Cardiff Cross Challenge Run Report

By Sam Blaxland

If there’s something I’ve learnt from a year of attending CDF sessions, it’s that this club doesn’t do things by halves. Whether it’s Cosmeston Relays, parkruns, Pride events, or travelling all over the country to watch and cheer on club-mates, CDF is surely cementing its reputation as a big and conspicuously noisy gang of runners and friends. Of course, all rules have their exceptions!

And so it was last weekend, on a very autumnal Saturday, when a grand total of four CDF members – me, Debbie, Stewart and Trevor – turned up for the Gwent League Cardiff Cross Challenge at Llandaff Fields! 

Sam, Debbie and Stewart standing in their running gear and trail shoes
Sam, Debbie and Stewart pre-race

In all fairness, I had only decided to go on a whim, because it’s a stone’s throw from my house, and I wasn’t injured after Cardiff Half. I wasn’t particularly relishing the idea of running nearly 10k as part of an event that I worried might bring back memories of unpleasant school PE lessons. 

Indeed, on arrival, the feeling of being a slightly disorientated school-boy was overwhelming, with a lot of people milling around looking like they knew what they were doing, when I didn’t know where to go, what to say, or how to organise myself. I was handed an envelope (“what’s this for?”) at the registration tent and, having thought I’d already paid, was told to hand over four quid (“I don’t carry cash!”). I didn’t quite understand that, in normal circumstances with a big club team, all the finisher chips are put into one envelope so that the results can be collated.

The central path of the park flanked by club tents, gazebos and runners
The tent and gazebo game is on a whole different level

Naturally, all of this became clear very quickly, but it’s a reminder that new people at new events sometimes have no idea what is going on and can feel a bit intimidated as a result. A friendly or welcoming face, and a polite explanation, goes a long way – an attitude that CDF excel at I should add!

Anyway, the course: if anyone knows Cardiff parkrun’s ‘alternative to the alternative’ route, then this broadly follows that. It traces the perimeter of Llandaff fields, but to make up some extra distance, it cuts into the centre of the fields with a few hairpins and twists. There’s a short but sharp hill near the beginning, which inevitably leads to a downhill section, but the rest is pretty flat. There was even a log to jump over. I really enjoyed the course, and found the winding and the turns (and the log jump) fun; it was disorientating enough to take my mind off the fact that, for the senior men at least, you had to do three laps of all of this.  

There were plenty of Senior Women running, including our very own Debbie, who put in a sterling performance having already done the parkrun that morning. What a hero! Once the male under 20s had finished it was the turn of Stewart, Trevor and I to give it a go. 

 

By the time we started, a couple of sections had turned into that infamous no-man’s-land bog that can sometimes be associated with cross country. That’s actually an exaggeration, but it certainly was properly muddy and difficult to pick up any pace over. Thankfully, most sections were completely manageable, and nothing a pair of trail shoes couldn’t handle. 

The field was competitive and I spent a lot of the first lap fighting for space, but once it opened out a bit – and once the bulk of runners had surged ahead – it all got a lot easier. At parkrun and various races, I’m not used to being in the bottom third, but that’s a testament to how good the standard was here. I finished 366 out of, perhaps, 550 runners, and just avoided being lapped by the winner. Some of the front-runners were truly amazing.  

Thanks are also due to Mike who was on hand to provide support and good-natured coaching. As I was about to begin my second lap, someone I knew shouted a word of encouragement. I waved a quick thanks for this, and immediately heard, from Mike in the distance, ‘Stop smiling Sam! You’re not trying hard enough if you’re smiling!!’. Naturally, this only made me smile more! 

For a run I entered on a whim, I was elated after finishing. This was a varied course, with a good atmosphere that offered something different to do on a Saturday afternoon. 

Sam approaching the end of a lap with a big grin on his face
“Stop smiling! You’re having too much fun!”

So, a word of encouragement for all CDFers thinking about taking part in up-coming cross country runs this season, or this same event next year: definitely do it.

The standard is very high at the top end, but the ability range is broad. It’s also cheap as chips – and the effort justifies chips, or a pint if you’re like me. It might be a bit confusing when you first arrive, but most events are regardless, and anyway, some of us now know how it works! For fans of the fluffy four-legged-friends there was also a range of lovely dogs to spot and say hi to in the crowds.

If you haven’t done cross country since school (like me), then that very particular smell of freshly churned up earth will certainly prove nostalgic. And even though it’s hard work, I firmly believe that the concentration required to pick your way through muddy tracks makes the time fly by. 

And in future events we need to be there in numbers large enough to make our presence felt – and so that the announcers start saying our club name correctly…


Cross Country is open to CDF members, with fixtures on the following dates:

  • 9 November 2019 – Pembrey Country Park, Llanelli
  • 7 December 2019 – Blaise Castle, Bristol
  • 8 February 2020 – Chepstow Racecourse
  • 1 March 2020 – Singleton Park, Swansea

Please check out the events in the Affiliated Members Facebook group, or email hello@cdfrunners.co.uk to find out more.

Darth Mannion – Race Report

Race report by Stewart Harding


Wow. What a ludicrous, brilliant race this was.

I could just tell you it’s a 12 mile trail race in the Gower with about 500m of elevation, and whilst i’d already be pretty excited about that, it doesn’t tell you half the story.

The race briefing had a fantastic juxtaposition of the Race Director telling us it was a community race, and that we were raising money for the Wales Air Ambulance, followed by race MC ‘Skillsy’ who said it was the stupidest race in the country, and that “500 of you are going out, and I honestly couldn’t care less if only 200 of you came back”. I already knew this was going to be fun.

Instead of starting in waves, this race uses 6 pelotons, which set off in reverse order, slowest to fastest. Holly and I opted for the ‘Indefatigable’ peloton, so we went 4th in a group of about 30. The unique thing about these pelotons is that you’re not allowed to run ahead of the pacemakers in each one. While most pelotons spread out fairly quickly, not making this much of an issue for most, for the fastest group, the ‘Immortals’, this creates a paced run before a dramatic fast race finish over the last mile.

The opening section through the woods started to get crowded as we caught the tail end of the ‘Inbetweeners’ and so we lost our peloton pacers as we queued for a river.

Yep, we got to run through and along a LOT of rivers, which was brilliant fun. There was a lot of mud too of course, so a good opportunity to cool down and give my trail shoes the only clean they ever get.

We ran to Three Cliffs Bay, which is a beautiful part of the Gower and definitely worth a trip there for a walk at any time. This involved lots of sand, more river crossings, some more mud, a long hill and a slippery clamber through a natural cliff arch.

Not only did we get to run rivers, but at Darth Mannion you get to go in the sea! There should have been three dips, but for some reason, we only did two, but they were hilarious. Of course the sea in these parts is pretty shallow when the tide is in so I ran out and hurled myself face first at the 8 inch deep water only to get a  mouthful of sand and seawater. It’s certainly a unique experience to have to pick yourself up and then carry on running, unable to wipe your face and eyes with anything clean!

After a sandy, energy sapping climb back up the cliff we were rewarded with some spectacular views over the coast.

This is a good time to mention the support out on the course. Not only the marshals, which were plentiful and vocal, but what appeared to be randoms out for a walk would clap and cheer us past, loads of families and kids at the aid stations and other points along the route gave so much support. Everyone we passed was chatting and supporting each other, and laughing at the ordeal we were putting ourselves through.

The most disgusting part of any race I’ve ever done was the ‘Sheep Dip’, which was exactly what it sounded like. A brown, stagnant, pond we had to wade across, touch the island in the middle and get out as fast as possible. My feet immediately sunk in up to my shins in what can only be described as a whole load of shit. It was worse than you’re imagining it to be. 🤢

A sprint down the cliff led us out to the next sea dip, which completely drained my energy, and the climb back up off the beach over the stones started to get hard. I had hoped for another river run to clean the poo and seawater off, but the last river was a bit murky and salty, so no such luck, Darth Mannion is not that kind!

A long hill and then a few short steep climbs got us back up towards the finish for what the Immortals would have treated as a sprint. I was very much in plodding mode at this point, and dragged myself over the hay bales in the final field to cross the line.

Upon crossing the line I was offered a can of Carling. Uh, nah mate, cheers.

That can be forgiven as the next person who came up to me offered me a big cup of soup and bread! I can’t tell you how happy I was to receive this, there can’t be a better comfort food at the end of a tough race. There were ample showers and hot tubs(!) at the end and loads of great food while everyone was cheered in.

The peloton system meant you were never running alone, as there were people to overtake and plenty to overtake you at the same time. While it wasn’t timed, I definitely felt like pushing it when it flattened out as there was always someone to try and catch.

Obviously, i’m going to recommend this hugely as it was such good fun, and so different to anything else I’ve done. It’s like the Rabbit Run on steroids. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but I’d suggest doing it with a group or in a pair so you can spend the whole time laughing together.

I talked about this race a bit more on my podcast ‘Running is Bullshit’.

Podcast linkStravaRace website

Undulations and Conversations

By Huw Phillips

So New Year’s Eve 2016 was when it all started… Knowing how much I hate hills and knowing that the Snowdonia Marathon entry opened at 12:01 on the 1st I put a silly post on the CDF FB group, was anyone one interested? To my surprise, there were some that also had the same thought!

Later that day we had the euphoria of Nos Galan, followed by alcohol and then 12:01, pausing the BBC fireworks to concentrate on the first race of the year, register for the Snowdonia Marathon, traditionally a race that sells out in less than 3hrs… 7minutes later it was done, it was just more alcohol and buyers remorse to follow.

Fast forward to a cold, wet October morning in the shadow of the tallest mountain in Wales (and England) and we were here! 6 intrepid members of CDF Runners about to take on the toughest marathon in the UK. Of course we had all trained extensively to get us to this point, hill training, speed training, long runs and of course some hardcore fell training, its fair to say that we had all done at least one of those sessions!

The expo was really well run, not a large marathon expo but nice and friendly, a trait that follow us for the next few hours, upon collecting my number I was told to pick up my hoody, “what hoody?” I said. “You ordered a hoody when you registered” – it was this fact that further clarified the blood/alcohol level when signing up!

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So post team photo we walked the mile or so to the start line, it was possibly one of the most relaxed start lines I’ve ever experienced, it felt more like a local 10k more than a world-renowned marathon, the weather conditions were perfect, light drizzle and between 7-10c, finally my curse of running marathons during a heatwave was crushed, lets see if I could do the same to the fear of hills.

At approximately 10:30 the silence of the Llys Peris lake was interrupted by a klaxon and then the sound of 3,000 runners heading off to Pen y Pass, the first mile or so was flat, if not even a little downhill and we started climb number one, a steady 3miles up to  the misty hill tops of Pen Y Pass and 376m above sea level. It was an amazing sight, making our way up and seeing all the runners snaked up the road all the way to the top.

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After making our way to the top of Pen Y Pass we faced the prospect of nearly 8 miles downhill which sounded easy until we turned the corner at 5 1/2 miles onto the off road section, conditions had improved slightly and it was no longer raining, in fact for a few minutes the temperature increased… It couldn’t happen again could it? The trail section was challenging for those in road shoes, loose and uneven but not impossible, at 8miles we returned to the open road, and it was an open road as cars passed sometimes a little too closely, but the next 5 miles were mostly downhill with slight undulations, until we got to Beddgelert, half way mark. It was a lovely to get there and the crowds were noisy, but it was gone within minutes and all of a sudden the lowest point on the course (64m) was the start of climb number two.

Whilst not as long or as steep as the previous climb it was still 2 1/2 miles up and this time not as interesting, in truth you actually become bored with the stunning views after a few miles. I mean you’ve seen one amazing lake and mountain combo you’ve seen them all. That was evident as we cooed at the playing horses in the field near the top but we carried on, the next water station gave us Parma Violets! I mean come on, how good is that? They even had refreshers; best water stations ever! I even contemplated ditching my trusty SIS gels for Love Hearts but the rule of never changing a routine on the day won over!

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Continue we did, talking to more runners as we passed them, finding out what got them there and why they were running. We had one story that was so dark (and a little scary) that led to us picking up speed and running our fastest mile of the day. In truth we didn’t want to run with him anymore, he was a little scary but that’s a story for another day, we picked off the 16mile marker, my favourite of any marathon, when you only have single digits left you now its achievable.

Thoughts now led to us making the cut off of 18miles in 4hrs, it was never in doubt, 3 miles downhill in 45mins, we were going to make it and we did, as we came around the corner and saw the 18mile marker there was a brass band playing ‘We are the Champions’ cannons firing Confetti in the air and cheerleaders creating the names of every runner with their Pom poms… Well, that’s how it played out in my head, in truth it was a white sign saying 18miles and some polystyrene cups half full of water but we’d made it.

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The next 4 miles were full of undulations and conversations. We met a member of the 100 marathon club who was wearing an umbrella on her head, it was her 137th marathon! We picked off members of local running clubs and we were running strong, certainly stronger than many we passed, the zombies were out in force between miles 18-22 it was at 22 we started to climb slightly. This was it. This was the start of the final hill, the hill of legends, the hill of pain and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Between miles 22-24.5 we climbed to 386metres, the highest point on the course, it was cold, it was windy, it was foggy, the view was amazing people said, except we had about 30ft visibility but once we passed the tea stop, yes tea stop, there were runners stopping and having cups of tea and flapjacks, a runner had said to us earlier that Snowdonia had more of an Ultra feel to it and they were right, I don’t remember there being a tea stop in London but I digress, we were at the top, it was downhill from here, easy eh?

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What met us next was beyond my worst nightmares, without a doubt the hardest 2.1miles of my running life, and I’ve done Ashton Court parkrun! The start of the downhill was on grass paths which at any time would have been difficulty but when 2,800 people had already passed it become quite treacherous. It was muddy, bumpy and slippery and all downhill, mimicking a style last seen in Bambi I somehow managed to stay upright, it ok, I could see tarmac ahead but once again I wasn’t prepared for what was ahead, as I stepped foot onto that tarmac it was steep, and I saying really steep, the next mile was basically running on my toes and leaning back at a 45 degree angle, too steep to walk, too steep to run but it soon bottomed out 270m lower down the mountain and you could hear the roar of Llanberis high st, as you entered the first street there were runners calling your name, speed followed and as I turned the corner past the barriers I was sprinting towards the line, the crowd roaring my name, the cheerleaders spelling it out, the same confetti cannons firing as I run past and the announcer calling my name (that may be the only true part) as I burst over the finishing line.

With a slate coaster thrust into my hand, that was it, 5hrs 45mins after starting that was it, 838meters of climbing that was it, and do you know what?

I loved it.

The man who hates hills loved the hilliest marathon in the UK.

Was I going to hurt tomorrow? Am I still going to moan about the slightest hill on a training run, who knows?

All I know is that its done, who knows I may even be back another year, after all as a big deal once said ‘Inclines are Winclines’.

Cardiff 10k Race Report

By Sian David

It’s September, summer holidays are over, the nights are getting darker and the weather is getting well rubbish. However September always means one thing: The Cardiff 10k. It was my fourth time running this race, a flat perfect PB course, popular as good prep for the Cardiff Half Marathon in October.

Popular was the word today as I arrived at City Hall to find chaos. People taking selfies, doing lunges and a lot of nervous people. Somehow out of the thousands of runners in a tiny space I found the CDF crew and we organised ourselves for a quick group photo. Then it was a race against time to make sure my bag was dropped (the baggage queue was insane) and try and get to the toilet.

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“Are they nice toilets? I’ve never been in one before” the woman behind me asked in the toilet queue. Her face started to screw up as I reminded her how many people have probably used them before her. I then saw Ruth come out of the toilet who quickly said “buzzing”, not giving the lady behind me much reassurance.

I quickly made my way over to the start line, managing to get into the middle using the age old technique of “sorry, my friends over there”. I managed to find Ruth and Liz who were running their first 10k, Maryam (second) and Gaz (marathon runner and triathlete). The gun went and we quickly jerked forward before coming to a direct stop. That’s where the problems started..

14324474_10101677631884662_6090210708144956927_oFirstly, even though the bibs are coloured due to finish time, there were no actual pens so slower runners were right up at the front with the elites. It took ages to cross the start line only to lead into a massive bottleneck where I spent much of the first 1k trying to take over other runners. The crowd support was phenomenal, running past Cardiff Castle I also saw Lily and Andrew taking photos of the CDF Run Crew. By this I mean, Lily would shout “quick quick it’s…” and Andrew would point and snap. It was lovely to see familiar faces so early on. The route carried on turning right onto Cathedral Road and it was only then I managed to get some breathing space at the 3K mark!  The route carried on into the park which provided some much needed shade – the sun was so intense! After a quick right turn onto Western Avenue we headed back into the park.

Just before 5k, there was a much needed water stop. I quickly chucked half the bottle over my head and down my back to hear girls behind me shout “let’s do that” then copying me and screaming.  I wondered whether to take any water on but had Mike’s age old advice ringing in my ears “you don’t need water for a 10k” so decided not to. The next 2k took a nice pretty flat route through the park, past the Street Food Circus (the smells were amazing) before coming out of the park back onto the main street. Not before eagle eyed Debbie shouted my name and quickly took my photo!

14212750_10157569716820601_2844696500550233285_nAgain back past the castle (around 7k) where I saw Lily and Andrew again and lots of other supporters. My left leg was screaming stop running, stop running this hurts! I tried to ignore it, wishing I had music to take my mind off the pain (No headphones allowed due to not every road being fully closed).  We took a sharp right then looped back on ourselves before heading into the park – nearly 8k.

Again, the support was amazing, the route familiar and scenic. I heard the clock ring 11 which meant I was not at the time I wanted to be.  Luckily at this point I ended up behind some Cwm Ogwr Runners with the one runner playing Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen through her phone. They could not have come at a better time, they all ran together singing the lyrics and keeping each other going. One of their members was really struggling and the ringleader was shouting “come on Sarah, we’re not stopping now!”. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I ended up running with them. The leader told me how she was running a marathon and was just looking at it as ’13 water stops’ something I had never even thought about. Turning the corner, I could finally see the finish. My leg was killing me by now and I felt really emotional for some reason. I could see the clock 1:03 and I had a good 400m to go.

Looking around I saw everyone else giving it everything so I started to sprint. Again I heard CDF supporters “Go on SIAN”. I started my sprint finish and promptly sprinted over the finish at 1:09 (I didn’t start until 3 minutes in), not near the target I wanted. I promptly burst into tears, be it because of the pain, because I thought I wouldn’t finish or because it was over.  Walking over to CDF supporters Paul and Mik I then continued to sob.

14224741_10157564864205601_1784790285360897437_nAfter pulling myself together I found my boyfriend and joined the lengthy baggage queue.  Speaking to a marshal about how busy it was he informed me that everything would be changing next year. New course, new meeting point, new everything. I spoke to Maryam who said that Ruth and Liz had crossed the line completing their first ever 10k and felt so proud of them.

This was the fourth year of running the Cardiff 10k and if I’m honest probably my least favourite year. Whether that was because I was disappointed with my time or because of the chaos and crowds I’m not sure. However, one thing I do know is that if you are looking for a flat, well supported race this is it.  Hopefully sorting out the course will stop all the crowd/runner problems. I’m sure I’ll be back next year… probably… well it is tradition.

Merthyr Mawr Trail Running Festival 2016 Race Report

Wow, so much to say on this race!

Let’s start with the weather, which was rubbish. Light drizzle occasionally giving way to rain, and humidity that was clinging in a sticky mist in the valleys and woods. Awesome.

The unofficial club motto “running is bullshit” was quite literally the case in the starting area, which was liberally dotted was the stuff. However, the best entertainment was Dhana wrapping her phone in a condom in order to keep it dry (With some skill, obviously not her first time). Bernie was concerned about getting spermicide on the phone and Gerda asked “can it still be used?” We presume she meant the phone.

We lined up and set off at precisely a bit before 2:13pm, immediately up a hill dodging sheep poo. This race really had every kind of terrain: grass, mud, sand, rocks, mud, tarmac, gravel, two feet of water and some mud.

The first major obstacle was a long muddy route through the woods. Looking back it was only about 600m, but i’m sure everyone will tell you it was at least 2 miles. Mud got in over the top of your shoes, and staying upright was a challenge in itself. Plenty of shoes become detached from their owners too! How on earth anyone got through there with road shoes I’ll never know.

Then we were out and into the sand. The path was windy and narrow, and great fun to take the tight corners and crest the hills. It was here Stu took a tumble, catching a root, rolling over and carrying on, gutted he didn’t have his gopro on. One of the big appeals of this race was to run down the biggest sand dune in Europe, which was brilliant! The slightly damp sand meant your footsteps were absorbed easily without slipping on any loose sand. We flailed our way down and back into more woods.

Then followed a flat 3k along the Ogmore and Ewenny rivers, which was surprisingly tough. There were very muddy and wet parts that were completely invisible until your foot squelched into them, not to mention the amusingly abusive marshal with the loud-speaker.

Before the race, the organisers released a gopro video of the course on a beautiful summer’s day, which showed the river as a mere ankle-deep trickle. As it had been raining all day, it was somewhat deeper on the day with a strong current! We leapt down the bank and into the river which came up to the top of most people’s legs, and up to Lily’s chin. It wasn’t far, and despite the drizzle it was a warm day and so most runners found this a lovely cool down, which handily cleaned the caked on mud and sand off too.

After that it was pretty much a straight sprint to the finish via a stone tunnel and stairway, which was the final of a series of fantastic unique selling points of this race.

Then we all took photos of our legs.

Katie, Lily and Bernie all finished together, with a disappointingly unaggressive sprint finish and Dean finished caked in mud after hitting the deck, and received no sympathy.

Everyone had a great time and when grinning like idiots at the end we went to take a team photo, but realised someone was missing.

Gerda.

At first we were joking that she was just a bit slow and was probably loudly complaining about the mud. Then we jokingly thought she may have drowned in the river. Then we starting posting #PrayForGerda on Facebook. We’re all such good friends.

Then the tail runner turned up, and Gerda still hadn’t finished.

We considered, “oh shit, what if she really has drowned?”, to which we decided we could at least wear our club shirts to the funeral as they’re black.

We checked the first aid and marshal stations and there was no indication anyone had gotten injured or had stopped, and we were concerned again. Well, for about fifteen seconds anyway.

News finally came from Stephen Wood, of Cardiff Pegasus fame, that there was a group that got lost. It all made sense, if anyone was going to get lost it would of course be Gerda!

When she finally rocked up, she got a huge cheer from her clubmates, which was returned with “18 FUCKING K” in her… ‘distinctive’ German accent, so of course we fell about laughing again.

Apparently a marshal sent her and a small group the wrong way, who ran a couple of miles before realising they’d gone the wrong way. They didn’t even end up running down the dune, or wading through the river, which was kinda the whole point.

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Despite, or perhaps because of, the mud, sand, river and Gerda getting lost, all vowed to run it again next year with many considering the 18 mile Witches Run instead! Great considering for many this was their first ever trail run. Haven’t got the results yet, but we don’t really care, which is the great thing about these ridiculous runs.

Trail running is bloody brilliant.

Strava

http://merthyrmawrtrailrunningfestival.com/

Shona is an Ironman!

Monday 23rd May

My apologies at the lack of blog for the last 2 days, I have been a good excuse, I promise!

I AM AN IRONMAN!!!

I did it! I actually did it!! I swam 2.4 miles in the sea, biked 112 hot hilly miles and then ran 26.2 miles just for good measure and crossed that finish line with the biggest smile on my face, completely gobsmacked at my time! 13 hours and 16 minutes…I wasn’t last, in fact I was nowhere near last!

Let’s rewind back to Saturday morning… you all have some catching up to do! The alarm goes off at 4.30am. My support crew out of bed before I am! I quickly heat up my breakfast and force it down before my mind has chance to wake up and let the nerves kick in! It almost works…I get my porridge down in super quick time but the nerves come as I am halfway through my banana, those last 3 bites of banana were not easy to swallow but I shovel it down. I will need all the fuel I can get for today. I get my shorts and sports bra on, pull on my hoodie and flip flops and get ready to leave! I turn around and my support crew are all there, decked out in printed t-shirts ready for their day of cheering me on! They look fantastic and I am really touched by their efforts, I mean them coming out here was already amazing but I can truly say my support crew have been the best! We head down so I can go and pump up Channing’s tyres and do last minute transition checks. All too soon we are stood at the top of the beach and I am getting into my wetsuit. I might look calm on the outside but my inside is going into a panicked melt down…I am not sure my 12 visits to the toilet this morning were enough (the red lantern of priority was mine!!) I look out over the sea and give myself a little talking to…I can do this!!! Big hugs all round from the support crew and I make my way down to the water for a quick dip prior to the start.

I dunk myself in and remind myself that it is the same sea I swam in the other day, nothing has changed except a few more people will also be joining me for my morning swim! My support crew get a great spot on the little run-through between swim laps so I know where to look out for them and I walk to take my place at the start. It’s here that I note being a female competitor pretty much makes you rarer than a unicorn. There are far less pink swim hats to orange ones. I feel pretty special at this point! I also feel pretty sick with nerves! The klaxon goes and we are off! I get into the water and tell myself to relax, I only need to swim and I can do that! I mostly avoid the bun fight, stick out to the right and relax into my rhythm. I am doing this, I am on the swim of the Ironman course and I am doing it!! The first lap goes by without too much trouble and I am soon running through the “Australian exit” to my second lap, high-fiving Mark and getting cheers from Lisa and Ian on my way through…a quick glance at my watch shows me that my time is on track too…I get back in for my second lap and as the field has spread out a bit now, I can stick closer to the rope. I get a kick to the face at the first turn but it doesn’t faze me, I am on my second lap and over halfway through the swim…woohoo!!

Calm and relaxed I finish the swim and run up the beach, my watch suggesting a time of c1hr 17mins. I grab my transition bag and head into the tent. Wetsuit pulled off (I pretty much covered myself in glide this morning so it would slide off easily), vest on, feet rinsed, socks and shoes on and a good scoop of aseos cream (this is a real thing!! I thought it was a joke too! Utmost be Spanish for ass butter!!) shoved into my shorts and I am ready to go. I run out of the tent, deposit my bag and shovel a banana in. Then head for Channing where, to the cheers of my support crew, I quickly load my vest with my gel bottles, race belt on, sunnies on, helmet on, and me and Channing are on the move to the bike mount line. And having spent about 7 minutes in transition, we are off!!! I am on the Ironman bike course with my good friend Channing! Let’s go and enjoy our day together, riding around Lanzarote! Heading out of Puerto Del Carmen, some of the cross winds are pretty brutal but me and Channing settle into a good rhythm and get going. It’s a lovely day, windy but the wind keeps me cool. Every half an hour I take a good swig of gel from my bottles (caffeine on the hour, regular on the half hour), I keep drinking energy drink from my drinks bottles and I also nibble on an energy bar every hour, it’s crazy how quick the time passes just by remembering to do all this!

At one stage my chain comes off…it wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t riding my bike with oil on me somewhere! I quickly get it back on and get going again! Luckily my hand is easily cleaned by wiping it on my damp sweaty shorts!! Nice!! I then need the toilet. During the race briefing, they promised there would be toilets at every feed station…this was LIES!!!! There were no toilets to be seen. I left my mark on Lanzarote in the Timanfaya national park at the side of the road! Needs must!! The climbs seen easier than when I was here in March, which makes me happy. Clearly those brutal sufferfest workouts on the turbo actually worked and were worth torturing myself for! A quick stop at the top of the biggest climb at Mirador del Haria for a top up of aseos butter and energy drink and bars and I am well over half-way now! I look down at the message on my headset “Go hard or go home” I can do this and I am doing it!! I fly down into Haria and battle up the next climb to Mirador del Rio, that’s the toughest climbs out of the way…and now there is a nice long downhill stretch where I hit 46mph, whilst clinging on for dear life at the cross winds! Soon enough I am heading back into Puerto Del Carmen, I hear Ian shout on one of the last roundabouts where he has set up “Welsh corner” with his flag but I didn’t seen him. I was too focused on getting back as the time on my watch was making me happy that I had smashed the bike course! 7 hours and 17 minutes on the bike! Yes!!! I do see Lisa and Mark though and give them a wave as I fly down through the town, they are exactly where they said they would be!

I nearly run over the man with Channing as he goes to take him from me in transition. I then run down the road, grab my bag and head into the tent to switch to run gear. Helmet, shoes and socks off, another quick rinse of my feet for the leftover sand from this morning, fresh socks, trainers and my cap on and I am ready to run. 5 minutes in transition is all it takes. I am officially on the Ironman run course. I can hardly quite believe it – as Lisa and Mark will tell you! My comments as I see them for the first time on the run were something along the lines of “f*ck me, I am actually on the IM run course!!” I relax into my run and remember Heather’s words of keeping a steady pace and not going off too fast. It is hot. Really really hot. And there is no respite from the sun. Here starts the game of running from yellow t-shirt people to yellow t-shirt people. These are basically the water and feed stations. The volunteers all wear yellow t-shirts and shout various things to you as you are going past “aqua, water, energy, cola, banana, plantain…” I walk through the feed stations so I can drink water, pour a load over myself and grab some ice to carry to try and cool down as I run. The sun is just relentless…I begin to see the yellow t-shirt people as saviours! I love these yellow t-shirt people, they are amazing!! I hate anyone with a blue band and utterly despise anyone with a blue and a red band! A blue band is earned by completing the first lap of the run – 13.6 miles and a red band is earned by completing a second lap 6.3 miles. I continue on…my big toe is hurting and it feels like there is something in my shoe but I won’t let it stop me and the miles are ticking off steadily. I am finally on my way back in on the first loop and I see Ian. He is cheering me on like crazy and that gives me a great boost!

Here are more yellow t-shirt people! Bring on the water, a cup goes over my head and a drink some from a second cup. I then realise that the copious amounts of aseos butter I put in my shorts must still be there. The water mixing with it, now makes white stuff just leak through my shorts and run down my legs! No-one said doing an Ironman was attractive but even so!! I keep running and plodding on. At the next set of yellow t-shirt people, I make an attempt and rinsing my shorts with a cup of water too…that looks slightly better. Ian is on his bike so he continually rides past me and down the road where he stops to cheer me past him and take pictures and then does it all again! This is a great help!! Soon enough (or just over 2 hours later) I am back to running past Lisa and Mark, half of the run complete. I head down to near the finish and collect my first band! I have a blue band!! Hooray!!! Now just 2 smaller laps to go. I head back up and past Lisa and Mark where they hand me 2 energy gels…I get one down and then some water from the yellow t-shirt people to wash it down with. I am fed up of gels now! I carry on to the next yellow t-shirt people and I see they have orange quarters. My love for them increases even more! Water over the head, an orange quarter in my mouth, a quick sip of water and back to running again. Then I see Ian! Every step is a step closer to the end! And so it continues…I pass so many people on the run who are just walking. I am not going to be beaten. I can walk the feed stations but that is it…no matter how much it hurts!!

Finally I am heading down the chute to get a red band! I final lap to go! I can do this! I think I am on for about 13 and a half hours but I am tired. So tired and it hurts. I tell myself to just keep going, keep running from yellow t-shirt people to yellow t-shirt people! It is also great to see Lisa and Mark as I head out on my last lap and say to them “I’ll see you at the finish!!” I am getting cheered by strangers in all languages because I am still running and not walking! One man tells me I am looking strong! Soon I see Ian and he keeps me company with his ride, stop, cheer, ride, stop, cheer…it makes me smile as I hear the ticking of his bike as he comes past me! As I get to the turn point on the final lap, I look at the clock there. It says 12:46:23. If that’s right, I have just under 45 minutes to basically run a park run and come in at 13:30. I can do that and relief washes over me! I can do this! I am going to finish and become an Ironman! I have the biggest smile on my face as I count down the last 3 miles. I even tell myself that I can walk up the 2 short hills on the way back to the finish. But when I get to them, I don’t! I am not giving up now! I ran this far, I will run to the end! The cheers increase as I get closer and closer, I have 2 bands and I am on the last mile! The feeling is amazing, there is nothing like it! I hammer it down the finishing red carpet – there is a great video of me (thanks to my epic support crew)! The biggest smile on my face, “Girl, look at that body” is the song that is playing and I look at the clock 13:16:23…I can’t quite believe it! I have smashed my expectation massively! And I cross that finish line!! What a feeling! The thought of it now, as I re-live it to write this, brings tears to my eyes! I am an Ironman!!! A medal is placed around my neck and a man shakes my hand. I can’t stop smiling. I then get wrapped in foil and head to get a print-out of my time, along with my finishers t-shirt. Reality then starts to hit…I DID IT!! I ACTUALLY DID IT!! I am then crying. So deliriously happy! It’s crazy!

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T-shirt in hand, I see a man handing out cans of drink. He offers me a can of coke, which I accept and drink it. It tastes like liquid gold. I try to find Channing but the tears in my eyes mixed with dried on sweat make it difficult to see and a lady helps me. I park Channing further down by bike check-out as I can’t take him until I also have my transition bags which I need to collect from the beach. I just start to step onto the ramp down to the beach (my legs not so happy at this) and I am grabbed into a big by Lisa and Mark…the tears start again and we are all crying! Lisa hands me my phone, which she tells me has been going nuts and I explain I need to go and get my bags. They want to get them for me but they are not allowed. I gingerly walk down to collect them before heading back up to get Channing and then meet them again at the exit. Mark takes Channing and Lisa takes my bags and we head towards the apartment, looking for Ian. I try to call Heather but her phone is off…I leave some form of a blubbering voicemail, I am not even sure what I said! Then I call my tri-wife and just cry down the phone! I make a start on the stair climbing back to the apartment, I need to keep moving because once I stop, I won’t be able to move again! I get up the first set of stairs and then Ian appears! More hugs required! My support crew are very brave to be hugging me! I am soaked in sweat, it is dried onto my skin and clothes, and I probably stink too!! But they don’t seem to care!

I get into the apartment and sink into a chair. They are offering me everything. Strangely I don’t know what I want…my tummy is feeling rather sick. I ask for a cup of tea as I am getting cold and move to go and clean my teeth as the gels and energy drinks have left my mouth feeling furry and sticky and horrible! Heather then calls me…she is at a wedding reception, I start crying again! I am such a girl! She is then crying too! I made her proud!!! Yes!!!!! I sit to drink my tea and try to nibble on some crisps. I don’t want anything sweet. So despite not having cake for what feels like forever, right now I don’t want any! I call my mom to let her know I am still alive and start to read some of the messages I have received. It all feels a bit overwhelming! I am in shock! I still can’t believe it! I am also getting cold and decide I need to have a shower. Lucky Lisa gets the job of helping me out of my kit and into the shower. I think about sitting in the shower but quickly come to the conclusion that if I do that, I won’t get back up again! I wash my hair and all the sweat and grime off my body and then wrapped in a towel I go and sit on my bed. Then I just can’t move. I was full of good intentions to go back down to the finishing line and cheer in the last hour but my body has given up. I pull on my pjs and get into bed. Mark and Ian head out for supplies and I request a bottle of full fat coke, the can earlier being so amazing I want some more!! They also return with pizzas and beer. I start on the coke and then ask for some pizza! Here starts the ribbing that they got 2 pizzas between the 3 of them and now I am eating in, despite saying I didn’t want anything earlier! They give in though and hand me 3 slices. I eat them and then a fourth and drink 2 glasses of coke and my tummy feels a little better.

I can now start reading all the messages and notifications on my phone! All I can say is thank you to everyone for all your kind words and comments. They are amazing!! I still can’t stop smiling! Ian heads out to cheer in the last hour and soon Lisa and Mark head to bed. Whilst I am tired, I can’t sleep! Can you be too tired to sleep? Also, drinking coke before bed probably didn’t help matters! I nod off for about an hour and then wake up needing a wee. I am also hungry. Really hungry! I gingerly hobble to the toilet where sitting down and then getting back up again isn’t so fun and then on to the kitchen to source food. I raid the crisp stash and take a big bowlful back to bed with me, along with a recovery shake. A 3.30am midnight feast for me!! Yum! At 5.30am I am on the move again…back to the kitchen where I obtain rice pudding and rice cakes to take back to bed. This hunger is insatiable! At 7.30am I am making tea and toast, then I have peanut m&m’s!! It’s all so good!

Ian wants to head out and swim a lap of the IM swim course so I offer to go with him and sit on the beach as he swims. The walk down the stairs takes a while but I make it and I enjoy sitting on the beach having some peace and quiet. It’s strange to be at the spot where it all began yesterday morning. It feels like so long ago! I rest my head on my knees and I think I might have dozed off briefly. Ian’s swim complete, we head back to the apartment and I get my Ironman towel (I can use this now I am officially an Ironman) and sun cream and head down to the pool. I don’t plan on moving for the day! Snoozing in the sun and refreshing dips in the pool are all that I need! I try to ignore my hunger as I don’t want to climb the stairs back to the apartment but Ian takes pity and heads up to make us both a giant sandwich! It doesn’t last long!! A day of lazing around in the sun is bliss.

Soon it is shower hour, then time for a quick toast with some bubbly before heading out for dinner! We are going for steak and chocolate cake! Yum!! I finally put my finishers t-shirt on and we start the walk to Lomo Alto. First things first, I have the 85 stairs to go down. It turns out that walking down them backwards is the way to go! The 10 minute walk takes me about 25 minutes, I am on a go-slow this evening!! I order a cocktail and then prawns and mushrooms followed by steak! I can’t wait!! I devour the prawns along with the cocktail. This is bliss! Then the steak arrives…I have been waiting for this! Another round of drinks also arrives! I make a start on my steak…but oh no! Tiredness is kicking in. It hits me like a freight train! I can’t even finish my steak. I am no longer an invisible ironman…I am a yawning tired mouse…

I don’t even have chocolate cake…we walk back (the support crew taking the mick out of my tired sorry state all the way back) I crawl up the stairs, pull my pjs on and as soon my head hits the pillow, I fall asleep!