Now that registration for the 2016 edition of the Arc of Attrition is well underway, we thought you would enjoy reading this account of the 2015 race by At Your Pace trail runner Loyd Purvis, who has previously shared his exploits at the Transvulcania in La Palma last May. If Loyd’s account whets your appetite for the race, you can find out more about the 2016 event at the Mud Crew Events site here.
Arc of Attrition 2015 Race Report
So after the highs and lows of 2014 (more lows than highs!) here I was standing on the start of the first running of AofA 100 mile coastal foot race. Being my first winter 100 mile race I was feeling a little bit apprehensive about the unknown. The weather forecast was looking pretty good for the weekend considering it was early Feb. It was going to be clear and dry but quite cold through the early hours of the morning.
Just weeks before the race the local running community was hit hard by the tragic passing of Dave Rowe, a super talented ultra runner who was meant to be taking part in the race. We gathered at the starting point and had a two minute silence for Dave; it was a really fitting start to this great race (RIP Dave Rowe). The air horn sounded and off we all went into the darkness of this epic adventure. It didn’t take long for the field to thin out, off went Duncan Oakes and Steve Wyatt and they would stay together for the whole 100 miles to take joint first place in under 23hrs!
I found myself running in a group of about six runners, one of which was Charlie Ramsdale, a member of Mud Crew’s Ultra Team. We had raced together a few times before and spent long periods of races together so it was nice to have her along for company.
We rattled along at a good pace and it seemed like no time at all when we reached the first check point at Porthleven. It was a great feeling stepping through the door of the Harbour Inn into the warm lounge where we were welcomed by a round of applause from all the supporters and support crews. I’ve never been treated so well in a race before, Mud Crew races are always pretty special but this was exceptional! Everyone bent over backwards for us! We got some warm food inside us, topped up our bottles and we were back out into the cold nights air, I didn’t want to spend too long in the warmth of the pub because I was scared I might not want to leave!
By this time myself and Charlie had been joined by Richard Keefe, another talented local runner and also a member of Mud Crew’s Ultra Team. We headed out of Porthleven and on to the next check point at Sennen cove. Still running strong and feeling nice and relaxed we reached Marazion where we would have to leave the trail and hit the dreaded road section through Penzance and Newlyn. It didn’t take long for the feet and body to start hurting from the high impact of road running. At one stage we were all wishing for a hill so we could walk for a bit. We finally made it back to the coast path after some pretty tough road miles, it was good to be back on the soft stuff! We were all still running strong and feeling good but ultra running is a strange beast, when you are running strong in the back of your mind you are wondering when the low points are going to hit. Pushing on towards Land’s End we battled through some hard sections of coast path, Lamorna and Porthcurno. At this point I must say a massive THANK YOU! to Richard Keefe’s wife, she was waiting at the top of the steep steps at the Minack theatre with a cup of hot chocolate. I can only describe this as the best damn cup of hot chocolate I have ever consumed!
The temperature was dropping quick and by the time we had made it into Sennen (a few little detours en route!) it was pretty cold. Again the Angels came to our rescue. I haven’t gone mad – ‘the Angels‘ was the name give to anyone on the Mud Crew support crew 🙂 We stepped into the warmth of another cosy check point and it wasn’t long before I had a lovely hot cup of coffee in my hands (shaking hands!)[pullquote-left]Feeling the warmth of the sun was great after a cold night’s running[/pullquote-left] Charlie was having some blister issues by this time and I really couldn’t stop my hands from shaking so we decided to stay in the warm for 15-20 mins so I could stop shaking and Charlie could sort her feet out. Warmed up and strapped up (Thanks, Angels) we made our way back outside, as we left the sun was starting to show its face for the first time it really lifted our spirits as we made our way back on to the coast path. Feeling the warmth of the sun was great after a cold night’s running and a really cold early morning with the temperature hitting -5 degrees at some points.
Even with the sunrise giving us a boast of energy we weren’t getting carried away because we knew we were just about to hit the toughest section of the whole 100 miles!
I had spent many an hour training on the next section running from St Ives to Sennen so I knew the area really well, maybe a bit too well! Charlie was suffering quite a bit by now, not that you would know because she’s one tough cookie and keeps her suffering to herself. First it was her feet and now it was her back being rubbed by her pack and it was getting pretty uncomfortable! The race director had organised the medical team to meet us at Cape Cornwall so they could take a good look at Charlie’s back and try to make it a bit more bearable. We arrived at Cape Cornwall and were greeted by Andy Jukes who had been doing an amazing job supporting myself and Steve Wyatt and everyone else in the race through the long cold night. Charlie jumped into the back of the medic’s van so they could look at her back and believe me it wasn’t in great shape. Tom Sutton and Nicky Taylor were at Cape Cornwall helping out with race support so I went over to have a chat while Charlie got her back strapped up. It was quite exposed at the Cape so it wasn’t long before I started to feel cold. Nicky and Tom got me a blanket and told me to jump in the back of their van so I didn’t get too cold while I waited (Thanks, guys, it was a massive help!)
The medical team had done a super job on Charlie’s back so we were up on our feet again and ready to make the push to St Ives, my home town and the next check point. Cape Cornwall to St Ives was by far the toughest section of the whole race. If you combine really tired legs and minds with slippery technical coast path running it’s a pretty dangerous combination. We were joined by Martyn Lewis, a good friend of mine, between Zennor and St Ives, it was great to see a friendly face. We took our time through this super technical section, we didn’t want any accidents this far into the race. It was an awesome sight as we rounded the headland to see the welcoming view of St Ives harbour. Arriving at the far end of the Harbour front in St Ives we were joined by a guy wearing a Mud Crew hi-viz vest. He started running along the front with us so I turned to him and said hi, his reply was “What would you like to eat?!” Yep, he was taking our food order so when we got to the control point at the Lifeboat pub our food would be waiting for us! I have never experienced this in a race before, Mud Crew really are great at organising running events and as you can see their attention to detail is truly amazing 🙂
As we got closer to the pub I could see Liga waiting for me with a big smile on her face, it was a great moment in the race, her smile really lifted me and I knew that the hardest sections were done and it was pretty good running all the way to the finish. I was quietly confident but you never want to get too carried away in a 100 mile race because things can change at a drop of a hat!
As we walked away from St Ives I could see Charlie was continuing to suffer. It was at a similar point in her two other attempts at 100 miles that Charlie had to pull out due to injury. I thought I would strike up a conversation to try and take her mind off the suffering and the fact we still had around 22 miles still to run with a long, brutal section of tarmac to come 🙁
As we arrived at Lelant church and left the soft coastal trail and hit the hard, repetitive tarmac it didn’t take long before things started to hurt and tighten up! Once we had made it round to Hayle town centre, our bodies were pretty battered and sore. We started to run a lamp post, walk a lamp post to try and relieve our aching limbs from some of the impact. It really seemed to help and we were soon at Godrevy and heading back on to the lovely, more forgiving Cornish coast path. We both got a real lift when we got back on the soft stuff and with only 8’ish miles to the finish we pushed on.
I say we pushed on but we did a lot more than that. I think Charlie had got a massive second wind because she took off and was flying; it was a struggle just to keep up! We were up on the North cliffs in no time and even though darkness had descended upon us it didn’t slow us down and for large sections of the North cliffs our pace was 8:30/mile! I can assure you I have never hit pace like that this far into a 100 mile race before 🙂
Having run the last 5-6 miles of the race so many times in training I knew there was a bit of a sting in the tail! Knowing Charlie was suffering with her feet and back, I decided to keep this to myself and be as positive as I could be in this situation. We crossed Bassetts car park still at a good pace and on towards the sets of big steps that would lead us to Portreath. With three sets of steps to conquer before we reached Portreath it was head down and keep pushing. We over came the first three sets with only a few choice swear words! and I thought Charlie was a lady 🙂 Dropping down to the bright lights of Portreath we could see our welcome party at the bottom waiting to cheer us on. We had a quick chat, filled up our bottles and with a few words of encouragement from our support crew we were off to tackle the horrible tarmac hill out of Portreath (I hate this HILL!) With Kay and Katie cheering us on all the way up the hill we made it to the top and were turning back on to the coast path. A few more big dips with more BIG steps and we would be at the the end of our epic Cornish journey! I kept saying to Charlie “one last push” “one last push” but I think at this point she had stopped believing me 🙂
We stood at the bottom of the last big climb, I had a great feeling at this moment in time. I knew this was it, the last big effort and boy was it an effort. It felt like I was on my hands and knees crawling up that last dam hill! Summiting the last flight of big steps and getting back on the flat we realised we had done it, with just flat running and then downhill all the way to the finish. We ran over the rise and what a glorious sight, the lights coming from the Blue Bar at the finish in Porthtowan.
The guys at the finish line must have seen our head torches because we could hear them all cheering us to the finish. It’s so hard to describe the feeling you get at the end of such a long race where you have had so many highs and lows! I think it’s a feeling everybody should experience at least once in their lifetime. We dropped down the hill and turned the corner to the finishing straight. We had run 100 miles on tough challenging Cornish coast path, in winter conditions (well, kind of!) and I can honestly say I had loved every single step. It’s not very often you can say that when you’re racing long distances but this was definitely one of them times to savour.
It was awesome to see Charlie get to the finish line and put the 100 mile distance well and truly to bed! I must take this opportunity to thank everyone who gave up their time to help and support us on our amazing adventure because without you these things wouldn’t be possible. Lastly I’d like to thank Mud Crew Events for all their hard work in putting on such an EPIC well organised race.
THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH!