The coast to coast 140 mile ultra was the biggest highlight of 2014, so when Anne-Marie and Dave volunteered to crew for a repeat performance this year, my entry form was immediately emailed before they could change their mind! This also meant Lee could finally join the party and see me take part in such a special event. The perfect crew! 😀
The Friday night was spent enjoying a meal together, a few cheeky drinks and a review of the course. With check points and timings agreed to enable some Parkrun tourism, we soon found it was time to get in our last sleep. Dave then kindly braved the rain to get our breakfasts from the car for the early start!
The morning of the race was a fairly relaxed affair. We met and chatted with the other runners, including Krasse, a Bulgarian friend who needed to share the love and support of the Massey crew, having been let down by his own. After a few moments of posing for photos, we were given our final instructions and then we were off.
The first part of the race involves some tight cut offs. Whilst Mark (race director) had been slightly more generous this year, I knew we couldn’t afford too much slack and aimed to maintain the target times from last year. This meant 5 hours for 24.5 miles and 8.5 hours for the 40 miles check points. Krasse had never attempted this race before, so he was happy to leave the pacing and navigation to me, with a substitute watch and some traditional map reading.
The first 20 miles are relatively flat as we left Whitehaven behind us. But this soon changed to the magnificent scenery of the Lake District and its rolling hills. I had to change my shoes after 20 miles as the blister hot spot warnings had already began, but then breaking in new shoes is always a risk! It was nice to take a break here and see the crew after their Keswick Parkrun. Feet sorted and we were off towards Keswick ourselves, achieving our first cut off on route.
The course continued to meander through the countryside and small villages, taking us up and over many hills along the way. The most notable was ‘the old coach road’, as this was evil! Climbs that were relentless, not steep, but never ending whilst running on stone filled trails. Not the best for your feet, but an added challenge to keep us entertained!
Somewhere along the way, we completed the first 40 miles within target and we could now relax, or at least take the foot off the gas. The next big milestone is 100 miles, but whilst our target of 26.5 hours was generous, we still had to cross the Pennines! It was tough going, but keeping a close eye on time and pace meant we made it to the cafe in plenty of time for a breakfast! The thought of bacon and eggs had me running too quick at one point, as Krasse told me off for the 7.5 minute mile pace we were doing down one hill. Oops!
Leaving the cafe far heavier than planned (I can’t leave good food), we now knew all the big hills were complete and we had just over 11 hours to complete the last 40 miles. That said, the pace began to drop and walk breaks became more frequent. Krasse had damaged his feet running the first 100 miles in trail and not road shoes. It took a while to settle into some borrowed shoes, but after 115 miles he came alive again and started running through the pain. It was now a battle to the finish, just ticking off half a mile at a time before walking for a minute or so. My brain was still positive and knowing it was less than a marathon to the finish, it was a case of how and when we would get there!
The latter stages of the race were a blur, but Anne-Marie, Dave and Lee were always there for us, willing us on and helping us with anything we needed. Just what is needed by a couple of fatigued runners closing in on the East coast!
Newcastle came and went, but now we were on the Tyne, we just needed to run to the end and reach the coast at Tynemouth. We were both quite tired now and at one point I just stood in the path and dozed off! Lol Krasse realised he was now with a sleeping statue of a runner, but didn’t let me sleep. We still had a little over 5 miles to go and approximately 2.5 hours, so we knew we would complete the course in the permitted 38 hours.
I was now awake and focused on the navigation, as this is where I ran in circles last year! Not something that I wanted to repeat! A few twists and turns, the odd complaint about ‘how far is it?’ from Krasse, and we soon found ourselves in sight of the finish. The excitement began to build, the legs buzzing with adrenalin and we knew our task was almost complete.
One last sprint up a hill and we were there! A total of 36 hours and 48 minutes meant it was a 40 minute PB! Lol
We were greeted by Mark with our medal and goody bag, but seeing Lee, Anne-Marie and Dave smiling and cheering us in made it extra special! They were the best team there and crewed us to perfection! I do love our Massey club and this race would have not been possible without them!
So a big thank you to Anne-Marie, Dave and Lee! Without you I wouldn’t have been able to start, never mind finish!
Report by Dave Fawkner
Sent from my iPhone