Last time round I was sorely hampered through not having the right trainers. There had been plenty of rain in the lead-up to the event and the coastal path was a glorified slip ’n slide and I was not sporting adequate grip to deal with it, so this time round I had my Cheviot’s to cut through even the worst that could be thrown at me by the course.
I was determined that in this race I would not be last, with the 'lantern rouge' being the dubious honour for someone else. I was also looking forward to being able to run the section south of Little Haven on the coastal path (the section that had the beating of me last time through the footwear issue) and to taking off as much time from last year’s as I possibly could to show the course what I am more realistically capable of.
With the duff weather so far this year there were to be changes to the course from before. Gone was the 10k loop through Broad Haven to the north (and mercifully the hill that separates the Little and Broad Havens) with the extra distance being put on the southerly section of the course: The ultra runners doing two laps of the Dale peninsular to the mere one for us marathoners. The half marathon was to loop back on itself from just over 10k south of Little Haven along the route of the marathon course, with the 10k runners being bussed to their start point on the coastal path and all running home.
On the Friday night after dining on the food of champions: a large doner kebab with chillies, I made the drive westwards to the location, paying my 'Taff tax' on the bridge in to Wales (to enter Wales you must pay, but to escape it is free) and parked-up in Broad Haven to kip for the night in the same car park as last year.
Facing a good mile's walk to the event base in the next village up and over a large hill, as soon as I woke I left to register, munching some pre-race fuel of flapjack on the way. As I climbed the hill I could see signs for ‘event parking’ with marshals directing cars in to a field on the crest… Making a mental note I carried on down to the village hall and signed-in before making the return trek to the van and driving back up to the top once more to park, breakfast and change.
|Not a bad view for a car park.|
|James doing an 'I'm a little teapot' impersonation during his countdown.|
|Follow the leader.|
|For the chance to run this!|
|Some trail porn.|
|Looking back at those yet to overtake me.|
Having gone through the first checkpoint by St. Bride's churchyard and heading south across fields and farmland I was aware of the distinct lack of sheep around - there were plenty of signs of sheep having been there, but it seems they'd all been squirrelled away by the locals fearing the invasion of interlopers from outside, after all these cliff-top dwelling sheep are highly prized and sought after as they know from being close to the cliff edges how to dig their hooves in and push backwards.
The fields and paths gave way to the abandoned and derelict WWII airfield RAF Dale, with us running down its westerly edge then across the south, continually buffeted by the winds off the sea as we headed off on to the main difference from last year: the circuit of the Dale peninsular.
|Watwick Point Beacon looming large.|
|Milford Haven on the horizon.|
It was assistance from France rather than an invasion that is commemorated shortly after the Blockhouse on our run around the peninsular. The path overlooking Mill Bay carries a plaque noting the site of Henry VII and his landing from exile in France and the commencement of his march forth to defeat Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field.
|The plaque in question.|
You can rent out the control tower of the lighthouse for your holidays as the building has been converted into two cottages - with the tower commanding terrific views in clear weather.
|The control tower.|
|The 'street' for sale.|
As you passed the sign for the start of the 10k race, you could not fail to gain a psychological boost knowing you were closing in on the finish, entering in to the last quarter of the run. This final section run entirely on the cliff tops with the cracking views that this afforded. Ok it was pretty much the same route as we had run on our way out, but seeing it from this different perspective made it seem entirely new.
|More trail porn.|
|A bemused on-looker.|
|The blooming bluebells.|
It turned out he was an ultra runner - how gutting would that be to lose yourself completely after 35 miles and in sight of the finish?
Across the field and a few twists, turns, ups and downs and the finish line was in sight, with people lounging around on the grass soaking up some of the afternoon sun to applaud us tardy of finishers home - welcome sight and experience as always.
My legs felt pretty fresh, but my feet felt battered, the former probably because of the latter but taking a positive I'm hoping that's a good sign for coping with the extra distance of the Classic Quarter Ultra next month. I collected my bag from the drop and hobbled in to the sea like a fully clothed Reggie Perrin. The tide was out to its furthest extent as I waded in up to my knees to give my calves and feet a good soak as I figured an ice-cold saline bath might help to clean out any damaged areas.
|Looking back on Little Haven from in the sea.|
Upon arrival I attempted to upload the run from my Garmin, only to find it had corrupted so I had lost all my data :( I know my finish time and I also know that for mile 22 I put in a good low 11 minute time for that from looking at the Garmin as it ticked over, but everything else: nada! From looking up the problem on the Garmin site its a frequent glitch that people experience - an activity refuses to upload through corruption and the only way to cure is a master re-set. Of late I have had difficulty picking up satellite signals with it, so probably both are tied together.
I felt pretty strong in the latter stages of the race and that 22 mile time is a huge boost to my confidence and I am sure that without the continual pain from every step of the 27.9 miles I would have been quicker. That said, I owed this course a proper running to show what I am more capable of on the terrain. I may only have come in 74th of 97 finishers in 5:44:40, however I’m confident that I would easily have been 15 minutes faster without the feet problem which certainly held me back, and regardless I was over an hour faster than before - even if over a slightly different course and certainly a marked improvement on 3rd last - only beating 2 ladies who walked the whole route!
For the record, here's the lovely sight of my burst blistered insteps:
On the eclectic shuffle I had the following accompany me home:
Weather Storm - Craig Armstrong
Dry County - The B-52’s
That Man - Caro Emerald
Vamos - The Pixies
Plastic Man - The Kinks
No Other Love - Blue Amazon
Why Won’t you Give me your Love - The Zutons
Strange News from Another Star - Blur
Darkside of the Moon - Ernesto & Bastian
When You’re in Love - The Proclaimers
Country Boys and City Girls - The Fratellis
Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites - Skrillex
Nice Guys Finish Last - Green Day
Embarrassment - Madness
Never Wake Up - Sum 41
Je te Reve Encore - KYO
Echoes - Marco V
Walk in Love - Energy Orchard
Lonesome Tonight - New Order
Spectators of Suicide - Manic Street Preachers
Promises - Sugababes
Digital - Joy Division