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The Arc of Attrition

01-Feb-2019 Blue Bar Porthtowan TR4 8AW, Cornwall, UK (England)

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3 REVIEWS
Trail Race Race Terrain
161KM / 100Miles
2 Days

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Brutal  

The Arc of Attrition is a 100-mile coastal race from Coverack to Porthtowan in Cornwall (UK). The cut-off time for this race is 36 hours, with partial cut-off times set for the fully stocked four checkpoints along the route.

The course is coastal trail with small sections of road and is not waymarked.

The event requires self-navigation and partial self-sufficiency so the organisers have established entry requirements and proven experience. Support crews are welcome.

A carry kit is mandatory and is subject to random checks by the organisers.

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Beginner

Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.

Intermediate

Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Advanced

Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Expert

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Brutal

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Review The Arc of Attrition

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saseefeldt

05:05 21-02-17

100 miles of Trail, Coast, and ‘Bush People’
In most people’s minds running, I use the word running loosely here, a one hundred mile ultramarathon is pretty stupid, in fact at the time I couldn’t even comprehend what running one hundred miles would feel like, let alone if this was achievable or not!
However, being the idiot that I am, I wanted to make this even more painfully difficult, so throw into the mix doing this along the South West Costal Path, a trail which would deliver both challenging going underfoot and terrain undulating enough to ascend almost half of Mount Everest, some 4000 meters of elevation gain in total.
Starting to see the theme here, oh and this would be my first one hundred mile race event, in fact it would be the first time I have run over 60 miles since World’s Toughest Mudder in November 2016. On top of this for the most of December and January I have been injured, an injury I picked up during World’s Toughest Mudder.
This was not going to be an easy affair.
The Arc of Attrition is an annual hundred mile ultramarathon organised by the crazy folks at Mud Crew, which in 2016 saw 72% of competitors DNF (Did Not Finish), the race is located in Cornwall and starts in the small village of Coverack and finishes one hundred miles later in Porthtowan. If you complete the race in under 30 hours you get the coveted ‘golden belt buckle’ if not its either black or red, not sure what the difference is, but those are the colours. The overall cut off for the event is thirty-six hours, so starting at midday on the Friday you have until midnight on the Saturday to finish the race, with tight cut offs throughout.
For me this was a brutal event, I had definitely underestimated the challenge, that was up until twenty four hours before the event when I started to realise what I had actually signed up for. And specifically, how little training I had done, leading up to the race the longest run I did in 2017 was a 27.4 mile trail marathon. I was not physically ready for this, and as I tried to sleep on the Thursday before we started, my lack of preparation started to play on my mind, what a bloody idiot!
Bottom line up front is that I finished, but it hurt and it took a long time, twenty nine hours and twenty four minutes to be precise.
For this race I planned to run with Andy from @andyontherun, Andy is a keen ultra runner, who has a few hundred mile races under his belt, and also managed to run from John O’Groats to Lands End in 17 days. So, I felt like I was in a safe pair of hands. We started steady, and positioned ourselves mid pack, this wasn’t ideal though as the Costal Path was pretty narrow and soon our pace was very much dictated by the slower runners ahead of us, slower but perhaps wiser.
Eventually there was an opportunity to push on, and so I did, in true fashion I pushed a bit too hard to the first check point (CP) arriving at the 24.5 mile point 5 hours and 14 minutes later, not a great pace but still too fast for this distance based on my ‘readiness’ for this race. I had also lost Andy during this stage, so when I was about to leave this CP I told my awesome support crew, Vicky, to let Andy know I had set of too fast and that I was going to reduce my speed but keep moving, and that I looked forward to Andy catching me up.
As it turns out a few minutes before I left CP1, Andy arrived, allowing us to leave together. Next major stop was CP2 in Penzance, I don’t remember much about this 13.9 mile section apart from there was a lot of road, which was just boring and flat, but unavoidable. From here it was back onto the trail for another 16.5 miles to Land’s End, arriving at Land’s End would see us hit the 55 miles mark and over half way, whoop!.
During this section was where we lost the light and we entered the 12 hours of darkness. We were both moving well on this section but the pace had dropped on my part. As it got dark we started to see more and more head torches on the route ahead, suddenly we got a bit more competitive and around mile 45 we started hunting down people, at this stage we were around 42nd and 43rd. Whilst this was fun, it was stupid on my part, I was in no position to be hunting down places and should have stuck to my original targets, hard target being to finish, stretch being to finish in under 30 hours.
Upon arriving into Land’s End I was *****ed, trying to stick with Andy and trying to overtake people had taken its toll on me and my body. Andy was all good, but I was a bit of a wreck, I had a few blisters on my feet and the top of my femur bone was aching. I could see Andy was keen to get cracking, but I needed more time in the aid station, so we decided to part company here, I wouldn’t see Andy again until the finish. In CP3 I had my feet taped up, I put some fresh socks on, had a quick massage to sort the pain around my femur and refuelled.
The next section, Land’s End to St Ives was reported to be the hardest and gnarliest part of the course, a section which covered 24 miles and took on average 8 hours to complete in 2016. Not only was it really difficult to navigate, but the going underfoot was tough, and you were also surrounded by old mine shafts, and obviously massive cliff drops to your left. On top of this you had just completed 55 miles of undulating costal path.
It didn’t start to well either, with a massive navigational issue in the village of Sennen Cove where I took a wrong turn and ended up lost, I knew I needed to be down by the sea front so cut across a fern/gauze hill and ended up in someone’s back garden, before getting back on course. Lucky no one was in, or awake, or else I might have had some explaining to do. This was a long, hard and challenging section, there was definitely a few times where I ended up ‘navigationally challenged’ most scary of which was when I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was jogging along the edge of the cliff, and had to climb back up, and over a fence, to get back onto the costal path, this was around 4am and after 16 hours of running – scary stuff.
Eventually my battered body made in into St Ives, which was great, apart from the fact that no one could find CP4, there were 2-3 racers walking around like something out of ‘The Walking Dead’ looking for CP4, eventually after 5 – 10 minutes I found the CP. In the race briefing we had been told that CP3 to CP4 was where most people DNF’ed last year, and that everyone who made it to CP4 finished, so it was a relief to get there, even if I did say to Vicky that I didn’t want to carry on.
Eventually I left CP4, 22 miles to go and at this stage I had 7 hours and 28 minutes to cover 22 miles if I wanted to get the golden buckle, and another 6 on top of that to finish within the 36 hour cut off. At this point was when I had my biggest ask of Vicky, basically I needed her to follow me home, there were opportunities to see each other, and grab any additional nutrition / kit around every 3 – 4 miles, and I took advantage of this as much as possible, a key highlight was the cheesy chips at the 96 mile point, I only wish I could have eaten more of them.
Over the last 10 miles the conditions deteriorated and there were stronger winds, hail stones and rain, bloody brilliant. The final 4 miles from Portreath to the finish had 3-4 killer climbs, just what you needed, but soon enough I saw the pink bobble hat of Vicky who had driven to the finish and climbed up the last 1km section of the course. When I saw Vicky, I knew there was no more climbing to be done, therefore it was time to push, there was a guy ahead of me who overtook me at Portreath and I was keen to get that place back, surprisingly I felt pretty nibble and managed a decent enough pace to the finish. I made it to the finish in a time of 29 hours and 24 minutes, so inside the 30 hour cut off for the golden buckle, I finished 27th in total, which I think is a decent enough position all things being considered.
Out of the 107 which signed up I believe 46% DNF’ed the race, so not as crazy as last year’s DNF rate, but considering most people prepared for this event, that is still a pretty high DNF rate.
Key things I took away from the event are:
• You really need to prepare for an event like this, I mean REALLY! Not just the mileage but also as it was a self-navigation race, learning the route beforehand would have helped, and would have been safer.
• Tailwind nutrition is good for endurance events, I had never tried Tailwind before but Andy spoke highly of this, so I decided to buy some and used it throughout the event, topped up with water and some solid food at the CP’s.
• The importance of a good support crew, Vicky was AMAZING throughout this race, not only getting us to and from the event, but being at all the CP’s, and every other access point she could. Just seeing someone helped, let along the bags full of stuff, those cheesy chips! And the mushroom toasties from Costa… amazing!
• Pacing yourself is important, especially on long distance races, I went off too fast, but the fact I went from 43rd to 27th means a lot of people ahead of me either went off too fast also or were injured. It felt like people were racing the darkness, trying to get as far in as possible before it got dark, crazy.
• Bush people make rubbish company! Between mile 55 and mile 78 I was pretty much on my own, and being a bit sleep deprived I start to see people, the reality is these weren’t people, just bushes, I still said hello though, but they never responded.
In summary Mud Crew put on an amazing event, the CP’s were well manned and well stocked, I wouldn’t have finished in under 30 hours, or maybe even at all, if it weren’t for my own support crew, so thank you so much Vicky. Will I do another 100 mile race? Definitely. Will it be the Arc of Attrition…..? No chance. That was too hard ha ha!
Scotty

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cat__attfield

10:43 15-02-16

One of the best ultras I've done!

The organisation of this event was top notch, and all of the volunteers on the course were so warm and welcoming. The aid stations - albeit the few that there were - were really well manned.

Although the aid stations were every 20 or so miles, it made them all the more exciting!

The route itself was beautiful. The terrain underfoot was super boggy and slippery, but that just added to the experience.

If you're looking for an easy-breezy, flat 100, or a PB, then this probably isn't your bag. But if you're up for an adventure, and to submit yourself fully to the race, then I'd wholly recommend it.

If you want a full review, check out http://likealass.com/2016/02/13/arc-of-attrition/

- full review here.

Awesome race. Awesome company. Awesome organisers. PHENOMENAL atmosphere.

I'll be back for 2017, without a doubt x

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ianwalker

02:35 15-02-16

Utterly brutal race. The path is really hard going a lot of the time, and the night is going to be long. 2016 also saw terrible storms, which made it even tougher. The weather will change the experience of this race a lot

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