VIKING WAY ULTRA 19-20th April




Established in 1976. The Viking Way is a long distance footpath which starts on the banks of the Humber in the north and winds its way through Lincolnshire to finish on the shores of Rutland Water, a total of 235km (147 miles). Named the Viking Way because of the strong influence of Viking settlements and Viking trade routes in the east of England.

The route passes through the Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the market town of Horncastle, the Lincolnshire Limewoods, the City of Lincoln, the southern Lincolnshire Edge and the Kesteven Uplands before entering Leicestershire and Rutland.




06:40 Humber Bridge

The Viking Way Ultra, founded by extreme ultra runner Mark Cockbain, is a tough route to complete because of the mixed terrain, covering 147 miles, in under 40 hours non-stop. Although not too steep, 2,295m ascent in total, there are some hilly sections towards the start and again in the later stages. This long distance event has just a 20% finishing rate...

Warning before entering:
Note: You will only be considered for a COCKBAIN EVENT if you have extensive ultra-running experience. A minimum requirement for entry to any of the events is a 100 mile non stop finish or equivalent military endurance. These are low key, extremely difficult events that require a certain level of hardship and endurance.

 
Perfect for me then!




Slowly runners arrive to the old viewing area of Humber Bridge

Logistics to get to the race were not so great for me with over 3 hours drive to Peterborough to meet fellow ultra runner and good friend Nick Morris. He is looking after my car until I return. A hop on the coach for a 4 hour trek to Hull, which arrives just after 7pm. 

Registration is either the night before at the Premier Inn, Hull West, or at the start of the event in the morning. I made my way over the night before from Hessle station. Which at the time seemed practical. But in reality with all my bags, it was a mission. I met Mark, Alex, Ed and some of the other runners. Alex arranged contact with Allan Rumbles, who is staying at my Travelodge in Hull Central. So we can discuss sharing a cab in the morning to the start. 

Thanking everyone, I made my way back to Hull to get my head down and organise my kit for the morning. I bumped into Allan and the cab was booked for 05:45, as he needs to register in the morning.



Race set up

With just 4 hours sleep, I felt pretty lousy on waking, I really should have registered first thing. But once we arrive at the scenic start I feel awake. My breakfast of avocado, bulletproof coffee and Chia seeds is kicking in. 

I am charged and ready to get going...

On arriving, I feel rather like the new kid on the block. I spot a few familiar faces, yet I cannot place all the names. The general mood between the runners is quite divided. Some quiet and shy, then others up-beat and joking amongst themselves. 








Mark, Alex and the team arrive. A group picture of the 21 brave runners is taken, then we are ready to make a move for the start. 





I send a last few messages to my friend Helen, who is at work keeping track on me. I set my Runkeeper and Garmin on and we make a start down the dirt track, heading west along the waterside. 


6x4 laminated photo maps (34 pages)

7:00
Cold 4C, a light breeze, with the sun peeping through the clouds. Nice conditions. A perfect sunrise over the Humber Bridge. 

Running steady, at ease in a large group, about 9:45min/mile. Until slowly the front group pulls away finding a comfortable pace. 

I chat to smiling Ed Catmur about the route and how he feels about this kind of distance. Neither of us have run over a 100 miles, so this is unknown territory...

Ed Catmur and Andy Horsley 

Miles 0-16
I speak to some of the other runners as we make our way along the route. Ben Davies tells me of his tales last year where he had to drop from hypothermia, after running over 130 miles...

Through South Ferriby, heading away from the waterside. So far following the trail markers is straight forward, just follow the viking helmet. A left turn is nearly missed, but Riccardo Giussani, who has run the Viking before, carries on up this road. We all follow.

I have a fueling plan of staying on liquids only for the first 50 miles to my drop bag. Then introduce real foods in small amounts from then onwards. I am very fat adapted and the bulletproof coffee always keeps me full enough for hours of running. 




Good morning Viking runners


I find a comfortable pace and stay at this for a good 10 miles along the trail. Once across the A180/M180 junction towards Barnetby, Ben calls from behind, as myself and Ed miss a right turn (no viking sign here). 

The road leads down into the village. Again no markers, so the group splits. I run with Ben and Richard Lennon through the village and we pick up the viking way further up. 

Passing through many buttercup fields. The trail comes out to a road, I follow Richard until eventually the first check point can be seen at Bigby. Ed and Andy Horsley catch up in seconds. 

A few cups of water and I am good to go. Thanking Mark, Alex and the team, I carry on the trail towards Caistor with the group close by. 

CP1 Bigby

Just some of the many buttercup fields of Lincolnshire 



Bigby the first check point


Miles 17-31
This section is the lumpy part through the Wolds. Although not too high, it has the most rolling climbs of the day. It is very scenic and the sun has decided to shine on us with a cooling breeze. 

I remove my light showerproof and pack it away. Unfortunately I accidentally left my tech top and arm sleeves in the finish bag I left with Nick. So I only have the base layer I am wearing. 


I stay close by to Andy, who is running his third Viking today. He helps me through Caistor and the back of some houses, the signage is not very accurate through the village. We lose some of the others here.

I carry on with Andy nearby. After the last climb up, the view from afar is breathtaking. 

I keep hydrated with NUUN water and take an S!Cap tablet. I sip on some olive oil for the time being. Still not hungry for any solid food yet.

Big skies and landscapes

CP2 Tealby
Heading down the lane and into Tealby, check point two should be close by. I am in the lead at the moment. I head past what looks like a marshal on the corner, but he is not facing my direction.

I head up Papermill Lane following a trail marker. I go too far and then race back down. I then spot the marshal again, by now the other runners have reached the check point already.



Village of Tealby at check point two

Mark and the team are all here. I refill my bladder from my Salomon SLab vest. I have a few cups of water and make my way back onto the route. I thank the team. They say to not get lost anymore...

Miles 32-50
Next up the route is very zig zag, cutting across fields, then through Ludford, Donnington On Bain, Scamblesby, Belchford, then towards Fulletby. Flat, cycle paths, woodlands and very scenic surroundings, rich in history. I run this leg alone, picking up my pace a little to an average 9:00min/mile.

I consume another S!Cap tablet after 5 hours running and have some of my blended coffee with chia seeds to keep my strength up until the 50 mile check point. 


Nothing but big skies and lush greens



Enchanting moments along the route

Somewhere near Belchford, I cut across the wrong field and through a stream, ankle deep in water. The cooling water is refreshing on my feet.

I soon find the right track again...



En-route to Woodhall Spa




Feeling good and really taking in all the sights, I enjoy this section more so than the last as I didn't go so much off route or get lost...
 
CP3 Fulletby
Approaching the 50 mile check point. My bag is now available, so I stock up on supplies and kit. I can access my bag again at 96 miles, so I pack my waterproof jacket, two head torches, extra batteries, snacks of cheese, boiled egg, seeds and nuts. I drink a hot black coffee and refill my bladder. 

I eat some cheese, olives and a few spoonfuls of my high energy blend, I made earlier (coconut oil, mct oil, chia, butter, raw cacao, salt and pine nuts). Gulp of coconut water, change out of the Luna Sandals and into Merrell trail shoes. 

I am fit to carry on...


50 miles


Hot dog anyone?!

As I get ready to leave, Richard and Cliff make their way into the check point. 

I post to Facebook my location, and then text some family and friends. Heading back on the trail towards Horncastle.

Miles 51-64
After an hour or so I speak to my partner Sunday, who is between trips with work, staying at Heathrow. It is good to hear a familiar voice and I explain how the day has gone so far. I hear about all the support and well wishes from all my running friends and family, tracking my progress. 
Lucy has said she will not start her Easter egg until I come into the finish tomorrow.

I eat a boiled egg I am carrying and drink some of the coffee I refilled at the check point. I take another S!Cap tablet.

Later heading through Woodhall Spa into the early evening, I run my fastest leg of the route today. Averaging at 8:30min/mile, then coming into Stixwould, feeling strong for check point four.

Follow that viking...




CP4 Stixwould

I top up my water, eat some cherry tomatoes and take a 9bar with me for the road. This will be my sugar trickle for later. I thank the support team for all the help, bidding farewell until the next checkpoint. 

Again I have been running alone for this section...


This herd decided to chase me out the field


Miles 65-82
The first day of running the viking way is slowly drawing to an end. I contact my friend Helen who is excited to hear all the wildlife around me, cows mooing, barking dogs chasing me, then loud geese. I reach a big field with a herd of cows, they move away from me, but then head my way, walking, then moving quicker. I just manage to get through the gate in time...

Helen finds this highly amusing...

I  munch on seeds, nuts and sip olive oil as I go down the track. I have a bite of the 9bar I took from the last check point.

I think I get slightly distracted through Bardney and Stainfield, steering off a little too far into the woods. I soon back track when noticing. Checking my photo maps, I must have added at least 7+ miles already today by going off track...

Dusk comes in heavy over the valley, the sky turns deep purple, then black, very quickly. My headlight comes on. The breeze picks up and the temperature drops. 

I speak to Sunday again, navigate through a field of more cows, get chased to the gate and then run through Hardy Gang Wood. I need my concentration so hang up the call. 


End of the day, running the Viking Way





Out from the woods and again, gone off the route. I scramble through into a field and head over to Reepham Moor, trying to pick up the trail again. 

For what feels like hours in pitch blackness, I finally reach a bridle track that leads me back towards Fiskerton onto the route. 

The road runs parallel to the viking way, yet I cannot find a track or footpatch to reach it. 

I soon see flashing headlights from the distance and spot this as the next check point. I am ready for a hot coffee and to see some people, it has been a long and lonely stretch.

I soon hear voices, and then see volunteer Karen waving from a van on the roadside. 

CP5 Lincoln
Miles 83-97
Karen helps refill my water and makes me a hot coffee. I have an S!Cap tablet. Cliff checks in minutes after me, I head on the trail towards Lincoln, with help from the team.

Sunday calls back to check how I am doing. I spot Cliff coming up the road and catch up with him. He knows this section well, so I stay close, following him to the Cathedral. Then navigating through the High Street.


Lincoln Cathedral
By now all the bars are kicking out, the streets are full of students and late night drinkers. Walking down the hill, swiftly and quietly, eventually reaching the football pitch at South Common. 

My sister calls before going to sleep. She is pleased I have company to get through Lincoln and wishes us well. 

After a long stretch through woodland trail the track goes out into fields through Waddington and then towards Navenby. I thank Cliff and pick up my pace. 

I feel alive and euphoric through this section. Night running is never a problem for me and my senses are awakened. I hear every tiny sound. 

I reach a personal best for running 100 miles.

My SE07 Lenser light dies after just a few hours (I think the usb battery is faulty). I fumble in the dark for my PETZL Tikka 2 light. 

Cliff catches up, he is not well, he has been urinating blood and was throwing up. It is not far from the next check point so he soldiers on...


CP6 Wellingore
Miles 98-114
Alex greets me and I stock up on supplies from my drop bag. I drink some hot coffee and nibble on some more energy food, nuts, coconut water, cheese, olives and then pack as much as I can into my vest and pockets, for the next 50 miles. 

I make sure I pick up my spare ANKER battery pack. 

Personal best running 100 miles


Within 20 minutes Cliff checks in and explains his troubles. He says he wants to carry on and finish the race. I bid him well and thank Alex for her help.

I update my location on Facebook and text some family (it's now around 3am). Checking the map it is a lonely, dark, six mile stretch down the Roman Road, towards Carlston Scroop.

Still buzzing and on a runners high, my legs feel fatigued but nothing more than normal running long. I just seem to be on auto-pilot...



I speak to Sunday again before he crashes for the night. The temperature drops more so, but with no breeze the air feels thick and wet. My every breath is like running through a mist.

Feeling good, I really enjoy the night time segment with my tunes to keep me going and before long the sky changes colour and dawn breaks.




Still awake at dawn

Following the River Witham, I hop over stones in the dark with just my headlight as my guide. I go a little too far out under the railway crossing but soon pick up the trail again before Marston. The sky is brighter and I can see the sunrise through thick, dark clouds. Today looks to be dull weather compared to yesterday.


I eat a babybel and take another S!Cap tablet. I go through a large gate that is heavy to lift. It makes a loud creak and I see movement from the car parked in front. 

This is check point seven.

CP7 Marston/Foston
I think I am maybe a little too awake and alert, as I cannot stop talking to the poor pair volunteering! I am on such an adrenaline high right now. Everything is so sharp and clear. My clarity of vision seems super enhanced. My senses are so awakened.

I ask how the other runners behind are doing, a fair few have dropped already and I am leading by 4 hours at the moment. I find this hard to digest and really am in awe of what is happening.

I have another hot coffee and refill my water. I munch on some nuts and another bite of 9bar, whilst walking and texting up the road to Foston...


Miles 115-132
After another 6 or so miles I have been running for 24 hours and already covered 122 miles on the Viking way. The rain starts, lightly, then a heavy down pour. I pass the time speaking to my virtual pacers, Mum, then Sunday. Mum cannot quite register that I have been running all through the night, with no sit down or nap...



looks are very misleading

The track meets Sewstern Lane, cutting through fields and woodland. The route is marked very little, so I just follow the picture maps to check my direction. 

The mud tracks are deep and very wet in places, causing my pace to slow to a trot and walk, when needed. A few sneaky climbs at around mile 125, feels like a mountain. 

My ankle on the right is starting to ache and feel tight when I walk. It is actually easier to shuffle at a 10:00min/mile pace.


So calm and peaceful

 
The lane meets The Drift and then leads through an Aerodrome and across more fields. 

It all seems easy enough, until the track meets a road near Buckminster village. I refer to the map and notice I've turned off too early. I pick up a footpath that leads out to the main road and then carry on until I see the markers


Just before going off route (again)


Nothing comes up. I stop to check the map again, and cannot place where I am. I check my phone and see I have missed calls from my sister and Sunday.


I speak to Sunday first and he tells me how great I am doing. All our running friends from the Bosh Run group are routing for me and following all my progress on Runkeeper.


He can hear my frustration on the phone with getting lost again. I hang up and then return my sisters call. I'm getting really tired all of a sudden and do not feel in the mood to talk.



I ask some locals if this is the way to Sewstern, they tell me about another mile on this road will take you there.


This road is very straight and long. My mood is low and I walk with my head down. I don't want to run anymore.


For what feels like forever, and a few magic words of encouragement from my sister, I find the crossroads on the map and it is a left turn down to the next check point.


Once I see the marker for 'Viking Way' it feels like a ton of bricks have been lifted. I feel so emotional for no reason, except that I am back on track and that tiny bit closer to the finish...


 
CP8 Sewstern
Miles 133-142
I reach the check point with a beaming grin and feel my spirits lift in seconds. I am greeted by the wonderful David and Lynn
They tell me how great I am running in the lead and that more runners have dropped at previous checkpoints. With a few pictures and water refill, I am ready to keep moving on the trail. Sadly no coffee can be found in the car, so I top up my supply with hot water instead.

 
Coming into CP8 (photo by Lynn Baker)



I thank them both for all their help, then listen to David's instructions for the route ahead. The footpath heads through fields before reaching The Drift again, then onwards to Thistleton and Greetham. I take a track too early and end up reaching the check point again.

Cursing myself at my mistake, I run back the same road I came along, adding more miles to an already long weekend of running...
  


With all the bonus miles, I must have gone an extra 10 already.


David and Lynn looking for coffee


Happy Ultra Luke...still going strong (photo by Lynn baker)


Sunday is about to leave for a flight so we have one last chat before he leaves. I am just 10 miles from Oakham so had I not got so lost I could have been at the finish already by now.

My right ankle starts to get more tight and uncomfortable. I am ready to stop running... It is very hard to find the strength to keep moving after 30 hours of non-stop running. I power walk some technical off road sections, then pick up the pace to a slow 10:30min/mile shuffle on the flat roads.

Cutting across open fields, through Tunneley Wood, then a visit to Exton village, before picking up the off road track again,over more fields and through gates onto Whitwell at Rutland. 
 
 
CP9 Rutland Water
Miles 143-148
Although the end is not quite here yet, the time passes quickly to the last and final check point at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve.
 
Running along Exton Road I can hear clapping and then see Mark, Alex and the team ahead. They check how I am feeling and that I have just over 5 miles left to Oakham Library, the finish. I am feeling tired all of a sudden and ready to call it a day. 
 

Heading to Rutland Water



Few pounds lighter and just under 6 miles to go...


I manage a small grin for Karen's picture, she tells me all my running friends are cheering me on and they think it is amazing how far I have gone, and to stay in the lead. I make do with a water refill and I cant see anything else I will need at this stage, so late in the race. i still have plenty of snacks on me I didn't eat...
 
Thanking everyone I follow the cycle trail passing the cafe and to the water edge.

'Let's do this' almost there...


Rutland Water


The route is beautiful, with some hills when leaving the reserve, which are just destroying on my body. I message family and Helen that I have just left the last check point. The trail meets a cycle track that goes parallel to the A606, until entering Oakham. 

I have a lime flavour energy gel, that I saved if needed. I need that last push to stop me from walking. it tastes sickly sweet, but I am just too tired to even care now.

I thought it would never arrive...


It does some good as I manage to keep running, correction shuffle into Oakham, then I can see some signs for town centre at the next junction. I look to the right and can see the viking flag and then the Library with the team cheering me on for the finish.


At 16:29 on Sunday 20th April I finish the Viking Way Ultra in first place in a time of 33h 29m. My first attempt at this event and trail, with lots of diversions and time added from going off route. I ran in total 160 miles.


So next year I will just have to try again but without the slight detours!
 


The Finish


Reaching over 121 miles in 24hours


Admiring my map collection (study required)

Nick surprises me by hiding away and filming my finish. It is good to see a friendly face, and he goes to get me a hot coffee with cream. I am tired of all the black coffee of the last two days! 

After speaking to mark and the other runners who did not make it. I feel all so sleepy and we make a move. I wear my huge ultra medal and try to digest what just happened over the weekend. 

I am so happy and beaming but comfortably numb from my adventure!

Congratulations from Mark at the finish



The bling



Another 4 runners finish the Viking Way throughout the evening, Richard Lennon coming in 2nd place in 36h 9min, Steven Gordon in 3rd in 37h 49min, Andy Horsley in 38h 9min, and then Jon Steele in 39h 10min. 



I would like to thank everyone involved at Cockbain Events for an outstanding performance looking after us all during the weekend. many restless and cold hours were spent attending to our needs and it wouldn't be possible without the volunteers

I would like to thank all my friends, family, running friends, Bosh-Run group, followers and twitter fans for all the kind words of encouragement. Hearing the support messages during running make such a huge difference to your mood and outlook during such a long event. 

I couldn't of done any of this without you and I thank you for believing in me and my goals.


Lucy's bunny




Smashed it...

I enjoy a jacuzzi, whisky with dinner and some chocolate to celebrate Easter! happy knowing that Lucy waited for me to finish before tucking into hers....


Ultra Luke


6 comments:

  1. Hi Luke, amazing run very well done. I first heard about you on VT's podcast and know that you have not been 'fat adapted' that long and new to the game, so well done. I have been edging towards LCHF for cycling over the past year but struggling with solid foods and chucking them up after about 10 - 12 hours, so am going to go liquid, never tried BPC, so will give that a go and see how the stomach handles it. Vinnie goes on about UCAN but its so expensive and no good for me as I'm aiming for a 10 day race from London to Turkey, so rules out UCAN. If i can get away with liquids, small snacks during the day then a larger meal before a few kip before the next day then I will be happy with that.

    What is next for you as you have put in a few shifts over the last year??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Baz,
      Thank you! It has been great adapted this way with the LCHF lifestyle and works grat for my long distance running. I bike also but not at that level like you yet. I have a few races this year on bike so will see how the fuel goes for them. London to Turkey sounds amazing and be great to read about or follow you! Let me know how you get along on the liquids and BPC!

      Delete
  2. Hey Luke
    Congrats on finishing the Viking man! Absolutely incredible effort.
    I work with the team at ChiaCharge.co.uk

    Not sure if you've heard of us before but we make simple, natural and nutritious foods especially for ultra runners and high end athletes.

    The foods we make all include Chia seeds as one of their main ingredients for extra endurance.

    We'd love to work with you in some way, so if you're up for trying out some of the products or anything like that then just drop me an email and we'll take it from there :)

    mattb@thedistance.co.uk

    Cheers

    Matt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Matt,
      Well I love to fuel on Chia seeds and as long as it is real food and natural then I try it.!!! I shall drop you an email and thank you...

      Delete
  3. Hi Luke, have been using the cheap coconut oil (KCT) in my coffee and cooking with it for some time now BUT the MCT oil arrived today so will try a BCP tomorrow then Saturday will be first test. Your blog has given lots of idea's for fuelling, thanks for sharing, just have to find what works for me.Have used some of the stuff from ChiaCharge, in fact a parcel arrived today as I'm going to try the seed mix and their Flapjack, which has got some oats in it but I was Ok with oats before as used to eat porridge before NSNG,but will try it late on, I have also used 9 bars before which are good.

    Saw your rocket fuel on your facebook page and had never heard of it before but running mate at work said Dean Karnazes uses it all the time, gonna give that a go as well as a pick me up

    Will let you know how I get on, and yes really looking forward to London-Turkey, but Pyrenees C2C is coming up first as prep, looking forward to that as it will be a good feeding/kit test.

    Keep up the good work on the blog.

    Baz

    ReplyDelete
  4. as always a great read :) you are incredible xx

    ReplyDelete

Please add your comments here. I would like to encourage discussion on running, training and nutrition. Luke