A long run along the coast path before breakfast, but the Full English awaiting at the end certainly tasted good.
A long run along the coast path before breakfast, but the Full English awaiting at the end certainly tasted good.
Apologies that the mobile phone photo above is a bit wonky…when I took it, I had been running for about 30 miles and I was half asleep. In fact, I was so tired that I had to repeatedly fight the urge to curl up in a ball beneath a hedge and doze. Anyway, the photo shows St Catherine’s Point Lighthouse on the southern tip of the Isle of Wight. I was taking part in a two-day ultramarathon around the Island, following the hilly 70 mile length of the coast path. Why did I want to sleep so much? Probably because I’d only had three hours of sleep during the night before…
At dawn on the day before the event, I was actually out kayaking at the Western Rocks of the Isles of Scilly…pretty much the nearest point of England to America, out in the Atlantic. The bottom pic shows Bishop Rock Lighthouse, of which more in a future blog post. Anyway, to get from the Isles of Scilly to the Isle of Wight involved a ferry which brought us (wife, daughter and myself) back to mainland Cornwall late in the evening, followed by a four hour drive home to drop them off, followed by a quick gear re-shuffle, followed by an hour drive to catch a 4 am ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight. I snatched a few zeds in the back of the car on the ferry and after arriving at the event base, but fair to say, I wasn’t exactly in optimum physical condition by this point. That’s before we factor in the serious lack of training beforehand…
Day #1 was a 38 mile run from Cowes to Brighouse, heading clockwise around the Island. The start involved a ride on the chain ferry across the Medina River…at the moment the ferry touched ground, we all burst out running. It was all very Saving Private Ryan, and indeed through the short crossing I had to close my eyes and compose myself to prevent myself from vomiting with nerves and exhaustion. The early miles were surprisingly grim, with few views of the coast and lots of my least favourite running surfaces, concrete and tarmac. Things improved when we ran along various holiday resort seafronts, but it was still all hard surfaces, and it was hot. We all had numerous unintended detours (you’d think it would be easy to follow a coast path), which was also sapping on morale. I also realised I was seriously out of my league…for a while I was running with a guy who’d just rowed the Atlantic, I’m fairly sure that some of the muscle-bound guys I ran with for a while did Special Forces-type stuff for their day jobs, and at one point it emerged that I was the only person in the group around me who hadn’t done the Marathon Du Sables! All very intimidating. Several thousand yachts competing in the annual Round The Island Race passed us by, but I was too tired to remember to take a photo. Oh well, take my word for it; it was an impressive spectacle.
Thankfully, as day #1 wore on the running improved vastly, with natural trails winding along cliff tops following the southern shores of the Island. This is what I’d come for, and it was worth the wait. To be honest, I was staggering rather than running now, but the scenery helped me to resist the urge to pull over and sleep. I reached the finish of day #1 after about 7 hours 45 mins (surprisingly, this placed me 20th…I’d assumed I was one of the stragglers), put my tent up and slept for an hour. My alarm woke me for dinner, which I ate with relish, then I returned to my tent and slept for another ten hours, non-stop.
The 32 miles of day #2 were relatively easy by comparison, and hence make for less interesting reading! A good nights’ sleep made all the difference to my energy levels and motivation. My legs improbably still functioned well enough to allow me to enjoy what I’d come to do; namely, to run off-road trails along scenic coast…and there was an endless supply of this, with tarmac stretches few and far between. The cliffs of Tennyson Down and the Needles were a highlight, but frankly it was all good. The run took me about 6 hours 20 mins I think, but I haven’t seen my final time or position…as soon as I’d crossed the finish line I drove to the ferry (blistered feet are sore when applied to accelerator pedals) to get a head start on the journey home…
That’s the longest I’ve ever run (to put it mildly) and XNRG made this challenge possible and accessible. My thanks to them for organising a fantastic event!
*Edit* I’ve just seen the final results…as far as I can make out, I placed about 16th on day #2 and 19th overall. I can’t complain…
Approaching Swanage Bay at the end of a seventeen mile dawn run along the coast path, yesterday. The cloud and haze were quickly dispersing, promising a gorgeous sunny breakfast on the seafront with Mrs R and Baby R. All good.
No blog posts as of late, because things have been somewhat busy on the work and life front. I missed the bank holiday weekend due to work (I took a group of students to Belgium and France, hence the pseudo-arty mobile phone pic of Bruges below) and the following weekend was my daughter’s first birthday…it turns out that these things are on a par with the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in terms of organisation and logistics involved. All good, though, and I might just have squeezed a quick paddle and also a splendid MTB ride in when Mrs R had her back turned.
Still busy this weekend too, indeed I was stuck in work all day today. But the good news is that I spent part of yesterday patching up my sea kayak, with next weekend in mind…we are heading off to the Isles of Scilly! A break is much deserved I feel, and if all goes to plan I will end the holiday week by heading straight from Cornwall to the Isle of Wight and attempting something silly. Nothing can go wrong.
Crossing the finish line of my first ‘duathlon’ yesterday, held in nearby Wareham Forest…a four mile trail run followed by four laps of a mountain bike course (c12 miles), followed by a couple more miles of running.
Dubious fitness aside, my performance was marred by considerable incompetence; a few hundred metres into the run my gels all ejected from of my back pocket forcing me to run back up the trail stooping and dodging other runners, my bike gears wouldn’t shift on demand (should probably clean it occasionally), I broke every single rule on the ‘changeovers’ (e.g. apparently when you take your helmet off is a big deal, but at least they didn’t disqualify me) and I’m even not 100% sure I went the correct route on the final run.
Loved every single moment.
Thanks to TriPurbeck for organising this awesome event.
Not getting much paddling done lately; all plans made get scrapped due to duff weather. I did however go for a run on Sunday, though. ‘A Coventry Way’ is a 40 mile route around the Midland industrial city where I grew up. Well, it used to be industrial … the route passes by a number of disused former colleries and car plants, I wonder whatever happened to them?
Most of the route passes through pleasant countryside and along canals and disused railways, although there are some slightly grim bits through housing estates, suburbs and along dual carriageways and the like…you never forget that you’re in the Midlands for long! My performance was distinctly sub-par. Given recent activity, I should have been able to run the first 30 at least, and this was my plan. However my knees gave out after 20, and I simply could not run another step…so I ‘power-walked’ the final 20 and missed my target time of 8 hours by 15 minutes. No idea whether the joint soreness was due to the high incidence of tarmac on this route, or whether I strained something two weeks ago, or whether I was just being wimpy.
My thanks to the organisers of this event; the route was excellently way-marked, the directions supplied were also excellent, and the welcome and food at checkpoints was much appreciated.
Feeling toasty warm and full of beans*, 57 miles into this last weekend’s run.
I have lots of sea paddling plans for the coming week, whether any of them come to actual fruition is entirely dependent upon whether or not the bitter easterly winds depicted above, finally choose to relent…
* Irony may apply here.
I had no idea how my legs would respond to a second trail marathon in two days, having never done anything of the sort before and having done no special training or preparation (in fact, almost no training or preparation). Somewhat surprisingly, they were just fine and I found that I was able to run pretty comfortably. That said, opportunities to ‘run’ were in limited supply, due to numerous insanely steep hills and deep mud everywhere. A couple of hours in, I was amused to hear another entrant wail, “I came here to run! I just want to run!”.
The route was from Lulworth Cove to Shell Bay, along the South West Coast Path; a direct continuation of yesterday’s 27.7 mile route from Weymouth to Lulworth, via Portland Bill. As if the hills on the coast weren’t enough today, landslips on the SWCP forced a major diversion a long way inland and up 682 feet Swyre Head…I didn’t mind much though, this being pretty much my favourite place. This pushed the final distance up to about 30 miles and 5000 feet-ish of climb, stretching my definition of a ‘marathon’ somewhat. I managed to add another half mile or so by taking a wrong turn…so much for my local advantage!
I enjoyed it! My legs held up remarkably well throughout, although I had a mental and physical hissy fit practically within sight of the finish. The final few miles were along the sand of Studland Beach. I told myself that – having made it this far with a degree of dignity – I was going to run the whole beach non-stop, no walking. However a biting cold Force 5-6 headwind made it pretty slow, gruelling and painful, and eventually I started hallucinating that the beach was sloping uphill…weird I know, but that is what I kept seeing. I knew this was nonsense, and tried to ignore it. I eventually simply could not run another step and was forced to walk (numerous other runners were overtaking me already) and I realised that I’d let myself get into a bad way. I forced a couple of disgusting gels into my mouth, and was soon able to run again, for the last mile as far as the finish at least.
Well, the total for me was about 58 miles and c8000 feet of ascent over two days, taking about 12 and a quarter hours. Pleased as I am to have survived, I mustn’t forget for a moment that most of my fellow runners had knocked off a particularly brutal extra trail marathon the day before I arrived…incredible, puts my efforts into perspective.
Thanks to Votwo for a great event…I don’t know who was making the chocolate cake, but that’s what kept me going for two days.
The Jurassic Coast Challenge is an epic three day event along (you guessed it) the Jurassic Coast, running a marathon(ish) length each day along the South West Coast Path. I had to go to work yesterday, so wasn’t able to attempt Day #1 from Charmouth to Weymouth. I ran most of this stretch a few weeks back but my run pales next to what the entrants faced yesterday; torrential rain and gale force headwinds, making for outrageously tough conditions. Hence, when I had a crack at Day #2 today (Weymouth to Lulworth via Portland Bill), I had to keep my whingeing to a minimum as the vast majority of folk I was running alongside had had it much much worse yesterday…and yet were somehow still fresh and fit today.
At the end of 27.7 miles, 4000 feet of climbing and 5 and a half muddy hours of slithering and staggering, I was not feeling fresh and fit. I honestly have no idea if I’ll be able to get down the stairs tomorrow morning, let alone run from Lulworth to Sandbanks. I am however morbidly curious to see how it pans out…
Walking the local cliffs with my little girl for company, yesterday.
This weekend, I’ll be trying to run two trail marathons in two days along this coast.
Trudging along the shingle of Chesil Beach during last weekend’s run, I had a flash of recognition when I saw this pillbox, sinking into the pebbles. In 1997, when my wife and I first paddled the length of the Dorset coast, we slept a night in this pillbox. It was one of the few times in my life where I had no idea where I was; we’d paddled in pea soup fog all day (Chesil Beach is a dull paddle at the best of times…) and when we landed, couldn’t find any landmarks or buildings to fix our position on the map. One bit of Chesil Beach looks pretty much like any other…
The view above is the one which confronted me at 9 am yesterday, early in a long coastal run. The big hill is Golden Cap. Golden Cap happens to be the highest point on the south coast of England, at 627 feet. Due to the recent rain, it was a slippy scramble up it, and a somewhat hair-raising slippy descent down it. It was a fine run though, taking in some breathtaking scenery which I’ve mostly only seen from a kayak before.
I expected this LDWA event to be a straightforward training run, compared to last week’s marathon. I didn’t count upon getting lost a few times (the route was unmarked, and one tree looks pretty much like another), having to run an extra two miles beyond what was expected, and above all…a heinous series of soul-sucking swamps, all along the eastern side of the New Forest; check out the jagged blue line above. I staggered in a full hour beyond what I expected, not my finest performance.
In a few weeks’ time I’m taking part in the Jurassic Coast Challenge*. I think I might wind it back a bit now. Having done a couple of marathons without any training at all, it strikes me that it might be a good idea to now do some actual normal training…run more often, and much less mileage.
*Notwithstanding the usual illness/ injury/ acts of God which interfere with my plans for major events…