Tuesday 3rd March
It was still dark when I got up on Sunday morning, the dawn sky over to the East was just starting to lighten, the good news it was pinky blue rather than thick black cloud!! It looked promising. A quick look on the iPad at the met office website showed a window of good weather until about 2 or 3 pm, that should see me finish my race.
Trying to ensure my food intake to take account of the 10:30 start was a challenge, too early and I would be hungry half way round, too early and I wouldn’t have time to digest it. I decided to have two breakfasts in smaller portions, so a small bowl of muesli with blueberries and a banana and a couple of mugs of tea for starters and take a small portion to eat in the carpark about an hour or so before the start. Parking in Seaton would be at a premium today as building was taking up most of the only large car park in the town, with 2000 runners and their supporters I needed to get there early to feel comfortable. I am one of those annoying people who has to get there very early!! as I am worried I won’t be able to park.
It was gear sorting time, what to wear? Will I be cold? Too hot? Running tights with compression socks on my legs, the socks seem to help my calf muscle and stop the shin splints I had last year. On my top I went for a sleeveless vest with a short sleeved jersey and arm warmers from my cycling box, this should give me flexibility, I would wear my gloves as they fold up small, the short sleeve jersey is good as it has good pockets to carry a gel, my car key and a short zip if its too hot. I was also taking a bottle of ISO drink in my Hilly belt, not relying on spilt cups of water. I pinned my number on my shirt, making sure it was low enough not to irritate as I run.
It was getting light now and the signs were good, sunshine and a stiff breeze.
Bag packed, change of clothes, pertex windproof should I need it, and my second breakfast, along with a flask of hot water and coffee.
The drive down, the roads were very quiet and I arrived before 9:0 am, the car park was nearly full all ready, people wandering round in trainers, some in shorts, tights, duvet jackets whist others already looked as though they were heading for the start line!!!
I went for a walk down to the front to get the atmosphere, it was very cold with a brisk sharp wind, but! Very bright and sunny. The organisers were putting up flags, barriers, setting out the refreshments etc. a really nice feel to the day. I bumped into my neighbour Rachel who was doing the full Grizzly, big respect to her, we joined forces and agreed to meet on the start line and at least start to run together. We had been exchanging emails [even though we are only 4 doors down!] encouraging each other with our training for the last week or so.
I had my second breakfast, by 9:15 giving a good hour or so to digest. I was ready to run, feeling very nervous, but excited. I wandered over towards the start line just after 10 and sheltered in the warm sunshine out of the wind, feeling very comfortable, but! Its strange how muscles start to ache that didn’t ache before, pains in knees that weren’t there before. The start time approaches, 10:20 I lined up with the other 2000 runners on the sea front trying to position myself about half way down the field, I met up with Rachel, we both engaged in nervous banter, it was surprisingly warm in the sunshine in the middle of the large crowd of runners, all shapes and sizes and all dressed differently, shorts, tights vests, coats all colours, young old etc….. The town crier and organiser were giving instructions over the tannoy, nothing which I could hear because of the noise of the crowd of runners. Spectators lined the seafront hanging over the barriers, a fantastic atmosphere, I felt even more nervous, would I get round? Can I do a decent time? Where will I come as there are approximately 500 runners in my event, will I be 499th??
Finally the town crier gave the final bell ring to a roar of the crowd and the runners and we were off, walking at first, as we went over the start line, I started my watch, we were now a slow jog, getting quicker as we approached the first hurdle after several hundred metres turning onto the shingle beach.
The noise of hundreds of runners on the shingle was deafening, slower runners were already dropping to the rear of the field, runners of all shapes, sizes, colour and sex, their bright jerseys bobbing up and down as we all tried to find the best route to get an easier run across the shingle. We were soon at the sailing club where we finally came off the beach [about half a mile] which was very welcome; I did feel I had warmed up now, legs feeling less stiff. Rachel and I were now able to bask in the cheering of the crowd as we ran back through the start line and the first hill of the day, the pace dropped and it was difficult to keep up a reasonable pace as there were so many runners in the road.
We were soon dropping down to Seaton Hole; people still lined the roads cheering us on, a couple of drummers at one point creating a great noise to cheer us on. The hill out of Seaton Hole was very steep, very narrow and we were reduced to a very slow walk because of the shear volume of runners all trying to get up the hill at the same time. The drop down the hill into Beer was a little slippery in places on the loose gravel, I still felt ok warming up nicely, breathing steady, a couple of miles covered by this point, we tried to keep the pace steady, knowing we had a long way to go, Beer was full of people cheering us on in the bright sunshine, it was a blur as we ran past and on to the next hill out of Beer, Rachel and I agreed to run to the first turning then walk as the hill got steeper at this point, and start running again as we approached the Beer Head car park at the top we could see the trail of runners in front of us already climbing on the skyline. Down through the caravan park with the first offering of water and jelly babies before the next steep up hill and the first off road section. We walked again as we headed up a very steep field and the first signs of mud, marshals were there to point us in the right direction, and encourage us, the field now thinned out a little but still bunched together, we overtook some runners and other runners over took us. We were soon on Beer Head passing the old coast guard station a brisk headwind keeping us cool, fabulous views towards Sidmouth, another decent down a steep and very muddy, slippery track slowed the field of runners to a walk as some had trouble getting a grip, on through muddy fields and the final decent down to the beach at Branscombe. Here was a real bottle neck , as it was very steep, very narrow and very slippery because of the mud and very crowded, all trying to get down as quickly as possible, we lost a lot of time here as people were pushing past rather than waiting their turn, this was the split the Cub in one direction the Grizzly to continue on in the other, we had covered about 4 miles at this point, I wished Rachel the best of luck and waived cheerio as I headed off along another shingle beach, for approximately three quarters of a mile, single file, legs feeling it now, I decided it was time for a gel to ensure it had time to enter my system to give me a boost before the finish in 5 miles time, a swig of Iso star to wash it down and hopefully give an extra boost. The beach was hard work and I tried to keep jogging along, to stop myself sinking. The waves crashing on my right and the cliffs rising on my left with the beautiful clear blue skies and sunshine, what a great place to be!!
I was glad to get back on the trail, even if it was up hill, again runners in front on the single-track forced me into walking, jogging when the path widened a little but as we hit the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ it was a slow pace, the steps as usual were hard, but my breathing was steady and I didn’t feel too bad. There was a photographer at the top asking us to smile! As we popped out of the undercliff I was able to pick up the pace, I was on familiar ground, and downhill across the grassy cliffs, I managed to overtake several runners and as we approached the caravan park overtook others as they stopped for the water and jelly babies. A short climb before the steep decent into Beer and the cheering crowds outside the Anchor Inn, it was really nice, especially as I was on my own at this point, back up hill, but at least it wasn’t the steps, I walked the steep bits and ran others, this was the final big climb, I wasn’t feeling too bad but try as I might my legs would not go faster?? We were now on the last leg along the road, usually by this time I am on my last legs, but today felt ok and as I ran down the road heading towards the finish on Seaton front, I was catching two girls and used these as an incentive to get more speed, as I entered the sea front I could see the crowds and they were cheering me on, two other runners overtook me on the last straight, but I was having none of this and actually ‘sprinted’ yes! Sprinted on to beat them to the tape, I was glad to finish, one final photo as I crossed the line I really enjoyed the event, I was handed water as I went through, along with a banana and collected my tee shirt.[which turned out to be too large!! And the colour didn’t suit me !!]
What a great event, I felt ok and probably of the four I have done this was the one that I actually felt ok at the finish rather than struggling to finish – don’t know why, as I had flu two weeks ago, I am thinking the spin class may have helped as I have run less miles in preparation than previous events.
According to the results I came 152nd out of 446 with a time of 1hr 49m 28secs – not as quick as I would have liked and felt very frustrated at the slow pace and stops at times due to other runners, but! Hey ho, we all had that and I am pleased with my position. The winner did it in 1hr and 6 mins!!
My neighbour Rachel completed the full Grizzly in 4 hrs and 6 mins, so respect to her and she came 847th out of 1422, the winner completed the course in 2hr 17 mins! I now have to ‘doff my cap’ as I go past her house!!