Ranger Ultras - Yorkshire 3 Peaks 100k

Five weeks since the High Peak 100k I have fully recovered from the race that coincided with the hottest day of the year.  Today was my next event, the Yorkshire 3 Peaks 100k and the weather could barely have been more of a contrast.  A bright day, but very fresh and probably the coldest day since Spring with a high of about 12c forecast in the valley around lunchtime, but nearer to freezing at the start and end of the day as well as up on the fells.

Where's Wally?

The plan for me was always the 100k, but since the majority of entrants would stop at the 70k mark, you never are truly sure of your relative race position until late on.  All you can do is pace what you think is sustainable over the 100k and not be too concerned about what others are doing as ultimately its almost 50% further, plus two additional ascents of Great Shunner Fell.  Despite this, I was well placed at the start and near to the front with my position moving up and down depending which bits of the first ascent we chose to walk.  Towards the top of the High Cam Road which is a good climb in its own right that peaks at 580m, I was second and just a few seconds behind the leader whom I eventually caught.  The rest of the early pack had by now spread out a bit, the next two people about a minute behind.

4th just after the start (leader was race organisation)

I had a good chat with my fellow co-lead and we passed the first checkpoint without stopping.  Feeling fresh, with a great view of the hills around, we descended down to Ribblehead viaduct, again running through the second checkpoint without stopping in what felt like no time at all.  Although together, we both knew we were in different races as he was planning to go for the 70k instead.  We went from more or less total isolation on the Cam High Road, to the start of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks loop and it being the walking equivalent of the M1 with hundreds of day trippers and 3 peaks walkers (it did thin out as the day progressed).  It probably wasn't too surprising as the weather was great for a day out and the views were superb.

Turning off at Ribblehead was interesting and both me and my co-lead took what we considered to be the correct route, ignoring the 3 peaks finger post and turning off the road nearer the viaduct itself.  When looking behind, we could see everyone else making the earlier turn, something reinforced by those uploading their routes into Strava doing the same.  In fact, according to Strava I am the only person to take what I consider to be the correct route according to the GPX file.  It was only a couple of minutes shortcut, but slightly annoying all the same.

It was not long after that me and my co-lead parted ways as he went for a loo stop, whilst I decided to continue on until there was somewhere a little quieter.  As it turned out we only briefly crossed paths from this point on.  The path up Whernside was a long slog with a few runnable bits in places.  This was generally my tactic throughout the day, run what was runnable and walk anything steep.  I think this is where I have improved in recent months, as I tried to run even if it was just for 10 metres between steep bits and what I would consider runnable today I would have probably walked in the past.

I peaked Whernside having now felt the full force of the climb in my legs and my quads were now taking a pounding on the descent.  Half way down I took my loo stop and briefly spoke to the earlier co-lead before going our separate ways again.  I felt better as the descent continued and my legs were coming back to me a bit, but at this stage of the race being barely a quarter of the way in you always feel a lot more tired than you should and then trusting (hoping) that the pacing is right.

Between Whernside and Ingleborough

The next climb was Ingleborough and although the lower part is fairly gentle you get to see the full force of what lies ahead.  It was also at this point that the first passing shower hit and I zipped up my cagoule.  Thankfully it passed fairly quickly, but the cagoule stayed zipped for the rest of the day as the fells with windchill were touching freezing point.  The weather was an interesting extra element to the day, and although far more comfortable than the High Peak 100k, there was a tendency to overheat in the valleys before cooling down (even getting a bit cold) in the high fells.

The ascent of Ingleborough was without doubt the hardest section of the whole day.  Its not quite scrambling, but you certainly need to use your hands in places to keep steady.  All you can do is chug away and get it done (according to Strava I climbed 234 metres in one km!).  The final part of Ingleborough is out and back to the Trig Point and it was here where I crossed paths with second place so guessed my lead was now about 5 minutes.  Again, my legs were still really feeling it and it starts to play with your mind, where if this is the 70k you are more or less half way, but with the 100k it is only about a third!  I again ran all of the descent, but not quite as free flowing as I did earlier in the day.

The Horton checkpoint at about 40k I stopped at for about 5 minutes to get my bottles filled for the first time and I also took the opportunity to grab a couple of slices of pizza and a cup of coke.  I was conscious not to stay long as my lead at the top of Ingleborough was only 5 minutes.  As it turns out this is where something interesting happened...

Basically I was undercut in the checkpoint by another runner (not the person who was co-leading with me earlier on in the race), who decided to not stop at all.  I was conscious of the possibility that this could happen, but discounted it at the time, and thought it unlikely as no-one was visible behind me from the odd glance I made.  Not only that, but having left the checkpoint, although there were walkers and a few runners from the 50k race ahead of me that merged at Horton, there was no-one going at a similar or faster pace than me.  The strange thing though that I cant reconcile is that there is a long view going up Pen-y-Ghent, yet I never saw him.  Essentially, I thought I was still in the lead.

What would have I done had I actually found out that I had been overtaken?  I'm not sure as the now leader had gone all in to secure the 70k race win, whilst I was still running in a very measured way knowing that I was not yet even half way -  we were in different races.  At this point I was now on familiar ground as the course more or less follows the Pennine Way all the way back to Hawes.  It didn't come without a little drama as right at the top of Pen-y-Ghent I managed to trip and fall, landing heavily on my hand and knee.  The former hurt more initially but wore off, but I was hobbling for a good 5-10 minutes and it felt like it was touch and go whether I would be able to run it off.  Thankfully, it eventually subsided.

There was then just the return up the Cam High Road where I passed some of the 50k entrants.  The odd one or two seemed to pass comment that they thought I was second in the 70/100, which I thought was odd but just put it down to different races merging together making it difficult to work out.  It was then at the final checkpoint at the top of the High Cam Road where they said I was second and around 15 minutes behind to which I expressed surprise.  I was careful not to accuse foul play, but just said that no-one had passed me on the course (which was true) and that it needs checking.  I was told at the checkpoint that the leader was only doing the 70k so in some ways it really didn't matter.

I was now sort of stewing over the news over the last 8k to Hawes.  Replaying it in my mind, the only place an overtake could have happened was at the checkpoint in Horton.  But even then it would have been a very narrow window of opportunity as I had only stopped briefly myself.  Either way it gave me a spur to get to Hawes and then see what is said.  Upon arrival I was told that in fact everything was above board and the overtake had indeed happened at Horton.  Essentially, in running parlance I had been mugged good and proper.  The marshals are under no obligation to tell me at Horton that someone had passed me and if it was in reverse I would be mildly peeved if they did.  In the end, had I stopped at Hawes for the 70k I would have theoretically finished 2nd, about 25 minutes behind the winner.

I only stopped at Hawes for 5 minutes for some water refills and a couple of slices of pizza and I was straight back out just before 5pm.  I knew sunset was meant to be 6.15pm, so made it my mini goal to get to the top of Great Shunner Fell before dark.  Just after leaving Hawes I realised my Garmin watch route had disappeared from the screen which caused me concern.  I guess that its because the route involves hitting Hawes twice, once at 70k and again at 100k and for some reason it thought I had finished the whole thing.  As I've done Great Shunner twice before, I more or less knew where I was going anyway.

I was going at a good pace and I ran a good chunk of the gentler bits of the ascent which is not bad going with 80k in the legs.  I eventually got to the top of what is actually the third highest fell in Yorkshire but here the path diverged and thankfully I took the decision to refer to my handheld GPS which was within reach (I could have used my printed map which would have been a bit quicker but would have needed to take off my rucksack).  Whilst it was firing up I decided to walk the right hand path so at least I was making a little progress.  After about a minute I realised that in fact I had made the wrong choice so needed to cut across the fell to the correct one.  It was a 2 minute error, but I was glad that I had taken the sensible step of double checking.

It was now just the descent to Thwaite before going back the way I had come to finish at Hawes.  About half way down the ground was getting quite tricky and the light was by now so poor that I decided at 6.55pm to put on my head torch.  I reached the turning point at Thwaite at about 7.15pm and just the last 14k to go.  I also knew this would be an opportunity to see exactly how far my lead was.  The answer turned out to be what I thought was probably enough, but less than I would have liked.  It was about 2 to 2.5km and I reckoned it was about 25 minutes.  It felt like enough, but I needed to ensure that I didn't dawdle.  There was then a long gap to third who I passed not far from the top of Great Shunner.  It was now just the descent to the finish and all the hard climbs were over.

On the way down I got a little agitated about a head torch in the distance behind me, but I couldn't work out how far back it was, or whether it was just the glare from some of the other entrants I had passed going in the opposite direction.  I decided to put quite a bit of extra effort in just in case.  In some ways it was a good thing as it just motivated me to get to the finish sooner and not just plod.  I was getting a bit more concerned as the descent continued as it felt like the glow was getting closer.  On the other hand whenever I turned around to close a gate, there was nothing other than pitch black behind me.

It was only really at Hardraw with about 2.5km to go was I fairly certain that I was going to win.  My motivation now was as much as anything to get the thing done and I wanted to finish in a quicker time than I did in the High Peak 100k (12.20).  In the end I finished in 12.15, so I achieved my mini goal.  As it turns out, yet again I was imagining the lights behind me as second place was about 50 minutes behind.  Unlike the High Peak 100k where I was in a right state at the finish due to the heat, I was much more mobile and lucid!

Finishers medal

The Yorkshire 3 Peaks 100k was the Ranger Ultras race that I feared the most for various reasons (rough terrain with my weak ankles and 3,300m of climb), but I overcame it.  Its a great course with genuinely stunning views throughout.

I'm pleased with the win and feeling like there was still something in the tank at the finish, albeit it gave me a lot of confusion at the time about being undercut by a 70k runner at the checkpoint.  In some ways I wish we were both going for the 100k as it we would have been closer on arrival at Hawes and a genuinely interesting battle.

Next up is the Ranger Ultra North & South Ultra in 5 weeks time and then its Winter Spine time come January!


  1. Nice write up Lloyd and congratulations on the 100km win.
    Part of me wishes I had stayed out for the 100km and the likely battle we would of had but my legs today are telling me that I pushed hard to win the 70km.
    Enjoy the recovery matey 😀


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