to regular bends in the route then as I left the woodland and entered the village I saw a couple of runners ahead that I rapidly caught and passed.  Once on the main street I saw further runners and again pass them quickly as we head towards the golf course.  Two of them comment on how fresh I am and that I have a spring in my step.  24 miles in and I did indeed have a spring in my step, the combination of getting some decent training in and pacing evenly are effective in ensuring the physical side holds together, but also moving through the field consistently helps give one little mini goals to aim for and a provides a boost in confidence so mentally I was remaining positive and focused on racing.

Shortly after St. Boswells the route passes the golf course where I passed several more runners, including the 2nd female, Victoria Reed, who like many others was running her first Ultra and was moving well.   We passed through the marathon point in around 4:30, pretty good going given the it included climbing the Eildon's.

The route then rejoined the river and I on a long straight saw Ed in the distance for the first time since the 3rd Eildon summit, I quickly caught another runner that was between us but Ed was moving at the same pace as myself so my yard stick stayed a few minutes ahead. After passing quite a few runners in the space of 10 minutes I was then back on my own for the return to the Maxton check point.

Maxton Check Point : 28 miles, 4:46, 13th place

There were lots of friendly faces at the Maxton church check point, with marshals recording times and buzzing around finding my drop bag.  Just prior to arrival I had bundled together all my empties in my previous drop bag so it was a simple exchange and was out of the check point very quickly.  As I left I called out asking for what place I was in and reply of 11th gave a rather pleasant shock, I was totally expecting somewhere in the high teens or twenties not closing in on a top ten placing.  It turns out that I wasn't really in 11th, there must have been an error as in the final results I showed I was 13th through.  Physiologically this was a real boost so I left heading up the hill chuffed and with a spring in my step once again.

Once I was back running and looking ahead I saw two runners only 50 meters ahead, my quick pit stop obviously had helped me catch up as I hadn't seen them at all earlier.  Neither were moving fast so I quickly caught them up and by the time we left Maxton village was now in what I thought was 9th, I couldn't believe my luck, I felt great physically and mentally and was really looking forward to enjoying the final 10 miles back to Jedburgh.

My euphoria was very shortly lived as just after leaving Maxton I had a sudden shot of cramp down my left calf.  My heart sank with the prospect of having to back off the pace and nursing cramp for what could be another couple of hours.  I did what I had to and reduce my intensity and work on keeping my gait relaxed, I made sure I eat my home-made energy bar - chocoloate, coconute oil and cream energy snack that I had laced with the contents of a S-cap and crushed caffine, very salty and intense but hit the spot.

A couple of hundred meters after leaving Maxton suddenly Ed Crockett popped up at my shoulder.  He was moving really easily and with light breathing indicative of athlete working comfortably aerobic - a worthy nemisis ;-)  I hadn't been aware of him approach at all, but it was really nice surprise, got me out of post cramp funk. Ed had stopped for a longer break at Maxton and like myself was chuffed and somewhat surprised to now be in what we though was 9th and 10th place (it was actually 10th and 11th).  We chatted for the next twenty minutes, leaving the road and then heading back along the trail, it was great to have someone else running comfortably and finishing strong.

I had the constant threat of cramp on the back of my mind though as we hit a muddy trench section that headed uphill I decided I needed to back off as my HR was back over 160, and I know from experience that this danger zone once I've started cramping.  I wished Ed good luck and eased off on the pace.  It was frustrating to let him go, I still felt strong with good energy levels, but couldn't risk get a full cramp.  Ed rapidly moved ahead with the light step of capable athlete.

I got myself back into my own bubble, drinking and eating small amounts regularly, keeping the pace down to avoid the HR pushing too near the danger zone.  I was still able to run most of the hills and once we started descending was able to open up and run relatively smoothly.   Ed had disappeared quite quickly and even on the open fields didn't see him so knew that he must have built up a several minutes lead.  One the descent through the woodland before returning to the cross the river I kept moving but found my HR getting down below 150 a couple of times as I took it slow around muddy spots.  This was taking it too easy so for the first time during the race had to actually stop taking it too easy and get a move on, it was also a first sign that tiredness and with it lack of race focus was creeping in.

Just before returning to the river I glimpsed Ed at the bottom of the field I had just begun to descend, so despite taking the woodland section a bit easier than I felt I should have I had regained some ground.  The sun was out again as I crossed the suspension foot bridge and the vantage point I was able to look along the route back towards Jedburgh and spotted Ed and another runner perhaps another minute further ahead.  Once back on the trail I counted how long it took for me to pass the same field boundary as Ed ahead and counted to 54, so roughly a minute.  I lacked the energy to put in burst to catch quickly, and knew that cramp would revisit if I did so I stuck with the patient game of pacing as evenly as I could, I might not be able to speed up but was determined not to slow but was now finding keeping my pace up a bit of struggle.

After less than a mile running beside the river over open fields the route goes through woodland and then back to the main road.  Once the two runners ahead went into woodland I lost sight of them.  When I got the main road I was directed to the minor road that takes you back towards Jedburgh, and along the official route that we all should have taken earlier in the morning.  I had hoped to have reeled in runners ahead but was out on my own not seeing them on any of longer straights along the back road.  The lack of target made it harder to ignore the tiredness that was setting in, the spring in my step had departed, but with 36 miles completed and still able to keep up 10 min/mile pace I guess I couldn't complain.

The route then goes right off the minor road along a short distance then cross back over the river via a foot bridge.  I totally missed the route arrows pointing towards the foot bridge, I was too busy looking ahead as I free wheeled downhill towards an renovated farm.  Without checking my map I totally forgot that we needed to cross back over the river and continued on through the farm getting more and more uneasy that the route wasn't marked.  Thankfully the owner of the house spotted me and came out to help and guided me back the way and towards the foot bridge.  I headed back and quickly found the arrows painted on the road marking the route and was annoyed and frustrated at such a silly mistake - I just has switched off my navigation brain completely.  Reviewing the GPS trace afterwards it turns out that I lost a bit over 2 minutes and with evaporated my chance of catching any runners unless they were having to walk in.

My head was still in the game and was able to put the set back behind me and got down to salving what pace I could from the final mile and half.  I tried pushing too hard and once again my calf cramped and forced me to back off the pace and nurse it along for another hundred meters.  The last mile in felt awfully long as it gently heads up through the town towards the finish.  I try my best to summon a finishing sprint but only manage 9 min/mile shuffle across the line.

Finish Jedburgh : 37.5 miles, 6:28:38, 11th place overall, 5th male vet

Immediately after I finish I get given a goody bag and exchange congratulates with Ed who had finish five minutes ahead in the end after putting in a strong finish and taking Mark Caldwell in the final stages.  A timing marshal came across and asked me my time as my time hadn't registered on the timing system, I had recorded 6:28:38 on my HR monitor so passed this on.  It turned out that in my race pack I received at registration was a timing chip that I should have put on my shoe, alas I never spotted and was never told about it so was completely oblivious.

In the official results was given 6:28:00 which is very generous of them to round down, 11th place overall, 5th male vet.  There were 100 finishers out of 108 starters.  Many of those finishers were doing the first ultra's which is great to see.

Without my silly navigation error I would have a time of 6:26:28.  However, race winner Neil MacNicol, who finished in new coursed record of 5:24:20, reported making a much larger navigation mistake and thought he added an extra fifteen minutes so I guess I can't berate myself too much.  The route change at the start missing out the back lane saved 400m, but took us over small hill which would have slowed us and made up for a little bit of short cut.  I'd guess that we might have saved a minute with the short cut.  For me if we had gone the right way at the start I wouldn't have missed the foot bridge on my return and would have finished quicker than I did.

Final race of the year

Now that Jedburgh is finished my racing for the year is complete so I'm in time of rest, reflection and looking forward to next year.  My results in ultras has taken a real step up in the last three months, previously years I was only just making it into the top 1/3rd of the field, while this year I've moved up comfortably within the top 20% of finishers.  For all but the Jedburgh race my training was compromised by injury, so one has to look elsewhere for probably reasons for the improvements.   The topic of which I'll cover in future posts.

To those that we are indebted

Many thanks to the organizers and all the marshals that made the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon a great day out for all us lucky runners.


  1. Well done - again!
    Now make sure to get some real rest and recovery. You have been running a lot of ultras in a very short time frame.

  2. Thanks Thomas. This month I'm taking it very easy- I've covered just 34 miles since completing the Jedburgh race, now 19 days ago.

    I'm trying to run when it's sunny to catch a few last rays which rather keeps down the opportunities to a safe level. I had a beautiful sunny autumnal run this lunchtime - a real treat, great for refilling ones enthusiasm for nature, running and life in general. Running for the shear pleasure rather than needing to hit some training target really frees one up.

    Training wise for November I'd like to make sure that I maximize my recovery with these playful runs and not add any training load, so everything will be of modest length and intensity. Come December I'll start to plan out more regular training.

  3. Excellent running. You have mastered the art of conserving your energy well in ultras. It is likely that the impending cramp in the late stages does reflect the fact that your total mileage during preparation has been modest, but you have certainly achieved great performances on the basis of modest preparation. I agree that it is likely that nutrition has played a large part.

    1. Conversing energy levels through the my recent ultras is probably a combination of good pacing, being able to consume food regularly (a bit over 200 cals/hour) and being better adapted to fat burning thanks to changes in my diet.

      Of my recent 3 ultra's I had the fewest problems with cramp during the Jedburgh Ultra, and I also had the best training period before it too so there may well be a correlation to training volume.

      I do wonder if it might simply be an issue that when you run close to the limit of your current fitness level will allow something is likely to start coming undone. If I had overly reliant upon glycogen stores then in the later stages of the races I would have had to slow more than I did and might have avoided getting cramp as the physical loads would have been lower. If I had more training volume in the run up to races I might have just ran faster on average but still ended up fatigued at the end as when you are racing you try to put as much in as you can so finish with similar levels of fatigue. From what I've read it's neuromuscular fatigue that is most likely cause of exercise related cramp.

      I would love to get over the cramp - it is impacting my performance, even if it's only to the tune of 5 mins lost on my overall finishing time. I do seem prone to cramp, my father who has similar build also has a history of exercise induced cramp so I suspect there is hereditary link in my sensitivity to cramp.

      I do wonder if changing the balance of my training might help - it's around or shortly after the marathon point (4 to 5hrs in) that I've got cramp in my last three ultras, and in training most of my longest runs have been around the 15 mile mark (~2hr time). While this training and my diet has given my decent enough aerobic fitness and fat burning capacity to finish well up the field it obviously not fully preparing me for racing ultras.

      I therefore am wondering if less focus on aerobic development and more focus on fatigue resistance might be in order - more long runs with hills, more long back to back runs perhaps.