Monday, March 31, 2014

Sussex Coastal Marathon - 22 March, 2014 - 10K

Little did I know that when I signed up for the Sussex Coastal Marathon earlier this year that I would be in for the most grueling race so far in my short racing career.  I guess the fact that it's organized by an outfit called Endurancelife which has the motto "Never Give Up" and regularly holds tendon-busting events such as The Horseman Xtreme Triathlon (a mind-blowing 226km course that is "continuing the tradition of the world’s toughest and most spectacular long distance triathlon races") may have been glossed over by the optimistic part of my brain that controls all my other moving parts.  I had just focused on the website copy that stated that runners will be witnessing some of the most spectacular and iconic scenery along the route, and just like that, I signed up for the 10K race that even the hardy folk at Endurancelife have classified as "strenuous."

The Big Sleep Hotel in Eastbourne - great location just across the street from English Channel. Snapped that photo of JM that's framed along the hallway leading to my room.

So my journey to East Sussex began with an overnight stay in the charming seaside town of Eastbourne.  The Endurancelife website had helpfully listed about a dozen hotels for runners, and I made my selection the same way I pick wines and novels: based on how cool the name sounds.  On that criteria alone, The Big Sleep Hotel hands down came out the winner.  Bonus points for having one of my favourite actor and speech pedant (is that a real label? No matter, I'm claiming it) John Malkovich as co-owner which pushed it all the way to the top of my very short list.

According to its website, The Big Sleep group of hotels - aside from Eastbourne, they're also in Cardiff and Cheltenham - describes itself as "UK's first design hotel for budget travellers - Travelodge prices, but with more sex-appeal." It's definitely bare bones in terms of facilities but it has plenty of 1960's candy designer ethos throughout its public spaces and guestrooms.

The lobby lounge which also doubles as the breakfast room.
I liked just about everything at The Big Sleep except for the icky ash grey shag curtains found in the guestrooms and lobby lounge - may be just me, but it gave me the heebie-jeebies just touching them.
The road to the starting point.

The weather that day at East Sussex could be summed up in one word: schizophrenic.  It started out at 9 am with bright blue skies with hardly a wisp of a cloud, then it turned slate gray within 10 minutes and started furiously pelting rain for about the better part of an hour.  Along with the other racers, my friend Betty and I huddled in the organizer's tent to register ourselves but mainly to get out of the cold and keep dry.  The ground got seriously muddy fast and the temperature hovered around 10 degrees Celsius.  I had a mild panic attack at the thought of running in the Sussex countryside dripping wet and bought a fuchsia windbreaker for £45 on the spot.  Fifteen minutes later, the rain stopped.  Typical.

All tagged and getting ready for the race on the muddy track.
By the time our 10K race time was called, the sun had come out again, although the cold and wind - oh, that wind! - lingered.


This was the first photo I stopped to take along the race.  It's around the 1km mark.  I freaked out when I saw how high I was standing, and how far down I had to go (see that tiny couple at the bottom of the photo?) only to hike back up again.  Not to mention how incredibly steep the slopes were - I'm only surprised they didn't give us rappelling harnesses to get down and up.  By the way, this was repeated several times throughout the route.   Hence, strenuous is totally right.  Oh, and slippery too.

Now after I'd taken the above photo, I swung around 180 degrees and took the photo below which outlined the trail I'd just ran.  My route ran along part of the Seven Sisters - a stunning series of white chalk cliffs that line the East Sussex coast - and pretty much the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen on any of my races so far.


The other great thing about this course, apart from the eye-popping vistas, is that it hardly doubles back on itself, which is what a number of my previous races did.  So for the entire duration of the run, there was always something new and wondrous to see.  And after a few kilometres, even the wind blowing off the Channel and onto that rugged coast added to the exhilarating sensation of my race experience.

At around the 4km mark, we swung inland and ran through some private farms which was pretty cool.  Had to open and close wooden gates as we passed by farm after farm so that the livestock couldn't escape.  Sheep and cows were all over the place, but there were also quite a number of multi-coloured llamas (top picture, left) munching around too.  Side-stepping poop became an unwelcome obstacle to my race experience.  Note the brilliant sky at this juncture.
At the 9km mark - weather getting all blustery and Wuthering Heights-ish again.
With sweat, some poop-encrusted mud and a lot of wind-swept tangled hair, we receive the spoils of our hard-earned victory.
Our post-race carb-loading lunch: a ginormous helping of deep fried cod and chips at Chippy Chips in Brighton.
 
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