Tuesday, 29 September 2009

ACC Day 1 - Padstow to Perranporth

So, after a journey longer than any of the marathons would take on Thursday I arrived at the quiet Hayle station and was picked up straight away by one of the votwo guys. I got to the site, got checked in and learnt my chalet partner for the next four days was already here. Got to the chalet and met Mike and three other guys who'd met at this years Marathon des Sables and kept in touch after enjoying there tent banter. I declined the kind offer of joining them for a journey into Hayle for a restaraunt meal as I already had a voucher for a meal on site. Votwo food was good and quite substantial, tasty, yet healthy and I chatted to a guy called Don who was there with his wife and daughter, all planning on running and/or walking the event. A completley different end of the experiance spectrum to Mike and the MdS survivors I'd just met. This pattern of extremes was repeated throughout the weekend, with marathon novices doing all three marathons, often, pretty respectably fast, then there was a guy in his early 20's who holds the 10 marathon in 10 days record contested the last few years at the Windermere Marathon and the guy who did the final two days to tick off marathon numbers 599 and 600 - gulp!

Come Friday morning I was up before the alarm, fitful and restless sleep so I got down to the catering tent for porridge, honey and some nutella on bread. I'd prepared my hydration backpack the night before with all the kit requirements. Not exhaustive compared to some events but still plenty to remember. Checked everything and got my post-run warm gear together and headed down for reg and kit check. The check was quite thorough and applied to everybody and I felt fairly pleased that I had a smaller backpack than the majority of people. We had our briefing and then a long trip in the mini-bus convoy up to near Padstow. The trip was over an hour so we didn't start till early afternoon and there was a hilarious moment as nearly every bloke headed to the cliff edge to pee over it, a few yards apart like some kind of small army. I'm sure the ladies also found somewhere to lighten the load, but were more subtle about it.

12:10 and we were off, but not very fast as we herded at the stile. With over 100 runners - the walkers which took our number to roughly 200 had set off two hours earlier - the queue was long so many of use jumped the fence. I spoke to an MdS trainee for the first few miles as he told me the anecdote that Hugh Grant owned one of the big, remote, white houses overlooking Constantine beach we were passing. The first few miles were great, easy trails, grass, short sandy beach crossings and not much challenge. Very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security about this "challenge". I steadied my fresh-legged pace from 10's to nearer 11's, anything slower would have been too easy. Cliffs were generally low and the undulations small at first, this changed throughout day one and escalated over the following days.

There were a few beach sections and stream crossings on day one. The first was at Porthcothan beach. There were mutters from those in road trainers around me and I felt slightly smug in my f-lites, knowing if my feet got wet they would be dry again before I could dwell on it. The contours the path followed tightened a bit for a few miles culminating in a decent drop down to the beach at Mawgan Porth. On the beach I suddenley got the sensation of a wet arm, I looked around, nobody with water pistols, no rain clouds, didn't look or smell like seagull "output". Then something fell off my bag into the sand. I retrieved the plastic valve from my hydration pack tube, which had loosened until it had dropped off, brushed the sand off it as best I could. I'm useless in any kind of warm weather without plenty of fluid so loosing the valve could have been a nightmare at such an early stage.

8m down and on to CP1, mini mars bar, cola, water and off, no sense in hanging around whilst fresh. Off down the coast along Watergate bay, Newquay bound. It wasn't far to the next CP but definately harder going than the opening 10k. A variety of routes over and around Port beach were taken. I'm just glad I followed the right people and got to CP2. We passed several others later who had missed this in the maze of Newquay and lost loads of time doubling back.

CP2 of each day was the first sandwich stop. I sunck some water and grabbed a random sandwich. Cheese and pickle :¬) , always seems to help, can be dry, but I'm sure a change from sugary carbs helps. Off into Newquay, I tried valiantly to follow South West Coast path signs but this got difficult as they were just tiny stickers on lamp posts amongst a litter of street signs on bustling resort streets. Briefly I was alone, but then rejoined a group through downtown Newquay. I nearly took a wrong turn, but thankful to be called back. The path became evident again as we passed the grand looking hotel featured in the film version of "The Witches" and alongside the famous surfer mecca that is Fistral Beach.

One more headland and down to Crantock beach. Depending on tide crossing the river here can be a swim, but today we were thankful the tide was low and the bridge was usable. CP3, I had some kind of cereal bar, more water and coke and got off again. 16m down and there was now a bit of dune crosssing before a few undulating headland tours on towards the challenging section of the day. After some narrow, lumpy paths it was down dunes again to Hollywell beach. Route options here, you could go up a cliff or across a stream at the back of the beach and stick to the path. I kicked myself later, just a little, for taking the longer - slower - option. This climbed us up and around more rugged headland terrain past abandoned mines and a "danger area" - perhaps military? I was tiring now, my run around Ligger point to the vast Perran beach was slow and I stopped catching up with people.

Down the dunes and on the beach I followed a few hundred yards behind the next two runners, who seemed to pull away. 22m+ now and my stomach tightened and breath seemed harder, I always assumed this is a sign of walling so backed off the pace more as I tried to follow the nice, springy mid-beach sand on the near 5k beach section. I'd feared this bit but it turned out to be very runnable on a wide, flat beach at low tide. Perranporth took an age to grow at the far end of beach but eventually I was there. A short run around the small promenade passed less active daytrippers and that was it for the day. 4:39, quite happy with that

I never feel hungry at the end of a long run, but I gulped some liquid and put away a cup of nice veg soup and breadroll. I was worryingly stiff and tired and wondered if I could restore my energy supplies ok for tomorrow or if it would be painful fat burning much of the way? I've done two long runs in a row before, but this was three and my worry didn't ease till the food I'd ate kicked in and picked-me-up a bit. There was a big dinner back at the holiday park, I sure needed it. My roommate Mike turned up a bit later having been out quite a while - he hadn't trained much since MdS - and having to wait for the last finishers to get to the last minibus. Night finished with a few of the complimentary beers from organisers, sponsors and chilling in front of some TV comedy - Rock and Roll?.... nope definately more Soup and Roll.

With hindsight this was the easiest day, also my fastest, whether I should have held back more I don't know. If the next two days were anything to go by then yes. Other factors like eating and sleep may have been wrong also - not enough of either all weekend, neither by choice. I didn't force myself to eat when full and kept waking early.

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