The alarm sounded at 6 for me to find myself surrounded by a beautiful cloudless sky, although there was some frost on the ground in the sheltered part of the event base's field into which I drove after a bit of breakfast and a change into my running gear. Whilst I was one of the first there, others soon followed and I watched as the field began to fill with quite a few camper vans, vans and estate cars as I breakfasted properly. Speaking of filling-up, one of the 4 provided site portaloos packed in. This left the event 25% down on the facilities, which with the nature of long distance running, where everyone seeks to purge themselves as much as possible before the start of the run, the queues were a bit longer than they could have been in an ideal world!
With my collection of Endurancelife running tees burgeoning to say the least, at this event we had the choice of a tee, a buff or a race belt. Seeing as I had just bought a race belt at the Hart Sprint Triathlon the other week I went for a buff as I have found them to be very useful in winter and it helps to have a few - so this one goes to join my mementos from the Brutal 10k this November gone and the XT Duathlon from a few years back.
Standing in the field awaiting the briefing and enjoying the warmth of the morning sun I noticed that standing nearby me, also in a world of his own, was Richard Lander-Stow writer of the Bike Run Swim blog, which is well worth reading if you enjoy endurance activities and the man himself is one of those inspirational people who cannot help but make you want to go outdoors and do something physical! I've seen him at a few of the same CTS events so I went over and said hello and we spoke of our experiences in the series and what is up next. He was saying that after doing the running this last year his big one now is preparation for next year's Ironman Wales, which for anyone an endurance race of this distance is a terrific challenge and he will be gearing his training towards this so will not be seen at as many events come the autumn and beyond. I whole-heartedly wish him well with his endeavours... Top fella that he is.
Off for the final briefing of the series, with no warning of hazards, deaths or injuries for once, just a keep your eyes open for the sights, especially the woodlands with their flowers. We were also set a challenge of finding a piece of litter each to bring back with a prize for the 'best' one... Whether or not there will be one is another matter, but hey, anything that will encourage people to clean up the environment gets my vote!
|The view in front as we set off.|
|And the view behind|
|Some a-moos-ed bovines, two of which appear to share one head.|
|A spot of descent.|
|Down along the river.|
Also the Ramsons, or wild garlic was in bloom, with the scent of it filling your nostrils, giving the woodland stretches an aroma an Italian restaurant's kitchen, something you either love or hate! The River Erme and the estuary was in view most of the time, snaking in land on the first section, then flowing outwards via some mud flats.
|The mill that resembled me: ruined.|
|On the coastal path once more.|
The previous weekend she had cycled 130 miles around London over 2 days and had run the Dorset CTS late last year just 6 weeks after breaking a rib tripping over a tree-root in darkening woodland on an endurance walk in Surrey. Distance cycling is mainly her thing at the moment, but with a boyfriend based in Devon she takes any opportunity to get down this way from her base in Surrey. She was remarkable at running up hills. Whilst all of us would pretty much walk them she would merrily skip up them - well jog them anyway, although she was feeling the strain on her body after the previous week's cycle and in the end, as a group we dropped her when she stopped at the top of one hill to empty gravel from her shoes.
Shortly before this happened, the group of 5 of us were running past some houses near Bigbury and the lady owner rushed out of the house with a pitcher of water and cups and insisted we all stop for water - which we gladly did, serenaded by her collie with its head sticking out through the cat flap in the door. With the dog clamouring for attention it was let out and given a good fuss by all of us. A shared moment like this makes you feel wonderful about humanity and the good nature of a lot of people. I never knew who this lady was but thank you, whoever you are!
Like the Northumberland marathon, we had an extended section over the beaches as we approached Bigbury and rounded the headland with Burgh Island on our left.
A couple of miles along the coast and we came across a beast of a hill and I was dropped by all the others - and rightly so. The contours to mark the gradient on the OS map seemed to have it as vertical - and it damned well felt like it! I had to stop 3 times just trying to walk up it. I honestly think it was worse than the hill in South Devon that was making hardened ultra runners weep! With the stopping I was able to sit there and enjoy some of the sun and the stunning view back towards Burgh Island that was in front of me.
|The view from on the beast of a hill.|
|You must be baa-rmy trying to get up here on 2 legs, its hard enough on 4!|
The path worked its way inland and down to the water's edge before we forded the estuary and the final ascent to the finish.
Crossing the line I qualified for the 7x t-shirt that is earned after finishing 7 of the CTS runs in a season. The limited edition black shirt cannot be bought and is only supplied to those that qualify to wear it once they have double checked on everything to make sure only those who truly earn it get it, so I can look forward to it in the post some time in the summer!
My time was a slight disappointment to me, however it turns out that my time goal would have put me 14th in the race so it was neither realistic nor obtainable for me with my level of fitness! I had set this goal based on the 2/5 difficulty factor assigned to the race by Endurancelife. In reality I found this course on a par with South Devon and Exmoor, and certainly harder than the 3/5 North Yorkshire Moors that I had run the other week. Chatting with others at the finish they all seem to be of a similar opinion that it certainly is a lot harder than the 'official' rating, especially when there were a lot there who have run the Exmoor course 6 weeks ago so can compare quite easily.
With the sun still high in the sky and a decent warmth I chilled-out on the grass after changing out of my running gear before making the drive home.
I've thoroughly enjoyed running these 7 CTS marathons and I have already made up my mind to go back for more - my preference is to run those that I have not yet done so as a priority and to revisit some of these 7 to card a second time to establish if I am improving as a cross country marathoner… I may even be tempted to run some of them as ultras to really put myself through the rinser!
Here's a shot of me crossing the estuary waving the piece of litter I picked up - a frayed piece of fisherman's rope, which LSS has pointed out looks like Ken Dodd's tickling stick and thinks I should be off to the jam-butty mines!