I got it done! In my post before the weekend I described the Jurassic Coast 100 as the toughest race I’d entered and it turned out to be so much more than that (and almost 107 miles). This run was all about learning more about ultra running and how I can handle it. In ultra running when we say learning we generally mean “making mistakes”. It was always going to be difficult just 7 weeks after Newport Marathon, which was my main target for the year, but my training plan from Maxwell Coaching got me into the best shape possible in such a short time. What I really missed was time spent on the course but again Michelle was able to brief me well as she has won races on the Jurassic Coast in the past.
The forecast leading up to the weekend had the temperature as 18° with a nice breeze but it ended up being much hotter. Generally I like it hot but I’ve done little training in the heat this year and I (like most on the day) wasn’t ready for it. It did allow me to see the beautiful Jurassic Coast at it’s best though! I got a few photos in but the need to conserve phone battery meant I didn’t get as many as I’d like, I’ll have to return!
The race course can be split into thirds. The first 3rd to about the 4th checkpoint at Cheshil is really hilly. The middle 3rd to between West Bay and Lime Regis is relatively flat. The last third to Exmouth is back to the hills.
The first third…
I had a great training block on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path at the end of May but the hills there were very different. The Jurassic hills were like nothing I’d run up before. They were long and very steep. Some had steps which had mostly lost the material that they were made of so all that was left was the planks at the front of the step. Imagine walking up stairs that were just the edge of a plank! And then having to go down the steps on the other side! 😲 On an ultra you will generally walk up the hills which I did but here’s where I made my first mistake of the run. Even walking you can push your heart rate (HR) way above what it should be. An ultra is all about energy conservation. If you push the heart too hard you dig into reserves you cannot replenish. I dug too hard on those early hills! I need to practice walking similar hills.
The middle third…
Checkpoint 4 at Chesil is where you get access to your drop bag. This is a bag you can put extra bits in to save you carrying them. I had spare clothes, shoes and food in mine. This is where my next bit of learning (i.e. mistake) kicked in. 10 hours into a run your brain does not function properly. In my bag I had more food than I needed and too many choices. I emptied the bag out and it took me ages to get everything sorted to get going again. A planned 10 min break became 30mins and I left with much too much food in my bag which was unnecessary weight. At CP 5 it was time to put on the head torch. Next lesson… Disconnect the power supply from your torch when it’s in your race vest. If you don’t the torch may turn on while in your bag and be flat when you need it. Also, disconnect the power supply on your spare torch…. I ended up having to run on low beam all night. That was very difficult and to be honest downright dangerous. I ended up running with a great Slovakian runner for safety. Chesil Beach is hell enough for runners but in the dark with a poor torch it was very cuss inducing! My next lesson learnt was about running with other people. If you run with someone for the first time you don’t know their strengths and weaknesses. What happens is you end up running at the speed of the weakest person which isn’t necessarily the same person at any point in time. This means you can end up running slower. Not a worry if you’re just trying to finish, but it is if you want to get around as quick as possible. I spent quite a bit of time waiting over night but due to my torch problems I had no choice. My night time running partner also had to wait for me as I was much slower downhill without a decent light. To the Slovakian runner a big thank you for your company and assistance that night and I hope you got around Ok. Once I see the results I’ll find your name and catch up. Good luck in UTMB if you get to read this.
The final 3rd…
CP7 from Lyme Regis is where I picked up some encouragement from Michelle who was online at 4am tracking my progress. You’re a star Michelle, you must be knackered each weekend when one of your runners are doing a long one! I ran out of the checkpoint moving better until…..
THE UNDER CLIFF 😲😲😲😲
The 12Km from Lyme Regis to Seaton is mostly what is known as the Under Cliff. This woodland very much has the feel of a tropical rainforest. Twisty muddy paths with exposed roots with plenty of short climbs. This would have been great fun with fresh legs in daylight. But after 116Km as the night is coming to an end with a poor head torch…it was very slow going. From Seaton at 128Km and back in daylight the running was much like the first third except my quads were fully destroyed. Downhills were a nightmare but climbing was fine and on the flat I was moving OK. From Sidmouth at CP7 (144Km) my competitive nature kicked in. I had hoped to be semi competitive in this race but events to this point had made it difficult. I realised I could make it into the top 10 if I moved very quickly through the checkpoints. There was 1 CP after Sidmouth. I spent minimal time there grabbing cake, water with Tailwind and a caffeine gel (my only gel of the race). This got me into 8th or 9th. By the final CP at Budleigh a couple of runners came passed me and with 9Km to go I just topped up with water. A couple more runners came passed me in those final kilometres.
I finally made it to Exmouth 28 hours and 38mins after leaving Poole. I’ve not seen the results yet so don’t know my official time or position. It was a fantastic event brilliantly organised by Justin and his team at Climb South West. They have a 120 mile version next year which will add in the path around Portland Bill….
I was slower than expected but know why and have learnt so much to apply to later races but more importantly I really enjoyed it. I have no idea why suffering so much can be such fun but it is 🤔.
A summary of key lessons learnt:
– make sure head torches can’t inadvertently turn on
– if you don’t have a support crew organise your drop bag to minimise decision making
– be careful when running with others. Ultra running is very sociable but if your trying to get round as quick as you can at some point you need to run your own race
– understand the course better. Sometimes this demands a decent recce ahead of time. Those killer hills needed to be experienced before the race.
-don’t carry enough food to get you round if you know you can pick up food on the way. You need to travel as light as possible.
– running poles on tough courses are essential! They help you climb, can be used almost like crutches going down steps/hills when your quads are shot and they will minimise your falling when you’re starting to unravel
– even just walking up a hill isn’t enough to conserve energy, if you have a heart rate monitor use it!
Check out my activity on Strava: https://strava.app.link/Kd7xArafMX