After the furnace of Race to the Stones I expected SVP100 to be easy in comparison. So why did I find myself voluntarily dropping out of the race at checkpoint 3 after covering 34.9 miles?
The forecast was for heavy rain, but the weather seemed really good as we lined up outside the White Lion pub in Newmarket.
The mayor of Newmarket gave a few words, but I must admit that I didn’t hear what he said. The assembled runners were fairly excited and this meant lots of talking that all but drowned out the mayor. I had been offered a map pack at registration, but not wanting to carry extra weight and assuming the path would be easy to follow I turned it down. I had loaded the course onto my Garmin and thought I could use this to keep me on track.
At the briefing we had been instructed to give way to horses in Newmarket, but I hadn’t expected to need this. Running along the road, 5 minutes from the start all the traffic and runners stopped suddenly and a group of horses (with riders) crossed the road.
Shortly after this we turned 90 degrees onto Devils Dyke. The Devil hadn’t wanted us to run on his dyke and had made it super muddy to try and dissuade us. Undaunted we slipped and slided along and managed to break out and onto the fields.
The first bit of navigation troubles hit at the village of Thurlow where the Garmin beeped that I was off course. Within a couple of minutes several other runners congregated to look over maps. We decided on a direction and headed off again, the Garmin eventually caught up and agreed… A taste of things to come.
Coming into the first checkpoint I was feeling good and very confident. Here I spoke very briefly to ultrarunning celeb James Adams.
I was also told off by a volunteer for drinking too much coca-cola, they were running low apparently. I’d had at least 4 cups, so I switched to water.
Checkpoint 2 seemed to take a long time to get to, there was lots of muddy fields where the farmers had ploughed over the footpath. Slow progress and I got lost a couple of times. At one stage I’d followed a group of runners across a field, when I heard a whistle in the distance – up on a ridge in the distance I could see a group of runners who knew the right way, signalling. I did catch up with these runners after checkpoint 2 and thanked them for putting me on the right path.
These primates we’re fastened to are amazing aren’t they?
– memorable quote from a fellow runner during this stage
I even got a little lost in the village before checkpoint 2 where I followed the road rather than take a track off to the right.
The Garmin is good at telling you when you’re off course, but it’s not so good at telling you how to get back on course. I spent a lot of time waiting for it to start “Drawing” the map.
Checkpoint 2 was great: lots of coke (didn’t get told off for drinking it either), boiled potatoes, wraps with rice and beans, sports drink to fill my bottles with. I stayed too long and ate too much. I was soaked through, a combination of sweat and rain (nice!). Not having a spare t-shirt, I took my wet shirt off and put my windproof minimus smock on.
For much of the next section I tried to keep up with a group of 3 friends, who were locals and knew the route well. Unfortunately a couple of miles before CP3, just before Kentwell hall I hit a low point, slowed down and lost them. This was the beginning of the end… I managed to miss a turning whilst going down the drive at Kentwell hall, then after I’d worked out where to go I overshot CP3 and ran around Long Melford trying to find it.
Arriving at CP3 in just under 7 hours I was feeling demoralised, I’d had trouble navigating the last couple of miles when it should have been easy. I wasn’t confident that I would be able to navigate to the end within the allotted cut-off time (13.5 hours) so I informed the volunteers that I wanted to drop.
This was the first time I’ve dropped out of an event and I was very disappointed, not least because the SVP100 t-shirt looked really nice.
- take a map, especially if you’re offered a nice laminated one!
- take a spare t-shirt, especially if you sweat a lot!
- don’t trust your Garmins mapping to be very good!
- recce the route if you can.
I’ll be back!