We let one of the directors from UMUK tell you about his 2019 event and hear how the winner, David Allen, got on.
My name is Ben Peresson and I am one of the Directors of UMUK – the first and only ultraman-distance event in the UK. As some of you probably know, UMUK is held in the incredibly beautiful Snowdonia National Park.
Why UMUK? How did I get involved?
After completing several Ironman races, I began to look for something ‘more’… something different. I completed Norseman; an amazing experience and my first of an unsupported race, and definitely the toughest ‘Ironman’ of the lot. But still ‘just’ iron distance.
I decided to have a go at multi-stage racing and signed up for Marathon des Sables 2015. It was another unforgettable experience. But I was not done with triathlon… and I found UMUK. More than double Iron distance, unsupported, tough as hell, and over three consecutive days. I was sold.
I completed UMUK 2015 and loved it. One of my support crew (Darren) also got the ultra-tri bug and signed up to compete in 2017, but when we heard that the event wouldn’t run due to the previous company closing down, we knew we had to get involved. This was an event that deserved saving.
As a former competitor and the current organiser, I’ve got nothing but amazing things to say about UMUK’s format, stunningly beautiful yet brutal courses and general camaraderie. In my opinion, no other event comes close in terms of the bond formed between athletes and their crew over the three days.
However, all Race Directors think their events are amazing, so have a read of an unbiased opinion: that of a former winner. If you’ve crewed or competed in an unsupported race, you will know that these races are just as much about the support crew as they are the athlete.
Hear it from past winner, David Allen!
The following are excerpts from David Allen, winner of the UMUK full distance event. For the full report, please check Dave’s link HERE.
“On getting confirmation of the event back in January, I had had concerns about getting anyone to be my nominated support crew. It’s a big commitment (little did I know how big), and one that needed people who knew what they were doing”
“The forecasted high winds were already picking up causing the grey waters of Wales’s largest natural lake to develop a swell that would make the 500m swim out to the turn buoy a real challenge”.
“I suddenly felt seriously cold for the first time. The boys were on hand to help me out of the water and then a six person team swung into action to get me out of my suit, dress me for the bike and feed me with army ration spaghetti bolognese washed down with a strong mocha coffee. About 20 minutes later I was put on the bike, still shivering vigorously, and told to ride fairly hard around the lake for a few kilometres to warm up where I would be met by the van and could get rid of some of the excess clothing.
“It also entered my head that this was supposed to be the easiest day of the three and that tomorrow I had to ride twice the distance and at quicker pace than I was going today if I was to make that cut off. I then started to worry about whether I would have enough in the tank for an 85km run on day three even if I did make it through the next two days”.
“…. remember some stunning scenery, some painful climbs and some even more painful flat bits where the gale force wind was directly in my face for what seemed like hours”.
“No-one had told me that after 5 hours swimming and 5 hours biking I would have to pedal most of the last hour uphill, over 200m in elevation at a gradient averaging around 6% building to a gut busting 10% as you wind toward the summit. I don’t know whose clever idea it was to put Pen-Y-Pass on the route at the end of the day we had just had, but I’d like to punch them. It was painful, punishing and pretty bloody miserable but at the same time empowering”.
“When I had first looked at the course the thought of doing 275km/170 miles in 12 hours seemed relatively easy, a mere 25 (ish) kmh / 15mph was an easy proposition. However add in the fatigue, pit stops, climbs and then the weather which was forecast to be horrendous – strong winds and driving rain – and all of a sudden it dawned on me that rather than a pleasant cycle through Snowdonia National Park, my Saturday was going to be spent cold, wet, extremely knackered and under real pressure to make it to the run on day 3”.
“I didn’t stop long, keen to be on my way, so headed off without really listening to what I was being told. If I had, I would have registered the “don’t forget you need to turn left just up the road” instruction. I must have registered something because a couple of minutes later I noticed a turning to the left but chose not to take it, preferring to stick to the main road. Unfortunately for me the road was a fairly steep hill that half way up I realised, was probably not the right pace to be”.
“With the left turn I was now headed into a full blown gale and averaging about 14 mph on a flat road feeling like I was going backwards. There are times when you just don’t want to be doing what you are doing and thoughts of ‘why the bloody hell am I doing this?’ come to the fore”.
“… and that left only Paul and I formally in the race with the others having missed the cut-off times yesterday”.
“The worst news though was that I was behind schedule and at this rate I would miss the cut-off. Considering this was supposed to be the fast section I was in trouble…”
“I was labouring into a strong headwind on an arrow straight road that just kept going as far as the eye could see. There were no cars, nothing around and I remember I just stopped peddling and coasted to a halt. I unclipped and just stood there astride my bike as if I was just waiting for the support car to turn up and take me home. I would like to think if the car had turned up I wouldn’t have got in but I am not sure”
“And so began the longest hour of my life”.
“As I rode off toward the 3rd and final hill I remembered why I was doing this thing (UMUK). Because it was tough – one of the toughest – and I had wanted the challenge. It was supposed to push me to places I didn’t want to go to, to see what I would do when there”.
“Running 85km was something I hadn’t really thought much about before the event, it was too far for me to comprehend, so I didn’t bother to try. I never really doubted I could do it, I just had nothing to base that on”.
“There were some really tough bits in the last couple of km of the woods, but I was buggered if I was going to let Paul go now. He had dragged me round 65km at a pace I would never have believed I was capable of and now there was only another 20km to go. He still had to make up 10 minutes in that distance which by my reckoning was going to take one hell of a push. Trouble was he looked capable of doing it, whereas I was very definitely starting to hang on”.
“My legs were gone and the only thing keeping me going was sheer bloody mindedness”.
“I am not sure when or how I found out that I had won by 4 minutes but unbelievably I had managed to run a double marathon in just over 8 hours to complete the full event in 29 hours, 41 minutes and 53 seconds. Paul had finished in 29.46:08. There was no way in this world I would have run that time without him to chase and in many ways I felt guilty for putting him through what must have been the torture of having me just tail him all the way”.
“What they don’t tell you is that the event is really 4 days not 3, and day 4 is possibly the hardest”… “Every muscle in my body felt like it was being torn to shreds if moved and thus had seized itself solid so as to make motion nearly impossible even if I wanted to bear the pain”.
“As for UMUK – I’ll be back. The event is special in so many ways and in the hands of Ben and his team at Racing Quest I have no doubt it will continue grow and develop to become an Iconic race for those having just completed an Ironman and are sat in the pub on a winters evening talking to their mates saying ‘Ultra Triathlon’….. “How Hard Can It Be!”
That’s all folks, thanks for reading.