This week we have a race review of the Grand Raid des Pyrénées Ultra by Patrick Kingston.
Here’s a brief overview of the race:
It’s 164km (100 miles) long - Like running from London to Birmingham in the UK
There’s 10,300 metres of climbing - The equivalent to climbing Everest… Plus doing another 2,000 metres!
It’s an impressive feat to even consider it…
But Patrick Kingston is no stranger to impressive feats!
Patrick only took up ultra-running in 2016…
And he has already conquered some of the toughest races in the world, including:
The Marathon des Sables in 2017 - 250km (156 miles) in the Sahara desert over 6 stages
The North Downs Way 100 Miler in 2017 - 166km (103 miles) in a single day, with 3,100 metres of elevation
The Cape Wrath Ultra in 2018 - 400km (249 miles) over 8 days in the Scottish Highlands
Laverado Ultra in 2018 - 120km (75 miles) in a single day, with 5,800 metres of elevation
Many runners dedicate an entire lifetime to completing just one of these!
But Patrick has completed all of these in around 18 months!
So let’s hear about his latest, and most difficult challenge - the Grand Raid des Pyrénées Ultra 2018!
JamesRunsFar: Hi Patrick. So please give us a short introduction to this crazy event. And why you decided to take it on.
Patrick Kingston: I applied for the Grand Raid des Pyrénées Ultra 2018 off the back of not making the UTMB ballot to run in this year’s TDS (121 km with +7,300 metres of elevation).
The Grand Raid des Pyrénées have a similar format of races to UTMB with distances from 40km to 164km.
The event starts from Vielle-Aure in the Hautes-Pyrénées department South West France.
I knew very little about the event but after missing out on TDS I decided to push the boat out and doubled down to go for Ultra - 164 km +10,300m… (gulp).
This would be only my second 100 miler. The first was the North Downs Way in 2017.
GRP 2018 was the 10th anniversary of this event.
JRF: What was your training like?
PK: Since completing the 400km Cape Wrath Ultra over eight days in May I ran in several other events including;
Laverado Ultra - (120km +5,800m) at the end of June
Gran Trail Courmayeur - (55km +4,700m) in mid July
Borrowdale Fell Race - (27 km +2,000m) in early August
Overall I felt OK and injury free.
But having not recce’d the course I wasn’t too sure of what to expect.
JRF: Can you tell us a bit about the race itself
PK: This was a tough, tough trail race.
Out of the 410 starters there were 240 finishers, which was a completion rate of c.58%.
The majority of runners were French, a few Spanish with a handful of Brits and a few other nationalities.
The Ultra started on the Friday at 4am from the village square and after a couple of kilometres the first climb starts.
The trails were very technical, certain sections were not runnable and some near vertical!
On more than one occasion it felt a little like a 100 mile fell race at altitude.
The weather also played its part with rain, mist and cloud inversions.
At night you could see about 2 feet in front of you - even with your head torch on.
However the setting was breath-taking with some amazing scenery, especially the morning sunrise.
JRF: How did you do?
PK: I made it around the course in 94th place in a little over 41 hours, finishing just after 10pm on the Saturday night.
This meant that I was the 3rd placed UK runner out of 7 UK finishers.
This is the longest I had spent on my feet and personally I found the first 24 hours quite tough.
At one stage I was in 24 place – not sure how.
On reflection I felt it took me to around to the 30km mark to get into the rhythm of the race and get used to the altitude and the terrain.
I fell over twice - one boulder trip and a slip on a scree descent.
By around the early afternoon stage of the second day I started to see some optical illusions in my periphery vision, including animals and sitting Buddha type figures.
These disappeared as the light faded on the second day.
One thing that surprised me was in the final 8 - 10k on tarmac roads and normal trails.
My legs were still working and I was able to move faster (relative to other runners) and gain a few places.
All in all I found this to be a great event.
It was well organised, the check points were well stocked and certain ones even had fresh hot food (mashed potato at one, crepes at another).
I would recommend this event to people who are looking for their next challenge or an alternative to the UTMB races.
JRF: What tips can you give to other runners thinking of doing an event like this?
Train at altitude - Practice on hills both going up and also down (note to self - practice more downhills for Dragons Back 2019!).
Include some deodorant in your drop bag - Unless you like smelling your own corruption!!!
Invest in a decent head torch - It gives you confidence when moving at night (Note, Patrick and I both use the Petzl Nao + Headlamp and it works brilliantly!)
Be comfortable running by yourself at night - I could see head torches but not many people. When people are dropping out around you in check points, I found you need to make a conscious decision to go out and keep going
Bring wet wipes to clean feet - Personally, I am going to use Profoot moleskin instead of Compeed. I found when removing Compeed it takes the top layer of skin off at the same time
Packing and finding kit quickly - I used Salomon adv skin vest 12 rolled up waterproof jacket in pack in back pouch - easy to take out and wear / less faffing when the elements close in. I find that soft hydration elasticated pockets can be a bit fiddly. So I used a bladder for this event. You also have the ability to carry more fluid as well.
Specific kit advice
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Patrick’s Top Kit Suggestions
JRF: And, finally, what’s your next challenge?
PK: In October I’m doing the Festival de Templiers - Endurance Trail (100km +4,800m).
And in November it’s the UTMB Oman (137 km +7,800m)
JRF: Wow! That’s a seriously busy two years you will have had!
Although those races don’t sound as gruelling as the GRP.
Thanks for taking the time to tell us about the race.
And thank you for those incredibly useful tips!
I look forward to following your progress over the next few months!
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