Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge – Day 1
I have to say I think that when I decided to run in my vibrams I really didn’t think about the terrain! They were great fun when it was grassy but when I was descending on the mud, it was chaos, and I had more than my fair share of falls. A lot of people were having problems, but my shoes have no tread in them what so ever so I didn’t have a hope. I would have been much better off in the trek versions, or even some proper off-road shoes(!) but it was an interesting experiment to try and my body has held up well, despite all the questions I was asking myself whilst sliding over in the mud a metre away from the cliff edge…
After a long journey through a storm and some dodgy, single track a roads, I arrived yesterday evening to a rather empty HQ! But there was still food being served so I had some tea and got shown to my accommodation, a lovely little cottage, just a short walk away from the HQ.
A usual restless pre-race night ensued where it felt like I hardly slept. I got up about 6 and started sorting my stuff before I remembered I didn’t need to be up til 8! Another couple of hours snoozing and it was time to grab the kit and get breakfast. We had a long transfer to the start and didn’t get going until 11, but it was nice to finally start.
The first hour was pretty much a procession as it was a narrow track and too many runners to pass, but it eventually filled out. I had the first sign of things to come just before the first checkpoint with a questionable downhill, some mud and my first fall f the day. I arrived at checkpoint 1 in around 1hr9, which was just after 10k so a fairly good pace considering. I refilled my bottles, grabbed some food and left.
The next hour was great, the terrain was good, my legs felt great and I was flying in the Vibrams, despite the rain. However, after about 2 hours (coincidentally my longest run since July!) I started to tire and the mass of people treading the ground and turned it into mudbath. I lost count of the number of times I slipped, including one where I landed on some rocks and knocked my knee, forcing me to walk it lose for a bit. It was a long slog to the next checkpoint and I didn’t arrive until just before 3 hours on the clock.
After some food, and setting off again, I was feeling a bit better and the ground seemed a bit grippier and then next hour and a half passed quite quickly despite some tough terrain and not seeing anyone else in sight. I had a couple of moments where I had to stop and check the map, but I think I managed to navigate pretty well, all in all! I arrived at check point 2 with 4hr30 on the clock and 32k done with just 9 to go. Excellent, should be done within an hour.
However the terrain got worse and worse and I fell more and more. I hit a low patch at 5 hours 30 when I looked at the map to see how far I had left and realised I hadn’t covered nearly as much as I thought. But I was catching people so I can’t have been doing too badly, despite losing lots of time as people flew past me on the downhills and I might as well have sat down and slid to the bottom.
After another 15 mins of a ridiculous descent which I did far too slowly, we hit a little village and had 3k to go. ‘just over than rock there and it’s on the other side’ apparently. ‘That rock’ however was a massive up and a massive down. I caught some of the walkers going up just as it got dark so I just followed them down, praying for some stones in the mud to provide a bit of grip. Finally we hit the road and I left them for a shuffle to the finish to come home with an official time of 6 hours 30.
I appear to be feeling ok! My knee is a little sore from a fall, and my feet just feel tired, but my legs certainly don’t feel like I’ve been running for 6 and a half hours! I had a massage to work out some of the tight spots, but looked in better shape than most at dinner, at least I can walk! Tomorrow will be interesting. Hopefully after a decent sleep I won’t be feeling too bad, but if today was the flat day then tomorrow will be brutal! I will be wearing my Newtons I’ve decided as apparently it is very rocky and I would like to try to run it rather than tentatively walk it in the vibrams! Hopefully my fee will have recovered in time.
Total time so far: 6:30
Total distance: 41.9km