Round the Rock 2015 Ultra

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Well it must have been a good race…..it’s resurrected my blog
As soon as the “Greenlight – Round the Rock” ultra was brought to my attention I liked the look of it and not just because they were offering £2000 if you could get around the course in under 6 hours!
The fact that the route basically follows the complete coastline of Jersey sounded like a great challenge and the mixture of road, trail, cliff paths and sand meant that it would be a good mix of both my strengths (road) and weaknesses (everything else!)
Having around 14 miles of road also meant that I could justify wearing by adios boost road shoes rather than having to dig out some trail shoes!

As this race was 6 weeks before the World 100km it would make a great replacement for my standard longest training run which would normally be a 50 mile solo run over the Purbecks. Although this would be slightly less in distance it would be longer time on feet due to the difficulty levels and elevation changes of the route.
My plan was not to taper for this race but after working out that over the previous 7 days I had clocked up 150 training miles I thought it best to take it pretty easy on Friday and just did a 6 mile jog before catching my flight over to the island.

Met up with good friend Marders (otherwise known as 2:30 Spiderman from VLM2015) at the Friday night race briefing and we discussed tactics. There were actually 3 points on the course that if the tide is on your side you can actually cut off small bits of road mileage by taking the beach route instead. After looking at the options and the fact that neither of us liked sand running we decided that the only beach section we would take if available would be at St Brelade’s Bay where we agreed the mileage saved would be worth the energy sapping sand!
We also agreed that as we both wanted to be back in full training this week, if we were on target for the sub 6hr challenge and still running strongly together after 5hrs then we would run in together and share the loot rather than destroying ourselves trying to race each other when we already had 45 miles in our legs!

So enough chit-chat…. how about the race

A 6am race start meant an early wake-up call but even on my short stroll to the startline I could see that it was going to be a lovely day weather wise. Very calm and mild, it would obviously heat up a bit later but hopefully we would be all done before the midday sun hit us :-)

The first 10-11 miles were almost all flat roads so the only thing Paul and I had to worry about was making sure we didn’t run this section too fast. There would be 4 checkpoints ahead of us and we had a good idea what times we needed to hit them at based on some simple maths and using Dan Doherty’s split times from his course record run in 2011. (6hr 15min)
Having followed the rather impressive course markings which meant that even we couldn’t get lost, we knocked out our planned 6:20 miles like clockwork and hit checkpoint 1 as planned at around 65min.
Already waiting for us were race director Digby, Paul’s better half Karen and the checkpoint crew. This is probably as good a time as any to praise the whole race team, volunteers and the main man behind the scenes… Digby. For an Ultra which basically circumnavigated a whole country the organisation was awesome and it was obvious that a lot of passion and care had been put in to ensuring that everything went to plan.
Paul and I quickly filled our water bottles and then we were off on our way for some slightly more challenging terrain!
After a small amount more road we then hit the cliff paths. Quite narrow paths with lots of twists, turns and steep short ups and downs. Most of the elevation changes were also made harder by studded steps which were normally the wrong width to get into a good rhythm. It would be around 10-11 miles of this before we would hit checkpoint 2. Paul led the way for most of this and I was slightly annoyed that even though he was the “city boy” he seemed to be dealing with the terrain slightly more efficiently than me…… I really am a road runner at heart.
We kept up a really good effort level through this section and almost caught the checkpoint crew off guard as we reached checkpoint 2 earlier than expected in 2hr 30min. This was already around 15min inside the course record pace so we knew that we were looking good for the sub 6hr attempt as long as we didn’t do anything stupid!
More bottle refills and I picked up a couple of gels from my checkpoint bag and we were off again. At this stage as we knew we had already picked up plenty of time we actually took our feet off the gas a little for the next section of cliff paths and allowed ourselves a bit of sightseeing and chit-chat…..within reason obviously, we still had a job to do!
Checkpoint 3 seemed to come very quickly as it was only around 8 miles away and the cliff paths were slightly less technical and interspersed with some road sections. Happy days, the weather was perfect, the view gorgeous and we had already clocked up around 30 miles including the toughest part of the course which was the North Coast.
The next phase of the race seemed to go quite slowly as we made our way down the west coast. There were a few miles of flat road down a VERY straight road which seemed to go on for ever and now we were back on the flat tarmac it seemed to bring to my attention how much fatigue had started to build up in my legs thanks to the cliff paths. It was during this part of the run that we made our one and only course error on one of the cliff paths. After deciding that the route we had taken didn’t look “right” at 36 miles, we turned around and ran back up the hill the other way only then to be told by my Garmin that we had then gone “off course” (I’d uploaded last years winner Bruno’s GPX file to my 920XT which proved very useful on this occasion!) …… our first choice had in fact been correct and we should have stuck to it.
When we finally made it to the final checkpoint at around 38 miles it was a real relief as we knew the route from there was pretty simple with not that much more elevation gain. It was during this final section that we took to the beach in order to cut down a little on the mileage. As long as the tide was out enough we would be able to run around the headland which separated two small bays taking the direct route across. It was really touch and go as to whether the tide was out enough and after initially deciding to play it safe as we couldn’t see any sand around the headland we changed our minds last minute after seeing a tiny bit of sand.
After a brief splash through some puddles we were across safely and then all we had to do was climb up the rocks and steps back up to the cliff top at the other side of the bay.
On fresh legs this probably wouldn’t have been a problem but after 40 miles and over 5hrs of running we finally gave in and did our only bit of “power walking” up the steps……shhhhh don’t tell anyone please!

A bit more cliff path action and then it was back down to the final bay and few miles along the flat prom to the finish.
We were both feeling the days work in our legs by now and so decided that a “respectable” pace for this final section would be the same pace at which we started so we clocked up some final 6:2x miles.
In the spirit of this years London Marathon and to ensure there was no final sprints for the line we went for the full “holding hands in the air like we just don’t care” finish and with that we were over the line and celebrating our new course record of 5hrs 46min.

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Interviews with the local TV news broadcasters, celebratory beer consumed and then the rest of the afternoon was spent watching our fellow competitors finish their awesome journeys while chatting all things running in the Jersey sun….. perfect!

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Full results can be found HERE

I can’t say enough good things about this race, quite simply if you are an Ultra runner and you haven’t already run this race then get your arse over to Jersey in 2016, hopefully you will have as good weather as we did which really showed off the beauty of the island. I also can’t thank race director Digby enough for his hospitality…. not to mention the big wedge of £20 notes he handed over to us for breaking the 6hr challenge, thanks mate – I may well be back next year for some more fun!

Right then, less than 6 weeks until the World’s – I’ve still got the small matter of proving fitness at the Salisbury 50km next week (don’t ask!) but full steam ahead, I feel a weekly blog update coming on!

See below for my Garmin activity for the race…. some very varied mile splits!

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12 Responses to Round the Rock 2015 Ultra

  1. Denise says:

    Great to see the mojo back :-)

  2. Digby says:

    Thanks steve.pleasure to have handed over my retirement fund to you and Paul. Great to have met you, served you with water and watched you kill our record. Would be good to see you return and beat the sub 5hour…..

  3. What can I say, both of you are an inspiration. As one of the co-creators of the race and main sponsor (www.GreenlightCI.com), I can truly say that I am amazed and inspired from your efforts. Thanks for coming to our island and sharing in some of the fantastic running terrain that we have. I hope to see you again next year along with any others who think they can better your time, which I’m sure will be a challenge for anyone mortal!

    Eliot.

  4. Lee says:

    Great read, and good to have you back writing Steve. All the best for the World Champs! :)

  5. John says:

    Awesome. Love the Garmin activity link. I also like that on your Garmin favourites you’ve got a 10k from 2007 that you completed at 9:07/mil pace. How long did it take to go from doing it in 56 minutes to doing one in 32 or 33 minutes?
    Good luck for the Worlds

  6. Steve Andrews says:

    No taper and 150mi in the previous 7 days!? Incredible Steve and Marders!

    I’ve saved the photo of you both coming into the finish for a bit of inspiration in the winter months when I get up at 05:** to run that seafront before work in the SW Force 8s!

  7. Rob Andrews says:

    Hi Steve
    We (Ordnance Survey in Southampton) are all amazed by your story and would love to talk to you to see if you have any mapping requirements and to see if we could work with you on our new GetOutside campaign. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Thanks
    Rob

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