Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Trip to the South West – Endurancelife CTS South Devon Ultra

This was my second ultra in 8 days. The Endurancelife CTS South Devon is one of a handful of races in the coastal trail series with many of the routes found in my favourite places in the UK, the South West http://www.endurancelife.com/.

Unfortunately, it being a last minute decision the race was full. Luckily I managed to purchase a place off a chap who was unable to attend. The folks at Endurancelife were happy with this arrangement. Easy enough. I was in.

Now, the endurance actually began way before the race itself! Mainly in my car. Firstly, with my wife in America, I needed to drop my son off to Brighton the night before. This resulted in just under 4 hours of driving there and back with some frustrating and stressful moments in a traffic jam. Not great for the legs – pre race.

I scoffed down my dinner and managed to get to bed at about 10pm. The alarm went off at 2 am, time for a coffee, shower and the long 5 hour drive to the start line. I rolled in at Kingsbridge an hour or so before the start, enough time to get ready, have a cup of tea and ensure my kit was all there and ready.

Most of the coastal series runs accommodate a mix of athletes. There is a 10k, half marathon, marathon and ultra. The ultra would entail running the marathon course and then tagging on to the 10k route.

Due to a landslide the course would change this year, which is a shame. Having compared notes with a few of the other guys our GPS confirmed that we ran around 36.5 miles (give or take). This is around 2.5 miles or so longer than the original course.

Endurancelife require the following compulsory kit for the ultra-event. Water, Food, Waterproof jacket, whistle, mobile phone, money, foil blanket, first aid kit and hat.

It was great to see some familiar faces hanging about the large marquee tent including Neil Bryant, Oliver Sinclair and Tom Wright (a chap I speak to quite a bit on Dailymile) who were running the half marathon or ultra.

Kit wise I wore the Irish flag buff, Salomon short sleeve tech tee, North Face Better than Naked shorts, Salomon Sense, Ultraspire Spry vest and the Ultraspire 8oz Handheld.

Nutrition wise, I took my trusted Elete electrolyte (http://eletewater.co.uk/) and a couple of 9bars (Peanut and Flax) http://www.9bar.com/ . It wasn’t going to be a quick race so there was no need to take any gels.
Those who have done Endurancelife events will know that there is no mass rush at the start line as runners have to ‘dib’ their dibber before they can shoot off. So, I dibbed away and I was off. I went off reasonably fast as I always do.

One thing you can expect from the SWCP is that there is little respite of running on the flat. The hills are not as harsh as those found in Wales, Cumbria or Scotland but there are plenty of them and they are all generally runnable.

Many ultra runners will tell you it’s a long way so walk the hills if you have to. I cannot resist running up these hills - they call out to me J. In addition, as I have developed my training as an ultra runner I have found I can usually take many of these hills on without expending too much energy provided I go at a consistent pace and watch my form.

I pretty much ran on my own for the rest of the race which meant I ran in silence, quite relaxed and really enjoyed the experience. The route took us along the coastline towards East Portlemouth. There is nothing better than running along a single trail with countryside to your right and the crashing waves of the sea to your left. It’s a truly a great running experience and something I would thoroughly recommend to runners of all distances and levels.

I immediately noticed my biggest mistake – my trainers. I love my Sense so much that I seem to wear them in most of my races not really thinking about terrain. The Sense are about as useful as a pair of stilettos in the mud, and this course offered a LOT of it. Mud on the uphills. Mud on the downhills. deep mud, wet mud, mud mud.

In fact in some places it was so muddy my feet were slipping from underneath me and I looked like one of those cartoon runners who ran on the spot without moving! That said, my most proud achievement of the day must be that I did not fall on my arse for the entire 36 miles! Winner…

Essentially, the race went by in somewhat of an uneventful manner. However, it offered a great deal of varied terrain. Coastal trail, farmland, forest, hills, mud, grass and (a bit too much) road!

Thanks to Tom for pic!

The toughest section has to be hitting about 29 miles in where you essentially pass the finish line, run past the marque, the food and hot drinks, spectators and finishers only to have to hit the trail again so you can complete the 10k route. Looking at the results it is clear this is a great mental challenge. I can see that many of the ultra runners decided to throw in the towel at this stage and settle for the marathon distance instead. A good bit of evidence that training yourself mentally for such events plays a very big role in succeeding!

As usual, even with a VERY well marked out route, I did question myself from a navigational point of view several times. In particular, I was not sure I was following the 10k route but rather I had tagged onto the half marathon route. Despite asking several of the runners whether I was running the 10k or half marathon route, I was none the wiser. Oh well, more miles for my money J

Thankfully, I saw the Ultra/10k route sign which diverted runners off to the right and to the finish. I knew this point would be tricky as it is single track and there were a lot of 10k runners to pass. Despite shouting well in advance that I was coming past these runners, some did not move to the side. I was not sure whether it was a “push” or simply I did not slow down, so put my hands in front of me to protect myself, but I did manage to nudge a few runners into the bush. I apologised at the finish line as it was not very sportmanlike despite us being in completely different races!

I hit the finish line in just over 5hrs bringing me in at first place. A little slow with the added mileage and recent battered terrain, but still I am happy to feel fresh and strong having raced a 45miler 7 or so days beforehand.

All in all a great day to be had.

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