To bonk or not to bonk… Warren Pole

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Scott & Don
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Nation member, Warren Pole, talks about

  • why British ultras aren’t very cool compared to the way he imagines American ultras to be
  • the best ultra-running advice he has ever received
  • his quest to complete the UTMB this year.

After listening to this podcast, you may change the way you think about bonking.

Closing Song: “Gotta Get Away” – The Offspring

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  • Thomas,
    I think Warren was using satire to have a little fun with the subtle differences in the ultra race venues. Of course we picked our grandest races to compare to a smaller event in the UK. The contrast is what made the discussion interesting. We have our fair share of smaller race venues as well. Some may argue that this is their favorite type of race to enter.

    I took a look at your links. The scenery is beautiful. It looks distinctly like Trail Runner “Nation” to me.

    • You should not be in the slightest bit surprised that a supercilious Londoner gets right up the nose of a Scot without even trying. It’s just the natural way of things :-). If you’ve seen Braveheart you have the barest beginnings of an inkling as to why.

      On the subject of after-race fare, I’ve seen both extremes here in California. The Quicksilver 50K/M race had an amazing bbq, and beer (that had to be consumed more than 30 feet away from the carpark to comply with County regulations), and every 50K+ runner got a custom beer glass (which I am drinking out of right now). But I’ve also been to races where there were only 20 runners, no finishers’ medals or t-shirts, and no apres-race food to speak of. It’s all down to scale, I suppose.

      Warren, if you ever come to California, time your visit for the Quicksilver 50 race. Most of the fellows running it are French, so you’ll feel right at home ;).

  • This was brilliant! A guy in Michigan running along listening to a podcast of some folks in California talking to a guy in the UK about running. Cool!

    I would say the aid station tables I’ve experienced in trail races have been somewhere between the grand buffet tables of TRN legend and the spartan affairs experienced by Mr. Pole. Usually there’s water, Gatorade, M&M’s and/or trail mix and sometimes chips. At the end there is usually beer, bananas, oranges, apples, cookies, water, bagels, and Gatorade. Sometimes there is also soup and/or burgers at the end.

    My preference is for the smaller, low-key events and now I want to go run in the UK. Great job guys (and lady)!

  • Hi Warren,
    It was nice to “meet” you! Thank you for sharing your wit and wisdom. What an enjoyable time listening to this podcast.

    We here in Arkansas, USA have a great trail series. We have 12 races throughout the year, 9 of the 12 are “fun runs”, aka… just drop a few donation dollars in a box at the starting line and off you go. These fun runs don’t have awards and such, a few might have a fun, home-made award for age groups or overall. Some of these have amazing aid stations, and others just water beside the road.
    We have a well supported 50K/40 mile/50 mile with a $25.00 entry fee. If you want a race shirt, you pay more.
    We have a 50K/50mile and a 100 mile race that we go all out for, a HUGE party on the trail!!

    The ultra community seems to have the same amazing vibe all over. These guys make life better with their cheerful support, front, middle and back of the packers.

    At a 50 miler in MO, USA, one of our local elites won the race, the aid stations had been abandoned, so she manned and aid station till her friends came in, and they came in to the very last with many running their first 50 miler. So she run the 50 miles in 6 hours and then was out there for 6 more hours! That is the spirit of ultra runners and ultra running!
    This is Leah Thorvilson, who now has the 4th fastest 50 miler in US history. …. and she mans and aid station so her friends aren’t out there alone.
    This is what I love about ultra running and runners.

  • Hey Trail Runner Nation – absolutely love the podcasts, keep up the amazing work.

    However in response to this one, I’m not sure all of Warren’s comments will be taken by listeners as satire, and even if they were intended that way they completely misrepresent UK ultra running, especially the incredible races and amazing support we have up here in a plethora of Scottish races.

    The 95-mile West Highland Way Race which Thomas gives as an example is a fantastic event with parallels to the Western States 100 in terms of being an iconic race for Scotland. The spectacular scenery, camaraderie, support, marshalls, seamless organisation, after-race party, finishing goblet (rather than buckle!) and ‘quaich’ of whisky at the finish all help to make this race really special, like many more of our smaller races in Scotland, England and Wales.

    Scottish and UK ultras are definitely cost-effective to enter, hence the different offerings i.e. the requirement to have your own drop bags for food, or your own support team, and less product giveaways like jackets. Most are run solely by volunteers with small, local sponsors, but there are always still t-shirts or equivalent goodies and people to help out when you need it. I have never seen anyone go hungry or have to divert into a local shop. Perhaps Warren should come up to Scotland and run the West Highland Way Race.

    Looking forward to your next podcast!

  • Wow, what a very different race experience Warren has had from me. I’ve been racing ultras for a few years in the UK, but all in Scotland. I wouldn’t plan to do any ultras down in England after listening to that (except I know that that’s not really the case for all races down south) since the ultras in Scotland are way closer to the magical myth that Warren dreams of. A fantastic party atmosphere that goes *way* beyond the running. Ok, not the amazing things that the big US races can boast, but nothing even close to what the podcast describes.

    Still enjoyed the podcast, in spite of feeling so much pity for Warren , so thanks for putting it all together. Will look forward to hearing your future podcast(s) about the real UK ultras and how good they are!

    Satire? I’d prefer Saltire anyday. No need for me to say any more since Thomas and Caroline have said it so well already – wise words indeed and the link to the photos from Thomas gives an idea of what a Scottish ultra is about.

  • Two things:
    1) I want to echo Warren’s thanks to the great job you guys are doing, it’s a great motivation to run. You guys are great fun to listen to! Keep it up.

    2) Your link above to Warren’s site is broken. Clicking on it gets the TRN site in front of Warren’s site. I’m nerdy enough to get through, but thought you’d like to know.

  • Just bought the book today, Can’t wait till it gets here on Tuesday! TRN podcast is hard on my wallet!!! hee hee hee

  • I was cracking up on my 1 hour commute this morning listening to this podcast. True or not, I took the podcast as great entertainment – you guys (and gal) do a great job mixing up the podcasts – keep up the great work – you make my commute almost somthing I look forward to because that is when I listen. And Don – great job again on song pics – I do appreciate the link to the itunes site.

  • Funny podcast. As an American who’s run several runs in the US and four in the UK, much of what Warren says I contend IS true in comparison, although there are certainly exceptions.

    I did the UTLD (ultra trail lake district) 50 (there’s a 100 too) and that was one of the better organized ones with aid stations that were OK at the time in 2010 (lots of sweet, but no good old standards like potatoes and salt), free unlimited massages BEFORE AND AFTER the race, and a nice GPS track to follow since the course directions were given in British (“after the beck, cross the stile and turn left after the tarn.” Huh?????). So this was a good race, and EXCELLENT value for the cost.

    In contrast, I just ran a 50 miler last month that will remain unnamed. The race hosted a forum for answering questions… but the race hosts never logged in, so it contained only questions with no answers. Then a week before the race they sent out a racer FAQ update that included all the good food stuff they would have at all the aid stations. Awesome…. I get to aid station #1 at 10 miles and… gummy bears. That’s it. Not good for a vegan. I say something at the end of the race (where were the 9 Bars????) and they say “oh, that was last year’s list”. Another American there and I were laughing; he’d just finished another UK ultra. Comes through out of water to one of the aid stations and…. there’s no aid station. They didn’t have enough people to man it, but didn’t warn anyone. Yer on yer own! So, anyway, some of what he says is spot on, some not so race depending, but I definitely got the humor. Er… humour.

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