Based in North Devon, they have picturesque doorstep access to the coastal paths, miles of beaches and sand dunes, AONB designated areas, Exmoor National Park and many more stunning locations. Their training camps utilise all terrains over a variety of trail and endurance running training modes.
Towards the end of April, a message was issued over twitter and facebook which requested assistance in the launch of the first Trail Ferret training camp. Ben was looking for some people to venture down to Devon and test out his 4 day training camp & itinerary. I didn't need asking twice, I was straight in with "Count me in! I'm up for it" - I didn't even look to see where on earth I was going.
Instructions and directions came through and before I knew it I was heading down to Devon on a sunny Sunday afternoon, still not knowing exactly where I was going (that's the great thing about car sat navs - you just enter the postcode and voila! You just follow the voice and hopefully you arrive at your destination!)
Trail Ferret HQ is situated in St George's House in Georgeham and on Sunday evening (28th April) I pulled up outside this wonderful old rectory not really knowing what to expect. Ben (AKA Papa Ferret) appeared around the front door with a cheery smile and that was it, an awesome new adventure started.......
Four other keen trail runners were also there for the night and within minutes friendships were forged and we headed up to the local pub (The Rock) for a drink and some carb loading - well bowls of chips:-)
The full itinerary was explained to us and Ben informed us that over the 4 days there would be other runners attending during the day. The emphasis that Ben put over was that we were here to have some fun and to explore the trails that North Devon had to offer.
The great thing that was apparent from the start was Ben's enthusiasm for trail running, coaching and all things running! Ben has a wealth of experience to bring to the table on coaching, running, nutrition and injury prevention/recovery and he was there to assist us all no matter what our level of experience in running.
Back at St George's House we settled in to our clean, comfy and LARGE rooms (we had the entire house to ourselves). Breakfast was at 8am but in reality you could have breakfast anytime as it was an open kitchen when the staff were not around - and yes the fridge was raided at night when the munchies got us.
After breakfast, Ben went through the planned route and explained that throughout the run the support crew and minibus would be strategically placed along the route. This was a great idea and meant that we could leave drinks etc on the minibus, thus reducing the issue of back packs. The other idea behind the crew bus was it meant that should anyone want to bail out at any stage they could hop onto the bus to the next stage (no one took this up but it gave team members a safety net).
Our first day of running was starting down in Saunton Sands' dunes and was to be a session of hill reps. The crew bus dropped us off and away we went following Papa Ferret for a 10 minute warm up into the dunes.
I had been thinking to myself how is this going to work, we are all of various abilities - from the seasoned ultra runner to the novice trail runner - I needn't have worried as Ben's abilities to keep the team together but also make sure that each and everyone of us puts in maximum effort to their ability is second to none - I'm not easily impressed but I am happy to say I enjoyed the Hill reps.
We spent the first 50 minutes down in the dunes which equated to 28 minutes of real hard effort and then trailed off for a run along Saunton Sands beach up to the car park where the support bus was waiting if needed, a quick refreshment stop and then onwards.
We were then lead up to the coastal path over to Woolacombe (part of the North Devon Marathon route) and this is where our first stunning views came about and from this point on it was trail runners' heaven, actually, more to the point the views would have been beautiful for walkers and runners alike, but it was a real treat to run in such a stunning environment, nothing can compare to the views and fresh sea air.
The going was at an easy pace and jovial banter was the order of the day, which was great and a welcome change (in training I spend 100% of my time by myself and zone out to music), as you can imagine hills are part and parcel of the coastal path, so having to put effort in on the hills made up for the easy pace for the rest of the time.
Due to the banter and stunning scenery, the run felt quick, in total we were out for 3hrs & 18minutes.
Back at St George's House, the outside bath tub was already filled with ice cold water and waiting for us. (This is something only runners will understand!) I'm a firm believer in the ice bath and it's recovery benefits, and for some sadistic element actually enjoy chilling out (freezing!) after a long run. However, by the look on some faces this experience was not mutual.
There was a good supply of recovery shakes, should anyone need them and most importantly, lunch was already prepared and waiting for us.
The afternoon was supposed to be a session of strength & core work but there was an unilateral agreement to miss this and just chill out in the grounds and take in the sunshine. This was an excellent decision and cemented the group further. Laughter was the order of the day.
Now the most important thing to runners (apart from their trainers) is dinner and the staff at St George's House did not fail us. Everything is home made and the menu for the evening was chicken pie - seconds were not an issue and dessert was consumed with vigour.
The evening was spent relaxing and discussing our running experiences and tales and again much laughter. Time flew and soon it was time to collapse into comfortable beds to recharge ready for the next days run. I hadn't known what to expect, but I was happy to say, I was really looking forward to the next day.
Stats for the day;
Time out - 03:18:50
Hill reps - actual work - 00:27:00
Total Distance - 21.6K
Average Pace without the stops at Support Crew positions (& sight seeing) - 06:31mins/K
Total Ascent - 544M
Ascent percentage of run - 23%
Run Profile - See below