Weekend 18: 23rd July 2016

Well, well. Since Easter I have been running consecutive weekends: at least 2 marathons per weekend. 3 over Bank Holiday weekends. It was a pleasant change then to know that this weekend there was only one marathon to run. In fact, I could have completed the perimeter run by undertaking the final leg on Sunday. However, it was always my intention to complete the run on 30th July 2016, TJ’s anniversary (succumbing to MND) last year.

My further reflection, put simply, is that I had given myself a very, very slim contingency should anything have gone wrong. One could say that the contingency amounted to one weekend!!!!

Saturday 23rd July 2016: Llanon to Aberporth (24 miles)

The weather forecast was correct. Saturday was dry, with periods of sunshine. Sunday was going to be wet…….. It was a beautiful morning as I set off from Llanon. Luckily, we had stayed at “digs” the night before located very close to the beach at Llanon. This meant that I could almost have “rolled out of bed” onto the coastal footpath. Ha, ha. I ran along the coastal footpath to Aberarth. From here, I decided to run along the pebble beach to Aberaeron, which was waking up as I arrived. Rounding the harbour, I could see that there were already a number of boats out at sea.

I ran up the hill out of Aberaeron entering familiar coastal footpath territory: narrow paths, overgrown with bracken, gorse and briars (at this time of the year) but compensated by fantastic views out to sea. Unlike last weekend (with no rain, low cloud, or mist in sight), the views from the path were fantastic.

Onward I ran to New Quay, where I met Jackie and Lynne. They were excited because they had just seen a dolphin. It was time for a quick coffee and cold drink, and a change of shirt. My top was soaking with sweat. Alex Jungmayr caught up with us briefly in New Quay. He said that he would join me for a short stretch further along the coastline……..the inlet before Cwmtydu. He did so and there is a great video clip of Alex and me standing together on a vantage point, with Alex waxing lyrical about the coastline yet to come.

I climbed up the hill from Cwmtydu onto (what I describe as) true coastal path: narrow, remote, bracken/gorse covered and traversing steep coastal cliffs (hence the “dangerous cliffs” sign). I cracked-on from here traversing Traeth y Gaerglwyd, and passing Ynys Lochtyn, turning the corner towards the hidden inlet of Llangrannog where I met Lynne and Jackie again. These two have patiently awaited my arrival at so many locations and on so many occasions around the circumference of Wales: I am so grateful – THANK YOU. Also, thank you to the gentleman who gave me a monetary donation as I ran down into Llangrannog. After a cold drink and a coffee, I climbed up the hill out of Llangrannog along the coastal path to Penbryn. From here, because the tide was out, I decided to run along the beach to Tresaith – I enjoyed the run……. and the clamber over rocks!! There was a regatta at Tresaith and in the “beer tent” I was given a pint of Coke for free. Thank you. I think they were in awe of what I was doing. From here I followed the path, running into Aberporth early afternoon to be greeted by Jackie and Lynne……..the end of marathon 38.

As I write this blog, I realise that there is just ONE more “leg” to run to compete the ENTIRE perimeter run of Wales, and hence the Moon Shadow Wales challenge http://www.moonshadow.wales

Weekend 17: 16th & 17th July 2016

Saturday 16th July 2016: Tonfanau to Furnace (26 miles)

Start in TonfanauThis weekend turned out to be a weekend of constant rain (Saturday) and mists (Sunday) ………peppered with long inclines and undulating terrain………especially on the Sunday. I was delighted to have Alex Jungmayr to join me. Alex has been a fundamental and integral part of this challenge and journey. Without him, it would not have happened. I cannot thank him enough for his cogent and knowledgeable advice, mentoring, encouragement and friendship. In praising Alex, I am by proxy referring to him, Ellen and Teifi.

So at circa 8.30am we set off from Tonfanau opposite the train stop. After a relatively short stretch of road, we ran along the beach (or shoreline) all the way to Aberdovey. It was a really enjoyable run. What the coastal path is all about. We arrived in Aberdovey ahead of time according to our supporters (Jackie, Lynne, Ellen + Teifi + Alex). Calling into the Sunflower cafe, Aberdovey for a quick coffee, it was great to receive their support by way of donation and Facebook entry – THANK YOU.

Leaving Aberdovey by road (not recommended for running), we missed a “turn” to the left (easily done when signage is either hidden in foliage or missing altogether). However, we knew where we needed to be so turned left at the next suitable point off the main road, traversing the incline inland across country to where we intersected with the path again. From the high point, we followed the coastal path signs down to the main road. From here, we ran across country to Pennal. The trek out of Pennal into Foel Goch was memorable for the very, very long upward incline which seemed to go on forever!! This was hard work and energy sapping. It was a relief to “turn a corner” so-to-speak and head downwards between Coed-y-Penrhyn and Foel-y-ffridd. Crossing the bridge over the river Dovey, we ran along the road into Machynlleth. After the energy sapping run in the morning, it was good to call into the Wynstay to take on board food (calories) and drink. I must have been thirsty because I drank 3 pints of Coke.

Leaving Machynlleth, we headed up into high ground again. It was still raining and continued to do so until the end of the day. We ran through Coed Garth Gwynion before bearing right down the Llyfnant Valley. It was in the vicinity of Caerhedyn that we made a significant mistake. Perhaps a result of tiredness or fatigue, but certainly the fact that the signage was “invisible”. Anyhow, we became disorientated and ended up near Glaspwll. Long story short, we were able to recover our position by acknowledging the mistake which enabled us to get to Furnace, the destination point for marathon 36. The upshot was that instead of running 26 miles, we ended up running 30 miles. A long day!

Sunday 17th July 2016: Furnace to Llanon (26 miles)

Off on Sunday - marathon 37[1]Clearly Alex and I were “cheesed-off” by our mistake yesterday. We were clearly determined to put things right on today’s run and to double check our decisions when there was any element of doubt.

So, we set off on Sunday morning, where we left off on Saturday afternoon. We planned to meet / set off at 8.45am but per chance arrived at our start destination at circa 8.20am. Today we meant business! Whilst it wasn’t raining (thank goodness) it was a tad drizzly but certainly misty. For the first stretch of today’s run we seemed to be in relative darkness. Perhaps a combination of woodland running and low cloud. Of course, this meant that we had a “zero view” of the Dovey estuary.

It was when we arrived at Tre’r ddol that we noticed how light it was: a slightly surreal experience.  We grabbed a coffee-to-go at the local store. Yet again, interest was shown in the Moon Shadow Wales challenge http://www.moonshadow.wales : the manager of the local shop was so impressed that she took a photograph of us in order to post it on Facebook. THANK YOU for your support. From here we ran along the road to Tre Taliesen, entering territory well known to Alex. We ran a long straight line along the bottom of the marshes forming part of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve eventually arriving in Borth. Before the climb up and out of Borth we grabbed a sandwich and Coke on the go. Alex was in his element because he was back on “proper coastline” where the cliff top path runs parallel to the coast.

Sadly, for most of the afternoon run, we were shrouded in mist, or low cloud,On route to Aberystwyth
meaning that “views” were non-existent. Arriving at Constitution Hill which overlooks the coastal town of Aberystwyth, we knew that we were close to meeting up with Jackie and Lynne, Ellen + Teifi + Alex. We were able to replenish our water platypus’s, grabbed a pint of Coke before taking on board some calories. On this occasion, chicken nuggets for protein and a bit of salt. Yes, salt is really important to endurance running, something I discovered with a vengeance when as part of my random training last autumn, I participated in, and completed, the Gower50.

Alex and Rob in AberystwythRunning out of Aberystwyth along Tanytwich beach we were confronted by a long (big) and steep hill. This was a precursor to the rest of the day because from here the coastline was undoubtedly undulating. My legs really felt as if they were working hard when one incline was followed by another incline. Certainly, it was a real shame that the mist / low cloud shrouded our views out to sea so for large parts of the afternoon run “we were in the dark”. It was only when we ran down the hill towards Llanrhystud that visibility became much clearer. It was on the way down that we decided to head for the beach in order to cross the river meaning that we kept right on the coastline. After the heavily pebbled beach, we re-joined the coastal footpath. Rounding the promontory above Llansantffraid, we decided to continue the final stretch of the run along the pebbly shore until the carpark on the shore at Llanon, marking (for me) the end of marathon 37. This was undoubtedly a tough weekend. As Alex put it subsequently, “hard miles, not helped by the weather”. It was really good to have his company. Master (Alex) and apprentice (me). Ha, ha Mr Arghhhhh!! I hope and believe that we both goaded each other on over this weekend. It was a big one for me and a tough one.

And now: OMG – only 2 marathons to go!!

PS: Just looking at the data from weekend 17 –

  • Saturday: 30.1 miles, 4,050kcal;
  • Sunday 28 miles+, 4,027kcal #heavyburn’


Weekend 16: 9th & 10th July 2016

Saturday 9th July 2016: Llanystumdwy to Llanbedr (26 miles)

I woke up on Saturday morning (as per usual) at circa 6.00 – 6.15. I tweeted “Another Saturday am & my night attire is wet through. Yup, night sweats on Friday nights / Saturday mornings common occurrence since start!” Why? Because I know what’s coming! 2 more marathons in circumstances that cannot be foreseen. Looking out of the window that morning from our base in Dolgellau, it was pouring with rain.

20160709_083143Jackie dropped me off at the start at Llanystumdwy. I ran south to the coast, meeting the Afon Dwyfor before turning left to Criccieth. Apart from it raining, I was also running into a head-on wind which (take my word for it) is disconcerting. I didn’t linger and ran across Black Rock sands, parallel to Morfa Bychan, rounding Ynys Cyngar to discover a lovely little bay. Onward I ran until I reached a lovely cove called Borth-y-Gest. This is where I grabbed a coffee at a Pizzeria out of the pouring rain. Following a Twitter conversation earlier that day, I tweeted to weather lady Ruth Wignall (@ruthwignall) whilst slurping my coffee: “Never mind trail runners, I need Wellingtons!!” The period after leaving Borth-y-Gest is surreal. I ran into Porthmadoc and ran along the path immediately adjacent to the Ffestiniog Railway. On the other side of the causeway I turned left up the main road but didn’t see a coastal footpath sign. Normally, I have a pretty good instinct for where I am and where I need to be so I turned right off the main road along a bridle path because this would link me back to the coastal path………which it did. However, I reached a point where I turned right instead of turning left. Because the terrain was unfamiliar I followed this route which took me through a station point on the Ffestiniog railway and then a footpath below a road with water to my right. This took me back to place which looked different……but it wasn’t Penrhyndeudraeth!!!! Yes, you’ve got it.

Unwittingly, I had run in a circle back into Porthmadoc. I couldn’t believe it!! Having discovered my mistake, I hated running over the miles that I had already run once before. Talk about “deja vue”!! And as Alex Jungmayr would say “these are junk miles – avoid them”. I sent a text to Jackie explaining what I had done….and used a swear word out of frustration. Per chance, Jackie was driving back to Portmeirion and saw me running on the road to Penrhyndeudraeth. She stopped and I took on board a lucozade and banana. It was also at this point that I swallowed an ibuprofen tablet to relief some pain in my legs.

Crossing the estuary, I ran on in determined fashion, still cross from my earlier gross mistake. There was a bit of ascent as I crossed Ogof Foel and then ran through the area called Morfa Harlech, crossing farm fields to the built-up area of Harlech with its prominent castle. The path then crossed the railway line, leading me to a coastal run adjacent to the Royal St David’s Golf Course. Eventually, the path crossed the railway again and zig-zagged up the hill. From here, it was a road run down hill to the carpark in Llandanwg where the run came to an end……circa 28+ miles!!!!

Sunday 10th July 2016: Llanbedr (Llandanwg carpark) to Tonfanau (26 miles)

Start of marathon 35This was a different day weather wise. I think the rain had “rained itself out” on Saturday, evidenced by the waterlogged terrain and bulging rivers on Sunday. I had tweaked my left calf muscle on Saturday (jumping across a stream) so I was apprehensive about today’s run.

I ran around Morfa Mawr, then the boundary of Llanbedr Airfield. A concrete footpath led me to forests. From here, forest tracks led me to the dunes in the vicinity of Shell Island. The run across the sands of Morfa Dyffryn was definitely a highlight. They seemed to go on forever. It’s a paradox I know but running on sand is quite hard work, yet I enjoy it because of the fantastic scenery. It does something for my wellbeing. Accordingly, I ran along the beach as far as I could go, reuniting with the designated coastal footpath as I ran up through the holiday village located adjacent to the coast. From here, it was a road run into Barmouth where I crossed the railway line to run along the promenade. It was good to rendezvous-vous with Jackie at the Lobster-Pot cafe where I took on board “calories and hydration”.

It was interesting to cross the estuary from Barmouth along the pedestrian boardway alongside the railway – Barmouth Bridge. At its end, the path turned sharply right and offered stunning views back to Barmouth. Thereafter, it turned left to Fairbourne where there is a fine beach.

From here the route was uninspiring. The plus point – having reached Running into BarmouthLlwyngwril – was that purely coincidentally Jackie was driving along the road and stopped. It was an opportunity to take on board a Sports Lucozade.

Reaching Rhoslefain, I was relieved to think that it wasn’t far from here to the end point. I ran via a farmstead to the main road leading to Tonfanau. Turning right, this road seemed to go on forever until I reached the carpark opposite the station, representing the end point of marathon 35. I had enjoyed the morning running. The afternoon period from Llwyngwril was uninspiring.

Video links:

Coming out onto Black Rock Sands – https://youtu.be/52P-fk9hoMU

Track adjacent to Glastraeth marshes – https://youtu.be/NpbaWejFQqE

Dunes and beach at Harlech – https://youtu.be/q7oDMAV7YWQ

Dunes in the vicinity of Shell Island – https://youtu.be/CSd95_9HfJU

Robert Chapman Morfa Dyffryn beach – https://youtu.be/LqOk_SuiDsU

Heading out to Barmouth Bay – https://youtu.be/qYJ51McCiEo

Fairbourne Beach – https://youtu.be/xQnt7DqxILM


Weekend 15: 2nd – 3rd July 2016

This was to be an interesting weekend – one in which I made several mistakes. I put these down to “fatigue”.

Saturday 2nd July 2016: Tudweiliog to Pentowyn (28 miles)

I departed from the carpark at Towyn farm, heading for the coastal path, then

Start of marathon 33 at Pentowyn
Start of marathon 33 at Pentowyn

left along it as it hugged the coastline. I knew that this stretch of coastline was going to be uneven and rugged. That is why I brought my red Salamons “out of retirement”. It proved to be a wise decision because the coastal footpath was very uneven and overgrown in large parts. The bad decision was wearing two pairs of socks (mistake 1), which I return to later. It was also going to be solitary and remote, evidenced (in reality) by the fact that I did not meet anyone on it until I got to the promontory overlooking Bardsey.

It was a windy start to the day as I moved along the coastline, but the weather improved significantly as the day grew. As the trail run traversed the Wales coastal footpath, I was able to view some wonderful beaches, for example, Traeth Penllich, Penrhyn Colman, Pen y Borth and of course Whistling Sands.

Thereafter, the terrain became even more rugged in this fairly solitary and remote part of the Lleyn as I ascended Mynydd Anelog, down the other side before ascending up onto Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd y Gwyddel. From these vantage points, I was able to enjoy wonderful views of Bardsey Island.

Pentowyn - at the end of marathon 32
Pentowyn – at the end of marathon 32

Rounding Pen-y-cil, the wind was now behind me, as opposed to coming head-on into my face. Also, at this point, I felt (psychologically) that I had literally “turned a corner”… the most westerly (northern) point of the perimeter run. After a solid 18 miles, I ran in to the delightful village of Aberdaron (along the beach) where I met Jackie and Lynne at the local bakery (Becws Islyn Bakery) for a well-earned coffee and some calories (tuna sandwiches). From here (just another 10 miles to go!!!!!), the path went cross country up onto Mynydd Penarfynydd. I carried on through this bracken covered terrain. As I passed the sign for Plas-y-Rhiw (National Trust), I decided not to follow the coastal path which paradoxically goes in land (away from the coast), but opted for the more logical ‘real coast’ long run (and it was a long run) along the beach forming part of Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth). I arrived at the beach-located orange Life Buoy at the very far end where I met Lynne and Jackie. My polar watch indicated exactly 28 miles.

It may be that I don’t realise it but after 32 marathons, physical fatigue is setting in. Unprompted after this long run, I walked into the sea and bathed my legs: a wonderful moment after completing marathon 32.

PS: wearing two pairs of socks in my Salamons was a mistake because it gave rise to my first blister!!

Sunday 3rd July 2016: Pentowyn to Llanstywmdwy (27 miles)

On Sunday morning, we left our base in Pwllheli where we had been accommodated by the Jones-Evans family. I want to give a big SHOUT OUT to Carys and Cyril for their generous hospitality. Thank you so much. Diolch yn fawr iawn. On route to the start at Pentown, via Abersoch, I missed to inform Jackie of the turn to Llanengan (mistake 2). We ended up at the end of a “no through road”!!! I was annoyed with myself and a bit grumpy. I don’t think I realise it, but the physicality of this perimeter run is taking its toll on my body. I suppose one could call it cumulative, physical fatigue. Anyway, we arrived at the beach carpark at Pentowyn and I set off. It was a glorious day, free of a headlong wind and I really enjoyed the run from here to Abersoch. I took lots of video clips with my GoPro because the coastal landscape was glorious. Guess what!? I arrived in Abersoch to meet Jackie & Lynne for a quick coffee, and discovered that my GoPro Hero Session (attached to my hat) was facing the wrong way (mistake 3). In other words (as I discovered unsurprisingly on Sunday night back in Cardiff), the several video clips showed my hat with peripheral glimpse of the country / coastal landscapes in the background!!!

I took my hat off in Abersoch and decided to take any further clips with the

Coming into Llanbedrog
Coming into Llanbedrog

GoPro in my hand. As I ran out to Mynydd Tir-y-cwmwd I took a backward looking clip towards Abersoch as a cathartic act to overcome my deep frustration and stupid mistake. I ran onward along the beach and after Mynydd Tir-y-cwmwd met Lynne and Jackie on the beach at Llanbedrog. This is the place with the multi-coloured huts. I took a light-hearted video clip at this point involving a small dialogue between Jackie and Lynne. Then I cracked-on running along the shore, around Carreg y Defaid, then along Traeth Crugan to Pwllheli.

I made a mistake in Pwllheli. I wanted to see if I could get around the point. This meant crossing a waterway. It was deeper than I thought which meant that I drowned my I-phone and nano. This was a stupid error of judgement (mistake 4) and I had taken an unnecessary risk. Bearing in mind that my mantra on this journey was to keep injury free and safe, it was an unforgivable error to put myself at risk.

Arriving in Llanystumdwy
Arriving in Llanystumdwy

Leaving Pwllheli I ran along the shore to Pen-ychain. Passing the Holiday Park (and Sewage Works), the path moved in land to the main road which led to the edge of the village. I was relieved to see the final half mile sign into the actual village where I met Lynne and Jackie.

The end of marathon 33 made me realise that the physical nature of this challenge is taking its toll on my body.