14th April 2012
The Hunters Inn, Heddon Valley, Exmoor
34.1 miles, 7000ft(ish) ascent/descent
As soon as we rocked up to the Hunters Inn I could see that this race was going to deliver its level 5 rating, the toughest in the Coastal Series, just by looking at the steep hills on both sides of the valley. Kris and I decided to camp the night before which meant we were in for a cold and damp night but were able to catch up with some familiar faces from previous CTS events and wake up a few metres from the registration tent in the morning – pretty handy!
We were up at 7am for registration and set off at 8.15. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me, what with last weekends long run, the usual lingering injuries and some fairly ominous black clouds hovering above us. Almost immediately we hit a steep climb which brought us out to the coastal path. I’d not been to Exmoor before and I have to say it was pretty spectacular. After about six miles we passed near to race HQ before heading back up a long hill. I had started to settle into the run a bit by now and was quite happy with a steady pace and some good tracks on my ipod. The route switched between forest paths, small lanes and open coastal paths and was certainly ‘undulating’! At one point it started to rain and the wind picked up just as I made it to the top of a completely exposed hill. It was pretty hostile but then my comedy song came on – Footloose. Yes you read that right. It really made me laugh and push on, so its worth the piss probably taken out of me for admitting it.
We circled Lynmouth, a cool little village with evil climbs out of it on both sides before heading back towards Heddon Valley. I felt ok at this point and my usual walk the hills, run everything else strategy seemed to be working well. The field had really spread out by this point and for several stretches I was on my own. The lead lady of the marathon came past me at about mile 20 though and watching her run past egged me on a bit. At mile 24 I filled up my water for the last time and started focusing on the final 10k loop (the ultra was the full marathon race followed by a loop of the 10K route). The trail down to HQ went on for a while and some people seemed to struggle with the descent but I was just glad to be running down as I knew what was coming. Thankfully the ultra turn off was out of sight of the finish line so it wasn’t too hard to turn right over the bridge and continue on, as all the marathon runners made there way the last few hundred metres home.
Everyone in sight seemed to slow down for the last few miles and I passed a few chaps who had cramped up on the steep hill to the coast path. I had a few wobbles myself and had to remind myself to focus, otherwise there was just a steep cliff between me and the sea. At the top of the last hill I felt good and decided to give it my all and get to the finish as quick as possible. Coming around the corner to the finish line felt amazing, I even got a mini sprint finish in with a fellow runner, and finished in 6hr38 – 2nd women. I was super stoked and jumped around like nutcase when I got my silver medal (much to the amusement of the Endurance Life team). Well done to Kris too, who finished the 7×7 challenge, 7 marathons/ultra’s back to back, whilst running with his camera and providing all of the awesome photos.