Training went well during the build up. I was feeling good, maybe a tad over weight, well half a stone of Christmas cheer still hanging in there. Then with exactly a week to go till kick off I developed a chesty cough. It left me unable to run, I took the time and rested up instead. Come race morning I felt loads better.
|Just before the off|
We were off, I stayed near the front as Richard had said the trail narrows up very quickly for several miles. I had no real game plan just to enjoy it. I do however like to get some early miles racked up without too much pissing about. The lead group pulled ahead within the first mile, there was maybe 10 of them but the pace was too quick for me so I just let them go. I was in a gap between the leaders and the following pack so I pretty much had the trail to myself. Very soon the trail was up and down, through mud, over rocks, pretty much exactly what I'd signed up for.
|Only 99.7 miles to go|
The terrain was relentless and the decision to wear my Hokas was still up in the air, what I gained in cushioning I certainly lost in grip and stability. So much so that soon after Lizard I was bumbling along and turned my ankle right over, I sprung back it felt like my foot had been run over! Always nice. I dropped into Mullion cove and grabbed some water off a random guy. I was quite warm and the tailwind in my bottles accentuated my thirst. I climbed the hill out the cove and found my crew (wife). No hard and fast meeting places had been set with my crew as we were going to wing it and see how I was feeling on the day. I fully restocked on gels and chews, I was a few hours in and had been necking my prescribed 200 cals an hour. It's an amount through trial and error I've worked out I need so I don't bonk. Easy to do early on but it gets tougher as the race goes on. I still have a rough patch at 18 mile ish but its just trying to manage that. I was moving well around 20 mile but already felt tired, all variants of terrain were energy sapping this was going to be a real test.
|Still looking fresh|
The sun was descending fast and the light was fading fast. It wouldn't be long before the head torch would be out. I can't remember the name of it but I dropped down onto a tiny pebble beach, this really didn't seem right? I could see some sort of steps leading up the rocks on the other side so this must be the way. Only thing is you have to dodge the tide, so the waves crash into the rocks then leg it across before the next lot came crashing in. I climbed out of the cove on the other side and carried on my way. This was certainly turning into a diverse race. I'd managed to get my feet wet in the previous miles, I suffer badly if I get wet feet. They become macerated which in turn becomes eye wateringly painful. I was just getting the first signs of maceration which manifests itself as a needling pain in the balls of my feet. So I was relieved at the end of Praa Sands to see my crew again. I'd given my feet a light slather of Gurney Goo at the start but it's not water repellent enough. So I tried something new to me which was to cover my feet in talc and change to dry socks. Seems to work a treat. While I was there I loaded my pack with calories, ate some rice pudding and had a nice cup of tea.
As I left Sydney Cove my thoughts turned to how long a night was ahead. By my reckoning it would be 14hours of darkness. The trail is certainly unrelenting. My right hip, right ITB and right shin were all very sore, some of which could be attributed to my Hokas not giving me a solid base. I was certainly in pain I think the shoes combined with the terrain were causing me grief.
Darkness fell just before Marizion and after some pretty tough trail I hit the tarmac section, this was actually a relief. My crew was waiting again just up the road with a coffee, I downed it and ran straight onto Penzance. I'd started coughing as the cold air had set in. No major drama, I was just feeling a bit chesty. I stopped at the CP in Penzance and was ushered in, I really didn't want to go in but rolled with it. The soup at the previous CP had been excellent so I stood and ordered some from here. Tailwind Mick brought over some mushroom soup for me, I took a sip and did an internal gag, it was bloody awful!! No disrespect to the chef but I was retching and nearly puked it straight up.
I'm not sure why, but I downed it and vacated the pub, I was in and out of this CP within a few minutes. As I jogged up the road my stomach gurgled as the mud like soup did its rounds. That soup will scar me for life!
The other side of Newlyn my crew was waiting with an omelette from the chippy, a fucking mushroom omelette! I took a couple of big mouthfuls but the mushrooms turned my stomach again. No more!!
It was a relief to join the trail again after Mousehole. There was some good running to be had and with the stunning moon I kept switching my light off to run by the moonlight. Had the trail been less rough I would of run by moonlight alone. I was stopping quite often now to cough, big chesty coughing fits. In and out of little coves the hills were not stopping anytime soon. As soon as I rounded another headland that would lead to another cove, this beast was living up to it's name. My right knee was really grumbling now and was starting to bug me. As I went to jump across some rocks my footing slipped and I went crashing down smashing me knee. The blood ran down my shin from my knee but strangely as I tried to jog off the pain of the freshly cut skin it had taken my mind off of the ITB pain. I'd take that, good compromise.
I jogged into Lands End about 1am. 13 hours in and roughly 55miles were covered. My crew was there waiting with and knew I wouldn't be going inside the CP so had vegetable chilli and rice ready alongside a cup of tea. We stood at back of car and chatted whilst I ate, my crew needed some rest so I loaded right up with gels in my pack, put an extra layer on, talced my feet and changed my socks. All in all I was done in about 10minutes. I'd prepared mentally for the tough night ahead. It was 1am, roughly 25miles to St Ives, I should be there by daybreak. Time to crack on. How hard could it be?
My chest was now really playing up I was coughing up solid lumps and my breathing was labouring a bit. I had changed my batteries on my headlamp to lithiums so hopefully they would see me through the night. The coast here is littered with mineshafts and gorse. So if anyone should decide to cut across they would either get shredded or eaten by a mineshaft. Stick to the paths! The going up to Pendeen was okay, tough but manageable. I don't remember running too much, every time I got a few strides together it was broken by some sort of obstacle. I bumped into a few Arc Angels en route to Pendeen and topped up on Coke and water. The coughing was now full on and I'd developed a pain right through my leg. I convinced myself that all the uneven terrain had broke my leg. I was at a bit of a low, energy levels had remained good so far but the terrain was taking it's toll. The next 13miles was some of the most brutal I have experienced. Hills, rocks, mud and near impossible to follow trails. At some point on this section 2 runners came from behind. They weren't hanging about. "Don't mind us we're not in the race, we are delivering a banana." then every 100metres or so I'd catch them up with then frantically checking their map. The path was so hard to follow I was grateful for my GPS. We switched places and I put the banana deliverers on track a few times. Until we dropped into a cove one more time, they decided not to follow me anymore. I never saw them again and am still questioning whether it had actually happened??
|Leaving the Dunes|
I hobbled off the trail and my crew was waiting with tea, porridge and fresh supplies. I couldn't believe what I'd just been through. Another sock change and fresh layer of talc. Just those few minutes with a bit of hot food and pampered feet were enough to re-motivate me. I was still convinced my leg was broke so I kind of expected I'd be power walking the last 20 miles but I'd come this far backing out wasn't an option. Time to push on. I still hadn't really bonked but had some real fatigue issues going on. Yes the terrain was tough but my shortness of breath really wasn't helping. I'd come into this event wanting to go sub 30 because that seemed a pretty good target but deep down I knew I was capable of 24 hours. 24 was certainly gone now but I still had 8 hours to do the last 20ish miles for sub 30 so that was my motivation now.
I marched into town and went the long way round missing the obvious cut through, soon enough though I arrived at the CP and was met by Fergy who kindly offered to lead me inside. I declined explaining that if I was going to have to march it in I'd better get going. It was also a good opportunity to get a head start on the other competitors who were able to run! I left town and was soon faced with an estuary which we had to go round. This was very counter intuitive and despite my gps and the sign posts leading the way I was convinced I was going the wrong way. After a couple of miles of head scratching I eventually came back on myself and was the other side of the estuary and about to embark ng on the Dunes of doom!
|Thank God that's over|
Rounding Godrevy point the coast was typically Cornish and rugged again. The path wasn't too bad and I was able to switch from power walking to jogging to shuffling but mainly shuffling. Over the this section the following 3 runners became the followed as they eased past me. They looked so fresh and I felt so shit. I entered Portreath with a bit of newly found vigour the thought of nearly finishing was spuring me on. I grabbed my other stick off my crew and headed up the hill out of the village, my vigour ebbed away and was quickly replaced with the fatigue, my breathing was really laboured and my quads were jelly. This was a battle. I hiked the steep path and rejoined the coastal path. I was passed again and again even on this short section. There was a couple of really steep descents and ascents and my quads were a wobbly mess but I was making the best of it. It occurred to me at this point that I hadn't spent any of the race with anyone else. From mile 1 I had been alone for the whole race. Apart from being passed and passing others it had been a very lonely event. I was now in 11th place and thinking back I probably entered the trailhead in about 11th place.
|Not my best look|
|Nice bit of bling|
Next up for me is Western States, after all these years of trying I'm finally getting my shot. Training starts early March and I will be in the shape of my life. There is a silver buckle with my name on it!