Scott Jenkins secures British History with 5th place in the Triple Crown Series.
On 17th October 2023 at 4:17am, Altra Run Crew Athlete, Scott Jenkins from Penarth, Wales, living in London became the 1st Briton to secure the audacious and elusive 5th place finish of the USA based, Destination Trail Triple Crown of 200s World Series in Moab, Utah – on his 43rd birthday no less. An accolade that only 125 individuals have completed globally over the 8 year rein of the competition. To say it is not for the faint hearted would be an understatement. For context, more people have climbed Everest and ran a sub-3 hour marathon (only 4% of all finishers in each age category achieve sub-3hours) than have completed the Triple Crown of 200s.
It’s a feat that many view as impossible given the extreme distance and elevation gain of all three races, which all take place in a relatively short period of time, many don’t even comprehend attempting such a feat, yet those that do, have a higher chance of winning the lottery than finishing with an average of less than 20 finishers every year versus those who start the series annually.
However, the 2023 series is arguably the most difficult year yet and is expected to remain as that for a magnitude of reasons, let alone the fact that athletes had a mere 2.5 months to complete the gruelling series. This timescale was compounded by the fact that the Tahoe 200 race this year was moved from its regular mid June start to 21st July due to heavy snowfall making the course unsafe to run in June as it had previous years.
This meant that the turnaround time for runners was a mere 2 weeks between Tahoe and Bigfoot – unheard of in ultrarunning. For context, the GOAT of Ultrarunning, Courtney Dauwalter (who has also famously ran the Moab 240 and beat her male counterparts by over 10 hours) is hailed and rightly so for her impressive triple win at Western States, Hardrock and UTMB 100 milers this summer, ran all three of these 100 Mile races in 63 days (10 weeks), which is insane especially given she won all three. This is now known as one of the biggest ultrarunning accomplishments in decades and is classed as an unprecedented physical feat of human endurance by RUN247.
The series itself comprises of Tahoe 200 (36,857 feet of elevation gain) taking place mid June, Bigfoot 200 (47,563 feet of elevation gain) taking place mid August, and Moab 240 (29,000 feet of elevation gain) taking place mid October.
In addition to unprecedented turnaround time, the Tahoe race experienced record high temperatures for the race, given the move to July, with extreme sun exposure due to most of the race taking place between 8,000 – 10,000feet. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the Tahoe race this year topped out at a mileage of 217 instead of the planned 206. This years dropout rate is evident of just how challenging this years course was at 43%, something Jenkins attests too.
“The heat this year was unreal and saw myself being sick continuously for the first 65 miles of the race. Psychologically that was hard. I just kept thinking, I’m losing much needed calories every time I eat or drink. I’m a salty sweater (attractive) meaning a need to replace electrolytes and salts at a rate of 1340mg per hour. The nutrition is fast becoming my nemesis in these races, with myself historically always being sick the full first day of any race. It is something my coach, Jeff Browning and I have, and are, experimenting with as our wicked problem to solve.”
Two weeks later after Jenkins finished 19th out of 198 runners at Tahoe 200, he made the 700 mile drive to Randall, Washington to start Bigfoot 200 on the 11th August, working in between the races for healthcare giant, Johnson and Johnson.
“The sensitivity felt after Tahoe 200 on the soles of my feet was excruciating and unnerved me going into Bigfoot 200 knowing just how mountainous the Bigfoot terrain was. Bigfoot and I have history, having DNF’d in 2021 at mile 160 and then finishing in 2022 after a near fatal slip on the Klickatat trail, nothing was guaranteed” added Jenkins.
Bigfoot, like Tahoe, had unprecedented temperatures on the final days reaching 110F/43 degrees on the final half marathon stretch to the finish. Jenkins finished 35th out of 222 starters, and 6th out of the Triple Crown competitors in that race, ahead of Nike Athlete Sally McRae. Throughout the first half of the race, both had been leapfrogging and exchanging words of encouragement as they had done in Tahoe. Tahoe, McRae came out ahead. Bigfoot, Jenkins came out ahead.
Then just over a month later, after returning home to the UK and working his full time corporate job for Johnson & Johnson, Jenkins returned stateside to take part in the final instalment of the series, Moab 240 in Utah. The race Jenkins hails as his favourite race not only of the season and world series but of the ultramarathons he has completed, which is many. He in fact holds the British course record for the Moab 240.
“The scenery and terrain are so unique and challenges you in many different ways. You run on single track, overgrown trails, road, slick rock and climb to 11,000 feet. Being from the UK, it is unlike any landscape I’ve ever seen. I always feel transported back into the Western era ready to take on uncharted territories in the bid to see what is humanly possible. Not too dissimilar to what was achieved back then when exploring new frontiers”. Jenkins comments.
Like the other races, Moab also had some marked changes from previous years, with an additional 12 miles added to get the course closer to 240miles and saw an extra 4,000 feet of elevation gain, taking the course to having a new high point of 11,000 feet and a new elevation gain of 31,564 feet. This actually saw a higher than normal drop out rate of 44% this year with many athletes succumbing to HAPE and freezing night temperatures at elevation.
“Thankfully, in this final race, I was able to minimise my trademark sickness on day 1 to just 3 hours. My coach Jeff is a professor from my perspective in this space, and we altered from taking salt caps to emptying the salt cap content into my liquid drink mix and we utilised Vespa wasp venom to help my body utilise my body’s own fat stores for energy rather than a heavy reliance on food that seemed to keep making me sick. The result was less sickness but more so was the impact of this combination on my ability to deliver a very consistent energy level and thus pace throughout the race. This elevated my mood and I feel we have finally reached a potential solution to my nutrition issues.”
It saw Jenkins finish 14th in a time of 88hours 17minutes out of 200 starters, sandwiched between the Top 3 women finishers (all US based) of Sally McRae, Anne Tisdell and Elle Jones. This finish saw Scott Jenkins finish 5th out of 36 athletes in the Triple Crown of 200s World Series with a time of 249hours 17minutes behind Nike athlete, Sally McRae by 2hrs 35.
“It is great to see so many women now competing in ultrarunning and we know through science that over a distance of 195 miles that women often outperform men. The results at this years Moab are evident of that and I’m honoured to have competed with such strong female athletes on a level playing field. All three of them pushed me during Moab, and Sally, probably unknown to her, pushed me just as hard as my male counterparts in the triple crown series. I encourage anyone interested in competing in these distances to do it. Don’t let societal norms put you off. It is good not only for the sport and athletes but for gender equality in ultrarunning.”
This years Triple Crown series saw a drop out rate of 50% with many athletes dropping in Tahoe or Moab, testament to the gruelling impact of this years changes on runners mental, emotional and physical fortitude. What is more impressive is Jenkins slept a total of 8 hours across the 3 races.
“Once the race starts, you are on the clock. Sleep too much, you lose time that can’t be made up. Sleep too little, you’ll move too slow and hallucinate or lose your mind. I did in fact lose my mind with my pacer Ben Sheppard (from Capital Radio), and asked him to explain the meaning of life whilst I got naked to put my clothes on inside out. I have a few funny hallucination stories from Moab 240 over the years. They are funny to look back on but also scary to think of how quickly your mind can unravel due to sleep deprivation. I guess that’s why it’s used as a torture technique. I attest, it works.” stated Jenkins.
This series is certainly not for the faint hearted and despite living at sea level, Jenkins delivers an unprecedented first for the UK, finishing in the Top 5 of this years’ World Series.
As Jenkins aptly stated, “This is when you find out the true measure of yourself. When the chips are down, can you still keep pushing forward? Nothing in life is guaranteed and if the outcome was guaranteed, would the finish be as meaningful, probably not!”.
Jenkins not only pushes the very limit of human endurance and is fast becoming a household name in the 200 mile distance but is also an avid fundraiser for Operation Smile. A charity set up to offer life changing surgery in 3rd world countries to children suffering from clef deformities.
“Imagine not being able to smile when you meet someone for the first time. It is the very essence of how, we, as humans communicate and to not have the luxury of being able to do that and being ostracised as a result, is heartbreaking. For me, running allows me to do two things: make memories with friends and family whilst doing good for others.”adds Jenkins.
This year he reaches a total of 117 smiles that he has single-handed raised meaning 117 children have had the operation that will most likely change the trajectory of their lives. His goal for 2023 is to get to 135 smiles to coincide with the 35th year anniversary of Johnson & Johnson’s partnership with the charity. If you wish to donate to help him reach his target, you can do so via this website.
Triple Crown of 100 milers vs Triple Crown of 200s in days & mileage:
- 24th June Western states 100 miles. 21st July Tahoe 217miles
- 14th July Hardrock 100 miles (19 days turnaround). 11th August Bigfoot 209 miles (17 days turnaround).
- 1st September UTMB 100 miles (47 days turnaround). 13th October Moab 238 miles (59 days turnaround).
- 300 miles (63 days from start to finish) versus 664 miles (76 days).