Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

23rd May: Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series - Flete

The Seven P’s of wisdom are a long held belief in certain circles:

‘Perfect Planning & Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance’

Coming in to today’s Endurancelife CTS Flete Marathon I was pretty sure I was lacking on the first 3 which would result in the latter 3!.. Aside from galavanting around my village dressed as an ostrich last weekend, I’ve done pretty much diddly-squat in the way of running since the Pendine ultra a good 7 weeks ago through my trapped nerve, working late and my va-va-voom in general va-vamoosing when it came to going out running or cycling. Nonetheless I braved the traffic (jams on the A303 at almost midnight believe it or not) and traipsed on down to the Flete estate accompanied by Pop Will Eat Itself’s ‘Wise Up Suckers’ for a day spent on the normally closed-to-the-public trails between Mothecombe and Bigbury-on-Sea.

This event runs on the timetable of the tides with the crossing of the estuary a part of all the different courses: the 10k, 1/2 Marathon, full marathon and ultra. To fit in with the way mother nature was running, the start to today’s run was going to be much later than normal with the marathon commencing at 11 in the morning, a time when we are normally about halfway through!

Stupidly when packing I had paid dutiful attention to the area's weather forecast which said a maximum of 13 degrees celsius and overcast throughout the day, so upon awaking by the race-base I found it to be beautiful sunshine with a lovely late spring warmth to the day already and my sunscreen left at home! At least I had my ‘Il Pirata’ hat to cover my thinning barnet and prevent the worst excesses of the sun from affecting me.

With the later start to proceedings today the pressure for time was off, so I was able to grab a snooze in the back of the van after a spot of brekkie whilst I awaited the registration to open and the briefings to be held.

Parked next to me was a people-carrier with a couple of runners who between them must have the highest mileage to get to the start of one of these CTS races: they may have only driven down from London for today’s run, but they hail from California and Sydney!

Being briefed.
We had the briefing under the blue sunlit sky in the field where as part of it we were given the customary kit warning. On the CTS races you are expected to carry certain items with you for ‘in case of emergencies’, essentially to help to safeguard yourself should something unfortunate happen to you. Last year I was pulled for a random inspection upon finishing here, so this year I made doubly sure that I had everything with me, including a jacket - even though it was obvious that it would not be needed today! In the briefing I found today’s course was differing from both previous times I have run it… Like two years ago we would be running the western side of the course before hitting the east, only this time we would be circling the eastern side in an anti-clockwise direction.

Crossing the beach before the hills start in earnest.
All gathered together we were sent on our merry way down the hill a half mile before climbing up on to the coastal path - where the humidity hit me. In no time I was sweating like Michael Jackson on Sesame Street, although as we headed inland it did seem to ease-off a little bit.

The view from the cliff-top path.
On this inland stretch I was caught by Rory Coleman who was pacing one of his client’s around his first marathon, the culmination of one of Rory's bespoke tailored training programmes, so I took the chance to have a chat with him.

Being caught by 'Coach Coleman'.
Rory is one of the premier endurance running coaches in the country (he would probably say the world as well, and there’s no doubt he can claim to be right up there!) when it comes to getting people prepared and through endurance events. This is based largely on his personal experience of having gone from an overweight chain-smoking booze-hound to achieving what most of us mortals would only dream of doing when it comes to running distances and setting records… He knows what works and what doesn’t through his experience and is able to push people to achieve what they want to by knowing truly what is feasible. I thought I would take the advantage of asking him about his experiences and what it was like for one of his most recent challenges: Helping Sir Ranulph Feinnes finish this year’s Marathon des Sables.

Looking back from whence we came.
It was interesting to hear his take on what separates the likes of Ranulph Fiennes and James Cracknell from the rest of us mortals. According to Rory, the difference between them and us is they have no off button. To them there is no such thing as failure; it simply is not an option. In fact, they have wired their brains in a certain way to believe that even death is preferable to failure. As such they have developed a mental ability to go further, push harder, travel beyond what would normally be thought as achievable. The flip-side is that this makes them inherently dangerous to themselves and others in the wrong situation as they will not stop and can lead others astray with them, especially those who are perhaps not as physically able to absorb the punishment that they can take through the years they have put their bodies through the mincer!

Leaving behind Rory and his client I was relieved to hit the first checkpoint as I knew this next part was going to be the easiest part of the course, heading up and round the Erme estuary.

Running on the trail above the estuary, surrounded by bluebells and wild garlic in bloom, with one breath you could really smell the garlic aroma stirred on the gentle breeze and then with the next breath your nostrils were assailed by the stench of rotting seaweed! Having said that, from this elevated position of the run I was able to watch as a pair of Avocets flew past - a bird I have never before seen in the wild.

The mudflats of the estuary below.
Through CP2 and we were running along the other side of the estuary in the cool shade of the woodland path. The race organisers, Endurancelife, encourage us all to pick at least one piece of litter on the run and by the side of the path I saw what I thought was a police hi-viz vest at first glance, but turned out to be one of these fellas! so I appropriated this as my piece.

Out of the cool woodland we were back on to the coastal path, where we were to continue around in the opposite direction to 2013 and do the hard work of the hills first. In the heat of the midday sun my running mojo well and truly deserted me and I found each and every one of these energy sapping climbs a major chore.

Approaching a still distant Bigbury,
On one of the particularly steep ones I decided to stop for a break for a breakfast bar and slurp down a gel. Looking back at where I had come from I was able to watch in amusement as a fellow runner attempted to bum-slide down the particularly steep slope, only to give up and slowly shuffle her way down towards me… Soon I was joined by Viv as she began the ascent of the next hill on which I was resting and from the look on her face she was really suffering. Naturally I offered her a gel to try and help her through this ascent, which she could see was a good idea.. And as Viv joined me in taking a breather here we were caught by another runner, Waldemar.

The tiny spec of red near the top is Viv as she makes her way down the hillside.
As Waldemar approached, through gasps of breath in his strong Polish accent, he laughed at my (‘Eat Pies’) shirt and asked me what ‘pies’ are. I explained to him exactly what a pie is, and he laughed again before replying: ‘In Poland 'pies', pronounced ‘pee-ez’ is dog, your shirt tells me to ‘eat dog’… Are you sponsored by a chinese restaurant?’ and carrying on chucking away he was off.

Soon recovered Viv and myself resumed the advance along the course and she soon left me in her wake over the remaining 3 hills we had left to conquer before the next aid-station at Bigbury. Coming out of the aid station we had a jog across the beach which was fairly packed with holidaymakers enjoying a day in the sun. With our path so close to the water it seemed a good opportunity to cool-off and I knelt in it, planting my hands in to lower the temperature of my blood.

It seemed rude not to take the opportunity to cool-off here!
As I was doing so, Viv passed me, having previously beem overtaken by me going through the the aid station, and we continued together for what turned out to be the rest of the run as moral support.

Heading upwards and inland.
The trail meandered across country lanes, fields and woodland as we headed upwards and inland continuing the loop back to the Erme estuary - bumping into Viv’s husband on the way and very kindly giving me a bottle of wonderfully chilled water and some pain killers to tide me over the last few miles until we reached the river bank and the crossing of the ankle-deep body of water. After a good splash through to the other side, all that remained was the last killer mile and a half of uphill slog to the finish where we crossed the line together.

Viv reluctantly splashing her way across the Erme.
Finishing near the back of the pack, most of the runners had already packed and left as I picked-up my finishers medal and complementary Cliff bar. This year I was not checked for kit, not that it would have mattered with carrying all the requisite items with me, and I was soon able to crash-out in the shade by the van and recover with my scotch eggs and protein shake. Yes I was slightly disappointed with my slow time, although not entirely surprised by it but also relieved to have dragged my arse to the finish line. Note to self: get said arse out and do something in between the races that might constitute some form of training to help prepare yourself for these runs, especially as the 7P’s are known to be true!

Oh well… Hindsight is always 20/20

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

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