After DNF'ing Race to the Tower at the end of June I was intent on trying again as soon as possible. I wanted a race with a similar challenge in terms of elevation and across a similar distance.
That's when I saw that Pegasus do the EDDUM in August; a ~50 mile course with over 2,500 meters of climbing along the Epynt Way in south Wales, a perfect second chance!
Little did I know that despite being a little shorter, the EDDUM would prove to be a significantly more challenging a race...
Training & Goal
On the lead up my main challenge was to nail down a nutrition plan that would work for me. I was happy with the state of my legs, it was energy reserves and preventing dehydration I had to work on. To that end I practising eating real food on runs more and tampered about with the amount of Tailwind I was drinking.
However the time between RTTT and the EDDUM was so short I didn't get a chance to practise on many long runs, so a lot of what I was going into the race with was barely tested theory rather than a sure thing.
Goal for the day was just to finish, no matter what, no matter how long. I had a rough estimate of 12 hours in my head, but as I'd learn later that was naive.
Gear & Nutrition
Most of my kit remains unchanged, the one new addition were some Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones. I found previously in the late stages of a race, with the heat & exhaustion, putting earphones directly into my ears added to the pressure and made things worse. I was hoping these would help and give me a bit of a morale boost in the late stages.
My nutrition plan was nailed down at this stage to:
- Bottle of Tailwind an hour (500mls water + 2 scoops) - 50g carbs, 600mg salts
- 1 "portion" of carbs every hour (had some High5 energy bars & fig rolls to hand) - ~25g carbs
- Full cup of water at each aid station (every 2 hours)
- Snack on what I felt like at the checkpoints
This was based on needing 60-90g of carbs an hour and 700 to 900mg of salts to each litre of water. I was hoping the Tailwind would provide a good baseline for me that I could add on a few smaller portions of food with as I went, whilst having plain water at the checkpoints would hopefully balance out the sickliness of the powder.
As for the solids I focused a lot more on real food, less on gels and energy blocks.
Conditions on the Day
Things started off chilling but clear, with a lush red sunrise over the hills. The day would turn into a hot one with barely any cloud cover, and we'd learn that the Epynt Way has very little shade, being mostly over open fields and along wide tracks.
Dehydration was the biggest concern and something Rhys (the race director) talked through during the pre-race briefing, advising us all to be cautious of it and drink little and often.
I was up at 03:00 to drive there from 04:00, which sounds early but I had an unusually good nights kip beforehand. After passing Brecon and going north, arrived at 05:45.
Registration and kit check was in the Eypnt Visitors Center, where I said hi to Rhys and grabbed a much needed coffee before going back to the car to prep.
Got chatting to Sean Duffy at the start, a massively talented ultra runner I'd met at the VOGUM, along with a fella doing the EDDUM for the second time. Sean was hoping to come in under 12 hours, whilst the second timer told me of completing just over 14 hours his first time. These 2 estimates immediately changed my expectations, and I knew 12 hours was unrealistic of me for my first time.
After a briefing facing the rising sun on a crisp chilly morning, we were off straight onto the rugged trails of the Eypnt Way. Gloves were on for the start however it only took a few minutes for those to be surplus to requirements the rest of the day.
Start to CP1: Awe & Beauty
The first section consisted of me mainly stopping and taking photos every 100 meters. The scenery was breathtaking, views for miles as we climbed high over the valleys. I kept the pace steady, focusing on keeping my heart rate in zone 2 and ensuring I kept to the new nutrition plan, sipping Tailwind every few minutes and chomping on some real food every hour.
The field thinned out quickly and before I knew it there were only a few other runners in sight.
The checkpoint came into view at the top of a hill following a long descent, something that would become a theme!
CP1 to CP2: Forest Roads
This next section was great running with long stretches on forest roads where you could get into the flow. I ran with a fella called Rob for a bit after he'd caught up jogging all the hills like some kind of lunatic. He's only done 1 ultra before, the EDDUM in 2019, and wanted to get a better time than his 14 hours from the prior attempt. I told him this was a hardcore ultra to make your first and that he was a legend.
Got to CP2 with 4 hours elapsed, made sure to drink some plain water there, then left at a walk to eat more grub before continuing.
Still feeling good here 4 hours in, food was going down well and spirits were high. The day was getting warmer and the views still fabulous.
CP2 to CP3: Big Bloody Hill
This is where things started getting brutal. Lots of long arduous climbs, with an especially steep endless feeling one right at the end as we got into the checkpoint.
One fella with poles absolutely destroyed that hill, went up it 3x times as fast, it was a sight to behold.
Rested longer here at the halfway point, topping up my sun cream, eating what I could and relaxing the legs a little, before walking out with a cup full of coke to nurse for a few minutes before resuming running.
At this point I was starting to struggle with the Tailwind, my stomach was turning at bit at it, so switched to 1 bottle Tailwind, 1 bottle with an electrolyte tab for the next section. Here, in hindsight, I should have just opted for 2 bottles of plain water.
CP3 to CP4: GPS Woes & Stomach Oh Noes
This next section was difficult and adventurous in equal measures. The GPX file I was following took me some strange overgrown places, leading to a group of us trying to navigate round a deep bed of ferns, fences & a stream before giving up and taking the road round to where it re-joined the trail.
It also had the longest toughest climb of the course, an absolute corker that zigzagged up a hill before overlooking Pen-y-Fan.
Here is where the nutrition fell apart. My body started rejecting the Tailwind and felt fuzzy about the High5 tablet too, not to mention not wanting any solids either. It felt very similar to RTTT and I was petrified I was close to a DNF again. Was still in running shape until a group of us converged after getting lost off route again. As they picked up the pace for the last few km into the checkpoint, the nausea & dehydrated feeling pushed me down to a walk.
Once again the checkpoint was at the top of a brutal climb, a misleading one too as you first spot it at the top of a valley you have to descend into then up the other side to get there. Navigating through that valley sucked the last bit of life from me, and I felt thoroughly broken when entering the CP4 tent.
Spent a while in CP4, trying to drink coke and vimto to get liquid carbs into me. Neither were going down well and, after a retch behind a shed, I opted to fill my bottles with only water for the next section, not having any food here.
I was definitely dehydrated at this point, the heat of the day combined with not being able to drink my bottles in the last stretch pushing me over the line. I think I depended too much on Tailwind, it was too sickly and salty and I think ended up dehydrating me more than helping by that point.
CP4 to CP5: One Long Ass Walk
Here's the difference between what happened at RTTT and here, in the EDDUM I was determined to push past that nausea and complete regardless, even if it took me all night and I had to walk for hours. I repeated this mantra constantly:
Hobbling out of CP4 I'd opted to walk the rest of the way, I knew it would take at least 4 hours, but thought if I could keep walking maybe the water and rest would help me bring it back and recover enough to pick up the pace later.
It was 7 miles between CP4 and CP5, and as undulating as the rest of the course. I ended up throwing up in a bush about half way, which weirdly made me feel much better, before another arduous hill pulled me out of my reverie. Drinking the water did me a world of good and brought me back from the brink, I still couldn't eat though, chomping a Freddo lead to 30 mins of regret.
Ended up walking with 2 folk who were also hiking it in at this point, slowly feeling more like myself. We chatted a bit, swore at another GPX error, and before we knew it were approaching CP5 which was, of course, up a hill.
The support at the last checkpoint were amazing, I swear Pegasus put the most enthusiastic volunteers here, they were just brilliant. Had a long sit down and enjoyed hearing the banter between them and the runners. A fair few of us got in here at the same time, I was the last to leave of the group but eventually caught up over the next few hills.
I was still unable to eat but did manage a solid few cups of coke acting as rocket fuel for the last stage. It reinvigorated me and gave me a bit of a extra life, which was useful as the last 5 miles had 3 more hill climbs and plenty of technical ground.
CP5 to Finish: Where'd That Come From
Out of the checkpoint. the first hill climb was long and arduous, then the second just took the piss.
However I had a burst of energy here, knowing there was less than 10k left. I didn't want to walk all of that, so on the first downhill I picked up the pace and flew down it, a trend that would occur for each of the downhills on that last stretch. Teamed up with another runner who still had some run left in her too, and we descended quickly, helping each other navigate as the kms clicked down.
Coming over the last hill we saw the road leading to the Visitor Center! Pure elation, knowing there was only a little bit left.
Saw Sean just before the last part getting into his car and we had a quick chat, he'd done incredibly well and smashed his time goal thoroughly.
The final stretch is a km of road, a short easy climb then all downhill into the checkpoint. I wanted to finish running so picked up the pace, smashed on some music (Cleopatrick) and pushed, sprinting (felt like sprinting, was more likely a slow waddle) into the finish to touch the Eypnt Way sign, hug Rhys and receive my medal.
Eypnt Diddy Donkey Ultra Marathon done, 48.7 miles, 2,568 meters elevation gain, complete in 12:54:29. Position was 29th out of 63 finishers
After Action Report
- Tired legs mainly, very stiff from the climbing
- Stomach took 2 days to recover, appetite was completely gone despite burning so many calories in 1 day
- Exhausted the following day after only 2 hours sleep, not sure why I struggled to sleep afterwards, wired with adrenaline maybe, but the following night I slept like a rock
- Tailwind every hour til the marathon point worked well, got me the energy and electrolytes I needed
- Resting properly at aid stations, doing an assessment of what I needed for the next section and taking my time rather than pushing too fast to gain back a handful of minutes
- Water only and walking to help recover from dehydration
- Recognising that there are many ways to adapt, rest and recover over a 13 hour race, putting myself mentally in the "do what you need to do to finish" space
- Coke as rocket fuel at the end, really helped me when all other nutrition had failed
- Shokz headphones for music, the reduced pressure in my ears meant even at the end I was happily wearing them for a bit of a boost
- Being social with other runners, helps break up the run, helps you realise everyone is suffering in some way and just pushing through it
- Tailwind after the marathon point became sickly and too salty. I believe the salt content was more than I needed and ended up dehydrating me / making me nauseous
- Still struggle to eat solids after 5 hours, may be closely related to the above
- Imported GPX file was all over the shop, the amount of times it too me off a clear path, down a hill, only to point back up the hill a 100 meters on to the same bleeding path. Need to check the import next time for obvious errors
- Running legs were nicely trained, but my hiking legs were underprepared, so much walking up hills, uses different muscles from running and I could really have done with more hard hikes as training.
Nutrition plan felt better than RTTT yet still broke down, pretty much at the same stage and for the same reasons: dehydration which lead to nausea. I think there's a few factors here: firstly I should be carrying plain water alongside Tailwind, rather than just bottles of Tailwind. The stuff is great but eventually it seemed to be the cause of the dehydration. In the future I'll be trying 1 bottle of Tailwind (500ml water with 2 scoops) then alternating to 1 bottle of plain water, hopefully that'll improve the balance for me.
Tempted to start bringing salt pills too as a backup so I can switch to plain water without fear of hyponatremia.
I'd need to be eating more solids though to make up for the reduction in calories, sigh so many opportunities to overthink things 😅. Definitely feel much closer to the ideal balance though, it's so hard to practise this stuff, you've got to run for 5 hours before these issues crop up!
One thing I must remember for all future races: there was no fuel in my stomach, I'd been on water exclusively for hours, yet my body still had the power to bring it home, a strong lesson there that we're all capable of so much more than we think we are.
A huge thank you to all the volunteers & organisers of the EDDUM. Pegasus put on amazing ultras where you feel properly looked after all the way around, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.
And a big shout out to all those who gave much such overwhelming support after the last race, really needed that encouragement to bounce back.
I have 1 more ultra booked in this "season", the Summer Green Man 2022. Having completed the winter version earlier in the year I'm looking forward to finishing this and getting my first proper buckle.