If you like trail running, you’ll love the North coast of Jersey. Even in a gale.
I’ve run some of the Trail Monkey races before and marshalled even more but always get jealous watching the new, slightly twisted routes that Paul manages to find on routes I’ve run over and over again.
So at 8:15 this morning I was sat in on a coach of strangers heading to middle of the North coast in the middle of a gale and couldn’t have been happier.
The waves were crashing into the beach below and all 100 or so competitors were struggling to keep warm while we waiting for the start at Les Platons, an exposed spot at one of the highest points in Jersey.
A combination of the wind, narrow paths and general chat meant that the briefing was caught only in snatches – “windy”, “brutal” and “keep the sea on your right” was as much as I could get before everyone turned to look our way. By positioning ourselves towards the back, we were actually at the front of the race so happily stepped aside to let the faster and more serious racers through.
We started off West, through the car park and down the interminable steps that are so often the soul-sapping end to a long run. Today they were the start and all I was concerned about was not falling over which I managed to do while also taking some pictures on the GoPro and generally admiring the awesome scene around me.
Down the steps, past the fort and towards Bonne Nuit. This was the twist I’d been looking for. A 200ft loop of straight up and straight back down with mud, switchbacks and branches in your face. I laughed at Tim nearly fall in front of me before falling myself and then hearing the guy behind me do the same. This was a little too early in the run to be getting acquainted with the ground, even for me.
After this I was in familiar territory though and while the pace wasn’t quick it was consistent. Walking/powerhiking the ascents and going as fast as possible on the downs. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I love running downhill.
It’s also something I’ve been told to practice for the Madeira Island Ultra Trail at the end of April so I tried my best to channel my mountain goat spirit and skip over the rocks.
This wasn’t made easy with the near hurricane conditions, luckily blowing us into the cliff face rather than the other way round. At some points, I swear I was running at 45 degrees to the ground.
Talking of mountain goats, even the sheep that usually hang out around Devil’s Hole appeared to have thought better of venturing out in the weather so it was just a line of runners snaking around the cliff tops.
In the sheltered parts, the sun was actually quite hot and I’d ditched snood, hat and arm sleeves before we’d made it to Greve De Lecq, still with sunglasses on though obviously.
Out of Greve and I kept telling myself, Tim and Luke that it was only one more hill before the home straight, forgetting that in between each big climb there were a series of valleys and peaks in between. My bad.
Still, at least they were awesome looking valleys and peaks…
Once out of Plemont, it was flati-ish and straight-ish, just in the most exposed part of the island for a North-Westerly wind so again it was lean-in stance and try not to get blown into the gorse.
The wind was strong enough to blow Tim’s sunglasses from his head and they disappeared into a bog, followed quickly by him but to no avail. The shades were gone and Tim’s feet were wet in vain although to the amusement of all around him.
Along the top of L’Etacq, the view out to sea was exceptional. Waves, evenly spaced having rolled over many miles of sea, crashed into the prehistoric rocks below as we chugged along, dropping down onto the road and the final few steps to meet Paul, Nicola and best tasting piece of fruit cake and tea that I’ve ever encountered.
It was a good training run, a brilliant race and as always, tremendously well organised. It wasn’t quite 13.1 miles but with nearly 3,000ft of elevation, I’ll let them off with that. It’s also shown me I need to up my game for Madeira. Thanks as always to the Trail Monkey team of volunteers for making everything so fun.