Cannonball Ultra, Canalathon, Sowerby Bridge, Sunday, March 24, 2019

50 k

Gareth Pritchard

I was gutted I couldn’t do the 100k this year, so dropped down to the 50k as I’ve got a marathon soon… Now that’s something a short distance road runner like myself never imagined I’d say. If you’re wondering exactly how this happened? Hopefully, this small report will shed some light, but the short version.

#poweredbyplants and Heart rate running. This event is awesome, give it a go.

After doing well at the 24 hour Leeds Endure24 event last year, I decided to continue to experiment with ultras (anything longer than marathon distance) in 2019. The concern for me was always loosing my top end speed, and that’s the challenge. Trying to do both, ultra and 5k Pb training.

The main goals remain at 5/10k but I’ve now gotten used to running longer and still training through with less recovery time required. The main changes I’ve made are diet and using heart rate to train clever. My mileage and general training remain the same.

I’ve always considered 7 mm an easy recovery pace, HR training zones changed this. I’ll still run 7mm, but definitely not a recovery run. I couldn’t recommend HR training more highly, it will change ur running for the better without a doubt.

So onto the Canalathon 50k race itself, organised by Cannonball Ultras and completely new to me. Anna Seeley did the 100k last year and sung its praises. So after chatting it over, I entered the 50, Anna did the 75, Catherine Smith and Kerry Barnett ran the 50k.

It’s run entirely along the canal banks between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge. No navigation required and a fantastic first/tester ultra for anyone stepping into this awesome world.

Ultra runners are a very different and fantastically friendly bunch of runners. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming from the start. Kit checks were done and lots of exciting chat about the long day ahead.

The 100k and 75k start at Sowerby, the 50k starts at Manchester the half way turn around point. It’s organised so the 50k runners see the others running the other way. This is a great idea, it helps with navigating, as it’s still possible to briefly take a wrong turn. And also gives a strong sense of being part of the same fun event.

The organising team are mostly vegan, so at the checkpoints, all the food is vegan-friendly 👍🌱 other options available post race too. This definitely made things easier for me. I’ve recently embraced the vegan diet fully, more flexiterian tbh. So won’t worry if I accidentally eat something non-vegan. But the difference I’ve seen in the last 4 months now I’m 95% vegan is massively rewarding. I’m lighter, stronger, recover quicker and feeling healthy. Plus I’m loving the variety of foods, such a transition makes.

The bus ride to the start was nerve-racking tbh, I spent most of that trip in the toilet 😱 but I was relaxed at the start and felt good. I still feel out of my depth on these races, they all looked like pros as they limbered up at the start. I resigned myself to sticking to my plan, a good long training run and hopefully finish feeling good.

The first few miles and the leading pack sprang off. I followed a bit behind and settled into a comfortable heart rate zone of 150. This was lower than I’d planned but the pace was still good, so I got into the rhythm and enjoyed the beautiful canal ways leading out of Manchester.

It’s was a beautiful sunny day, and I soon started reeling in the leading pack. I passed the first checkpoint at 10 miles in the lead and feeling really good. It’s a low long climb for
the first 18 miles and you really feel it. The locks get ever closer and I took a few wrong turns too. But my pace remained sub 7 mm and I knew it was going to be a good day.

I loved seeing Anna coming the other way and also Kerry’s partner, Rob who was achieving amazing things by completing the 100k while I just did the 50. The idea of turning around and doing the race again just amazes me, big respect rob.

I knew the course record was low 6:40 mm, for 31 miles 😱 just amazing to think what people can do. I managed 3:35:54 an average of 6:56mm. I won the race and really enjoyed the experience too. Not sure what I’d have done if someone ran at that pace, but the last 4 miles were still extremely painful as 31 miles is a long long way for a 5k runner.

Catherine and Kerry ran together and smiled the whole way around. They loved the friendly checkpoints and marshals. They got a hot tea at one and Catherine introduced Geep into my vocabulary. Grazing geese aka, Geep were spotted on the course 😀

Anna achieved her 75th marathon/ultra distance on the day and also placed 2nd female too. A fantastic ongoing running machine.

6 days post this race I’m writing this, having run a course parkrun PB and feeling awesome. Vegan and HR training are here to stay.

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1 thought on “Cannonball Ultra, Canalathon

  1. You make it sound so easy Gareth. Fantastic achievement however, and how on earth you do sub 7mm over 31 miles is mind boggling. You are wonderfully modest

    It sounds like all 5 of you had a great day and I think you are all amazing . Sarah x

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