Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Sunday, 24 March 2013

10th February: 3 of 12

Learning from the lessons of the Pembrokeshire CTS and the previous runs, off I drove to South Devon after another day's work, thankfully without risk of snow or postponement.

The drive was pretty uneventful till I got in to the depths of Devon at around chucking-out time from the pubs and some nutter carrot-cruncher tree surgeon decided to drive home from the pub several sheets to the wind… He pulled on to the road two cars in front of me, forcing us all to stamp on our brakes to avoid a pile-up. As he drove off erratically: very fast then very slow over both sides of the road, and the occasional verge. The 2 cars in front of me pulled-off at different points leaving me for several miles following directly behind him, at a very safe distance, until he eventually pulled off the road with a slamming of brakes and a cloud of dust into a side-road.

I arrived at the village of Beesands where the start was at around midnight and pulled-up in what I thought would be the car-park for the event. I emerged to stretch my legs and have a brief survey of the place, what little I could see in the darkness. At least it was not too cold and I made my bed in the back of the car and hunkered down for the night, illuminated every 30 seconds or so by the beam of the Start Point lighthouse.

Kelv had suggested a change in my sleeping arrangements to make things a little more comfortable. With driving an Espace its pretty spacious inside, so with me travelling alone he suggested taking out all the seats bar one in the back so as there would be enough room for an air-bed. With this extra comfort and wrapped up in a sleeping bag under a duvet I got a decent night's kip as you can in the back of a car with my legs fully outstretched.

I woke up on a flat airbed with the dawn and breakfasted on flap jacks and a cup of coffee to wash them down, changed under the blankets and sauntered off to the registration marquee. 

The marquee

Queuing by torchlight to register!

 Learning my lessons from the last race I had decided to take the option of the early start with the ultra runners that is open to those of us who are going to be slow finishers. It seemed that a fair chunk of the marathoners had had the same idea as me and around 50 of us boosted the numbers of the ultra runners.

The safety briefing (which this time did not warn of fatalities on the path) informed us of an enforced change of the route due to a massive land-slide close to the path that had closed the coastal path for all users as there was a risk that the path may follow the cliff seawards, but apart from that it was much the same as the briefing for the Pembrokeshire, then it was the limbo of killing time before the off.

The view south along Beesands

And north to Start Point

I spent the time taking a few photos of us all milling-around. Did my kit check and then gathered with the others at the start line, be-hatted and be-gloved.

Milling around

And we were off… The start here was flat and along Beesands we ran westwards out of the village and up the hill on to the coastal path. The pace was one that I was comfortable with and I was comfortably sitting in the middle of the pack. Once on to the coastal path and out of sight of the marquee the tactic that most (bar the keen racers going for the win) seemed to employ was to walk up the steep and longer hills to conserve energy, so I did this as well. The stretch along to the Start Point lighthouse that had blinked at me throughout the night was fairly easy going being a mettled track for access to it. It was a pity we did not get to run to the lighthouse and round it, but the official path was not going that way :(

The lighthouse at Start Point.

A nice easy path to follow and jog

 The trail beyond Start Point then narrowed to barely wider than a foot's width and rocky at times, to the point you run looking at the ground a few metres in front of you to see where you are putting your feet to avoid turning an ankle or stumbling - something I did a few times putting thorns from the rough spiky plants into my hands each time so had to pull them out as I ran.

Looking back.

Right turn

The diversion took us in land and onto the foot of possibly the most evil of hills I have ever seen, The gradient seemed to be 1 in 2! The whimpers from those hardened ultra runners could be heard as everybody was reduced to the slowest of slow scrambles up it - the grass was slick with moisture and mud underfoot. At this point I could feel my heart thumping trying to escape my chest and my pulse rising and rising, so I sat down and had a rest for a bit to allow it to return to normal before being on my way again!

Gives a small idea of the evil nature of the hill!

After traversing a couple of muddy fields we were back on to the coastal path again.

The track here necessitated the occasional scramble and clamber over rocky parts which allowed for breathers.

I believe this is known as 'technical trail'!

As a consequence there was no real opportunity for overtaking should it arise and I found myself running with a couple of other competitors, one of whom was the man who founded Endurancelife, the company who organised the event and said that we are to blame him for all of the madness. I pointed out to him that it probably is not wise confessing this next to people whilst running along a cliff's edge!

As the path widened as we went around the headland towards the first checkpoint off they disappeared in to the distance and I was left all on my todd, feeling the burn having run for a good 10 miles by this point, a fair amount of it haggis running which was putting a lot of strain on my left ankle through the direction of the run being clockwise around the hills.

Haggis section!
Miles of path!
One of the many beautful bays.
 To take my mind off this I put on the iPod, hit shuffle and the first track up was Body Moving by the Beastie Boys re-mixed by Fatboy Slim which lifted me straight away and off I jogged to the first checkpoint.

The cut-off for the ultra's had been set at 5 hours 20 and it was obvious from most of the runners that with how heavy-going the track was under foot that they were for the most part not going to make the cut-off, so many were resigned to just completing a marathon rather than the ultra and naturally quite disappointed, although we were informed that they would most likely extend the time to beyond 6 hours based on the arrival time for people at this half-way checkpoint.

The next section was inland up hills and across mud-soaked fields running with water before doubling back on to the coastal path and the haggis running again, but this time anticlockwise to even-up the wear and tear on my other ankle! In the woodland trails you could see all the snowdrops poking through the ground, a sign that around here at least of spring springing and off to checkpoint 3 where we caught-up with the half marathoners who were at the half-way stage of their race and a lot more sprightly than us.

Upon leaving the Checkpoint we went back down the evil hill, which was just as slow to get down as it was to get up as you risked falling over if you did anything other than sidestep down it, and I lost my trainer in a mud-field so had to put it back on with a soaking mud clarted sock which made me fear for a bit of chaffage as the race progressed.

The next section was pretty uneventful for the scenery, plenty of woody paths between fields and across more fields until the descent back on to the coast by Check Point 4 on Slapton Sands. This last few miles was long and flat through the sandy grasses on the lagoon's side to Torcross Point.

Just as you enter the village, coming off the spit that forms the lagoons, you pass an old American tank parked by the car park. This is a memorial to the near 1,000 Americans who died in the ill-fated and top-secret 'Exercise Tiger' practice landing for D-Day.

This tank is one of those that were sunk in the tragedy and was recovered to stand as a memorial to those lost in the tragic event, something that was kept secret until after the war due to the sheer scale of the disaster.

In Torcross Point and it was up the cliff-steps, over the hill and down the other side in to Beesands and the finish… Time wise It was not good, but much better than the Pembrokeshire one and I finished about 3/4 of the way down the field, so I was very happy with that as my goal was to have a much stronger run than before and finish as far from the end as I possibly could!

And off I trotted in to the sea for my recovery shakes and scotch eggs - You will struggle to find more pure protein in food than a boiled egg encased in sausage meat!


After drying off and changing I treated myself to a pint of the local Otter beer in the Cricket Inn.

A just reward :)

Just the small matter of a 4 hour drive home and that was that...

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