Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Roseland August Trail Race. The Plague 64 Miles.





I had no race pencilled in for August and after completing the T60 night race and with nothing of a significant distance before October I was feeling a bit twitchy. I put my name on the wait list for the North Downs Way 100. But I was not really feeling it. I have found doing the same races don't really do it for me.

I saw on the Mudcrew Facebook page that there were places still going on The Rat or Rosleand August Trail. I gave their page a look. On offer are 4 difference races The Plague 64 miles, Black Rat 32 miles Red Rat 20 miles and White Rat 11 miles. After consulting with my coach Ronnie Staton and thinking of The A race in October it was decided the distance of 64 miles gave a better recovery time for October. I signed up with a mixture of excitement. I had run a little on the South West Coastal Path and knew it was not easy. I went with the thought of just go for the finish and enjoy the experience.

I had been training at high intensity for a while so a long time, so my training for this was of a very low volume  with no real long runs, my weekends consisted of hiking and  minimal running in the week.

The race started on the Friday 11th August at 12.05 past midnight. I had travelled over from Looe where I had spent a relaxing day before with my family. I started to feel anxious as I was due to leave,  but as soon as I got to race HQ at Porthpean outdoor centre I felt more at ease I was greeted by Fergie one of the race directors.  The outdoor centre was great, there were two shower blocks and plenty of toilets.
There was a barn with a bar and where the race brief etc.. would take place also there was another building where I registered and picked up my race number and The Green Plague vest that was required to be worn and seen at all times if you was running the plague and a glow stick for my back pack.

The field was full of tents already; I found a space and pitched my one man tent. I had just invested in a berghaus peak 3-1 tent. I pitched my tent as it started to rain I wanted to listen to Jo Meek who was giving a talk on her experience of ultra-running at 8.45. The talk was really great and Jo gave a bio about races she had run and she shared lots experience. A question and answer session after from Jo, Pat Robbins and Sharon followed. There was a good vibe going on and I felt relaxed and looking forward to getting started. It was still raining as I went back to my tent to get ready. One thing though, I did not know any of the runners here! Normally I can turn up at a race in the south of England and know many people.


I got ready and doubled checked I had everything; I did not want to get out on course and have something important left sitting in my tent. I made my way back to the barn for the race brief at 11.30 this was broken up into 3 parts. I had followed the build up to the race on The Plague on the FB page. It was built up to be tough race and those who ran it would be well looked after. The Plaguers have to wear a green vest so that they can be identified at all times by marshals and the medics on course. Also this gives you preferential treatment at aid stations. I felt like I was in safe hands at each aid
station were people volunteering who had multiple 100 miles finish in ultra running. We were advised to be mindful in the first mile of badger holes. Race brief over it was outside in the rain to start. It felt quite humid and the rain was not heavy. Fergie started us off.

The first ¼ of mile was on road after a while we turned left and started on the trail that would take us out on the South Wet Coastal Path. The rain and weather was strange, the rain was was light but it felt warm at this point I did not put my waterproof on as did no one else. The trail was quite enclosed and we had a nice steady pace going. I was fairly back in the field and you could not really overtake at any place. Other runners had to step aside to let you pass. I was enjoying myself and all of sudden half of me disappeared down a badger hole. I soon recovered, there were lots of midges about and I swallowed a few a couple as did the lady behind me, I could hear her gagging. I said fly and she said yes as she tried to spit it out!

We started the many of the climbs we would have, it was spectacular looking at the headlights ahead making their way up the hill, the wind was blowing and there was a mist coming in off the sea. I settled into the climbs being mindful not to work to hard but being efficient in my moving forward. The first checkpoint would be Pentewan which would be 5 miles in distance. This was I believe the heaviest part of the course with regards to accents and descents. I felt good on both; I had a slight pain in my right ankle that was bothering me. This had been bothering me on and off for some time. It was a tendon coming over the knuckle of the ankle and rubbing.


 I found running in the dark and not being able to see the up and downs were good. I tried to keep an eye out for trail signs and at each hill there was a big sign or board telling you where you where. It was not long before we arrived at Pentewan CP1. I topped up with water and pushed on up the road then on to trail. Then a significant climb Penare Point, I started to take a few places here. The next CP was Gorran Haven 6 miles away. It was still raining and even though I was wet I did not feel cold. Some of the Path was exposed and a little windy. As I was going on the ups I kept in mind at some point there would be a nice bit of down. On the way we would be heading to Mevagissey about 2 ½ miles away. Everyone seemed too wrapped up in the task at hand. You needed to keep your eye on the trail or risk injury due to the uneven nature of it. At points it was slippery and I had quite a few falls. Mesvagissey was like many of the small fishing ports in Cornwall I have seen, which is picture postcard, there were marshals on hand to guide us round the port. I kept going just enjoying myself. It was still raining but not a real problem. A short while later I felt the rumblings in my stomach of comfort break coming on! The trail was narrow in places so I was pleased to find a field where I could walk of the trail and do my business. I turned my light off and settled down on my haunches. The first runner catches sight of my reflective gear I am wearing and shouts to me asking if I am alright, I reply with fine thanks just need the loo. Well the next guy that comes along starts to freak out. He sees my reflective gear shining back at him and he starts shouting what’s that what’s down there! I shout I am going to the loo but he must have had head phones in as he continues to shout with him picking up the pace and shouting in a frightened tone what it is, what it is! It made me laugh.

Mevagissey.
After about 16 miles my right ankle is quite sore. It is nagging away and playing on my mind the terrain has aggravated it. The slanting and uneven trail is not helping. It begins to get in my head and I am starting to think what have I got myself into. It’s raining my ankle hurts this is not to easy and I have only done 16 miles. It became a bit of focus and bothers me. I turn it around and look at as a gift. The constant nagging is keeping me in the moment and not really thinking about too much else, even though it is sore I accept and keep moving. I find my focus shifts from this.  After Mesa we hit more undulating trail through Portmellon. Mindful not shine my head torch into any little old ladies bedrooms as we had been asked to be careful where we pointed our head torch here.

I make it to Gorran Haven in good time the CP was in a Church, I was well looked after here. I was soon out and back on the trail again, I remember descending a massive hill a short while later the descent seem to go on. It was still raining and I said to another runner do you think that was The Dodman! I had seen this in a few posts get a mention on FB. It is South Cornwall’s highest headland.

The next CP was at Portloe, I remember being ushered up some steps into a centre. I was close to the cut off now so did not have time to waste. I did not stay long and I was straight back out of the CP and up a sharp decent and over some rocks. Once at the top I took time to take in the view the sun was coming up and I felt light. It had been a long night. I was glad it was over and it had stopped raining! I remember there was couple running together and for the next few hours we had a game of cat and mouse. They were really helpful as at one point I ran out of water and they shared their's with me.

It was great to see the sun coming up; it always makes you feel invigorated and alive after a night on the trail. All to soon I found myself at Portscatho, there had been some good running in the last few miles with some fairly flat bits, I had a quick in and out here and thought I might get a bacon sandwich that was on offer on my return. 4 miles to St Anthony's head and I had hoped to get there sooner, but with my ankle and now my knee playing up I had to put that thought aside and just plod on. I arrived here at 8.20 am and again a quick turnaround. The Black Rat race 32 mile race back to Porthpean was due to start in 10 minutes.

As I got out along the headland the Black Ratters started to catch up with me so I started to step aside and in hindsight once the race leaders and speedy ones had passed I should of just kept pushing instead of letting them pass. It was an excuse to stop! It was great to see Marina and her sister Max who were who were running this. I said good morning ladies and I was greeted with a hug which lifted my spirits. I kept running as much as I could. I was not unduly tired and I was surprised that my legs where not that sore!

I was soon back at Portscatho, I did not fancy the bacon sandwich so I made do with a coffee copious amounts of sausage rolls and crisps. I took a little bag to go the next CP was Portloe around 8 miles. I was feeling good and resigned to the fact I was going to have to keep going with no faffing to make the cut offs! On this section there was two stretches on the beach. The path keeps zig zagging around so you are constantly coming around or over a hill to be greeted by a new view. There was very little road to traverse, however I got to one road section called Rocky Lane and met another plague runner who had been in the lead pack. Unfortunately his race was over he said that he had problem with his metatarsal and it was too painful and risky to carry on. He was waiting for someone to come and pick him up and did not need any help offered.

Across Pendower beach and back on to trail again, my knee was hurting on the descents so coupled with the ankle I was hiking the ups and running whatever was flat and runnable. I had no thoughts of dropping or any lows. I just wanted to get to finish and if it meant close to the cut off it did not matter. I was quite happy and enjoying myself. After Nare's Head a little more Road and then back on trail again, with cliffs dropping down one side of me and country side and fields the over. The day was getting hotter and points I just had my vest on. The sea was looking inviting. I could just do with a dip to refresh myself and feet. It was good to arrive at Portloe, the volunteers and marshals where excellent. One of the guys said I looked better than when he had seen me earlier. He asked how I was, I said all was good but my knee was playing up. I got offered a seat and had a coffee and ate as much as I could. I knew my pace was a lot slower and I wanted to have enough food in so I had no mental dips so ate what I could!
Walking Towards The Dodman. 
Out of Portloe and up a road before getting on the trail again, I got to  place called Portholland and I think it’s here I meet a couple dressed up as monk and a nun dishing out Redbull, I have some red bull and a bit of cake. It is nice a warm and the sun’s out. Before I get to the next CP at Gorran Haven I have The Dodman to contend with. My knee has become bothersome and this section I meet a lady waiting for husband, she offers to strap my knee up to offer it some support. I thank her for her kindness and head off to the Dodman, It’s the Southwest Paths highest Headland. It comes in at 374 feet and does not take me to long, I like the climbs and the steps I encounter I can power up. It’s the downs that are bothering me. I still try to run them pulling a funny face in the process, get over yourself I say. The support soon comes of my knee it did not stay in palce! On arrival at Gorran Haven a medic has look at and puts more tape on it to offer some support. It is hurting right under the knee cap. I eat while he does this and then head out. I start to run up the street getting well dones and hand claps, it lifts me and gives me some energy. My phone and watch have now run out of charge. I can no longer keep Donna my partner updated, I know she will worry I have fallen over a cliff.
The Dodman from Westside.
I try to slide down one of the descents to save my knee but the grass is to dry, I put it aside and run when I can and enjoy the view. The time passes I am happy and I am aware that I am at the back, the last man standing! I put this right in my head thinking to myself that at least it’s a first at coming last! I smile and feel right I just want that Green Rat Medal; I am ok with what I have done! Through Mesa and I know It won’t be long before I am at Pentewan, I know I can make it I just have to keep moving, it will be close to the cut off. I have chased the cut off’s before on NDW 100 it makes more exciting, not that I want to repeat this too often. There are still some of the rats out on course from the other races, we give each other encouragement As I come down a steep hill to Pentewan there is a gully I have to sit down to get into it. Jumping down is not going to happen.

I get onto a bit of Road and am running or should I say the old man shuffle is going on! And up ahead I see Donna, I feel all emotional and start to well up the southern softie I am. It is fantastic to see her, we have a hug and then run into Pentewen. The medic asks me if I want my knee strapped up again, the last one only lasted a few miles. I said no to leave it, but he asks me if I realize what is coming up in the next 5 miles! I ask him to do it. He shaves my leg so the tape will stick this time and he does a really good job, he writes on it “Finish or Bust” fuelled up with food and the love from my family I head out to take on the last miles I am aware I am last at this point. I head of up the hill buoyed by seeing Donna and eating sausage rolls. I follow the road and up a hill I am soon on the coastal path again and encounter more ups and downs. I start to overtake some Plaguer’s as I crest a hill I see the steps, steps that you do not want to see after 62 miles of being on your feet.
The last set of Steps!

 I can see other Plaguer’s looking behind. I love step’s I can power up them and this is a strong point for me. I get to them and they are massive I get up them, despite the niggly knee I run down a steep hill I keep running and have over taken a few people by now, up one last hill and Fergie is waiting to greet the runners in. I give him a hug and thank him for a great race, I am soon at the race finish. I feel good for the finish and chuffed to have my medal. I overtook 7 people in the last 5 miles it feels good not be last. I shower and eat then have to get in my tent and sleeping bag, the last 20 hours have taken their toll I am shivering and cold and just need to get warm, 


I Loved this race and will go back at some point to do it again, well organised and just an amazing route. I got my knee looked at once I got home. Bit of patella tendonitis in it. I have a good physio who has educated me over the years so had been doing some rehab before he looked at it. I am still working on it.

What next? Well I am  looking forward to returning to run The Downslink ultra on October 1st then 3 weeks later I will heading of Europe for a my main race of the year.


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