Coast to Coast: An Epic Adventure
This last weekend gone, I tackled 105 miles of the Scottish wilderness covering the East side of Scotland (starting in Nairn) to the West side of the country (finishing in Glencoe) in a non-stop adventure race that is hosted by Rat Race, named Coast to Coast.
For me, this adventure has been 2 years in the planning, as I unfortunately had to defer my spot for 2017 after a nasty crash meant I couldn’t take part. This made me more determined throughout 2018 to get to the start line ready, and in good shape to take on the challenge.
So, the course consists of a 7mile trail run. Followed by a 48mile road cycle, next comes an off road and trail cycle for 27 miles, a 13.5 mile run, (which in some parts is impossible to run because of the gradient and terrain I may add!) and lastly a 1mile kayak to get to the finish line! Sadly, my TomTom battery had given up after 11 or so hours and so I didn’t capture the latter half of the run or the kayak.
The course itself is a multi-terrain battle with the requirements of carrying all your kit during the race. Doesn’t sound too bad, but then when you are told you’ll be carrying a GPS tracker device, and part of your mandatory kit is a survival bag and a whistle it does start the ol’ head scratching!
How do you train for this type of endurance event?
Well the answer is you can’t really completely train for it. But lots of prep with the right kit and pack so you are comfortable with everything and used to the pressure points of the pack, and the weight always helps. My pack was an Osprey rucksack with camel bag inside and lots of handy pockets for gels and bars. It took some getting used to initially on shorter runs, but for the actual race it was really comfortable.
I used my local runs as good training and carried my kit during things like Park Run and on rides to ensure it was comfortable. I then added in multiple training or brick sessions to get used to that feeling of switching from one discipline to the next. This is normal for a triathlete but for anyone who hasn’t done that type of race it takes time to get used to ‘‘jelly legs’’ and the affect it has on your running! I then tried to replicate the distances I would be doing in the race with these brick sessions, but as the race covers a lot of distance this takes some planning and time! The longest stint of my training was a 30mile ride, followed by a half marathon run. Although during the race this didn’t feel like it prepared me enough at all! It did get me down to start with that I wasn't putting in fast times, but this type of race (for me anyway) was never about a PB - it was the challenge in itself of completing it and making the cut offs.
The next battle is food. I got my bike serviced before the race and the luckily the bike mechanic had also done the same race, his advice to me? EAT. He said I can’t really tell you to do anything else just Eat. Great service by the way Justin and the guys at The bike Shop.
People who know me know that my secret weapon when it comes to nutrition is a pork pie. Coast to coast was no exception of that alongside flapjacks, energy gels, crisps and Haribos and the pit stops and plenty of fluids. The truth is I think you have to eat what you like, and a varied mix of it – it can’t all be sugar for 12Hours! You also have to know what you like and this came from testing out various nutrition before the big day.
From a Physio perspective I think it would be foolish to just cycle, and run to prep for Coast to coast so I kept my core workouts up added in some swimming and yoga to keep the risk of injuries down. The only thing that may have worked better is some strength work – but with all the other training on top of that and working there wasn’t much time left in a week!
My advice for anyone looking at this type of thing is to address the balance between distance and junk miles and using strength training to help overcome this. I’m not saying ditch those long Sunday rides for a gym session! On reflection I could have benefited from more strength and conditioning sessions built into my weekly routine, but I didn't do too badly!
After 2 days I am recovered and heading out for my first easy run and possible swim later, so glad to say I feel ok after the onslaught. I would highly recommend the event and the way it was run was brilliant with lots of friendly marshals supporting along the way. But I will say - this was not a challenge for the faint hearted! After crossing the finish in over 12 Hours I was glad to be done with it. I couldn’t help but compare this to completing an Ironman Triathlon, and I have to say that out of the 2 I’d take on an Ironman again but I’m not sure I’d take on coast to Coast again lightly.
Until the next adventure!