Monday, 21 March 2016

Race Review - Jurassic Coast Challenge

Well, that was tough!

I'm writing this on Monday evening, having finished my three days of pergatory along Dorset's beautifully brutal (or is it brutally beautiful?) coast line yesterday.

This weekend, I was taking part in the VoTwo Events Jurassic Coast Challenge; three marathons (we'll come back to that!) along the Jurassic Coast path around Dorset's coastline in three days.

First things first; this is a brilliant event. Very well organised, by excellent people, with well-manned and supported checkpoints and even friendlier fellow runners.

But now onto some of the details, this is a review after all!

Day 1:
The registration and briefing process was carried out at Portland's Sailing Academy, a legacy of the 2012 Olympics which is an ideal location. This process was both efficient and informative, with the race organisers giving good route details and the usual friendly banter that you expect from events like this.

Below is a link to my video blog that I made during day one, but in summary:
I loved the first half (up to about 13 miles), but found the second half (well, the 15 miles that remained of the 'marathon'!) a bit of a slog. 
One of the early climbs

With Charles, who I also ran with on Day 3
That was partly because I went through a personal low-patch, but also because there was nowhere near the beauty that I felt the coastline promised. Add to that the brutal distance along a shingle beach, and it was pretty sapping.
The finish line was brilliantly rewarding though, with the cup of delicious soup and bread being very welcome!

The day totalled just under 28 miles, with around 3,200 feet of climb, and I finished it in a total time of 5 hours and 37 minutes.

Anyway, here is the link to my video blog covering the day:


Day 2:

The second day of punishment dawned with the inevitable struggle to haul my stiff body out of my B&B bed for a quick breakfast of porridge and toast, before heading for another registration and short briefing session at the sailing academy.

Starting the run from near the academy meant there was no need to spend a lot of time in a minibus before getting going.
I had thought that would be a problem, as I wanted more time to recover, but actually it seemed to work quite well for me, and I really enjoyed the first half of the day, which was all around Portland.
Portland is a pretty bleak looking spot on a cold, grey afternoon like when I saw it at the end of day one. However, on the morning of day two, it was transformed to me, and I loved moving up and around its barren cliff tops, my legs protesting all the way!

The second checkpoint of the day was back in the Sailing Academy, on the way back across to Weymouth, and I left feeling quite good about how well the first half had gone.

Strangely, it wasn't the hills that came closest to breaking me on day two; it was actually the flat section through Weymouth and along the promenade. There's something about running along a flat section of straight Tarmac, where nothing seems to be getting any closer and is into a headwind, that seems to be an anathema to someone like me who likes trail running!

Fortunately, I fell into step with Emma, who seemed to be enjoying the promenade almost as little as I was at that point. She was clearly mentally stronger than me though, and I latched on to her pace, selfishly using her strength to keep me going.

Finally getting off the flat stuff!

Fortunately, within a few miles of us starting to run together, the hills started again, and I was back into my stride again. Now it became much more of a team effort between me and Emma, with me being strongest of the up and downhills, but her keeping me marching along the flat sections.

The beauty of the hills and cliffs

As a team, this worked brilliantly, and suddenly we found ourselves in some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. The last few miles were some of my favourite of the whole event, with an absolute sprint down the steps to the finish line.

Finally Starting to Enjoy Myself Again

Obligatory Durdle Door Selfie
A Slightly More Professional Effort!

In total, day two came in at 27.3 miles, with just under 3,800 feet of climb, and I finished in 6 hours 10 minutes, so I was pleased with that.

Again, I did a video blog of day two, which is available here:

Day 3:

Well, getting started was always going to be a problem on day three, but I was actually looking forward to getting back into the hills again, hoping for scenery like day two again.

After the 40-minute minibus ride up to the start line, it was straight into the climbing, with everyone quickly remembering the thigh pain of a truly steep hill, within the first half mile of the day!

It didn't let up from there either, with the steep ups and downs continuing for most of the morning. I ran with Chares for a couple of hours, enjoying his company and the pair of us feeding off each other's energy to keep a good pace up for the first 16 miles or so.

Me and Charles about to descend yet more steps!

Eventually though, I started to flag and encouraged Charles to go on, while I had a couple of minutes sitting and snacking while I admired the views. He eventually relented and cracked on, and I was in my own world of pain again for a few miles.

Eventually I worked through my low spot of the day and, having sat in the last checkpoint for ten minutes, I was ready for the final 10-12Km (again, marathon distances are always slightly vague when you're off-road!)

The last part of day three was tough, with tricky beaches, vaulting over groynes and one last hilly headland; but by then I knew I was done and would make it.

Struggling Along the Final Beach

Day three ended up being 28.5 miles with a brutal 4,300 feet of climb. Having finished it in 6 hours 29 minutes, I was ecstatic - as you can see in my video blog below:

This was a great event, with great people, both organising and out running. Officially it was three ultramarathons in three days, with each including climbing higher than a mountain!

Will I be back? I'm not sure. It was hard doing all of those days without having my family along with me. I feel I made some real friends over the weekend, but there's nothing quite like finishing a run with a hug from your family to make it all feel better.

Definitely worth the effort!

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