Cannonball events run a number of runs and ultra runs in the North West of England. After signing up for World’s Toughest Mudder, I was on the look out for other 24 hour ultras to support my training. TrailBlaster fitted the bill perfectly; it was relatively close, a good price (I got it at around £55 as a special price) and the timing fitted well between others races. The 5km looped course was also another reason why I chose it, believing that it was short enough not to worry too much about having to take hydration around with me. I like loops and yet to do a point to point. Incidentally through the day, there were two ice-cram vans you ran passed. (just saying).
As well as the 24 hour Ultra race, TrailBlaster also ran a 6 hour and 12 hour day race, starting at the same time as the 24 hour race as well as 12 hour night race (10pm to 10am). The races could be completed solo (the option I took), pairs or in teams so very much a race that anyone could have taken part in.
The sat nav took me to Townley park, a very large (180 hectares), beautiful park set very close to the centre of Burnley, whilst the large number of signs took me to the race village. I turned up at 7:30pm and although a number of teams had set up camp, there was still plenty of room around to select a suitable space to pitch. I settled on a spot just 5m off the course and about 20m from the start/finish line. I figured I would be able to go back to my tent for food/rest etc without having to rely on taking kit to the solo transition area.
The Camping / Parking area was just one big space not marked out, so coming into Saturday, it was pretty much a free for all to park. Honestly, the space was absolutely massive, so didn’t really matter, but when the race grows with larger numbers, this will have to be thought out a little better. The land was also quite lumpy, so cars had to be careful as not to ditch in some off the large, natural ditches we had to drive across.
The portable toilets were around 50m from the main camping area – it was explained the contractors couldn’t (wouldn’t) get any closer, this to be honest wasn’t an issue and actually an advantage for the runners as the course ran directly past them. There were no portable shower blocks, but the permanent ones were a 5 minute walk in the local football club house. I didn’t try these, but I was told they were a communal shower block, very European!
The main village itself was small – registration/timing tent, massage tent, transition area, Ellis Brigham brought Black Diamond Head torches and Innov8 shoes to test out as well as high 5 gels and hydration tablets. Unfortunately there were no food vendors, I did expect a chip van of some kind. However, I brought plenty of supplies, aldi was just down the road (literally across the road from the main entrance) and Cannonball put out plenty of snacks in the form of pretzels, nuts, flapjacks and bananas for everyone to keep morale up.
Registration was swift – I gave them my name, I got my bib number with integrated chip. That simple and I wish other registrations was as easy.
Townley Park was a fantastic setting for TrailBlaster. A public space, but large enough to hold a race with some interesting terrain. Incidentally for the parkrun tourists a Park Run is also held at Townley Park and you could have done it before the 10am start as a warm up.
The picture below shows the fantastic weather we had and this was at 4.5km in of the 5km lap. You can see the village to the right hand side, with hill of trees in the background which is where you would come from. Whilst off to the left was the manicured part of the park with a lot of flat areas for people to sunbathe, play football and so on.
I broke the route into 4 sections
- Start and into the woodland trail – a shaded part with a bit of elevation which looped back on the course.
- Around the public park area – a relatively flat area over path or grass areas
- Up into the hills and a technical downhill – steep (walking) climb and a fun technical down-hill section
- Back towards the village via switch backs – so close and yet so far. Also a false uphill flat which made this last section pretty difficult
Overall the terrain was 70% grass, 20% gravel/park trail and 10% path. Due to the dry conditions, road shoes were fine, and if it was raining, light trails may have been necessary.
Not too much elevation – mostly very slow uphills apart from the one technical part in which there was a steep climb to the top (possibly only 10m or so) across the top of the valley and then a very technical downhill and across the stream. This was my favourite part of the course (who doesn’t love a good downhill?)
Plenty of marshals along the course to cheer you on and make sure you didn’t go the wrong way (I did on the second lap though…). Whilst there were also plenty of people in the village to help if you had any questions.
The race had live timing so you could see exactly what position you were in at the end of each lap. Positions were marked by laps and then the total time to complete the laps. This meant that even though you finished the lap before someone else, the amount of rest and transition time may count against you.
Grade B- This is a race worthy of more attention from runners in the North West. Many endurance runners may have been attracted by Endure24 which was the same weekend. But I am sure that the route, location, options and cost are all things that are a massive positive for the race.
No actual camping facilities per se, but water was provided and the “real” shower blocks weren’t too far away. Could do with a little organisation regarding camping and parking, but these are just minor things.
If you are looking to do an Endurance race in the North West, this should be one to consider. I’ll be back again next year.
On a personal note
I was using this race as a training race and was aiming for 80km+ to keep me in shape after hitting 65km at Runstock. Unfortunately my race was cut short at 25km. I had a knee niggle with some tendonitis going into the race and I didn’t want to aggravate it too much. I ran the first two laps and ran / walked the last 3 laps. I was hoping to stay and do some night laps for training. But in the end I decided to be sensible, hand my chip in and take the medal. I packed my tent and left Saturday evening just to ensure I wasn’t tempted to go out again. I’ve got unfinished business and will return in 2019