Tuesday 16 August 2016

Cyclopark Challenge Series

Hot Hot Hot (photo: Paul Johnston)

#147 Olympic Run  6:18:35   33.65 miles
#148 F1 Run   6:31:40  31.5 miles
#149 Darnley Run 8:30:08  39.3 miles
#150 Punk run 6:07:47   29.5 miles

The Cyclopark series was 4 runs over 4 different trails over 4 consecutive days. They were timed events in and around the Cyclopark in Gravesend, Kent. Around 100 did the event each day with a number doing multiple days. It was August, it was Kent, it was hot.

I think most that were doing multiple days stayed in the locality. I toyed with this idea but every-time I have stayed I have regretted it as Basingstoke is only 1.5hrs away and it would be my shower and my bath that I would be getting home to. So I decided to commute. That would mean a lot of driving and running and in retrospect it worked out, but I was lucky with traffic to and from each day (So only 12 hours driving).

This was to be my first quad which is a big enough challenge anyway, but I had an inkling in the back of my head that this was an opportunity to do 4 Ultras, as except for day 3 they would be relatively short Ultras. This was not going to be about times, except to make sure that I was within time for the cut off to go out again.

Day 1  Olympic Run  (25th Ultra)

Olympic Start
Exactly 100 turned up for the first day with an Olympic theme. There were lots of London 2012 gear around.  The temperature for today was due to be the mildest predicted for the weekend but still saw 22 degrees which made for a warm but very pleasant day. One of the guys had appropriated a torch from the London Olympics and it was there and I managed to grab a quick photo.

Today's course was the lightning bolt course that I have done once before when the Jeskins challenge was relocated at short notice earlier in the year. It was a short course with 7 laps constituting a marathon and beyond that an Ultra.

With 2012 Olympic torch
The course was a simple out and back.  Out was predominantly up hill and back was predominantly down hill. There was a breeze but nothing unsettling. It was 60/40 tarmac/trail.  We had a 6 hr time limit to be out on our last lap. Base camp was set up in the overflow car park of the cyclopark and we would pass it every lap. I also knew that in these types of events most people stop at marathon distance or before and few go on to Ultra (particularly in the heat).

Awesome medal
At 9:30 we were off. Everyone except a few only here for the one day were taking it easy and I started clocking the laps off in around 42 minutes. It was very pleasant running. Coming into the finish of lap one I noticed Paddy Quinn coming out on his first. He had a GPS issue and arrived late. Round and round we went. Half marathon came in a leisurely 2:10 and marathon in 4:40. There was plenty of time to go out again as I watched pretty much everyone stop at Marathon. The only exceptions were Jeff Hunt (winner of the Samphire Hoe 100) and Paddy. I was firmly in the middle of the two. Effort of the day goes to Lottie Hammet who ran with her mum for 2 laps and her first ever 10K.

As the aid station had everything you need I don't bring anything to these races. Watermelon was a great addition today and there was more cakes than would choke a horse.

I came through 8 laps (a small Ultra) and there was still plenty of time and the course was busy with those finishing marathons so I went out again. My 33.65 miles was good enough for 2nd place overall out of 100 finishers. The medal was the biggest and heaviest and one of the best that I now have.

Day 2 F1 Run

The theme of the day was F1 and specifically 40 years since James Hunt won the F1 championship. This was Louise Tidbury's idea and she was there dressed as "sexy pit girl". It was very very hot today, with temperatures reaching 27/28 degrees and as we were on Tarmac all day it was just roasting. This had an attritional affect on the field with a lot stopping early. We had 86 finishers today and just as a measure of how tough it was there was only 1 sub 4 hr finisher and only 9 sub 5 hr finishers (WOW!).
Awesome medal
Sexy Pit Girl (Tids)
This was a very straight forward 5.25 mile out and back along the 177 cycle path. One side was up hill and the other down hill. This meant that every lap you had a 2 mile drag up the hill which got very very tiring. The heat was just unbelievable and everyone struggled. 5 laps for a Marathon and 6 for an Ultra. I had my sights set on 6 laps. This run was a pretty quiet affair with everyone just getting on with it.   The highlight was around lap 3 in the heat of the day, Traviss was on the course with small ice Creams. I came up to him and he said "last one"...  I was so thankful and poor Nick missed out.

Somei was there as always encouraging everyone. The twins were also there doing their first quad. They are a fantastic source of encouragement always.

Paddy was going well and half a lap up on me. I just knew he would go Ultra and sure enough he did going out on his 6th lap. I came round to marathon finish in 5hrs 20 and took the big decision to go out again. The last lap was relatively quiet as most had finished and I slowly reeled in all of those who were finishing their marathons and there were quite a few. I had the twins in my sights from 3 miles out and just pipped them at the post.  My 31.5 miles was good enough for 2nd place overall. The medal again was a triumph and Team Ireland with 2 podiums.

Day 3 Darnley Run

This was to my biggest challenge as it was a 13.1 mile loop and to go Ultra meant 39.3 miles. It was also hot hot hot as usual and this course had plenty of elevation. 80 finished and noone got even close to 4 hrs today. Thankfully it wasnt as hot as Friday but it was still warm at mid 20's.

Starting Darnley
We headed off following the lightning bolt route for the first 1.7 miles. This was steady up hill. Turning right we quickly entered Jeskyns park with its flat wide gravel trails and we traversed the whole park exiting close to Cobham village.  Through the village we came out the other side and ran towards the Cobham (Darnley) Mausoleum.  About 1 mile before the Mausoleum we came off road once more and started climbing up to the listed building with commanding views over Kent. On the first lap this was runnable. After that it was a hike. Summiting at the Mausoleum we entered Ranscombe estate and the familiar route there. Immediately we had long sweeping downhill to the high speed train track which we followed for a further mile. Crossing an open field we came across the aid station. Phew!

Awesome medal
This was just over half way. A long sweeping downhill out of the aid station brought us to the major climb of the day which was at best hikeable. This brought us back up the Mausoleum again where we retraced our steps back through Cobham, Jeskyns to the Cyclopark. It really was a lovely route but tough.

Coming back to marathon finish I noticed Lee and Ellen had gone out on a third lap. I was a long way back. Noone else seemed interested in Ultra today. I was still well within the 5hr 30 cut off when I finished marathon and made the very brave/stupid decision to go back out. I knew I was taking a liberty going out again,  as I was well back but I did it anyway and have apologised to Traviss and Rachel ever since.

Also coming back through Cobham village (about 23 miles in) there was a big caffuffle in one of the pubs. There of course was Philip and Georgie belting into some very nice cool looking pints and having a great old laugh (they would stay for 3 rounds). They would be joined by others including Enda and Costas.

Team Ireland.
Medal collection for the series
I passed everyone finishing off their marathon en-route with the last group just as I approached the Mausoleum. Ellen had caught them at this stage so I knew I was on my own. The aid station was still there waiting for me (for which I am truly grateful). I did really try on the way back running where I could.  When I got into Jeskyns I was met by the very welcome sight of Enda Cleary who had a can of coke and jogged home with me (even after he had done his own marathon).

I eventually rocked up to the finish a long way off everyone else today. But 3 Ultra's done. The Medal today was brilliant and the attention to detail incredible.

Day 4  Punk Run (150th Marathon or longer)

Lots of punks
Punk Run start
The last day was themed the punk run and there were lots and lots of punks there. I suspect back in the 70's they were real punks. This was a similar route to Day 1 and 2 except we used a 0.5 mile loop around the really rocky cyclo-route course.  Over all the loop was a little shorter at just over 5K. It was 8 loops for a marathon.

I had set myself up now to do an ultra so that was all I had in mind. I had 6 hrs to do a marathon which should be achievable. It was hot again today and I was slow but what do you expect. It was a bigger crowd today with 142 finishers.

Awesome medal and dead Hokas
Naturally it was slow slow today and it was hot. It was great to chat to the twins today who were ever present all week and a joy to be around. Apryl was doing her 75th marathon today and was bouncy happy. It was great to see Sunny back and improving all the time. She will be sub 4 again in no time.  It was also great to meet Costas on the course today for the first time and I ran with him as he finished his first ultra of the week.

I eventually went out on lap 9 (I had to really) and got it done.

It was an experience and I can now say not only have I done a quad but managed a quad ultra. My 134 miles was easily the furthest of the field and I was very happy with that. What a month.

Photos: Dee Rand and Paul Johntson and Enda (hick) Cleary

Stats for all 4 runs:

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