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Cheviot Goat 2018 Race Report

Race Report from The Cheviot Goat 2018 My final ultra of 2018 and I’m really happy to be writing the report on this one with another finish in the bag. Back at the start of 2018 I didn’t really know where my running was because of my health and so I decided to drop the distances on my races but pick things that were still very challenging. Having eased myself in with the more gentler Fox Ultra, I’m really pleased to have then also completed the bigger three I set out to achieve in St Cuthberts Way, Ultra Trail Wales and now finally The Cheviot Goat. The running this year has been very low key. I’ve averaged less than 10 miles a week and have had to supplement that with loads of core strength, stability and balance work to see me through. Next year I need and want to run more if work and my body allows. The race diary dictates that this will need to happen. I wasn’t well in the run up to the Goat. My balance went again and I had the usual terrible stomach pains for the two weeks leading up to it. I did think a lot about not going as I really didn’t know whether I would do it justice. After thinking it all through I decided to go for it and give it everything regardless of outcome. I’m at a stage in my running where I want to be tested beyond merely running. It’s far more about the mental places I go to now so this looked like a good place to go and find out some more. I wasn’t wrong. This beautifully brutal race is 55 miles long on the card but I’m sure we ran further than that even though myself and John Figiel and earlier David Paul got our nav spot on in our eyes throughout the day. I’ve done longer distances as have lots of you reading so what’s the big deal? The first thing I would say about the Goat is forget everything you know about maths and logical reasoning. I normally cover 50 miles in 10-12 hours, but to do that on this course you will need to be a very special runner I would say. The Montane Cheviot Goat is a monster of a race. I was completely unorganised going into the race. I threw everything into a bag, a number of bags, and headed up the coast to meet John who had kindly offered to drive and let me kip in his camper pre and post race. We turned up for registration and I hunted out just the mandatory bits of kit I needed to show and we went and got registered. I must have raised some eyebrows with my apparent laid back approach. I wasn’t being laid back, merely disorganised. We got our heads down and I decided to do it all in the morning. Up at 4am and I went into whirling dervish mode. John merely had to get dressed he was so organised. I was measuring tailwind, compartmentalising food, packing a drop bag, getting dressed, you name it. Looking back on it I got it pretty much as I’d have wanted. I guess that comes from having done so many of these. Some of the stuff I took wasn’t in the right pockets to start with but I got there as the race unfolded. You’ll need headtorches or batteries or both on this. We were out there just over twenty and a half hours. I went through three headtorches (and was on a powerful hand held which was brilliant for the last section) by the time we were done. This is a race that if you are out there as long as John and I were, you will do more of it in the dark than daylight. Even in the daylight though visibility was poor. We worked well together as a team and stuck together crossing fells in daylight as with visibility poor at times with it being a little over 5 to 10 metres, it would have been easy to lose one another if we weren’t concentrating. Kit set up wise again very happy. Injinji socks with Sealskinz over the top, 2XU thermal compression tights, Montane Minimus waterproof bottoms and Berghaus Goretex knee length gaitors kept me dry pretty much until Comb Fell and from then on I really didn’t care. No blisters and no injuries. My Montane Spine jacket was brilliant all day and apart from taking my gloves off to eat some lunch mid morning I didn’t feel the cold at all. Inov8 275 X-Claws were immense and my poles were sticks of gold. If you don’t set up right for this race you will get wet very quickly and that will cause you a world of pain on this race. Everything about this race is impressive in organisation. Make sure you don’t let it down by not giving your kit the thought it requires. The Goat starts in the dark and you are straight into a climb and basically it doesn’t stop from there. If you don’t know Northumberland and this part of the world you really are in for a treat. When it comes, the sunrise reveals truly breath taking scenery and you are surrounded by it all day. If you like seeing people rather than sheep, hills, mud and trees then this really isn’t the race for you. This isn’t the Lakes. You won’t see tourists and I have to say having done St Cuthberts and Ultra Trail Wales this year, I am being drawn away from the Lakes and into these types of places purely for the solitude. The nature of this race means that at times you will feel like you are the only person on the planet. The deafening silence, the stillness and sheer remoteness of the location is simply incredible. Some of the farms are so remote it made me marvel at how hard life must be for them, but at the same time so simple. This is somewhere that I have learned to love very quickly and I will be looking at more races in the future. If you want to try and gauge this race in your head, don’t go off the stats. The nine and a half thousand feet of climbs are relentless. This part of the world had had nonstop rain for about a month leading up to the race and the sheer volume of mud, coupled with the uneven ground, the enormous peat bogs and extreme quick changing weather will test everyone even without the rain and temperature dips that we had to deal with. Despite what I said at the time (I was trying to keep our spirits up) about it not being too bad, Comb Fell between the Cheviot and Hedgehope is simply hell on earth. There is also a very cruel climb before the midway point at Barrowburn Farm where you are reunited with your drop bag but the facilities and support there are spot on and you can reset and restock for the rest of the race so this is quickly forgotten. It’s only 27 miles to here but you have already been tested to the limit by this point. If you know this part of the world you will also realise you have Northumberland’s biggest peaks still ahead of you, and ahead of you in the dark as well, the freezing flags up and back down from the Cheviot, the misery of Comb Fell and all the logistical challenges attached with pulling out later if you decide that you can’t go on. The Cheviot Goat is a brutal and truly extreme event that will test every ounce of your mental and physical being. You will learn so much about yourself and your own limits and for that alone for me it is worth the entrance money. It is most certainly not for the faint hearted or for those wanting to try ultra running for the first time. It’s probably best described as mental and physical torture with lovely scenery and lovely people. As always I went through some real high and low points during the race. It’s why I run. As always, the kindness and support I received from everyone on the organising team, those running out on the course and at the checkpoints was amazing and this played a very big part in getting me through. At the finish I simply felt very lucky to get there. You are very warmly greeted by Drew and the Cold Brew events team where they continue to look after you so well. The cafe is a simply brilliant and the soup and bread was so welcome as we were so cold and battered from everything that the hills had thrown at us. The sense of achievement and elation crossing the finish line is as bigger a high as I’ve had from my running. Will I do it again? I don’t know. I said not at the time but there will always be something from events like these that chip away at you and try to drag you back in. There are so many races out there these days that I do want to try different things. For certain though I will be doing other Cold Brew events and running in this part of the country again very soon. Thanks to John and Paul for their camaraderie and spirit.

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