The Classic Quarter

classic1This was to be my first ever attempt at an ultra so I felt unsure how I was meant to train for such a race, I was going to be running further and longer than I had ever before so their was going to be some serious trial and error involved! I had ran the Three Forts Challenge about a month prior with my dad at what I thought was a realistic race pace to get myself round! The Classic Quarter is a prestigious 44 mile ultra in Cornwall that starts from the Lizard Point and finishes at Lands End. The race is organised by the Endurancelife events company. The elevation was to be in the region of 7000ft(Brutal if you ask me!), far more than I had faced before so power hiking was going to be a big factor, as well as pacing my effort.

 

The alarm sounded bright and early at 4am, as to allow time for some breakfast and travelling time for the 6:30am start, fortunately we were staying with family who live locally so getting back from the finish wasn’t a problem. I kept breakfast reasonably small with just a couple of weetabix with some blueberries and a banana, in hindsight I should have eaten more! The weather looked bleak for a June summers day, it was overcast but the wind was howling like a pack of ravenous wolves, oh joy I thought! For the race I decided to put in my running pack some SIS caffeine gels, a couple of jam sandwiches, some dates, Powerbar wafers and some Clif shot blocks to have a good mix of everything. For my soft flasks I had gone with my trusty Powerbar blackcurrant electrolyte tablets. In the hour up to the start I had drunk a Lucozade sport to keep hydrated.

 

After a quick race briefing, the foghorn sounded and we were off. I knew this was going to be a long day so I wasn’t too worried about my position off the start. The first couple of miles ebbed and flowed, I then realised I was in what I thought was 10th position so I decided to see if I could join up with the leaders. By mile 6 I had caught them up to make us a lead quartet, I made the decision to try and stay with them as they seemed vastly more experienced than me. Before I knew it we were at the first chip timing dib-in point at mile 8 at the very picturesque Church cove, no time for stopping I thought and I didn’t feel like anything just yet only my drink. From this point on the terrain became increasingly undulating and the group started to splinter up a bit, one guy dropped off the back, the other two had a small lead over me but I kept them as close as I could. At this point I had a bit of Powerbar wafer and a few dates. As we reached the half marathon point approaching Porthleven I had managed to catch them back up, but we were being severely buffeted by the monstrous headwind and we were all feeling it. We stayed together but all we had to do was follow the coast path but somehow we had gotten lost at about mile 15, we were heading inland. A quick discussion and a bit of deliberation we bundled over hedges, bushes and a few fences and found ourselves back on the coast path, but in our detour the guy we had previously dropped found himself leading. As we hit Praa sands it was the mandatory kit check and we were back off. I had a jam sandwich and some rather big gulps of my drink, but now we couldn’t see the leader. The next few miles ticked by and the three of us stayed together as we approached mile 22 and the bag drop. I swapped out my flasks for some fresh ones, grabbed another jam sandwich and a bit of fruit cake. This seemed to do the trick and I began to feel re-energised, by this point I had started to pull away from the other two but the leader was still not visible. So I continued to run on feel until I reached Mounts Bay and met up with my parents who gave me a nutella sandwich and a piece of fruit cake, followed by the comforting news he was only 2 minutes ahead! Game on. The next section was going to be the flat section along the Penzance seafront, the part I felt would be my strongest. So as we approached Newlyn Harbour at mile 27 I had him in my sights. I caught rather rapidly much to my surprise before he announced he was having some major cramp issues. I pushed on but now approaching mile 30 it was back to the major hills and power hiking. I reached the final chip dib in point at mile 33 and grabbed a clif bar from the aid station and made the rather bad decision not to refill my flasks. The last section is notoriously tough with endless stairs, my legs enjoy the flat but the stairs were causing me serious trouble, I had some awful cramp develop in my quads and calves from all those steps. This combined with the fact I was now running out of fluid meant the next 6 miles were brutal, but I still didn’t appear to be being caught? At mile 39 in Porthcurno I had agreed to meet my parents again, but this time I was pretty much finished. I hauled myself down to them grabbed a cup of coffee, drank a whole lucozde sport and refilled my flasks. But I couldn’t face eating anything as I had gotten so dehydrated adding to my fatigue woes. Only 5 miles to go could I hold it together? The next 3 miles were the toughest I had ever experienced, I was willing my legs to move. Next thing tearing down the hill behind me was the second place man, my heart sank…I tried my hardest to muster a run but I knew I wouldn’t be able to respond, my legs had firmly seized up and I still could not eat anything so my energy was very low. I soldiered on but just after I passed the 1 mile to go sign he passed me, bugger I thought, although he checked to make sure I was alright but he looked so fresh and he scampered off. I dragged myself to the finish to find he had just over a minute on me but third place was over 20 minutes away. I was absolutely gutted to lose so late on, but I couldn’t have lost to a better person a local running hero Paul Maskell and he came over to give me his congratulations about what a tough race it was. I had finished in 2nd in a time of 6 hours and 45 minutes. For my immediate recovery I had both a mars milkshake and a frijj milkshake washed down with a chocolate Clif protein bar. It was a bittersweet day to lose it so close to the finish, but I learnt that I need to manage my hydration better as once I am dehydrated I can’t eat anything either, a double whammy! Although it was an incredible experience that taught me loads about what this mad ultra running thing is about.

classic2
As you can see there were some testing conditions!
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