The Arc of Attrition – Friday 01/02/2019 – 100 Mile Ultra (36hr Cut off)

This is an Event that Simon, from our Club, took part in and this post contains Simon’s blog from the event in the bottom section of this post which is quite interesting reading especially if you are considering participating in an Ultra.

To explain the details of the race I’ve copied in the details from the event holders website below.

The Arc of Attrition : 100mile Winter Coastpath Ultra.

The “RaidLight” Arc of Attrition : Become a legend by completing the South West’s toughest footrace.

The Arc is a point-to-point extreme coastal race from Coverack to Porthtowan taking in 100miles of stunning and dramatic Cornish Coastpath with competitors running in challenging winter conditions. Runners will complete an Arc around the entire south west foot of Cornwall.  The race has a strict 36 hour cut-off with additional checkpoint and safety cut-offs on route. With checkpoints approximately 20 miles apart, competitors will need the ability to be self-sufficient for long periods of time.

The event carries 5 points towards qualification to the UTMB.

As safety is our primary concern, competitors will need to carry mandatory kit at all times and will be subject to random kit checks throughout the event. We would strongly recommend and advise the use of your own support crew.  The cost of entry includes the hire of a compulsory GPS tracking device which allows race HQ (and your friends and family) to track your progress online throughout the event.

The race starts at 12.00 noon on Friday and competitors will be bussed to the start area at Coverack from the race HQ at the EcoPark Porthtowan.

Although it follows a way-marked route, this is a self-navigation event and ONLY suitable for experienced ultrarunners. There is an entry requirement of at least a 100km finish and considerable experience of night time running. We reserve the right to refuse an entry if we believe you do not have the right level of experience to compete in this event safely. If this is the case we will refund any monies paid in full.

All competitors will receive an event hoodie at registration and all finishers will be awarded an exclusive and much coveted MudCrew 100mile buckle.

The Arc of Attrition by MudCrew. Become a Legend !

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Click on the picture to see the route of the course

Before the race started the conditions were as per the below picture

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The prospects of doing the race must have seem quote daunting even then!!!

Anyway – onto Simon Blog and his reflection of the race (ohh,  importantly I do need to point out first that he didn’t manage to finish the race………)

 

So, as I reflect on my first DNF here’s another not-blog on my foray into the Arc of Attrition south west coast winter 100 mile ultra. I’ve had a drink and no sleep so this might be a bit long winded. Actually, it is.


After learning about the race and it’s 54% DNF rate a couple of years ago it was always on my wish list of the race i liked the look of but I’d never actually be able to do. After finishing my first (and only) centurion at TP100 laid on the floor surrounded by paramedics I also said I’d never do another 100. Two years later here I am having broken both promises. They do say if you don’t DNF you’re not trying hard enough, or some other nonsense, and I’m telling myself now it’s true.


Pretty much all my ultras I finish in the last few percent (except at CTS north York moors where I was third in cat, thought I’d throw that one in there) so I was in no way expectant of finishing the Arc but I had to have a go to truly test my mental and physical strength. The last 2 years had been preparing for this with races chosen to test extreme terrain, navigation and winter conditions, with many of those races pushing me to new limits, but all generally with generous cut offs; this is where the Arc differs.


The Arc has 4 timed checkpoints at 24, 38, 55 and 75 miles, and a 104 finish line cut at 36 hours. I was hoping to at least keep in the race beyond 25 hours, my longest time on feet to-date at UTS50, purely to experience some more sleep deprivation trippy hallucinations if nothing else.


The days preceding the Arc involved strength and conditioning with limited running to try and manage persistent niggles picked up during the summer fell season, plus a healthy dose of visualisation , and almost no booze for 3 weeks (I didn’t quite stick to that rule). On the day as our coach approached the start line it all became very real, time to focus on the first cut, I had to be out of the CP within 7:30, so my pace plan of 17 min/mile allowed 30 mins to refuel and eat a cream tea, seemed doable but I had no idea of what was to come. The terrain was brutal, a mix of churned mud, incessant headwind, rocks and steep technical ascents and descents. I stuck to pace but my work effort was way to high to sustain and I think I knew from the off my race was already all but over. Views were spectacular, huge crashing waves, but no time for any photos, every second was going to count.


First checkpoint I arrived with 45 mins to spare, met by a lovely Arc Angel she jogged with me to the CP to see what I needed and arrange food, a privilege bestowed only on unsupported solo runners. As soon as she mentioned a cream tea the decision was instant, served with tea and a soup, I shovelled it down, sorted water and was out with 30 mins to spare, doing some dead hard mental sums I was sure this meant CP2 was achievable with a pace of 18 min/mile.

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The second section started well but it all became rather moister underfoot for a good few miles, I half expected Swamp Thing to rise up from the sodden ground, hmmm if only this was 10 hours later the hallucinations might have provided him. This of course meant cold wet feet for a few hours, nothing worse than I’ve suffered before so forget skirting round the deep puddles and plough on.


Darkness came along with black looking clouds, expectant of a storm, or maybe just because it was night?


The undulations were just as technical as first stage, dropping steeply into coves only to have to slog back up. my heart rate dropped as I’d anticipated but along with it so did my pace, also slowed by negotiating technical terrain in darkness.


I arrived at CP2 greeted by a horde of Arc Angel cheer leaders whooping and shouting as I jogged into Penzance, it was a welcome sight, but obvs not as motivating as the Sinfin Old Birds XC cheerleading crew. One of them joined me the last hundred yards, again taking my food order; annoyingly the food was served upstairs, it was a bit of an effort to drag my sorry ass up there (the stana chairlift was broken, true story).


A fair few runners were dropping out at this point. I was broken and it was serious effort to get back out but with 10 mins to spare I was off, with the words of one of the crew ringing in my ears that even now it would be tight for cut off at lands end.


Off into the dark streets of Penzance and then Mousehole, I was on my own, no torches visible in front or behind.


A totally different experience from the daylight section, you could hear waves crashing all around, like shotgun blasts and breaking glass but looking down over cliff edges was pure black, and the characteristic ocean smell of ozone intensified with the lack of visual stimulation. And I now had to self-navigate – I love my GPS, amazing accuracy and bleeps when I need to turn or head off course, messrs Garmin saved me a fair few errors today.


Then it started to rain, then some hail, a badger, and maybe some snow, hard to tell from the white flashes in the light of the head torch. It soon passed to reveal a cloudless sky and an amazing star-scape but the relentless head wind continued, now turning cold and biting, fingers alternating between mild cold and numbness.


Legs were trashed by now, every step descending was sending shocks through my quads, hamstrings aching and Achilles we’re taking a hammering; I slowed. Maybe 15 hours in by now, I’m not sure, but I was unsteady on my feet, tripping on occasion, saved only by the polish sisters; on single track muddy, rocky cliff edges I knew this dangerous, to the point I slowed to a snail’s pace on exposed sections. Oh, and there was a nice boulder field to negotiate somewhere along the way, having to balance on polished pebbles ranging in size from a poodle to maybe a pig.


At Minack one of the few Marshall’s said it was 5 miles to lands end CP, I had 100 minutes and that would leave no time to sort kit with my halfway drop bag nor take on food. This wasn’t looking good.


After what felt like hours (it probably was) I could see the glowing lights of lands end hotel from a couple of miles away, surely, I was nearly there, and I had 40 minutes – this was almost doable. I regrouped and made a concerted effort, head torches behind closing in whom I soon found out were the sweepers; I was the last runner coming in. The moral boost was short lived, in the blackness I had no idea there were two more coves to drop into between me and lands end, counting down the minutes it was soon 18hrs 30 minutes, the cut. So that was it, I was out, mixed feelings I wanted to stay out but relief I could stop. Knowing I had nothing to save for I picked up the pace and finished ‘strong’, but this time no Arc Angel greeting party, just a lone runner who’d dropped earlier, and the crew bringing out the remnant food for me. Then it rained, torrential, I’d had a lucky escape.


Sitting here now in the finish zone, watching the dots I still wish I was out there with them, experiencing the highs and lows and misery of ultra-running, but I can hardly walk. This race broke me, the terrain is brutal, the weather uncompromising, but the cut offs are ungenerous and that’s what got me; I’ll take whatever mother nature can bring but I was at the mercy of a sadistic race director. This race has a well-earned reputation, long may it continue!


I won’t be back…..maybe?

 

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No finish picture of Simon here….

To make Simon’s weekend even more complete his car broke down on the way home…..

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