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,

Monday 2 January 2017

Winchelsea Chase

#173 Winchelsea Chase 32.55 miles in allotted time

This was another coincidental run. Linz and Libs were flying back to Dublin from Gatwick early doors and when I searched around I came across this event that was reasonably close to Gatwick. There was no way that I was going to make the start time but a quick email exchange with the RD and it was all sorted.

This race was part of a relatively new race series based in Winchelsea and its Rye Harbor Nature Reserve. Its inevitable that it will be compared to the other race series in the area and I have to say it holds up well.

As expected I arrived late (around 20 minutes) and everyone had already left. There was no problem checking in at the HQ with its most amazing aid station. It was all very Vegan friendly but had crisps, sweets, cakes, drinks, watermelon, nuts and lots of other things. It was a great start. I was told there were around 80 already out on the course.

Aid station
The course itself was a 5.3 mile loop that was sperm shaped. You started at the tail and ran along the sea front. The first mile was behind flood defenses on a tarmac path before climbing and opening up  to show panoramic views of the English channel. It was cold about 1 degree and a base layer, T shirt , hat and gloves were needed. After 1.8 miles there was a sharp left turn into the nature reserve and though initially very pebbly became grassy and soft. This 1.7 mileish stretch circled some lakes and was pretty flat except for a 10m section that vertical. you followed this around to complete the circle and then retraced your steps back to the aid station.

Beautiful day

I met the leaders about 1 mile on their way back, included with them not surprisingly was Lee Rogers. But what was surprising was he didn't do Ultra today and stopped at marathon. I then passed pretty much the rest of the race on their way back as they were well ahead of me.

back at HQ
There was the new European record holder Elaine Dean who today stopped after 2 laps. This doesnt surprise me after 120+ marathon/Ultra effort in 2016. I eventually started to catch the back markers after around 3 miles. The first lap was around 50 minutes and I headed out immediately again. I fell in with Rhys Pippard for a lap. Rhys being half of one of the Ultra power couples. Much talk of past glory and future plans left me with 2 new phrases that I will use often. Winter weight and racing weight.....  We passed Brian Mills on his 1237th marathon (not including ultras) and Nick Nicholson who is out for the world record this year after an amazing 202 marathons in 2016.

The laps were counted by ticking off a wrist band but I suspect this wasn't needed as the organisers knew exactly how many laps people had done. There was also roving marshals on bikes and I felt we were very well looked after, and it was safe.

Rhys and the organisers
Half way came in 2:13 and I plodded on the very busy sea front (lots of dogs, prams and bikes) for another few laps enjoying the sunshine though it never warmed up. When I came upto marathon distance Rhys sped past at 7 minute miles to complete his 7 in 7. I turned in plenty of time before the cutoff and headed out for an ultra which I duly completed in around 6 hrs.

The organisers were really friendly and gave me a lovely "we run, they run, I run" medal. Inside HQ was a table full of goodies and you could do yourself up a goodie bag and some of the nicest vegan friendly vegetable soup I have ever had.

I really enjoyed today and the organisation was superb. I suspect that only one course may become a little samey and the organisers will join the bling extravaganza that is currently happening. The course as well was very busy and becuase of this difficult to get a good pace going on and I had a few run ins with dogs en-route. But would I do it again?  absolutely.

I'll put up some photos when they are published.

Stats for today.