Friday 1st October Day 1 - 26.22 miles
The day had arrived that I had been looking forward to all year, and with it forecasts of heavy rain and gale force winds - it didn't dissapoint. Staying with my folks again in Newquay, I awoke early after a very restless night and the weather was atrocious! A relaxed breakfast and then Ellen drove me the half an hour to the VO2 HQ in Hayle where I met my best bud Alex who ran the course with me last year. An air of electric anticipation awaited us as we met for the race briefing after a thorough kit check. A few familiar faces were dotted around, included Adam Holland who on the Sunday was due to finish his 99th marathon in his quest to be the youngest 100th marathoner.
'If it's not raining, it's not training' quipped Ben Mason (VO2 Director) which did a lot to lighten the mood. A quick show of hands from those returning from last year also brought a chuckle after Ben quipped 'don't you ever learn?'
We were then herded onto the mini-buses for that tortuous 40-minute journey to the start.
Everyone shivered on arrival at Trevose, anxious to get going to warm up. The weather was unrelenting from the start. It took a while to wrap my brain around the fact that feet were going to be wet no matter what I did to try to protect them. All I could think of was the fact that on Day 3 last year it was the wet feet that brought the blisters on. However, Salomon Speedcross were the shoes of choice this year and soon into the start they became a very wise choice. The trails were already churned up by the early starters in the walking group and the mud very often became ankle deep. Many runners were still in their roadies and one guy was obviously struggling in a pair of Vibram's!!
I'd completed many more training miles in the run-up to this years ACC which became obvious from the start as I felt pretty good. Also, my fuelling last year was appalling so I was determined to conquer that too. I quickly realised during my training that energy gels are not my thing as they made me nauseous for days after, not the ideal thing for a multi-day event. Thus, 'real food' was the order of the 3 days.
The first check point at Mawgan Porth came after a pretty gnarly start. Flood water ran down every valley side making it pretty treacherous on each descent. We took it pretty steady as we wanted to make it through the 3 days and not have to retire because of some stupid injury through lapse in concentration.
'Don't hang around in the check points' was the decision of the day. We knew it was going to be a slower first day than last year as the conditions were a whole lot worse so grab a drink, some food and consume it on the walkable ascents. This strategy worked really well; we power walked every ascent which nobody around us seemed to be able to cope with.
The second check point at Lusty Glaze, Newquay, (roughly half way) brought us into the town that I grew up in. With it, brought some flatter, hard surface and a chance to pick up the speed and get some easier miles in the bank. Similarly to last year I was able to assist in the navigation through the streets of Newquay. Tempting as it was to leave people to their own devices and leave us with a chance to make up a few positions I decided that Karma may have it's wicked way with me and bite me on the arse later on in the weekend. About 5 or 6 other runners tagged along in the end and I got them around the official route no problem.
It was when we got to the southern end of Fistral Beach that we realised that there were some people that were taking obvious short-cuts. People who we recognised as overtaking before the first check point were suddenly ahead of us again. When you overtake the same people twice in a race, there's definately something not right.
Check point 3 of the day brought us across the River Gannel estuary and into one of my most favourite places, Crantock. The gang were there to meet us, Ellen and our 3 kids, Al's girlfriend Marta, and my folks. A special mention, given the sponsorship that we have raised this year, goes to Lara, who is my daughters best friend (7 years old) who suffers with Ataxia, who turned up her family Nick, Sophie and Freya and Finn. It was great to see them there and it really gave us the spur that was needed to keep going. We were about 18 miles in at this point.
After Crantock the sun came out! We adopted a run/power walk strategy from herein, especially on the ascents, with the aim of conserving energy for the next two days, and we were soon onto the beach at Holywell Bay. At this point, we again noticed a couple of runners that we had left well behind before the first check point. Maybe we should have just ignored it, but it really wound us up. Intentional or not, they were only cheating themselves - where's the glory in not completing the entire course? No names mentioned, obviously, but it turned into a bit of a race from herein, despite us knowing we had put in the greater mileage. This continued onto Perranporth Beach and the long run in across the sand.
The finish point had changed from last year and had moved from the beach car park to the top of the cliff. As we neared the end of the beach I checked my Garmin and we had completed the full 26.2 miles. We had a choice; run through the car park and up the cliff road OR run through the river and up the cliff steps (the shorter but much steeper route). Well, it was a no brainer. We had completed the distance already so the river and steps it was. However, it seems like our two competitors had the same idea. Despite the 26.2 miles behind us, the fire in our bellies ignited and we found ourselves sprinting to reach the river first. The adrenaline was like nothing I had experienced before; where had this energy come from? The other two hesitated at the sight of the river; not us. 'Straight through it Al!' and we launched ourselves off the foot high bank and straight through to the steps on the other side. Straight up the steps to the sight of the VO2 flags.
Job done. I was walking around on a complete high, NOT flat on my back as I was last year. We were 5 minutes slower than last year but the conditions dictated this and as you will see, we made up for this on the following two days!