"There will be tough times..."
After 20 years as a professional Squash player, the Bitish athlete recently discovered ultra trail running and dove head first into the ultra race Snowdonia by UTMB - 100km with 6500m of elevation through mountains of Wales.
It's always interesting seeing athletes crossover and to see how their specific strengths can be applied or adapted to ultra running, especially one as decorated as Daryl who was ranked top ten in the world, Commonwealth Games medalist player and who was known for his grinding and diesel engine on the squash court.
Living just outside of Colchester in the east of England, it was difficult to get enough vert into Daryls training, so it was a case of aiming to be as prepared as possible and to condition the legs with the terrain avaliable with a lot of varying intervals and hard sets at the backend of runs. Not to mention building his base, given he is still extremely new to the sport.
The Snowdonia by UTMB is certainly one of the more "uncomfortable" races on the UTMB circuit; with plenty of sharp climbs, technical decents and plenty of classic Welsh bogs. I actually managed to get out on the course and see Daryl at the last aid station and was impressed by his attitude of "I'll just get it done". Putting discomfort aside and focusing on moving forward with the end goal in mind.
I think certainly this is probably the most important part of any ultra runner, the ability to accept the pain and realise it's possible to keep going forward regardless.
Here are a few insights from Daryl on how his race went...
Can you give us a run down on how the race panned out for you?
I was happy with how I started, as having never run 100k before and knowing I would need to make sure I had enough in the tank I started very steadily. Got stuck on single trails going uphill between 12k-36k which cost some time due to how busy it was. The downhills had caused some damage to the quads already, probably due to lack of elevation training coming in. The bogs also caused issues with wet feet which threw up some blisters to deal with later in the race.
Getting to 50k was hard work and seemed like a long way to go still, but an hour stop, hot food, change of clothes etc, helped refresh me alot. I was pleasantly surprised with how I moved through the night with the head torch as I had never run with one before! But I really enjoyed that climb up to Snowdon, although it was a long and steady one.
I had been with another guy since 40k and we helped each other through the low points. I slipped on the descent down from Snowdon and cut my hand which slowed me for a bit until I could get to the next aid station. The last 20k/30k was slow going but generally I felt ok and could have probably gone a bit faster again towards the end but wanted to make sure I completed the race, knowing that 35% of the field were going to DNF.
Overall happy to complete my first 100k and a very tough and technical one at that. Know I can do it a lot faster though :-).
What were some of the low points for you during the race?
Dealing with quad issues from the descents, but guess that is normal. Bad blisters for the last 20k/30k. Falling and cutting my hand
What were some of the high points for you during the race?
Climbing Snowdon through the night, finishing the race, the views, loved how tough the course was despite not being prepared for it!
Prior to this ultra, what was your race history?
1 x 62k race in the Brecon Beacons, 2 x 50k races 1 flat and 1 with 2100m elevation
What would be some of the key areas for amateur runners when taking on an event like this (nutrition, mental, etc)?
Know there will be tough times but to keep working through them and keep moving forwards as best you can. I found my hydration really key for preventing cramps and went through 15 electrolytes tablets during the course of the race mixed in with taking on plenty of water as well. Ate as much as I could for the first half but found it more difficult to eat during the second half so find anything then you can stomach even if it wasn’t necessarily in the nutrition plan originally.
How was your training leading up to the race?
Could have been better but enough to get me through to completing the 100k. More elevation training would have been ideal but tough when you live in flat areas!
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a long-distance ultra race for the first time?
Go for it! Prepare as best you can and stick to a plan for the race in terms of pacing. Don’t worry about anyone else passing you etc, just run your own race. If it’s harder then anticipated (or easier) then reevaluate your goals as you go.