I'd heard loads of great things about the RIDUM, I mean for a start it's run by Pegasus, whose support and community vibe is second to none, and secondly it takes in the beautiful (if hilly) countryside of Caerphilly north of Cardiff.
Going in to this one I knew I had the distance in me from previous experience and wanted to try a few new things:
First up I wanted to test whether I could fuel exclusively with Tailwind between aid stations, then having a small bite to eat in each. I'd wondered if my previous stomach turning in ultras when using Tailwind was overfueling and if I stuck just to the 50g carbs and 600mg salts it provides, whether that would be the right balance.
Secondly I was testing out the Merrell Agility Peak 5s. It would be their first ultra for me and I wanted to see if the improved grip and cushioning over the Altra Lone Peak 7s would result in better performance and comfort on the day.
Finally, and the biggest focus of the day for me, I wanted to compete. I always approach ultra with a "complete, not compete" mentality where as long as I cross the finish line in a time I'm reasonably happy with I consider it a win. Being more confident with the distance this time I wanted to push myself and see how well I could place.
Kept things ticking along after the Cotswold Way 100k with a focus on adding more weekly vert in with a recce of the Epona start (Sugar Loaf, Skirrid Fawr, Blorenge) and plenty of hill work at home.
Lots of time on feet with hikes to the office then running home afterwards. Getting pretty bored of the commute route but it's good training, especially with a heavy pack.
Gear & Nutrition
As previously mentioned the main changes here from usual are using the Merrell Agility Peak 5s & depending exclusively on Tailwind. I did bring some back up salt caps, Active Root and Vala gels just in case.
I've been having hotspots on the medial edge of both my big toes so opted for heel locking to help reduce bashing and put Compeed Toe Blister Plasters over the spots on both sides to add a little extra cushioning.
Got there nice and early, probably a bit too early, but that meant I got the chance to catch up with Steff who was volunteering on the day (big thank you to Steff and all the volunteers! You all did a bang up job 🙏).
Chatted away with a few Running Punks: a quick check in with Kevin and Carrie-ann, along with Joe, all of whom were finishing their Pegasus Slam. I got to say hi to Kris for the first time, chatted briefly with Catrin and was able to meet Andy and Stu before line up.
There were so many more folks too I wish I could've chatted to, most disappointed I didn't get to catch Sam and Craig, runnings most awesome couple, who smashed the RIDUM and their first ultras on the day, congratulations folks!
Soon the briefing was called, we line up on a mist covered morning looking out over the hills and before we knew it we were off.
Start to CP1: Pressure!
OK so straight off the bat this was too fast: according to Strava I covered the first 12k in 01:04:19. That whole advice around starting slow and getting slower in ultras? Yeah threw that out the window like a muppet didn't I?
Mainly here I wanted to try and get as high a position as I could then maintain as long as I could. Felt this strong pressure from behind as a group of slammers who had performed fantastically for the whole slam were biting at my heels.
Captialised on it still being quite cool in the morning and pushed as much as I could. The Agility Peaks gave me a huge confidence boost on some tricky stretches of trail and I managed to maintain 5th place all the way to checkpoint 1.
Still keen on pushing I grabbed a water refill from Rhys (thank you Rhys) here, smashed a Tailwind sachet into it and got climbing up the hill out of the aid station.
CP1 to CP2: Steady Now
Here I started to lose positions: strong uphill running from Lee, Nathan and Natalie (see photo!) here put me into 8th place pretty soon after the checkpoint, and the long steep descent next really did separate out those who are confident descending fast and, well, me 😂.
Still, was keen to stay in the top 10 and made that my target to CP2: keep pushing and maintain that place.
Chatted away with Andy here for a stretch as we ran together; he dominated the technical descents and I did struggle to keep up for a bit, but as the climbs came in we talked about some crazy long events like the Wild Horse, Epona and Dragons Back, along with getting some advice from him on how to tackle them.
Andy started tucking in to some nosh and I couldn't help but spot 10th place gaining on us, so I waved goodbye and pushed as hard as I could to the next checkpoint.
Our route crashed right through the Coed Cefn-pwll-du park run that had set off mere minutes before I go there, however it was nice to run past some of the walkers and marshalls all cheering us mad ultra folk on.
Ran up the hills here, shouldn't have really as it left me gassed, but did manage to come into CP2 in 8th place.
This was the She Runs Cardiff checkpoint and, as always, they were the friendliest folk with a table overflowing with tasty grub, much of it home made. Biggest regret of the race was knowing I had to leave quickly if I wanted to maintain a place, so I got a refill from Sam (thank you Sam!), noshed a Welsh cake and left with a cup of water to help it go down.
CP2 to CP3: Hanging On
Tough stretch this, lots of hill climbing, muddy sections and technical ground to wear out the legs further than that first stretch already had.
Got chatting to Wolfgang who passed me shortly after and continued strong for the rest of the race.
My memory of this stretch is hazy to be honest, being so tired it all gelled together. The one thing that stands out is the infamous "Puddle": a long waterlogged section of field which was a good blast to run through. A tactically positioned photographer means you'd feel super guilty going around the puddle!
Tailwind started failing for me, I felt that all too familar feeling of nausea starting to set in. Thankfully this was just before checkpoint 3 came into sight. I switched to plain water and had a coke and donut (which, amazingly, stayed down). Catching it early and switching to water was a lifesaver, and I think still being able to eat food means that the issue is the salt content of Tailwind. 600mg/h is just too high for me, in races where I've gone with 400mg/h I've not hit this issue, leading me to a bit of a revelation that here's where I can nail down my nutrition better in the future.
Was 10th place at CP3.
CP3 to Finish: Tired Now
Really struggled this last stretch. My legs were destroyed from pushing hard on the descents and running up the hills (both things inadvisable when running long distance) and, even though I was able to keep up a jog for the most part, I was losing morale fast.
Also started losing positions and not feeling the energy or confidence to try and regain them, including 3 in the last mile from folks pushing well for a strong ending.
Still, was determined to finish now and at least stay in the top 20. The RIDUM finishes with a long steady climb back through the park, before a flat stretch to take you over the line.
RIDUM done! I finished in 16th place out of 163; covering 51k & ~1,300 elevation gain in 05:46:00.
After Action Report
I'm happy with my performance; this is the first time I've tried to compete and on the whole I think it went well. Where I want to improve is on the mental resilience side of things. I still had energy left in my body, the limiting factor for the last stretch was, more than aches or pains, not having the self believe or that strong drive to keep pushing through exhaustion.
I think if I could nail that, I'd have done better. And boy am I going to need that resilience for next year's 100 miler, so here's a great opportunity to train it.
There's also a lot to be said for starting slow and getting faster later; the amount of folks who confidently passed me at a strong pace in the second half shows it's a vastly better tactic then going hard early then wondering why you're barely able to function later.
Nothing of note at all really; very sore stiff legs but feet, toes, ankles, tendons, all feel fine, a testament to the shoes and training volume.
The blister plasters across my big toes medial sides along with the heel locking helped reduce the damage there, will continue that into future races.
Using Tailwind at the recommended volume (2 scoops to 500ml water: 50g carbs, 600mg salts), even just on it's own, doesn't completely work for me. It's a shame as for the first 3 hours the gradual steady fuel from the Tailwind actually did a great job for me, it's just the salt content was too high, even when pushing and sweating as much as I was.
Not completely throwing out the Tailwind though, could play with different quantities (aiming for 400mg salts, maybe only 1 scoop in the bottles) plus a little food to make up the carb deficit from less Tailwind. Also trying Active Root more this year, which is 400mg salts/h but less carbs so will need to top up with food.
Another nutrition lesson is listening to my body more. I've tried pushing through and continuing to drink Tailwind before even when feeling a little nauseaous and, lo and behold, I'd end up throwing up. This time I stopped, switched to plain water and was able to recover quickly. In fact that may be a good strategy to use Tailwind over longer distances, giving yourself "a break" from it for an hour then going back to it afterwards.
Pushing hard on ascents and descents really messed up my legs and highlighted somewhere I need to train more. For most ultras I'd be walking the ascents so less worried about that, but the impact from the descents is something I want to build more resilience against with hill reps and strength work.
The Merrell Agility Peak 5s are gold standard, they did me proud and I am head over heels for them. No issues, hotspots or aches, amazing grip and comfort underfoot which all helped increase my confidence. They are a strong contenter as the Epona 100 shoe for next year now.
Finally a note on "competing over completing": even though I'm happy with my performance I know I would have enjoyed it much more if I adopted a stop-and-smell-the-roses vibe with a more picnic pace. I didn't get a chance to run with fellow running punks or enjoy the trail in any meaningful way, couldn't tell you half of what the RIDUM actually looks like as I was too focused on pushing 😅. For future ultras I think I'll stick to enjoying them, and only go for a more competitive angle if it's an event I've completed previously.
Massive thank you to Rhys, Cerys and all the volunteers who make the day special, ensure everyone feels supported & give us boat loads of tasty grub to keep the fire going.
Shout out to She Runs Cardiff for putting on another stand out checkpoint.
Shout out to the Running Punks, especially those completing their first ultras like Sam, Craig & Sarah, congratulations folks!
For the rest of this year I have a few "fun" races, specifically
- The Running Punks unofficial gathering at Llanelli Half
- A backyard ultra at The Dirty Dozen (weird kind of fun...)
- A mucky mud fest at the Sodbury Slog
Between these will focus more on balance & enjoying running rather than lots of volume.
Then it's time to get serious and train up for the Epona 100 miler with lots of volume, mountain running and strength work.