CTS South Devon, EnduranceLife event (Cat4 severe) 5,290ft

07:05: After just under an hour driving on a long, winding, dark and small road to the coast of Beesands, Paignton, I reach my destination of the day.  I am about to embark on an Ultra run up steep, rocky inclines around the coastal paths and moors of South Devon. Once parked up, it is still dark as I make my way over to the registration marquee and wait until 7:30 for it to open.

Once I have collected my race number, tech top and Cliff gel I head back to the car to pick up my running OMM rucksack and supplies. All ready to go I head into the briefing tent of final instructions.

08:15:  This is my first EnduranceLife event and I am very excited as I have heard great things about how well organised they are. The director explains how the 125 of us running the Ultra will follow the marathon route high up along the coast until we lap back meeting the route again in the other direction. We will pass the half and full marathon runners so need to go careful on narrow tracks. Already I start to feel a little nervous.

Once we have completed the marathon route of 29 miles back to base, we should take the 10k route following the signs until we make it back to the finish. Following the marker arrows we cannot go wrong, he assures us.

1-7 miles

Min/Mile pace: 9:10 10:19 8:36 8:31 8:03 12:00 8:42

Making our way to the starting area, a few of us are brave enough to hang around the front making small talk amongst ourselves.  Then 5,4,3,2,1....We don't go anywhere yet as we have to have our chip tags scanned individually by two of the organisers as we move forward.  Once scanned I follow the front pack, steady up the field, past the few houses and pub on the front then up the steps towards the track. It is a very steep vertical climb already.

We go through the gate at the top and up the muddy track, climbing high up to 350ft. Once out on the open track away from covered trees I get to see the views across the coastline from high above. It is stunning up here and the weather is a calm breeze and a warm 8C with medium cloud coverage.

I follow the runners in the lead and soon the group spreads out. I have two to three overtake then they drop back again over the space of 5 miles. I seem to find my own pace of marching up the climbs and running the flat where possible. I am using today as training. I have never run on this terrain or in this part of the West Country so do not know what to expect.

Min/Mile pace: 10:13 9:11 12:52 10:30 10:10 9:43 12:42

Passing a few walkers and spectators at the scenic locations, eventually I arrive at a water stop. I have a cup of water and fix my number strap over my jacket, as it keeps rising up and rubbing my skin.

I head on up the next climb that reaches 430ft before heading down a steep track winding around the rocky cliff side. I think this race should be called the Rocky Coastal Trail! It reminds me of some parts of the California mountains. I stop a few times to take in some of the breathtaking picturesm then a Gu gel. Once the route cuts across the top and out to the A road it goes past a small coved beach and then out onto a large track into Check Point 1.

My number is recorded, my chip scanned and I take a Cliff Bar for later. I have enough water for now. I’ve covered 12.81 miles in 2:09:46. I walk up the steady incline to have some fuel of dates and dried figs. I adopt the walking hills technique from now on. Once satisfied I carry on slowly until the trail winds down a country lane onto a track through an undergrowth of trees and then out up a very steep, sharp ascent of 300ft.

I catch up to the two previous runners and walk a bit with them. Conversation is just a few short brief words between our deep breathing. My quads are burning already from the intense climb and it is difficult to get back into a pace for a minute or so.


Min/Mile Pace: 9:49 13:15 11:03 9:17 9:40 11:33 9:41

The route slowly begins to even out but is tricky in places from all the mud and deep puddles below. Keeping my head down, the track meets a lane that goes up steadily until coming back down into a small village for Check Point 2. I chat to the bubbly support lady, scan my chip and refill my water. I have now covered 16.55 miles in 2:53.44. Thanking her, I then carry on following the arrow signs down the winding lane and out up a road back into the country.

An older chap is in view and we run together for awhile. I tell him I should have had more sleep! He replies 'I am getting too old for this!' I say 'Rubbish, never too old!'  I say my goodbyes and that I will see him soon. I have a Nakd fruit bar. The track is so boggy in places it is hard to grip my footing.

The grass field goes back downhill and as I pick up pace I trip and begin falling, I put my hand out as it happens so fast, start to crouch down, spin on my hand full circle then carry on running as I rise back up again! Nothing like a little breakdance moment back there then! I chuckle to myself but am grateful I didn’t fall.

The route comes back out to the top of the steep hill that we climbed earlier from the other direction and by now the other marathon runners are coming up towards me. I walk down, steady around the side of them, taking care as so many are slipping and falling at this point.

22-28 Miles

Min/Mile Pace: 10:24 11:22 10:39 8:14 11:07 10:44 9:14

Once back onto the small road the arrows go the opposite way and out through a deep wooded track, over streams ankle deep and rocky terrain. My poor legs are really suffering here so I slow to take in some more fuel and chocolate coffee beans for a lift. The path is a long and slow incline up until eventually it meets the road again. I meet a chap up front and we chat about how tough the route is and agree that we are not looking forward to passing the finish before heading back up the cliff side again.

His pace is quicker than mine and at the next check point he is in and out so quick, hardly stopping. I have just enough water to reach the 29 mile marathon point at the base, so have two cups of water, one with a Cliff shot with electrolytes to keep me hydrated. My number is recorded and chip scanned. 4:30:38 has ticked over and I’ve covered 25.57 miles.

Carrying on up the lane, the marker takes me to the right parallel to the water’s edge but on a shingle track away from the A379 road. The track is long and just a straight line ahead. It looks mind numbing and I am feeling rather low at this stage. There is little to see as the bank is quite high to the left and just the waterside of Slapton Ley then passing Lower Ley on my right. Finally the shingle track ends and meets the water edge path that leads up steep steps, through alley ways then back down to the water front heading to Beesands the base.

I have a veggie wrap at this point as my energy levels are low. Once I make it back on the waterside I pass a few finishers from the half marathon and they cheer me on as I go past. At base I refill my water and then look for a marker. I assume we head back from the point where we started so go to the finish to check. Once confirmed with the support team I head on back towards the steep steps. 

29-36 Miles

Min/Mile Pace: 13:31 9:42 13:05 11:52 16:23 8:57 11:57 9:06

Lots of finishers are coming tearing down the path towards me and I stay as far to the edge as I can until most of them have gone past me. As I reach the top of the climb for the second time around I think the majority of the group has passed.

I steadily plod the best I can on my tired legs; my quads are so tight and sore from so much climbing intensity today. I go over the styles carefully (as I feel about 80 years old by now) through gates and the muddy tracks that lead past the scenic spots once again. I stop for a breather and absorb the great views below taking some pictures while I am here. I see the water station and the team shout out 'keep following the 10k signs'. 

I head on, following the arrows, until I see the 10k marker, up a very boggy trail - which I have to walk, then eventually back onto the open fields. The track leads back to the water station that is check point four. I chat to the lady here and she tells me to stretch my quads. 'You are doing so well, it’s ok, you have all day!' I laugh and tell her I'd rather not take that long! I thank her and head on. It’s 5:45:31 on my Garmin now and I’ve covered 31.69 miles.

I catch up with another runner who has been struggling with his foot. He thinks he has twisted his ankle. He is okay and we run a similar pace together for now. We cut through to the route that meets the marathon route back in the wooded area up through the streams then eventually into the half marathon path and passing the runners coming from the other direction once again. The track is muddy again here as hundreds of feet have pounded along, up and down. The track starts to go downhill and a sign approaching says 'just one mile to go'... finally it’s nearly over....

I start to up my pace the best that I can on my sore legs and I feel a second wind to pick things up. The other runner starts to slow from behind and it is just me winding back down the track, past the small cottages on the front then eventually I can see the finish in view. It's been a long time coming!

Back across the field and I head under the finish to scan my chip tag.  A moment of relief and accomplishment!  Overall I am very pleased to have made it through without any injury or DNF (did not finish) on my name.

I came in at 6:23:06 in 11th place. Here is my chip summary:

I would really like to recommend Endurance Life for great organisation and professionalism from start to finish with excellent navigation, which included very accurate markers throughout the route, proving foolproof from taking any wrong turns!

It is nice to experience an Ultra event without having to refer to any directions or a map. Although there is no big medal for finishing this CTS event, you do get a tech tee, dog tag of the event, wrist band and an amazing experience in one of the most stunning, rugged parts of the UK.

Now I just have the small problem of deciding whether to come back to the West Country in June for the UTSW 60 or 100 mile event or to head up north for the Hadrian's Wall....Decisions, decisions....

Comments and feedback all welcome...

Run Free


1 comment:

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