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The ONER ULTRA race report :)

Ironjediby IronjediMay 1st 2015
The “Oner” Ultra - 82 miles of running along the South West Coastal Path from Charmouth to Studland starting at midday on Saturday 11th March with a strict cut off of 24 hours and 11 Checkpoints to run through. Running through the night with over 10,000 feet of ascent #pieceofpiss. What could possibly go wrong?

Well this was going to be one hell of a training day for my main event “The Brutal Events Triple Iron” in September. This race was either going to be a massive confidence boost for September or destroy any confidence I had already built in the hope that the saying “anything is possible” is actually possible. I was running the event with my buddy Grant. We had originally seen this race a few years ago but decided that it was totally stupid and were going to opt for the V02 Jurassic Coast (three Marathons over three days) as the easier option. If you had said to me five years ago that I would actually be doing the “Oner” then I would have thought you were mad. So with planning and preparation being key to an event like this we recced the whole route over three separate runs, even running the night section in the dark and meeting two other great guys, Martyn and Jon, in the process. We had put our training in, knew the course and what to expect and were ready to go.

On Saturday morning we drove to Race HQ at Ferrybridge as this was where we planned to leave our bags. However, because we were right outside it seemed more sensible to leave the bags in the car as this would also become checkpoints 4 and 6 later. Anything we needed to get, change into or eat could be left there. Grant however had other ideas. He had it in his head that he was unlikely to finish and that he would rather leave his kit in the Race HQ tent so he could collect it after pulling out and go home! I tried to reassure him that it would not be necessary and that we would both finish together. He wasn’t having any of it. We met up with Martyn and Jon. We were all a little nervous! I had started the day as I hoped to finish it â€" eating food.

After meeting Martyn’s family, (lovely people and very kind â€" thank you so much for the generous donation to my Virgin Money Giving page) we were bussed to the start at Charmouth. The driver and race director Claire drove the windiest and most sick making route I think I have ever been on. If I wasn’t feeling sick due to race nerves I was certainly feeling sick now. Eventually we got to the start at Charmouth and I was relieved to get off the bus. The weather was sunny with a little breeze. Everyone was really friendly. I spoke to Erica (who eventually went on to win the women’s race and come 6th overall) who had had very little sleep having been delayed on her flight from South Africa. At the time I thought “she must be mental”.

As it neared midday and the start of the race, I was eagerly looking out for my wife Wendy who had said she would come to the start. We headed through the gates to the start of the race and still no Wendy. “Thanks for the support Wendy â€" where the hell are you?” About 30 seconds before the start of the race I saw and heard her little silver car come to a skidding stop, abandoned in the middle of the car park and she came running over to wish me well with a tear in her eye. She made it after all and I was really pleased. Sickness was the order of the day - Nancy and Ben who had been in the car with Wendy were feeling rather car sick by this point!

The race started, we said our goodbyes to Jon and Martyn as they were clearly going to be faster than us. We headed off, the scenery was stunning, the weather glorious. What could go wrong? Funny that. As we got to the first kissing gate prior to even getting to the Golden Cap, Grant had already started wingeing on about how he didn’t think he would be able to finish it. I wasn’t really concentrating where my footing was as I was looking back at him waiting to get through the gate and I turned my right ankle over. The pain was pretty intense and I had to walk. I thought “shit, my day is done, what a twat”. I shared my misfortune with Grant and I could see a little panic on his face. After walking for a short time I started to run on it. The pain was pretty intense but I had paid my money, wanted my medal and I needed to finish this race for my own mental state.

We ran on over the Golden Cap, met a guy called Michael who had run the race last year but pulled out after about 60 odd miles due to not making the time cut off. He was a great guy and really determined to nail the race this year (which he did in just over 21 hours) and had opted for poles from the outset. Mine had been safely tucked in my bag at Race HQ and were going to be my treat after 40 miles. Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles here I come!
The weather was absolutely stunning, beautiful blue skies. We arrived at CP1 (West Bay). We were met by Wendy and the gang which included my sisters in law, Nancy and Chloe, plus their partners, Ben and Mark. Chloe, my sister in law, gave us some words of encouragement. “Come on you two, my two friends are beating you, come on” which loosely translates to “you f@?king losers, my mates are trashing you, you’re so slow”. So yes, thanks for those words of encouragement! We headed off and every so often our team of supporters would pop up on the course to cheer us on. We ran across the beach towards CP2. The Coastal Path was now visible and could be run on. When we had recced the course it had been under water. We flew past CP2 and out towards Abbotsbury where the course takes you away from the sea. This section was great, much faster than before and was dry underfoot. The Coastal Path wound it's way to Ferrybridge and CP4. We arrived ahead of our planned time in 5 hours 20 minutes. We refuelled and still felt positive. Refreshed we headed out to go around Portland. It was looking more likely that we would get round Portland in the light.
We made our way across to Portland on the long road and then high up onto the cliffs. We started running through the quarry like cliffs which had a couple of detours. We made the mistake of following one guy and came off the course. We soon realised we had gone wrong and turned around, back tracked and found the path. It had helped that we recced the route before! We made quick progress to CP5 at Portland Bill. A quick photo and then off again.

We had been playing leap frog with a French guy called Mark. He was a great bloke and a really experienced Ultra runner. He was doing the Oner to build up his UTMB points. We got to know him and stayed with him for a while until eventually he went ahead of us. We were just about to drop off Portland and back to Ferrybridge as it started to get dark however I was really pleased that we had made it round in the light. The temperature did however seem to drop quite quickly. We put on jackets and headed into CP6 at Ferrybridge. As we ran towards CP6 a guy in red passed us at great speed. I was surprised how fast he was going at 40 miles into the race. Maybe he would pay for that.
As we entered CP6 I felt pretty tired and was feeling the cold. The scene inside was that of a sea of broken men and women. I wasn’t far from it either. I quickly decided it was time to fuel up with some hot food and get some warm dry clothes on. Pasta was on offer which seemed to do the job nicely. We hung around there for about 30 minutes and in hindsight it was too long. It must have been the hot food and comfort on offer.

The next part of the route was through Weymouth and it was a little technical. We met back up with Mark who decided he would run with us for the next 10 miles or so. I picked up my cheating poles but decided to hold off using them until we got to Osmington Mills. We left CP6 at about 9.30pm. Just as we were leaving, to my surprise, Wendy, Chloe and Mark arrived to wish us well for the night. It was a fantastic boost as when they had bid us farewell at CP4 earlier, I was under the impression we would not see them until the end. Thank you, this really helped.

Ok, so we were halfway through the race and every step from now on would be taking us home. It was all downhill from here (except for the up parts â€" of which there would be many). As most of my friends and family know I can become pretty manic, almost hyperactive, between the hours of midnight and around 4am (I guess this is as a result of doing shift work for so long). Then at 4am I normally have a massive crash until my body starts to wake up again. Grant was about to experience the full force of my hyperactivity.

Running through Weymouth at night was pretty strange. It was Saturday night, hordes of groups were wandering around drunk. We were just three weirdos running through the night dressed in lycra. It did raise a few funny looks and Grant even got propositioned along the way. It was great to get past Weymouth and, at the end of the esplanade just before we got back off road, Wendy, Chloe and Mark again appeared for one last time to wish us well for the night. This was a morale boost and was greatly needed now that night had set in. The pain in my right foot was still pretty intense however the medic at CP4/6 could do nothing for it and the only advice he gave me was to stop running. I could also feel that I had some blisters growing on my feet. I decided against changing my socks or taking my feet out of my trainers for fear that I would never get them back on.
After Weymouth we got off the road and onto the Coastal Path. Nice soft grass and mud underfoot. This was such a relief on my feet. We made pretty slow progress towards Osmington Mills and CP7. Grant was also tired and struggling. I kept telling him we would be fine and that when the sun came up it would be a morale boost! Our plan was to get to Lulworth Cove by 1am which would then give us 11 hours for the last marathon. Having run the last section in 6 hours 30 minutes when we recced it, this would leave us with plenty of time even if we walked the whole way. We met up with two others guys, Pete and Dale. They had also run the Oner last year but had got timed out after about 65 miles after missing the turn after Osmington Mills. We were aware that mistakes and wrong turns could cost us the race. Mark was pretty keen not to get lost and we ran together for a couple of miles and into CP7 (Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills). Grant was now resorting to eating sandwiches from the CPs and I just couldn’t stop shovelling “salt and vinegar twists” in, followed by “Jaffa cake chasers”. After setting off from CP7 Pete and Dale went off ahead. Mark was clearly growing a little frustrated by our slow pace so he started to run off ahead out of sight. I reminded him about the right turn that Pete and Dale had fluffed last year.

Grant and I continued on, “Don’t worry Grant when the sun comes up……blah blah blah…..”
As we approached the almost hidden right turn I saw Mark ahead, running up the hill having missed the turn. We shouted for him to come back. He was pretty relieved, thanked us and then headed off again. At about 1.45am we got into CP8 at Lulworth Cove. Two thirds of the race done and about 28 miles to go. But these next 28 miles were pretty hilly. As we headed into CP8 Mark was just leaving. We fuelled up from the food table, which resembled a children’s tea party. I was still loving the “salt and vinegar twists”!
The ONER ULTRA race report :)
The climb up onto the ranges was pretty steep and at the top all you could see in the darkness ahead was the glimpse of the occasional head torch either above, below or behind you. You could hear the sea turning over and it brought a sense of calm. So much so, that we felt tired, stopped concentrating and were momentarily distracted by a young guy who flew past us. There was no way anyone could still be running at that speed at this stage of the race. We later found out that he was doing the half Oner and had started at midnight. I was pleased to find this out and realise I wasn’t that crap! We missed the right turn down to Kimmeridge Bay, got lost, back tracked and then attempted to get back on the route. We ended up resorting to running across a field full of sheep in an attempt to get back on the path which we managed to do, now with sodden wet feet. We must have wasted at least 30 minutes or so getting lost which we were both frustrated about. After leaving the Lulworth Ranges and arriving at CP9 (Kimmeridge Bay), one of the marshals was clearly on commission over the sandwiches and was trying to palm off corn beef as tuna. We weren’t having any of it! I might have been slightly delirious but I could still tell the difference between corn beef and tuna.

By now we were both feeling tired “Don’t worry Grant when the sun comes up……………………” I muttered to him.

The section of the course from Lulworth is very hilly, the downs hurt more than the ups. I’m glad it was dark as you couldn’t see how high the ascents and descents were. As we approached St Aldens Head the sun had come up and was beaming across at us. Grant was running ahead. By now he had lost his sense of humour and I did not dare mention the sun coming up again. So we flew down and up the staircase of death to CP10. I had “ultra tiredness Tourettes” and could not stop swearing. I just wanted the next 13 or 14 miles to be over. My right foot was screaming at me to stop. I was happy to run the whole way just to get finished quicker. Grant didn’t have a great deal to say; partly down to the fact that every time we stopped he was filling his face with sandwiches from the CP’s. So after apologising to the two kind people at the CP for my Tourettes, we asked them how much further we had to go. We were told 6 miles to CP 11 and then 6.5 miles to the finish. BOTH LIES!
As we started running again towards Durston Head, the lighthouse and the globe, Grant asked me “what happened to this boost of morale we were going to get when the sun came up?” I replied “it was never going to happen, I only told you that to keep you going”. No need to thank me!

At Durston, we passed the lighthouse and headed straight to CP11 at Swanage. As we were running down the hill, I could see the CP and then some people clapping us said “well done only 7.5 miles to go”. They were so close to receiving a torrent of abuse for adding miles to our race, we did however appreciate their claps of support. So at CP11 the medic asked us how we were doing. Clearly I didn’t look too clever and my face must have looked like I had rolled in the sand. I had kept on top of electrolytes and salt but they insisted that I needed a cup of peanuts. So after I had drunk a cup of nuts, eaten a sandwich and stocked up on fluids we made our way off. And yes, there were 7.5 miles to go.....! Grant was having a melt down and I thought he was going to cry over the distance mix-up. It’s funny how the addition of a mere 1.5 miles can crack you mentally. By now we had pretty much come to the end of our running and had resorted to a full on walk. Just as we left CP11 four more runners appeared behind us. I was pretty gutted; we were going to get caught by four people right at the end.

Grant didn’t really care, and deep down I didn’t either but it was great fun to wind him up over it. I was like a child, a broken record, and just kept going on at him about running sections. As we headed up to the white cliffs, just near the top the four runners passed us. Deep down I was struggling with this as I am quite competitive. At the top of the climb just outside Swanage the course leads down to Old Harry's Rocks, the route is definitely all downhill from here to the finish. I gradually increased my marching speed and Grant had no option but to follow and eventually we caught the four in front. They looked pretty tired and were marching in a line together. I made some jolly conversation with them and slowly passed by. As we reached Studland we were about 50 metres ahead. I just kept on at Grant about running. He was becoming more and more frustrated with me and then said I was worse than his kids. A complete child that won’t accept no for an answer :)
As we hit the beach at Studland, we only had three miles to go. The sense of achievement just hyped me up again (to Grants annoyance).

“Grant they're catching us, they're running, come on we have to run” I repeated to him over and over again. The reality was that the 50 metre gap had increased to about 100 metres, then 200, then 300 but I was having the time of my life. I still had reserves of energy left in the tank, we had done it, we were going to finish.....and finish together. The beach was fairly busy and sadly I saw a number of naked men parading around the nudist beach flaunting their wares. Not a pleasant sight!

As we made our way along the beach I spotted another runner ahead with his partner, arm in arm. It was Pete who we had run with earlier around Osmington Mills. He was moving quite slowly and I announced to Grant that we should again run and catch him. We caught up with him and I was delighted for him that he would be finishing the race this time. He seemed ok as we went past him towards the dunes, with only about 400 metres to go. Wendy, my wife, and Helen, Grant's wife, came running across to meet us, they took some photos and then headed back to the finish to see us in.

Grant and I had started together, and we were about to finish together. I was absolutely delighted for us both. What an amazing achievement and a privilege to share it with one of my oldest friends. So much so that I even let him dib in before me and in the process beat me by 3 seconds. He had earned it!
The event was well organised with a number of safety measures in place. The support from the marshals at the Check Points was first class. They were so positive, patient, friendly and helpful. A massive well done to everyone who took part, even the people who didn’t finish. Starting this race takes real guts, to fail one year and then to come back a second year and have another go takes even more resilience and I have a massive amount of respect for those people who did.

Home for medals, celebrations, food (Corn Beef pie courtesy of Mark) and some me time courtesy of Betteryou!

Thank you to Kathi for the photos and Claire for more awesome BRUTAL Memories!
by guest: , Jan 4th 2016 20:09
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