You’ve got to love the Endurance life motto. It is simply “Never never never give up.” It is certainly something to live up to and is rather inspirational in itself. When I crossed the finish line of the Coastal Trail Series half marathon yesterday I received a little goody box containing a dog tag/chain with the name and date of the event, a couple of stickers, temporary tattoos and an orange rubber bracelet with Endurance Life on one side and the motto on the other. All in all, quite a nice little gift pack. This was after receiving my technical Endurance Life Tee at sign-on, all for the £39 half marathon entry fee. This actually makes it one of the best value for money events that I’ve ever entered, especially considering the excellent level of organisation and the effort that they put into their events. You also get more miles, mud, views and hills for your money, with the half marathon coming in at 15.7 miles according to the guy giving the morning brief, or 14.9 according to the Endurance Life website. Read on for more details of the race day and some pictures.
One of the things that makes the Endurance Life CTS events a bit more different to other races is that everyone knows it is going to be hilly, tough, over mileage and have some of the best views that you will see anywhere in the world.
Thanks to the level of co-ordination with local land owners the routes get to go through some places that you would otherwise never see as well as using common trails, footpaths and the occasional road. With that said the 10k series seems to be well subscribed and is something that any runner should be able to complete. The atmosphere is fantastic with a lot of friendly people around, with the organisers also seeming to enjoy themselves amongst all the hard work that they are putting in.
The routes are timed using an orienteering style “dibber” that you have to place in a small box at the start, finish and a couple of checkpoints on the way. This style of timing means that it is more of a time trial than a race, as someone could start a few minutes behind you and finish with an overall faster time without you ever seeing them on the course. In practice this doesn’t make too much difference to the fast guys and gals as they are encouraged to start together at the front anyway.
Another difference to a normal half marathon is that you are required to carry a minimum amount of safety equipment, including a first aid kit, whistle, windproof jacket, foil blanket, drink, energy food, hat etc. This is largely due to the remote nature of pretty much the whole course, especially considering the more extreme nature of some of the terrain. I couldn’t fit all of this into any of my bum bags, so I opted to carry it all in a small rucksack that I often run with anyway. The day turned out to be pretty warm and sunny, so I was glad to have the drink and food with me, thankfully the other gear wasn’t needed.
I started somewhere in the mid pack, but as of yet I have no idea how many were competing, I’d guess somewhere between 100 and 150 people. I’m tentatively waiting for the overall results to be published later today at www.endurancelife.com. A lot of the early coastal path was single track, but thankfully due to the fact that everyone had to initially queue for the start “dib” there were no real bottle necks to speak of. During the first five very hilly miles along the coastal footpath I was trying very hard not to get carried away as I didn’t want to experience the pain of running out of energy later in the race. I also didn’t want to risk injury on the downhills as I have the Etape Caledonia Cycle Sportive to complete next weekend.
Things quickly settled down, I overtook a few people and a few people over took me, then I found that I was racing with the same two or three people for the next eight miles or so. I would overtake them on the hills and they would catch me up again on the flat, this was largely due to the fact that I have focused mainly on hill training over the winter to build strength. At about six miles in I did something that I promised I would never do, I ate a handful of jelly beans from the first checkpoint. I have a sensitive stomach and this kicked off a bout of indigestion which stayed with me for the rest of the run. It undoubtedly slowed me down in places, however I was still very happy with my ultimate finishing time.
The scenery changed very quickly with the varied terrain and there was no time to get bored or ponder how long you had been running for. The second checkpoint was about 10 miles in and I was starting to flag. We had been running up the Erme Estuary for a few miles and now it was time to cross over and head back down the other side. It was at this point that my stomach started to feel really bad and my energy levels started to drop, so I decided to try one of my SiS isotonic energy gels. Wow! What a difference. I was really suprised that it actually settled my stomach, which totally contradicts my experiences with other gels over the years, and my energy levels picked up almost immediately. As my pace picked up I dropped off the people that I had been dicing with for the past hour and started to overtake more and more of the slower 10k runners as the courses overlapped.
Just over 1 mile from the finish I came to the most interesting obstacle, the run across the mouth of the Erme Estuary. The organisers had timed the whole event so that the tide was out, so the river was only knee deep. As I plunged into the cold water both calves tried to cramp, so I pulled my toes back to stretch them out and ran on, probably looking a bit duck-like. My calves eased up as I ran onto the soft sand on the other side which we had to plough through for a couple of hundred meters before starting the climb up to the finish. Here I just dug in and kept putting one foot in front of the other, plodding on until I got to the finishing gate where I was greeted by the organiser and a small applauding audience, all waiting for their own loved ones to finish. My kids dashed under the tape to clamber all over me, my race was over and what a great time it had been.
A final word on nutrition
I was really happy with my nutrition during the race, other than the jelly beans, and would repeat it. I had a 750ml bottle containing an electrolyte tablet and a Zipvit ZV8 bar that I nibbled on throughout. I also consumed two SiS isotonic energy gels (without caffeine) in the last six miles and will definitely be using them again. They made the last few miles a lot of fun, rather than a depressing slog. Once I finished I almost immediately drank a portion of SiS Rego and supplemented it with a portion of Cherry Active making it quite a tasty chocolate and cherry flavour rather than the normally tasty chocolate flavour. I then drank about 3 litres of electolyte drink throughout the rest of the day and through the evening, not to mention the large bowl of spaghetti bolognese that I had for dinner.