Archives for May 2016

Edinburgh Marathon 2016

EVH

Lesser spotted Erme Valley Harrier (Slower variety)

A couple of days ago I had the privilege of running in the second largest marathon in the UK, the Edinburgh Marathon. There were over 6550 finishers in a race based in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It was fairly expensive at £20 more than the London Marathon in 2016, but it was well organised and had a lovely slightly rolling route with some gorgeous views.

Edinburgh is still a long way behind the London Marathon in size, but it does try to attract folk by offering a refund if you enter early and then get accepted into the London Marathon later in the year. It also sells out every year, so enter early!

It had been a while since I last visited Edinburgh and I really enjoyed walking around the city the day before. We covered about 8 miles wandering about, hardly a good taper, but it was well worth it. We enjoyed quirky shops, some lovely views and great food.

The race itself has two starts with colour coded areas depending on your predicted finishing time. This colour was evident all over the race numbers, as well as the number showing the name of the road you would start in and your name. The finish was several miles away in Musselburgh, so the organiser allowed you to drop your bag in a lorry at the start which would take it to the finish. There were also plenty of portaloos (still not enough. Are there ever enough?) and a tannoy in each road keeping competitors informed of timing and the race count down.

DSC_0038 DSC_0037

When the race started the roads were wide enough so that there was plenty of room. It felt busy, but not over crowded, with runners thinning out as the race progressed. It started by weaving around the streets of Edinburgh, past Holyrood, the Royal Mile and Arthur’s Seat before heading along the coast until mile 17 when it turned back on itself down a compact trail and back onto the main road to the finish at Musselburgh. Here glory and a heavy medal awaited, along with a bit of a rubbish tech T and a very light goody bag.

You then need to get back to Edinburgh and your car/hotel/family. The event laid on shuttle buses which took 45 minutes, or you could walk the 1.7 miles to the local train station. It only runs once an hour though and is a small train in high demand, so be wary of that when making your choice. If anyone has driven out to meet you then they will find the traffic in Musselburgh mostly stationary on the race day afternoon with very little available parking. The organisers do warn that there is no Musselburgh parking for racers and their supporters, so do use the public transport options.

In summary Edinburgh is a fast course based in a gorgeous city. It is accessible and fun to take part in and is an event that I would highly recommend if road marathons are your thing.

My race

That’s the race summary over with, now what was my experience like?

I am fortunate in that my sister-in-law lives in Edinburgh, so I had somewhere local to stay at zero cost. My wife and I spent the day looking around Edinburgh on the Saturday and everyone was primed to come and see me finish on the Sunday. I ate my usual breakfast, picked up my drop bag and was given a lift to within a mile of the start. Edinburgh seemed to soak up the extra people and traffic well and the roads were quiet as we drove the two miles in.

My plan was pretty simple:

  • Portaloo
  • Bag drop
  • Portaloo
  • Race

The portaloos were spread alongside the start areas, with the ones nearest the bag drop being the busiest. I started walking towards the quieter portaloos further along as there were plenty without a queue at this stage, approx 40 minutes before the race start. I was wandering along looking about when I heard “Richard?” I looked up and there was T, a very fast runner that I know from my triathlon days. He was here to do his first ever marathon and hopefully bag a competitive place for the 2017 London Marathon. We chatted for a bit before I resumed my plan and stepped into a portaloo.

Next I made my way to the bag drop where I sorted my stuff. It was a chilly overcast morning, but the sun would be coming out later. I was dressed in my Erme Valley Harrier running vest, shorts and Brooks Launch road shoes. I was already shivering so I donned my bin bag to keep the heat in, bumped into another couple of guys from Plymouth, put my bag into its allocated section (by race number) on a lorry and headed back to the portaloo. While in the queue I ate a honey stinger waffle with 20 minutes to go. The toilet queues were moving really slowly and I finally stepped into my pen with less than five minutes to spare.

My race plan was simple. I was in better shape than ever before, although I was not totally fresh. It was only the end of May and already I had run 4 marathons and 3 ultra marathons in 2016, including the Ox Marathon just 7 days before in hard conditions. That notwithstanding I planned as if I had tapered perfectly. I would run to perceived effort in the first half of the race, getting as far as I comfortably could before the sun was due to peak out from behind the clouds later in the day. Once the sun came out and I started to tire then it would be time for the really hard work, doing all I could to maintain the pace to the finish line. Along the way I would collect gels from every aid station that I could as well as a mouthful or two of water at each one. I would not be walking the aid stations and I would be aiming to beat my PB of 3:39:12 set last year at The Dartmoor Vale Marathon. I was defying good racing convention by planning a positive split based on experience of what has worked best for me in the past.

The two minute countdown came and went. I checked my shoe laces, made sure that my small bum bag (containing mobile, £20 and two emergency gels) was in the right place, and rolled my shoulders as I waited. 30 seconds, then the 10 second countdown. BANG! We shuffled forward with everyone breaking into a trot and starting their watches as they went over the timing mat.

Folk spread out and there was very little mad swerving in my group (Yellow) and it all felt very sedate. I got a good look at Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat before we headed to the coast. I glanced periodically at my watch, to check that I wasn’t being over exuberant or lulled into running too slowly. My pace was fluctuating between 7 and 8 minute miles, bang on target. The front of my right hip felt a little sore due to too much racing in the last few months, but I had expected that and ignored it. A small child was holding up a picture of a mushroom from Nintendo’s Mario with the words “press here to power up” written next to it. I “pressed here.” I don’t think I turned down the opportunity for a single high-5 on route. I swear that they help, and it makes the kids, and occasional old lady, very happy as well as speeding me up for a step or two 🙂

Onto the coast I looked up and saw a Plymouth Harrier’s Vest in front of me. I made a flippant comment as I drew alongside and ran the next 7 or 8 miles chatting with the Plymouth Harrier,  D, who was good company and despite the occasional complaint of feeling tired seemed to be doing an effortless job of moving forward.

10km came and went in 46 minutes. The half marathon came and went in one hour 38 minutes. I still felt pretty good, although my hips were getting stiffer and the miles coming harder as I started to push through miles 15, 16 and 17. I had already consumed my emergency gels and was grabbing extra wherever I could on the course. My pace had yet to slow, but I knew things would get worse in the last 10 km. No matter who you are the last 10km of a marathon are an exercise in suffering and pushing your body as hard as you can. At one stage I saw the race leaders glide by seemingly effortlessly in the opposite direction. I became very aware of the mile markers, but they were still coming and going pretty quickly. I passed the 30km mark in 2 hours and 21 minutes still on target and with some “fat” in my schedule. I looked down at my wrists. I have “Never Given Up” tattooed on the right one. I nodded at it. On the left I had a temporary tatto from the Organisers of The Oner that said “Be More Brutal.” I grunted at that, dialled the perceived effort up to 9.5 and cranked on.

There were pipers at the start and a couple of bands drumming and playing out on the course. All were excellent and made me smile. I tried to give them all a grimmace and a thumbs up to know that this runner for one appreciated their presence. With about four miles to go and the sun blazing down on me I walked an aid station, shovelling in a gel, a handful of jelly babies and then mugging a Salvation Army man for his store of Jelly Beans before starting to run again. My form clunky and my pace slowing step by step as I ground onwards. I was still on track for a PB by a substantial margin.

1 mile to go and with the perceived effort at 9.7 I pushed onwards. Then disaster. CRAMP. My left calf locked up, I eased it out while still running and then the right one went, then a muscle in the back of my left knee made me swear with the sudden pain and rock to a stop. I had only one option, to stretch it out. The pain eased off and I started running again in a clumsy gait trying to find an unused muscle that I had yet to exhaust. As soon as I started to lift the pace both calf muscles went again and I stopped again. I stretched, looked at my watch and ran the numbers in the head. I might still get a 3:30:0 but it was going to be tight. With around 400 yards to go I looked at my tattoos, gritted my teeth and ran. Both calf muscles tried to lock, the backs of both knees felt like they had razor blades in them and I pushed on. Perceived effort smashing against the red line as I came into the finishing straight. I was lurching like a zombie and weaving like a drunk quazimodo, but moving ever closer to the finish line.

I stopped the clock at 3:30:01 and a PB of 9 minutes and 11 seconds. It was all I could do to bow my head and collect my medal as I staggered off towards the bag drop. I bumped into T again, who had also been clobbered by the heat and cramp. He still managed an awesome sub 3-hour marathon though. D had also finished in front of me in a wonderful performance, strong to the finish.

My support crew had been held up due to the earlier trains to Musselburgh being full, so I wandered over to collect my bag, creakily got changed and walked the 1.7 miles to meet them at the train station. I was wary that if we missed the 14:45 train then the next one, an hour later, would be a lot busier. We got onto the train ok, then it hit me. I was exhausted. The heat of the train caused me to sweat profusely and as we went to get off I collapsed into a seat, dizzy and nauseous. What was going on with me? I staggered off the train, onto the platform and lay down. My wife and friends looked on nervously, so I opened one eye and reassured them that I was ok. One went to fetch me a bottle of water. The cool ground helped and my body temperature stabilised. My blood pressure also levelled out and I realised that I had mild heatstroke. The next couple of hours were spent poking fluids into me. I was still fine when walking around in cool air, but as soon as I went inside and the temperature got warmer the sweating and nausea would return.

Slowly I returned to normal and started to feel ravenous. I had a burger and felt a lot better. I continued to take on fluids and was soon back at my sister-in-laws munching on jerky amongst other things and continuously sipping on a glass of water. I soon felt well enough to have a bath and drink a cup of coffee. It was then that I noticed the shape of a race vest seared into my body by the sun. I am normally so careful about looking after my skin, but I had totally forgotten that while running in a race vest my shoulders would be that much more exposed than normal. The power of the Edinburgh sun had completely caught me out.

Final thoughts

To be honest I don’t like running like this, despite setting a significant new PB. I shall try to explain why.

I had purposefully gone to Edinburgh to run myself into the ground and set a new PB. This meant an acknowledgement on some level that I would physically push myself harder than my body can cope with. I hoped that this wouldn’t have any negative side affects, but there would be no guarantee.  This was the first time I have ever suffered from heatstroke and I have competed in endurance events in a wide variety of conditions. I usually prioritise looking after myself above everything else so that I will live to race another day.

If the sun hadn’t come out from behind the clouds then I would have got away with it more easily, and I probably would not have brought this up. The sun did come out though and I was not willing to compromise. To be honest I didn’t even think about it until after the race when I observed the heatstroke and the sunburn. Until that point I was so busy pushing myself onwards that I didn’t notice.

My personal preference is to enjoy myself and to push my mind much more than my body, hence a tendency to run “hard” trail marathons and ultra marathons or to compete in events like Ironman. In these events you have to look after yourself or you wont make it to the finish. If you like to race as often as I do then you have to look after yourself or risk failing to turn up at the start of a subsequent race or races. I also want to do everything I can to ensure that I come home from every race or expedition to my family.

Next up I have the Giants Head Marathon, The Dorset Invader Marathon and the Bad Cow Weekender before heading off to Iceland 🙂 Expect slower times and some beautiful pictures of the Wiltshire countryside.

The Ox Marathon 2016

Yesterday I got up bright and early and drove two hours over to Wiltshire and the Rushmore Park Golf Club for the start of the 2016 Ox Marathon. It is organised by White Star Running, much like the Larmer Tree Marathon that I took part in a few weeks ago. It was in similar terrain albeit a very different route. The previous few weeks of rain had made the ground a lot softer than the Larmer Tree race, and thanks to local troubles the courses for the ultra and the marathon races were totally new for this year. This had all been done rather last minute, which gave me a small amount of concern in terms of the quality of the route and the level of appropriate signage to keep the runners on track.

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

This was only my second White Star Running event and I needn’t have worried. The signage was exceptional, and the course challenging and beautiful in equal measure. Andy and his team proved more than up to the challenge. There was around 950m of ascent and the course was near enough bang on marathon distance. The terrain could be described as rolling with a few sharp ups, however for the conditions this time mud definitely needs a mention. There were some very soft areas that went on for extended periods of the time, with the worst of them coming in the last 10km. With about 5 miles to go we were presented with a long steep up covered in very thick and gloopy mud. It was littered with the bodies of half marathon runners begging to be put out of their misery. I did my part, lied to them about how they were nearly there and it all being downhill from just around the corner and trudged on.

The final kick in the proverbials was the last mile which featured around 100m of ascent. What a way to finish a hard race. I saw someone coming up behind me and managed to run quite a lot of it which left me a dribbling dizzy mess as I crossed the finish line to collect my medal. And what an awesome medal it is. I then spent some time lying down in a field before wolfing down a punnet of chips, getting changed and heading for home.

My experience

I think that gives you an essence of what the race was like, but it doesn’t in any way get across what it is like to compete in a long distance trail race. After doing lots of trail marathons and a few ultras over the years I tend to know a good few faces out on the course, so most of it is like a running reunion. I bump into faces I know, catchup and then pace changes so we part ways and I’ll bump into someone else and it will repeat. Often I meet new people and most are happy to chat. Quite often I will see someone wearing a technical T-shirt from a race I have either entered or want to enter, so a reason for a chat is right there. Long distance trail runs mostly seem to be about gossiping and talking bollocks. All great fun and it makes some of the hardest miles simply vanish. If all else fails there is always the weather to talk about and this time it didn’t disappoint. A mostly dry forecast was disrupted by a brief, but heavy shower just a few miles in. You know the sort, just enough to drench you to your undies before it vanishes off leaving you with a feeling of “well that was useful!” (note sarcasm, it wasn’t actually useful other than providing a conversation topic for later in the day.)

On one occasion a chap asked me how I found the Ivybridge 10k (the technical T-shirt I was wearing.) It was the same chap I had asked about Hope 24 a few miles earlier (The technical T-shirt he was wearing.) It turned out we are in the same running club, The Erme Valley Harriers, and only lived 10 miles apart. I pondered this later in the day as I have observed that no matter where I race I will bump into another Erme Valley Harrier and they will ultimately trounce me in any given race. This time I pipped him by 3 minutes, but it was by luck more than judgement and I’m sure he could have smashed me if he wanted to but he was too busy enjoying the beautiful scenery.

I had a lovely long chat with a chap called Jim who was in his 100 marathon club T-Shirt. He was 59 and on his 157th marathon. I caught him because his feet were playing up. He had forgotten his orthotics and was stuffing the heel of his shoe with grass. A few miles later he declared that it seemed to have worked, after giving me a few tips for Edinburgh Marathon, and ended up finishing just a few minutes behind me. I hope I can run that well when I am 59!

Well, that sort of describes what I find most trail races to be like, but what about White Star Running events. Well with signs 23 miles in saying things like “You paid for this. LOL!” and checkpoints like the Lovestation, what is not to like? That only scratches the surface. on top of that the race entry is pretty reasonable, the medals the best I have come across, the signage simply excellent, and the sense of humour pervasive throughout. Something fun always seems to happen, like the guy who followed the route signage instead of the event signage to get to the car park and ended up wedging his blue transit van several miles into a small muddy lane. It was still there when I ran around it a couple of hours later.

When I got to the Lovestation at 20 miles in I noticed a curious bottle on the table and asked what drinks were on offer. The lady replied “well, there’s cider, water, orange squash, blackcurrant squash, or that bottle is peach rum.” After a shot of peach rum and with a pleasantly warm feeling in my belly I shot off for the next mile, floating over puddles and around mud. I was deliriously happy and all was right in the world. After bout another 20 yards I covered all the symptoms of being hungover in about 5 interminable minutes. It was totally worth it though 😉

The last 10km really were rather brutal given all that had gone before. The elevation profile doesn’t show it to be any worse than the rest of the course, however in reality the thick mud combined with the steep hills and tired legs made it particularly hard. I slogged on though and crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 55 minutes with 53rd place out of 169 finishers. I was very happy with that and hopefully I haven’t pushed myself so hard that I can’t put in a good showing at the Edinburgh Marathon in a few days time.

Putting the chimp back in its box

Chimp Paradox

Chimp Paradox

When looking at the mental aspect of endurance sport few make this complex topic make sense more than Professor Steve Peters in his book The Chimp Paradox. Prof Steve talks about the chimp that we all have inside us. This is the internal voice that is designed to keep you alive. It is loud, powerful and extremely fast to react. It is the voice that makes you angry instantly, the voice that makes you give up and the voice that haves you wondering later “why did I say that” or “why did I do that.” Prof Steve’s book is all about understanding this voice, and managing and effectively “boxing the chimp.” The idea being to make the chimp a positive effect on your life as it is also one of the things that makes you feel good when you finish a race or accomplish a feat, it rewards you when people cheer you on and given the right incentive can get you to that seemingly unreachable finish line. If you want to read more below is a link to his book on Amazon.

Prof Steve Peters explains it far better than I ever could, and if he ever read this he would probably laugh at some of my interpretations of his detailed works. Of course, as part of his role as Team Sky Psychologist he is used to endurance athletes saying stupid things.

The reason for this article is that last year my chimp got out of its box and I had a ridiculously high failure rate in my races. Some I failed to start and quite a few I failed to finish. The low point was getting a mere 18 miles into the Roseland August Trail (RAT)  Ultra Plague in August 2015 before I timed out. I had done many training runs longer than that and had never been so slow. I tapered appropriately, had done the miles and my body was in fine form. Unfortunately my mind was not in such good shape. I had to do something about it.

I wanted to carry on racing and running. I wanted to start AND finish the events that I had signed up for and I knew that I could do more. I hit the books and tried to figure out how to get out of my rut. The next three weeks transformed me back into the runner that I wanted to be, but it would be some time before I realised the power of what I had achieved. Now, in May 2016, I am going from strength to strength and ticking off events that had previously left me broken and miserable. I implemented tools that I had dismissed before as gimmicks and was surprised at just how effective they were.

So, it’s three o’clock in the morning and you have been moving forwards since midnight and a voice pops up in your head. “You’re rubbish, you’re a quitter, and you are from a generation of quitters. Give up, go home and wallow in your inferiority!” That’s the voice that made me slow down and fail in the RAT. It was illogical, unreasonable, but oh so very loud. The chimp was out, it was raging and I had no tools to calm it down. Fortunately I already had a copy of The Chimp Paradox (paperback and on audio) and a few days after the RAT I was listening to it on my phone while on a training run. It made sense, but I still didn’t know how to put into practice. I needed examples, and I found a few more books and devoured the following (on audio while running) in the weeks after failing the RAT:

The Ultra Mindset by Travis Macy

Travis Macy is an endurance athlete and adventure racer of epic proportions, and I quite enjoyed this one. Some of the things he has done are almost unfathomable to us mortals, but they put my small challenges into perspective.

The Art of Mental Training: A Guide to Performance Excellence by D C Gonzalez

D C Gonzalez is a performance coach and vastly experienced. I found this book very powerful and it is also fairly short at 3 hours on audio. The first time listening to it really buoyed me up.

I enjoyed both of the above, but also took in some not quite so useful books Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: Techniques for retraining your brain was full of good science, but so dull I could not finish it. Probably a great one for academics though. A Survival Guide for Life by Bear Grylls was the opposite, lacking in depth for my purposes, but still a good listen if you want somewhere to start.

After getting through the above I felt that I was making progress and I needed a “safe” place to practice the skills I had learnt i.e. to use my new mental toolkit. Enter Equinox 24, a laid back and friendly 24 hour race in the grounds of Belvoire Castle near Grantham in the UK. Equinox 24 is a race very similar in ethos to Hope 24, but far enough away from home that I would have some space away from friends and other runners that I may know. This meant there was no pressure to perform. I could simply run.

The premise of the race is to simply run as many laps as you can in 24 hours with Equinox being on a 10km course and Hope being on a 5 mile course. My goal was simple: to enjoy the race. I had never run such an event solo before so I had no previous time to beat and no friends nearby that I felt I had to impress. In other words I had the physical training, the mental training and a race with no pressure to put it all together in. Due to the lapped nature of the course I never had to worry overly about drink or nutrition as I only ever have to carry enough to get around a single lap. I had everything I needed in place and to hand, and I was ready to run.

What were the tools that I used?

One of the hard bits about the mental aspects of training is that works for me may not work for you, but one of the key tenets of Chimp management is basically accepting that the world is not fair, that stuff goes wrong. If you accept this then when something bad happens you simply deal with it and move on and your chimp does not go ballistic. This was my starting point and on top of that I had a few other things to help me along such as three different mantras for use at different times. Mantras are good for distracting your chimp and effectively drowning it out. My main mantra for Equinox was “One more lap” so whenever my chimp threw up a negative thought I would respond with “one more lap” before we can have a small break, eat something, drink something, change shoes etc. Always just “one more lap.” My other mantras are personal to me and once you have yours they will be specific to you, and they will change over time.

I knew from past experience the negative thoughts that would hamper me, so I could put processes in place to counter them in advance. I was also content when things started to go badly to simply walk or stop for a bit. On one occasion I walked a lap and then bedded down for a two hour sleep before resuming. It was then 2am and I put in a couple of good laps before slowing again. I walked another lap and stopped for a bacon butty (two actually!) before resuming. I listened to an entire audio book through the night and then enjoyed moving through dawn. Towards the end of the race it was time for my pièce de résistance. I put my headphones in, turned on the dance music and finished with my fastest lap of the race. I had travelled over 82 miles and was 33rd out of 142 runners. Where had that come from? I was just enjoying myself!!!

The impact of what I have achieved from this mental training and Equinox 24 is still becoming apparent to me in early 2016. My chimp still throws up negative thoughts but it is as if they are muted. During an event my chimp has become a co-conspirator who, while often negative can now be talked around to become and actually eems to help me to the finish. I have finished two ultra distance events already this year that beat me last year. The most significant being The Oner which has defeated me two years in a row, but this year I finished it strongly coming 38th out of nearly 100 starters in a field where around 50% gave up and went home.

Through a technical mistake my watch was vibrating every mile during the Oner and to my mind it never stopped vibrating. The miles just vanished underneath me and I had none of the mental lows that had slowed me in previous years. In fact towards the end I ran the sums in my head and had the time, so I simply walked it in, soaking up the views and enjoying myself. I am putting in performances that last year I could only have dreamed of and finishing races more strongly than ever before, and it isn’t through better physical training. It is because I have fixed my mind and learnt how to box my chimp.

I am sure that those of you who are struggling may find this article frustrating as I am not simply telling you to do three simple things to improve performance. Instead I am telling you that you need to read some books, understand your own Chimp and learn how to deal with it yourself. It doesn’t take long though. I spend hours and hours each week in physical training and none of this realised its potential until I changed my focus for a month and learnt how to train my Chimp. My chimp is now an asset and not a liability. I also know that the Chimp is so strong that I need to keep on top of it, keep up with the positive reinforcement and not let it run free again. Sure, there are days when it gets out and rages for a bit, but each day I get better at boxing it, and I feel that even though I am 40 this year I am still far from reaching my potential as far as endurance sport goes.

Final thoughts

One argument that I find helps to box my chimp is definitely the use of mantras. For lapped races the “one more lap” works well, but for point to point, or single lap races, I simply say to myself “The faster you move the sooner it will be over.” I am saying this to my chimp and it helps to stop me from slowing to a walk. The Chimp is learning that if it helps to keep me moving that little bit quicker then it is soon rewarded by people clapping, folks telling me “well done,” food, drink, rest and security. It works surprisingly well, but it takes effort. I’m sure that I will still have the occasional bad race, but if I do then I know now how to learn from it, how to deal with it and how to bounce back better.

Some links

Below you can find links to my reports from some of the races mentioned above.

Endurancelife Pembrokeshire CTS Marathon 2016

Somewhere on Dale

Somewhere on Dale

I took part in the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series (CTS) Marathon on Pembrokeshire yesterday (30th April 2016) and it was a perfect example of how good Endurancelife events can be. The weather was glorious with a slightly chilly wind, clear blue skies and most people being surprised by just how hot it got. The grounds was firm under foot and the trails undulating, but the pace of the field was oddly lower than expected. The last time I did this race was in 2012 and it was my first ever Endurancelife CTS event. It smashed me to bits and I hobbled my way into the finish utterly spent. This time I still found it harder than the stats would suggest, but somehow finished pretty well for me, managing to come in the 1st quarter of the field.

The race is long (CTS standard!) at 27.8 miles with a modest 3000ft of ascent (ish). I think it is the way the hills hit that tire you out. None of them are particularly long, but there are a lot of short sharp climbs and they really take it out of you as the day progresses. Even for a CTS event this race features a massive amount of coastline, so you are never far from a spectacular view. The section around the headland of Dale was particularly lovely and remote. The field was also well spread out by then and it was nice to jog along by myself for a bit.

I’ve jumped ahead a little, so back to some admin details. For this event the parking is a small walk and a pretty sharp hill from the registration and start. The parking was in a field between Broad Haven and Little Haven and the ground remained dry, so there were no issues getting in or out. The registration was inside a building, rather than a tent, and flowed smoothly. The toilets were the public toilets in the Little Haven car park which were pretty small, but somebody had thrown extra toilet rolls in the cubicles and they were clean, so nothing to complain about there.

I was pleased to see that James had delegated the race brief off to another member of the crew. James’ race briefs are fine, but he is very busy on race day and he ran late at the last two CTS events that I did (Gower and Dover) which delayed the start of both quite substantially and really quite annoyed me. Delegating the role left James free to co-ordinate every one else and the race started perfectly on time. It all flowed very smoothly and showed Endurancelife operating at their very best.

Endurancelife operating at their very best.

The race started from the slipway in Little Haven and we all dashed off up the hill. I was quite surprised at how fast many people took that first hill. They shot off like they were fired from a cannon. I walked up it and watched the tide of runners flow out. I felt hungry after only a few minutes, so I ate half a Honey Stinger Waffle, followed by the other half a few minutes later. I stepped to the side as I did so to allow people to pass on the rolling single track of the coastal path. After about three miles I felt good and warmed up so I cracked on. People were already puffing hard and starting to slow dramatically. I passed a lot of people between miles 3 and 6. before settling in to my natural race position. For the rest of the race I passed a few of the ultra runners, but rarely saw another marathon runner until a couple that had paced it better than me came past in the last 3 miles.

The aid stations were fine and had more food on display than Endurancelife normally put out. This was great and I was able to grab handfuls of crisps and jelly babies as I bimbled past. The day soon became unexpectedly hot. The preceding days had been cold and windy. I had also just driven down from Scotland, through blizzards and past snow on the ground. I was reasonably well prepared though with my Ultimate Direction PB pack and 2x500ml soft flasks. I drank about 2.5l throughout the race, and was pretty dehydrated afterwards although I doubt I could have fitted much more in as I was starting to slosh….I do use electrolytes in my drink, which definitely helped.

The finish of the race was in a field above Little Haven and it was a welcome sight. Thanks to the good weather there were a lot of people hanging about, cheering the runners in which was most welcome and gave the finish a great atmosphere. Endurancelife are well supported by Cliff Products and I always look forward to my mint Builders Bar at the finish. All that remained was to top up my drinks bottle and hobble my sore legs down the steep hill into Little Haven, and up the steep hill the other side to get to my car.

My final time was 4:45:55 and 21st position of 97 finishers. An unexpectedly high placing in a race that I really enjoyed. I was mullererd at the finish though, and while my pacing was pretty good I still didn’t quite get it right, slowing a lot in the final few miles and losing some places.

Here are some pics taken with my GoPro Here 4 Session.