The ‘Jurassic Coast 100’ or ‘JC100’ is a challenge event that was organised by Climb South West. It is a 100 km (60 mile)route along the Western part of the South West coast path, starting in Weymouth and finishing in Exmouth. There are walking and running options for this event, the walkers are allowed 24 hours to complete it and the runners have 20 hours. You can view the route here.
Leon decided a while ago that he wanted to take part in the walking challenge. When he registered for the event a few months ago he was excited and had lots of plans for training. As the time got closer the excitement appeared to have vanished and the final parts of the training plan failed to materialise – life is busy and trying to find the spare time seemed impossible!
My job was to act as ‘support crew’ – to be at pre-arranged points on the route at certain times to provide water, food, change of clothes, encouragement and anything else that might be needed. This was looking like a challenge itself as we weren’t sure if I would recover enough from my knee injury to be able to drive in time. I tried driving our car the day before the event to see if I could manage and it appeared to be ok (just!).
The week leading up to the event was supposed to be a ‘rest week’. Our labrador Otis doesn’t seem to get the concept of letting us have a lie-in, so I was on duty when the ‘alarm-dog’ went off at 4.45AM each morning so Leon could try to get some extra rest .
We were playing the game of ‘first one to think of something we have forgotten to pack’ when Leon ralised he had forgotten his phone, which contained his map of the route. Luckily we were only 20 mins from home at this point so could turn around. We arrived in Weymouth just before 8PM for registration. I was managing to limp around with Zephyr and we sat outside and had a coffee, it was a really clear and calm evening. It got busier with more walkers arriving, they were to have a briefing at 9.45PM and the event started at 10PM (2AM for runners).
Once they were on their way Zephyr and I returned to the van, set the satnav for our first checkpoint and moved on to West Bexington (23k). Leon was planning to arrive here at 3AM so I figured that I would have time to park, take Zeph for a quick walk (we love night time strolls, it is so quiet!) set my alarm for 2.30AM and get a couple of hours sleep before I needed to be awake and making bacon sandwiches and coffee. Leon then text me to say I needed to recalculate the timings he had given me as he was going quicker than he had planned and I should calculate his arrival based on 5.5k/h. What????? How on earth do I do that kind of math in the middle of the night, having been awake since 4.45AM (thanks Otis!). Twenty minutes later after trying every combination of numbers in the calculator I was pretty sure that Leon’s new arrival time would be 2AM. It was now nearly 1AM, I set my alarm for 1.30AM and put my head down knowing full well I wouldn’t get any sleep. At 1.30AM I started to get together the items that Leon had asked for, put on some fresh coffee and started frying bacon for his sandwich. Leon arrived at 2.10AM, changed his socks, refilled his water, grabbed his sandwich and coffee and was gone leaving me with the instruction to recalculate his time for the next meeting point based on this speed.
Now, don’t get me wrong I think it is super that Leon was managing such a pace, but when was I supposed to sleep? His original calculations gave me plenty of time to catch a couple of hours between seeing him but this new pace was not working in my favour!
As soon as Leon left us at West Bexington I tided up (he managed to turn the van upside down in a couple of minutes) took Zeph out for a wee and drove to our next meeting point – Charmouth. I arrived in Charmouth at 3.30AM, took Zeph out for a quick stroll, we were next to the sea and the sky was clear with a low moon – it looked amazing reflecting in the sea. I recalculated Leon’s arrival time, he was now due to arrive at 6AM. It was now 4AM so I set my alarm for 5.30AM and hoped I might get some sleep. I think I did manage to get an hour of that weird sleep where you aren’t sure if you are awake or asleep and it has a slightly hallucinogenic quality to it – yuk!
At 5.30AM it was a repeat of before getting everything prepared for Leon when he arrived, including more bacon sandwiches. Leon arrived on schedule, quick change, refill water, grab food, smoothie and coffee and was off, having now walked 43k.
As the beach was so quiet at this time in the morning I decided to hobble over the pebbles to the sand and let Zeph have a splash around before we packed up and moved on. The uneven ground is still really painful for me to walk on 😦
Next stop was Beer with a recalculated arrival time of somewhere between 9.15AM – 9.30AM. The car park in Beer is lovely, grassy and has an amazing view so Zeph and I had breakfast and a walk and met the event marshals at the checkpoint for a quick chat before preparing Leon’s food.
This time he wanted a chicken sandwich, a smoothie and a coffee ready to go. Leon arrived at 9.45AM which was approx 3 hours earlier than he had originally planned and was feeling good (although he had managed to lose his phone!), picked up his GPS as a back-up and set off having covered 61k and was the lead walker 🙂
I couldn’t meet Leon at the next checkpoint as it was too far from where I could park and my knee would be painful to walk any distance, so we arranged for me to meet him at Budleigh Salterton, which is just 10k from the end. I estimated that he had slowed down a little based on his arrival time at Beer so expected him to arrive at Budleigh Salterton anywhere between 1PM if he kept up his pace and 2.30PM if he slowed down by 0.5k/h. Budleigh Salterton was B-E-A-Utiful! I wish I was able to have explored more, but the colours of the beach (too pebbley for me to walk on) against the colour of the rock was stunning, I will definitely be going back to visit soon.
I got Leon’s next lot of supplies ready – Sausage sandwich & coffee. Leon arrived at 2.45PM and as soon as I saw him I was worried. He was pale, hunched and shuffling his feet to move forward. He had already made the decision to pull out as the first thing he said to me was ‘I don’t think I should go on’. Well, that was pretty obvious!
I put him in the van and Zeph and I walked to the water station to let the marshals know that Leon was not going to continue. I think he was still lead walker at this point.
When I got back to the van Leon was lying on the sofa, retching and passing out. I got some re hydration sachets from the first aid kit, mixed them with water and gave them to Leon along with a packet of skittles. Within the space of 10 minutes Leon had gone from being on the verge of wanting me to take him to hospital because he thought he was dying, to being awake and holding a conversation…although his legs had started to seize up now.
It was now 3.30PM and I made the decision to drive home rather than find a campsite near by. Leon would benefit from being in his own bed and I had been awake for almost 35 hours by this point. It was less than a two hour drive home…..this gave Leon 2 hours to figure out where he had gone wrong, changes he needed to make and convince me that I would do it all over again when he tries it solo in a couple of months time.
Leon had chosen carb heavy foods to get him through the challenge, which was a mistake. He was lacking in sugar and salt and had overloaded his digestive system, which is why he ‘hit the wall’ and had to stop. Lots of changes are being planned for the nutritional requirements for the next attempt.
If Leon had managed to sustain his pace he would have completed the walk in 17 hours which is faster than some runners!
Video Credit – Climb South West
This event was organised by Climb South West and was fantastically well run. There were plenty of marshals, water points & check points. All of the event team were friendly, knowledgeable, efficient and ready to help. We will definitely be booking up more of their challenges this year 🙂