Cakeathon – sounds nice doesn’t it? One lap of the Kent countryside, come back to base camp, get cake, go again – what better way to spend a Bank Holiday?
I’d been suggested Cakeathon as a good warm-up to Berlin as it was 4 weeks out, no pressure on distance or time and it’s generally a good laugh too.
How does it work – you have 8 hours, to do as many or as few laps of 4.37 miles as you like. Each lap you arrive back at base camp/checkpoint, you get your card punched and you can refill your water bottles, take on some jelly babies or cake and use the portaloos.
I was using this as my last long run for Berlin, I’d given myself a target of 4 laps minimum (17.5 miles) but preferably 5 laps (21.85 miles). It was also a good opportunity for me to test out my kit and nutrition for the day. I’d be testing out my gels and electrolyte tabs during the run to see how i got on with them and I’d be using my new Running Vest (Osprey Duro 15).
Sunday afternoon I made the trip to Victoria Station, meeting up with Ciara and Melissa (also part of Berlin crew) and took the train to Rochester is deepest darkest Kent (it was acually quite nice). We got picked up by Allie who kindly offered to pick us up and drive us back to the Purple Palace (Premier Inn) where we were all staying for the night.
Dinner was a full on carb fest before we headed our separate ways to get our kits ready and a good nights sleep for the early wake up.
After not the best sleep I made my way down to breakfast which consisted of Jam on Toast, french pastries and a strong coffee – not my usual pre-race fuelling but we made do.
We arrived at race HQ which was in the corner of a wheat field, literally. It was just two marquees, a table for registering and three portaloos – not what I am used to after mainly doing big city events.
Registration was quick and simple, you got given your number and a card to get stamped every lap which you attached to yourself.
That was it really, simple, I had a chat with Jo (@JoanneRoss) (also Berlin bound), Annette (@RunningNettie) and Niki (nikitahxx on IG). There were a lot of 100 marathon club tees around and quite a few club runners too.
All of a sudden and we were off across the wheat field, no path, literally just running through a foot of wheat stalks. I took a moment to pull my calf sleeves up and Elle and I set off at a brisk walk. I had initially set myself the goal of trying out my marathon pacing but on the startline I wasn’t feeling it, I actually said I might just do the one lap and get the bling. So I was quite happy to keep it steady for a lap and see how things went – after all Elle was going to bail after one lap.
The views were stunning, there was mist in the valley and you could see for miles including a stream of runners going downhill. We settled into a nice pace, walking the ups and running the down and flats, only during the first half, there wasn’t much flat.
The signage was spot on, they had little green SVN signs with an arrow on the posts where they also have the NDW signs which helped along with their own signs anywhere there was a turning point.
Lap 1 was interesting, it was not what I was expecting – it was proper trail. Some of the paths were so thin I couldn’t put both my feet together, some were really nice wide trail and some felt like you were trekking through the Amazon (the one by the railway for those that were there). I knew there were hills, only I was expecting ‘gently rolling’ and they certainly were not!
Lap one done and I felt really good, I’d chirped up a bit and couldn’t wait to get out for a second lap. I topped up my small bottle with electrolytes, took on a gel, made use of the portaloo and off we went again.
We said we would try to make each lap progressively quicker – we had gone out pretty slow in the first lap. We said we would run more of the flat and try to power up the hills a bit quicker. However the mist had cleared and at only 9.30 it was getting warm enough to make you sweat.
obligatory trail cow picture
We got to halfway on the second lap and i was done for. My legs were burning and i didn’t really want to carry on. Once we got to the mausoleum I took the opportunity to do some squats and practice my breathing exercises that Chevy told me about. Despite my legs not wanting so we had a run out from the Mausoleum and actually they came back to me really well and we ran for most of the second half, even along the tight path by the Railway lines. Jo joined us for the final stretch through the wood and back to base camp.
Lap 2 and I could tell I was dehydrated by the colour of my urine – looked more like the wheat field – and that was despite emptying my electrolyte drink and half of my water bladder. I didn’t really want to go out on the third lap but i knew it was only one more for a half marathon and I kind of had to and we just agreed to take it slow and run the same way we did the first time.
First half was nice and slow, taking it easy up the hills and I felt so much better by the same point this lap. This lap we switched and I was leading as Elle’s feet were beginning to hurt. On this lap we saw most of our fellow ukrunchat peeps, Ciara joined us for a bit and so did Rob and Andy. I really enjoyed this lap and got some good running in.
3rd lap done and Elle was done – she only planned on doing one lap, so getting a half marathon out was great work. I’d convinced myself I had one lap left in me, Ciara went off to do a 6th to get her marathon (😳 awesome running) I hung around a bit taking on more water, filling my water bladder and delving into the tuck shop for some crisps and I was desperate for some salt – something i will look into before Berlin.
Off I went, over the wheat field one more time. I felt good, I knew my plan and just had to get round. The benefit was I knew the course well now, I knew when to push on and when to rest. The one thing i noticed was that there were very few people out on course. I got chatting to one guy who was already in the 100 marathon club and was now attempting 52 in 52 weeks – special kind of crazy.
Hills out of the way and I was feeling ready to get home. I remembered something Sarah Williams told me a while ago “you can either slow it down and extend the pain, or get it over and done with” – I went for the second option and tried to split the lap up.
Even though it was the most horrible part of the course as it was so tight and got scraped and scarred by the tree life, I couldn’t wait to see the train line. I even had a look on Google Maps to see how far away I was as the trail just looks all the same.
When I got there I knew where i was, next point was the bridge where the path widens, then into the wood and finish.
I trotted down the tarmac’d path with Allie and Melissa and had the bell handed to me to signal I had finished for the day. I didnt really want to – if i rang that bell, that was it, event over and I didnt want it to be. It had been such a great experience but I didnt have another lap in me so i rang that bell with all my energy.
Badges on the medal and around my neck it went – it was done.
📷 by Ciara
Unfortunately I couldnt face the cake, it was too warm and i just couldnt take any sugary chocolaty, gooeyness. I opted for a few jelly babies and some more salty crisps before sitting on some tarpaulin to get my shoes off and Oofos on!
I was quite happy sitting there shoes off, socks off, sleeves off before stretching my feet out before a gasp of horror from everyone on the sight of my feet. “What? What is it? Is it bad? Just a tiny blister”. If there as a blister i hadn’t felt it, compared to my long run the other week where it felt like i had cheese-graters in my shoes, they felt amazingly well – I’ve since checked, it’s nothing too bad!
Obligatory post race team photo and back off the station.
I think i apologised a million times to Melissa and Ciara on the train for my smell, I couldn’t wait to get home and in the shower.
Thoughts from Cakeathon:
I loved it!! I dont want to do road marathons anymore, i want to do trail ultras – they look after you so amazingly well and will do anything for you. Having that base camp or checkpoint gives you that place to aim to that is achievable is like a security blanket where you an get fed and watered or have a rest if needs be – I didnt sit down because i knew it would be hard to get up again.
The cakes were amazing even if i didn’t have much, had i not been practicing Berlin nutrition i may have indulged a little more, but im fairly certain they dont have batten-burgs every 10k.
We were lucky with the weather, if it had been wet that would’ve been miserable and muddy, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions underfoot, however a little bit cooler would’ve been lovely. Doing anything in that heat was a struggle so for me to come away with 17.5 miles on hilly trails in that weather I am mega pleased.
I’ll be honest, I loved it so much I don’t want to do road marathons, I want to do more trail & ultras as it’s so much more friendly, every single runner either said hello or well done no matter what lap you were on & the SVN crew were awesome, no problems with water shortage or jelly babies and nothing was too much effort.
And there was free photos too – poor bloke doing the pics did almost as many laps as us lot! Alas no free yoga 🙄
I would love to do another SVN race, they’re great crew & the bling and goody bag is something else