6am – only a beautiful time of day if there is a run involved




Ths MudCrew event has distances of 11, 20, 32 and 64 miles. Two years ago I ran the 32 mile route as preparation for my TDS race in Chamonix, I came 15th in 5:48 and thought I should prepare the same again this year and hoped that my extra training would mean a faster time.

The start time is 08:30 but registration closes at 06:30 to allow time coaches time to get us to the start 32 miles down the coast. This meant leaving home before 05:00 and also impacting on my evening shift as a taxi driver the night before. I managed to get to bed for 11pm but it was a rush to get to Porthpean, Cornwall in time.

On arrival in Porthpean, I grabbed by Ultimate Direction backpack and started walking to registration, then realised I didn’t have trail shoes on, thinking they would be in the kit checklist, so I changed. Back I go and then realised my waterproof was in the boot of my car. Another u-turn. Registration was all done in minutes and away I come and back to the car to finalise the last bit of preparation – eating breakfast of bananas and grapes and taking a banana for half hour before the start. Buses left at 06:50-0700 and I was glad to have a seat to myself to try and doze. Then it occurred to me that I had forgotten to Vaseline the parts that chaff but hoped I’d get away with it (I didn’t!).

On arrival at St Anthony head, I saw the welcoming faces of Andrew Ferguson (Fergs) and Isobel Wykes (Issy) and asked to see how Mark Brooks of pureTRAIL was getting on in the 64 mile race. He was leading by a few seconds from Michael Robinson, who I also know and was first entrant into our Dartmoor Volcano race. I later learnt that Mark won in a course record time and Michael was 3rd.

After a short while, 08:30 arrived and I met Ange Martin on the start line. She had come to Dartmoor and ran the volcano race route the week before. We were off on time and immediately I started to remember the route, quite easy to start with and with Mark’s performance in my mind, I thought I’d start at a good pace as it seems fairly runnable. Within 3 miles I was sweating, my Salomon fellraisers (replacing Speedcross I threw in the bin this week and ideal for the wet winter/Dartmoor terrain) were not required in the drier trails, as I’d expected wetter because of rain the previous few days. This caused me discomfort and my calves start to hurt. I had felt them tight the week before and booked a massage for the Tuesday after this race but I was surprised how poor I was at climbing the hills. I ran through the first aid station as I wanted to save time and would take a little longer at the next aid station which was 12 miles in. Here I saw the 20 mile race starters and plenty of cheering from them before they started a little later. There I had a cola for the caffeine, a few cocktail sausages, I took watermelon to eat on the move, flapjack and diary fudge sweets to keep in reserve.

It’s very unusual for me to have a bad race, feel bad, sweat so much, have tight legs and struggle uphill. Whilst all this was happening, there were only a few that had overtaken me on the odd occasion. At the time I hadn’t given it much thought, as later the leaders of the 20 mile and then the 10 mile race would fly past. Basically, I was so poor that I dreaded the downhills because I knew there would be an uphill after. It is not like me to do this as I can usually climb better than most, albeit walking than running. I could run downhill and force myself to run on the flat, although flat was hard to come by now as it was a tough last 12 miles. It was great seeing Fergs, James, Duncs and Pat of MudCrew at checkpoints and I’m sure they will say how negative I was.

I have to say that I spoke to no one for more than a few seconds throughout the race, except at checkpoints. It was a case of getting it over and done with. Great knowing there was 6 miles to go as that’s just a training run distance and then it’s all over.

In summary, my preparation for the day was poor and I had forgotten how tough the course was. I assumed I would do better than 2 years ago. Cannot put my finger on exactly what caused me to struggle but hoping it will not have a negative affect on my biggest running challenge of the year, the TDS in Chamonix on 26th August. The biggest personal challenge of the year is organising the Dartmoor Volcano race on 13th September!