Double Ultra Weekend in the South West of England

Coastal Trail Endurancelife South Devon, 18 February 2012

Having spent much of the week with a nasty cold I hadn’t really planned this weekend well; half thinking I may end up in bed with my old-favourite sinusitis. Anyway I battled through and by Friday felt better, and lunch with a colleague in Roux, Parliament Square made my mind up that I should do some long running regardless of the cold. So Friday evening saw me in the back of Susi and Jon’s car after an emergency call out to find anyone driving down to Devon. They were running the 10k and half mara so I never saw them again after they wonderfully drove me and dropped me off at my b&b (catch up Wednesday if you’re on the club run!).

So Saturday morning, 8:15am and a marquee by the sea in Beesands for the start of the ultra – again as with other Endurancelife ultras it was to be the marathon route (actually 28 miles)+ the 10km (which was actually 7.5miles) to make the 34 mile ultra. We set off in  bright conditions and although a bit breezy on the coastal path was nothing compared to the weather in Anglesea! I settled in behind the first two women and felt really comfortable – the cold pretty much gone and the pace steady but not quick. Underfoot was dry and the route was simply stunning in places; small coves and the simple beauty of Start Lighthouse made  for a classic route. I remember thinking of the first 10k that if the weather stayed then I would probably do the extra loop for the ultra.  Saw some familiar faces on route as the marathoners who started 45 mins after us caught up – first of the two Endurancelife Ambassadors I know – Oli Sinclair shot past me as I was going down a steep bank with a quick ‘Hi Jen’ and he must have been wondering what I was doing – basically slaloming the steep bank as I’d forgotten to tape up my toe (still a tincy wincy bit broken so I’ll have to rest it and let it heal soon – not sure when!) and everytime it hit the front of my Hokas it was a bit painful. Oli finished 3rd overall – and very pleased with getting under 4 hours for that course. Then Ian Corless caught me and we chatted a bit as he’d hurt his calf (though it didn’t hurt enough to go as slowly as I was so he disappeared into the distance about 20 miles in).  We both agreed that this course was ideal for the Hokas – not as technical as some trail runs and a decent amount of farm roads/tracks. Then the weather forecast came true and it clouded over and started raining. The last 5 miles down the coast were into a decent head wind and cold rain. I ran in for the Marathon (well 28 mile) finish as the  worst of the rain came down. I’m not scared of running in the rain but the thought of getting my cold back made me be sensible (oh and the smell of Devon Pasties!). Having thought on Thursday I was probably going to spend the weekend ill in bed I was delighted with a decent run, though I do need to get back into some hill training which I’m sorely missing. Kris and Kelly (Kris’ pictures are much better than mine – and I can’t find the lead to get mine off the camera…) also did the marathon and seemed as pleased with themselves.  Another really well organised event from Endurancelife – though ‘ll be looking forward to them having an ultra route that’s not a tag on that you’ve done before.

Then the logistics of getting back to a station for my train to Cheltenham kicked in – as wonderful as the locations are for the Endurancelife events they are remote! The guys put out a call for any lifts going and, after some confusion and several offers,  I got back to Totnes in the back of a car that 3 guys from Hexham had driven down in – one of them was running a marathon a month and then planning to run 12 back-to-back towards the end of the year for a challenge. They were pretty interested in my summer plans; I’ve gotten used to the open mouths now when I explain what I’m training for!  Arriving into Totnes early for my train I went for food with another runner who, I later found out , had just completed his first marathon – I did assure him they weren’t all as tough as that! Tasty (famous in fact) Fish Pie and good company made for a great way to end my time in Devon.

And so to Cheltenham Spa…. Cotswold 35, 19 February 2012

Sunday I woke in the picture-postcard village of Power Guiting just outside Cheltenham in the Cotswolds. I stayed at one of the 2 guesthouses – also an idyllic country pub –  Hollow Bottom. Friends Huw and Nat were just down the road. At cross country last weekend Huw reminded me about the Cotswold 35 mile race – that I’d dismissed as too tricky to get to from Devon. It wasn’t easy but random cross country trains and taxis made it possible. Huw I expected to win it easily (he ended up winning the marathon in something baffling-quick for those hills like 2:42), Nat needed to get in more miles ahead of Comrades (and was worried about the cut-off but finished regardless and number-free). So we got a taxi to the village of Temple Guiting round the corner and got ready for the 4 lap 35.2 mile (no idea why the random number – mara + 9 miles seemed to fit with the roads available I guess) race which included a marathon that most had plumped for – so just the 3 laps then. We walked the mile to the start getting colder and colder – the early snow had cleared but it wasn’t much above freezing. My legs felt fine, feet numb but then I tend to expect that at the start of any winter race – and it might have helped that now strapped toe (?!). This race is a selection event for the British 100k team, I had no such grand illusions – especially on heavy legs from Devon the day before – but there were some good athletes there and the cut-off of 6 hours ensured it wasn’t very beginner friendly! I set off far too quick, partly wanting to warm up quickly and following a group who definitely hadn’t done a coastal trail mara the day before. As we got about 3 miles in it became clear that the ‘flat road ultra’ I’d thought it was going to be wasn’t. Road yes. Flat no! The Cotswolds are very lumpy it turns out. There also a lot of huge horses to be freaked out by. Anyway I slowed down after a tasty first lap just over an hour (yes that would be 7:30 m/m – with hills, tasty) and settled into more of an ultra-plod I’m going to use for the US trip. Apart from getting pretty hacked off with the guy at the end of my third lap by saying I was ‘past the cut off but he’d let me carry on’ – it was 4:04 hours in and I knew I was easily going to do 9 miles in under 2 hours no matter what my legs had done Saturday it went fine. I finished in 5:46 whilst asking the cut-off guy if he felt vindicated in ‘letting’ me carry on – I’d overtaken 4 others on my last lap keeping my steady pace so felt like a strong finish despite having dropped to beyond 10 m/miles.  Thanks to the marshals and a lift (again!) from one got me in time for my train back to London.

So 2 decent long runs in the bag, pleased to have felt fresh on the Sunday morning and have no real injuries (toe-aside) and looking forward to keeping up the miles this week before something of a mini-taper for the TP100 on the 3rd March. I’ve also just realised I didn’t fall over all weekend. Wow, maybe there’s something about the gravity of the south-west? Or I’ve developed a sense of balance, surely not?! No more likely to be to do with the earth’s rotation.

Now I just need to do my washing… I’m in the market for a maid if anyone’s keen. That and a race organiser/diary planner would be great.

One response to “Double Ultra Weekend in the South West of England

  1. Was very interested in your weekend jaunts as I know those areas very well, I grew up & lived in Cheltenham for many years. There are no hills quite like the Cotswolds, in size & splendour! The village is called Guiting Power.There are some very weird names in that area!
    It’s not an area to usually attempt without a car, so you coped amazingly well.

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