Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

8th April: Claggy Exmoor.

Having re-found my marathon mojo at the start of the month whilst running down a hill in a flurry of snow I was actually looking forward to today’s run rather than just enduring it.

Hanging around in the rain.
 The fun bus is still suffering from a severe case of engine-knack so I had to borrow LSS’s somewhat smaller motor to get down to Exmoor for the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series marathon. Driving in the darkness I arrived at the Hunters Lodge event base in Heddon Valley on the stroke of midnight having seen a first for me... A Polecat! Just a half mile from my destination and one ran along the side of the country lane towards me and stopped for me to get a good look as I drove past, which was awesome!

The initial climb to the cliff tops.
Sleeping on the back-seat of a hatch-back folded like a Swiss Army knife is not the most comfortable way to spend a night pre-race and when the rain starts battering down on the roof at 4am waking you then it just adds to the ‘fun’. Having only fitfully slept from when the rain started I went to register pretty-much as soon as I could, queuing in the rain and standing in mud that was getting deeper the more people walked over it.

Running through the clag.
At the briefing I managed a brief chat with Luke and also Gareth from my running club who had made the journey down to beast himself over the terrain. Shortly after we were all gathered around in the rain and were unleashed on to the course; a figure of 8 with a westerly loop of 7 miles run first before the easterly one of 20.

A brief clearance of the clag.
The weather report had been for heavy rain all day so we were all ready for a proper soaking, with everyone to a person in a waterproof girding themselves for a damp run to say the least... Which completely threw us all when we climbed up on to the cliff-tops to find we were above the rain and just the occasional bit of low cloud and sea fog in front of us rolling up from the sea.

The stream-like path over the moors.
The air temperature was a comfortable 7 degrees or thereabouts so pretty soon everyone was overheating in their waterproofs, so like most of the field from halfway back I stopped in a sheltered spot and took mine off... But lost about 10 minutes trying to ease it into my already tightly packed camelbak so I could carry on, whilst everyone else scampered past me.

Expecting the hound of the Baskervilles to come galloping towards you.
Pretty much at the rear of the race I was now able to indulge in a rare spot of overtaking as I undulated my way along the coastal path to the furthest westerly point and the trek up on to the moors... The paths here were streams with all the rain and now being on the high exposed parts the fog was properly shrouding everything reducing visibility to around 20m... And that was about as good as it got for visibility for the next 20 miles!

Blair-Witchy woods.
The Exmoor route is a beautiful course of rugged wilderness and scenery, but today nowt of this was to be seen... I’ll say this for lack of visibility; it certainly heightens your sense of sound as you listen-out to try and figure what is around you; the sound of rodents in the undergrowth, the bleat of new born lambs somewhere distant, the gargle of a pheasant and the crash of a wave reminding you that nearby lies a cliff.

More limited visibility!
I meandered through the murk chatting with those whose paths I crossed: a couple of lads over from Jersey whose friend was really struggling in the mud through his trainers not being man-enough to cope, a Belgian expat who lives a mere 20 miles down the road from me, and eventually a lady from Devon who was getting back to trail marathons having had some bones in her foot fused!

As I hit the aid station at 17 miles having just worked my way through a bit of a ‘Blair Witch-y’ woods I saw Gareth already there trying to force himself to eat and suffering from the heavy going of the trail... We shared the next mile or so before we hit the long drag up on to the coastal path again where he disappeared off in front lost to the mist and I ploughed onwards alone.

Up on the coastal path on the descent to Lynmouth, I was able to see a sight you don't often see thanks to the conditions: the white line in the sea where the fresh water from the river estuary meets the salt water of the sea known as the 'salt wedge'.

The diagonal line of the 'salt wedge'.
Through Lynmouth we had to scale the path up to the cliff tops - part of it was blocked by a fallen tree you had to scramble under - I put my hand right onto a holly leaf doing this which was a shot of pain to the system. Once on the top it was a blast along the tarmaced path heading through the ‘Valley of the Rocks’ where I was able to have a relatively close encounter with some of the wild goats thanks to a brief gap in the fog, before it enveloped us once more and I battled on to the finish passing a lovely waterfall, crossing the line about 30 seconds after Gareth who it seemed I had been steadily reeling-in since he steamed up that hill.

A good hard workout today but not much in the way of trail-porn to picture and a whole world of difference from last year with its 20 degree heat and strong sunshine and thankfully today my trainers remained intact, unlike last year!

Something I have really started to notice of late is that I seem to eat a fraction of what I used to on these races. Today I made it around on 2.5 energy bars and a couple of gels. I put this down to changing my drink to an electrolyte+carb one rather than the previously used electrolyte only. I suspect I’m getting a blast of energy now with every sip of fluid which is helping me a lot although I am not taking-on any more fluids as a consequence. Definitely a change for the better.

Gareth in both ruin & ecstasy in a matter of seconds.
Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

No comments:

Post a Comment