Lon Las Cymru is a 250-mile cycle route starting in Holyhead and finishing in Cardiff Bay. On a good day, with a nice tail wind, I suspect it’d be a great bike ride as the cycle route winds its way down through picturesque Wales.
The rub is that I won’t be cycling, I’ll be running whilst competing in the Lon Las Cymru Ultramarathon starting at 7.00am on the 17th October. There’s another rub though; it’s non-stop and needs to be completed in 88 hours - that’s just over 3.5 days.
As if that wasn’t challenge enough, the race is completely self sufficient aside from water stations (no food) being provided every 25 miles; no outside support is allowed. Competitors are expected to either carry what they’ll need to eat/drink or source it from shops on route which will undoubtedly increase the mileage and eat into precious time.
Sleeping, if there is to be any, will be short, probably in a ditch at the side of the road, in a telephone box, bus stop or village pavilion along the way.
I’ve never ran over a half marathon distance race on the road but I’m not new to the idea of using endurance challenges to raise a little bit of money for Tŷ Hafan. These challenges often involve mountains though and last year’s challenge was no different.
Last year’s challenge was to climb an equivalent height of Mount Everest over 24 hours on South Wales’ biggest mountain – Pen y Fan. Solo, self-reliant; no support, no medal, no T-shirt and, more importantly no fuss.
To ‘Everest’ Pen Y Fan I needed to ascend the mountain 20 times in a 24-hour period.
At 8.00am on the 15th June 2018 I started my first ascent from Pont ar Daf on quite an aggressive schedule on what looked to be a lovely summers day. I’d broke my challenge into sets of 5 and planned to do the first set in 5hrs 10mins, the second in 5:20.
The third in 5:40 and the final set in 6:30. Leaving 1:20 for contingencies and possible resting; I’d planned on returning to my car every five ascents to pick up some food, but relied on water from the river to keep me hydrated in-between.
Full of enthusiasm I went off much too quickly and started to pay the price towards the end of my tenth ascent, which I finished in 09:40 (50 minutes up on schedule). The following 10 ascents would take me over 14 hours as I struggled with cramp and deteriorating weather conditions through the night but manged to finish in 23:44 having climbed 9330m in 124km.
The following day I flew to Cyprus from Bristol for my brother in law’s wedding; I was having a coffee with my family when the final call for boarding was made – the run to the departure gate was not pretty!