The Isle of Wight Challenge

By Tompky - 6:15 AM

This weekend was time for challenge number 2, a lap around the Isle of Wight.  Whilst there is an official race for this, the timings did not fit in with my schedule so I decided to do this as a 'solo' event.  The route was a 75 mile route around the 'Isle of Wight Coastal Path' which skirts around the whole of the island.  I decided to do this over 2 days rather than 1, mainly for safety reasons as I deemed it unsafe to be doing it after dark whilst I was out there alone. I set off on the Thursday night, stopping in Bristol on the way down, and woke up Friday with the intention to drive down to Portsmouth to get the ferry over. 

 I awoke Friday to find that it had snowed heavily overnight, and had to make a decision whether it was worth pursuing, or coming back another day to try again.  A quick look at the forecast showed it was brighter further down south, so we made the decision to brave it and try to get to the ferry.  We drove through soe pretty appalling conditions, but once we had arrived at the ferry the snow had stopped and it was much brighter.  We got across to the island that afternoon, with the aim of starting the run Saturday morning.
Waking up to the snow at Bristol!!
I like to have a big breakfast before any long run, so woke up at 6am and had porridge and a banana, before heading up to Cowes to start at 8am.  The run was further than I had ever done before in a single day, so I was very aware that my nutrition and everything else would have to be spot on.  My general plan was to drink Lucozade pretty continuously throughout the day, eating a small snack every 30 minutes with a larger snack every 2 hours.  This worked pretty well, and I didn't really have any stomach complaints which are fairly common for ultramarathon events.

I split the 2 days up so that I had a harder day on the first day, running 42 miles with an elevation of just over 1000 metres, leaving 33 miles and 750 metres elevation on day 2.
I left Cowes, and headed anti-clockwise around the island towards Yarmouth and then on to Alum Bay.  This was an initial 25 miles out to Alum Bay, and was also pretty energy sapping given the conditions.  The run was beautiful, taking in a lot of the coast, but went through a lot of fields and mud paths, which given the snow and heavy rain that there had been for the days leading up to the challenge, it meant that a lot of these paths were flooded.  It was a very tiring 25 miles, both mentally and physically, having to constantly pull my feet out of the mud that they had sunk into.  I had been travelling for just over 5 hours at this point.
Great views made it all worthwhile
On reaching Alum Bay, the path then turns and heads back past the south of the island.  At this point it immediately opened out, and had you running through big open green spaces along the coast.  The cliffs are all white around the island, and there was some breathtaking scenery.  I headed back towards Niton, which was where I was going to rest for the night, and although the ground had got firmer, there were more inclines and undulating areas.  The previous 25 miles had started to take its toll, and I was slowing considerably, so decided to call it a day just short of Niton.  There was a large uphill section just before reaching Niton, which had sapped all energy from my legs at this point.  At the overnight stage I had don 42 miles, and had been running for 8 hours and 50 minutes.

I had a big meal overnight, trying to refuel with plenty of carbs and protein, so had a large portion of chicken pasta, a banana, a cheesecake, several small protein bars and a couple of scoops of protein powder.  I knew it would be key to be well rested, so I had an early night, ready to come back and complete the challenge the next day.

My morning routine on day 2 mirrored day 1, with a big bowl of porridge, and my eating strategy had worked well on day 1 throughout the day, so I decided to follow the same plan.  I knew the day was theoretically meant to be easier, but was also wary that I had a full days running in my legs from the previous day.

The second days plan was to run from Niton back to Cowes, again moving anti clockwise to complete the loop.  This was a great run, taking in the east of the island.  The east side of the island seems to be more built up, passing through more seaside towns, and it made it a lot easier running on the firmer grounds down the esplanades, as well as running whilst surrounded by people, whereas day 1 had got a bit lonely at times, sometimes travelling an hour or so without seeing anyone else.

The path really flattened out after about 17 miles of day 2, and with 15 miles to go it was pretty much a straight, flat run into Cowes.  I started to fatigue heavily just before reaching Ryde, about 8 miles away from the final destination, but knowing I had 8 miles left seemed to give me a second wind, and I was able to run some of my quickest km's in that last 8 miles.

At the finish line!
The last mile and a half is all downhill, and I was able to relax a little knowing that I was going to be able to complete it.  You reach a sign about a mile before the end saying welcome to East Cowes, which feels a massive relief.  It is then a short run through the town and to the floating bridge, which was my official start point.  In total I ran 75 miles in 15 hours 42.  A great scenic route that I would recommend for any long distance runner.
Strava times for each day.
Strava times for each day.

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