Ultra Marathon Hurricane (CTS South Devon Ultra 2016)

Video thumbnail image from Simon Scotting running CTS South Devon Ultra 2016

CTS South Devon Ultra

The weather reports said there would be rain and wind all day. Gale force winds were expected to reach 65mph/105kph.

I was running the CTS South Devon Ultra. The starting point was in Beesands, but I had accidentally booked a place in Beeson. Oops. It was cold and I woke up late, so I had a nice 2km run to reach registration.

By that time, it was already drizzling. The CTS South Devon Ultra was a 52km (32mi) trail race along the south coast of Devon in England.

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The drizzly rain continued before the start as runners tried to stay warm. As with previous race starts, I let myself warm-up gradually. Today it would take a bit longer in the cold. I wore my rain jacket on top of my running vest so I could take it off as I warmed up. As with previous races, I tried to suppress my ego and let runners pass me. Go ahead! I’ll catch up later as they burn out.

The rain wasn’t too bad at this point. The temperature was perfect for running, and the scenery was special. Soon I stripped off my rain jacket. This weather wasn’t so bad, maybe the forecast was wrong. Nope, the forecast was right. The wind hit the coast hard. Snack time! I wasn’t hungry yet, but it takes time for your body to digest food so I ate now to have energy later.

As the CTS South Devon Ultra course cut inland, the wind died down. My race vest has pouches on the front straps for water bottles and snacks. There is a 2.5L water reservoir in the back, and a drinking hose which wraps around to my front for easy access. However, I needed to completely remove the water reservoir to refill it at aid stations. This was a frustrating experience at my last ultra. I tried to just drink from the front bottles this time because they are easier to refill at the aid stations. The rain was strengthening, but I was feeling warm enough and didn’t bother putting the rain jacket back on.

The course was getting muddy. The wind was getting stronger. The views were stunning, and the wild weather only enhanced the raw beauty of the coastline. I didn’t know where the trail was leading or what I would see, but I trusted the path to deliver me to the finish. I surrendered control to the trail.

Runners had found their pace and spread out. It was mostly just me with myself, running my own race.

By the time I arrived at the first aid station (02:07:52 17.7km/11mi), I had drank almost all the water in my front bottles. I finished the remainder and refilled both. It was a much faster turnaround than last time.

After more muddy trails, I reached the second aid station (02:58:55 – 23.5km/14.6mi). I had a few bananas, no sugary snacks yet. Another lesson I learnt from last time.

I was slipping downhill on the mud. Slowing down to a walk didn’t even help. The puddles were everywhere.

Part of the course was on a typical South Devon narrow road. Somehow, this road handles two-way traffic.

During the CTS South Devon Ultra, I realised the course went by the place we were staying. I decided to stop and see Irina and the boys. It was a great mental boost.

Back to running. The rain was definitely not stopping. I embraced the wetness and carried on.

By the third aid station (5:00:01 – 39.4km/24.4mi) I had been running for 5 hours. I felt fine. Considering the distance it was a pleasant surprise.

The course was back along the coast again. The wind was back again too, and a few more slips and trips.

During an ultra, it’s best to “power-walk” the hills. As the race progresses, the definition of a hill becomes more inclusive.

By this point, the wind was so strong it was difficult to walk. At least my motion was keeping me warm. I don’t know how the volunteers managed to stand around in these conditions, but they were greatly appreciated by all of us. I passed through the final checkpoint (6:11:38 – 47km/29.2mi) and headed for the finish.

I didn’t think the wind could get worse, but it did. Thankfully, the course went inland away from the wind. By now the course was so wet it was like running through a stream.

When you saw the final mile marker sign, it did not matter how rough you feel. It was time to push hard and use up anything left.

The finish line was in sight and I avoided a final tumble down this hill. I finished 26th out of 99 runners. From the 99 runners who started the ultra-marathon, only 63 runners finished.

Every ultra marathon is a learning experience. This time I learned that weather is no obstacle if you have the right clothing. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Also, make sure you double check where you are staying before the race. This mistake meant I had to run 2km to stay warm in my wet clothes to reach the place we were staying.

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