Eden Valley Ultra Trail 50K
Ultra no.4 and one I was looking forward to...
The Eden Valley Ultra is set in the beautiful Kent countryside in September. The Kent countryside does not disappoint, this event has a great mixture of green fields, farmland, forest, and hills a pleanty.
Kent has always been labelled as the garden of England and I would be very happy if the Kent countryside was the backdrop of my garden.
The Eden Valley Ultra event village was based in Hever, just around the corner from the castle, it was my second trip to this area in a manner of a couple of months and I was determined that this run would not end up with a DNF. The previous race did not go so well but lessons were learnt from that race.
This race was organised by Runaway Racing (link at bottom of blog) and Chris, the Race Director, did a fantastic job with his team to set this one up.
Runaway Racing specialise in smaller races focusing on quality rather than quantity, so you will never find a big field of runners at any of their events. The Eden Valley Ultra had 170 starters, so not a big group of runners, but as usual, you got that ultra family feel where the competition is there but so is the spirit of "we're all in this together".
The event village was small but cosy with a registration tent, a DJ playing a mixture of upbeat tracks to get you in the mood, toilets and a Pizza truck, which would come in very handy at the end of the race.
I mentioned at the start of this blog that I was really looking forward to this ultra, and the reason for this was the course.
I would say the Eden Valley Ultra best mimics the terrain and elevation that I train on every week in the Epping Forest, although there is slightly more vert on the course.
These similarities made me pretty confident that I could do well on this course and I was right to feel that way.
The course was a nice loop, we started on the ringing of bell at Hever and worked our way out to Edenbridge at 10k, the first check point (a quick in and out after grabbing some salted nuts and a handful of sweets), before heading to mile 10 at Crockham Hill. This is where things got interesting, the next 10-11 miles were hills upon hills.
To be honest I went out a bit quicker than I normally would as I had asperations of a top 20 finish, this game plan changed in the next section of the course.
The hills were tough and slowed things down, but I was in my element as those hilly 10 miles were almost completely in the forest, which is my favourite running playground.
Tree roots, soft sections under the foot and technical decents made for some great running.
We hit the 2nd checkpoint at mile 16 (Ide Hill), where I re-fuelled my tailwind and electrolites, had a quick chat with Lindley (RD of Challenge Running) before cracking on.
I began to start picking up places at this point especially on the downhills where I seemed to be able to decend a bit better than some of the other runners (if only my hill climbing was as good).
At mile 25 we reached the final checkpoint, not much needed here, just a water top up before the last 10k.
Miles 25-31 were pretty flat, a touch of elevation towards the end of the race but nothing too significant.
The total race elevation was 509 meters (1670 feet), so not quite UTMB but enough to give you some achy legs if you are not fond of hills.
I finished in 39th position (5hrs 46mins), so not the top 20 I thought might be possible, but equally not bad considering there were 170 starters and this was my best finishing place at an ultra to date.
I think the most positive takeaway from this was that I could have raced harder and with a bit more specialised hill work, I could really make some gains. Something I'll be working on!
I really enjoyed this ultra marathon, 50k is a nice distance and a perfect distance for those just starting out in ultra running, in fact I met a few people on the route that were doing their first ultra and that is always great to welcome new people to the ultra running community.
Runaway Racing put on a great event that felt personal, so you didn't get lost in hundreds of people, and an event that was well organised. All details were covered well leading up to the race, the course was well marked, there were enough martials to help you at road crossings and the aid stations were well stocked.
At the finish you got to have a beer and pizza, what's not to love about that!
So as for the kit I used for this race I was wearing clothing mostly from Odlo, which is a brand I have come to like a lot, their clothing is very comfortable.
My cap is a Montane, which I just find comfortable and good at keeping sweat out of my eyes.
Lastly my shoes were the Saucony Xodus 11, check out my recent review of these shoes in my blog posts.
The watch I was wearing was my standard Garmin Instinct Solar, which I love a lot.
The mandatory kit list for this race was very small, so I carried a waterproof jacket, a survival blanket, mobile phone, money, and a medical kit only.
The hydration vest I used is just from Decathlon, the Evadict 15ltr, which holds 2 litres of water (1ltr bladder and 2 x 500ml soft flasks).
My running fuel was my tried and tested:
Tailwind - In the hydration bladder
500ml - Water in one soft flask
500ml - Electrolite in the other soft flask
Torq gel sachets
Malt loaf snack packs
Eat Natural Cranberry and Dark Chocolate bar
Links to all my kit can be found below.
A big shout out to Runaway Racing, check out their events at https://runawayracing.com/
Until next time,