Jedburgh 3 Peaks Race Report

Sunday 28th October 2012
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This was my fourth ultra of the year and not only the shortest for this year but also the shortest of any of the 20 ultras I’ve done over the past 6 years.  But I can honestly say it was one of the toughest!
Katrina was also running so we decided to travel to Jedburgh on Saturday afternoon and stay in a local B&B.  We arranged for a 6.30am breakfast but our host wasn’t too keen on such an early start so we compromised on 6.45am.  Thankfully the clocks went back so it was really 7.45am which seems far better.
Three weeks ago we had done a recce on the course and covered 22miles from Maxton round the loop and back to Maxton so we had a good idea of the route and what it was going to be like.  The only part we hadn’t done was the first 9miles but we figured there would be lots of folk about to follow.
Our B&B was just round the corner from the Abbey and the registration. We arrived at 7.10am and met up with various friends who were also running the race. It was good to meet David Knox who was organising the race. We’d corresponded through email so it was good to say hello and thank him and his team personally for all the work they were putting in to make the race possible.
By the time we’d sorted out our numbers and timing chip it was time for the race briefing. I’m not sure how many started but there seemed to be 80-90 or so on the start line.  Time for a quick photo with Katrina before the start.  I was hoping that I wouldn’t see her again until the end!
With Katrina before the start
 The route is an interesting one in that the first 14miles is also the last 14miles with a 10mile loop over the Eildon Hills in the middle.
The profile shows how much the 3 hills dominate the route.
For this report I’ve broken the race into four legs though in the race I had 8 mini sections.
Leg 1: Jedburgh to Maxton (9.82miles)
After we’d done the recce run 3 weeks ago I felt it was going to be important to go off nice and comfortable so that I had plenty in the tank for the hills and the return journey.
I started half way down the pack and slowly pass a few folk chatting to various folk including Vicky and Susan who were planning to run together.  After a mile or so I caught up with Donald Sandeman of the famous tartan shorts.
I’d run with Donald at Glenmore and knew he would start at a sensible pace so we ended up staying together for the first 15miles or so.
The first couple of miles was on road then once we’d crossed the main road we dropped down and followed along a path with the river on our right.  There were about 10 or so runners in front and behind me and I was quite comfortable with the pace. I wasn’t at the front and quite happy to be pulled along.
About to cross the river on the swing bridge
 We crossed the river on a footbridge which swayed quite a bit. As we ran over I was thinking that Katrina won’t enjoy this bridge very much!  Once we were into the trees the path became very muddy and basically for the majority of the route to Maxton and quite a few places after the mud would dominate the route.
Before the recce I was thinking that a time around 6hrs would be a good one to aim for. After the recce I changed that to 7hrs and within an hour or so of the race I was thinking 7hrs 30mins would be more like it.  It was so hard to run in the mud and while it was hard going on the way out I knew it was going to be even tougher on the way back with tired legs.
I chatted to a few folk as we made our way to Maxton. Donald was still just ahead and I was happy to keep him in sight.  After an hour or so I had one of my peanut butter and jam sandwiches which went down okay. I had one 500ml bottle and was drinking when I needed to.
At the end of the muddy path we turned right on to the road to Maxton. This is where Katrina & I had run back to on the recce so I knew where I was from now on.
It was good to have a mile or so on the road to be able to run without slipping and sliding in the mud.  One guy though had a fall on the road but seemed to be okay.  Donald had stopped to check he was okay so we caught up with each other again. 
We arrived at Maxton Church after 1hr 37mins 40secs.  I had planned 1hr 35mins so was actually quite pleased to be so close. 
I refilled my water bottle, gave in my number and set off on the next leg.  Just past the church a marshal was waiting to take our number …
Marshall at Maxton
Leg 2: Maxton to top of 2nd Peak (8.33miles)
As we ran down the first set of stairs Donald said, ‘I recognise this from your video!’  A few folks thanked me for posting the video so it was good to know they helped some folk.
Donald I caught up with a couple of runners ahead. One girl was about to go over a stile away from the river so I was able to direct her the right way. By the time we got down to the river we were on our own and it stayed that was for a while.
The path alongside the River Tweed was muddier than our recce run but we kept up a decent pace and I still felt fairly comfortable.  We ran past the golf course and up the hill past the club house.  I ate another peanut butter and jam sandwich on the hill. 
From the top you could see the 3 hills and they looked to have some mist and rain over them.  The weather was actually really good. There was a feeling of rain in the air but I didn’t need my jacket for the whole race.
We ran through St Boswell’s where I saw Callum McKerral from our club at Kilbarchan who was out supporting his wife Lesley.
The route then goes back down to the river. Donald pointed out the bridge where Katrina and I had gone over by mistake on our recce. I’m still not sure how I thought that was the right way!!
As we headed inland a bit I realised that I’d not checked which bridge we should cross to start the loop.  I remember David saying that they would make it but when we got there I assumed that we should go right at the first bridge.
There was a red marker pointing straight on but I assumed that was for the return journey.  Donald wasn’t sure but I knew this path took us back to the river so decided it must be this one.  Very quickly we saw some runners ahead and the markers so assumed it was the right way.
It was only when we returned a few hours later than we saw the yellow arrows.  I gather a few other runners also took this short cut.  So I’m really sorry as I always like to go the correct route on any ultra. I think it was a case of having gone that way on the recce and assumed that because the tree had been cleared we were to go that way.
I’m not sure how much it cut off but it meant we suddenly had some company again.  It was at this point that Donald said, ‘I shouldn’t be with you so I must be going too fast.’ He was running well but assumed I should be further ahead so dropped back and I was on my own. 
I crossed the A68 and headed up the path to Rhymer’s Stone.  There was a guy in front who was running the whole way but I decided to run for 100 breathes, walk for 50 and run again.  I didn’t want to push too far into the red here knowing how steep the climb up the first hill is.
Approaching the first climb
 On the short section with hedge rows on both sides I had my first little accident. There would be three within 30mins or so.  As I tried to run through the mud I left one of my Hoka’s behind!  So with my socking foot I had to step back into the mud and tug my shoes out. It was stuck quite firm and I thought briefly of the embarrassment of having to dnf because I couldn’t pull out my shoe!
Thankfully I got it out, dried my sock as best I could on the grass and got going again.  I headed down to the check point.  I had put a bottle of still coke, a fruit jelly and some liquorice in my drop bag.  I drank the coke and ate the fruit jelly as I headed up the hill.  
I walked up the hill with a guy who knows me from my blog but I didn’t get his name.  He was moving really well and definitely helped me keep a good pace up the hill.  He arrived first and was away not to be seen again.
On the top of the first hill
 As I descended off the first hill I had my second accident.  I went over really heavily on my right ankle. It was the same one I’d hurt on a training run a few weeks ago.  It was really sore for a few paces and I wasn’t too happy. 
I hoped it would ease off fairly quickly so I hobbled down the hill concerned it was going to get worse.  It was starting to ease off when I had my third accident. I slipped and fell heavily on my left knee. So suddenly that became the worse pain.
By now I was starting the climb up the 2nd hill. I decided I’d had 3 accidents and that was it. I’d be okay from now on.  My ankle and knee felt alright as I walked so I figured they should be okay by the time I reached the top.
I caught up with a younger guy who seemed to be struggling a bit on the climb.  We reached the top together, then he led the way on the descent. 
I took my split at the top. I’d run 18.15miles in 3hrs 29mins 31secs.  So it was not quite half way but I had done two of the three peaks. 
Leg 3: Top of 2nd Peak to Maxton (9.30miles)
I was very cautious coming down the 2nd hill as I could feel my ankle a bit and didn’t want to go over on it again. When we did the recce run we didn’t get the descent right so I was interested to see where we should have gone.
Climbing the 3rd hill
I realised we were on the right path but didn’t to stay on it and head down to the right before turning left and then up the third hill.  I could one or two ahead. The younger guy was ahead again but I caught him by the time we reached the top.
David plus 2 other marshals were waiting for us so I took a photo on the way past. All the marshals were superb. Most of them were on their own giving encouragement and clear directions. So thanks to them all.
Marshals on the top of the 3rd hill
My plan for this race was to run the first half cautiously so that I could keep a good pace going on the way back.  As I descended I wasn’t convinced I’d done that as I could feel my legs and I wasn’t running as smoothly as I’d like.
I was running though and it was nice to have a long downhill section. My ankle seemed to be okay and my knee was fine so no excuses!  My rucksack strap though was rubbing again my neck so I took out my Lakeland buff and put it over my head to my neck. That made all the difference and it was fine after that.
I stayed ahead of the younger guy until we reached the short dirt road. I walked a little bit to do a video clip. I’d decided to do a video diary of the run as I enjoy keeping a record of my races.
There were a few people on the path into Bowden. It’s always encouraging to have people giving you a cheer. As I ran through the village I saw Callum again. I asked after Katrina and Lesley. He said they were going well with Katrina a bit ahead but they had both got lost at one point.
I was on my own as I ran through the trees but just after crossing a small bridge I saw a runner in the field to the right asking, ‘Is that the path?’  It was Caroline McKay who was slightly off path. We ended up running together into Newtown St Boswell’s.
I had chatted to Caroline before the race started and knew her from whw.  It seemed that she was with Sharon earlier in the race and they had missed the turn off at the start of the route. In fact when we arrived at Newtown St Boswell’s she said I’ve already been here! 
Looking back at the 3 peaks
Anyway it was great to have some company and we chatted about various things as we ran along. Caroline has entered the Land’s End to John O’Groats race for next year. 16 days of running over 50miles a day.  I look forward to seeing how she get on.
I could sense that Caroline was running stronger than I was as each little rise I was happy to walk whereas Caroline was running. 
When we got back to the start of the loop Caroline was away and I see from the results that she finished 21mins ahead of me.  So I lost 21mins over the last 14miles. 
I was now on my own again and I would say the next 4 miles to Maxton were the hardest of the whole race. I often find I have a low point at this stage of the race. I’m not quite on the home leg so I’m trying to hold something back.
The marshal at St Boswell’s very kindly gave me some water as I’d run out.  I really needed that so thanks so much for sharing your last bit of water with me!
I was still running but also started to have some walking breaks on sections where I really should have been running. A guy went past me as we ran alongside the golf course. He wanted to know all about the Hoka’s I was wearing but I was digging in a bit so didn’t feel like chatting much. Sorry.
I think one of the issues I had with this section was on the recce run we stopped at Maxton and I had to get it in my mind that I still had another 10miles to go after that. Plus I knew there was a lot more mud to face!
About half a mile before Maxton I sensed another runner catching up and when I turned to see who it was I saw the tartan shorts of Donald. He was running really well and said he was feeling great.  He looked very smooth as he went past.
I stayed with him to the checkpoint but he went straight through and finished 10mins ahead of me.  So well done Donald …. but watch out for the next time we race together. I’m after you!!
I had now covered 27.45miles in 5hrs 28mins 21secs (average pace 11.58)
Leg 4: Maxton to Jedburgh (9.33miles)
I stopped for a couple of minutes to refill my water and take a banana. Two more runners arrived while I sorted myself out.
As I set off I looked at my watch and thought I’ve got 2 hours to break 7.30. It took me 1.37 to run out so knew that it would be pushing it but I could but try. I decided to break it down to two 5 mile splits.
The road up to the path is mainly uphill so I walked and ran as best as I could. I female runner caught up. Looking at the results I assume it was Rachel Chinnery. She was going well so I tried to hang on as long as I could. There were 3 of us as another guy caught up as well.
Once on the path we had the challenge of the mud and it was a challenge!  There were sections were the best you could do was slip and slide your way along. I stayed with them for a mile or more but after one tricky muddy hill they were away and I was back to my own company.
I try hard not to look behind but it’s hard not to as you go over a stile. I could see another runner in black not too far behind.  I decided he would probably catch me soon enough. It took a few minutes but eventually he did. I asked whether he wanted to pass and he said not he’s fine. He also said that he was hating it and it was the worse path he’d ever been on.
I can’t say I was enjoying the mud but I think it really important to stay as positive as you can. So in a strange way it motivated me to push on and keep going.
Another runner did catch me and I was very surprised to see it was Bob Steel.  I said what are you doing back here. He explained he’d got lost and was happy to treat it as a training run. His Garmin said 33.35 and mine 32.10.  After he went on I thought that even going slightly lost he should have been further up.
I must have stopped my watch at some point as I lost 5mins on my Garmin. I had my ordinary stop watch as well so I had an overall time still.
Once I got past my 5mile mile marker I knew I was on the home leg. I was on my own again but feeling a bit stronger so was running as much as I could in the mud. I crossed the bridge and ran along the river. I set myself the challenge of running for 100 breathes and walking for 20.
Not too far to go now
I crossed over the main road and past the marshals. They said there was 2 miles to go. I reckoned it was nearer 3 but knew most of it was on the road.  I had a slight moment of uncertainty as there is a path off to the left and I couldn’t remember if that was the way.
In the end I decided the road was right and when I glanced back I could see the guy in black following me so assumed we were right. I was running as hard as I could but looking forward to finishing.
I was about to go wrong at one point but fortunately a lady called Pamela came along who knew the way. I basically followed her in the rest of the way. She was running well and we ran the last mile and a bit together.
I came thinking I’m going to have a walking break in a minute but she wasn’t going to stop so decided I’d keep going until she stopped. She didn’t so we ended running all the way to the finish.
I finished 31st in 7hrs 37mins 18secs (12.26pace).
I got my medal and walked over to the changing rooms for a shower. It was good to see Donald and congratulate him on an excellent run.
It was great to wash all the mud off and feel clean again.  I then wandered over to the finish to see Katrina. When I got there I decided it would be better to get the car so I could give Katrina a lift. Katrina finished just before I arrived back with the car but she was grateful she didn’t have to walk the last half mile!
Katrina had a great run finishing 52nd in 8hrs 34mins 31secs.  I’ve looked at where she went wrong and reckon she added on at least a mile.  Blue line = Katrina’s route. Red arrows = correct route.  She was not alone. Stan and a couple of others were with her.

 My splits …

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11 Responses to Jedburgh 3 Peaks Race Report

  1. Fab report, can identify with many of those struggles! Was great to chat for the wee while and thanks for getting me back on the right path. Well done to you and Katrina both.

  2. Andy Cole says:

    Well done John, sounds as though it was a bit heavy going. I've found the secret weapon for mud is an old kitchen knife, so you can scrape the clods off your shoes from time to time!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Morning John

    It was myself asking about your Hokas at the golf course, no need to apologize.

    Had a good chat with Donald(of tartan shorts)

    It was a good day out, albeit it muddy.


  4. DaveT says:

    Another great report.
    Sounds like a war of attrition with the ground conditions!
    I think it's time to let your legs recover from the season now, though I'm intrigued to know your plans for next year.

  5. Flip says:

    Everyone i spoke to said it was a tough day out. Lovely report as usual John.

  6. Silke says:

    Sounds like a tough race! Well done to both of you.

  7. John, great report. The race was tougher than I thought and I was glad it wasn't just me. I met some great folks and some incredible runners. Well done all. Do you know if all the starters finished? Impressive if so.

  8. Flip says:

    Great blog as usual John. Everyone i have spoke to says it was a toughie. cheers.

  9. Thanks for the report John and well done to yourself, Katrina and all those that run for getting through a tough course.

    W.r.t splits it rather seems it was a race of two halves, the first half keeping to splits and the second half steadily falling behind. This suggests you went out too fast for the conditions, which is surprising as you really didn't set off quick considering your capabilities.

    I do wonder if the Hoka's might be partly responsible for you struggling. The large surface area on the sole will lead to lower pressure exerted on the running surface, which in turn means you won't penetrate the slick layer of mud down to the firm earth below. This issue of insufficient pressure leading to skidding is the mechanism by which cars aquaplane, and why wet water tires have large groves to increase the pressure to cut through the water and to channel the water that is displaced.

    The high surface area vs boundary area will also lead to an airtight seal so when you push off into the air your shoe gets sucked back slowing your and shortening your stride.

    Put the increased skidding and mud suck together and you have a lot more mechanical work to do per distanced traveled.

    It might be useful to see what others wore that didn't struggle so much. I suspect they will have narrower and more aggressive tread on their shoes.

  10. Anonymous says:

    John, thanks for posting the YouTube video of the course which helped with my preparation. This was my first ultramarathon so it is reassuring to hear that other people found it tough: I found the second half more gruelling than anything I have ever done.

    Stephen Brown.

  11. Thomas says:

    Congratulations to the 2 of you. I'm surprised it was so tough, all the more you should be proud of yourself and your wife!

    Now, if you can get your daughters and son-in-laws into the ultra game, you'd be the most ultra-centric family in Scotland.

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