Wednesday 11 February 2015

Chasing Friends and Racing - Arc of Attrition

Being very lucky enough to have great friends who also run ultra marathons does have draw backs, I say draw backs but it's not in a bad way! This weekend just gone 6th Feb 2015 I had a few friends running the inaugual Arc of Attrition 100 mile Cornish Coastal trail race. The AoA is an event created by Mud Crew, who already having successes with other event such as "The Dark", "R.A.T Race" and "The Scrooge", so going by those events, AoA wasn't going to be easy and it sure will be awesome. So my friends running in the event was Matt Bisco, Luke Elliott, Vicky Saunders and Mark Evans. I planned to follow and support Matt and Luke as much as I possibly could from the go. However living in Plymouth and having to wait for the wife to finish work to look after the boy (he had a friend's birthday party on the Saturday so couldn't come with me on the Friday) meant I couldn't leave and get down for the very start. So I aimed to hit the first CP to cheer and support them into and out again. Vicky had her own support crew so, I was able to do give her support from a far and allowed me to deal with the others. Mark unfortunately didn't have a support crew and after 20 miles on the tough first section, had to pull out (still an awesome effort). He wasn't the only one and the first section claimed a few victims. What you have to bare in mind is you had to qualify for this event, you couldn't just enter. So all the runners were accomplished ultra runners through various previous events. So that left me with Matt and Luke to support along the way.

I arrived at CP1 in good time, very lucky I have an Impreza so was able to get down quickly (of course at the speed limits) in time. The first CP was in the Harbour Inn in Porthleven. Which was 24 ish miles from the Start which was at Coverack on the South Coast Of Cornwall. Anyone who knows the Cornish Coast will know how tricky the those coastal trails are especially at night! I arrived and the mud crew CP team were all set up ready to go, the rugby was on in the other side of the pub (unfortunately Wales losing to England put a slight downer on the weekend), so I could hear the game from the otherside of the pub as I waited for them to arrive.

The weather was good outside, be it cold but there was only a slight breeze (compared to normal Cornish weather) and it was dry at least. The first two runners arrived in good time. Looking fresh and hungry to get on, they didn't hang about. Matt soon followed with a grazed knee where he had lost his footing skipping on the rocks, he was still good to go. He smashed some pasta and soup down him provided by the Pub and off he went. Crewing for Matt was his better half Cassy and his Mum (his mum has smashed in some ultra events and still does!). Soon not long after Luke came in full of energy. I helped fill is water bladder up and get him sorted, along with his Mum and Step Dad, who was his crew. I was soon waving him off as well! Into my car and off I went to the next point where it was accessible to support them from. Obviously driving I couldn't keep any eye on my tracker (I totally forgot I could access the internet through my stereo doh!). I got to Praa Sands car park where the route goes through. With no phone signal I awaited for Matt to come through. However I noticed some runners who were behind Matt at CP1 come pass me. "oh bollocks" I thought I've missed him! I had no access to the tracker to check so I didn't want to miss him at the next one I moved one. However little did I know he had got a little lost on route and he was over taken. In the dark along the route there are a few paths you could take and it's so easy to take the wrong one and add extra miles on. As long as you keep the sea on the left, you won't be too far off though. At one point, I thought Matt had taken high ground so he could get his bearings but I don't think that was the case. I made it to Marazion, nr Penzance as I know the area and knew I would be far enough ahead not to miss them.

The car park is also a well known dogging car park, so when I parked up I had to becareful about how I used my lights. Tonight was defo not the night to get involved in anything especially as I didn't want to miss them running past! Sure enough, with phone signal and being able to track them again, Matt came to the carpark. His support crew was there, read with an array of goodies in the boot of thei vehicle for Matt to choose from before he carried on his way. Matt, mentioned he became bored. I informed him Luke wasn't too far behind and he seemed to enjoy the thought his friend wasn't too far behind and he may wait for him at CP2. Matt went on his way, his crew followed and I waited for Luke. I was still keeping an eye on Vicky who was further back but still going very strong. Her crew must have been doing a great job. Soon enough Luke's head torch came around the corner and got out to meet him. I ran with him for a 100 yards or so, that way he didn't have to slow down but I could speak to him. I informed him how far Matt was and that Matt was thinking about waiting for him. With the fullish moon out glowing away St Michael's Mount in the bay set off a great back drop for such an event. With Luke heading off into the distance and into Penzance on his way to Mousehole CP2, I jumped in my car and drove to Mousehole, occassionally passing some of the previous runners further ahead. I soon got to Mousehole, which if you don't know it, it is a small fishing village. I managed to park up, just behind Matt's support crew vehicle as we awaited for him to arrive.

The CP2 was in the little pub called the Ship's Inn. Now this is a little pub and because of that only officials and runners could go inside. Supporters and crew had to pretty much stay outside. I did however briefly get inside and saw another runner I knew, whom I met during Hope24 ultra in Plymouth. Richard Keefe won that event beating Matt by 1 lap, I managed to have a brief chat with Richard and he was looking good, he did mention his quads were starting to feel it now but otherwise ok. He had managed to tag along with some other runners which helped him along. So outside then I waited for Matt, and not too long after he arrived. He briefly popped into CP2 before going to his support vehicle. He took a few minutes rest inside the vehicle whilst he could and got a much needed cuddle off Cassy. He decided that Luke can catch him up as it was more fun that way and soon went back on his travels. About 15/20 minutes later Luke turned up, it was now about 3.45am ish! I quickly made sure Luke was good and told him I was off to get a few hours kip whilst I could. Luckily my parents live in Redruth so didn't have to far to go. I made it home not long after about 4.30am ish. Before I went to sleep I checked the tracker about all of them including Vicky were still going. Off to dream land I went!

With a a few hours sleep, I was soon back on it. I had to decide my next course of action. I was racing my self later that day back in Plymouth in a night race, so I had to leave at some point in time to get back for that. I thought about how well they were doing up until I left them that early morning so went to St Ives CP4 leaving out CP3. CP3 was all the way down in Sennen, which is in deep, deep Cornwall. To be honest, it's well known for it's inbreeding down those parts so thought best keep away haha! So I arrived in St Ives, and met up with a one of my best mates who has volunteered to run CP4 based in the Lifeboat Inn, St Ives. So I had company at least at this one as I awaited for the runners to arrive. Again the pub was providing hot food for the runners, if they wanted it. So to try and have the food ready for the runners when they arrived Craig went up the route through the town ready to speak to the runners so he could phone back to the CP to speak to another volunteer to order the food in advance. It was a good plan! I went with Craig so I could carry on catching up with him, as I no longer get to see him as much since I moved to Plymouth. We waited at the point the runners should come through. We kept an eye on the tracker in CP so knew when they were due through. Craig was one the phone to the CP being told they should be there any second. We looked and we couldn't see them. Luckily I had turned around and noticed they had come down the sea front via a slightly different point. Craig dashed off, luckily he is a quick runner and caught them to get their order. From that point on when ever we went out to meet the runners we made sure we covered all directions they could come from just incase. The 2 leaders were on fine form and well ahead of the others.

Looking at them you wouldn't have thought they had run that distance already! Soon Richard Keefe arrived in 3rd place, closey followed by the 4th placed runner Mark Walker. They been having a close battle since CP3 along the hardcore section of Sennen to St Ives. You know it's hardcore when the leaders took at one point and hour and half to do 1 mile! Unfortantely Matt and Luke hadn't made it to CP4 by the time I had to leave, but they were together and keeping each other going. They had dropped a few places, but still going strong. So off I went back to Plymouth to run Night Race.

"The Night Run" was a nice little off road race in Plymvalley organised by the National Trust. Good value for money event and they arrange 12 of them through out the country during the year. It was my first run since recovering from illness, so felt it a little bit. However, I completed it, and as the wife and boy were marshalling the fun run version, they were ready to go by time I finished. All 3 of us flew back down to Cornwall, hoping to catch them before they finished. With a watchful eye on the tracker we knew this was going to be possible! The guys were on their way to Gwithian, and they were flying. It was like they found a new pair of legs. I truly mean they were flying too, they had caught up with other runners and over took them. We managed to intercept them at Hell's Mouth. This was a section of the North Coast reknowned for suicides and shipwrecks. The beauty of this section of the race is the road is close to the coastal trail so you can see the runner's lights as they pass.

They came out of the darkness, the wife and myself stood waiting. We broke into a two person mexican wave and cheered them on. The boy was a sleep in the car at this point now. They saw us and immediately came over and gave us a hug! I informed them they were only about 5 minutes behind the runner in front. " Right let's get him" Luke said to Matt and off they ran, at a pace most of us would be happy with in a 10K. I couldn't believe it, having ran stupid distances I can't recall having that much energy. They did though, inhumanly! We zoomed off to the next best point to support them from, my old local beach called Portreath. There I met other friends of ours and Matt support crew as well. All waiting to do the same as me. 10.45pm they came down from the Portreath coast to the beach carpark. The fact we were all there seemed to spur them on some more. They didn't have very far left to go now as well. They took on some more supplies to finish with. Luke had a nice combination of Banana with Pork Pie at the same time. Interesting one that one, I must try it myself another time. We set them off and we all then went to meet them at the finish. Vicky was arriving in St Ives shortly at this point but still going and running great.

So we got to the finish which was The Blue Bar in Porthtowan. Already about 4 finishers had gone through including Richard who came in 3rd place! Another great achievement by the Falmouth runner. After 29 hours and 37 minutes, Matt and Luke came running down the finishing straight, it was almost midnight and Matt's mum was ringing the Cow Bell. Such a great atmosphere, was going on and I choked a little as they crossed the line. I was in awe as well as a little jealous that I wasn't apart it finishing the race with them. I was so glad I was able to be part of their journey. My boy was now awake and was soon shouting well done to both Matt and Luke, I did feel for the runner getting his head down in the bar, however my boy loves marshalling and supporting our friends, so we didn't care.

So they fnished joint 11th in the end after under 30 hours of running and 100 miles (possibly a little more knowing them), and I was there pretty much all of the way. Vicky fnished around 5.30am, another truely inspriring and amazing run! I'm glad I did it, not only did I support my friends but I experienced another great local event put on. You can't beat the experience or the atmosphere of these events when you get involved in some sort of capacity.

So from what I saw as a supporter, the event from myside of things deserves all the praise it gets. Fergie and his team did one hell of a job! Would I be on the start line next year? Unfortunately I don't know due to work, I could be at sea. However if I had a choice, yes I would!

Now, all that is over and my illness has gone, I can focus on my training. I've some big events coming up during this year. Paris Marathon in April, Hope24 Ultra in May, Dartmoor Discovery Ultra in June, #YOLO7dayUltra in August, Equinox24 Ultra in September and Snowdonia Marathon in October. I'm am completing smaller local events as well so totalling hopefully 37 for the year. Already completed 3 events so only another 34 to go.

Fingers crossed all goes well!

Until next time!

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