The Viper 369 - 2015

The Viper 369 - Saturday 28th March 2015 - Delamere Forest, Cheshire

Back in October, I saw an advert for an event in Delamere Forest.  Viper 369.  It sounded interesting and the price was great considering how long the event would be held for, if indeed I opted for the 9 hour challenge, which, inevitably, I did.  The concept is simply broken down in to laps of a 3.2 mile trail circuit.  The 3.0 required 5 laps then 6.0 a further 6 laps and the 9.0 a further 7 laps.

After reading in to the unknown concept, I asked a couple of friends if they fancied the challenge.  They both gladly accepted and there we go, we'd entered ourselves for the Viper 9.0 -  The full 9 hours, near 20 laps of trail racing on a route we had no prior knowledge of, what more could you want?!  (I am indeed serious too, no sarcasm there.  Going in to the unknown in running terms is something of a huge plus, 99% of the time)

The months between mid-October and late March went by relatively quickly.  My mileage stepped up in training but this was in no relation to being entered in to the Viper, it was just purely as I wanted to better myself as a runner.  From running 10-15 miles per week from June through to December of 2014, In January 2015 I started upping my game to 20-30 miles and from February I have been running 40 miles minimum on a weekly basis and with living in Darwen, these aren't flat miles.

I have also raced around 20 races already since the start of December, so I am well tuned to "race mode" at this moment in time, something that came in really handy for the Viper, as I will mention later on.  One of our initial 3 members had to drop out in February due to an unfortunate injury, which was actually brought on during a local 10k road race.  So, I had to find a replacement quickly enough to cover this and managed to do that no problem.

Darwen Dynamo's - final line up

Our team line up was finalised and we were ready to go.  I woke up at 4:45am on the Saturday, ready to set off at 5:30am.  We allowed ourselves 1 and a half hours to get to Delamere but we arrived at 6:45am and pitched up (popped up) our little tent and set ourselves for registration.  This is then the part I hate about every race, when you know what you need to do (in race/running terms) but you have to wait those 10-15 minutes to actually set off.  In case of the Viper (not a negative, by the way), I was second in line out of the three of us, as Brian was running first, so I had another 20 odd minutes to wait before I was tagged in on to the course.

racers ready for the gun - 8:05am

As a team we were well up for this.  We were running in to the unknown in more than one sense of the phrase...Us 3 runners on the day had never ran as the same team, we'd never ran in Delamere forest and Martyn had never raced in his life.  The announcement was made "the two front runners are on their way back round the final descent right now!!", everyone around was in awe, 20 minutes on the clock on this tough route.  Martyn asked "do you reckon it'll be Brian?" answer was a firm yes.  As we waited at the handover area, Brian was flying round the corner, just on the shoulder of the front runner, he tagged me in leaving me with the opportunity to hang in there in 2nd place, but his only words of "it's bloody tough mate", were humorous as well as daunting but off I went.

kit change over required due to the inclement weather and mud under foot

I came back round in about 6th or 7th, which I was happy with as I'm not the fastest runner but my experience of climbs/hill is quite decent considering my overall running experience and when you're on the team with a guy who has running experience spanning more years than you have been alive, when he says it's tough, you've got to listen!

We completed the 5 laps of the 3.0 with around 1 hour 20 minutes to spare so we were relatively happy with that, although our handling of our breaks was something else that was an unknown, we didn't really know how to deal with it apart from taking on fluid and fuel as well as trying to keep moving.  By this point the rain had been pouring for an hour or two, we'd had a missed hand over which cost us around 2 to 3 minutes and Martyn found it difficult running his lap in his road(!!!!) shoes, so another equipment change over was pending.  Thankfully I had taken a spare pair of trail shoes, although they were a whole size too big for him, haha!

I found it tough going under foot, even in my trail shoes, so my back up plan of bringing my Walsh fell shoes, really did come in handy, as after lap 2 (the end of the 3.0), I changed over both my socks and shoes.  We went through 6.0 with time to spare too.  Bringing around 30 minutes through with us and 2 more laps each.  We were all happy with this but knew we would be really against the clock in 9.0, as another lap would take us just over 20 minutes, even if Brian stormed round in the fashion he had been doing all day.

Brian readying himself to kick off the 9.0 in spectacular fashion

The above image has become some what of a phenomenon online.  Nearly every member from our wonderful Darwen Dashers running club has commented saying it just typifies the spirit and the determination we must have had on the day to even attempt such a challenge.  I'm sure somebody out there could caption the picture very well, a lot better than I have on here.  But they are right.  We knew we would be well in control of the 3.0 and 6.0.  This wasn't through arrogance, it was just plain and simply running maths.  But the unknown was yet again popping up on the Viper.

How would Martyn handle another 2 laps?  He'd ran more than his weekly average in the 6 hours before the 9.0.  Could Brian and I maintain or at least hardly drop pace on our laps?  Would the weather take a turn again after brightening up?  How was the ground under foot going to be?  After all, if you wanted to even attempt adding up how many laps between ALL the teams had been done, it would be a huge number and the same ground was being battered by the downpour.

Brian ran the first lap of the 9.0 to kick us off and he stormed round in just over 15 seconds slower than his 1st lap - yes, slower, but, he ran his first lap just after 8am and had done another 3 laps in between as well as waiting hours between me & Martyn being on the course and our rest time between Viper sections.  Unbelievable performances.

We managed 6 laps on section 9.0 and all 3 of us gave it 110% for each other.  As far as team work goes, you would struggle to find a much stronger bond than we created that morning, just pure grit and determination to run as fast as possible for each other in order to push our personal boundaries.  At one point I even nearly fell in to the pond water just beyond the chip timing pad after coming off the back of the final lap on 6.0 and losing all sense of direction!

A final note; massive thanks to all marshals, organisers and the people who made it happen.  Great event that we have all been recommending to fellow runners & we are planning our tactics for next years challenge already.  Bravo Team Viper!

proud of these 2 lads either side of me for their unbelievable hard work & effort on the day

A few pictures below...


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