Day 3 – Thursday 16th May – Beaumaris to Aberffraw
I first awoke at 3:30, the toilet beckoned, the head feels light, the teeth were cleaned, the head feels light, ‘hit the deck Paul’, I did with a semi-controlled thump. ‘Are you O.K. darling?’ ‘probably let me lie here a while’, came my hesitant reply. I know what a pending feint feels like & had just avoided one skillfully.
At breakfast we were asked if we wanted toast, it came, no breakfast order was taken, I had a fear & told Dorina, I looked at our table setting, a teaspoon, a desert spoon, a knife, no bloody fork ‘there is no cooked breakfast! shit’. To make matters worse the ‘continental’ breakfast was a Brexit form of it, no cured meats, no cheese & no croissants or other pastries. All of this was a first for me in a ‘Hotel’ & what a time to be served one. I mitigated as best I could putting Jam on toast for the first time in years but two & a half pieces of toast & a small yogurt were not what the doctor would have ordered. The Waitress was friendly but at check out when she asked me how far I was going did I see a hint of guilt in her eye when I answered?
We moved on, my team arrived, I kept my near feint a secret but not the breakfast. Photo’s taken, ‘good luck Darling’, ‘goodbye Angel’, I ran on, with a Cap.
Not long later near the top of an early hill, a car was parked, a camera was seen, a penny dropped, ‘it must be Gwynfor’, indeed it was. He had been following my progress, was in the area & had come out to take some photo’s, thankfully I was running, we shook hands & chatted whilst trotting before saying thanks & farewell. Soon afterwards failing to see a marker post in the Pen-y-Parc estate I retraced my steps, one of two guys by their van was now walking towards me, he smiled, ‘it’s Paul from the Siabod’ he said, not knowing his name (age thing) we shook hands & he pointed to a marker over near the woods. He would come into the cafe the following Sunday & it would be only then saying ‘you looked like you were on a mission’ that he understood the task in hand. A fellow runner I repaid his interest by talking him into entering the Welsh 1,000 metre peak race, sorry but type 2 fun is ‘fun’.
I moved on & enjoyed the views of Snowdonia from the village of Llandegfan, could I retire hear? Running under the majestic Menai Bridge with even the Britannia Bridge having a structural beauty that I hadn’t seen from below were further early highlights, by this time my first pit-stop with my team had been & gone.
A short barely runable beach section began to turn my mental tide, it was earlier in the day than days 1 & 2, the lack of breakfast kicked in, things were beginning to get serious. A main road section followed by several rutted cow fields with cows & calves all very docile until the last one had an anxious Mother, her calf & herd Chief. I stopped running, skirted wide, looked straight ahead & sighed deeply reaching the style to safety. Side roads, another beach & a long nearly flat descent through more fields took their toll, reaching my team outside Anglesey Sea Zoo the day’s end was feeling a very long way away, 16 miles to be more precise.
At this stop we met a group raising money for charity with one guy walking the whole of the Welsh coastline, 830 miles in a hoped 33 days, having passed them early on day 1 it was good to chat & shake hands, I moved on.
Despite my mental & physical fatigue I was actually moving at a slightly faster pace than day 2 but then I got hit for the need for a number 2, the warning was short, the field lacked privacy, oh shit! I did, I’d had no choice, I hid the mess as best I could but there is a field somewhere near Tan twr that has my stamp on it, move through it quickly. Running through a leafy shaded lane this happy episode was soon put behind me, I’m falling, this could hurt, it did but I’d been lucky, a graze to my right hip & the re-opening of a palm wound I’d suffered in January at a French petrol station of all places. I got up, looked at the offending raised stone in the sleek path & moved on, the blood flowed, I stopped, I have a Buff in the bag, Buff use No. 326 duly created, aka a bandage.
The run into Newborough was a slog, demoralized by my twin setbacks I was thoroughly pissed off & now loose sand to run on ‘yippie, how good to be alive’ were in truth nowhere near my thought processes.
Here even Team J & M turned against me, they were clearly worried at my state but didn’t know I was thinking ‘why have you parked so far away from the toilet block?’ I plodded over to it, hopefully removed the remaining risk & plodded back. I almost asked them to get me an ice cream but the parlor was back in the same direction as the toilet block, too much time would be lost. Had they told me that they had already indulged in ice cream (a confession came days later) they would have been sacked on the spot.
I moved on, it was a trudge through Newborough Forest but I managed to run most of it & reached Team J & M at Maltreath in slightly better spirits knowing that the worse was over. Study the map, a hill or two but the last 3 miles are all downhill or flat, just hope the last 2 miles of sand is the running kind. It was, despite an early setback locating the onward path after 7 Hours & 19 Minutes with almost 33 miles covered day 3 was at last over.
With a lack of Accommodation in Aberfraw Dorina had pre-booked me into a Bed & Breakfast up the road at Rhosneigr. John & Marion drove me up there & once again we planned the next day over cokes, I had progressed from a half to a pint by now.
Early evening I walked to a nearby restaurant, friendly staff, very tasty food but ‘nuovo cuisine’ portions saw me go for he cheese board on top of starter & main course. All scoffed down whilst listening to some middle aged guy who was celebrating his birthday by making a song & dance to the waitress & then his wife for an hour or more over a dirty glass, it’s your birthday, get over it please! I left giving the Waitress a handsome tip ‘that’s for putting up with the idiot’.
Insurance policy was then put into place, a late night shop, two packets of tuna sandwiches & a calorific bottle of wine. The tuna consumed I re-corked the bottle half full & slept my best so far.
Day 4 – 17th May – Aberfraw to Holyhead
Avery good breakfast was followed by Team J & M taking me back to Aberfraw ‘I wish we were going the other way’.
The weather had changed as predicted, light rain, waterproof on & Cap for a new purpose. The initial section was glorious & felt very remote, high tide (I’d not planned the tides & had been lucky so far) saw me scrambling over one headland but I was feeling strong & in high spirits. With rain & a cold breeze the first re-fuel saw me sat in the Team car trying to keep warm.
The next section from South of Rhosneigr to Four Mile Bridge looked too long but I failed to talk my team into an earlier alternative. Failing to find a marked toilet in Rhosneigr the Sandunes became a port of call but I promise I found a spot that can only trouble the sand worms if they are of the fussy kind.
Traeth beech was a joy as plans from RAF Valley gave me a free airshow, were they following my progress from up high? After running around a large inlet I missed a turning & stayed on a rocky & slippery beech before the tide blocked me & brought me to my senses. I scrambled up to a field found the true path & ran on knowing I felt strong & was making good time.
Soon after giving an old couple coming the other way directions I reached the Team, it hadn’t been so far after all.
I moved on having first negotiated an earlier next stop at Rhoscolyn. As I crossed onto Holyhead Island my spirits lifted the end was truly in sight albeit many miles away. This was a mixed leg of good running boards, long boring road but then an isolated coastline above low cliffs before reaching John & Marion once again.
Moving on the flatter sections gave way to climbs, mostly runable but some walked in high spirits, another remote & very beautiful section led me less than an hour later to Trearddur, the miles were melting away now. Of course something had to go wrong, ‘well the Team car is where it should be (albeit not next to the toilet block) but where are the bloody team?’ Knowing them well I entered the adjacent cafe/restaurant/ice cream parlor, nope, coming back out & making my way to the sea front they came around the corner with the urgency of a turkey praying for Christmas but mitigated things by buying me an ice cream, apparently they had been walking off the ice cream they’d already consumed! A further re-fuel in the car, I moved on.
I was now in familiar territory having raced over the coming cliffs & mountain back in 2012 & 13, the clouds had cleared, jacket came off, I was quite simply floating in a serene state of movement. It’s isolated out on these headlands with only marine birds & the occasional bird watcher for company. The path markers are rare so I kept to a mostly outer line where options were available but finally the path turned & headed for South Stack. A steep tarmac road led to my final re-fuel with Team M (John was enjoying the views but joined us soon after). This stop was short, I was strong & wanted the hills to come, I moved on for one last time.
The climb above South Stack felt easy, the traverse to North Stack was longer than I remembered but didn’t trouble me the blood felt like it was pulsing through my veins (strange that as I’d be dead if it wasn’t) but then I almost messed it up. A marker had me descending towards North Stack but at the next T junction, no marker, map was inconclusive, Holyhead is right, I went right & then left to traverse to a lower path heading up from the left. Almost reaching it with thoughts stewing in my head I stopped. ‘Paul that lower path must be rising from North Stack’, in the words of Bonnie Tyler ‘turn around bright eyes’, I did. Soon I was back at the T junction & carried on down the left hand path. Sure enough their was North Stack & a marker sending me right along the lower path. The climb back up did nothing to dampen my high spirits, I had made the right call, I was doing the whole Anglesey Coastal Path, pride thankfully came before no more falls. The run in from here was straight forward but trying to calculate my total 4 day time I speeded up to make sure I recorded under 31 hours in total. My last mile was substantially my fastest of all at nearly 8 minute mile pace, no aches, no pains just pure & simple joy of running & running strong.
There were my Team, I bounded the steps up to Saint Cybi’s Church & touched the Sign I’d started from. The longest day yet at 37 miles had been the easiest by far & had made everything so worthwhile.
Day 1 – 35.3 Miles, 7:30:23, 4485 Calories, 1,063 Metres of ascent.
Day 2 – 32.74 Miles, 7:30:00, 3807 Calories, 995 Metres of ascent.
Day 3 – 32.94 Miles, 7:19:12, 3213 Calories, 552 Metres of ascent.
Day 4 – 36.98 Miles, 8:09:30, 4786 Calories, 948 Metres of ascent.
Total – 138 Miles (Guidebook says 130), 30:29:05, 16,291 Calories, 3,558 Metres of ascent (Guidebook says 4,174)
Of course having used many additional calories before and after each days run I knew I was going to come back skinny. Jumping on the scales the next day I was indeed 400 grams HEAVIER than when I started. In the words of a friend ‘that means you got the refueling spot on’.
Well thank you for putting up with a very long second blog but in truth I also use them as a personal diary to remember my experiences & emotions. I feel this has been more about these feelings than the Anglesey Coastal Path itself so expect one final blog which will feature the path & not the runner, it will be mercifully brief I assure you.
& a Final thank you to Team J & M, Johnathan, Dorina & all those who followed my progress, it is not something I could do on my own!