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 

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