White Rose Ultra
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
Guy Riddell shares his experience of a tough Ultra event.
I was one of 75 intrepid starters in the White Rose Ultra 100 mile race, setting off at midday on a Saturday in early November, on a route consisting of 3 x 30 mile loops, followed by 1x 10 mile loop, all in the bleak countryside of West Yorkshire.
I was running with my friend Jason, with the plan to stick together and make sure we both kept eating and drinking, and deal with any problems together as they arose.
The first loop was fairly uneventful. It was cold, very cold actually but, with hat and clothes and a lightweight windproof layer I was able to quickly put on for the exposed windy sections, we were able to get round in just over 6 hours (including 2 hours with a headtorch). First lap done, 30 miles completed.
Short break, couple of hot brews and off we went into the night for the second loop, and very cold became absolutely perishing. It was dark too, and with sections of the route taking us to very exposed moorland and through boggy marshland, everything started to feel cold and numb and uncomfortable. It was on this loop that I started to find eating and drinking a real problem.
Unwrapping things while wearing gloves is impossible; taking off gloves meant exposure to the elements. The water in my bottle was so cold it was unpleasant to drink, being frozen to the bone already, and the energy gels I was relying on had become a congealed gloop in the cold weather. I just couldn’t stomach them. I got round anyway, and in a cumulative time of 14 hours 15 mins. Second lap done, 60 miles completed.
Longer break to defrost and drink some coffee, then back off into the night again for the third loop, and the wheels came off. I managed to get some food down, but shortly after, I threw it all back up. When you have been out in the cold for so long, everything is tensed up and frankly my body couldn’t cope with trying to run, trying to keep warm, and trying to digest food at the same time.
By 3am, I was falling asleep while running, actually running into a ditch at one stage, and unable to get food or drink down. My friend decided his race was run, he was just too cold and couldn’t face the prospect of another 9-10 hours out there.
At my lowest point, after about 80 miles, a friend popped up to run with me for 5 miles around Marsden. By this point I was walking a lot, and my running was mostly just on the downhill sections and slow at that. Still, I persevered, and was treated to snow and a biting wind when climbing up Wessenden Head for the final time. 90 miles completed in just under 24 hours.
Fourth and final loop. Somehow the race director had crammed every hill in Slaithwaite into an agonising final 10 miles. I walked almost all of it, until the final mile when adrenaline took over and I managed a slow & painful jog.
The enormity of my achievement sank in and I started to cry – not just a tear in the eye, but proper blubbing.
My wife joined me for the last 100 metres, and I was lucky enough to have a group of about a dozen mates at the line to see me finish, so even more emotion.
After 27 hours and 35 minutes, I crossed the finish line, in 15th place overall.
Total 102.4 miles, 12,469 feet ascent. Completely drained.