“The Arc of Attrition is a point-to-point extreme coastal 104 mile trail race taking in the stunning and dramatic Cornish Coastpath with competitors running in challenging winter conditions”
Holly tells us what it was really like to push your body to the limits in one of the toughest races in the UK..The Arc of Attrition..
First, let’s talk about the 24.01.47 issue. I honestly had no idea how long I had been running until I crossed the finish line. Early on in the race I had changed the clock face on my Coros from map to data so I could see my average pace. When I switched back my map had zoomed out and I couldn’t see where I was. This set me off on a bit of a panic as I didn’t want to be without GPX. After this I didn’t dare mess with the watch so all I had for reference was my average pace per k that flashed up as and when.
Anyone that has done an ultra will know that after so long your brain is mush and doing simple maths is just impossible (and even when I haven’t done an ultra)! I honestly didn’t expect to be running under the CR or anywhere near it.
At the very last hill up to the Eco Park finish there was a couple holding a dog. I clocked this dog a mile off as I was convinced it was my parents with Lemmy (my own dog). As I got closer I held out my arms and gave this dog a big hug and fuss whilst the marshal was trying to usher me up the hill. After a few seconds I realised this wasn’t Lemmy but his identical twin. He was an exact replica! How weird was that. I felt horribly confused and explained to the owners how wonderful their dog was and how alike he was to mine. But how much time did that cost me in the end???
How did I feel when everyone told me I had missed the 24hr black buckle? Honestly? Nothing.
I had just ran 100 miles. That’s a big enough achievement in my eyes.
I was knackered, sleep deprived and relieved just to see the finish line.
I had run 1hr 20 mins under the old CR I had come 3rd woman…I didn’t know about the sub 24hr Black Buckle until I was told on the finish line.
How do I feel now? Honestly?
I keep going over in my head how I could have easily shaved off that 1 min 47. So many opportunities where I slowed down to talk to someone or pat a dog. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and does it matter?
Let’s talk about my nemesis. My inability to get ultra nutrition nailed.
My track record for eating during long ultras has always been appalling. After about 60k the nausea starts, often resulting in either vomiting, crapping, burping, farting or mostly all of the above. I know this is quite common for most of us but my inability to getting anything in later on in these races has become worse and worse. No matter how well my training and prep has gone, it can all be ruined because I just don’t have the energy.
During TDS I experienced extreme stomach issues which made me feel just miserable. I needed to change my strategy this time.
I know I don’t drink enough so this was one area where I upped my game. This was helped because I could see my crew often. I think the longest I went without seeing Pete & Ben was 2hrs. I knew I had to get my bottles finished before I saw them or they would hassle me. Plain water for the first half but at this stop I sipped on electrolyte & beer. The 2nd half I added Tailwind to my bottles (I have to be honest this was a gamble as I had never tried it!!), flat coke at checkpoints and also continued with the IPA.
In terms of solid food, I started the first 50k on peanut M&Ms & shotblocks. By the time I got to Marazion I felt awful. I was gutted as this was where I planned to make the most of the road section.
But all I wanted to do was walk and by the time I got to my crew in Newlyn I was worried that the nausea was creeping in, but I was adamant I had to get some food in. I managed some chicken super noodles & a sausage roll.
This is how the rest of the night went until I reached Lands End, where I had a light bulb moment. I was hungry!! Finally.
The amazing Arc Angels offered me some warm pasta which went down a treat. I left that checkpoint a new woman.
At Cape Cornwall we decided to try pasta & cheese as this had gone down so well. We continued like this with the addition of Maurten gels every hour.
St Ives was a welcome sight as dawn had broken & I knocked back a huge cup of T!
(I have to say this was my best nutrition strategy to date). Thanks to Pete & Ben keeping on top of my calories & hydration.
KIT & GADGETS
Let’s talk about kit and gadgets.
This race I took a complete U turn on some of my old favourites. I’ve been a Suunto and Petzl girl for years but my last two 100 milers I have really struggled with failing batteries on both my watch and head torch. But, you know how it is when you have always had the same make of mobile phone you are loath to change what you know. No one wants a blinking head torch half way through the night and a watch with no GPX route.
I was lucky enough to be gifted a @coros_uk Vertix 2 which claimed had a ridiculous battery life and all the bells & whistles to go with it. Turns out this is 100% true. After 24 hrs of full GPS mode I still had 56% battery life left plus the mapping was so accurate & easy to use.
Next change was my head torch. During both UTMB and Autumn 100 my previous torch died very early on & just wasn’t bright enough for the job. I bit the bullet and forked out for the Fenix HM65R-T 1500 as I had heard great things.
Well, what can I say. I won’t be wearing any other Headtorch going forward. It’s super bright, even on the lowest setting and it was still on the 2 days later when I cleared out my kit bag!!! Incredible..
Shoes: I made a mistake here early on. I wore my favourite ASICS Fuji Speed for the first 55k. These really hurt my feet which I struggled to recover from if I’m honest. They are a great shoe but not for that distance. I should have stuck with the Trabuco Max which I wore from Mousehole. I also wore my Metaspeed Sky + shoes for the 10k road section from Marazion.
I wore all my favourite @asicsfrontrunner kit too. Sprinter shorts, LS thin top, Fuji Trail pack, lightweight trail jacket and thermal gloves during the night. Other favourites were my @injinji & @stanceeurope
With exception of my shoe and sock changes, I didn’t change any other piece of kit.
What would I change? Nothing except my shoe rotation. More cushioning needed for 100s!!!