Friday 27 September 2019

The Saint's Way Challenge 2019 - Doing it Dreckly from Coast to Coast

So I was searching through the internet for a race to do after the Madness of King George race and I came across this event. It just so happened to pop up on my facebook. I think it was because of a friend being either interested or said they were going on the event page. So I looked it up and it sounded an interesting route. I've never heard of the Saint's Way, which is a 28 and half ish mile route from Padstow to Fowey in Cornwall, so a Coast to Coast in effect between two popular towns. 

The event was being put on by Purple Gecko Events, a company I had only started noticing in the running world over the course of this year. They have been putting on some trail running series events in the Cornwall area, and I had seen some friends that have been participating in them. So I thought I'd give it a go, hopefully being recovered from MoKG which was towards the end of August. I wasn't sure how I'd be after that race when I thought of entering the Saint's Way Challenge. 

The Mandatory Kit required for the race
Knowing a few people that already recce'd the route and being unable to do so myself, I asked them their thoughts. I was informed it was around 65% tarmac, the rest hard trails with a few fields etc I decided to go with the road shoes. At this point the weather had been extremely good, so what trail sections there were, it would be mostly hard. It was also what others recommended that also had run it. So that was what I decided I was going to go with.

As it got closer to the event, the weather forecast changed and it appeared after a glorious week leading up to the start day, the weather was going to be rubbish and a weather warning for heavy rain came in. Looking closely though, as a friend Pete, who was also running, he noticed the days before there looked like a break in the weather for about 6 hours ish in the area. So we may be lucky, we could only hope. 

Although it was a couple miles longer than a marathon distance, I decided I would have my wife support crew me again. The reason behind this was, it would mean I wouldn't have to carry two litres of Tailwind with me in a hydration bladder, the mandatory kit says minimum of 400ml which basically is a bottle. So my wife would pre prep my bottles I'd swap over along the way and have no requirement to stop at the CPs and wait to fill up my bottles. The cut offs through the CPs were generous but I wanted to put in a reasonable time for me and if I could save time running through the CPs the better and unlike a road marathon there isn't a water stop every 3 miles or so, there was only 3 CPs along the way. 

Is it a bit extreme having a crew for basically a long marathon? Maybe so, however for me it's a good morale booster if needed, and as already said I don't need to faff about at the CPs. Each to their own, and I go with what works for me. During the race I saw I wasn't the only one out on the course with support along the way doing similar. Maybe if I was a pretty quick runner, I may not have used one, but I could be out there longer than expected or needed to change shoes and socks if they got soaked and didn't want to ruin my race. I wanted to enjoy it and not be miserable. 

We left Plymouth around 5.45am as it was about an hour drive to Padstow, registration opened at 6.30am and was due to close at 7.40am with the safety briefing at 7.45am. We arrived just after 7am and it was a good job that we did, as the queue to register, pick up trackers/maps and kit check etc, was getting longer. It was in a Methodist Church which wasn't very big, and it soon filled up with runners and supporters. The line for registration around 7.30am was out of the Church door and down the car park out side. The RD came out and informed everyone not worry about it, there was a issue with trackers causing a delay and the start was going to be delayed until everyone had gone through registration. 

The start of the Saint's Way Route in Padstow
By the time the race briefing was on it was very packed inside, there were runners outside as well who couldn't hear the briefing. We soon went up to the start line at the church in Padstow and we started around half hour after we were due to go. It had started to rain, so I decided to stick my jacket on. I didn't want to get soaked at the start, however it soon stopped not long after we started and I was soon running along taking off my jacket, sticking it into my pack. Typical!

Now for the first time since getting my Fenix 5 over a year ago, I decided to load the GPX file that was provided on to my watch. I've never used this function before so I was interested how it'd get on. We were provided with a map and as part of the mandatory kit we had to carry a compass (I'm quite happy to use a map and compass so this wasn't an issue for me). The race was down as Self Navigation, although like most national trails etc it is sign posted in some form along the way. With sign posts, watch and map/compass, I was sure I was not going to get lost as I've done in the past. 

Heading out of Padstow
Like most races, there was a big gaggle of runners making their way through the first few miles out of Padstow, so it was mainly follow the leader at this point. My watch was already telling me which way to go and was matching every sign post we came across. I chatted to friends I knew that was racing and we made our way over fields and up through a big corn field. This was the first real slippy muddy part we came across and where I first thought maybe road shoes may not have been the best idea. Well I hadn't come across any tarmac yet apart from the very start so I knew there was more to come yet. i just had to deal with the little bit of slipperiness. 

As we approached the first CP which was at 5 miles (it was originally set at 7 ish but was moved closer to the start date) I quickly switched my bottles from my wife, and I ran through the CP not stopping. The first section was uber humid, I like many others were sweating like the RAF when told they have to work on a weekend! I was on tarmac now and starting to make good time. The signs were still pretty good, and with my watch confirming everything I was in a happy place. 

The route took us through a Corn field
I was told the first 8 miles were mostly up hill, and they weren't wrong. Once we progressed on the route and made it through the first 8 miles, I continued to make good progress. I was chatting away with a guy from Tamar Trail Runners called Nick (If I remember correctly). Lovely chap and he had recce'd the course in sections, so I stuck with him for a while. I saw my wife at about 9 ish miles and changed my bottle again, Nick went on. The route took us through some fields and up past a wind turbine. The route went off to the right at an angle, well my watch said it did and I saw Nick ahead running in that direction too. Two guys who were a head of us, were running off slightly in a different direction. I decided to trust my watch and Nick and soon the two guys came and joined us along with another couple. One of the guys who went off slightly differently said "You could've shouted we were going the wrong way". I replied "Well if we turned out to be wrong I didn't want to be told thanks you f**ks for going the wrong way" lol It was one of those things, it all turned out ok in the end though. 

I eventually left Nick behind as I continued my way ahead, through to CP2. Wife swapped my bottles and quickly looked at the map I was carrying as there was no internet signal there, so she could see where next to meet me. I went on my way and headed up another hill out of CP2. I was soon over taken by another a couple of lads up the hill out of CP2 in Lanlivet. They were proper yomping, and it was when one changed steps to be in time with the other in front of him, I knew they were ex services. Definitely not Royal Navy as we don't yomp, we bimble. From here on though we yo yo'd. I'd over take them when I ran, they then over took me on the hills. Soon they left me as they made better progress, but as I made my way up the Hellman Tor they were at the top. I got to the trig point, took in the views, and we made our way down. I met my wife who swapped bottles and carried on. We went down some flooded, muddy lanes, where again my road shoes weren't very good and I had no other choice but to get my feet wet. I now had soggy wet muddy feet. I'm about 19/20 miles into the race, do I grin and bare it or change socks and shoes. The weather was warm and humid still so my feet would dry out. I left the two guys behind, emptied stones from one of my shoes and carried on. 

Moving forward, keeping smiling! pic by Purple Gecko Events
As I made my way along the route, an issue with GPX file arose, as the person who made the file went on a little tangent, it threw me off a little and I missed a sign. It wasn't too bad as I didn't go off piste too much and the two guys caught me up and assisted me in the right direction. I stuck with them then until CP3 where I ran through after seeing my wife just before for a bottle change. I was then on my own for the remainder of the race, more hills, trails and tarmac. I saw notification my mate Pete had posted on the event page, so I knew he had finished. I had a quick look and seen he had finished in 4hrs 25ish mins in 5th place! I told him I was bout 6 and half miles away at this point at about 22 miles in, this was so he knew how much longer I was going to be as we were giving him a lift home. 

The wife met me at the 25 mile point, changed my bottle for the last time, and off I went to head to Fowey. There were still a couple of hills left to go, but the last mile was pure pleasure. Like pretty much most of the route, it was stunning to look at. As I made my way into the busy town, I followed the road round to the finish. I was over taken at the last moment by another runner who obviously upped her pace as I never knew anyone was near me, just before the finish line. I crossed the line in 6 hrs 26 mins. I was hoping to be around 6 maybe sub 6, and I felt I could've run better but it wasn't meant to be. Ah well....

The stunning scenery coming into Fowey
I was really pleased how my day went, I really enjoyed it from start to finish, the route was as it was described to me, mostly tarmac and some trail through woods and fields. It was a stunning route and I would happily recommend it. Ok there was a little hiccup with registration, it was the first time they laid on this event, so there were always going to be teething errors, however over all I recommend the event especially to those looking to tipping their toes over the marathon distance. It's not bad value and overall well organised, those I spoke to about the CPs said they were alright. 

Once again, Tailwind did me well throughout the event, I had no need for anything else. My mate Pete, used my Tailwind as well and it also sorted him out too. My Uglow kit was comfortable throughout whether it was when it was warm and humid to when it cooled down slightly, it made little difference and I didn't feel uncomfortable once during the race. 

It was a little lumpy, with about 4000ft of climb total
I'd like to thank Tailwind and Uglow for their continued support and most of all my wife and son for not only support crewing me but their never ending support and understanding with my running. 

So now I look towards my next big event the Cornish Marathon in November with the Plymouth 10K supporting my buddy Liam from work coming up next in October. 

As the big season starts to wind down for me, I need to remain focused for next year, with some possible big races already being lined up. 

Thanks for reading, until next time.


#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

Monday 2 September 2019

Madness of King George 3 - 36 Hours of Pure Hell Would I Survive?

So the main event of the year for me was approaching and since Hope 24 a few months back in June, this has been my main focus. Having ran the 12 hour version 2 years a go in 2017, I was fully aware of the strict rules of this version but this will be the first time I will be running without stopping for 36 hours under these types of conditions in a race. 

The Madness of King George is the crazy creation of David Andrewartha, a Cornish Runner who's passion for running and Cornish Heritage are very much shown through his events he organises around Cornwall. They range from tough and fun to just pure bonkers, however you never fail to come away feeling you've been given a great experience. 

So since the Plymouth Half Marathon back in May, I've been running a run streak every day, and the day of MOKG was day 97 of the streak. The longest run of that run streak leading up to MOKG was 30 miles followed by a 10 mile the following day back at Hope 24 in June, since then I think the furthest distance was around 12 miles. Why? Well life really being more important. I'm running everyday but I am very aware of the impact on family life, so making sure the running fits around them and not the other way round. 

As MOKG approached within a week, I started to feel very unprepared, nervous, and even a little sick at the thought of running 1.06 mile laps for 36 hours non stop. I usually get nervous before a big race but this was definitely a little worse than usual. 

Registration complete

Originally there were 5 or 6 entered in the 36 hour event, 2 females and 4 males I believe, but eventually this whittled down to 3 of us for one reason or another. This did mean as long as I finished I could podium for the first ever time. Wow extra pressure! I planned to just finish anyways nothing more, nothing less. I had some sort of tactical plan in my head on how I was going to achieve the finish, and by the Friday, my race van was packed, and I made my way down to Cornwall. Typically I get a message from my Boss on the Friday as I was heading down. Just to let you know you're being trawled to possibly be sent out to the Gulf for two months. Despite being only shore side for just 5 months! Now I had to fill out a pain and grief form by end of Bank Holiday Monday by COP. The was the last thing I needed when I was about to race a very very very mentally demanding 36 hours. I just wanted to curl up and hide to be honest. 
So I had to try and put that towards the back of my mind and concentrate on the task in hand.

After staying the night at my parents who live not far from the race, we woke early so we could get down to the start, register in good time, and get my son tucked back up into bed in the van so he can try and sleep again. The roads were quiet as to be expected at that time, so there were no worries of any holiday traffic to contend with, as there can be on the section of the A30 just as you arrive into Hayle. I got my mandatory kit out of the van in bag for life, why a bag for life? Well it saves me unpacking my pack to repack it again after it's checked, so all I have to do is pack my pack once. 

Eventually we were all sorted, the 36 hour runners were registered, and the start line pictures were taken after we were given our mandatory race safety and rules briefing by Dave. My nerves were now leaving me as I stood on the line with the other two guys. It was going to be a lonely first 12 hours until we were joined by the 24 hour runners at 8pm. The sun was now fully up and already you could feel the heat turning up. 
Sunrise at the start line

So my goal  at the start was this...... FINISH! Yep, that was it. Finish the 36 hours and there was a bonus of 3rd place, and hopefully get to 100 miles +. I just had to finish though, it was going to be a scorching day with no shelter. I've done plenty of 24 hour/12 hour event amongst the ultra's I've raced, but a 36 hour version is new to me not alone one with such strict rules. I had no idea how I was going to tackle the extra 12 hours. I knew I couldn't do it the same way I would do a 12 hour or 24 hour version, it's pretty much a different race all together both mentally and physically. 

The siren went and that was it, we were off making our way out on our first lap. 1.06 miles all together with the turn around half way down with an aid station at both ends. We could only stop for 15 minutes max at these aid stations and that includes toilet stops/massage/food/drink. It was otherwise non stop for the whole race. The first few laps we stuck together, catching up along the way, and we already realised we were going to fast. We all discussed our goals and plans, and it was then as well we decided we were all going to help each other finish, no matter what. 

It was from here the bond began between us, as our own tactical plans started to take place, we soon separated going at our paces. Occasionally  we would do a lap again with each other, and it was around 4 hours I started to lose a couple laps on the others, which I knew that would happen as they are both tidy runners. Dean had won the 24 hr race the year before, and Kieran smashed out 100K during 2017 12 hour version (plus he's very fast at shorter distances), so I knew at some point they would lap me, but like I said I just need to finish! 
The start of the 36 hour version of MOKG
The hours slowly went by and I began my battle with my mind. My head was telling me, oh you could put in a really good marathon time here, oh you could do a really good 50K time here. I had to keep telling me self NO! You still have 30 odd hours to go yet you dick. That was it, I had to try and stop being a dick, well during the race anyways. The heat was becoming relentless, I was running 4 laps and walking 1 lap, keeping my speed down, whilst making sure I was hydrating plenty with both water and Tailwind Nutrition. I didn't want to fuck it up with making silly mistakes like not drinking enough. 

Early doors into the race! pic by Dave Andrewartha
I made sure I put factor 50 emulsion anti sun (not that it does anything to protect me) and I kept moving. I had to remember, to keep moving, keep moving. It was soon the hottest part of the day and it was painful, but I was moving, I was running, I was making damage to the total. My wife had to get me a Calypso ice lollie as she could see I needed it. It has saved me on so many occasions. Soon enough all 3 of us were having them LOL.  The 12 hour point was approaching and at 11 and half hours in, I decided it was time to get a refresh of the legs and stop for the first time (apart from the odd toilet stop which was like frigging sauna in the portaloos btw). I had done about 48 ish laps and ready to get a calf rub down. 

So my first massage was by a guy called Louie, he didn't hang around he went straight in deep, much deeper than I was wanting or expecting, I just thought it was going to be a gentle rub down, but instead he thumbed in deep lol. Ok it did the job, but was not after a torture session so early in the game. As I went back out the 24 ers were about to start, I was making my way down the return straight, and they were soon zipping past, all happy and full of energy. They made me feel sick lol. Oh how I was wishing I was them. They were all fantastic though, some knew me already, some did not but that never stopped them sending me positive vibes, giving me "well dones2 etc etc. However, it was the 36ers every lap would check on each other, making sure we were all ok. We had survived the first 12 hours and now making our way towards the 24 hours. Darkness started to fall, and our head torches came on. I changed my kit whilst on the course, so not to break the rules, and made sure I had a wash to freshen up. 

Having some fluids. Pic by Becky Harris
It was going to be a tough 8 hours until Sunrise. I knew my pace was going to slow anyway as expected during the night stage, so it wasn't going be quick. It was however going to be cooler in temperature, but it became humid. I wanted to make as much use of the cooler temp as I could. There were a pair of 24 hour runners Danny and Robert, flying around together keeping morale up by singing, first of all I was like "dear God!" but soon it became a pleasure every time they passed me. They had a speaker playing songs, and they were singing along with it. The 24 hour runners were amazing, I was in awe of them, the pace some of them had, was unbelievable, Gary and Barry were zipping around, the ladies too. Sarah Cox and Sarah Hambley amongst them smashing in the miles. 

I managed to get through the 100KM mark before the halfway point but I was fully aware I had a long way to go yet, but that was the battle wasn't it? I felt I could've gone faster, but I had to make sure you don't burn out too quickly. It was defo a Tortoise and Hare kind of race, and it would very soon I would have to start digging deeper. 

One of the many motivational signs

I was going to watch a film via Sky Go on my mobile, during the early early hours, but by then I was mentally crippled, and I couldn't be arsed. Shame I was looking forward to watching the film Tag again. It was during the early hours, I was texted by my wife saying Kieran was having a tough time, proper big time. He had been in the massage tent a few times by now, and needed some company. So I decided to keep him company for a few hours. So I got my phone out and we went on an App I have for my boy called Kids Quiz. I thought, this will be simple enough to keep our minds ticking over as we went round and round and round. 

It definitely did the trick, and after a few hours of laps, I needed some blister treatment from my wife. It was 2am and my wife had been grabbing little naps here and there in between some laps. She was truly the hero here, she looked after all of the 36 hour runners making sure we finished. 

Looking like I've escaped the mines during the night phase. Pic by  Adam Terrell
After about 70 miles into the race, my feet started to swell, so out of retirement came my trusty Hoka Flops, I last wore in 2015. These were the shoes I had to modify during my Epic New Forest to Land's End 251 mile run. I knew it would happen, knowing it would be hot and I'd be on my feet a long time. So I packed them in case, and thank god I did they definitely helped to finish. The Carbon X's I wore for 70 miles were fantastic, definitely the best road shoes I've worn in my 10 year running career, had my feet not swelled, they would've got me to the end I reckon. 

I continued moving, drinking a nice warm soup. I was still drinking water and Tailwind but I needed a little comfort food, I was starting to feel low, The laps started to drag, and soon Kieran got a second wind and started smashing in the laps again, the guy is a frigging machine. I was at this point told I was only 2 laps behind Deano, I had caught him up a little, and about 3 laps ahead of Keiran. He was flying around, both me Deano were like "what the hell has he just taken?" I was pretty sure he took back 2nd, and although I wasn't really thinking about position, a little bit of me did die and now I knew I just had to keep moving.  Deano too upped the pace also to try counter Kieran a little. At one point I thought, my feet are a little tender, I need to get them off the ground for a min or two, so I laid on a park bench, set my phone timer for 10 mins. I put my feet up and laid back. I kept hearing runners going past, knowing they would check on me, I kept sticking my thumb up to prove I was ok and not actually dead. This little rest did the trick for a bit, it got me going and kept moving.

I had enough by now! pic by Becky Harris

The 100 mile mark started to seem out of reach now too, I couldn't see how I could do it. Although I was that tired (I was actually starting to fall asleep on my feet) I couldn't do the basics of Maths. It was quite funny, because me and Deano trying to basic Maths of working out hours left etc just wasn't happening. I was hoping the Sunrise would give me a spurt but it didn't, my morale was getting lower and a lower, I knew I had more heat to content with. I had a porridge not long after Sunrise, and I kept moving. Soon the 12 hour runners would cross the start line, and once again we would see the fresh faced, super speedy runners smashing out the laps and all I wanted to do was curl up in the corner. I had got through 24 hours, and still had another 12 do. Oh god! 12 more hours of going round and round and round. It started to get warmer as well, there was no way I can do this I was thinking. I kept going though. Kieran had slowed down as well and was back to shuffling, as was Dean now. I soon approached lunch time, having had my calves given a nice refresh by the next Masseuse who had taking over called Jay and eaten some lovely chilli, I was feeling content in myself. 

I changed my kit had a wash down (all on the course as we weren't allowed to leave the course), to help me feel fresher. I'm glad I did, because I felt clean. I brushed my teeth, and made my way round the course again. 

Getting closer to the end. pic by Becky Harris
It was around 82 laps in, and I was getting a milky cup of tea, my wife came to me and said "I have a plan, you can achieve the 100 miles by the end" I was no, I can't. Up I got and I went for another slow lap. I was now averaging about 20 minute-25 minute walking laps, but when I arrived back at the start line, Dean was waiting for me, he too was struggling, he had 4 laps to get to 100 miles to do, he heard about my wife's plan for me and said we'd do the plan together. As long as I was out for each lap, by a certain time, and as long as it took no longer than 30 minutes, I could do it. 

I suddenly started to get another wind, was this possible, so off I went with Dean and we power walked the next few laps, we did 15 min-17 min miles averages. We got him to his 100 miles and he had the cow bell ring for his 100 mile lap. He made 94 miles and we still had another 7 laps for me, or so I thought. As we went past, we got told I was on lap 87 both me an Dean said to each 7 laps to go, then we finished the lap and got told I still had another 7 laps to go. I was in a little confused, so I thought well they must have meant prior the next lap would be 7 to go. As I finished that lap they said that was 87 done, which meant I had 7 laps to go again. I was tired, in pain and I just heard 7 laps to go til 94 3 times. I couldn't compute it. We got round to the start for a cup of tea, and that is when I decided I am just going to crack on, I crossed the line and confirmed that was lap 88 done. It was, so I just powered on, we made plenty of time so I could take some time, but I wanted to make sure I crossed the 90th lap mark first and finally get out of the 80's. Dean helped me get to 90th lap and that is when I decided to have another chilli, and a quick leg rub down. I headed out with Dean. Kieran was not in a good place, so I told Dean do crack on with Kieran and I will go on my own. I was so motivated now, I powered the next 3 laps, I wanted to get them done, so I knew safely that as long as I went out before 8pm on my last lap I would make the 100 mile mark. 

One of the final laps with Tracy, one of the Event Crew keeping our morale up! pic by Becky Harris
I powered the next 3 laps and gave myself 45 mins to do the last lap if I wanted. I had a Victoria Sponge, and a cuppa tea, leg rub and went out on my last lap with Dean, wife and son. I had 30 mins ish to the finish 36 hours. As long as I arrive after 36 hrs is up I won't have to go back out again, we took our time slowly plodding around. Kieran went round with his son. Me and Deano were going to cross the line together, him on 100 laps me on 100 miles (94 laps). We both had the cow bell ringing, for our 100th lap/100 mile lap. 

It then became an nice bimble around, with my son, wife and Dean. We took our time doing the last lap, knowing not to cross the line before 36 hours 00 mins as we didn't want to go round again. The sun was starting to go down, and the temperature was slowly dropping once more. We made our way round, and I thanked the marshals out on the course. With out those wonderful people giving up their time, this event wouldn't have happened and I know for a fact I wouldn't have survived. Their morale and support kept us all going! 

Eventually, Dean and myself crossed the line, the cow bell ringing, I had made the 94th lap aka 100 miles and Deano had made the 100th Lap 106 miles. So chuffed for us both, as we stood and waited for Kieran to come round with his boy in arms he crossed the line and the three of us gathered together for a big group hug. We earned it, no matter what position we ended up, we got each other round. We survived! 

Despite, the lack of sleep, the tender, swollen feet, my grumpiness, I bloody well did it!! Now I know there will be people out there saying " is that all he managed to run in that time", but those people didn't toe the line with me and the others. 

We did it! 
Considering the longest training run was 12 miles since I ran the 30 miles and 10 miles during Hope24 back in June, I think I did well. Gaining 2nd place was something I had never dreamed of, this event has given back some self confidence in my self, I've proven to myself I can be mentally strong again. No one will ever take it away I'm now a podium finisher in an Ultra event and a frigging tough one at that too! 

Even as I type this blog, I still think someone is going to tell me, it's a dream. However the official result came out, and too my surprise, I had actually run 95 laps, yes 1 more than I was told. So even better than I had thought!! Whoop!!! I just wanted to say, I was honoured to be on the same course as Deano and Kieran! Kieran was amazing, I was just lucky on the day. 

2nd place!
This event will live long in my memory, much like the YOLO adventures I have ran, this will be as special as them. I have Dave and his wife Sally to thank for giving me the opportunity to run in their events. I can't recommend the Bys Vyken Events enough, if you want a race where lots of love, attention to detail, a challenge then head over to BVE and press the enter buttons. You won't be disappointed!

The 36 hour race results, no one can ever take this away from me
I also have to thank Tailwind Nutrition UK for their on going support, I went through a lot of it this weekend, I have no doubt it played it's part in my success. Also a thank you to Uglow Sports, again the kit was amazing throughout the 36 hours, comfortable in the heat, and at night. I'm so thankful to be part of the Uglow family. 

The final thank you is to my Wife and son. My wife crewed me the whole 36 hours, with very minimal sleep. If it wasn't for her, her experience in crewing me over the years, I know I would've been down and out if it wasn't for my wife and her plan.

So wow that was a little long but it was a long race. Thank you all for your support and time reading. 

Bathing in my own success 

#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

A Year Without Racing

  A Year Without Racing!   So 2023 didn’t go exactly how I thought it would when it came to races. However, the running still went on it was...