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OV

17 June

An Ultra OV

We were delighted to hear from OV Ian Woodcock (Os 93-00) who recently tackled the Bryce Canyon Ultra 100 miler – an incredibly impressive feat of endurance.

Ian shared with us his journey from athletics on the School Fields to Ultra marathons:

“I have fond memories of Sports Day at School and running the 800 metres. Perhaps that’s where my love of running first started. Being at King’s, rugby was always the priority and I was in the 1st XV team, but throughout my time there I gained a sense that I liked to push myself and was willing to stick at it, whether that was doing the beep test, the 1500 metres, or a cross-country course. I remember Mr Derek Naish (Hon OV) always encouraging me to give it a go!

“After I left King’s in 2000, I studied Geography at Leeds University and then completed a Master’s degree in Project Management at Manchester University. I started my career in international development, managing projects for aid and humanitarian agencies in a number of countries including Uganda, Afghanistan and Haiti. In 2015 I transitioned into the field of corporate sustainability, firstly with a non-profit organisation in Boston Ceres, and then moved to Atlanta to work for The Coca-Cola Company.

“When I moved to the US with my wife in 2015, rugby finally took a back seat and I began running longer distances, starting with a half marathon and then a full marathon. In 2018 I started wondering what it would be like to go further than 26.2 miles? Inspired by the stories of some great endurance athletes like Dean Karnazes, I signed up for my first ultramarathon: the JFK 50 mile, one of the oldest ultramarathons in the US and held every year in Boonsboro, Maryland since 1963. The course covers about 15 miles on the Appalachian trail but apart from that is really flat, so it was a great introduction and I was able to complete it in around 10 hours, a pretty respectable time!

“For the next few years work and family took priority until mid-pandemic I decided it was time to give it another go. I find that if I’m going to put in the time and effort that’s required to complete something like an ultramarathon then it needs to be a challenge that excites me, and The Bryce Canyon 100 miler was just that. In all the course is 102.1 miles, with around 15,000 ft or 4,500 metres of elevation gain and descent, which all take place at around 9,000 ft or 2,700 metres above sea-level, skirting the outside of Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah.

OV Ultra Ian Woodock

“I wasn’t quite sure how I would be able to run twice as far as I’ve ever run before and do it at altitude, but the funny thing about running these distances is that your mindset about what is far or what is a long time can change and that can happen surprisingly quickly. For this one it took about six months to gain a good general fitness base, and then six months of fairly intense training, starting out running five times a week between three and eight miles per session for a total of 25 miles a week and building up the mileage slowly to eventually 70 + miles a week. The key thing to ultra-running though is the back-to-back long runs, so you run something like 25 miles on a Saturday and then 20 miles on a Sunday. This gets your body used to running when it’s tired and to spending a lot of time on your feet.

“Following a very hot and hilly 50 mile qualifier in Kentucky (where I learnt that a great cure for muscle cramps is pickle juice) I headed out to Utah with my family, while my parents, Chris Woodcock (Hon OV) and John Woodcock, flew over from the UK.

OV Ultra Ian Woodock

 

“The 100 mile race started at 5am on Saturday May 28 and slow and steady was the order of the day. My crew (aka my wife, Lisa, Mum, Dad and kids Evie and Luke) were able to meet me at a number of aid stations along the way, including at some rather unsociable hours of the night, and provide me with some much needed hot food, patching up, and words of encouragement. The warm day transitioned into a cold night (you are out in the desert and pretty high up after all) but I managed to maintain a decent pace, making sure I hydrated and fuelled properly and took care of any issues that came up before they became major problems, like blisters. All was pretty much going to plan but then it hit me at about Mile 80: I’ve run all day and all night and the sun has come up again and I still have 20 miles to go! The legs start to lock up and then bit by bit everything in the lower half of the body starts hurting. Thankfully I managed to keep moving, found some other runners out there (the first I’d seen for 15 miles) and got down to the finish line, two hours before the cut-off.

“The overwhelming feeling after constantly moving forward for almost 34 hours was relief!! Happy to have achieved my goal, thankful for all the support I’d received but definitely relieved that it was finally over!”

OV Ultra Ian Woodock and Chris Woodock