UPDATE: Victoria won the women’s race, her 5th Three Peaks Race win – an astounding achievement! Congratulations Victoria!
We caught up with inov-8 ambassadors Victoria Wilkinson and Chris Holdsworth for a quick chat ahead of the iconic Yorkshire Three Peaks Race on the 27th April 2019.
Victoria is returning to the race as the defending champion, having won the race 4 times before. She currently holds the women’s course record. Chris is returning to the race having placed 3rd in a phenomenal time of 2h 54mins in 2017.
We’re looking forward to seeing how both of these incredible athletes get on in the race!
You are returning to the Three Peaks Race as the defending champion and current women’s record holder, how are you feeling ahead of the race and will you be attempting the record again?
I love the race. It is my Yorkshire home terrain, I drive past the hills every day on my way to work. I love the fans that are there, the support that you get. So yeah, it is good to go back in a way with no pressure because I have done my work, it’s just up to people to get that record off me. I’m just going to go out and enjoy the race. Hopefully that is what tomorrow will be.
What is your race strategy this year?
It’s been pretty much the same each year really. Try not to set off to quick. Pen-y-Ghent lane is probably the worst part of the race for me, probably for everybody. You know that you have got a long way to go and you can’t get carried away. You can probably do more damage in that first 30 minutes than you can on a lot more of the course. It’s biding your time, putting yourself into it. There are markers where I know I could get to in certain times but obviously it just depends on the day. Just hopefully have enough left so that you can run up Ingleborough and then have enough energy so that you can run off Ingleborough, not tire yourself or cramp up and instead of going down the field, hopefully you either maintain your position or you start to go up the field. It is a pacing job really, you’ve got to use your head as well as your body.
It’s a race of many different sections, you’ve got a lot of fast running, there’s the climb up Whernside which is a bit of walking, running off Whernside seems to get trickier each year, there’s the man-made slabs, steps and stuff. Then a fast run off Whernside on tarmac. It is a lot of different races all in one really and it is never over until you actually cross the finish line. For example at the very last gate when you have literally have half a mile to go, you could loose a lot of time, so it is not over until it is over and that’s for everybody, whether it is good or bad.
You’ve spoken in the past of giving yourself certain splits and using a heart rate monitor on the course, will you be doing the same this year and can you tell me more about it?
Not running to it, I kind of use it as a bit of back up. I probably glance at it now and again to check. I hopefully, have a feeling that I am going at the right pace, I know I have got to run within myself. It is more of a feeling and then now and again I will look at it just to check, if it is a bit too high, it is confirmation to back off. I don’t run to it, I am not looking at it all the time. I just have it there as a bit of a back up because depending on how fit you are from one year to another, it can vary anyway. So what might have been a certain heart rate 2 years ago, could have changed a little this year. So it is more on feeling that I run on really.
Who do you think your main competitors will be this year?
Well it does clash with the British Champs which is unfortunate, which is in Northern Ireland but on the other hand Nichola Jackson is there, she’s entered. She won the first English Champs at Stretton, then she was second, not that far behind me at the Howgill’s race, the second English Champs. She had a good run at the 3 Peaks 2 years ago on her first attempt. I think she can only improve on that course really. She is still young, still learning. This will be the third time she has done it. So yeah, Nichola is a good runner. She’ll be the one to watch.
Are there any others?
You never know really, there will be some others up there. Nichola is probably the main one really, it is a bit of a depleted field due to it clashing with British Champs, but then I look at the men as well and race against the men. Where I am according to which men I’m around. If there are other women up there, on one hand it kind of doesn’t matter who is there because I do try to run my own race because I know what feels too fast. I think it is a race where you have got to run your own race wherever you are in the field. A lot can happen. You can loose a lot of time by running too quick and too early on. You’ve got to hold your own really.
Can you talk me through the training that you have done for this year and how you feel it has gone?
Well, until 6 weeks ago I was doing a lot of biking. I got injured so I didn’t have the winter that I wanted really. The last 6 weeks have gone ok, I’ve got some decent runs in. Not as much road and fast runs as I have done in the past, the Howgill’s shows that I still strong, I’ve still got the engine in there, it is just whether I can equate it to faster running around the peaks which is a totally different race to Howgill’s. You’ve got the speed coming down, there is walking in it.
The biking that I did over the winter obviously put me in good stead, it’s good strength work, it is just if I can equate it to faster running and whether my body holds up with the faster running. Even if it is going to be not so good weather, it’s going to be dry. The nature of the peaks as it is now doesn’t change a lot due to the weather because it is so man-made – tracks, slabs and steps. There are a few bits here and there that will be a bit muddy and trickier, but generally speaking it stays pretty much the same. The wind will be a bit of a factor if it is too windy, depending on which direction it is going in, but yes, I am ok with my preparation. As I say if this was the year I was going for the record then I wouldn’t be happy, but I’ve got the record, I have done my work, I am there as defending champion. I’d like to say the pressure is off, just turn up and we will see.
What kit have you chosen and why?
I am kind of a bit of old school. Best to stick with what I know. The X-Talon 212. I was thinking of wearing something different because it was completely dry, but on the other hand I know the 212. You need a bit of grip in there, it is probably a bit over the top in terms of grip but on the other hand I am happy in them. And then clothing-wise, I have got a pair of inov-8 RACE SHORTS. Thermal-wise, I am not sure it depends on the day, probably a thermal t-shirt. The inov-8 elite bumbag with the mesh at the front. The ULTRAPANT WATERPROOF TROUSERS and ULTRAPANT WATERPROOF JACKET, nicely folded up with the rubberbands around it so I can get to the stuff I want and hopefully don’t need. And then probably, but it depends on the weather, an inov-8 wrag and my inov-8 race gloves, I do like my pair of gloves.
Are there any parts you are looking forward to and any bits you are dreading?
I guess what I am dreading is the lead up. Once the gun goes, you get out the field, probably after Pen-y-Ghent I can start to relax then and just run and enjoy it. Pen-y-Ghent lane is the worst bit, you are more conscious about what pace you are going, you are constantly questioning yourself, am I going too hard am I going too easy. Get to the top, see what time I got up there in and then you know what pace you are running at and who else is around. It is never over until it is over.
What is your nutrition strategy for the race?
Before I start I have my blueberry porridge in the morning, and then in the race it will be SIS gels, SIS electrolyte drinks, jelly babies and apricots. I always intend to have more than I actually have, but I am conscious that I do need to eat more, drink a bit more. It is not going to be as hot as last week, so I won’t need to drink as much but I have various people around on the course. I will have my fuel with me of course. The important thing is to have it before you need it, rather than thinking I need it now because that’s too late. Whernside is definitely a good place to take fuel on as you are going a bit slower, easier to eat or have a gel. So definitely up Whernside, definitely up Ingleborough and in between I’ll probably go with apricots. I’ll have a drink going up Whernside too, out of the squeezy inov-8 flasks!
Victoria talks to Lee about kit in 2018.
How are you feeling ahead of the race?
Honestly, on the one hand I’m feeling fit and fresh, on the other I’m trying to convince myself I’m not coming down with a cold. Sitting in an office full of sick people all week has been torture! The sooner I can get to that start line and race the better!
Have you done the race before?
I’ve done the race three times in the past, with the first being a somewhat painful experience – as it is for many! The first time is pretty much learning the ropes, gaining the experience and understanding how to pace the race. Go too hard, too soon and you’ll be in for a long day…
Can you talk me through the training you have done for the race?
There’s a lot of different factors to consider for the three peaks – there’s long runnable, fast sections between the peaks. There’s both tricky rocky descents and awkward slabs to navigate, as well as steep boggy climbs on Whernside and more runnable climbs on PYG and Ingleborough (though you might not fancy it so much by the time you reach it!) A lot of my training has been about breaking each section down, combining a few of the elements in some sessions and attempting to run on similar courses and climbs in others.
Have you done anything specific to train for the course?
I’ve tried to choose my races wisely, as well as up my mileage towards the 100 mark in the first few months of the year. I’ve tried not to do things too astronomically different or it can lead to injuries. Having come 3rd in the past in a time of 2:54, it’s a case of sticking to what you know and trying to improve further.
Have you recce’d the course at all and do you think doing so will be an advantage?
I haven’t this time, I’d planned a few trips up but poor weather and other things came up – such is life! Having missed the last year through injury, I’m hoping the adrenaline of finally being back will give me more of an advantage of re-familiarising myself with the course
What are you looking forward to most about the race and on the course?
The brilliant atmosphere, it’s as simple as that. Whether the people on course are there to watch, or there to walk round themselves and have no idea about the race being on, everyone cheers you on. It can literally give you that extra push and motivation to keep going. It also helps that you’re never 10 meters away from someone with a gel or water!
And which part of the race/ course are you dreading the most?
I think if you’ve trained well, you’ve done the race before and you’re familiar with what’s in store, you don’t worry about the race itself. It’s what can happen whilst out there that plays on your mind! For me it’s the weather… The climate up there can be very erratic and when you’re spending quite a while of the race on the side of Whernside, it can affect you quite badly! The other worry is whether the niggles picked up in training hold out, or whether your cold is in your head or not! (That you’ll find out quite quickly in the first 2 miles to PYG…)
What challenges do you think you will face on the race and what is your plan to overcome them?
Whernside is always the toughest obstacle. It can literally make or break your race how you take it on. It can take a good section running off the top to shake off the calf cramps and jelly legs, so if I can get up and down feeling in moderately good shape I’ll consider it a success! Again, the other factor is the weather, and I think what you wear is decision you make before the start line and stick to it. You don’t want to be wrestling out a waterproof jacket half way up Whernside when you’re already beyond freezing and soaked through. If it looks like bad weather, then stick one on!
Who are your main competitors going into the race?
Oh.. there are plenty this year! Firstly there are the previous winners in Ricky Lightfoot and Tom Owens. They have the experience and therefore confidence in knowing what it takes to win the race. Then there is also the two heavy favourites in Nick Swinburn and Carl Bell, both considered to be the top athletes in what they do and both more than capable of winning it on the day. There will be plenty of others too, I just haven’t looked at the list in a few months as that’s more than enough to worry about! I’m a realist, having come 3rd a couple of years ago I know I need to challenge this year, but it won’t be an easy task. I’ve always enjoyed being in the ‘dark horse’ role over heavy favourite and if I’m feeling good on the day, I’ll relish taking it to the others and giving it all I’ve got.
Q: Talk me through your nutrition strategy for the race? Do you have a plan in place or are you going to wing it and see how you feel?
It’s possibly the one race I take no chances with when it comes to nutrition! This week I’ve tried to be as strict as possible, eating no rubbish and only quality carbs etc. (missing Easter eggs and beers over Easter last weekend was particularly painful!). The evening before the race I’ll eat a mountain of pasta, then in the morning I’ll eat a mountain of Frosties. I don’t question what works, it just has so far! During the race I’ll have around 5 – 6 mountain fuel jellies over the course of the race, and down full bottles of Mountain Fuel energy drink at both Ribblehead and Hill Inn. You don’t want to get to Ingleborough with nothing left in the tank, there’s still a long way to go off the top!
Q: What is your approach to the race? Have you got certain splits you are hoping to hit?
I’ve still not decided how exactly to approach the race. I’ll probably have two strategies in mind and assess the race during the run up to PYG. Once we’ve descended down from PYG, the race opens its self up and it becomes very clear who’s challenging at the top. Of course, weather and other factors can always change things!
Q: Vic talked about using a heart rate monitor as a reference in 2018, will you be using one this weekend and do you think they are beneficial?
On my last run before the big day, my breathing and heart rate felt rapid. I’d have had to be at crawling pace to keep it down! I’ve always gone off feel, but Vic shows the tracking heart rate can work. I personally like to play ignorant and convince myself everything’s going swimmingly even if it’s not.
Q: Last but definitely not least, which inov-8 shoes have you chosen and why do you think they will be best suited for the race? What other items are in your race kit?
The big and most important question! I think it’s good to take a few pairs and assess the conditions on the day. If it feels dry, I’ll be wearing the TERRAULTRA 260 for cushioning, particularly on the descent from Ingleborough. If it’s wetter it’ll be a toss up between the X-TALON 230s and the ROCLITE G 290. My kit will also consist of the STORMSHELL WATERPROOF JACKET, ULTRAPANT WATERPROOF TROUSERS (very light and packs away neatly) and a long sleeve inov-8 MERINO BASE LAYER. I’m hoping I won’t need to use any of these, but looking at the weather, it’s not looking to promising.