I was looking for a race to fit in with my marathon training plan and someone from my running club mentioned the Bolton Abbey Trail Festival – they were running the 20 mile race as a training run for the Yorkshireman Marathon in 3 weeks time.
Bolton Abbey Trail Festival includes 5 different distances – 20 miles, 15 miles, half marathon, 10k and 2 miles. They all start at the same time at same place close to Bolton Abbey near Skipton in Yorkshire (except the 2 miles race which starts at 2.00 pm).
I went for the 15 miles as it sort of worked in with my training plan although it did mean my step back mileage would be postponed week later. It was a nice step up from the 13 mile Lowther Lakeland Fell and Trail Run last week. And the hills couldn’t be any harder than that one could they? There’s nothing like a few hills to help build strength in the legs.
The predicted weather for the day is light rain and on the drive there, there is plenty of light rain with plenty of spray on the motorway.
My breakfast was bacon and scrambled eggs in bacon fat and butter. A good way to start the day. And didn’t cause me any issues. Just before the race I had a keto coffee with cream, unsalted butter and coconut oil that I had to quickly get down to make sure I was back at the start in time. I’m running with heart rate monitor for recording and checking, not to run to a certain level.
Running The Race
All the races start at the same time except the 2 mile fun run (which starts at 2.00 pm). The races split off from each other and come back together at various points along the course and at the briefing we are warned to take notice of the signs and marshals to make sure to go on the right route.
The race starts just after 11.00 am. It starts with a short run across a field to the road and you start the long climb up on a sealed road plus some on a mud/dirt track- about 3 miles. You get to the top and this is the first water station and also the first point where the routes split off.
The 15 mile route is off down a road at last, which wasn’t closed to traffic – only one car used it while I was on it. Then it is up on to farm road of stone and grass until crossing another road and joining back up with the other routes a loop of about 2 miles or so. Then there is the next water point with a run along an unsealed road through the heather which looks gorgeous in purple across the valley to grass fields.
I had slowly run up the first long uphill to the first split off point and did run a some of the hills with some walking as well but the hill after the river was too steep for me to consider running a nice steep walk although I did get passed by someone who ran most of the way.
Then after more uphill it’s time for the downhill at last to get back to Bolton Abbey on a quiet road, then turning down a narrow stony path, tough on the feet between two fields before opening up onto a nice trail path and on to a walking bridge across the river and avoiding the walkers and those taking pictures of themselves. A very picturesque finish with Bolton Abbey in the background.
Unfortunately my heart rate monitor wasn’t working properly so I can’t compare how hard I was working compared to my previous trail race which felt a lot harder than this but my time for the 13 miles covered in both was close.
I felt tight in the hips in particular my left which probably shows that I didn’t put enough in stretching and recovery from my previous race – I didn’t do anything until the night before to release any tightness etc in the hips which might explain why I felt some tightness as I ran.
My garmin and heart rate monitor didn’t work right for this run so I don’t know how I got on as it recorded my average heart rate at below 50 bpm. If only that was true.
My time was pretty average at 2:57:26 coming at 20 out of 33 overall and 2 out of 6 for my age group. Only 67 minutes behind first place.
Lessons Learned and Race Summary
There is some great countryside views at the top of the hills even if it’s hard to take in when you’re breathing hard after a run and walk to the top. Of course I didn’t stop to admire or take a photo.
There was plenty of water stations – four I think giving out bottles of water – I took them with me and drank them on the way until the next one where I left the finished bottle in the rubbish bag – I was a tidy kiwi.
My family came with me and enjoyed an interesting day walking around Bolton Abbey and the countryside as well as having coffee and cake at the cafe – nice but a little on the expensive side.
At the start there was a coffee van, crepes maker and face painting and while I was out running there was a portable bar it arrived after I started and was gone before I finished.
For the last finishers the inflatable start/finish line had to be put down as the generator was running low on petrol – a little deflating for the last few finishers.
At the finish there was medal a bottle of water, a pear and an apple.
It was chipped timing, you tied the chip on to your laces with a piece of wire – fortunately there wasn’t any water crossings. The results were available on the website when I got home.
Learned: Having plenty of water helped. I didn’t eat anything during the run. Drinking the coffee so close to the start wasn’t such a good idea as I could feel it in my stomach and mouth about half way round the course – no puking involved fortunately. Still need to get better trained and do my stretches for better recovery at least.
The race was well marshalled, had good course markings, great views, tough hills and weather was good for running if not for sightseeing. There could have been more toilets as the queue got pretty long just before the start. A very good course and well organised.
I’d run this again and maybe even go for the 20 miles as this had an extra hill in the loop to add some more challenge