Wild West Ultra, Pembrokeshire

I recently entered and took part in the Wild West Ultra. A 64km (40 mile) race local to me here in Pembrokshire, West Wales.

It was great to have something local to look forward to. And even better, no absurdly early wake up time on race morning, and I could do race-specific training quite easily too.

The route itself is quite beautiful. Just take a look at some of these photos

Wild West Ultra Preparation and Training

I decided to improvise a small block of training within my overall training to focus specifically on this race.

The route itself follows the coast path for quite a bit through southern Pembrokshire, but also includes a lot of trail running in land, through woodland, forest, and some farm tracks. It’s basically a big mixed bag of terrain types, with a bias toward more rugged coast path.

Elevation-wise, I could see that I would be in for a total of around 1400m of elevation gain/loss. That’s about 4200ft at a guess. Compared to recent events I have been doing, it is relatively ‘flat’ over the distance.

I focused my training in two areas. Running long (2-3 hour sessions) on bumpy/rough terrain that was around about the same relative elevation as I would expect in the race. For pace I would run these sessions at slightly faster than anticipated overall race pace.

My goal pace for the race was A) 05:45 per km average over the 64km route, or B) 06:00 per km average over the distance.

So training tended to be around 05:00 to 05:30 per km average pace.

Dam laps training

I used the local dam I live nearby called Llys y Fran as the ideal training ground. It’s a 10km lap around the dam. I ended up doing two or three sessions of 2-3 laps here. It’s a unduluating trail that is a bit rough in parts and provides great views of the dam as you loop around.

wild west ultra muscular endurance training around llys y fran dam. Strava map
laps around the dam

I practiced my endurance at pace on these longer run sessions as well as race nutrition (Precision Hydration PF 90 gels) and Active Root ginger drink mix.

The dam also provided a great opportunity to mix up family time and training. With a bunch of trips (20 minutes away) I also got to take my oldest along for some stand-up-paddling.

Coast specific training

A bit further away for me was the actual route itself. Interestingly, a lot of the first section of the race passes through military (MOD) training grounds, where they usually do live fire and explosive / tank training. The race has special permission to pass through about 10km of this coastal range. This meant I couldn’t recce or train on this part, however I could focus a couple of sessions on other parts of the race that linked onto this coastal range part.

Here are some photos from my training sessions (combined with a few sessions where we enjoyed parts of the route as family walks and outings).

Wild West Ultra race day

I woke up a few hours ahead of our start and got in my breakfast and electrolytes. The weather was rubbish, but the forecast from start (8am) onward seemed good.

Being local meant I could take our little Nissan Leaf electric car. It always feels good to drive around Pembrokeshire in this, especially when its been sunny and we’ve charged it off our solar panels at home.

The drive in was miserable – pouring rain. But as I approached the south coast I could see the clouds clearing in the far distance.

At registration we each got an RFID wrist band. The race director has created his own timing system, Realtime Racing which tracks runners progress as we pass checkpoints, swiping our wristbands over the timing boxes.

Results are then updated live if there is mobile reception at the checkpoints with SMS messages going out and the live results page being updated instantly. Very clever.

We also received a large map of the route with detailed key. I spent 10 minutes studying it in the car after sorting out my race bib and checking over my gear.

Wild West Ultra map

How the race went

The start had us going west for about 10km over the normally restricted military range area. We had a direct head wind here which was a bit tedious to fight against.

I went out with the front runners and about 4 of us lead the pack until we started heading up northward.

Not wanting to push too hard, the first 3 x slowly pushed on ahead in front of me. They slowly made their way ahead of me as time went on, increasing the distance.

Checkpoints and nutrition

There were 6 checkpoints in total. Alternating between water, and water + food. I didn’t spend more than 1 or 2 minutes at each checkpoint. Stops only to refill water and grab a couple of orange slices.

I took onboard all my fuel as I ran, consuming my precision hydration gels and active root ginger drink mix (one in a 500ml soft flask, and one soft flask with pure water only).

Over the total duration (6 hours 24 minutes) I consumed about 344 grams of carbohydrates.

  • 3 x 90g precision hydration gels
  • 2 x active root ginger (about 32g carbs each)
  • 1 x can of red bull (10g carbs)

Pace

I kept my pace fairly consistently around 05:45 per km for the first 50km. I also managed to hold 4th place up until 50km.

Just before 50km my right hip flexor started aching quite badly. I was struggling to lift it up. Probably just a result of holding the pace I was over the distance, combined with the elevation gain. This seems to be something to work on with my strength and conditioning!

Around this time I met up with Olly, another local chap who had been trailing me for a while. We ran together for a few miles and then he slowly pulled away. I couldn’t maintain pace with my hip flexor troubling me, so I decided to focus on just maintaining my ‘B’ goal pace which was to average at or just under 6 minutes per km for the race. (Well done on a great performance Olly!)

Finish

The final checkpoint was staged just before we hit the coast again (east of where we started). There was another 8km or so to run till the finish.

I briefly stopped at the checkpoint to refill one flask with water, and popped open my can of red bull I had been carrying with me.

The afternoon bad weather had just hit the coast and the wind and rain picked up.

I knew I was close the end so I didn’t bother putting on my rain shell, and pushed through the head wind, sights set on the finish, and hoping nobody would catch me and take my currently held 5th position!

As it turned out, there wasn’t anyone behind me for another 10 or 15 minutes, and soon enough I rolled over into the finish.

Taking shelter in the marquee, I warmed up (the rain was actually quite freezing cold with the combined wind!) and took in a bit of food. A few of the volunteers were hanging around and it was great chatting to them and catching up about the day’s events (and other running chat!)

Overall, it was a brilliant race. Not too big (there were about 55 runners in total I think), and the weather was good for the most part.

I was pretty happy with the results. Chip time was 06:24:00 for the 64km. Exactly 6 minutes per kilometer! Considering the head wind in many places, and 1400m of elevation gain/loss, and a hip flexor slow down toward the end, I was very happy to have held things together to achieve my personal goal.

Final race stats. Nailed that B goal pace almost on the dot!

Big shoutout and thanks to all the volunteers. You were all legends. A bunch of names worth mentioning off the top of my head (and sorry for those I miss). George, Matt, Mike, Caz, Tim, and all the other volunteers, thanks for being out there for us!

3 thoughts on “Wild West Ultra, Pembrokeshire”

  1. Congrats on a fabulous race, Sean! I like how you stayed calm with the hip-flexor thing and simply shifted to the B-goal.
    You would have surely got that 4th place otherwise – or at least, you would have been very close to Olly!
    Compared to the previous 50km, how much did you slow down in the last 14km?

    Looking at the ranking, I’m surprised how many 18-year olds are in the first 8 places. And a 18-year old won it!

    I absolutely love your photos of the route – it reminds me very much of the Ottertrail!

    Reply
    • Thanks Catrina!

      Looking at my 1k splits it seems they were less consistent and more slowed compared to the first 50. Its difficult to judge how much slower as the elevation changes throughout the race.

      I’m not sure what the M18 category means – the others definitely weren’t 18 year olds, thats for sure… I was also categorised as M18. I think its a category that represents anyone between the ages of 18 and 39, with M40 then being 40+

      Thanks! Even racing I still find the quick opportunity here and there to snap some photos! Though some of the photos of the beaches were from the prior weeks when I managed to recce a little bit of the route. Your Ottertrail photos were spectacular too by the way.

      Reply
      • Oh yes! I missed that you were also in the M18 category! Yep, I’m sure you are right, it must mean 18-39.
        Next year, you will definitely be shaking up the M40 category!

        Reply

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