Saturday, 17 July 2010

The 15 peaks challenge . . . .

Challenge number 6, the 15 peaks of Snowdonia above 3000ft (or 900m) in 24 hours. Starting on Snowdon, completing all the rocky ridges that form the Glyderau and finishing with a trudge over the Carneddau to Foel Fras near the coastline. My brother Richie had done it a few years ago so my first port of call was to ask him to join in. Following that some of my local mates, other Dad’s from school, Ken, Mark, Mike and Manu agreed to join in the fun with Clive and David as back up in support vehicles.

The logistics of organising the 15 peaks was a greater challenge than the other events. With no race marshals or ‘organisation’ behind the planning we were pretty much self-reliant and a mistake up there would almost certainly result in a trip in a helicopter. We agreed that for the full experience we would bivvy on Snowdon the night before and head out early to bag the first 3 summits before breakfast.

Having trooped up Snowdon via the Pyg Track on Saturday afternoon we arrived at the summit at 8pm in low visibility, light rain and stiff winds. We quickly established a sheltered camping spot behind the café and were glad we’d brought tents rather than bivvy bags as we set up camp in the increasing wind. Naturally, being the ‘men’ we are it was time for a curry and a few cheeky sniffs of Glenmorangie before we retreated to the shelter of our tents. In spite of being incredibly comfortable and cosy, we didn’t sleep much, Snowdon is a noisy old place at night with gusts of wind howling through the valley and late 3 peak-ers summiting until about 0330. And so, we wearily climbed out of our beds at 4am ready to begin.

As we climbed to the summit cairn we realised what we’d all been dreading, that with winds

gusting to 35-40mph an attempt on the narrow ridge of Crib Goch combined with low visibility and slippery conditions, could be a potential disaster. With discretion being the better part of valour, we agreed to head over to summit #2 Crib y Ddysgl and then head off Snowdon via the Pyg Track instead of bagging Crib Goch (#3) to meet up with our support vehicle and Clive who’d prepared welcome bacon sarnies and a hot brew.

As we started out from Nant Peris, the cloud was lifting though the wind was still persistent

and we commenced the long trudge up Elidir Fawr. At 924m it’s not the biggest summit but certainly the longest climb of the day starting from only 100m. As we reached the top 2 hours later the cloud was thinning and we could look back at Crib Goch, still shrouded in fast moving cloud and feel moderately content we’d made the right decision.

Relatively quick going took us over to #5 - Y Garn which is a beautiful mountain with incredible views back on Snowdon, ahead to Glyder Fawr and over the Ogwen Vally to Tryfan and Pen Yr Ole Wen, some of our conquests for later in the day. A couple of other teams of 15 peakersstopped for a chat and we compared experiences.

As we dropped down to Llyn y Cŵn I would have liked nothing more than to pitch up a tent and enjoy a couple of cans of beer with my friends – truly one of the most idyllic locations on the walk with incredible views of Tryan and Pen yr Ole Wen by a sparking mountain lake. In reality, we had time for a quick pee and a dose of beef jerky before climbing up a massive scree slope to Glyder Fawr. ‘Scree’ doesn’t quite define it though really . . . ‘boulder field’ may be a more fitting description.

Glyder Fawr and Fach are like the surface of the moon, with massive rocks littered all over and a certain sense of impending doom. Having scrambled about the summit of Glyder Fach and gained the ubiquitous shot of me and my brother Rich on the Canon Stone it was time to take the scree slope down to the east of Bristly Ridge. Not an easy route down off the mountain made all the

more annoying as two spawny young fell-runners

came jogging down past us, when I say ‘jogging’, it was more ‘falling with style’.

Taking in the excellent scramble to summit #8 Tryan, from the south face found us at the

summit standing next to the two rocks known as Adam and Eve where brave souls make the leap of faith between them. After 10 hours of walking, none of us were confident enough in our legs to make the jump this time and we gratefully descended the west face down a gulley that leads to the A5 and, with great relief, arrived at the support cars. David and Clive had a brew on and it was here that Mark had to make the difficult but wise decision to pull out due to problems with his hips and knees. You just never know when these injuries are going to flair up and our last training climb he’d been absolutely fine.

The phsycological endurance of a challenge like this is as important as the physical fitness and leaving the comfort of support cars, that could of instantly transported us to a cosy pub with cold beer, was a real test. As we headed out on the second biggest climb of the day up Pen yr Ole Wen at 5pm, I think we all felt a pang of regret we weren’t resting our legs with Mark.

However, Pen yr Ole Wen is a great mountain climb, with a section that ascends via a beautiful

stream before some fun scrambling up a gully that leads to a steady open section to the summit overlooking Ffynon Lloer – a beautiful lake that apparently contains a World War 2 plane.

The summit was no less exhilarating with the best views of the day. To the north we could see the whole of Yns Môn to Holyhead and beyond the coast of Ireland. To the East we could see right along the coast towards Prestatyn and the North West of England and even make out the shape of the Isle of Man. Looking back on ourselves we

could see Snowdon, now clear of cloud, and pick out each of the summits we’d done so far and ahead to Carnedd Dafydd, Yr Elen and Carnedd Llewelyn.

Going from here started to feel painstakingly slow as we started to worry about diminishing light levels. The route to Yr Elen involves an hour out and back troop along pretty much the same path and with our final summit of Foel Fras in view it felt a real waste of time to be coming off our trajectory for home in order to bag peak #12.

Foel Grach, summit #13, was snapped on the move in the growing gloom towards Carnedd Uchaf where we found ourselves in almost complete darkness. Sometimes, there are angels watching over you and as we tried to find the path to Foel Fras, we bumped in to some other 15 peakers heading off the mountain, and Dafydd (bizarrely a colleague from work) informed us we’d started out on a path that would have brought us down on the opposite side of the mountain to our support cars. In spite of knowing the mountain, things look very different in the dark and we were grateful for a path made almost entirely of limestone rocks that glistened in the light our head torches.

We approached the trig point at the summit of our final peak, Foel Fras, snapped a quick photo and stopped the clock. Official time from summit

#1 to summit #15 - 18h 26m.

The climb from here was far from over though and it took a further 2 hours to reach the support cars parked above Abergwygregyn. A long long descent across bog land, taking in some wild horses making scarey noises in the dark, another climb passed the summit of Drum, and a steady slog that felt much further in the dark than any of us remembered. I’d run it a few times in preparing for the Pembrokeshire half marathon and still found myself worrying we’d somehow taken a wrong turn.

Relief and exhaustion swept over us as we arrived at the cars but not so much that we couldn’t celebrate with a cold can of beer. The ghost of chemo number 6 left well and truly behind us on the summits of 14, 3000 ft mountains.

Another great challenge in Marti-thon 2010 and huge thanks to all of the team, it was an amazing experience and you all helped make it unforgettable.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Marti-thon update

Well, first off it's been a busy old time since i finished the York - Derby bike ride!!! In the end the Sunday was a a fine day although i spent quite a bit of it riding alone in order to make the most using tarmac routes. After lunch in Edwinstowe the last section was like riding home and as i passed through Kimberley, couldn't resist a surprise visit to our friends Sal and Keef. On arrival at Pride park in Derby in the rain, i was overwhelmed to see Amy and Geoff from the Derby jugglers who had come out to welcome me back. It was then hasty goodbyes to Amie and Alice from the Lymphoma Association and a couple of my fellow riders before racing off to catch my train home to Prestatyn.

In the meantime things have been going well with training for my other events. A few weeks ago whilst camping i tried out my first open water swim which was a good, if somewhat humbling experience! The first few attempts i couldn't get into a rhythm at all as i struggled to get used to peering in the gloom of a lake rather than the smooth tiles of a pool. The Carneddau Tri club do open water swimming sessions every Friday night at Llyn Geirionydd so i may have to spend bit of time over there with them prior to the Bala Tri. All in all the swimming though is finally coming together and i'm feeling steadily more confident about the mile swim in September.

Last week Manu, Mark, Mike and Myself (alliteration!?) all climbed up Snowdon via the Pyg track and reccied the route down Crib Goch where we were met with strange looks from other climbers as it's far more common to climb UP Crib Goch. The weather was amazing and is the first time i've been able to see anything other than cloud from Snowdon's summit. Now, we are putting finishing touches to plans for the 15 peaks in two weeks time.

Also in the news, my great friend Alwyn has completed his 'Golfy Marti-thon' by playing 3 rounds of golf in 24 hours in 3 countries. I joined him and his pals Alywn and Wod at the first tee in Denbigh golf club at 5 am on Friday June 18th for a beautiful start to the day. They then went on to complete a round in Wigan where the club had not only provided them with a free round of golf, but had also asked all the other club players to let them through if they caught up, which they did as well as applauding!! Their final round was in Dumfries where they finished up at about 9pm having played 54 holes and walked roughly 20 miles!! I'm sure the pint at the 55th hole tasted sweeeeeet. They have done an amazing fund raising effort and raised well over £1000 to add to the Marti-thon pot - thanks guys Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Finally, massive thanks to Sal's step Grandmother, Laurie, who is a lovely person as well as being an internationally renowned author. Following a lovely blog post about me and Marti-thon *blush*, several of her fans have donated to Marti-thon so huge thanks. You can read Laurie R Kings blog here; (and if you haven't read any of her books i can highly recommend them).

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Lymphoma Bike ride - Part ONE

So, i'm frantically writing this in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Rotherham before my 15 minutes t'internet session runs out!!!

Having arrived in York last night following a a reasonable train journey via Manchester i met with some of the representatives from Lymphoma Association and some of the other riders and was immediately made to feel welcome - especially as there were empty beer glasses littering the tables!

Dinner was served at 7pm following a briefing from the Alice and Amie from the Lymphoma Association - reminding us of relevant pit stops and issuing our super groovy race t-shirts (not a dayglo number unfortunately). Duncan Preston joined us and happily chatted to anyone about Dinner Ladies and of course what Julie and Victoria are REALLY like. A couple more cheeky stella's with Tel (one of my new chums) and it was time to head to bed.

As i settled in my with eager thoughts of the next day I slipped into a beautiful slumber . . . . and then . . . . WEEEEOOOOOWEEEEOOOOOWEOOOOOO - FIRE ALARM!!!!!!

So we all dutifully trooped outside as FOUR fire engines turned up to tell us there was nothing wrong.

Breakfast was served efficiently and the Duncan (first name terms) wished us on our way and then went off to do lovey things while we started out on our 57 (read 70) mile trip.

Now, it's clear that Sustrans are an amazing organisation but also that the significant funding they were given in the last 90's has not gone as far as updating any of their maps. So we've basically bimbled out way to the Holiday Inn in Rotherham by way of fields and motorways and as i write this waiting for the delights of dinner and an England match there are still 14 people MIA . . . sure they'll be fine ;o)

Better go as only have 3 minutes left!!!!

Love to everyone - will write more when i return home. Love you all thanks for your support.

Martin xxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Warming up for the Lymphoma Annual Bike Ride!!!

So . . . . challenge number 5 is rapidly approaching and the weather forecast is starting to look like it might be half decent on Saturday and Sunday.

When I signed up for Lymphoma Association Annual Bike the original intention was that the ride would go Coast to Coast, in the end the Lymphoma Association have had to change the route from the last few years to go from York to Derby - two of the UK's most haunted cities. Along with other supporters i will be riding approximately 126 miles over the two days, stopping over for the night in Rotherham. The route follows much of the Sustrans routes No's 6 & 62 so will be mostly off main roads and will take in some lovely countryside through the Earth Centre, Sherwood Forest, Newstead Abbey and Clumber Park. In many ways this will be a nice trip down memory lane for me as we pass through many of our favourite spots to walk and cycle when we lived in Notts. The finish line is at Pride Park, a spitting distance from my old offices in Derby so i think will very much fit into the 'Life Affirming' category. (I wasn't particularly happy in that job) ;o)

I'm really looking forward to this challenge for a number of reasons. It's not strictly a race so we can enjoy the scenery and i'm really looking forward to sharing stories with the other riders as, to date, i've not met many other people who's lives have been affected by Lymphoma. Also, somebody else is taking all the strain in terms of planning this event so all i have to do is find my way to the hotel - er ... taxi!

I'll post more next week giving a full account of my experience but in the meantime please wish me good weather and no punctures!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lymphoma Reflections . . .

Today is the 20th May and two years ago I began a journey that has changed my life and the lives of those around me forever. On this day in 2008 I was admitted to hospital having spoken to the good people at NHS direct because I had concerning tingling in my left arm and had noticed my veins protruding unusually down my left hand side. Assuming it was a circulation problem we dropped the kids at school and headed for A&E. As it turns out the circulation problem was a ‘bulky’ tumour (10cm’s is pretty bulky) pushing on my aorta and after two weeks, a chest biopsy, CT scans, bone biopsy (ouch) and a reasonable amount of prodding I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – Large B-Cell Mediastinal Hon-Hodgkin Lymphoma – for the Lymphoma buffs.

My wife, Sally, and my two children Oscar and Molly, who were 4 and 2 at the time, had to learn to cope with a new lifestyle. We settled into a rhythm of 3 weekly chemo interspersed with clinic visits and blood tests, emotional ups and downs and balancing work and childcare. We learnt a new vocabulary, read anything we could to understand what I would be going through and were bowled over by the high standard of care we received through the NHS.

Cancer is a horrible disease that takes away more than just lives but I have been lucky so far. For me I needed quiet time and time to rest, a challenge in a house with young children but my family rose to that challenge. Our extended families came and helped by taking the children out and I missed trips to the circus, swimming, picnics and walks in the woods. I had to take steroids for 5 days after every chemo and my family had to cope with a grumpy man who got angry and shouted or sad and cried. And Sally, had to watch the man she loves change in both appearance and attitude.

When Sally and I talk about 2008, our experiences are poles apart. There are whole chunks of time I’ve forgotten and whilst I worked so hard to try and keep family life normal, sometimes Sally had to take on both our roles. When the only way I could cope with how I was feeling was to go to the beach where it was quiet and the sea-air blew away that horrible drenched-in-chemicals feeling, she just go on with what needed doing. She really should have started wearing her pants on the outside.

But, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Sally’s self-reliance during that time has led to a positive change in her outlook and self-confidence and I love her all the more for it. Oscar and Molly proved themselves to be the caring beautiful children they are and continue to be, the love and understanding they gave me during that time belies their young age, they are truly incredible. And for me there were some magical experiences in 2008. I flew kites, a lot, and met a worldwide group of friends online because of it who looked out for me, sent me kind messages and came to Prestatyn to fly with me. I took the children camping when I was feeling better in between chemo and we splashed in muddy puddles, toasted marshmallows and climbed on rocks. I worked when I could and my employers looked after me and my work colleagues accommodated me, I was really lucky. I was reminded time and time again how incredibly fortunate we are to live where we live, to be able to walk to the beach or drive in the hills at a moments notice. I watched the Beijing Olympics and felt inspired by the athletes. My brother turned 40 and we had a joyful time with family when I was at one of my lowest ebbs, and us 3 boys sat out till late talking rubbish over a coolbox of beer.

And all the time I dared to consider what I would do when I was better. I dreamt of sliding down snowy mountains, of cycling in the hills or walking up Snowdon.

Now here I am, last weekend I did my first triathlon, yesterday I cycled 50 miles on the work commute and last night I sat round a table in a pub with a bunch of great mates planning our ascent of the 15 highest peaks in Snowdonia in 24 hours. . . .

Next I’ll be saying I’m going to jump out of a plane!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Harlech Triathlon . . . and my 35th birthday

So, Sunday May 9th and challenge number 4 and what's more me celebrating 35 years on Planet Earth.

The household woke early after much preparation the night before; bike oiled and tyres pumped to 110psi, nutritionally balanced dinner, clothing checked to ensure it meets regulations and a cheeky can of Stella - just to steady the nerves. I religiously ate my porridge before sliding awkwardly into my lycra and figuring out if i could swim 400 metres, bike 30km and run 6.5 km whilst constantly breathing in.

We left Prestatyn at 7am with blue skies and a promising forecast and drove the 60 or so miles to Harlech which is a stunning drive skirting round Betws y Coed before climbing over the Snowdonia range to Blaenau Ffestiniog and on to Harlech.

On arriving in Harlech some racers were already out on the bike leg or inside the leisure centre taking part in the swim. Due to the fact the pool will only hold 15 swimmers (5 lanes, 3 per lane) at any one time the starts are staggered with the slowest racers going first from about 8am who take 2.5 hours+ on to the elite athletes who start at 11 and then whizz round in about an hour and a quarter. I checked in at registration while Sally took Ozzy and Molly to play on the conveniently located swings and then racked my bike in transition (just saying the words "racked my bike in transition" makes me feel like a triathlete!).

There is definitely a geeky side to triathlete's as they furtively compare bikes, methods for changing (to talc or not to talc), shaving techniques and nutritional supplements. For me i'd chosen not to shave my legs as i already do quite enough shaving, decided to talc and following my healthy breakfast and banana in the car, opted for old skool Jelly Babies for a quick sugar rush on the bike. My new road bike may be a secondhand steed but it still looked super sweet in my eyes racked up next to the uber-bikes ridden by some of the competitors.

First port of call was the race briefing so i double checked my kit, kissed my family and headed for the pool. The man took us through the logistics of the race, where to push your bike over the railway, where to hand in your velcro timing tabs and which direction to enter and leave transition. When you're nervous for your first race this information makes your head spin but it's also good to be able to ask questions and at least have something of an idea of what the hell you're doing.

As we waited nervously for our time to enter the water i chatted to other competitors from Stoke, Wrexham and Aberystwyth and was pleased to meet other first timers as well as more experienced triathletes. The atmosphere was great and, contrary to the glossy magazines, not every triathlete has a 6-pack and long limbs - there was a great cross section of people in it for the experience and my, albeit diminishing, beer belly fitted in just fine.

Having donned my sexy red swimming cap i entered the water to start the first of my 16 lengths. Unfortunately, in my over-excitement i went out too fast and after the first 100 metres had to resort to breast stroke for a few lengths to get my breath back. Even so, i exited the pool in 10'01 only 30 seconds longer than i'd anticipated. I ran out to the transition area in my trunks before having a trauma getting my top on with a wet upper body, popping the safety pins holding my number in place in the process. Once i'd got over that minor issue i was glad i'd talc-ed my socks, put on my helmet and shades (style is everything) and ran out of the transition area to the bike mount area.

The first leg of the 30 km is a steep uphill climb out of Harlech and it was here i really found my rhythm. The bike is without a doubt my strongest discipline and, even on the climb, I overtook one of the guys from Stoke who'd beat me out of the pool. From the top of this climb the ride levelled out into a constantly undulating but pretty quick course. The blue sky turned the sea azure blue and amazing views south down the coastline made the ride a feast for the eyes. I passed several other riders who i'd started with in the pool and made it to the turn around point in just under 30 minutes. I was seriously chuffed with this because the course literature had said anyone who completes the ride in an hour or less were doing really well - i'd planned on 1:15' because they'd said it was a tough ride. The return journey was tougher with a slight head wind but no less beautiful looking across the sea towards the Llyn Pensinsula. The final hill coming back down was blisteringly fast on the descent but we had been warned not to exceed the speed limit (30mph) or we may face penalty points. Sure enough the police were there checking.

As i finished the ride my watch was saying 1:10 and i realised that i would probably finish in under two hours which was far better than i'd expected. As i ran with my bike in to transition once again Sal and the kids were there with our good friend Alwyn (Bungee companion and Golfy-Marti-thon superstar) and Callum to cheer me on. As i changed into my running shoes and stuffed a mouthful of jelly babies in, Molly was shouting at me "have you won yet Daddy?" Again I felt like a proper triathlete as marshalls shouted 'BIKE!!!' and 'RUNNER!!!' each time you move around in transition to get other people to get out of your way.

I left the transition area waved off by the family to complete the 6.5km run and heard a shout of 'Go Martin' which came from Rocky and Rhian from the Carneddau Tri Club and whom i'd met at Christmas when i joined them for the Club ride.

Again the run was a stunning course setting off through the sand dunes and quickly reaching the beach where we ran on (thankfully) hard packed sand. My legs coped well with the transition and i was glad i'd done several 'brick' sessions in training going from bike to run. It was here i realised what a levelling race a triathlon is. In a running race such as the half-marathon's i've done, unless somebody's hurt themselves or really gone out too fast you don't tend to see them again once they've passed you. But in a triathlon everyone has stronger and weaker disciplines. Sure enough the guy from Stoke i passed on the bike caught up with me and we ended up finishing within seconds of each other. Similarly, i passed 'tree trunk leg man', who'd rocketed past me on the bike leg, with ease on the run. I really liked this element because ultimately you're racing the clock and have to focus on your weakest disciplines in order to get better competitively.

The final push was the 1:4 climb to the finish line at Harlech Castle. With legs and lungs burning i ran all the way to the top passing relieved looking finishers coming back down the other way, all shouting encouragement and 'nearly there'. I crossed the line in 1:46'31 way better than i'd anticipated to receive my winners medal made from genuine Snowdonia slate - a nice touch i reckon.

Unfortunately, because i'd finished a good 15 minutes quicker than anticipated, Sal, Alwyn and kids were still playing on the park as i nonchalantly returned to hugs and the promise of birthday beers.
Having returned to Presatyn there was no respite for this budding triathlete as i settling into a cold beer and stoked up the BBQ for the warmest day of the year so far and a bunch of great chums around to celebrate my birthday in style.

Next stop is York for the Lymphoma Association York to Derby bike ride, approximately 150 miles over two days and i'm really looking forward to meeting all my riding buddies and hearing their stories. What's more we get to meet Duncan Preston from Emmerdale, celebrity supporter of the Lymphoma Association, who's joining us for the start of the race.

Meanwhile, my good friend Alwyn is preparing for the Golfy-Marti-thon, where he will be completing 3 rounds of Golf in 3 Countries in 24 hours. He has a small team who will be starting at their home club in Denbigh, North Wales before, heading to Wigan, England and finishing in Dumfries, Scotland. All proceeds go to the Marti-thon pot and the Lymphoma Association overall. Massive thanks to Alwyn, Alwyn and Dilwyn for doing this you are superstars!!! You can donate by visiting

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

CTS Half Marathon - Challenge THREEEEEEE!!!!

Saturday 27th March saw Manu, Trevor and I completing the Endurance Life Coastal Series half marathon in Pembrokeshire. Manu and I travelled down on the Friday afternoon with a beautiful drive, despite the rain, through Bala (location for the Bala Triathlon in September), Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and on to Broad Haven.

We pulled into the race HQ at 8.15pm and headed for the village hall in Little Haven where 50+ people were registering, milling about and ogling some of the running goodies on sale. We were issued with our race numbers, complimentary t-shirt and our race-timing chip which was strapped to our wrists. As it was getting late at this point we stopped at the Castle pub in Little Haven for a bite to eat (spicy crab pasta - very good) and a cheeky pint before heading to our Travelodge in Pembroke Dock for some rest.

We woke early on Saturday and set about our detailed race preperation (sh*t, shower, shave) checked our race info and mandatory kit. It was a requirement that ALL competitors carried a minimum kit on the race to include; a basic first aid kit, hat, waterproof jacket, emergency blanket, energy snacks and at least 750ml of fluid - something the organisers took very seriously in order to ensure any accidents on the cliffs don't turn into fatalities. We were very impressed with the organisation of the Endurance Life team, they organise a range of sporting events but this was part of the 'Coastal Trail Series; seven races around the British coastline of which Pembrokeshire is the fifth leg. It was very slick from the branding, pre-race information and on the day briefing but they also do a lot of work with the various National Parks to offset the environmental impact of their races by recruiting volunteers to help with jobs such as path repairs, hedge laying and shrub clearance.

The race car park was in nearby Broad Haven and we watched some of the full marathon runners, who'd already started, heading over the cliffs before a bus took us round to Little Haven. It was here we hooked up with my old schoolmate, Trevor Burgess, who I haven't seen for about 22 years. We reconnected on Facebook and it turned out his Mum had Lymphoma a number of years ago and that he's also a keen runner and currently preparing for the London Marathon, so he jumped on the opportunity to have this as a 'training run' . . . oh how we laughed.

At our pre-race briefing we were informed that the route had been slightly changed due to the state of the path following the heavy rains and would be " around about 13.8 miles". They also took the opportunity to point and laugh at anyone who was brave enough to be doing this as their first ever half marathon - it was very clear that those who'd done a CTS run before knew something we didn't . . . .

At 1030 we filed out of the starting area 'dibbing' our timing chips as we went to start our personal timers and headed straight up hill before going up hill some more whereupon there was an uphill section before hitting some very slippery up hill terrain. With lungs and legs burning we levelled out onto a road/ bridlepath section, which my recollection told me was flat until the return journey where the road had apparently shifted to point uphill for the final two agonising miles.

Off the Bridlepath, we hit the Coastal Path proper which undulated from high cliff tops to sheltered bays and mildly slippery grass and mud to intensely slippery bog - my trail shoes holding up well on the former but crampons may have been a better choice for the latter. The 5 mile checkpoint came and went and i grabbed a handful of jelly beans to send me on my way. Before long Marloes sands was in view with an intense turqoise sea in the sunshine that had poked it's head out from behind the clouds. As we turned away from the sea views to head inland i was struck by how little time i'd spent appreciating the views, choosing instead to focus on staying upright. Sure enough, moments later on a completely flat, frankly dry piece of path i managed to trip over a bramble and flip through 180 degrees in mid air before hitting the deck rather hard, only to be picked up by Trev and set on my way whilst trying to look like i'd intended to execute a TJ Hooker style roll, just to impress the girl in tight lycra in front.

As we scaled yet another stile and through the 20 millionth kissing gate, Trev remarked that we must've done about 9 miles by now which our watches told us was probably right - if we were running on the flat - we later realised that the checkpoint we reached about a mile later was, in fact, 8 miles in . . . .

A few miles on and I was surprised to see Manu, who's a far more natural runner than I, looking in pain, he was struggling with blisters and cramp brought on by the horrendous conditions underfoot and so, being the friend I am, I offered him a plaster and carried on.

The final stretch of Coastal path was a steep climb back onto the bridlepath which I staggered up, realising that actually walking is sometimes faster than running. It's amazing at these points how even a half-hearted clap from a passer-by will raise the spirits so i jokingly said to a woman sat on a fence "how am I looking?" . . . "I'm amazed you can talk" came her reply, and so, spurred on by my super-human achievements, i slogged up the incredible tilting road towards the finish and back down the slippery hill from hell whilst chatting to a bloke from Cardiff - I think we were both grateful of the diversion, until the final 200 metres which was all down hill, so i thought i may as well sprint finish and at least beat him . . . .

In the end i was 183rd in the field and came in 2'37:54 - my usual half marathon time being around the 1'55 mark. It was clear talking to others in the field that the Coastal Trail Series is not about getting a personal best, more it is about the experience of running over extreme terrain, with awesome views and a completely different approach to road races, i would do another one of their races in a heartbeat.

Thanks go out again to all those of you who have contributed to the £1180 raised so fair. An amount which currently does not include £125 donated by the Nottingham Jugglers following fund raising at their one day juggling convention. They have agreed that the amount can go towards the costs of entering some of the events.