Race: Lôn Las Cymru
Distance: 253 miles (407km)
Start: Holyhead port/station
Finish: Cardiff Bay
Time Limit: 88 hours
Checkpoints: Every 25 miles (water only)
Kit bag station: Every 50 miles (1 bag only)
Outside help: Shops/pubs allowed
No support allowed
No crew allowed
No poles allowed
As soon as I heard about this race I knew that I wanted to do it, It just seemed right up my street, in the sense that it has very basic support and purely down to the runners themselves to make it to the finish, I love these types of events that only offer the bare minimum l, like just water and nothing else, I have raced very similar to this called the T184 a number of times, where you have to run the entire length of the river thames with only water as the support at every 13 miles and carry all your food and kit from start to finish, not being aloud to stop and any shops/pubs etc, this race was just a bit difference.
- 69 miles longer
- A lot hillier
- Pretty much all on road
- Only an 8hr bigger time limit too complete it
- a drop bag every 50 miles
So I was basing this on two of my previous events, firstly the T184 and secondly when I ran the length of Ireland in 2017 which was all on road, so me and my coach (Mimi Anderson) knew what we had to do training wise.
Right… Ok, now to properly start with this report we have to rewind back to September 2018 were I was lining up at the start of the Tooting Bec 24hr race, a 24hr race running around a standard athletic track…..yes for 24hrs.
I had trained hard for this event and was gutted that I had to drop at 40 miles due to coughing so much, within a week I was diagnosed with Laryngitis and had to pull out of all the races I had entered for the rest of the year, I was so gutted but I’m a every cloud type of person and used this time to fully concentrate on passing my Advanced Diploma In Personal Training course, fast forward to February and I’m still no better but in my last exam I got 39/40 and in March got notice that I passed my course and was a fully qualified level 3 advance personal trainer, yipppppeeeee I was so so so happy.
So by the middle of March and a Full 6 month since Tooting I began to run again HAPPY DAYS, my immune system had taken a battering and I had to get ready for my next event with was in only 4 weeks time…yes 4 weeks, yet another 24hr track event, this time in Crawley, I trained hard as always and managed to get to 12hr before I had to stop as I just wasn’t fit enough to completed the full time, but getting to 12hr was a huge psychological boost for me and my training ahead.
I had 3 more events before Lon Lad Cymru which was the Canal Slam
- May – Grand Union Canal Race 145 mile, Birmingham – London
- July – Kennet and Avon Canal Race 145 miles, Bristol – London
- August – Leeds & Liverpool Canal race 130, Liverpool – Leeds
I completed each one getting fitter and stronger with each event
- GUCR 41:01
- KUCR 36:22
- LLCR 34: 50
I was really pleased with my results and was confident going into the final 6 week block of training before Lon Lan Cymru.
Just after the LLCR I met up with Mark Denby who is a runner and friend of mine who very kindly offered to lend me hist Garmin Oregon sat nav for Lon Las, he even put the route on it, Thank you so much Mark for doing this.
I was trying to juggle my training with setting up a brand new business which in itself is challenging, but being so very passionate about both, nothing was going to stop me.
So my training was split between Richmond Park for my hill reps/long road runs and Dorking (North Downs Way) for my long trail runs.
I like mixing up the surfaces as I feel it strengthens my ankles, but as the Lon Las is mostly on road it was mostly road training that was to come in these 6 weeks, although I do love my favourite hill in Richmond Park going up from the Dysart pub gate to Pembroke Lodge.
Training we split using a heat pack for some of my and a lighter pack for others, My aim was to train with a heavier pack from what I would be racing with as I only had 6 week to get race pack fit.
One major kit switch I did was to change my running footwear, I’d been training since 2013 in Saucony Kinvara’s for my road running and for my trail runs I used Saucony Peregrine’s, I loved both of these shoes but I felt I needed more cushioned shoe for Lon Las, I made the switch to Hokas as the race was 90% on road and carrying a pack and they felt in training a lot more cushioned than the Kinvara’s so they were the shoes I went for.
I also made a trip ProFeet in Fulham to grab a new pair of insole as I needed a new pair fr a while and this was the perfect time, Thank you for looking after me Profeet !!!, I also wanted to see Paul O’ Malley at Feet On The Hill to give my feet the once over before hand, Thank you for looking after me, Paul!!
I started knowing the route as early as June and worked on a document with details of all of the towns and villages that were along the route that maybe helpful in refilling or toilets stops etc, Once again I had done similar in prep for the T184 so I was confident in my methods and approach.( see picture below for my laminated reference sheets).
The route was from Holyhead Port in Anglesey to Cardiff Bay following cycle route 8
I decided to prepare my own food for this event as I really didn’t know what was going to be readily available when I passed though towns or villages and being vegan I didn’t want to take any gambles.
I thought of 4 main food ideas
With Medjool dates, cacao nibs, fresh strawberries, pumpkin seeds, linseeds, sunflower seeds, coconut milk, agave syrup and oats all blended together, rolls into balls and then rolled in pea protein powder, then placed in a dehydrator to harden up slightly but still be moist, this way it would be easier to eat as I wouldn’t need to drink too much water with them.
With 3 different fillings,
- 1st is with avocado, basmati rice, sweet potato, falafel and garlic
- 2nd is lentils, sweet potato, beetroot, mushrooms, ginger and caramel
- 3rd peanut butter, banana and honey with turmeric
OTHER FOOD IDEA
My other food idea is roasted sweet potato wedges with smoked garlic, rosemary and sea salt.
All of this will be put into vacuum bags
- Energy balls packs of 4
- Wraps in packs of 2-3
- Potatoes in packs of 5-6 pieces (this is so they stay fresh and the bag doesn’t split while I’m running)
- Beetroot juice (for drop bag)
- SIS recovery sachets (for drop Bag)
The idea was to have a bum bag around my waist with some food in so I didn’t have to keep taking off my race pack slowing my down.
Below you will see my kit list, ready for all for all kinds of weather that Wales in October could throw at you.
- Hi viz
- Back up light
- Back lights
- Mobile phone (Nokia)
- Waterproof trousers (omm kamleika)
- Waterproof jacket (omm kamleika)
- Space blanket (Bivvy bag)
- Emergency food
- 2 X 600ml water
- Race pack
- Water bladder 1.2L
- Debit card
DROP BAG KIT LIST
- Lithium double AA batteries(headtorch, gps)
- Garment gps
- Waterproof jacket (omm kamleika)
- Sealskinz gloves
- Gloves (Montane mitts)
- Sealskinz socks
- X-Bionic socks (lots of pairs)
- Drymax anti-blister socks X 2 pairs
- Hats (2xu, Adidas)
- Hi-viz vest
- Shoes (Saucony Peregrine & kinvara)
- RockTape (Extra Sticky)
- Insect spray
- Baby wipes
- Salt tablets
- BYB running top X 2
- Extra running top X 3
- Running shorts X 3(2xu)
- Headbands X 4
- 2xu cap
- Sleeping bag
- Arc’teryx jacket (blue)
- 2xu thermal long sleeve top X 2
- Power pack for mobile battery
- Poncho X 2
The race pack I used was a Raidlight 12L Responsiv Race Vest that I had been training with for the last 6 weeks and I was comfortable with, there were a few faults but nothing major that would need changing before the race, I opted for soft flask bottles over hard ones purely for comfort as the hard ones tend to dig into my chest when I have a heavier pack, I tested this out in training beforehand so I worked out which was best for me.
So with all the route, kit and food prep and training done the last thing to do before I headed of to Holyhead on Tuesday was to go for my sport massage, I’ve been going to Physio 4 Life since 2012 and they have always looked after me and got my body ready for each of my huge events and I wouldn’t go anywhere else.
So with my body all ready to rock and muscles relaxed and primed all what remains to do was just some final checking the night before heading to Holyhead.
My plan as this was a big race was to get to Holyhead a a few days before the race day as to be in a relaxed mode and not be too tired from traveling all the way from London which was above 4 1/2 hours away.
So I got to Holyhead on Tuesday evening and checked into my Travelodge, sorted my things out and lay my kit out and put all of my food into 2 Asda shopping bags and put them in a bath of cold water to keep them cool,
After that I headed out for my last training session which was a 30 min easy jog before going to get some food.
I spent the next day making the final adjustments to my kit and food drop bags, relaxing and eating.
Along the route there where 4 points where I could access my drop bag 59, 99, 150 and 202 miles, so I made up 4 plastic bags to put into my big drop bad so I could take 1 out at each drop bag point along the route.
Each one contained
- 3 wraps
- 6 energy balls
- Pro plus
- Route details for that stage
And of course I had access to my kit that I may need during the race.
So that evening was registration and I got to meet the legend that is Mark Cockbain, some of the other runners and Karen, Matt and John that had very kindly volunteered their time to help with the event.
I heard that 35 had signed up to run but already it looked like there where only 25 starting the next morning.
So with registration done, it was food, a Guinness, then off to bed for a 4:45am wake up call.
I awake to the sound of pelting rain outside my window, I slept with the window open as I naturally get warm in bed so opening the window helps me sleep.
I quickly worked out that the weather today is going to be very stop start, stop start so I knew what I was going to wear to begin with, so with breakfast eaten, kit sorted, water bottles filled up and drop bag and race pack packed, I headed downstairs to the Travelodge reception where the other runners had gathered, the weather had cleared up and I put my drop bag into the race van and headed to the start at Holyhead Port with the other runners.
Holyhead port to Menai Bridge (mile 30) 1st checkpoint
The race started dry as I predicted but as soon as we made it up the first uphill section the heavens opened and it pissed down, I was already prepared with my neoprene gloves, buff, Omm kamleika jacket, 2xu hat so I was all toasty on top as I don’t really get cold legs, but I had waterproof trousers in my race pack just incase.
So the Isle of Anglesey is pretty exposed and relatively flat with a couple of up hills in but nothing major, the weather was humid with the weather stations saying it was at 80% so I only wore a t-shirt under my jacket as not to sweat too much, my plan from the off was to run for 55 mins and then walk for 5 and then play it by feel, I was with Rhys Jenkins for the first part and he wanted to stick with me for as long as possible with the 55/5 plan, by mile 15 I believe he’d dropped off the pace and I was on my own, 20 miles in there was a shop where another runner was buying food, I managed to get my water topped up quickly and I was out of there, by mile 25 I was in the zone and heading to the first checkpoint, the rain was on and off and heavy when is came, I stopped at a gas station before the bridge to grab a coke for a quick energy burst then headed over the bridge and was greeted by Peter, Lindley and Karen (sorry if I forgot anyone else).
Nice to see peeps and them I’m off.
Menai Bridge to Criccieth (mile 59): Checkpoint 2 drop bag
So I set off after reloading with water and headed out along the road, soon to realised I was heading the wrong way, quick adjustment and I’m back on track with only mins lost..phew, for the next 18 miles of so I remember it being pretty exposed as we were close to the sea and the winds was pretty strong with some heavy showers thrown in for good measure, the next point of action was Morrisons and then the town of Carnarfen, I popped in to grab some food and bumped into a number of other runners, they had sold out of hot vegan food and the queue for the kiosk was 10 deep so I left and headed into town where I found a cafe and grabbed a coffee and a vegan sausage roll mmm so I was all good in the hood, I pushed on to where the first drop bag point was, by this point darkness was upon us, a bit before the next check, I met another runner (so sorry but I forgot his name) he told me he was gone and was going to drop at the next checkpoint, he was a really nice chap and we head to the checkpoint together, my god this checkpoint was exposed, right by the sea, I remember putting my 2XU thing sleeve thermal top on to keep warm at night, I head to my bag and switched sweatbands as they where a bit wet, I wear these to keep my hands warmer in cold weather. within 15 mins I set and ready to go, I say my goodbyes and wish my fellow runner all the best in his recovery.
Criccieth to Llanfair (mile 80) 3rd checkpoint
Pretty soon after leaving the checkpoint I noticed a chap heading over towards me, it was Bryon Crook who had been racing, I found out that he had dropped out due to sciatica, what a shame…I wished him all the best and headed on, this part was also exposed and for the next 7 miles it was just head down until the next town of Pothmadog, each town was psychological for me as I went through them and ticked it off my list, so the notes I made before helped, unfortunately I don’t remember much about the checkpoint at Llanfair
Llanfair to Dolgellau (mile 99):Checkpoint 4 drop bag
From Llanfair to Barmouth we were right by the coast and the elements where in full force, but I was snug in my kit and pushed on, After Barmouth we moved more inland and I was moving well and in good spirits, I arrived at the rugby club by morning time and was greeted by the lovely Karen, her smile brightened up the day, in to my drop bag and some banter out with some food and cracked on.
Dolgellau to Checkpoint 5 ( Mile 125)
This part of the course is proper rural Valley Wales, a lot of hills and some serious down hills too, through the slate mines just before Corrie, by this point I needed some proper food and my wraps weren’t cutting it, so by chance I found a vegan cafe called Idris Store in Corrie, they were so lovely and really looked after me and were so interested and shocked by the scale of what we were all doing, I had a strong coffee and a smoked tofu spinach wrap and left with some other snacks for the road ahead, HAPPY DAYS !!!!, straight onto a downhill section quickly followed by a up hill, (This is quite common around here ha ha) the next 5 mile was along a beautiful valley to Machynlleth, if I remember rightly I was pretty much in and out of this town, and then a couple of miles after the town was a pretty brutal climb, onward and very upward hill wise to the next checkpoint, the route was extremely open and you could see the rain and storms in the distance and knew they were coming which in my view is a huge advantage so you could prepare if need be.
I got to the checkpoint to be greeted by Karen & Matt, they filled up my bottles and allowed me to sit in the back of Matts van for a bit, Then Peter turned up with the van and ask if I wanted sit inside to warm up, I checked if it was fully allowed as rules are rules, after 5 mins I was all good and headed out.
Checkpoint 5 – Rhayder (mile 150): Checkpoint 6 drop bag
Within about 5 -10 mins of leaving the checkpoint I remember putting on my 2xu long sleeve thermal base layer and also my Omm kamleika waterproof trousers on as I believed a storm was coming, and as predicted within 5 mins of me zipping up it started, absolutely hammering it down, We were on a lovely long uphill section and towards the top was John in his van, looking rather happy with himself and warm inside, I waved said “enjoy the warm” and went on my way, more running to the woodlands of Wales, I’m absolutely loving this and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing then running in the countryside, this for me is absolute heaven.
This section was a mixture of country and woodland roads, I arrived at the checkpoint in good spirits and was greeted by Karen, it was bloody warm in there and I was careful not to get too warm and get a shock when I got outside, I remember having a 10 min sleep there and than going to the loo before I left and using that time to acclimatise and ready for the cool conditions outside, said goodbye and went on my way, I also remember at the this checkpoint I noticed Jon Steele, what was more shocking that Karen was wearing a Brutal events Hoodie which had nothing to do with Mark Cockbain’s events or given that Jon was there nothing to do with Hardmoors events either… absolutely shocking.
Rhayder to Erwood Station (mile 175): Checkpoint 7
Leaving here early morning it was dark and wet, not too cold for me as my kit was still holding up and I was happy I got used to the cold inside the aid station toilet before heading outside, 18 mile of running through winding road and valleys as it was coming into later in the nights are longer and days shorter, so sunrise was not until 7ish, I arrived in Builth Wells a lovely cute village on the river Wye, I head straight to over the bridge and notice and petrol station with a Greggs and and shop called Tuffins, I get a pack of vegan American hard gums, pack of potato stick crisps, 2 vegan sausage rolls, and 1 double espresso with soya milk and I head on out along the road with sweets and crisps in my bag, drinking, eating the espresso and sausage rolls, mmmm what a healthy breakfast, calories well needed though, about 20 mins to 30 mins after leaving my little pit stop I really got a sudden urge to go to the loo (No2), this happens a lot to me when I’m running, partly due to my colon being damaged during my cancer operation back in 2005, you see I have no warning signs so I’m sometimes caught short, as I was on this occasion, but I manage to sort myself out and when it happened and cleaned myself up the best I could, One buff down and thrown away, I head on down the road and think nothing of it, I was prepared for this but the chafing had started so I got my Bodyglide out and it was sorted, Happy days !!!, it really isn’t nice but hey ho, what can I do, I take Imodium but that works to a point and didn’t this time. So pushing on the the next checkpoint and Erwood Station, the road was a bit busy and cars were moving fast, just before the aid I was so close to getting hit by a white van, phew..no need for coffee and that woke me up and fully woke up my senses, I arrive at the checkpoint and greeted by Karen, Matt, John, Julie and her husband, I had a great bit of banter with them all which I love, I’m always happy in events as people volunteer their time and it makes it more enjoyable for them if your in good spirits too. So I’m off down the road to continue my journey.
Erwood Station to Llanfrynach (mile 202): Checkpoint 8 drop bag
Feeling good and knowing that tonight is going to be the last night I’ll be running is always a positive thing, your mood always tends to be better during the days your moving pace seems to be quicker, 14 miles in I reached the town of Talgarth, I remember there is a fish and chip shop here so I head there to see what I could eat, mmmm the lady was only setting up shop for the night and it would have been 20 mins before any food was coming out, so I shot of into the night and nibbled on my energy balls instead, by this time it was dark again and it was just about trying to stay awake, my aim was to sleep a little as possible but for some reason during this race I felt sleepy, my body was awake but my eyes were closing, mmm not to sure why, but hey, So I took a 10 min power nap on the side of the road, 11 miles later after navigating some very narrow country roads and hilly sections, I arrive at Brecon, this was a huge psychological boost for me because I knew that if I reached Brecon I would surely make it to Cardiff, along the canal I phone Karen because my GPS was saying there was a checkpoint in Brecon…”It’s in the next town Llanfrynach at 202 not Brecon” she said, so I pushed on a arrived at the Checkpoint which was the last drop bag point, greeted by John, I sorted myself out and fill my bottles up and lay down for a sleep, apparently John had to snooze my alarm as I didn’t wake up the first time, after some sleep, I think 30 mims I headed out the door only to come back and double check I was going in the right direction.
Llanfrynach to Checkpoint 9 (mile 225)
It was the dead of night now and within a about 1 hour of leaving the last checkpoint I was dozing again, so I hit the tarmac and set my alarm for 5 mins, just as my alarm went off, Stuart Shipley approached me and I get up and we head of into the night together, Stuart is a lovely chap and with a wealth of running experience, we shared a phew miles together but It wasn’t long before my head was nodding again…GRRRR so I crashed on the road again and Stuart headed off, I woke 10 min later and head on to catch Stuart, I caught him in the forest section a few miles before Talybont Reservoir, and then as he stopped I pushed on and that was the last I saw of him..on the approach into Merthyr Tydful I was greeted by a runner who asked what we were doing…”OMG…WOW…your mad….good luck” was what came out of his mouth…
My god Merthyr is a a drag to get to…just when you think you there you not…. ha ha …I head into the town and turn off to go to the loo and notice another runner (Karl Sheilds) go passed..looking very HIGHT VIS I must say ha ha..I catch him up and just before he heads for McDonald’s s and I go into Subway, mmmm vegan footlong and lots of Thames water (Tango,7up and Coke mixed together mmm), so I head out and off to the last checkpoint and Karen, Matt and John are there…with news of a diversion ahhhhhhhhhh, really ??, after 225 miles there’s and bloody diversion….ha ha fun fun fun, so me and Karl are given instructions by Karen and head off.
Checkpoint 9 to Cardiff Bay (mile 253)
Not long after we had left to checkpoint Karl asked if I was walking for a bit and I said yes as I was going to eat the rest of my Subway, so he reply ok…”I’m off”, I needed the calories for the last 20 or so mile to get me to Cardiff, So from this point on we had about 24 miles , so just under a marathon to go, A very wooded part of the course once again going through the valley but slowly ticking off the last few points of interest before getting to that Celtic ring, there was a time when I saw the University of Cardiff signs so to see one of the campuses was a good relief and knowing that the finish wasn’t too far away and also seeing signs on the motorway to Cardiff boosted my morale and push me faster and further on.
Just before the diversion at Pontypridd I was met by a former competitor of the race Rhys Jenkins and his girlfriend, It was really nice to see them both as he was in the Canal Slam and his girlfriend was his crew and we got on really well so it was nice to see them before I headed into Cardiff, we walked together in the direction of the diversion and I promised that I would hook up with him after the finish in Cardiff, I also met some amazing ladies who were doing a walk for the charity “Mind” and that also gave me some extra inspiration and motivation to get to the finish, Not too far from the diversion was the village of Tongwynlais where I got a last calorie hit before Cardiff, not long after I was met by Linsley Chambers who is the medic on the race, it was really good to see him as he is a top man and he gave me some final motivation to get me to that ring, further along on the way to Cardiff Byron crook came to greet me and power walked with me for a bit and he was encouraging every single person still in the race to get to the finish.
I don’t know whether it was just me but these last few miles along the river Taff to find the millennium Stadium just dragged…. ahhhhhh. but when I set my eyes on the stadium I knew it was just one more final push to get to the ring. After this point I was met by a runner friend Steve west and by this point I was pretty much buzzing knowing I have completed this race and going at a rocket pace, it was really good to see Steve I’ve entered quite a few of the same running races and met him on a number of occasions so it was really good to see him, he gave me the final push I needed to get me to the finish line, so I headed along the river and into the centre of Cardiff along the river in the direction of Mermaid Quay, as soon as I saw it I let out a big shout knowing that I was there and the finish was in sight….yipppeeee, in the final approach I was met by John price who had come all the way over from America to race but had to drop out early, so good that he stayed to cheer on the other runners..I went to run drown some steps to the ring but I was told by Karen that they were the wrong step…aaaahhhhh, I found the right steps and then the final 50 meters came…In the ring if came and OH MY GOD was I happy, jumping up and down elated that I had completed such a journey with only 7 months of training since my laryngitis WOW. I would have liked to gone a but quicker and not slept so much but that going to happen in 2021 when I double this race.
- 35 entered
- 25 started
- 4 finished
- My position 4th
- Time: 83:56
Click here to see my finishing video, It’s worth watching: https://www.facebook.com/karen.webber.98/videos/10156308121770806/
One amazing thing that happened when I went to the ring was I got a huge surprise from my girlfriend shouting from above saying congratulations congratulations, I didn’t even realise it was her as it was so dark and I was so tired, she’d come all the way from London to Cardiff, we ended up staying there for the next two nights relaxing and eating lots of food together which is amazing way to finish the trip.
Thank you so much to Mark for putting on this mad, crazy event and to all of the support crew with out them it wouldn’t have been possible, Karen, Matt Lindley, John and everyone else that came out to support, I remember Dave Stuarts parents catching me up on the course and sharing and mile or so with me, that was so nice and we had some good banter, I just can’t remember were I met them, All I remember is that his mum was telling me the name of the mountain that she looked out of her bedroom window each morning to see called Lord Hereford knob….dear oh dear…thank you so much for coming out and supporting.
I’m taking a little break from my racing for the moment to concrete on launching my personal coaching company….detail will be posted online and on social media soon so keep your eyes peeled.
Please remember the reason I compete in all these crazy mad events to raise awareness for testicular cancer and its early detection through my website www.bustinyourballs.org