What is the Arch to Arc?

The Arch to Arc is a mega-triathlon from Marble Arch in London to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It involves an 87 mile ultra-marathon run from London to Dover, a 21mile swim across the English Channel and then a 181mile bike ride from Calais to Paris. When it is raced in a relay format it is classically done by 6 individuals doing an hour of exercise and then 5 hours off. Vickie and I will be the first 2 person team to attempt the Arch to Arc and we intend to break the 40hour barrier which will challenge some of the fastest 6-person relay teams. To make it even more unique Vickie will do the entire 87mile run, I will do the Channel swim and we will relay the bike ride (got to play to our strengths, plus I don't like running).

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Broadway Marathon

The Broadway Marathon offers runners the opportunity to challenge themselves and each other amid the stunning scenery of the northern Cotswolds.  Starting and finishing in the scenic Broadway village, the route follows trails and roads among picturesque villages, woodlands, and (most importantly) hills - total ascent 2800feet.  The majority of the course is trail or unpaved track, including some challenging sections of the Cotswold Way; a few minor road sections are included to link the trails.  The route is marked with marshals at a few key points along the way, making this an ideal first ultra-marathon.

I was hoping to hold 10min/mile for the race (my target pace for the A2A run) which would give me a finishing time of 4hrs 33mins for the 27.5miles.  I was pretty confident that I could maintain that pace for 21 miles as I’d managed it comfortably in a couple of my long training sessions (I’d done two 3.5 hour runs as my longest preparation runs).  I was trying not to get too competitive as I didn’t really feel in my heart of hearts that I had done as much mileage as I should have in preparation, and also it was my first attempt at anything over marathon distance on such challenging terrain.  However, the competitive animal inside me could not resist ‘anoraking’ the 2013 results and I saw that Sheila Barbour from Evesham Vale RC (who had placed a very close 2nd in 2013 in 4:21) was perhaps the lady to beat!  I was therefore really pleased to find that I was running just behind her when I reached the top of the first big climb up to Broadway Tower.  About an hour and a half or so in to the race I was starting to feel a bit fatigued and had dropped back off Shelia’s pace as we climbed up the road out of Snowshill.  I checked my Garmin and noticed that I had not really been paying much attention to my pace and has started much faster than the intended 10min/mile pace.  I decided not to worry too much and just pushed on (I was keen to try and hold on to 2nd place).  ‘Embrace the discomfort’ I told myself, ‘nothing worth achieving comes easy!’

I’d not been running for much more that another 30minutes or so when I took a wrong turn at a gate and ran across a field in the wrong direction.  It was only an error of about 500m as I realised my mistake when I reached the gate at the other side of the field and there was no direction arrow to follow.  However, by the time I had turned back and got to the gate where I made my mistake there was another lady in the field just ahead.  I got really cross with myself for making this mistake and losing another place and this is there I made another error.  Instead of trying to lock on to this runner and use her to help me push on I let my head go down and, as I was trudging across a uneven field feeling grumpy, she disappeared into the distance!  Fortunately, not long after that I came across Paul at a gate and he gave me lots of encouragement and cheered me on, really lifting my spirits.  However, the final really big hill of the route (out of Winchcombe) had really taken it out of me and I succumbed to walking through feed stations (and a bit past them too!) and my target pace had gone well out of the window!  I lost a couple more places too and it seemed like a long slog (through a fair bit of mud) until I finally made it back to Broadway.  The last off-road section was uphill through a field and I could see Ollie and Paul at the top cheering me towards them.  It was all I could do to run up this last hill and they were both laughing at my bandy-legged, stiff running technique.  My hip flexors had completely gone and for some reason there was no way I could run with my knees together; Paul even commented that it looked like I was running wearing a massive nappy! 

So, first ultra completed in 4:41.17 and 5th lady.  A bit slower and further down the field than I would have liked but lots of lessons learnt – the main one regarding pacing and going off too fast at the start.  Congratulations to Sheila Barbour who held on to the lead and finished in 4:07.48 knocking a massive 14 minutes off her previous time!  Thank you to Cotswold Running for putting on a fantastic event and I would thoroughly recommend this race – follow this link to their website to check out their other events.  I’m already planning to go back to try this race again next year – but next time with a bit more knowledge and experience under my belt!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Kinver 10k

One of the main reasons why I signed up with Ollie  for a 2015 Arch to Arc Challenge was because I thought it would be a good opportunity to raise some money for Pancreatic Cancer; the illness my dad has been fighting for the last 7 years.  It therefore seemed appropriate that the Kinver 10k (sponsored by dad's company BodyKraft) be named as the first preparation event on the A2A journey!  OK, so you are probably wondering why I am starting my preparation with such a short race, so I'll explain:

  • My family home is in the village of Kinver
  • Bodykraft sponsor the race and my brother Tim was driving the lead car
  • Kinver 10k is almost exactly 10 months before the start of the A2A swim window, and 10 months of training seemed like a good length of prep time!?!
  • 10k is 6.214 miles.  6.214 miles x 14 = 87 miles; the length of my A2A run from Marble Arch to Dover
  • The race has to be the hardest 10k I have ever done - the first 5k is almost all uphill - so this also seemed an appropriate way to kick off the preparation for the longest and hardest run I'm ever likely to do
  • Thanks to Paul Willis I love running hills!
  • Through this race Kinver Rotary Club raises money for Action Heart, the Midlands heart charity I ran my first London Marathon for
  • I heard Mike Pugh was racing and I wanted to beat him again!
The race started well with a short, sharp climb out of the village towards Enville, then the only descent in the first 5km, before a left turn up Wigley Bank Road, then on to Sheepwalks Lane and up, up, up over the sheepwalks.  It was a pretty warm day and I was hurting by the time I reached the top of the climb.  However, it was great to see an old school friend Rebecca Payne and her family out cheering on the descent and I was rewarded with a race win, lunch out in Kinver afterwards on mum and dad and a cheesy grin photo in The Stourbridge News!