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.