Winter (what there is of it) has finally descended on the UK. “Thunder snow” became an actual thing and, after a couple of hours of sleet, London looked like every other day. But because of the media hyped nonsense (god journalists are such w*nkers), flights were cancelled at both Gatwick and Heathrow, and it was all too much for some, sending the overly risk averse panic buying Pot Noodle and loo roll.
This was the weekend Jeff Mitchell tackled the Spine Challenger, Joe, Spence and Kate ran Country to Capital, and Sam Baxter and Sophie Raworth were down in Dover for the marathon/Ultra just down the coast from the famous SVN Cakeathon, a race so popular that it went from an annual to a seasonal race. But first the “weather” played havoc with the races. Dover was cancelled but the formidable Traviss, the SVN head honcho, sent out an email saying it would all still be going ahead. The course was frozen and would be messy, there was the Chocothon the next day, but he didn’t see the need to cancel. This prompted this conversation with Chelsea.
What is Cakeathon?
I suppose not everyone knows the answer to this. SVN runs a lot of these races a year, including some midweek. They take the form of timed (6 or 12 hour) lap races, with the laps anything from 3 1/2 to 13 miles. You get the same medal whether you run a single lap or 10. If you run a marathon distance you get a badge on your medal to state this, and if you run an ultra you get a badge too. The medals are unique and epic, the goody bag looks like a week’s shop for a typical student. The races are £39.
There is a single checkpoint, the start/finish/bag drop/race HQ where the themed snacks and drinks stalls are waiting. For Fudgeathon, Chocothon and Cakeathon, this takes the form of a lot of fudge, chocolate, or cake and you can partake after each lap and at the end. As this is not a fixed distance race with laps you get a numbered card that Traviss and his team of merry helpers punch with each lap to keep track. The end being when you ring a bell to signal you are done.
And so the Cakeathon would be a 6 hour lap race on a cold Saturday in Deal, in the former Fowlmead (now Betteshanger) country park, a frozen mountain bike trail with a lot of hills, a lot of ice and mud and at times bitterly cold wind. But hey! You know what?
One of the selling of points of the SVN races for me is that they are lap races. My little brain can process 4 and a bit miles (7K) when frozen (as I was), even when muddy (as I was), when in pain (Yup! my PF did not enjoy this one), even when tired (as I was).
The aim was to always run for the full 6 hours, or a marathon, but preferably, for 6 hours. As this is the Comrades year, I need to apply MAXIMUM EFFORT. Also, the other two SVN races weighed heavily on my mind. I ran Alice in Wonderland Caucus race last April and barely did 10 miles, I ran Punk Run in August and only made 20. To be fair on myself the Caucus race I was injured and had to rush back to London for the Run with Strava and Running Awards, and Punk Run was a fortnight after RTTS. But still, this time I was determined to make amends. Given I could have added two more marathons to my list last year if I put in the effort, I wanted to start 2017 the right way.
But with the course frozen in parts, very boggy once it defrosted, uphill for a few chunks and trail. I knew it would be a real challenge and so I deployed ALL my arsenal.
- new On Cloudventures. I am so glad I took these as there is no way my road shoes would have worked. Kudos to Jeff for suggesting them.
- Kalenji base layers. Definitely needed as it was barely above freezing.
- OMM Pace shorts, with phone and iPod in the back pocket
- Salomon S Lab Ultra vest with ReHydrate, bottle and Mint Creams (although this was stored after one lap)
- Race to the Stones T-shirt. After all, if I start to falter all I need to do is look at my shirt and realise I have done a 100K before in one shot.
- Suunto Ambit watch. Even though the race was laps, it is still needed for my mindset to see where I am in the lap.
How I did?
LAP 1: We were off and it was pretty fast. We passed teams of baying huskies (yes, really!), with the whole field sticking together, dodging icy puddles, long uphill, long down, short up then a loooooooong loop of the park on muddy mountain bike paths. I was happy with my speed, fitness and the new trail shoes as well as the cake options.
Lap 2 and now the field was thinning as a LOT of people run one lap for the bling and the goody bag, although TBH I do not think it would be worth £39 and a trip to Kent for that. Each to their own. A good lap too, music was working well, shoes were good and I was happy.
Lap 4 Coming up to 3 hours (an acceptable time on feet) and I really had the “quit now, you fool” thoughts bouncing in my head now. But it was being battled by other thoughts 1) I needed to beat my Punk Run 20 miles for one 2) I felt terrible wasting two potential marathon opportunities last year, 3) Jen told me 3 hours would be great run given my lack of training, and that 4) I had run Stones in one go, I can do anything. I knew that if I could complete lap 4 and just go out and start lap 5 immediately that I would then only be one lap from my goal. So starting lap 5 became my goal, and my reward? A can of coke in my back that I hadn’t drunk the day before. Oh my, it would taste so great.
Lap 5 and that is exactly what I did. I finished lap 4, grabbed, and downed the coke and just went straight out for lap 5. A lap where I would save as much energy as possible by running the downs and marching the ups and the flats. Very little running, knowing that all I had to do is finish and then turn straight around and head out one last time.
Lap 6, after hearing people ring the bell and tapping out I was off again, I was under 5 hours in and didn’t care now. I was going to complete a marathon. It did start to get very cold though. There were times during the previous laps where the sun came out and the exposed route actually felt quite pleasant. I put my hat in my bag after lap 1. I wore then stopped wearing a buff on my head. But now, on lap 6 with no sun, it was getting very cold. I was coveting the gloves people wore. But meh…
And then, plowing on, the last downhill led into the last muddy trail, and I finally got to ring the bell, first marathon of 2017 completed, and was it ever in doubt? Well, to be honest, yes – for pretty much the whole race. That is 8 in 15 months now, with 10 more planned this year.
This is what it is all about. The SVN medals are amazing. Check out my Alice in Wonderland and Punk Run medals, but the Cakeathon is something special. It is HUGE. It is unique. It has nowhere to hang as I have no rack space until the new one arrives.
And the swag?
This was a challenge. The frozen trail was hard, and hilly. When it melted it was boggy and difficult underfoot, and harder still when the foot in question was in new shoes and injured anyway. But this was a challenge met with a newfound confidence. I am not giving in ever this year. I will limp my way around a marathon course if I have to. I felt as if it was a warm, flat, road course I would have smashed it. And that is how I need to look at 2017 with Comrades and a Guinness World Record attempt.
Would I recommend the CAKEATHON? Yes. You need this medal.
Would I run CAKEATHON again? No. I have the medal now.
PORTLAND COASTAL MARATHON