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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Gatliff Race Report

.............So if you look in the dictionary under Gatliff, it reads: Not easy, wet, challenging.......different every time. Fun!

So we headed down this morning at early doors, down the chicane of the high st in S. London as the drunkards were rearranging the cones into a street montage.

Down to Edenbridge and a change of tack as we had to change the route as a fallen tree blocked the road by Chartwell.

Sue B and I arrived at the start, signed in and then as per LDWA events (sorry, I think you'll find it's not LDWA but COPSE events - only Jezza will find this funny!) and started off without any pomp nor ceremony. Within a mile we were joined by a chap with the map reading skills of an ant. The gentleman who shall remain nameless made a number of significant errors in the first 5 miles.......I listened to him not a jot, but there were always cross words....."No it is not that way.......If you ACTUALLY read the directions, that will not come up until the NEXT paragraph......"

And so Matt Biggin, ultra legend and a tough man of muscle, sinew, brain and braun caught us up in no time, went wrong, caught up again and went off again. My duty was to stay with Sue on her first ultra since meeting Jezza and George in 2008. Matt was incidentally on that very same race!

CP1 at Toys Hill came and went and after a while I said to Sue that she should not follow this chap who couldn't navigate. We ran on and I ran to the next turn/stile/gate and waited. In about 25 metres, both were having a chit chat and missed me pointing, shouting and waiting and ran straight on. I didn't see Sue again but she said that at CP2, just 6 miles further I was 30 mins ahead.

So, through the wet, waterlogged fields, streams, bogs, floodplains and even streams running down paths I forged. I had been running with 300+ marathon legend Peter and 100 marathon legend Jackie and I managed to catch up with them again after about 6 miles. The trails of trail shoes grew thinner in the mud as fewer runners were in front of us. CP2 came and went and CP3 in Chiddingstone village was a good stop for soup, sandwiches and a cup of tea. 10 mins later we were back on the trail.

Now this part of the course was hard going. Not that the first half was easy. The water and mud were obstructive enough to keep the first 30km to nearly 4 hours 25 mins! Yes! Going was soft and slow.

Out of CP3 the head was down and the grinding out of this event began. The Garmin was showing the CPs were not even slightly out but a long way. If this were just me, I would have laughed it off because we all make minor mistakes on these self-nav routes but by now, we were all celebrating a cheeky half back to base.


So onward through undulations....never really going as high as the 771ft Toys Hill. and often dropping into flooded river valleys.

CP4 at Cowden, we realised that the round was going to be long. Not a problem, in terms of distance, but the Weald mud was like Blu-tac and the running across fields was far greater than I had done in any race before. In fact, if we weren't running across a field, we were running around one.

Out of CP4 we got a move on. Ultra-Shuffle style. Rain came down, stopped, then came down again. We lost one of our group who decided to walk the rest of the way with Merv. Merv had not come in by the time I had left after waiting for Sue.

On up to CP5 at Dry Hill and the long drag up through the woods was run and not walked. Footprints ahead were fewer further between. We hit Dry hill CP with 31 miles on the watch, going wrong perhaps rarely.

At CP5 we were overtaken by the course record holder, which I am sure you can Google. Despite a "Hi, how are you.....looking good, moving well despite these conditions....." a total blank from the chap.....rather rude I thought. As far as ultra colleagues have made me aware, they seem to think he designs the routes. Whether they are right or not.....this guy was totally rude. Nuff said.

CP5 was allegedly 3.6 miles from the finish.........Well it was 5 miles. We had waded through the last 6-7 miles of pure mud and water, save for the odd 850m on tarmac. Down by the River Eden, it was wet. The river was ripe for bursting, with the water tantalisingly close to breaking the bank and rushing over the flood plain. As light faded, we made the last mad dash over the aerodrome, 6 inches deep in water and back to the start.

I've run the last 40 miles of a 100 miler quicker! This took me 8 hrs and 3 mins. Sue came in 90 mins later. A piping hot shower, hot dog and soup later and all was well. Not a drop of cider in sight, despite running through the domain of my favorite Chiddingstone Bone Dry Cider country.

Gatliff we love you......58Km instead of 50? Hmmmmm.

Will I be back next year?

Does a badger shit in the woods?!!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Rob, Gatliff is an adventure re-written every year. Glad you enjoyed it, I maybe back there next year but the conditions look a little lame for my liking ;-)