It was a marathon in Bath, and there were two tunnels. Although there were two laps for the marathon, so I got to run through them both twice. It was a lovely route, pretty much flat and loads of canal which on a nice sunny day was lovely. Great aid stations, and a really good day. The only weird thing was the way they had about another six races going on, all with staggered starts so it was a bit complicated at the beginning.
Well that’s probably the hilliest road marathon I think I’ve done. Was a bit chaotic at the start, pissing down with rain and they had to delay the already weirdly late start by 30 mins because they couldn’t get everyone registered in time. Hooked up with Rich on the start line which was cool, and we just trotted around together the whole way. I was pretty tired around halfway, but once we got out on the second loop I perked up a bit. Eventually the rain stopped and it wasn’t too bad a day in the end, although the late start meant I was bloody starving by the end and there was NOTHING to eat at the finish, just water. Bastards.
Same route as last year, and the same weird feeling of having the course dismantled around me as I went out for the second loop and the half marathon runners were finishing. Ran a decent negative split, and came in under 3:30 for the first time in a few weeks – nowhere near last year’s heroics, but tidy enough.
Lovely little race, £7 to enter which pretty much felt like I was stealing one this week. Treated it as a recovery run and spent quite a bit of time faffing about, chatting to marshals etc and came in 7th in around 4:40. Coolest bit was the mile long canal tunnel which was pitch black. My hand torch was crap so it was bit like a Scooby-Doo episode splashing through the dark, but good fun. Was slightly gutted to find the winners only came in at 4:00 as I had that in me easily, but there you go.
Start at Aberdovey, and run 40 miles north up the Welsh Coastal Trail to Harlech Castle. What could be easier? Quite a lot of things as it turns out.
I managed to get around the logistics of the point-to-point route by getting down to Harlech the night before, staying in a little hotel near the finish with Adam T. At 0700 Saturday morning we parked up at the finish and got the first train to Aberdovey with about 40 other runners which was pretty cool. Matt S, Dave B, Nick C, Rich W and a few other familiar faces were all there so it was a fun trip, all along the coastal trail we’d be running back along later.
Right on cue, straight after the race briefing it started raining, and then without too much ado we were off. I had a bit of a fiddly start, first going the wrong way around a bunch of rocks and having to splash through a rock pool, and then having to mess about with my pack for ages. I was using an old pack I’ve used loads, but not recently, and was all over the place trying to find things and getting my bladder hose kinked all the time. I stopped after a few miles to sort it out, and just as I finished faffing about, Nick and Rich W passed me and we started running together.
We were all going the same pace and in no major rush, and spent the next few miles happily sharing and reinforcing all of our misunderstandings about the race, mainly that it would be flat (we’d all heard that from different people), and that it’d be about 40 miles long (it was neither).
We’d been a bit worried about the navigation beforehand, but for the most part it wasn’t too tricky. There were LOADS of spray painted red arrows on the ground to follow which were really helpful, especially early on, and for 30 miles or so we were having a great time, walking the hills, running the rest, and just chatting away. CP 1 was right on the road and unmissable, and CP 2 was a pub car park with big race flags which you also couldn’t miss. The only downside was that it turns out Cadburys make jaffa cakes. Fucking awful jaffa cakes. Jaffa cakes that straight from a brand new packet taste like they’ve been down the back of the sofa for a month. Needless to say, I was very disappointed.
After a flattish start, the middle section had some big climbs to deal with, although it was cool to be able to see so much of where we’d be running next, especially looking down to the bridge running across to Barmouth. We also started saying “cheers Denzil” (the race director) every time we had a particularly horrible hill/stile/bog to get through which was fun.
Eventually we got to Barmouth which smelled of chips, and I still wish I’d stopped for some. We ran a mile or two through the tourists having run a marathon (ish) in 4:30, and hit CP3 where we stopped for a few minutes so Nick could patch up a blister on his foot. We were pretty happy at that point, thinking that the way we were going, even with a bit of slowdown we should be done in somewhere around 7:30.
Then we all started to tire a bit, Nick was having problems with his ankle, and I was having problems with my brain – mostly trying to work out how far we’d gone and what we had left, given my watch was in kilometres, the route map had no scale on it, and none of us could remember exactly what distance the last checkpoint was supposed to be at.
As we approached CP4 we were in ok spirits, and ready for one last push. We’d run 52km, so we reckoned we had about 12km to go but just as we were about to leave the CP someone said there were actually 12 miles left. Which sucked. I filled my bladder (which I wasn’t going to when I thought we were nearly done), choked down a gel, and we trudged off, all a bit more cheesed off than we’d been on the way into the CP.
Then, after a long stretch of beach we managed to miss the point where we should have turned off to Shell Island. We found ourselves in a campsite, and from the map it looked like we’d overshot the trail we should have been on. We dithered about a bit, and then spotted the airfield that the trail we should have been on ran alongside. We headed in that direction, and eventually got back on track. I don’t think the detour cost us much distance, maybe an extra mile, but it probably cost us about twenty minutes and what was left of our good cheer.
From that point, we pretty much just moaned our way back. Nick’s ankle was giving him plenty of grief, and I was just out of energy and complaining about everything like a big baby. Fortunately Rich was in great shape, powering on and pulling us along while me and Nick concocted a plan to set up a 77 marathon club so that the three of us could just call it a day and find a pub.
Finally we made it to the last bit of beach, and after tottering down the steps to the sand like little old ladies, we dug in for the home stretch. Fortunately we could see a couple of runners ahead of us about a mile further up the beach , so when they disappeared off to the right we knew we were close to the end, and before we knew it we were off the sand, onto the road, and back at the school where we started. We finished together having run 44.5 miles in 8:47 which is a good hour and a half longer than I thought it would take, although that estimate was based on it being mainly flat and about 40 miles long, so I guess I wasn’t too far out.
We got our medals, I inhaled a couple of bags of crisps, and then Nick and Rich realised that Julie had Rich’s car keys, and she was a couple of towns down the coast in Dave’s caravan with no signal so they couldn’t call her. Nick and I whizzed back up to get her (and the keys), and once I’d dropped them back at the finish (resisting the urge to get out for more crisps) I set off for home – into the mother of all thunderstorms. The 40 miles or so of twisty, flooded welsh lanes were tougher going than the 40-odd miles we’d just run, and the constant flashes of lightning were pretty distracting, but fortunately I had the agony of having to brake and/or change gear every five seconds to keep me alert.
The race itself was pretty cool, the route was amazing even in the pouring rain, and was well worth the added logistical faff of it being a point to point. If I was being fussy another checkpoint between CP4 and the finish would have been nice, but I’d love to have another go at it in decent shape (and knowing the route) and see what I can do. The only thing stopping me from immediately entering it again for next year (assuming Denzil gets himself a new Jaffa Cake supplier) is that I’m very tentatively planning on doing the Liverpool-Leeds Canal Race next August.
That was marathon/ultra number 89, so only 11 to go now – and I’m glad beyond belief that the next one is flat. It feels like a VERY long time since I ran anywhere flat…
I knew I’d be in for a tough day before I even started this one. Up at 0445 for a 4 hour drive to Cheddar, a pretty steep climb up from the car parks to the registration/start area, and then a hilly marathon (all with the joy of another 4 hour drive home to look forward to), meant I started more with grim determination than hope of a fun day out.
The start wasn’t too bad, uphill to a ridge with some lovely views over the Bristol Channel, and I was ticking along ok. It was a bit crowded but not too bad, but then we hit the first of two out and back stretches of single-track which were a bit chaotic, with runners heading in both directions, and with half marathoners catching up with the marathon runners and coming through from behind. Most people were cool and slowed or moved to the very edge of the track to let people pass, but there were a few divs just ploughing through and forcing people off the track.
Just after that pretty slow stretch the track opened up ahead of me with a nice looking downhill, so I took the opportunity to make up a bit of ground. Next thing I knew I was lying on the floor with my mouth, elbows and knees full of gravel. I spent a few minutes swearing and spitting out dirt, and fortunately I hadn’t done any serious damage, just a few cuts and knocks, but I took the next few km REALLY slowly. Partly because I was a bit stunned and worried about wiping out again, but also because it was time for the second congested out and back stretch.
I washed out my cuts at the next aid station and felt ok, so trudged on, up a pretty steep set of steps which brought me back to the start/finish area. I was feeling pretty goosed at that point, with all the falling over I’d not really eaten or drunk much, so I shovelled in a couple of gels and steeled myself for the biggest climb of the route.
Just past the start area we had to go down parallel to the hill we’d climbed to get to the start (rocky and rooty and really slow), and then drag our arses back up the main path which was just horrible. The worst bit was it was the main route for the half-marathon runners to head back to their cars having finished, although a couple of us had some fun with them trying to convince them to come for another lap (they weren’t having any of it). The climb was steep and long, and I was starting to feel pretty tired. The 1040 start time meant it was nearly 6 hours since breakfast and I think I probably should have factored that in a bit and eaten way more than I did.
At the top of the hill I set off for my second lap, although it took me a good few minutes to feel good enough to run again after the climb. After a brief exchange with an overhanging branch that nearly took my head off I walked a short stretch with a guy called Tim and we chatted about all sorts, running the next 5km or so together. I ate more and had a couple of cups of Coke at the next aid station and started to feel much better, and the out and back stretches were much less congested second time around. With around 10k to go I fell into pace with a girl called Dawn who was training for CCC and we ran the last section together just gabbing about races we’d done and our various exchanges with cows (during races) which made the last few miles fly by. The second time up the steps didn’t feel quite so bad knowing we were nearly done, and eventually we crossed the line together in around 5:20.
I grabbed my medal and an Ice-pop, relieved that at least two-thirds of the day’s exertions were out of the way, and steeled myself for the descent back down to the car park and the four hour drive home. Apparently I didn’t get the same memo everyone else on the M5 got about driving 60mph in all three lanes, but apart from that (and an emergency pasty at halfway), the drive home was mercifully uneventful and I got home just before 2100.
The drama started early this time, when a few miles from the start in Ullswater a Range Rover in front of me swerved, swerved again, and then veered across the road, spinning and crashing into the bushes on the right. I pulled over and went to check the driver, who turned out to be the race medic on her way to the same race. She (and the car) was fine, and once she’d got off ok I went and parked in the town centre and wandered up to the race start.
I saw Gill and Richard and a few other familiar faces there which was cool, and after getting my number and hiding from the rain for a bit, set off with Richard. We’d not seen each other since Piece of Cake so we had a bit of a natter, fell into the same pace, and just carried on running together for the whole race.
A few miles in it got a bit hairy – running through a field with a 4ft high stone wall to our left, a herd of maybe ten massive bulls started running towards us. As we were preparing to jump over the wall they veered away to the right, before turning back and charging at us, and towards the wall. As we’d kept running they ended up looping behind us, but they were that mad they didn’t even stop at the wall, some of them jumping it, some smashing through, and one getting stuck with its front legs over the wall and its back legs still in our field. We couldn’t believe what we’d seen, and just kept going to the end of the field, thanking our lucky stars we hadn’t opted for jumping over the wall when we’d first seen them, or we’d have been crushed.
After that it was all pretty uneventful. Despite the persistent rain the scenery was nice, and in the first half it wasn’t too hilly until we got to Hoad Hill at the halfway point and had to climb up to the top where the lighthouse sat with its head in the clouds. The second half of the race was a bit hillier, with a pretty sustained climb through miles 19-22, but nothing too nasty – at least not compared to any of my recent races. Overall I think the climb was around 1800ft, but all runnable (even though we had a few walking/eating breaks), and good underfoot.
For the last few miles the weather started to clear a bit, and we could see the lighthouse back at the finish getting closer and closer which was cool – although as we started the same ascent we’d made at halfway we weren’t too enthusiastic at the thought of having to climb to the top again. Fortunately we skirted past the trail we’d previously followed up to the top, and finished back where we’d started, finishing in 4:21.
This was the best I’ve felt during and after a race in ages, I ate more than the last few (syrup cake and flapjack mostly!), and chatting with Richard all the way round helped keep the pace down too. It was also less than half of the climb of my last few races, which I suspect was the biggest factor of all in making it feel less gruelling.
It was the first time the race has been put on, and pretty much everything was spot on. The route was brilliant, and the two loops of the full worked really well with the half. The lighthouse on the hill was neat and kind of made a feature of the finish which was cool too. Registration was all fine, although I hate it when they give you your t-shirt at the beginning – especially when they also make you park about a mile away from the race start. I couldn’t be arsed with a 2 mile walk in the rain before I started the race so I just stuffed my t-shirt in my bag and ran with it. Everything else was great though, marshals and checkpoints were well placed and well stocked, and a lot of the locals seemed to know what was going on so despite being pretty much in the middle of nowhere for a lot of the race there were still people about cheering us on which was cool. I’ll definitely do it again – although hopefully in the sunshine next time!
Another cracking LDWA race, lovely hills (about 4,000ft of them), a few technical descents, and some great scenery. Struggled a lot towards the end, but finally bumbled in around 5:21 for my pie and peas.
Despite having had a race-free weekend between this and the Lion’ Bridge, I was still in pretty bad shape on the start line. Standing in a field in Llanberis in the pissing rain I had a feeling it was going to be a very unpleasant day, and I wasn’t wrong.
The first 20 miles or so were a bit hilly, undulating more than monstrous, but I was out on my feet from about 3 miles in. I threw a few gels down but was just feeling completely empty, shuffling along trying not to think about having to climb Snowdon at mile 20.
When I hit the checkpoint at the start of the climb I felt pretty awful, even the gentle ascents were forcing me to walk or even sit down occasionally, and it only got worse from there. Climbing up the Pyg Trail in the pouring rain on dead legs was just grim – I was in a foul mood and just wanted it to be over, but the climb went on forever. In a few parts it was real hands and knees stuff, and the rain was relentless which meant clambering up some mini streams that had formed in a few places. I wasn’t really making any noticeable progress, and at one point I looked down at my watch and it said I was doing 45min/km, although I think overall for the 3 mile climb I averaged very slightly quicker than that.
Eventually I got to the top, and then the long bumpy descent which was slightly more fun, but I was still feeling totally exhausted. I finally crossed the line after 29.2 miles and 6:18 – just 12 mins before the cut-off, although they apparently extended that by about 3 hours.
Overall it was a great race, I just started it in a complete mess – I’d have struggled anywhere the way I felt, the mountain just made it even worse. In the sunshine and on fresh legs it’d be an amazing race – and it’s already on my provisional list for next year.
Christ on a bike that was hard. I felt pretty good for the first mile, but then the hills from the Piece of Cake the day before hit me. I trudged around feeling pretty dead for 20 miles, and extremely dead for the last 6. It was a shame as it's a nice race, put on by Malc Collins, but I was in no state to do it justice. Ground it out tho, number 84 in the bag:-)