Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

3rd May: CTS Pembrokeshire... A marathon Spudding session.

Back to where it all began: The Endurancelife CTS Pembrokeshire Marathon.

In October 2012 I ran this as my first ever organised marathon - and it hurt, boy did it hurt! Then it was part of my challenge to myself of running 12 trail marathons in 12 months, something I managed to drag myself across the finishing line in achieving and have not looked-back since.

On that initial marathon, if you discount the 2 middle-aged ladies who set-out early with the ultra runners and walked every step of the way, then I finished dead last with the final few miles spent having to fight the urge to curl-up by the side of the trail and cry like a baby!

Ok so I’ve improved slightly since then and here I am again in the village of Little Haven on the Pembrokeshire coast for another ‘first’… My first marathon as a canicrosser with Spud as my willing companion.

Since LSS & I found Spud in the on-line classified site ’pre-loved’ (his owner was unable to look after him through illness so she put him on there for adoption) he has become a much-loved addition to the family and a very willing running buddy for the 2 of us. In fact running him has been a really good thing to do as it takes the edge off his continual need to be tearing around at 100mph all day every day - being a cross between a border collie and a springer spaniel he seems to have all the energy of the collie combined with the stupidity of the springer… But in a very loveable huggable kind of way!

As soon as he was old enough we have been taking Spud out on increasing distances and he is certainly ready to be taking-on a marathon distance, especially as now at this time of year it is not too hot or cold and the conditions underfoot being trail will not be damaging to his paws.

LSS joined Spud and myself on the 2 & 1/2 hour journey way out west for the day and we parked for the night over in Broad Haven for some kip before waking at dawn and making our way to the event base and registering for the race.

Excitement at the briefing!
Briefed on the jetty in the village centre, once the hooter went we were off and from the back of the pack starting point, Spud and myself deliberately made our way as far up the field as quickly as we could on the ascent out of the village. Knowing the course here I was aware there is a pinch-point getting on to the coastal path above the village that could have seen a very excitable Spud held in a queue for a few minutes to get through the gate and running again, so it seemed the sensible thing to do to get out of as many people’s way as possible and let them overtake us along the coastal path.

The coastal path with the dots of runners stretching along it.
On to the coastal path under the sunny sky we wound our way along the sheer clifftops to St. Brides where we descended to its small inlet and rocky beach. From her we turned inland by the church at Check Point 1 for a trip across the western peninsula of this bottom left corner of Wales, via the hamlet of Marloes, to the sheep-poo strewn WWII Coastal Command airfield.

Skipping up some steps.
Once across the flat couple of miles of the airfield and through Check Point 2 at 9 miles you begin the 10k loop of the southern peninsula with the slow easy descent in to the village of Dale… As we hit the outskirts of it we passed a window cleaner working with his dog left in his van, a dog that was not too pleased at all these people passing him by and was very vocal about this. Initially I though he was just having a shout at Spud, but from listening after passing you could tell how many people were behind and how close by the torrent of woofs still to be heard as Spud and I plodded away onwards to the shore.

A 'refined' view.
Through the centre of Dale, being at sea-level it was the start of the ascent back up on to the cliff-tops, and the undulating slog around the headland. On one ascent with the temperature rising I saw through a gap in a hedge a large pond holding water for the farmers fields. With us still being a few miles from the next aid station I ducked-under the fence with Spud to allow him to drink his fill… The pool was absolutely teeming with tadpoles and Spud was straight in there belly deep drinking the water and attempting to eat the tadpoles at the same time!

Teeming with tadpoles.
Passing the Coastguard look-out point we approached the lighthouse and the cottages at St. Ann’s Head, crossing a field to get to it… Unfortunately this field was full of cows, cows that had been wound-up by the passing through their field of countess ultra and marathon runners, and now there was someone with a dog invading their territory.

The cows were split either side of the well-trampled path and as Spud and myself, along with another 2 runners approached them they took a big interest in me and the boy and began to close in on us. To give Spud his dues he was not fazed by this at all, as when he is running that is all he concentrates on (unless he sees a squirrel) so he was ignoring the attention of these large slabs of beef. At this point I slowed a bit to allow the other runners a chance to get away from us as the cows certainly were not interested in them and Spud and I attempted to ‘run the bovine gauntlet’ and get to the exit of the field.

I was looking ahead for an exit strategy. The fence the path leads you to is waist height with 2 rows of barbed wire on top and you need to take a right turn against it and follow the fence for another 100 metres before arriving at the gate to leave the field… Which meant the two of us were potentially going to be pinned against the fence at any point along there.

Maintaining a constant pace Spud carried on running and ignoring what was happening but when we made it through the cows they all converged in a group behind us and began to jog after us matching our pace in the direction of the fence. Looking around I could see there were 2 leaders of the herd that the others were following. Turning my head to keep an eye on what was occurring I could see they were now beginning to speed-up and as we hit the fence there was now a real danger of us being pinned against it.

There were some holiday makers on the other side of the fence who could see what was happening and started shouting at me to let Spud go… The fence was too high to hurdle although I could easily get Spud over it by picking and throwing him across. The thing is Spud was fine with the situation and had not confronted or caused any direct issue with the cows and letting him go would put him and myself in direct danger if he was to bolt and panic the cows.

By this time the other 2 runners were through the gate so were now safe and very relieved! Assessing the situation I took the chance that the cows were really just curious and allowed them to keep following, but when they got to within a metre of my back I took the step of firmly turning my body as I jogged and holding my arm out to them with my palm up I shouted a firm ‘no’ to them. This made them stop which bought us an extra metre before they began to follow again, this time keeping their distance… I covered the last 20 metres or so to the gate with my arm out behind me, palm up and repeating ‘no’ every few paces until we got to the gate and mercifully through it with minimal faff and fumbling of the catch! A close call - although Spud was completely unaware of everything that had gone on and just wanted to keep on running!

Looking back at the lighthouse.
Relieved to have escaped we took it easy on the last couple of miles to Check Point 3, finishing the loop of the peninsula 16 miles in to the race, with Spud taking on plenty more water at the stop. All the Check Points at the Endurancelife events have tubs of water specifically for the dogs to drink from as part of being canicross friendly events. With us humans running long distances we need to keep ourselves sustained with food, and the same principal it is with dogs - I had taken some high-value treats (to dogs that is) for Spud on the run - a bag of cooked chicken and a bag of chopped Mattesons sausage. As a reward for successfully negotiating the cows I gave him most of the bag of sausage a bit at a time to keep his energy levels up.

Gateholm Island.
From here it was a return to St. Brides along a different route that was mostly on the cliff-tops, passing the sight of Gateholm Island before a quick trip north across the western peninsula and hitting the coastal path once more which will be our companion for the final 10k or so.

On this final 10k, having given Spud most of the chicken I took the opportunity to start a new trend - you may have heard of ‘nutscaping’ where men take a photo of some cracking scenery with one of their hairy ’plums’ blurred in shot at the top well I’ve thought of going one step further but on a tangent; taking photos of cracking landscape with a furry Spud in the corner or the bottom of the shot and calling it ‘muttscaping’… So here’s some of our efforts from the last 10k.

Crossing the finish line half an hour faster than my last effort on the course, Spud had more than taken it all in his stride - in fact as I sat with LSS (who was there to cheer us in) on the grass by the finish to recover my breath, he was straining to go run and play with the other dogs who had run the half marathon or 10k and were all chilling-out in the warm spring sunshine with their tired owners!

A happy chappy sporting his bling.
A cheeky pint in the pub on the quayside followed, where Spud was trying to look as pitiful as possible to cadge food off those eating their lunch before the three of us made our way back up the hill to the fun-bus and the drive home. Once the motor was running, Spud finally gave-in to the effort of the day and curled-up in his travel cage and fell asleep immediately for the entire trip, and well deserved it was too!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

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