What follows an overview of my training and the Kit I used for the Montane Cheviot Goat 2018. I will cover the Race itself in a second part, due shortly!
A quick summary of the event for those who don’t know; The Cheviot Goat is a 55 Mile Winter Ultra around the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland. It is said to have the lowest population density in England. The race is titled The Cheviot Goat as Goat itself resides in the hills and is the only animal hardy enough to survive the conditions, unlike domestic livestock.
I signed up for the race around 6 months in advance, so I had lots of time to prepare and train. I took on the excellent coaching services of Michelle Maxwell, who soon spotted my weaker points (I joined her with a bad knee and a perpendicular hip swing). Michelle set me up with a strength and conditioning program and started to build my mileage up towards the race itself while mixing up my training with efforts sessions, strides and building endurance / pace.
We reviewed my progress a week before the race, and my fitness levels had noticeably improved a lot, so the coaching really helped get me to my best. On my own I am sure I would not have stuck so well to a training schedule (the accountability really helps) and would have followed a generic training plan, which does not account for injuries and general life events that happen during a training period.
blue line is my fitness level over 6 months
My training arena was mostly off road / trail running with as much elevation as I could find in my local area (the Cotswold’s). I also topped up my elevation by making as many weekend trips as I could to the Brecon Beacons and Pen Y Fan.
I am a firm believer in pre race recce (reconnaissance).
The benefits from a good recce are both practical and psychological. On a practical level, you get to brush up on the navigation of the route, which of course pays off big dividends come race day. Psychologically you get a huge boast of experiencing the terrain first hand, rather than finding out what is in store and feeling the nervousness and magnitude on the race morning instead.
For my own Recce I used NAV4Adventure. They put on a 2 day event where you and other runners of the Goat get together to experience key parts of the route first hand (including the worst of the bogs!). This was run by Joe Faulkner, now 2 times finisher of the Cheviot Goat and a Spine Race Veteran. Being able to pick Joe’s brains all weekend was really useful.
I had a great time, we stayed in a nice bunkhouse for the weekend and I made some really good friends who I am still in contact with.
I heard Joe is running another Cheviot Goat Recce for February 2019. I massively encourage you to jump on a NAV4 Recce if you can, it will give you a big confidence boost for the race and they are really enjoyable weekends!
Kit and Equipment
For this race I really made sure I tested my kit as much as possible, this included a full trial run on the Brecon Beacons Marathon.
I am happy with how everything fared and I had no kit failures at all during the whole event.
For my Jacket, I used the Montane Spine Jacket. The Spine Jacket is a very simple Gore-tex shell, which balances well weight and protection against the elements. It keeps things very simple, but has a robust build quality. A single breast pocket is all you will find, and I used this to store my phone. I also brought along my Mountain Equipment Lhotse shell, with the idea that I would change into this in the second half, if the weather turned very nasty. As it happens, the rain and winds were mild for the race day, so I wore the Spine Jacket for the whole event.
Top Baselayers were an Arc’teryx Phase AR crew (which I have loved and used for a while) and a Icebreaker Merino crew which I changed into at the halfway point. I could have stayed in the Phase AR as this thing is so brilliant at wicking and drying.
For the bottom baselayer I used Montane Trail Series Thermal Tights which were great. My legs were warm as toast through out the whole event, no matter whether they were soaked with rain or caked in mud. I noticed a lot of other runners wearing the same tights, so Montane seem to have got it right with these bottom layers.
Waterproof trousers were some OMM Kamleika Pants. I never had to use them, as the Montane Tights were so good.
Buffs and Hat were both Merino and made by buff. Head wear always gets wet quickly through sweat or rain, and so I love merino here as it wicks so well and stays warm even when soaked through. I am big fan of Merino and you will see it repeated lot in this post.
Footwear. I am an Altra fan, I don’t run in anything else now. I understand footwear is very personal, so no need for me to go into details here. I started in some Lone Peak 4.0‘s and ended in some King MT’s (ugly as sin, but great for the mud and staying on your feet thanks to the velcro strap).
I spent quite some time trying to get my Socks right. I first tried out the waterproof route, with sealskinz. I found the sealskinz were great, until they were not so great. They work very well at keeping feet dry when dipped into deep puddles and river crossings. The problems for me started when it rained very heavily. I found that water runs down your legs and collects into the socks. Before you know it, you’re then squelching around with pools of water trapped into your socks and have no choice but to take them off and empty them out. In the end I went for some thick Merino wool socks. These did me well, my feet were wet the pretty much the whole time, but mostly warm, even when tacking the very boggy areas. As soon as I hit less water logged ground and got a chance to run, they wicked out very quickly.
For my Backpack, I used a Montane Via Dragon Pack (20 liter). I also have an OMM Classic, but I prefer the ‘vest’ type front sections on the Dragon Pack, as the accessibility means i don’t need to stop and remove the pack to get at most things. It did me very well, the only slight thing noted is the water bottle pockets mean you need to remove them to drink, but that worked OK for me.
My poles were Black Diamond Carbon Z and I am pleased I took them. I would encourage anyone doing the goat to take poles! Even if you don’t like them, they are so helpful for getting across the bogs. They can be used as leverage to stop you sinking too much or to pull you out, and for taping the surface to test how solid it is and save you finding out with half your leg submerged in energy sapping mud. I like the Black Diamond models, as they easily collapse into a fold-able section of three, thereby making it very easy to stow them away.
Last of all were my gloves. I had some merino ron hill gloves, kept under some Montane Prism Mitts with Montane Minimus covers over the top when it got wetter in the night. No complaints here, my hands were very nice and warm.
For gadgets I had a GPSMAPs 64s for Nav (alongside a paper map and compass). And a Petzl MYO Head torch with Lithium batteries which fair better in the cold. I am not a fan of the MYO, I find the batteries give out to quickly. I put in fresh set of Lithium batteries for the evening to then switch on the torch at about 4pm when it got dark, and by around 9 to 10pm it started to flash its low battery warning. It might be a faulty set that I have, but I won’t be using the MYO again as the last thing you want is a head torch that gives up half way through the night. I am going to give it another chance though, as it may well have been from me running at full lumen’s , which is too much to expect with the energy supply it has. A lot of folks seem to run a a minimal setting, so it could be a dumb user, more than a dumb device.
For nutrition I used tailwind (love it!) which agrees with me very well and lots of trek bars. At the halfway checkpoint I fueled on some soup made by the events team and a big pot of Ambrosia Creme Rice and a mars bar (note: I was sick of sugar by the end, so will change that up for next time).
Last of all was a lifesystems emergency blanket, which was checked by mountain rescue at the race registration point.
Other drop bag items, were some food (ambrosia creme rice / mixed nuts and salty crisps), lots of spare batteries, change of socks and basic care items such as sudo creme for sores, a blister kit, some plasters, baby wipes and talcum powder.
To be continued with the actual race report itself in part two..