Stage 4 – Endurancelife coastal series. Holyhead coastline, Holy Island, Wales
4 Coastal Trail Series events down, 3 to go!
Number of miles – 32
Number of Meters climbed – 2073 (see the Garmin graph – seems too high to me although the graph looks about right) Im going to check this later)
Litres of water drank – ~4
Energy – 3 litres of the electrolyte mix drink provided at the aid stations (mixed ready in their water containers), no gels, 5 Cliff gel shots, 4 Salt-stick salt tablets, 1 Cliff energy bar, a handful of jelly babies (the nice ones I asked them to re-provide having not seen them at Dorset)!
Holyhead is on the Irish sea which to me is now officially the windiest place on earth. I have never ran in such strong wind. On the lead-up to the race the met off was warning of rain that weekend and winds of 39mph, gusts of 55mph, however those figures had reduced to just a chance of rain and 24mph winds by race morning. Thankfully the rain was on and off through the day and not that heavy, but the wind made for a hilarious day of running. At times it literally forced you into a sprint, pushed you up the ascent or simply reduced you to a head down powerwalk as if you were pushing a car (small one – let’s be honest).
At the start point, Endurancelife had set-up another great temporary fixture, they had staff everywhere helping and a great gazebo for registration complete with the usual sponsors (including Cliff who provided me with a second breakfast of chewy energy bars – thank you!), together with hot drinks. The Mayor of the town said a few words which was nice and after the usual briefing from Gary at Endurancelife we headed for the 8:15am start line. My Dad was very excited about having his picture taken with the mayor!
Today I saw Tobias and Matt again, also doing all the races, Matt was back on form after a bad race in Gower where he suffered bad blisters and at an aid station cut the entire heel out of his shoe then carried on – brilliant! Tobias has been going from strength to strength since Northumberland (CTS stage 1) and despite looking like death at the end of the Ultra came 3rd place, so well worth the effort – i’m glad he ditched his old trail shoes with the gaping 4 inch gash down the side (see my Northumberland blog)!
It was great to see Jennifer, James and Gemma from the Serpentine club, they are very experienced in the world of ultra running world, but like me, no good with car directions as we couldn’t find the start. I’d picked them up from their B&B and we were under a bridge trying to work out directions saying “the sat nav says to turn left but thats someone’s house???”, it took 5 mins to work out the bridge above us was a road we should be driving on!
On the bang of the gun, the race takes a near enough instant uphill to the top most point of Holy island, approx. 200 meters high. This hill given it’s location has a real mountainous feel, being very barren, windswept and cold. At the peak I was running slightly to the right just to keep on a stratight line to compensate for the wind speed and fell off the course twice into brush due to the wind on the steep fast decsents where sometimes there is only a thin path to tread. This ‘hill’ I would have to climb again on the return journey, only to then complete the same loop up, down back to the 1st checkpoint by the sea, turn around, then back, again, to the top before heading straight down hill to the finish (see the profile graph below for a better idea). The down hills were as usual great, even though a lot of time is lost climbing I really have fun on the technical downhills and love the adrenalin rush of flying down with only split seconds to work out where to place each foot. This was offset by my lack of power, not being able to power up the hill towards the end, nor do very well into the wind. Still, whilst the results are not out yet I came 8th place, which i’m really happy with. At the end of the race I had the obligatory (and necessary feel good shower) and then went to listen to James Adams talk about this Race Across America – simply awesome – a must read.
As usual i’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but some of the highlights included:
- The usual chatting with other runners on the course
- about 4 miles of running with no one in sight – you don’t get that in many races
- When the sun came through the gaps in the cloud, despite the wind and occasional rain, parts of the land and sea were covered in bright sun making spectacular scenery
- Missing a marker and rather than run 30 seconds back to the path I cut across a field only to find a small stream in my way – oh well, wade in as there’s no going back!
- Wading though a muddy bog (yes part of the official course). When I turned around to get a photo of the mud I had to run through I saw a small path to the left that would have avoided it. My feet were soaked
- Chatting (for about 10 seconds as I was freezing) to the coastguard who were supporting at the top of ‘the hill’
- The last aid station where my fingers were too cold to refill my rucksack with water
- Meeting up with the 1/2 marathon runners who were fresh legged, much faster and running past me saying “well done, only a mile to go”! NO! I had another 7 miles thank you!
- The jelly babies, oh, the jelly babies