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Interview: Isobel Wykes on her first CCC®

by kirsty
Wednesday 4th September 2013

Isobel Wykes was the highest placed British women (8th) at the 2013 CCC®. Kirsty Reade catches up with the mother of three who's only been running off road for two years:

Isobel Wykes on her first CCC®

Question Congratulations on your fantastic run at the CCC. Have you done any of the UTMB races before? If not, how did you find the experience?

Answer Thank you. What an epic series of races!

I've never ran any of the UTMB races before, so this was a whole new experience for me. Chamonix, where the race HQ is based, was just buzzing for the few days before the race.  It was absolutely full of runners and their supporters all anticipating the race that lay before them. It really felt like a shared experience and that we were 'all in this together' regardless of speed, distance or experience. This feeling was even more apparent at the finish line where everyone is cheering and calling out your name as you run the last few kms through the town.

Question Did you have any expectations of time or placing going into the race?

Answer No! All I'd heard was that it was a fantastic race and nothing would compare to it. That proved to be 100% correct.

I've only been running off-road for the last two years and have never ran a race with that kind of elevation so I had no idea about what sort of time I should be aiming at. In fact I didn't quite realise just how long the climbs would be and how much elevation gain there was on the course. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!

Question Can you tell us a bit about your race? Any highlights? Any low points?

Answer It sounds very clichéd but I always run 'my own race' and I don't get swayed into what others are doing. I wanted to get a fairly quick start but as its all uphill it turned out not to be that quick at all. I soon noticed that probably 90% of the runners were using poles (me being in the 10% who were not!) and I soon got stuck behind someone and couldn't get past. Rather than get frustrated I just saw this as an opportunity to maintain a steady pace and conserve some energy, after all this was going to be a long day!

I enjoyed the climbs (although after about halfway I wished I had some poles too!) but found the downhills more uncomfortable. My quads were sore and I couldn't quite get the speed that I wanted to, especially in the last 20km.

I've never ran in the dark before so I was a bit anxious as night fell, but from what I've heard it's probably a good idea that I was blissfully unaware of the sheer drops either side of me during some of the climbs during the night section. I don't have a particularly good head for heights! 

The final descent into Chamonix seemed to take forever. I finished the race in the early hours of the morning and although there weren't the huge crowds that greet many of the other runners who finish at a more sociable hour, there was still a great atmosphere and plenty of people cheering you on. 

Question I know you were picked to run for GB at the IAU World Trail Champs this year. Has this been a particularly strong year for your running? If so, what do you attribute that to?

Answer I was thrilled to be picked for the GB team, but it wasn't a good race for me as I missed a route marking, meaning I went the wrong way and then I couldn't find my way back. The result meaning I ran an extra couple of miles and lost about 25 minutes. The disappointment and frustration from this lasted a long time but it certainly spurred me on to not give up and just try to channel the energy into something positive. I've had some good performances this year, but I still think there's room for improvement!

Question Have you always been into longer races? How did you get into ultras and when did you realise you had a real talent for it?

Answer I've always been stronger at the endurance events, maybe because as I'm a Taurus, I'm a little bit stubborn and don't give up easily! I ran my first ultra in 2003 when someone handed me a leaflet at the London marathon expo about a local 50km race. I naively turned up to this and somehow won the race. That then led to running 100km and the epic London to Brighton ultra. 

Question Which runners really inspire you?

Answer Of course there's the top runners like Lizzy Hawker and Kilian who smash record after record, but for me it's the runners at the back of the field who inspire me the most. The ones who may be out on a course for twice the amount of time as the winner, the ones who really have to dig deep to make cut offs, the ones for whom this race isn't just a race, but it’s a huge achievement for whatever reason. These are the people that I think of when my legs are hurting or I'm feeling down because I'm running slower than what I wanted. They are the true inspiration.

Question You live in Cornwall, which is obviously hilly but doesn’t have anything like the peaks of the CCC route. How did you train for the CCC while living where you do?

Answer Cornwall is beautiful and whilst it has plenty of hills, it's nothing compared to the peaks of the Alps. I'm a mum of three small children so it’s not easy for me to go off and have a few days training in the hills like many runners are able to, or even to fit a long run in. Most of my training involves pushing my two year old around the country lanes near where I live. I didn't train specifically for the CCC, I just followed my usual routine of a couple of speed sessions, a few local races and a fair few 'buggy' miles.

Question Any aspirations to do the UTMB? Or will you go back and do the CCC again, or perhaps the TDS?

Answer It would be really hard to top this past weekend, so I think it's unlikely that I would do the CCC again. The UTMB would be an obvious choice and at some stage I would like to complete it. It's just so difficult to get an entry through the ballot system. I also have some idea now of just how hard it would be. I might have to do a bit more specific training if I wanted to have a good go at that one!

Question What’s your next big goal?

Answer I don't have any plans as yet, but at some stage I'd love to have a go at Comrades, Transvulcania, Grand Union Canal race and the Spartathlon. Better get training...and saving!


101KM / 6100M +

Men's results

1 Jordi BES (ESP) SKI GIRONA NABES 11:23:01


Women's results

1 Caroline Chaverot (FRA) Kikouroù 14:12:00
2 Mercedes ARCOS (ESP) ZAFRA UecAnoia 14:21:15
3 Delphine AVENIER (FRA)   14:45:06


Click here for results from the 2013 The North Face® Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc®, including all GBR runners!


About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 


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