We drove up from London on Friday – Gemma and I being driven by Kris, with James following on later by train. As we drove into Wales we were hit by the onslaught of what Wales seems to do best – wet weather – and I had a horrible memory of running last June in the Welsh Castles’ Relay where the Sunday I got there to run there was horizontal rain (the Saturday was lovely and sunny). Though this time as we neared Anglesey it dried up. Kris was staying off the Island (so, to his delight, got to travel back through Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch ) leaving Gemma and I to catch up over dinner in Holyhead. The main reason anyone goes to Holyhead is usually to leave – by boat to Ireland – and with its port and small town it felt a little as though we’d walked into a ‘The League of Gentlemen’ sketch. Though actually the food in the one restaurant was ok; request for peppermint tea answered with a ‘do you have milk with that?’ but burgers fine and gluten-free for Gemma. After dinner we met James at the station – Holyhead station rather than the other, mysteriously named ‘Gormaf Station’ that James remarked seemed odd to be so close by.
I was up about 6am with the sound of the wind, then after a quick breakfast out for a lift to the start of my first Endurance Life event. I’d signed up for one in December but had to pull out because of my foot injury so it was good to finally get to one. They were well-organised (I was impressed by the sleek operation) and soon there were about 80 people ready to start the Ultra; 32 miles mainly on the coastal path and over Holyhead mountain.
We set off and Kris had been joking about how every time he’s run with me he pelts off and I see him later on walking so he was determined to pace this one better. James seemed in good spirits too and the crowd were a friendly bunch of nearly all men (I counted 5 women on the ultra start). As we set off I felt great; comfortable in my Hokas and with my new, smaller Raidlight bag. As we turned to run along the coast and head up the hill (it really wasn’t a mountain by my standards – I think it‘s about 500m) the wind hit and it was energy-sapping. I let James and Kris go on ahead as I struggled a bit, feeling like I was being buffeted and blown around. Also, once near the top, I was unconfident in my new-ish trainers, the technical sections of trail made me wish I’d worn something with more grip that I could feel the rocks better with, though as I went on I did gain confidence and once I adjust to the feeling of running on such a thick sole I’ll be flying in them. As it was I pretty gingerly made it down the hill for the very pretty route by the sea.
The waves and wind were blowing up foam so every now and again we were hit by bubbles. There was some road and I picked up the pace a little – loving the bounce of the Hokas. James who had stopped to faff with his jacket caught up with me on the grassy section in his New Balance minimus trainers and I was pretty amazed at how he didn’t just slide everywhere in the wet. Ah yes the Welsh weather did its best but there were just a couple of light showers. The wind was unrelenting and I didn’t really notice it behind us except once when I tried to get propelled along and turn into a kite with my arms out. It didn’t really work and I just looked a bit daft.
I plodded round and just as I was thinking what a well sign-posted and marked route this was… I ended up in a random housing estate devoid of any runners or signs; backtracking I could see runners in the distance and couldn’t believe I’d been so silly. After that I started getting a sore back – right in the base of my spine – and knew I was just going to have to jog round slowly. At the 20 mile point I met up with Gemma who was doing the half mara (actually 15 miles) she looked strong and cheery, especially compare to my plodding, and she was surprised to see me. We said hi and I watched her go into the distance whilst I was working out just how long another 12 miles would take me. I had a train to get at 3pm to Hale to see my family for my birthday dinner, finishing in 6 hrs that was just doable, anything over and I’d be very late for dinner… Then as I got to the 24 mile point the leader of the ultra passed me, the last 10k of the ultra was tagged onto the marathon (so also the first 10k we’d done) and I was filled with the dread of going over the hill again in the wind and rain so when at the 27 mile point I came to a fork with signs pointing one way to ‘finish marathon’ and the other ‘Ultra last 10k’ it became very sensible to finish. So I did a hilly trail marathon in just over 5 hours and then had to run to the b&b for a quick shower, grab my bag and run to the train – making it by about 2 minutes. That added in about 2 more miles so I started to feel ok about not finishing the ultra. The tag-line for Endurance life events is ‘never never never give up’ which is great though you’d think they’d make the ultra route harder to give up on; in this case I was just glad to have made the train and then get a text from Gem to say I was 3rd lady in the mara and that Kris had kept to his good pace and finished 8th in the ultra – a great result. James also finished the Ultra and was part of the entertainment later giving a talk on his LA-NY run, which I couldn’t stay for but will hear in a couple of weeks.
So Saturday finished with a great Indian meal in Hale with the family and a nice Sunday starting with a 10 mile recovery run with my Mum – who is, along with the whole family, training for the Greater Manchester marathon at the end of April – it was her longest run and I was very proud to run with her. Then a quick lunch with birthday presents and off to meet the others on the M6 to head down south.