Hope you’ve all been keeping well in the ridiculously long period of time since my last race recap. The end of September saw me finish my first 100 mile race- the Cotswold Century- and with me feeling unsure about doing another 100 miler.
Well, after a few weeks recovery that all changed and I entered what will certainly become a notorious 100 miler: Mud Crew’s Arc of Attrition. Although it is a new race it is already billed as the south west’s toughest footrace, mainly due to the severity of the coast path around Cornwall and that someone thought it would be a good idea to hold the event at the beginning of February.
I started my long slog of endurance training about a month after the Cotswolds and embraced all the joys that long hours on the coast paths bring in winter. To be honest, I was pretty worried about the Arc. This would be my first long winter ultra and I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with it. And of course, there were the usual fears about trenchfoot, bladder infections and buttock chafing.
But let’s get to the recap itself. As always I’ll stick to main highlights/dark times in an attempt to keep it brief.
Friday 6th February 2015
Praise God the weather is clear and is set to stay that way. I’d spent much of my training being blown around cliffs in gales and rain and suffering the ongoing rot of trenchfoot. But tonight it is clear, with a full moon and the fairy sparkles of frost and ice decorating the trails and grass. Frost = hard ground and no mud. No mud = feet with no fissures and rotting. I give a little thank you up to the sky.
We all set off west at 6pm with myself and my friends Stu and Dave right at the back. This is part of our race strategy to keep it as slow as possible throughout the night. It seems like most people have the same idea as we’re pretty bunched together for hours.
Lizard Point 10 miles
Seriously, head torches are the bane of my life. Only three hours in and the light from my torch is fading, despite the batteries being freshly charged. I swapped over to my other torch- which isn’t as comfy or as bright- and spent the next couple of miles to Kynance Cove tripping over rocks and using language that would make a sailor blush. Stu and Dave both turned a deaf ear to it all. Vince was waiting at Kynance and while the guys were refuelling I changed the batteries in my favourite torch. These lasted for the next 9 hours with no dip in brightness. I’m actually really pleased with this headtorch, it was only about £15 off Amazon but the batteries that come with it are a pile of shit. I made a mental note to buy some more of the decent batteries.
Kynance Cove 12.5 miles
So this was the first place Vince was waiting as my support crew. Due to the whole battery issue I was all abrupt and curt. Vince asked if we wanted coffee and I rejected it, right in his face, telling him we needed to press on. And so we did. A few minutes later I realised I had been pretty rude. I had asked Vince to make us coffee and then I just spurned him. I kept seeing his face looking after me as I ran off without thanks. Well that made me feel shitty. I swam around in a little sea of negativity for a while before getting a grip of myself. I’d have to be extra grateful when I next saw him.
Soap Rock 14 ish miles
You think you know a place, and then it turns out that when its dark it all looks different and you get lost. This is especially embarrassing when you’ve been bragging about how you ‘know the route like the back of your hand’. Sorry everyone. On the plus side, brambles and thorns wake the skin up and make you feel all zingy.
Porthleven check point 24.5 miles
Pub. Hot food. Coffee. And my friend Angie with treats for me! Thanks, Ang. Me, Stu and Dave stay only ten minutes before moving on. The pack is finally starting to spread out a little.
Rinsey Head 28 miles
Hello Vince. Sorry I’m such a knob. Yes I will have some coffee thank you.
Mousehole check point 42 miles
Some more lovely volunteers who give me hot rice pudding and coffee AND the best peanut butter blondie I’ve eved had. My friend Angie is here as well- what a star. The night has been ok considering I was dreading it. Me and the lads have gone slow and we’re feeling strong. Again we only stop 10 minutes here before moving on.
Minack/Porthcurno 50 miles
I’ve pulled ahead a little bit from Stu and Dave and arrive at Minack alone. The sun has just come up- a beautiful sunrise- but it’s still bitingly cold. I see Vince and ask him to tape my back where I’m suffering chafing from the movement of my clothes- this sorts the problem out for the rest of the race- and do a complete top half clothing change. It’s freezing. Just as I’m finishing Stu and Dave run up and over to Stu’s girlfriend, Beth, and their friend, Phil, who are crewing for them. I tell them I have to press on as it’s so cold now that I’ve stopped and we wish each other luck. Now to my favourite bit of coast.
Sennen checkpoint 55.5 miles
I’m still feeling fine. It helps that the weather is so clear and this is a fantastic bit of coast path to run. The volunteers at the Sennen checkpoint are lovely but I don’t feel the need for anything more than a flying visit. As I leave I see Angie one more time who presses jelly sweets into my hand and wishes me luck.
Cape Cornwall 60.5 miles
Another point where Vince is waiting for me, I also see Beth who is waiting for Stu and Dave. There are public toilets here but they are locked-grrrrr. Part of my anti ass chafing regime is to make sure I’m completely wiped dry after peeing. Sorry to be graphic but there you have it. So far I’ve been able to hold out and use the toilets at checkpoints but it looks like I now have to go al fresco. I wait until I get down into the relative privacy of Kenidjack Valley and put the used hanky in a small zip lock bag in my pack for future use. Gross. But no chafing at all throughout the entire race so I don’t care.
Pendeen Watch 64.5 miles
Vince is here, and I’m also surprised by my brother, his wife, Tara, my cousin and their friend showing up. I’m just having a low moment and I find it all a bit overwhelming. The dreaded Pendeen to St Ives section is coming up, a land of bogs, rocks, cows and possibly dragons. There’s no real access points for support crews to get to runners for the next 13 miles so I’m on my own. I figure it will take me about 4.5 hours to reach St Ives.
Zennor 71 miles
God this section just goes on and on. So many bogs. So many rocks. It’s also become ridiculously warm, so I’ve had to strip off multiple layers. The shining angel that is Beth is sat on the steps on the path at Zennor and gives me coffee and a tangerine. I run on and almost immediately run into my friend Paul and his family who are perched on the headland. I haven’t seen anyone in hours and suddenly I’m inundated. Although its only a brief greeting and a wave before I’m alone again.
I appreciate that cows aren’t a location but they need their own sub section. Why do they conspire against me so much? I was halfway between Zennor and St Ives when suddenly a herd of cows trotted out onto the path in front of me…and then stopped. I got the usual sinking feeling in my stomach as they started manoevering into the attack position, i.e. all facing me, and a couple of the alpha cows stamped a bit and took a few steps toward me. Bastard bastard cows. This was the worst part of the race. I turned and walked as close to the cliff edge as I could before detouring around them. They kept their beady evil eyes on me the whole time, turning en masse to ensure immediate stampeding at any given moment. I had read somewhere that looking a cow in the eyes is the equivalent of insulting its mum and sleeping with its sister, so I kept my head turned away the whole time lest they took offence and decided to kill me. The whole time I kept muttering my cow mantra ‘please god, please god, please god…’ and didn’t feel safe until there was a gate between me and them.
St Ives 78 miles
My family were waiting in St Ives and Tara gave me a Hub cheeseburger. It was lush but I was having trouble stomaching it. Time to start forcing food down then. They went onto to the checkpoint while I did the mandatory loop of the Island, got lost and floundered my way to the checkpoint. It had taken me nearly 5 hours to cover 13 miles. I wish I could blame it all on the cows but the truth was I was starting to feel tired. I suspect part of that was just the mental strain of the terrain (I hate bogs) and being alone for so many hours. On the plus side it was only now just starting to get dark so I had managed to complete the most difficult terrain in daylight.
A bit of a surprise when my friends Tilly and Sharon appeared from nowhere and told me I was currently second female and 11th overall. Go me! I was also pretty confident that I was going to hit my sub 30 hour goal so with this little happiness hit I ran on to meet Vince in Lelant and drink the latte he had brought me. Good times.
Hayle 84 miles
Another nice surprise when I found my friend Jess standing on a street corner with apple juice and cereal bars for me as she had been tracking me on the Mud Crew website. She walked with me for a bit while I guzzled the apple juice and then wished me luck before she went off to the cinema.
I saw Sharon Sullivan marshalling at the bridge and she pointed me in the right direction. Despite this I still managed to get lost again 5 minutes later. I was walking up a hill when a car pulled up beside me and the man inside asked if I was Becky. Er, yes? Who are you?
Turns out he was tracking the race as well online and had been following me but I was going the wrong way. He told me if I followed the lane down the hill it should get me back to the right road. He then offered to follow me in his car to make sure I got there. As a female there was the immediate thought ‘I wonder if this is how I’m going to die’ but then I thought ‘sod it, if needs be I’ll just ninja him’ . So I ran ahead down the lane and he followed me, and gave me the thumbs up and wished me luck when I got back to the right road. See? Strangers can be wonderful people. Thank you!
The next section was awful though. Due to the issues with the tide and the labyrinth through the sand dunes it had been decided that the route would divert along the road to Godrevy instead of following the coast path. Urgh I hate road running. It was only a few miles but my feet were starting to feel sore. I considered walking it out but I didn’t want to risk missing out on a sub 30. I reached Vince at Godrevy at about 8.30 pm which meant that I had 3.5 hours to finish.
Portreath 96 miles
Well the last two hours went reasonably well. I’d been forcing myself to run all flats and downhills which meant I reached Portreath in pretty good time. I now only had 3 miles of ups and downs to cover before I hit the finish at Porthtowan. I woke Vince up in the van and downed the last of the latte before pushing on. It was 10:20 pm. I had an hour and forty minutes but I didn’t want to take it easy.
The section between Portreath and Porthtowan is pretty tricky with two dips on the cliffs with steep, high steps going down and straight up. I was dreading them. I hit the first one, and going down the steps was a bit sore but to my surprise it was fine going up. Compared to hitting Skiddaw at the end of the 10 Peaks Xtreme it was OK. Going down though- yeouch that was tender.
Once I covered both dips I knew it was just along the stone path before dropping down to Porthtowan. This was the hardest bit, maybe because I knew it was nearly over, but also the soles of my feet were feeling pretty sore after the road running earlier. Finally I saw the lights of Porthowan beneath me and dropped down to the village.
I heard Vince up ahead say ‘is that you, Beck?’ ‘Yes it’s me!’ And we trotted up to the finish at the Blue Bar together. I was pleased Vince finished the last 50 yards with me, it seemed fitting since his support was key to me completing the event. My brother and his wife were there, plus my cousin, aunt and uncle, and Angie had arrived again to see me in!
All in all, I’m really please with the event, Mud Crew did fantastically well- there were actually more volunteers than runners! And its such an incredible route, we were so lucky with the weather though. I completed it in 29 hours 28 minutes-my new longest time for a race- and tenth overall! Out of the 53 people that started the race 33 people managed to finish so that makes me feel like a superhero. But I would have found it much, much harder if we’d have had our normal Cornish gales and rain. Full results can be found here.
Mainly I’m just pleased to have an unchafed ass and normal healthy feet. It’s the little things in life.
So…a few weeks off now before I start some speedwork training. The next big race is the Lakeland 100 in July which I need to start planning for.
Take care all