Written by Steve West - https://theparttimeultrarunner.wordpress.com
Last year I failed to complete this race. (Arc of Attrition – DNF 9th Feb 2018).
I was gutted! I had trained hard for 6 months, doing big mileage weeks and I felt good. However the Arc is no normal race, not even a normal 100 miler. Mudcrew designed this race to be hard, really hard! Its about more than distance and elevation. There are just 4 CP’s along the route rougly 20 miles apart. 20 miles is 4 hours right? Not on this course, the distance between the CP’s can take 7/8 hours + to cover. Its really technical in places and rarely simple to make forward progress.
Last year I got to Zennor point before DNF’ing but this year I knew I had to do something different to ensure history didn’t repeat itself. The arc is a race that having previous experience of is a huge benefit. I learnt so much about the route, the kit, the mental approach necessary to succeed and I made sure this year that all of that was part of my thinking in preparing to take my revenge.
Training: After falling short in 2018 I knew physically I was capable but mentally I wasn’t there. So I knew I had a difficult 100 finish in me. Within a few weeks of getting back from Cornwall I had signed up for a nasty 100 around the Brecon Beacons – SW100 which you can read about here (SW100. Is it over already…?.).
I finished and finished strongly which gave me huge confidence about moving for 30hours + and mentally staying in the game. Cornwall was going to be totally opposite conditions but I knew what to expect and could plan for it.
As for SW100, I concentrated on hill work and strength for my Arc training. I did a few 60 mile plus weeks but mostly hovered around 35 miles a week with a number of hill repeat sessions thrown in. Including regularly using my long run (only once over 15 miles) to be via a hill repeat. I think 23 repeats was the most I did, managing 13.1 miles and 2500ft or and another 8 miler with 3000ft.
I always run too much in my usual 3 week taper so picking up a cold and being busy in work was worrying me, but perhaps was a blessing in disguise and I only ran twice a week totalling 12 miles during each of the 3 weeks prior to race day. I actually hadn’t run for over a week come the start.
After a glorious Friday, last years Arc was really wet on the Saturday. I made mistakes with not changing to dry kit especially at Lands End where I had my drop bag, but I knew my waterproof wasn’t strong enough to cope with those conditions properly again. I also knew my head torch could no longer hold decent power for more than a few hours. Both needed a visit from Santa and he obliged.
I went for a heavier jacket, knowing I would likely not take it off and so the ability to pack it small wasn’t necessary. A Montane Ultra Tour – it wasn’t cheap at £220 but I managed to find one at Go Outdoors for a bargain of £112! I was so impressed with it. It allowed me to regulate my heat in a variety of ways and when I got cold, hood up, zip up and just breath into the jacket for a few minutes and I was warm again.
I went for a Silva Ultra Trail Runner 4 on the head-torch front. It was so light compared to my LED Lensor. Being the Ultra it has a rechargeable pack as well as the ability to take aaa batteries. I had the LED Lensor as my second torch and 3 spare sets of batteries. The main pack lasted from just outside Porthleven CP (430pm ish) until the Minack Theatre (2am ish) – so 9.5hours. It didn’t run out but I was paranoid about it dying in the middle of nowhere so I changed the batteries anyway. The aaa’s lasted me from 2am to dawn and then 5pm until 1030pm when I finished – so again around 10 hours. It is so lightweight and has the red flashing light you can wear on the band – perfect. I cant recommend it enough.
Travelling to Cornwall:
Let be clear I got stuck in some snow. It was annoying. It was not however, anything close to what others went through.
I left Cardiff at 11am and hit heavy snow on Bodmin Moor around 2pm. However it hadn’t settled properly at that time. When I got close to Perranporth, the traffic slowed and eventually stopped, with nothing moving for an hour. I had been watching cars turning around and heading down a back road. After some investigating on google maps and the sat nav, I thought I’d give it a go. 20 mins later I was greeted with blue sky, bright sunshine and a full rainbow. I arrived at the Eco Park at 330pm basically before anyone else, except Jane Stephens from Mudcrew. I offered to help out but everything was in hand. It was then we started to realise the chaos unfolding back up the a30. There were people who hadn’t moved from north of Truro for the last few hours.
I was due to meet up with my Friday night Arc 2018 buddy, Harry Macalinden and go for dinner at the Victory Inn. Harry eventually arrived around 2am so I definitely made the right decision to head to Hayle and my hotel room, for a shower, food and a warm bed. I say my hotel room but I was crashing with another friend (Paul Wootten) who was also stranded, luckily in his camper van with gas stove, bed, etc.. By now people were facing the prospect of spending a cold night in cars/vans on the a30 and getting little to no sleep prior to a huge race like this. I was lucky, really lucky.
The roads back to the Eco Park the following morning were OK if a little icy in places.
The race itself:
Last year we had a bag-piper. This year was drummers. Coverack was as gorgeous as I remember, the sun had come out and things looked good. I was really hoping that the -10 degrees with windchill over night wouldn’t come true, but I was prepared and ready for it if it did.
12pm on the dot through the smoking flares we ran. Some faster than others. I forgot how bottle necked the first mile or so gets and whilst I was far from the back this year, there was still some natural stoppages in places. Its hard to remember in the moment, that those 30 second delays are meaningless and probably a good thing, ensuring you don’t go off too quickly and letting the heart rate increase slowly.
On the Tuesday night I had made a lovely ground Almond, Blueberry and Banana loaf. I had some with me and more in my drop bag. 5 miles in and I thought it was time for a snack. You forget that you have breakfast around 7am, then the race starts at lunchtime, when you are hungry, so its best to eat on the coach and shortly after the start. I had some of my cake and it was difficult to eat, but eat it I did. 10 mins later and I felt like crap. For the next 30 mins I was looking for somewhere to drop out! ‘I haven’t trained enough’. ‘My taper was too extreme’. ‘I cant do this, this is the easy bit’. This was as bad I could have imagined after just 6/7 miles. Then I threw up, 10 mins later I threw up again. 10 mins later I felt good. Another 10 mins later and I was feeling really good. Note to self throw away all my cake in Portleven!
I had chosen my Hoka Speedgoat 2’s as a leaving present from work back in September, with this race in mind. I now know how narrow they are, but at this stage the blisters hadn’t arrived, although I was sliding around all over the place. I went down 4 times in this section. Frustrating and worrying for later but no damage done apart from some muddy waterproof trousers and gloves.
I rolled into Porthleven and was met but one of the valets who made my day by saying I looked strong as some people had come in hobbling up the hill to the CP. I ordered 2 portions of beans and cheese on toast, knowing this worked for me last year. Last year however, I just didn’t eat enough of it. Bottles sorted, cake disposed of and ready to go.
The next section is Porthleven to Penzance. You know on paper its only 15 miles or so, so that sounds really simple and a good place to get ahead of the cut offs a bit more. I recall I guy laughing about how he planned to do it in less than 3 hours and he would be well ahead of cut offs. I asked and sure enough it was his first time on the SWCP. I gently warned him to lower his expectations in terms of the time for this.
Despite not being the most difficult section of the course, it wasn’t going to make for easy and fast running. The more I was running the more and more of the course I was recognising from the previous year. I knew that somewhere up ahead was a 90 degree left hand turn and that I missed it last year. Sure enough whilst chatting to someone I nearly missed it again, but spotted it just a few metres behind me. The rest of the section into Penzance is fairly steady going, albeit you never get into a great rhythm and being 35 miles in its far from quick progress.
My feet were starting to hurt now and it would have been lovely to have had a support crew and swap shoes for my Clifton 4’s on the long drag into Penzance. You can see Penzance off in the distance from a long way out and it teases you with how close it looks. You want to run, but its difficult, 40 miles in and 60 to go you know that if you do push too hard you will pay for it later. I adopted a tactic I’ve used many times on long straight drags, run/walk – this time 2 mins run and 1 min walk. I was catching the couple in front me despite them running it all, I didn’t manage to catch them as I got into the CP but I was happy with my progress.
I was looking forward to beans on toast with cheese again so I was fairly disappointed that it wasn’t on the menu this time. Don’t get me wrong there was lots of food available but I know the wet beans and carbs of the bread go down nicely. I was able to get a few portions of soup, 3 cups of tea and a bit of fruit. I also had my feet looked at for the first time. It wasn’t too bad, just one blister forming on the little toe on the left foot. One of the Omega Medics did a brilliant job on taping it up and I hoped that would be the last of the foot issues. Oh how wrong I was. I didn’t have any other shoes with me or in my drop bag and with no crew, I knew I had to make do to the end.
I kept seeing Harry Macalinden at CP’s. Harry and I ran through the night on the Friday last year, from I cant recall where, to just after Lands End where unfortunately Harry’s race ended shortly after in Sennan Cove. He was looking strong though this year and being ahead of me, and confident that I would get through, I hoped Harry and I would both make it this year. (Unfortunately he didnt make St Ives in time, but he’ll be back and he will get that buckle next year!)
I sorted out some kit, had a change of base layer – a mistake I made last year in not doing so which ultimately got me cold and wanting it all to be over. Time for the off.
There is just as long a road section out of Penzance as there is going in, although more undulating as you head to Mousehole and I was making steady but good progress along the lit promenade and then the roads into Mousehole. One vivid memory about last years race was looking up at the stars as I went through Mousehole. I did the same again and whilst it was a cloudier night, there were still more stars out than I ever get to see back home.
I don’t recall much until I arrived in the region of Porthcurno. It is strange that you can constantly hear the ocean crashing the rocks around this section but its so dark you just cant tell how close you are and how extreme the cliff edge is. Shortly after Porthcurno you start heading towards the Minack Theatre. I so wish I could go during the day one year and see it in something other than pictures and videos from the start of this years 50 and the other Mudcrew race, Tempest. I remember the climb to Minack last year and how horrible it was but somehow this year I overshot the turn. I could see head torches off to my left but for some reason I was following road signs. Somehow I had ended up on the road to the car park and I just hoped beyond hope that I would get through OK. I remembered the car park so I was fairly confident I wouldn’t end up having to double back on myself. I didn’t and I came out on the opposite end of the car park. I was in a bad way here. I was worrying about my head torch which had had a good 9 hours of burn so far and being a new one, I didn’t know from experience how long it would last. I needed water, food and a change of top again. Not having a crew I asked someone elses if they minded if I sat in their car for 5 mins but they told me the Medic was here and so I made my way to them and jumped in their car.
I was at my lowest point so far here. I quickly got another top on and tried to get warm. The medic filled my bottles for me, I ate and drank and changed the batteries in my torch. I couldn’t get them working though. I had taped the three aaa batteries together so I could just pop them straight in without faffing around with each individual battery, a brilliant tip I read on a Nici Griffin FB post recently. But every time I shut the battery enclosure it stopped working, it was driving me mad. I was shaking as well, a lot. I couldn’t stop shaking. I started to think the medic was getting worried and might think I wasn’t ok. I was, thankfully he knew this too. We had been having a normal conversation and he explained it was likely just the adrenaline of my urgency to get to the car park. He kindly sorted out my batteries by splitting them out from the tape I had put them in, and it worked fine. I decided to put all my gloves on, 3 pairs, merino liners, Sealskikz and Trespass mitts just to make sure I warmed up as quickly as possible.
I had spent 20 mins in the car and this was far too long. I was ok on the cuts offs but I didn’t have a lot to spare and I needed to make good progress again. After giving much appreciation to the medic, who promised to look me up in Lands End, and he did, I left and it was then I spotted a friend, Geoff Partridge in his support crews van. Geoff is a great runner, a 4 time arc racer and multiple Comrades finisher, in both directions! Geoff has a gold buckle from previous years, but has been trying to run through a long standing hip injury, which unfortunately was affecting his race this year too. We stuck together from here and decided that the company through the night to Lands End and beyond would be helpful, both from a sanity perspective, passing the time perspective, but also the all important navigation.
Those that have run the race will know that about 1 mile before you get to the Lands End CP, there is a building on the corner of a path before you drop down the hill side and head up again to the CP. I made a huge mistake here last year and had to drag myself and Harry through thick gorse whilst we spotted head torches pulling away whilst on walking, as a result of being on the right path. To my horror and embarrassment, as I was the one navigating off my Fenix 3, I had done it again. You know the right thing to do is re-trace your steps and find the path, but of course that’s the one thing you never do, and we didn’t. It was very slow going and Geoff’s niggles were making it trickier for him too. We lost maybe 10 minutes here but finally were relived to be back on the path and a short walk into the CP. I was looking forward to this, my drop bag. It was huge, lots of food, both for the CP and my race vest for the last half of the race. Also a MSR water filter.
I dropped last year at Zennor point as I ran out of water and knowing there were limited places to steal water off kind support crews, I had the water filter, borrowed from a friend, to take water from the streams. There was bound to be plenty with all the snow fall on the hill sides.
This year the Lands End CP was in the hotel rather than the Ice Cream parlour. There was so much space it was great, as last year it all felt a bit crowded and manic. I asked for my drop bag but went to find it myself as they were all laid out nice and easy to find. Except mine. Mine wasn’t there! They’ve lost my drop bag! “Mmm Hi, I cant find my drop bag?” Their faces! They were panicking. There must have been 5 of them hunting for my drop bag, including the medic who helped me out at the Minack.
I was trying to eat and not panic too much, ‘they’ll find it’. I got my feet sorted out, which were showing further signs of deterioration. After 10 minutes, one of the angels approached me and built up the courage to tell me that it was in Porthtowan. In short, it was my fault. I had left my drop bag with the finishers bags at the Eco Park. My heart sank. I recall thinking, assuming, that the pile of bags by the tracker fitting, were the drop bags and so put mine with them. I didn’t check with anyone and this was the result. I was panicking now – a lot! Kit, food and mainly water. The angels were great, they managed to find me 2 x 500ml water bottles, the kind you get with a meal deal at M&S or Boots. I borrowed a pair of socks of Geoff, and a couple of gels/food bars.
Harry had arrived, I rambled out my news and asked on the off chance if him or his friend had a spare base layer they weren’t going to need. To my amazement and absolute relief, they did. I was reluctant to take it as I knew that spare kit is a runners safety net in this race, especially on the next section to Zennor and St Ives, but Harry insisted. Life saver!! Somehow though, I had lost one of my Raidlight 750ml water bottles. I was worried about water, didn’t have the filter I was relying on, but then lost one of my water bottles. This was madness. There is no way it could have bounced out of my pack, it wasn’t on the table, rolling around on the floor and the angels have confirmed since that it wasn’t found when the CP was closed down. It remains a mystery! I still needed more water though. I ended up carrying a 1.5l squash bottle full of water on the side mesh pockets of my Salomon pack. I was now carrying 3.25 litres of water and whilst I could feel the weight, I was much happier with this than going lighter and worrying about what lay ahead and a repeat of last year.
Geoff and I left Lands End together, still confident that we would make sufficient progress to make the next cut off, a new and challenging one at Pendeen Watch. Geoff and I came up to one of his good friends (Laura Millward), whose house he was staying at in Cornwall and he wanted to stay with her, so I pushed on hoping to make good time.
I ran like the wind last year through Sennan Cove, so much so I inadvertently dropped Harry and then felt guilty about it for the next 24 hours. Progress this time was slower but I was slightly ahead of time compared to last year and better prepared for what lay ahead. The first part of this section isn’t too bad, but then you head towards Lamorna Cove. Things get knarly here for a while. Lots of technical and slow moving terrain, some big stones to get through, lots of mud, small brooks/streams, more mud and narrow tracks, still in the dark. There are lots of opportunities to loose your footing and go down. It seemed to last for ever but I made it through without going down and was relieved to be heading to Cape Cornwall, somewhere I remember from last year being really exposed if the weather wasn’t good and funnily enough this is where the hail storms started.
As I said earlier I had bought a Montane Ultra Tour and it didn’t half do what I wanted it too. It was awesome in the weather. I pulled my hood up and tight, zipped up, had my mitts on over my sealskinz and aside from the noise of the hail on my jacket and head, it didn’t bother me at all.
I headed down to Cape Cornwall with a group of 3 guys who I managed to trot past as the hail came down again, sideways. Ive read several people refer to these as being the size of marbles coming horizontally into your face. Personally, I think that’s entirely accurate. There were 5 hailstorms, (I think) in total over the next few hours, but this one was a fairly big shock. Support crews were running for cover as I entered the cap park hoping to find someone to help.
There arent many support crew access points between Lands End and St Ives, so there was a good number of crews at Cape Cornwall. I was very conscious of water, despite still having a lot with me, but also a lack of food. I cant remember what, but I needed to get something out of by dry bag in my race vest and so despite the hail coming down, I found a guy who looked like he might be willing to help me and asked if I could jump in his van for a few minutes to sort some kit out. He rushed around me like a pit stop and helped me sort out whatever it was I was doing and offered me some bits of food, again I cant recall what. He was waiting for his runner to come through (Sarah Whittaker) and was relaxed about her progress until I asked if they were confident she would make the cut off and Pendeen Watch. They were shocked, they thought the next cut off was St Ives. I got out the map/cut off guide and showed them. They were surprised but still confident she would make it through. I found out today from Carl Champion (who was the guy who helped me and her support crew) that Sarah did make it to Pendeen, but unfortunately when she got to St Ives she was feeling the full affects of this brutal race and her slight illness prior to the race was in full effect and she called it a day at St Ives.
Whilst I was relived to have made Pendeen and navigated my way through the mines section, especially given the hail storms, I knew the worst was still ahead of me. The dreaded technical and remote section up to Zennor point, the scene of last years failure! I had met up with Harry again around here and was partially conscious of trying to stay with him and his mate, but at the same time I had my race to run and being concerned about the cut offs I kept to my own pace and after a short while and a few looks back, I had started to drop Harry and was out on my own again. I was over taken by two guys who were moving a lot quicker than me around here and I remember being very jealous of their speed over such difficult terrain.
Every turn and rise felt familiar and I was adamant that those horrid steps and the metal handrail up to Zennor point were just around the corner, every time I was disappointed. It went on for another 2 hours like this, I’m close now, but it never came. Then I could see the drop down and the steps up the other side, there was a crew at the top waiting for someone. This felt great. I took the steps up steadily not to push too hard with excitement and batter my legs unnecessarily.
I chatted briefly to the two guys here and they gave me some coke and dried mango – which I didn’t expect to be nice but was amazing. Must remember that for next time. They explained that there were 7 more miles to St Ives but I had over 3 hours to do it, no problem they said. I knew this was true but at the same time I didn’t want to hang about, I knew I could take advantage of a longer stop in St Ives if I got there quicker and needing to eat well, I made this a mission to give myself nearly an hour at the CP.
The path becomes less demanding from here to St Ives but I was aware of the standing stones section that I had heard so much about but never seen. I was dreading this bit, but when I got there I kept looking past it trying to see how far they stretched on for. I was relived to see that it literally was just what you could see and then it was done. I chose not to bring my poles with me due to this section and now I was really regretting that decision, knowing that any help my arms could have given my legs at the end would have been great.
I caught a number of runners on the flat drag into St Ives and I got chatting to a guy about how we were feeling. I explained about my drop bag and asked if he had a crew, which he did. In my state of desperation and knowing that my feet were going to be in a bad way when I got the medics to tape me up, and knowing I didn’t have any dry socks, I cheekily asked if he had any spares. I was beyond grateful when he said he would check with his crew but he thought he did. Next thing I know his Dad is running off into the distance to their car and ran back to me and handed me a pair of socks! Awesome. I promised to find them at the CP and get their address but the runner later refused and said to keep them as a memento of the race. If your reading this, thank you! My feet were an absolute mess but without those clean and dry socks they would have been even worse at the end.
I recall the St Ives CP from last year but only being dropped off at the door by Andy James’ support crew after they rescued me from Zennor. The streets are lovely but it all looked the same and so I thought the CP was just round the corner. So much so one guy asked me how far it was, or so I thought, so I said “30 seconds”. He actually asked me how long we had to get there, so for a moment he went into sheer panic and started running, before I realised I must have mis-heard him. 2 mins later and we were in.
It is generally accepted that bar any major issues, get out of St Ives on time and you can walk it in. Here I was, 45 minutes up on cut off, time to sort my feet out, eat, mentally reset and get out without being rushed.
I relaxed a little, chatted to a few people including Paul Maskell who was going to be sweeping the route. Ate, got taped up, a lot, by the medics and started to get my bits together. A few of us were all heading out within a few minutes of each other now, just 5 minutes ahead of CP closure time at 2:20pm. One of these people was asking around if anyone wanted company. This was massively appealing. I genuinely believe that one of the reasons I DNF last years Arc was due to spending so much time on my own and not having any company/distraction during those long hours between Lands End and Zennor. I jumped at the chance to walk with someone.
Carl and I got chatting and within 20 minutes I realised I knew of this guy from Cockbain events. I was somewhat confused though why, given his running CV, he was at the back with me. All became apparent. He had finished the Winter Viking Way 7 days before, running 152 miles one weekend then doing the Arc the next! The guy was a machine. So experienced and I had the huge benefit of his company to mentally help get me through the final stages of this epic race.
We walked the entire 23 miles. We chatted a lot but at the same time there was a lot of silence. So much so I felt guilty at times as Carl was moving like he was walking to the shops whereas my gait was terrible, I had pains in the balls of my feet from trench foot on both feet, horrible pains around my heels on both feet so any hills, but specifically steps down were agony. It hurt when I kicked stones, had uneven ground, which lets face it there is a lot of, but the steps were the worst. I was on my hands and knees at times easing myself down. Through the whole thing, Carl was incredible. He knew we had time on our side and he wasn’t worried about our pace, he was just happy to stay together and keep moving forward.
I was moving quickly (for a walk) through Hayle and prior to the Dunes of Doom on the tarmac but everything else on this section was slow progress. From just outside St Ives we also joined up with Wiebke Lammers, a Dutch lady who knew the area and the Mudcrew team really well. We chatted the miles away through the afternoon and started to talk about the Dunes. We quickly realised that she has recce’d the dunes a few times recently and we agreed that we would stick together and basically follow her through the best route on the dunes. She was confident we would make it through in daylight. This confused me, how bloody long are these dunes. 4 miles! Bloody hell! I hate sand, this wasn’t what I was hoping for. However we walked it all, and even picked up another 2 guys so 5 of us were following this amazing women like sheep through the dunes. She was faultless with every step!
We were all conscious of getting to Godrevy before the cut off but we knew we had time to spare. The 5 of us came through the dunes and all immediately heaped praise on her. The other 3 had crews and so they met up with them at Godrevy. Carl and I were unsupported but given the time we had spent together over the last few hours, we didn’t want to push on without the others. We stood around for maybe 10 minutes but I was getting cold so I suggested to Carl we push on slowly and let them catch us up. Carl kept turning round for the first few miles waiting and expecting the others to catch us but they never did.
I was hating this now. My feet were screaming at me every step. The ground was becoming really stony and uneven and every few minutes I was swearing and screaming. I wasn’t doing much talking now either. I was really feeling the lack of food I had with me. It turns out I had some Clif bars and a Chia flapjack on me but didn’t realise! Carl, as he had for the last 5 hours already, kept just in front or just behind me, putting no pressure on me to move any faster.
I cant recall one mile from the next on this final stretch before arriving in Porthtowan but I do recall all the 50 runners coming past us, more and more regularly as the hours went by. Every single one of them was asking how we were and saying how brutal they were finding the 50 and how they couldn’t comprehend doing the 100. This was a lovely feeling but I just couldn’t use it to move any faster, but we were still good for time, I thought. We were, but those seeds of doubt started to sneak into my mind, and I checked a few times with Carl if we were still OK for time as I was conscious that a mile was now taking around 25 mins and this was surely eating into the buffer. I recall at one point the ETA on my Fenix 3 saying 9:05pm and thinking this is great, but a while later it was saying 10:15, 10:20. I wasn’t panicking exactly but I was getting worried.
It was a huge relief to get that horrible double dip done as I was on my hands at times easing myself down, praying for the road hill up to the eco park. We dropped down off the hill side and down to the bus stop where there were loads of people waiting and cheering us and the 50 runners through. Surely we are close now. I turned off the navigation on my watch to save battery but as a result I had no idea how far we had left. The steep hill up from the bus stop went on forever and then a Mudcrew angel told us we had to turn off the road. What, this hill isn’t the hill? As you all will now know, it wasn’t and we still had a good mile or so to go. We continued at our steady pace, now knowing for sure this was done but personally I was still dreading this horrid hill that Ferg went on about. Up ahead we spotted the next Mudcrew Angel and knew this was it. Over the wooden bridge and up the hill. My god what a hill. The glow sticks lit the way but it was steeper than anything on the previous 105 miles of the course. Talk about sting in the tail. We plodded on, letting a few 50 runners through and eventually it flattened off and the top was in sight. Into the field and there in front of us was the blue inflatable finish. Carl tried to convince me to run but I was having none of it.
DONE. I couldn’t believe it. I had beaten the Arc of Attrition. This one had been so long in the making that I thought I might cry like I did when I finished my first 100 over 2 years ago. However, much like when I finished SW100 in June last year, I was just relieved and tired. Within seconds Geoff Partridge who I ran to and from Lands End with was there to see me over the line. He called it a day at Pendeen knowing he wasn’t going to make St Ives in time.
I was given my buckle and a hug from Jane and we got our finishers photos taken. I decided to pull a silly face in one of the shots and obviously that wasn’t a stupid thing to do.
There is more of a story about the next 24 hours, but really that revolves around the horrific state of my feet at the end, the medics telling me not to burst the blood blisters until it was clean and sterile, me having to put the same shoes back on to go to the van, sleeping briefly, driving to Carl’s hotel room, hobbling to the hotel room which was the furthest distance from the lift, sleeping on a bed with no sheets/duvet using my down jacket and a towel to keep me warm.
I bought Carl breakfast the next morning as a thank you for letting me crash in his hotel room. We both ordered a huge cooked breakfast but we both enjoyed the granola, fruit and milk the most. It was wet and tasty in a way that none of the food over the last 40 hours had been.
The hotel breakfast room was full of Arc runners in various states of abandon, but most with the shared tiredness that can only come from having spent 40+ hours of being awake and maybe 5 hours of sleep. No wonder then I had to pull over on Bodmin moor and have another sleep in the van. This time minus the snow!
11 days on, my feet have almost recovered. Ive been on a course of antibiotics for a toe nail and potentially cellulites. I ran to work this morning. It was OK but I wouldn’t have been able to push any pace. The run home was much harder work though and a clear sign that Im not yet fully recovered. How Stephen Cousins was able to jump on a treadmill the next day and run is beyond me.
Ive already bought some new trail shoes and if anyone wants to buy a pair of Speedgoat 2’s (UK 10.5) then let me know.
I always said that I was never going to go back to the Arc, irrespective of whether I got my buckle this year or not. But within, 48 hours, I was already thinking 34:32 in that pain, in the wrong shoes, without my poles, I reckon I could do sub 30 if it all went well. Funny how quickly we forget the pain!
What did I learn from the Arc 2019?
– Quality training is better than quantity. I did lots of hills and gym work, rather than lots of high mileage weeks.
– The course is brutal and having a crew is massively helpful – so many people have said they didn’t think they would have finished if it had not been for their crew.
– The right kit it essential. I made this mistake in 2018 and paid for it. I was more organised with layers, gloves, changing socks this year.
– A quality jacket in these conditions was my best purchase of kit – ever! I know the conditions were brutal at times, but I genuinely wasn’t bothered by the weather once. Hail nor the wind. If I got cold I zipped up, hood up, breathed out it my jacket and was warm again within a minute.
– I can cope with the unexpected. Not having my drop bag at Lands End could have been a game changer, but thanks to remaining positive, the kindness of friends but also strangers, I was able to keep positive and get the job done.
Next up for me is a very different challenge. 60 hours on a 1.1 mile loop at Enduroman in May. Turns out Carl has the course record of 202 miles! Small world!
Well done everyone who took part in the Arc 2019. To those of you that made it, congratulations – I know how good it feels to have got it done.
To those who fell short this year, you will be back, you will have learnt loads from this years experience and you will beat the Arc. I was lucky I only had to come back once, but Im sure we have all read about the guy who after 5 attempts has finally beaten the Arc.
Until next year!