Now I have never told anyone this before but i have a mad brother-in-law! Some say it’s a mid-life crisis but personally i think he is hell bent on pushing himself and the boundaries. 3 years ago he convinced me to do the Two Moors away in the worst weather imaginable in November and i swore he would not talk me into another challenge but last year he talked me into doing a 1/4 of a 44 mile trail race from Lizard Point, Cornwall to the famous Lands End. Allegedly i was the fittest so i drew the last leg which was 10 miles from Lamorna Cove to Lands End which saw me run up and over the Minac theatre as well as many other beautiful Cornish coastal hills. We were tackling the race as a 4 and as i ran i was in awe of those doing more than 11 miles.
At the time it was the toughest thing i had ever done but the shear beauty was amazing and in the euphoria of the finish line on the journey to the pub he had once again talked me into raising the stakes. I have since learnt not to talk about racing for 48 hours after a race as i realise it is not healthy! So this year we were in the CQ15 as a pair. In my mind it was so doable as i was running a marathon in April so if i kept up the training i would be fine in June!
Training post Brighton didn’t go well. With a mixture of injury, work and family my training in May was pretty non existent so the thought of tackling 22 miles of a tough trail race became hugely worrying. A few long sessions (22km and 15km) in the fortnight building up put my mind at rest that i still had it in me! My family decided that a weekend in Cornwall was a good idea too after a friend who was running as a pair also broke its shoulder out training so we made the most of our campsite booking. So the Van was packed up ready to from work.
So we left for Cornwall in the van, loaded up for our race weekend, my wife driving, my 6 yo and my brother-in-law. Conversation started on running (as it normally did between us) We had decided i was doing the first 2 checkpoints and then Tim would do the second 2. As i had done leg 4 before i wanted to do something new. Last year each leg was completed but the members of our team in roughly 2 ish hours so our aim was to do each half in around 9 hours as we both felt stronger and fitter.
The traffic was kind and we arrived in time to register that night so with race numbers/chips in hand we made he 5 min trip to our campsite, Henry’s on the Lizard. We put up our tent, settled junior and then began to prep for the morning. Brief and the start of the relay teams was from 6:30 once the Ultra’s had head off so it meant an early start. I was pretty glad i had packed my race bag at home but still went through checking and re checking my kit.
Sleep was not something that came normal pre races and this was no different. With a combination on nerves, camp beds and the Lizard Lighthouse Fog Horn i think i got 3 hours sleep at best and beat the alarm on my phone to the relief of my wife. Once up the prep began, kit, water, breakfast, toilet…….. Toilet…….. TOILET! As the rest of the tent rose to jump in the van and drive the 2 mins to the start to see me off it was cold and grey but like the year before we knew it would warm up pretty quickly.
The Start line was a buzz of pairs and 4’s who were wishing each other well. My son was more interested in the seals swimming off the rocks below than the race start but my wife took the normal pre race photo’s and my Brother-in-law tried to lift my worry with his normal random humour. Race briefing over, which was pretty simple…. Keep the Sea on your left and the land on your right. Help others and enjoy!?! I had 5 mins to get my head in the game and start my half of the 44 miles!
The Ultra’s had set off an hour previous and i wondered as i stood there where they were and if my friend was leading (I later found out he never started as he gave himself food poisoning!) With my son finally at the startline as the seals has swam off! the horn went and i was off! the first few miles were single track cut into the edge of the cliff before we headed off over and down a grassy field. I kept telling myself not to go off too fast as i knew it would get tougher later but my body felt good and it didn’t feel fast. As the miles past and the hills went up and down i thought back to paddy’s commentary of leg 1 from last year. As with my 1/4 the trail was a mix of single track, shingle and steps.
I kept an eye on my watch as i knew i was getting to the end of my first bit and was keen to get to the checkpoint to ‘tick’ it off, see my support crew and get on to leg 2. I hit another peak on some headland, looked at my watch and knew i was near. As i turned the corner i could see the Endurance Life flags on the Church Cove beach below and started to make my way down. As i got closer i saw my wife and son, i checked in, swapped my drinks bottles, gave my wife a sweaty kiss then loaded her up with my Kalenji Arm guards and gloves as the weather had warmed up. I had done the first leg in 1:45, 30 mins faster than paddy the year before, however i ran in trainers rather than walking boots! (Now that’s another story!!) I knew the second leg was tough so i waved goodbye to my support crew and headed off up the road and onto the South West Coastal Path again.
Now the second leg was tough! I was pretty used to the terrain of the first but the second threw lots of new experiences into the mix. From Shale beaches to vertical switch backs it threw it all at me. I caught up some solo runners and had brief chats as we were walking up hills (no point running up hills in a trail race) and tried to push on and keep up the pace. We ran around Porthleven and continued on the trail, i was slowing up but it was feeling O.K. My fuelling strategy seem to be working. A mixture of Gels, Isotonic Drinks and water seemed to have kept me going even though it was getting hot.
Then it happened! we had climbed out of Porthleven and headed out back out on the single track as i began to make my way done another set of steps. My tired legs caught the edge of a step, i slipped and jarred my back. I had at least another 6 miles to go and my back was in spasm. I had Ibuprofen in my bag so i took some and limped on. only to be greeted by a long beach section, a 1km stretch of course sand beach that i had to run across. Every step was agony and my pace got slower and slower. but i was determined to finish my leg. The attitude of runners in trail races is the best. I was spurred on by several runners as i think they could see i was struggling and as the sand ran out i tried to get going again.
The course continued to head up and down along single track and rough steps. I was finding the down far harder than the ups now made harder by running across the front of the cafe at Praa Sands. Although i was tempted to stop and have breakfast with my emergency £20 in my bag which was part of the compulsary kit. I pushed on knowing i had not much left to go. As i attacked yet another almost vertical hill out of Praa Sands i met up with Victoria, a solo runner who was worried about reaching the check point before her cut off time. This was the distraction i needed! Like me she had turned 40 this year and had several ‘challenges’ set up to face in her 40th year. 1 being the whole 44 miles. we plodded on together and chatted away, this took my mind off the pain and a reason to push on. I was determined to help Victoria make the cut.
Either because the signage wasn’t great or we were talking we missed a sign and ended up in someone’s garden! A quick detour and we soon got back on track. Pushing each other on to Parranuthnoe. I knew we were getting near but had a few false alarms. I must have said “Keep pushing it’s just around the corner about 3 times and then it came into sight. You can see the flags of the checkpoint before anything else and then we had to run around a field and then down the road to the heck point. Slightly distracted by a kestrel hovering 10 feet above us in the neighbouring field i pushed on, dragging poor Victoria on to the checkpoint.
As i cross the road into the field and blip in i realised i had done it, maybe not as well as i hoped and not without some issues but it was done. I handed over the chip timer to my Brother-in-law, wished him well and he setted off. I followed Victoria to the food tent checking she had made the cut off time, she had and i helped her refuel with water and crisps. I have done my 23 miles in 5hrs 1 minute, not as fast as i had hoped but with 1, 112m of climbing and jarring my back i was not going to complain!
My wife and son were there, a little panicked as i was later than planned but glad i had done my stage. No for the harder part of a relay event. I now had to climb into the van and head off to the next checkpoint. I didn’t have time to stretch or even change as we knew that we wanted to get some food in Mousehole. I knew completely that i would be stiff as a board when we got there but hoped it would not be too bad. As with me Tim was moving well and took us by surprise in Mousehole which meant a quick exit to meet him at Checkpoint 3, Lamorna Cove. Once again we just pulled into the car park as he ran past us. It had taken a wile to get there due to the traffic and a single carridge road.
We headed to Lands end, Parked up and i shuffled to the finish. As we got there we had heard the winning male had won in 6 hours 43 minutes! and a lead runner had also been disqualified on a random kit check after throwing is jacket to a friend earlier in the race. We settle down on he edge with the other runners cheering in the finishers. We could see the runners coming over the headland about 500m away and played the game ‘spot Tim’ after half an hour my son was getting bored but we were sure it would not be long. We saw a friend and local runner Tobit who had tackled the whole thing, we cheered him on and greeted him at the finish.
With trail running and ultra’s, runners come in all shapes and sizes and i was amazed at how fresh some of the solo’s appeared as the reached the final 50m and also those who had had tumbles and wore the badges of honour of bloodied knees and even heads! After some time we could see Tim heading in. My son ran out to join him and ran him to the finish. We had completed the challenge. Tim had done his half, and we got our print out. He look spent and said he just slowed up in section 4 but we were happy as we had finished! And our time?….. 9hrs 58 we had got uder 10 hours. Tim had done his section in 4hrs 56. We qued for our T shirts and medals and then headed back to the car.
My wife helped us get back in the van and we headed back to Henry’s Campsite to get a shower and a well deserved pint. As we drove we began to unpick the race and what went well and what went wrong. We had even inspired my wife to run it in 2016 in a team of 4 even though she is new to running………. and then it started.
“So Matt do you fancy the whole challenge next year?” Tim asked.
“No, my body is not ready or able for that sort of challenge!”
“But it could be, i think we should do the whole lot!”
“Good luck with that, i fancy doing the 4 way relay again next year”
So it’s now July, Tim has signed up for the whole thing, he did it the day it re opened. But what about me i hear you ask………….. I haven’t crumbled and still plan to run as a team of 4. The race is a great race because of its views, challenge and atmosphere.
But there is still time to change my mind!