Written by Jean Baptiste Rouvelin - https://jbrouvelin.blogspot.com/
Another weekend down in Cornwall to be part of the run fest Mudcrew organise every January.
This time it was for the 50 miler, so the start was on the Saturday morning from the Minack theatre all the way to Porthtowan using the south west coast path.
The day started pretty early, I decided to leave on Saturday morning from home instead of staying the night close by. So 2.45am alarm time and with my wife Laura for crew, we were on our way to the Eco park in Porthtowan where the finish and registration was.
Nice to see a few familiar faces and getting my race number.
I love the bus journey because I put my head down and just sleep for a bit. I think I managed nearly 30min and that felt great after the early start.
We arrived in Minack theatre low car park and walked up the hill to the theatre. I met Laura there who decided to come to the start and cheer me on.
The wind was blowing but the weather was cloudy but dry, not as cold as I ever experiment it before.
We made our way to the Minack theatre and met Charlie Ramsdale. She is part of the Mudcrew Ultra team as is Laura so the chit chat was flowing and I have to be honest I wasn’t feeling the fact I was going to run 50 miles.
We went inside and I left Laura, the start is right down the middle of the theatre. Amazing view and caught up with Joanna Turner. Nice to be with a familiar face and just relax before the race start.
At 8.30am the blue flares were lit, the horn buzzed, the music was going (Led Zeppelin) and Stephen Cousins was sending us on our way. It is congestion time a bit and I used a side alley because I didn’t want to be stuck too much in the back of the pack. I had no idea where I would come if I finish but the idea to not be able to pass and get bottle neck on the coast path didn’t fill me with joy.
I decided to start at a pace I would keep for a long time, so not crazy fast and effort at 5/6 ish I would say.
So we all get out of the theatre, ran across the car park, pass a small gate and straight onto the coast path. Rocky, muddy up and down. Be ready for a lots of miles like that. I do like this sort of terrain I have to admit.
The first few miles went pretty quickly and in the distance appeared the Land’s End Hotel, I decided to not have my wife there but instead in Sennen, a mile + down the road. Easier access and cheaper car park also. I didn’t need anything, just the moral booster and removed my waterproof jacket. It was warmer than I expected.
Off I went with only seconds spend with Laura. I was still running with few people at that time and we all made our way to Cape Cornwall. The coast path become at some point from here a bit more scrambling with big boulders to go up and down from.
Happy life for the dogs crewing with Laura
Cape Cornwall, arrived pretty quickly, 11 miles in the race, I ran with an other runner for a bit(sorry I don’t know your name) and we discussed race goal, experience and the rest. I think it is the first time I admitted I would love to run sub 11hr on the course. Felt pretty good at that point. Laura was in the car park. Filled bottle (Tailwind and water) ,fuelled (Rice pudding and coke) and was on my way.
Pendeen light house was only five miles away and came quite quickly. Laura was parked in the tiny car park. Quick food top up and I was on my way. Now was the crappier section from the race. 13 long technical miles. I know that section pretty well by running it when I ran the 100 a few years ago and the recce. I attacked it harder on fresher legs and had a blast to be honest. Met my Mrs at the half way point next to Zennor and I was absolutely loving my time on the trail. The weather was really kind, cracking views and lush trail with my fairly strong legs at the time.
Lots of people was there waiting for their runner, top up water and tailwind (ran out of fluids at the time..) eat some custard and drank some coke and crack on towards St Ives 6 miles away.
The journey to St Ives after Zennor doesn’t improve really. Still hard going and pretty up down. You pass headlands and go back inland a few time and pray the next headland will revel St Ives.
Laura was in the first car park arriving into St Ives. I decided to change shoes (giving up grip for comfort) T-shirt, buff. Refuel as much as I could even if food and especially gels started to not go down so well. 30 miles done and now the trail was using a fair bit of road passing Hayle and all the way to the dunes of doom. I didn’t stop to the only checkpoint of the race which was in the middle of St Ives. Just had to put my head through the doors and say Hi. I have bad memories of this checkpoint on the 100. I nearly pass out for the two years I ran the 100 and had to look at the ceiling for nearly 45 min each time. Glad to just be in and out this time.
Hit the road/trail out of St Ives and I had a one of my recurring problem starting… “cramping” argh. A bit annoyed with it because I look after my salt and electrolyte intake but clearly wasn’t enough. I find myself lying on the floor on the trail with a man walking by asking me if I was okay. My right inner quad muscle didn’t like the steps anymore and I knew too well how many up and down with tall steps were coming. A runner passed me and gave me a tip to stretch that muscle and told me he had exactly the same problem. I managed to move again and he left me for dead… not great to be pass so easily at a later stage of the race but he clearly felt great and I wondered if I had gone too hard from the start. Doubt entered my mind a bit but the easier running made the few miles going to Hayle tic by nicely. The 100 mile race start on the Friday at midday while the 50 start at 8.30 the next morning, so just before St Ives I started to caught some 100 miler competitors. Some were struggling but everyone I met were still moving forward.
Hayle beach car park, not too happy
Arrived in Hayle beach car park and met Laura. Heart rate was high and felt I was working hard and was generally struggling in the same time. Food was starting to not go in, really well. Had a proper moan to Laura, some food and grabbed my poles to helped my tired legs. The dunes of doom aren’t that bad to be honest. Soft under foot and all runnable. Ran with a few people including the first two ladies. I felt I was the weakest runner of the group I ran with. My legs, head and stomach weren’t playing ball and the next crew point couldn’t arrive quick enough. It was 5 or so miles before arriving into Godrevy car park.
I met Laura in the car park and it was buzzing of spectators and crews. Topped up water and tailwind and decided it was time for some music to help me out. I was starting to properly flag and any help was a must. Got out my head-torch also. Light was fading quickly.
I left the car park and realised the mist was coming down and temperatures were dropping, so I stopped and put my waterproof jacket. Felt a bit unorganised because I could see all the people I ran with in the dune disappearing in the distance.
The north cliff trail were fairly dry and really runnable. Unfortunately my stomach was letting me down and I started to slow and felt really sick.
I meant Laura after a couple of miles and she gave me some coke to try to top up my energy levels. After 300m everything came back out… in some way I felt a bit better. At that point I barely ate anything until the end.
This section is a bit of a blur all the way to Portreath. I only remember the two big up and down with the high steps. The Portreath lights was a nice sight and going through the town was my priority and pushing to the finish. Laura was there and I only waved and told her I would see her at the finish.
The last section to Porthtowan is brutal, it has an other sections with two big up and down and big steps, maybe the last thing you need at that point. The path becomes hard under foot all the way to Porthtowan. Coming down the road into the village felt great and at that point you have an escort or marshals who push you to the next marshall standing at a road junction or the last massive (WTF) hill to climb back to the Eco park and the finish.
Crossing the finish line felt amazing. It is one of my best race for the last two years, my legs felt solid for most of the race and I managed to run solid. My food intake worked alright for 40 plus miles and the salt and electrolytes intake nearly left me cramp free, nearly still have to work on that cramps issues. I managed to go round in 10hours and 31 min which was my target, so well happy of the final results. When I finally stopped and sat down in the finish section of the Eco park, I started to not feel that great and then decided to lie on the ground to stop me passing out. Not hours on end but an easy 15 min to recover from the effort I pushed my body to. The lack of food for the last 10 or so miles showed at that point.
Finished and feeling queasy
All in all, the Arc 50 is a lush race. Lots to see, the scenery is breath taking, the organisation is fault less with great support all the way even if you haven’t got a crew. I would recommend it to anyone who worry to go for the 100 and the event coverage is amazing with Facebook feed and live coverage.
Finished and clearly happy
Laura and I having a quick chat on the live feed before driving back home