It’s Friday the 25th June and my alarm goes off at 5am. I’ve decided to get up early to travel down to Land’s End, Cornwall and hopefully miss the traffic. I packed the car the night before (very organised and very unlike me!), so just needed to have a quick shower and a bowl of porridge with banana and honey, yum yum!
I’ve had a bit of a gastric stomach bug all week and have found it difficult to eat and drink properly so have a little worry that I wont have enough stored energy and hydration for the race, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.
I arrive at YHA Land’s End five hours later and put up my tent. The view before me is breathtaking. In front of me, Cot Valley descends either side to meet into the calm blue waters of the Atlantic coast.
I grab a bite to eat and feel the need to stretch my legs. I join the South West Coast path just around the corner and do a quick 3.5 mile hike to Sennen Cove. Again, the natural beauty of the Cornish coast takes me aback. I chill out for a couple of hours, grab a coffee and then make my way back. Dinner is fresh pasta with pesto, a salmon fillet and a salad. I need to get up at 2:30am so huddle into my tent at 8pm. My stomach’s performing somersaults throughout the night.
I’m looking at my Phone…the clock say’s 3am…I’m confused…my alarm is set for 2:30am?!...damn…I’ve slept through my alarm! In a blind panic I grab my running kit from the car and dash into the shower room to get changed. I’m in my car and heading for the pick up point at Land’s End within 30 minutes. I arrive at the car park, where I’m met by other runners and the race organisers. I knew I wouldn’t have time to have my usual pre race breakfast of porridge, banana and honey so had a couple of granola type bars to munch on. I get into one of the minibuses and relax during the 44 mile drive to the start of the race at Lizard Point.
We arrive at the starting HQ, and there’s the usual mix of excitement and nerves, mixed with various odours. I just stay relaxed, and get myself ready. Stuff my hipsack with Durafuel™ Threshold Sports Mix, a couple of Nak’d™ Bars and a bottle of Elete™ Electrolyte Add In. I mix a Threshold into my hand bottle and I’m ready to go.
Section 1: Lizard Point to Church Cove Car Park
Distance: 10 miles / 16 km
The race is about to kick off but nobody seems willing to get to the head of the start line, so I make my way there. The buzzer goes and we’re off. A group of about five of us quickly separate from the rest of the pack and get into a nice rhythm. The first 5-6 miles is relatively easy going running along rolling lush green fields up into the first water station where I top up my water bottle with Threshold and get going. The next section becomes more interesting, with more technical winding narrow coastal trail. I really start to enjoy myself now and begin to pull away from the rest of the group keeping a nice comfortable tempo. I arrive at the first Check Point in 1:30:54. Replace my Threshold with a fresh batch, down a cup of water with Elete and munch on my first Nak’d bar at which point the following pack catch up with me before I’m off again.
Section 2: Church Cove Car Park to Perranuthnoe
Distance: 10 miles / 16 km
After leaving Church Cove, I begin to feel the effect of the stomach bug I had been suffering with. I spent the first 2 miles trying not to throw up. The heat really started to kick in at this point and the outlook of the day predicted that it was going to get hotter! I continued at a steady pace, forcing fluid down my throat to stay hydrated. The first 5 miles to the next drinks station was still pretty good trail and I refreshed my Threshold and carried on, with the trailing pack nowhere to be seen. I assumed at the time that maybe everyone else had slowed down due to the heat…and carried on at a steady pace to checkpoint 2, Perranuthnoe 3:25:52 (1:54:58). This was roughly the halfway point and our bags had been brought along by the EnduranceLife team. I refreshed my hand bottle, knocked back some Elete and chomped on another Nak’d bar then was surprised to see 4-5 people bomb down to the checkpoint.
Section 3: Perranuthnoe to Lamorna Cove
Distance: 13 miles / 16 km
Perranuthnoe to Mousehole was not good. Although the views of the sea and land were still stunning and the villages and towns passed through were very pretty, this section of the coastal path is predominantly run on pavement and the temperature had got up to 30 degrees. I was finding it more and more difficult to drink fluid but at the same time craved fluid! The first sign of mild heat stroke was rearing its ugly head and I just couldn’t get my body temperature down. At the water station in Penzance I drank about a litre of water and had one of the helpers dowse me with a bucket of water. It didn’t appear to have any effect but I didn’t see any other runner at this station which gave me a boost and I carried on. Thankfully the trail between Mousehole and Lamorna Cove was back to proper coastal track. Unfortunately my body was really suffering! My legs felt fine, but I just had no energy and the heat was really getting to me. I stopped at every stream and used my cap to dowse myself but no matter how much water I dumped on me, I just couldn’t cool down.
Section 4: Lamorna Cove to Land's End
Distance: 11 miles / 22 km
I arrived at the last checkpoint feeling pretty crap but encouraged by the fact that there was only 11-12 miles left and I hadn’t seen any other runner for a couple of hours. I topped up my hand bottle, forced down a Nak’d bar and some Elete and got ready to go…out of nowhere Chris Gilbert came bounding into the checkpoint! I gave him a quick thumbs up and tried to up my pace. The section from Lamorna Cove to Porthcurno is stunning but at the same time is a very technical section. On any other day I would excel on this terrain, but my head was away with the fairies and I found it really difficult to control my legs. It took all I had just not to fall over continuously through this section. Chris caught up with me after a mile or so and we chatted for a bit. It was his first Ultra and I think he was a bit nervous of taking the lead. He looked in a lot better shape then me so I gave him some encouragement and told him to go for it. I continued to plod on with what felt like snails pace, just happy not to faint or puke up. Porthcurno is a stunningly beautiful place, and on any other day I would have really took my time to appreciate its pure beauty. Today was not the day. I felt on my last legs and just wanted to collapse into a cold stream. Luck would have it that on the vertical climb up to Mimic Theatre, there was a couple of guys renovating a building. I spotted a couple of buckets and hoped they had a water supply. They did! One bucket of water over my head later and I was off again. The last water station was just after the Theatre and I was again dowsed with water and forced down a litre of water. Only 5-6 miles to go!...but I was gone. My legs felt fresh as a daisy but I had no energy and my head way in the clouds somewhere. The final 5 miles was extremely painful. I was basically crawling and expected some runners to pass me at any time…but no one did. I arrived at Land’s End 7 hours 46 mins 37secs after leaving Lizard Point in second place and I was wiped.
Distance: 44 miles / 70 km - Elevation gain: 7850ft / 2393m
Although I was disappointed in my time, the stomach bug really had taken a lot out of me and affected my performance on the day. Chris was a worthy winner and a nice chap at the same time. I hope to return next year and aim for sub 7 hours.
To my surprise the next day I was able to run 8 miles along the coast, followed by 17.5 miles the day after. Proof I guess that my legs were in good shape and that my nutritional and hydration plan was ok, but my body didn’t have enough strength on race day.
Overall, I had a fantastic long weekend in Cornwall and enjoyed the run (even when I was hanging!), the sun and the amazing landscape. Life’s great…run with it!
- Terry Conway
- Welcome to my blog all about my ultra running experiences, including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love the freedom of running, the people and places you see and meet and all the challenges that come with long distance running.