From the directors of popular OCR race series Reaper, and 3D events; 2016 was the inaugural Trail Attack 24 – a 24 hour race consisting of 10k loops as a solo, pair or team of 4-6.
I heard of the event through a sporty GP acquaintance on Facebook, who had a friend with a place, looking to fill a team. Our team lineup changed so many times, including one dropout due to illness on the morning of the event, that I suggested we call our team the Sugababes!
And so we, The Sugababes, parked up and pooled out vast quantities of snack food, laying out gear out in Steve’s horse lorry, which was quite the envy of other participants making do with piddly little tents. And if that wasn’t bad (bad?) enough, we also had an Ocado delivery to the race – how utterly middle class!
The race was based at Spernall Farm in Warwickshire. The course comprised of a 10km off road loop with lots of twists, tight turns and switchbacks, particularly in the first half; a few (perfectly runnable) hills in the second half; and a short jaunt through the forest. The aim is to complete as many laps as possible in the 24 hour cut off. The course was exceptionally well marked, with the track mowed in advance and orange stakes approximately every 10 metres. Getting lost would be very difficult.
Apparently there were around 80 runners, a mixture of those taking on the challenge solo, a few pairs and several teams of up to 6 runners. We’d entered as a 5, and on the day, became the only 4 man team. There was Steve, off the horse lorry and Ocado delivery inspired ideas; Dan, his neighbour; myself; and my friend, Naomi, with whom I’ve run several ultras before. Naomi hasn’t been running for several months, since breaking her toe, and Steve and Dan have never really run more than 21/14km respectively in Obstacle Course Events, so this was quite some endeavour for all!
I went out in the first lap to get my competitive streak out of the way. As usual, off like a rocket in first place, but two men overtook me very quickly, and a third around half way through the lap on the first hill. The twisty nature of the course prevented picking up or maintaining any speed, as did the treacherous footing, with opportunities for twisted ankles abound. This meant, that though the hills were perfectly runnable, there was little to be gained from charging down the descents if you value your future running career.
The race started at 12pm, with our running order as Me, Naomi, Dan, Steve. After completing 3 laps, I thought it time to try to get some sleep. On lap 4, Naomi and Dan ran together, then our team was on pause for an equal amount of time that they took before Steve could go out. Naomi had twisted her knee on this lap, so once Steve got back, I chose to do a double loop, running my 5th and 6th laps, affording the others a little more rest time, and for Naomi to see if her knee was up to it. Once I’d finished, she decided it wasn’t (yet, she was still determined to run a 5th lap), and so Dan and Steve followed me, before Naomi who bashed out a much faster than expected lap 5, catching me off guard and I rushed off for lap 7. Steve brought us home with his 6th lap, and we joined him for the finish ‘sprint’.
In total as a team, we completed 230km (143 miles) in 24 hours. I’m so proud of everyone’s performance – massively greater mileage than the boys had ever done and a storming comeback for Naomi.
My lap times for my 7x10kms were:-
5 & 6) Approx 1:07 each back to back
The course felt undulating, but in fact only had 163ft of ascent per lap. Despite this, it was a tough run.
We started in reasonable weather, had rain in the evening and night, mist in the early hours of the morning, and scorching sun causing jettisoning of tops and various clothing in the morning. The horse lorry was an absolute triumph, though the bad choice of parking next to the portaloos became apparent in the morning as things started to hot up!
All in all, a friendly, well organised and highly recommended race. I look forward to the medals making it through customs and onto my medal hanger, and to the details to be released re. date and location for next year. I’ve never done a race like this before, but the campsite atmosphere was lovely, and I’ll be sure to be back to do one again.