Monday 23 January 2017

Hugin Challenge

#174   Hugin Challenge  5:53:49   32.5 Miles

6th Overall out of 140 finishers  (fair few Ultras)

Talk about drama. This was a real case of planes, trains and automobiles in an attempt to do a back to back ultra.

Kris at Ranscombe
Phase 1:  I left work at 5:15 pm on Friday and walked to the Luas (Dublin tram) and took it to the city centre, I then walked to Abbey St to pick up the 41 bus to the airport. Arriving in plenty of time I headed to the lounge to start carb loading for the next day and fill up on cans of coke for the race. On time the 20:40 flight to Southampton was boarded. We even left a little early and headed to the runway. Just as we were building speed for take off there was a big squeal of air brakes and the plane exited the runway and headed back to the terminal. On the way back a very nervous captain came on the tannoy saying the engine had failed and he had to "reject the takeoff" and that the broken plane was not going anywhere. We were immediately disembarked, cleared immigration and had to queue at the ticket desk for new arrangements.  The only option was the 8:40am flight to Southampton and they put us all up at the Carlton at the airport and we had to leave all the coke behind.

Stunning views at Ranscombe
Phase 2: Back in the airport early, 8am came and the race had started already, but we as of
Hugin Ship
yet had not boarded the plane. We were soon on board (same plane as last night) and off we went arriving in Southampton at 9:57. This gave us 11 mins to catch the 10:08 to Waterloo, which was just made and fortunately was also on time. This got us into Basingstoke at 10:37am and a quick Taxi ride and I was home. Changing quickly for the race and defrosting the car we were on the road for the 2hr journey to the race picking Brenda up enroute.

Stunning views at Pegwell
As we parked up in Cuxton and jogged to the start at the Ranscombe Farm reserve there was already a steady stream of runners who had finished marathon and were done for the day. We caused much amusement arriving 5hrs late. A quick registration and we were off and Kris immediately headed into the distance.

Freezing start
This is a tough course and the earlier frost had thawed and there were large portions of claggy mud which played havoc with grip. It was a 4.4 mile loop and we had to be out on our last loop within 2 hrs of us starting. Being fresh, and the rest of the field being knackered, after already running 5hrs, we passed many on the course apologising as we went for going so fast. Brenda and I ran well to complete 3 laps and a half marathon and Kris managed to squeeze a 4th lap in for 17.5 miles but far short of our target Ultra. The course was absolutely stunning with great panoramic views across Kent and the medal was as always amazing. I headed back to Basingstoke via Yately for the night.

Kris at Pegwell
Phase 3: It was a 5:45am start to drive the 2hrs 20mins to Pegwell bay close to Ramsgate the next morning with the thermometer regularly showing -6 to -7 and very frosty. This had not been forecast and there was much discussion with what to wear. In the end you could not wear enough but a base layer, T-Shirt, gloves and a buff just saw me through.

i think this is me
This was on a 3.25 mile circuit around the large Hugin viking ship and around the Pegwell bay nature reserve. Cold and all as it was at the start it got worse when freezing fog rolled in after 1 hour and stayed with us for the rest of the day. This brought visibility down to 10m and keeping extremities and particularly the core warm and functioning became an ongoing obsession. If things were not bad enough ice started forming on hair and eye lashes and dangling icicles from beard and eyebrows. It was at times like a scene out of a cross between "The Revenant" and "Frozen".

The volunteers at the aid station and marshals were absolutely freezing and the water at the aid station even had ice floating in it. This was close to the coldest I have ever been but still managed to handle the conditions quite well. Kris and I had agreed that since we were in no real rush back to the airport we would stay out as long as we could.

One of my favourites
On lap 8 I fell in with James Bennett and we talked about his plans for the coming year which included a crazy number of 100 miles. We came through marathon in 4:28 together and decided to go out again. I left James on the hill and  and even managed to do a 10th lap. I however even though had time to spare finished at that. This was good enough for 6th position overall with quite a few going out to Ultra distance. Kris went one better as she does and managed 11 laps and again decided to finish despite having time. This was good enough for 2nd overall and 1st lady home.

Fortunately despite the fog Gatwick was open and it was a smooth trip back.

Photos courtesy of Martyn Ewers, Paul Johntson, Nelson Howe and Philip (Dee) Rand,

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