Ultra endurance athlete Claire Smith is no stranger to "brutal" challenges, as her nickname would suggest.
"Brutal Claire" is preparing to run the length of Great Britain - 875 miles from John O'Groat's to Land's End - completely unsupported and she's aiming to run ~50 miles a day in a bid to beat the current FKT of 17 days and 22 hours.
We spoke to Claire to hear how she's approaching training, nutrition and recovery for her 'Brutal JOGLE'...
Hi Claire, you're the only person in the UK to complete a Double Deca Triathlon - 20 IRONMAN races in one go - but what motivates you to keep coming back for these ultra endurance challenges?
I consider myself a very normal person in terms of athletic ability. I hated sports when I was at school and have no real talent when it comes to swimming, biking or running fast.
But I am very determined (some might say "stubborn") and seem to have a decent tolerance for pain. Because of this I love finding or creating really tough endurance events and seeing if I can actually complete them.
It doesn’t always work, but I'm fascinated with how far the human body and mind can be pushed. Basically, if I see something I don’t think I can do, I immediately want to try it!
I'm guessing that's how your JOGLE came about then! How are you feeling about the prospect of covering ~50 miles a day to set a new FKT?
My best friend’s mum died this year. She was such an inspiration to me and it was a real shock. Susan always encouraged my crazy ideas and loved hearing about them and she even bought me Susan Gaytor’s book about her record-breaking JOGLE run (Carla Molinaro has recently set a new record).
I was out running after she had died and I thought the JOGLE would be a great way to celebrate Susan’s life.
Regarding the challenge itself, I'm really quite apprehensive. But I always break things down in my head, so I'm literally only focusing on the first day right now.
Closer to the event, that will probably change to only focusing on the first 13 miles.
What has your training regime involved in preparation for the JOGLE?
One of the things I have done in preparation was to try and run from Lyme Regis back to my house in Christchurch with the pack I originally intended to wear for the JOGLE.
The route followed the brutal South West Coast Path and the pack was around 30lbs. This training weekend was deliberately hard to force me to experience all the things that might happen to me and the kit during the run.
I only made it to Lulworth and called it a day as the injuries were getting too serious and were threatening the whole attempt. However, over those 50 miles I had learned that the pack was going to slow me down too much and cause me massive back problems.
I also learned that I would really struggle using a bivy bag and needed a small tent.
I understand you opted to ditch the rucksack for a trailer to carry all of your stuff in for this unsupported challenge - how much of a challenge does being self-sufficient present?
I am now using a Baby Jogger (renamed 'The Brutal Jogger'!) as after testing the backpack and trailer, which were both incredibly heavy, I realised that in order to try and break the unsupported record of 17 days and 22 hours, I need to keep moving as fast and consistently as possible.
The Brutal Jogger enables me to do this. I can’t carry as much stuff as the trailer would have allowed, but a little more than the backpack did. And it’s built to run with!
I'll be taking everything I need, so sleeping bag, mat and tent. Spare kit and waterproofs. Food, water and a stove. Battery packs and gas.
As I now can’t take as much with me, I am posting some drop boxes to 3 different locations (day 5, 9 and 13) with food, kit and battery packs in.
I can't imagine it's easy to fit your training in around work, family and life. How do you manage that particular juggling act?
Time management is one of the things I do well.
I make a list each Sunday (sometimes slightly unrealistic) of all the things I need to achieve over the next 7 days. This includes work, training and any other jobs around the house or for the kids.
And then every morning I see what I can or need to do from the list.
The other way I get a lot done is by maximising my time and ensuring that if it’s possible to get more than one thing done at a time, I will. I've also recognised that I get a lot done early in the morning, so I get up at 5 or 6am most days.
When my children were younger, it used to be very challenging to train for these long events. I used to focus on getting stronger using weights and shorter speed sessions.
Nutrition and hydration are obviously going to be big considerations during the course of your run. What will you be using for nutrition and hydration?
I'm sponsored by Resilient Nutrition so I'll be taking those with me and the hot meal will be a dehydrated Firepot each day.
The rest of my calories will need to be sourced along the way via shops and garages.
Obviously I'll be using PH for my hydration needs. Along with cups of tea of course!
- Multi vitamins and minerals
- Energise and Rebuild - Long Range Fuel - 550 cals
During the day
- Food bought along the way - 3,500 cals
- Sandwiches, bananas, nuts, bars, rice pudding, sports drink
- Calm & Rebuild - Long Range Fuel - 550 cals
- Firepot meal - 500 cals
What would be your advice for anyone considering their own self-supported multi-day event or FKT attempt?
There's a few things I've learned over the years...
- Eat normal food as much as you can
- Constantly do body scans. Are you getting hungry? Have you drunk enough? Are there any 'hot spots' on your feet developing or tightness in a muscle. Stay on top of everything
- Be prepared to be flexible and change plans if you need to, particularly if the weather changes or you become unwell
- Find a simple routine and stick to it. When you get tired it will help massively. Even write a list of what you need to do each morning or evening for example
- Ensure you know how to fix your kit. From a broken Jetboil to a snapped chain. The more you know, the more you'll feel in control
- Look after your feet
- Stay positive. I always try to remain positive when it gets super tough or things go wrong. It’s not always easy but it’s a very worthwhile habit to develop
- Always have cable ties with you. Always.
Excellent, and what would be your best advice for recovery protocol at the end of each stage of a multi-day challenge?
I always raise my legs during my rest breaks and when I sleep as I find this helps massively.
Try to get a decent amount of calories in before your main sleep break, so you can be digesting while you sleep which will help with recovery and it also means you're not trying to run or cycle with a full stomach.
To help with planning I use a visualisation method when I either organise big events or take part in them. I sit and go through the whole process in my head and make notes about what I will need at certain points of the race. This highlights any areas I haven’t thought about or anything I've forgotten to pack.
I also start races with 3 goals.
- The first being the best possible outcome
- The second is the next best thing
- And the final one is just to finish
That way if and when things change, I can be flexible with my desired outcome and try to remain in a positive mindset.