It's been such a long time since I went to the British coast for a run and even longer for an Endurance Life event. Shameful really. I did several EL events years ago and really loved them and the only thing that put me off was that they are all so far away from West London that it does not seem worth it to trek out there. However I have decided that they are really worth the effort getting there. Even the ones in Wales.
Holyhead has a chip shop for every five houses which made carb loading the night before quite simple. We stayed in a B&B just a short distance from the start at a sailing club where the huge Endurance Life tents and registration area was. These events have certainly grown in the past efw years, there will be over 600 people running in the half marathon/10k/marathon and ultra.
There were only 50 or so starting the 32 mile ultra which consisted of the marathon followed by the 10k loop at the end. We were told we were to climb the "mountain" of Anglesey. It didn't look that big though but then it was quite far away. It was nearly a disasterous start for Jen Bradley who managed to lock her Garmin and was unable to get it to start. It's hard to imagine how anyone can do a run without a big beeeping contraption telling them how slow they are moving. Anyway all was averted as someone knew the magic combination to get it working.
Kris Duffy was here too, he is taking part in all 7 EL coastal events because there is a special T-shirt for doing so. He likes dorky things like that. The 50 or so of us started down a road into a car park and then onto the lovely trail of Anglesey.
I was wearing three layers. I think this was a record. I don't think I have ever worn three layers. Within a few minutes I was roasting and had to faff around with my bag to get by coat back into it and the entire field overtook me. It was windy and overcast as we plodded through some fields and then onto the rocks of the coastal path. I was wearing the NB minimus again which had faired well for 43 miles last weekend but was a little worried that they might not be as comfortable on sharp rocks. Jen had opted for a pair of canoes which were great for sailing across puddles.
The rain switched on and off all say, there was loads of great trail, some road that my shoes also struggled on. I have this theory that if I smash my feet on hard surfaces in minimal shoes it might strengthen my calves and feet like hill training would, without the hills. I suspect I will actually have to do some hill training at some point as I am still really shit at going up and even worse at coming down. If there is anyone out there who can make me a black belt downhill runner in 8 weeks, preferably in the sytle ofMr Miagi then please get in touch.
I felt pretty good running on my own and was amazed at just how well the route was marked. I did not take a map but every twist and turn had an arrow saying exactly where to go, it was impossible to get lost. I did try once but that would have involved jumping off a cliff so I knew I was going wrong. I was overtaken by Richard Webster who was 2nd in the marathon (I thought he was 1st cos I didn't believe that the guy who overtook ages before was in the marathon) and then later by Ian Corless (who I said was in 3rd but he was in 4th). Ian has just launched an Ultra Podcast Talkultra with Ian Sharman which looks cool. I was also very pleased to hear that Richard has sent off his entry for the Spartathlon this year too. It's going to be an awesome race for the Brits. And the boys are going to win this time.
The "Mountain" was much harder than anticipated the second time. I had left Jen and ran on, feeling pretty good at halfway and suprised it was going so fast. She said "say hello to Kris when you catch him, he always sets out too fast". I thought I would but after about 20 miles I had a bit of a down but perked up a little when the route joined the half marathon course. They had 6 miles left and were all moving quicker than I was. Then there was the second climb of the mountain that coincided with the really heavy wind and rain. Going up was hard, coming down was harder again, the wind actually pushing us back up the hill and the rain hitting like bullets. There were lots of coastguards up there making sure none of us got into any trouble. After that is was a long hard descent to the marathon finish, which I had to ignore to going round and do the 10k loop in addition.
I did not have a finish time in mind as I had no idea how hard this would be but I would have liked to have finished in 6 hours so that I had time at the end to faff a bit and not have to rush to get into town for the talk about LANY I was giving later. I was following the arrows for the 10k which were the same as the Marathon and started to get paranoid that I was going to end up doing the marathon again. I was completely alone out there. Fortunately I hit the checkpoint which signalled 3 miles to go, via that nasty mountain again.
But this time it was easy though hours of pounding hard rocks with little on my feet felt like I'd been wandering around lots in barefoot treading on lego. I think it's cos my feet are not hard enough yet. Give them time. Feeling the ground beneath your feet is wonderful, apart from when there's lego on it.
I crawled in in a time of 6.33, not far from last and way behind Kris. I had to rush a bit to get back to the B&B and then on to talk about what I did last summer.
I have not really done public speaking before and I still can't really believe that people would be that interested in what I've done. I love banging on about it and can talk to death in the pub to my friends but it still suprised me that people who don't know me would sit down and listen to what I have to say. I was a bit nervous about it but think I have enough silly tales to at least raise a giggle in the audience. I think it went well (despite Ian and Gemma telling me I "ummed" all the time) It was great talking for Endurance Life and no doubt I will come back and tell them how I lost an eye or a limb in Barkley later this year.
It was really good to meet the other talkers too. Gary spoke about a brilliant event in Sweden called the OtillO which involves running and swimming from island to island. Billy Isherwood then gave a great talk about his battle with alcoholism and how he was written off by his doctors before taking up marathon running and eventually running the Atacama Crossing. Dave Cornthwaite came on last to talk about all the mad things he has done, skateboarding across Australia, paddle boarding down the Mississippi and dating 100 girls in 100 days. Gemma was less than impressed with me suggesting I might try to break one of those records.
Anyway, great weekend with great race organisation and friends and a wake up call to do some hill training.
And I wish my proper trail shoes would f****G arrive.