Saturday, 13 February 2016

Arc of Attrition 2016 - Taming Mother Nature!

It was that time of year again when friends were prepping themselves again for one of their biggest events of the year. This time last year, the skies were blue and little to no winds during the day and just cold during the night. How different this years weather for the event was going to be. It was like it was ordered just to spice things up as if running 100 miles around the South West Coast Path wasn't difficult enough anyway.

Usually when someone labels an event as the toughest this and that it's usually a marketing game being played to draw people in. Arc of Attrition 2016 was already being labelled as one of the toughest winter footraces in the UK and the toughest in the South West. Mudcrew events tag line is "We don't do easy" and knowing their events like I do, they certainly don't. So there was a good chance this years AoA will live up to it's expectations as one of the toughest.

The event this year was starting earlier at 12pm compared to last years even which started in the evening, I had a few things to do that morning as I've not long moved house, but I left as soon as I could to get to the start line. I wasn't running it this year, but I had a fair few friends that were. They all had their own support crews so my plan was just to go down and support as many as I could for the duration. Knowing the coastal paths well I could pop up in places, some may not know.

At the start
My friends, Mudcrew and the ultra running community supported me and my efforts a lot last year, so the least I could do return the favour. yes I was jealous I wasn't with them running, I still like being involved somehow.

I arrived with about 8 minutes prior to the start, and my word the atmosphere was buzzing. All the runners eager, nervous and raring to go. I saw Andy, Fergie and Jane the RD's of Mudcrew Events and gave them a hug and handshakes. They were big supporters of mine, I also tried to see as many of my friends running as much as possible give them all good luck man hugs from me. There was just over 100 runners starting, with athletes from Switzerland, Spain and Belgium in the line up as well. It was looking to be an epic race, with last years joint winners Duncan Oakes and Steve Wyatt back once more. It's their playground, so they were definitely two of the favourites. There were other good ultra runners in the line up including international athlete Pat Robbins.

Ready for the start
Soon the hooter went and off they all skootled along the South West Coastal Path for 100 miles. The weather was alright currently but you could feel the wind starting to pick up the start in Coverack. I made my way to a place ideal for support crews and supporters at Lizard Point, it's the biggest area so you can imagine it was pretty busy as everyone was waiting for their runners to come through. The wind was picking up for sure, and soon enough the first few runners came through. I finally saw some of my friends come through and speaking to them they told me the first 5 miles were pretty tough with boggy paths. The weather leading up hasn't been very good at all. They all looked pretty strong going through the lizard, the majority of them topping up their bottles and grabbing a quick snack as they made their way to the first CP at Porthleven which was around 24 miles from the start.

Me with Russ Powell's support crew
I went straight to CP1 instead of stopping along the way at Mullion for a couple of reasons. I needed some food and I wanted to be able to park my car prior to all the support crews turning up. Once at Porthleven I popped into the CP which was in a lovely warm pub and saw people I knew there who were helping out. The weather now had really started to build up with the wind really blowing, the temperature felt cold because of the wind, and as runners were making their way in and out being looking well after at the CP with warm drinks and food (well stocked CP's I may add) the rain started to lash down with vengence!

All the CP's were run like well oiled machines, it was like they were professionals not volunteers. They "Arc Angels" as they were known as were made up of runners and supporters from various local running clubs and groups.

Dave Brock at CP1
 The whole event to be honest ran like clockwork from how it looked from my eyes, even when there was incidents like part of the path had to be closed to due the weather causing destruction and I was called in for assistance as an extra marshal, it never stopped the fluidness of the whole thing.

As the night went on the weather continued to batter the runners with heavy rain and wind, I was soaked myself but that was nothing compared to the runners. Then suddenly it all died, the rain and the wind suddenly stopped as the current weather front passed through. It gave the runners a little respite for a few hours, before the storm that was due arrived. As predicted around 3am the weather started to pick up once more and by 6.30am the storm was in full force again even heavier than the day before. The beast was starting to eat up it's children, come CP3 at Sennen a lot of runners were either timed out, injured or just beaten by the weather and route. More fell to the wayside after valiant efforts to cross what is deemed as the slowest part of the course and with the weather making even tougher, it was no surprised it caused more to be timed out, injured or beaten by the route and weather as they hit CP4.

I was asked if I could take two runners back to Race HQ at the finish as they were no longer continuing, which of course I did. Once I got there I finally grabbed an hourish nap in the car before continuing my support for the remainder.

Stu McQueen at CP3
 As most were going through CP2 and 3 the leaders were on their way to the finish after going through CP4 in St Ives. The leading pack made up of 4 runners had been together pretty much all the way, there were 5 up to CP3 but one fell back and didn't make it further than CP4. They were still flying and soon enough to a rousing cheers and applause they arrived at the finish in Porthtowan in a fast 22 hours and 44 mins ish (tracker time). I believe the clock time was 22 hours 46 mins. Extraordinary performance by the 4 winners who were Steve Wyatt, Duncan Oakes, Pat Robbins and Jason Lewis.

With some of my friends making the finish and some not, they all put in an amazing performance considering the conditions they faced throughout and performances they should be proud of regardless of finishing or not.  I was in awe of them all! You have to admire the physical and mental abilities these runners put in, and with only 28 finishers it shows it was brutal out there this year and safe to say it was definitely one of the toughest winter footraces in the UK. It in my personal opinion lived up the expectation and although Mudcrew Events put on fantastic events they definitely don't do easy!.

Jane (one of the RD's) welcoming the 4 winners at the finish


If you're looking for an event that will test you, or an event that gives as much beauty as it does brutality then look no further than one of Mudcrew's Events especially the Arc of Attrition. I for one have this on my 2017 list (if I'm not at sea).

Now for me it's back to training and focusing on my own racing.

Until next time!


No comments:

Post a Comment