Dragonrun1027 – 10 Years On

10 years ago I set off on the longest run of my life (so far 🤔?), if you follow this neglected page, you know that! It was 40 trail marathons around an entire country in 40 days (yes, every bloody day!) Like lots of stupid ideas, this one stemmed from a crap situation.

I’d lost my parents in the couple of years prior to coming up with this challenge, and my way of dealing with what was a really really messy time was to distract from it entirely and not deal with it at all. I ploughed all of my efforts into finding as many ways as possible to ignore the shattered pieces of my soul and decided to run around Wales (normal reaction, right?).

The aim was to raise a load of cash for Velindre Cancer Centre and Gozo CCU Foundation 💚. That was it, but what I hadn’t really thought a huge amount about at the time was that in completing this challenge I was going to be a trailblazer.🌟 It’s something that I’m starting to realize I should have shouted about much more! 🏆

Arry running along the Wales Coast Path at Llantwit Major on Day 2 of the challenge

I ran over 1027 miles around the perimeter of Wales on the Wales Coast Path and the Offas Dyke Path. In doing so I became the first human being (not just woman) to complete the Wales Coast Path 🥇💙🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 and the perimeter of Wales on foot. 🦶 Unintentionally and entirely by default I also became the fastest at the time, which I found very funny (fast is something I’m not…without an engine anyway!) 🐌, that was a record I held for a few years until it was finally smashed!

In the years following I was on the ‘motivational talks’ circuit for a bit, and I wrote lots of articles, some as me, some for others and one in particular that featured a stock photo of someone who “looked more like a runner” 🦏(imagine if that was said in current times! Where was cancel culture when I needed it! Haha!) Unfortunately though, my little brain was struggling, and over time, I lost all confidence in myself and with it my love for running.💔

10 years on, though, I’ve got tales to tell, knowledge to share and running to do. I’ve recently found the files for the book I started writing, but never shared about that time, so in honor of a decade going by, over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of the previously unseen snippets of what turned out to be the most life affirming 40 days of my existence. Hold on tight for tales involving animal rescues, near death experiences, moments of pure madness, a 6ft elf and the ninja move that made me feel like an uncharacteristically violent superhero 🦹‍♀️ This dragon is ready to roar!!!!

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Happy Birthday Wales Coast Path! – Dragonrun1027, 10 Years on.

In honour of the Wales Coast Path’s 10th Birthday, I wanted to dedicate this post to the team of people that made it all happen on the ground!

The reason Dragonrun1027 happened in the first place, was due to an off the cuff not particularly serious suggestion by Sue Rice. Sue was the project manager for the Wales Coast Path and I was lucky enough to work in the same office at her. On the day that I was racking my brains about a what to do for a challenge to raise squillions, a voice piped up from the other side of the room and said “you could always run the Wales Coast Path!”. Now, I’m a spontaneous creature, and the reason why I have done so much seemingly odd stuff throughout my life so far, is that I have a tendency to just say yes and think about it after I’ve done it. This approach combined with my total lack of shame and fun loving nature has led me to also hold multiple records in the world of Bog Snorkelling (3 World Champs titles as the back end of a pantomime horse, unicorn and bog ness monster respectively!) and to find myself in situations that make your average adventure movie look like a trip to the shops.

The seed was planted with that one phrase, then that seed grew and Offas Dyke got in on the game, chuck in a bit of ambitious fertilizer and the next thing we knew I was a multi day ultrarunner wearing a dragon on my back.

The CCW Team from the Bangor office, including Jenny in a dragon costume

Speaking of wearing dragons, this brings me nicely on to the rest of the Wales Coast Path team and other associated superstars! As I’ve previously mentioned, at the time I worked for the Countryside Council for Wales. The main office was based in Bangor, North Wales, and it was a place I would find myself travelling to on a regular basis. I know that lot’s of people run-commute to work, but this one surely has to be one of the longest journeys. I rocked up at the Menai Bridge a few weeks after leaving Cardiff to find a whole gang of my work colleagues (including the rest of the Coast Path Team) all stood wearing various fancy dress costumes and shaking buckets for donations! They were headed up by the wonderful Eve and Jenny. Jenny at that point was dressed as a dragon and on my return trip over the bridge after a loop of Anglesey, Eve took on dragon duty to escort me back across the Menai Strait. I was truly touched. Throughout the run their support had been incredible. I met people from the various local authorities as they were putting up way markers and signs and even had the pleasure of running with some. I also caused plenty of eye rolls with my awful sense of direction (even with the gps device that was delivered to me en route following an unfortunate unintentional detour). Earlier in the run I had gone through Aberystwyth, home of another CCW office. I was in a bad place mentally at this point in time and the team all came out and formed an arch for me to run through! I was handed blueberry cookies and given the much needed boost of loveliness that helped me carry on regardless.

Arry with the Aberystwyth gang forming an arch for her to run through

A special mention goes to all of the team who I saw after Anglesey as we were united in grief for our friend and colleague, Ceri-Lyn who we found out had died in a tragic accident not far from where I was running at the time. It sent a shockwave through all of us, and over the next few days colleagues would appear along the path and not even have to say anything, we all needed comfort and a way to process what happened and at that moment in time the Wales Coast Path helped us to do that.

Arry with Eve Nicholson dressed as a dragon

Whilst heading towards Colwyn Bay, I received a phone call to let me know that there was a huge diversion in place as a ship had ran aground and the entire section of the path had to be closed. This ship was all over the press, but I hadn’t considered the affect that it would have on the run. There had been so much else to think about! I was tired and feeling impatient at this point! I was so close to the end of the North Wales stretch and my heart sank at the idea of the mostly uphill re-route. I didn’t stay disappointed for long though as my phone rang again and on the end was a true Wales Coast Path angel, Ann Whelan! Ann had negotiated with whoever was responsible for the top secret cordoned off section of path, and it was agreed that I could run through as long as I didn’t take any photos or stop. Now this sounded like my kind of adventure! My imagination was going crazy with visions of pirates and smugglers, or being involved in some sort of bust where I got to commando roll across the bay and fight off armies of North Welsh penguins (the penguins again! Haha!). The reality wasn’t anywhere near as exciting, but never the less, I was eternally grateful to Ann and I wish she was here today to see the 10 year anniversary (another star taken too soon.).

Arry with the Road Closed sign by the grounded ship

Whether it was helping me organise, giving me directions based on my vague descriptions, negotiating with smugglers, flinging press in my direction, keeping me company, giving me a hug, putting me up for the night or feeding me cake and coffee, this gang of wonderful humans made the whole experience something very special. To manage to do all that at the same time as arranging the creation and opening of the first continuous path along an entire countrys coastline is truly admirable.

Arry with her Cardiff Bay colleagues having returned to Cardiff with just one mile to go
My friends and colleagues (The Bayside Tigers, including Sue Rice on the left) on my return to Cardiff, with just 1 mile left to run!

Many of the team are still involved today, but even those that are elsewhere have tiny little coast path waymarkers in their blood! This was, and is more than just a path, it’s an experience and one that I am immensely proud to have been the first to explored in its entirety.

So, whilst I have a lot more snippets of my journey to follow, today belongs to 870 miles of Welsh Coastline! Happy Birthday Wales Coast Path!

Arry on stage at the official opening of the Wales Coast Path, having recieved the Wales Coast Path wooden baton to mark the end of Dragonrun1027
The Official Opening of the Wales Coast Path
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DRAGONRUN1027 – 10 Years on – The Wales Coast Penguins

I’d have been seriously disappointed if I’d carried out this run with no animal related tales at all. Working for the Countryside Council for Wales at the time (RIP CCW, always in my heart!) I was very aware of the kind of wildlife I could expect to stumble across, and was particularly excited about the prospect of meeting some creatures that I had never met in real life before.

Now, there comes a point in any endurance related situation, where after a while it’s not uncommon for people to start ‘seeing things’. Call it a form of hallucination if you will. Anyway, one day I found myself running along the Pembrokeshire Coast path in a happy little world of my own. The day had been wonderful so far. I’d met some lovely builders who gave me some cash in sponsorship after asking why I was running with a dragon on my back (and in doing so restoring my faith slightly in running past building sites), and I had discovered that chocolate coated raisins mix brilliantly with jelly beans to create a taste sensation.

The path began to meander back up onto the cliffs and in the distance, I caught sight of a black and white bird sitting on a rock. My first thought, naturally, was “Ooh a penguin!” 🐧 I ran to try and get a closer look. The closer I got, the more convinced that it was a penguin I became. I didn’t see it fly, so that was justification enough in my eyes.

I rounded the corner and kept the image banked in my mind. It wasn’t until a few miles later that logic hit me, and I realized that it may be unlikely for penguins to be hanging out of the coast of Pembrokeshire 😔 (Note: unlikely, not impossible…. Wally the Walrus anyone?!).

Several large birds standing on a rock in the sea (believed to be cormorants, but looking much like penguins)
these particular “penguins” were on Anglesey, but the Pembrokeshire ones were similar!

I was due to update my Twitter, so I popped a little tweet out and mentioned my penguin encounter. I should point out here, that this was 2012. Social media was definitely a thing, I wasnt quite as savvy as today though and I was still struggling to remember that people I had never met in real life were following my Twitter feed.😬

Several days later I was running through some sand dunes, and I heard someone calling me. “Arry, Arry! Wait, I have penguins!” I turned and saw a lady with a small child, running full pelt towards me clutching something in her hand. I jogged towards her, and she handed me a multipack of penguin biscuits! This lovely lady, called Jane, had seen my tweet, been on my website and waited until I ran near where her and her family were staying on holiday, so that she could catch me and give me some penguins.

Puff the dragon (who was attached to Arry's backpack" on a cliff with three Penguin chocolate bars
Puff and edible penguins

I was so confused and that is when the penny dropped that I had made my sheer endurance fuelled “Arryness” very public. Jane was lovely and little Maisie who was now hiding behind her leg was a sweetheart. It filled me with warmth, and I suddenly felt that I was kind of being looked out for.

The penguin legacy didn’t end there. There were 3 more people who joined me along the route armed with penguin biscuits, and when I reached Ynys Môn, I was welcomed to with signs telling me to watch out for the Anglesey penguins!

Arry with a sign on a lamp post that reads "beware of the Anglesey penguins!"
Beware of the Anglesey Penguins!

🐧 I have since discovered that there are actual penguins on the Welsh coast. You can find them at the Welsh Mountain Zoo near Colwyn Bay! 🐧

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DRAGONRUN1027 – 10 years on – The Cliffhanger!

There were so many things that happened over the course of this run, that I couldn’t share publicly at the time due to me being (or at least trying to come across as) a responsible human. This is one such tale.

In my wisdom I decided that I should do the 38 mile stretch of the Gower Peninsula in one day. This was a silly decision, but it did make for an eventful (and beautiful) day! 🦭

The sun was still very much shining and at one point I found myself skipping through cliff top fields singing badly in a way that most people who have ever ran any distance with me will have come accustomed to. 🌞🌻🎶

My colorful little world came to a grinding halt as I came across my first path diversion sign. ⚠️🚫 There had been a landslide and a section of cliff wasn’t safe. The diversion was an additional 6 miles, where as the section of closed path was less than 100m. Surely I could hop over the fence and just keep as far inland as possible for that short stretch? Right? 🙅‍♀️

Danger Footpath Closed Sign
Danger Footpath Closed Sign

After checking no-one else was around (I’ve alway been so scared of being told off!) I clambered over what turned out to be a very brambley fence. Once over and having removed the thorns, I hugged the fence as far inland as it let me and got to the other side. It was there I found a problem. There were thick brambles lining the fence. I spotted a tiny gap close to the edge of the cliff and it appeared to be close to the path that continued on the other side. Filled with uncharacteristic confidence, I tightened the straps on my backpack and hopped over the fence (I like to think I hopped, but I’m anything but graceful, so imagine a Shetland pony trying to leap a gate🐴.) 🦹‍♀️

Somehow, I over estimated my landing and missed the path, sliding, in what felt like slow motion, off the edge of the cliff. Thankfully I found firm ground just a few feet below on a ledge and used my sudden burst of adrenaline to scramble back up. It wasn’t the hugest of cliffs, but had I fallen the whole way, I think I’d have needed more than my crutches to get to the finish line.🤦🏼‍♀️ Naturally at this point I thought I was invincible and called Mr Arry with a full dramatic rendition of my near death experience. He rightfully told me to stop being a dickhead. 🙄

Cliff fall warning sign
Cliff fall warning sign

Anyway, if out walking running, hopping or doing whatever you’re doing take heed of the cliff fall signs and don’t be a twat like me!

Later that day I got my first significant injury, met an 85 year old lady who walked 8 miles every day (she kept up with my plod too, so I felt positively lazy!)and got chased by turkeys 🦃 None of those incidents are in any way related to each other.

Arry and Puff the Dragon Looking out over Rhossili Bay
Looking out over Rhossili Bay
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DRAGONRUN1027 – 10 years on: The art of talking to myself

Mind games first came into play on day 2. It was hot and sunny and I encountered my first significant estuary. These were to become the most soul destroying obstacles, and my determination to stay strict to the path meant I went around them all (except the Mawddach, thankfully the Wales Coast Path goes over my favourite Welsh bridge there!).

🗺After veering inland I then ran through Merthyr Mawr sand dunes to return to the coast (did you know this is home to the 2nd biggest sand dune in Europe? Exhausting to run up, but ace to roll down!) 🐫

This was my regular training ground, not too far from home, and for the first time ever I found my way through the warren without getting lost (Getting lost turned out to be a notable theme of this run). The heat was making me grumpy and paranoid about blisters, chaffing, burn and heatstroke. My right quads were hurting. And my knee, and my calf muscles. I was feeling dizzy and burning, and getting blisters, and, and, and. I stopped. This was the point where I physically slapped my own face and gave myself a stern talking to.

❓Was anything actually hurting? Nope, just uncomfortable.

❓Was I injured? Nope.

❓Sunburnt? Not yet.

❓Dehydrated? A bit, so I slip, slap slopped, drank some water and reminded myself why I was doing this. 💚

One foot in front of the other and repeat. 2 days down and, what turned out to be, 38 to go (at this point my epic screw up in mileage calculations hadn’t been discovered, so I was still under the illusion that I’d factored in rest days. It was a dream world!)🦄

🌟A lesson in endurance Arryology:🌟

I have a mind method I still use today of creating a conversation between my brain, legs, heart and lungs. It goes a bit like this:

🦵“Legs, you’re not hurting, brain is just being a lazy twat and blaming you.”

🧠“Brain, grow the hell up, legs need you to be supportive right now whilst you sit in your skull hammock dishing out orders”

🫀🫁“Heart & Lungs, just do you, but if you could put a bit more effort in, I’d be super grateful” (I don’t want to piss them off!)

🍰“If you can all just work together and get through the next however many miles you can have cake”

By the time this internal (ok, ok it’s mostly external) monologue has been performed, along with the bickering between them in different voices* I’ve usually covered a fair few miles and found something else to focus on. (*my legs speak with a slightly Brummie accent, whilst my brain sounds a bit like Villanelle from Killing Eve)

I can confirm that this method is also useful for cycling and roller skating. 🚴‍♀️🛼

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DRAGONRUN1027 – 10 YEARS ON: What the Hell am I doing?

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was quite frankly bricking it. I started in Cardiff Bay, and had the hurdle of my least favourite activity to get through. TV interviews. 🎥 If it hadn’t have been doing this run to fundraise, I’d have much preferred to just go for a 6 week long run without having to promote it, but it was important, so I hopped well out of my comfort zone an put up with an arse of a TV presenter smirking at me off camera, and saying “do you honestly think you’re going to finish this?” My response? “Do you honestly think I’d put myself through doing this sh*t in front of an audience if I didn’t have every intention of finishing it?” He was a twat.

The Canadian Morning TV Show team though, they were flippin ace! 🇨🇦 , I’m pleased to say that every other interview since has been a far better experience! I’m much more comfortable talking about the thing that I actually did rather than the thing I was planning on doing. This is partially down to those few who doubted me, I kind of didn’t want to put myself in the firing line for those who just didn’t think I fitted the mould of an endurance runner. (Note: There is no mould!)

I ran day one with some ace friends and at this point it just felt like a sweaty day out (and it really was sweaty, a heatwave had decided to appear!) ☀️

I hadn’t really planned for heat to be honest, so concerns about blisters and sun burn entered my mind. Dammit, I thought I’d prepared for everything! I should point out that by everything, I really do mean that. Mr Arry was ‘following me’ in the dragon wagon (Terry the Skoda) support car which was loaded up with pain killers, a medical survival kit to rival your average ambulance and a pair of crutches, just in case I need them to keep moving forward. That was all I needed to do, keep moving forward.

It was whilst running through Barry that what I was doing started to sink in. I had been interviewed by REAL radio a few days earlier, and they had aired it that morning. As we jogged down the road car horns started beeping and people started waving. It took a moment to work out why, but the penny soon dropped and I got a real boost. After months of preparation and planning, I was actually doing it, and whats more people knew that I had crossed that start line!

Day 2 was when reality hit. I was mostly alone, and the enormity of what was ahead of me started to sink in. It’s one thing doing a very long run in a day, but it’s something totally different doing that run and knowing you need to do it all over again the next day… and the next… and the next. The fear of the whole challenge being scuppered by my clumsiness was playing with my mind. Little did I know just how justified that fear was soon going to become!

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Dragonrun1027 10 Years On – Getting to the Start Line

Prior to deciding to take on this challenge, the furthest distance I had run in one go was a half marathon and that was completely out of my comfort zone. I grew up hating PE, because lets face it, in the late 80s and early 90s it seemed to only be on the curriculum to humiliate those of us that were slow and uncoordinated. As a grown up, whilst I was fit and at the time I worked in sport and physical activity (curve ball eh! the ability of those I worked with did not in anyway transfer to me!)

Arry landing face first in the sand after an unfortunate sand dune incident

This was also 2012, when Ultra Marathon was still very niche. Specialised kit was harder to come by and most people found it hard to comprehend what I was talking about (There was a lot of smiling and nodding 😂). I’m glad this was the case though, because today you only need to spend a bit of time on running pages or reading twitter threads to see that the sheer amount of conflicting advice given is enough to fry anyones brain. 🤯

To answer the millions of questions I had about whether this was even possible for me to do, I aimed high and contacted the only two people I could think of at the time that may be able to help. One was Dean Karnazes (arguably the man responsible for helping launch Ultrarunning into the mainstream) and the other was Phil Rosenstein, who Mr Arry and I had met in the middle of the desert during his run across the USA 🇺🇸. I didn’t expect either to find the time to respond to little old me, but they did, and the advice they gave me was absolute gold! The crux of it?

🧠1. Strengthen your mind. 80% of this challenge will be determined by that strength.

🏋‍♀️2. Learn to run with weight on your back.

👣3. Look after your feet.

🤮4. If you throw up, don’t slip in it.

My mind from that point was focused on the finish line and every possible scenario that could prevent me from getting there. I worked out the solutions to every single one that popped into my head. I ran with weight on my back and took my first steps into the world of off road running. I ran at 4am sometimes, not for long, but just to feel the discomfort. I wasn’t fast and I wasn’t racking up crazy mileage (at the time I was juggling a full time job, running a sports rehab business, fundraising, arranging the logistics of the challenge – something that should never be underestimated! 🤹‍♀️) but the work I was putting into my brain and learning to stay upright on trails was going to to prove to be more valuable than anything else!

Anyone who knew me at the time will have witnessed how determined I was to complete this from the moment it was dreamt up. A few days before I started, my friend told me that if for any reason I couldn’t finish, no one would think less of me. I couldnt think like that though. My mind had been through a grueling training programme, and it wasn’t going to start reaching for the doubt now!

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Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as…

All together now…. PARKLIFE!!

This past weekend my little life turned a complete 180.

What do you think when you hear the word “redundant”? I have always thought of it as pretty negative. The words that sprung to mind were…

Useless, unwanted, worthless…. Every self-depreciating word in the dictionary

Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was coming,  but it has transported me into a complete re-evaluation of everything I have ever known.

I’ve been developing my positivity and diplomacy skills for months, whilst soul searching and job searching, but the cracks started to appear, and when a close friend said to me “you really haven’t been “you” all year, and to be honest you’re looking wrecked!”* I realised I needed to kick myself up the arse properly, get my spirit back and damn well grab life by the nuts and run with it!

*I appreciate this may seem a harsh way to speak to friends, but in this context it was needed and I completely appreciate the sentiment! In other words, no I didn’t slap her!

So, day one of my next chapter found me at my favourite event of the year! The Womens Adventure Expo (WAExpo)! It’s the 3rd year of the event and it never fails to put a goofy grin on my face and fill my brain with possibilities. This year, two of my faves were on the line up, Squash Falconer and Anna McNuff. Seriously, if you’re ever a bit down, stuck in a rut or just generally need a laughter based kick up the arse, these two outstanding ladies will drag you kicking, screaming and laughing into adventure wonderland! Add to that the likes of Mollie Hughes (mountain based legend), Bex Bland (everywhere based legend) and Beth French (water based legend) and you find yourself bursting with possibilities!

This year a haggered version of me was there with a different mindset. I’d realised that I had become my own victim of overthinking. The reason I succeeded and triumphed (I was listening Beth French!) with Dragonrun1027 in 2012, was that I went into it with a bit of a one-track mind and didn’t overthink it or over plan. Sure, the basics were there planning wise, I knew where I was going, how far I needed to get each day to complete a whole lap of Wales within the 40 days, and I had crutches in the support vehicle in case I needed to complete it with a broken leg (that was nearly a reality!). I hadn’t however overthought the physical aspect. I was weirdly fortunate that ultra-running was still very ‘niche’ at the time and that there were very few keyboard “experts” out there to over complicate it. I knew I had to put one foot in front of the other, in the right direction and repeat until I finished. At no point in the preparation did failure come into my mind.

So why have I struggled with my mindset and focus on challenges since?

Simple… I’d lost all confidence in myself and overthought everything. I have no desire to chase records (my firsts and since smashed FKT were accidental products of circumstance and timing), what I want to do is explore possibility, challenge myself and experience new things. If I can bring help others whilst doing so, then great. A big part of my day job was to motivate, my additional ‘job’ is to motivate, but without confidence in myself, motivating others had become exhausing.

The WAExpo this year fuelled a new mindset. I’ve had a roller coaster of a year so far and been transported far out of my comfort zone. Immediately after the expo I took my loaded up car and relocated to North Shropshire with my better half and our furry family (pets, not hairy small humans) – that was planned, not a result of the day at the expo! I realised that I am never going to get the old ‘me’ back, or find a new improved ‘me’ unless I kick myself up the arse, get some confidence back and start channelling the stuff I’m really good at into life!

“I am the only person responsible for making my life better” – Beth French (seriously, track down this lady – in a non stalker way, watch her speak, ask her about the shark incident, go swimming, chase life!)

I’m not going to sail around the world on a lilo (yet!), but I am going to quit whinging, beating myself up and letting other people drag me into their negativity. I have a hell of a lot to give this world and life is short, so I’m coming at it all guns blazing!

I’m not redundant….. I’m free!

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My first triathlon…

It happened! I did it! I didn’t drown, fall off my bike or run in the wrong direction… hooray!!

Back when I stupidly agreed to do Cardiff triathlon (Velindre you’re persuasive… but worth it!) I had the following preconceptions…

Swim: my strongest discipline in theory, and will most likely be my favourite part.

Bike: me and my road bike don’t get on. I’ll be terrified throughout and just have to try and stay upright.

Run: it’s a run. It’ll hurt after the rest of it, but I’m not too bad at one foot in front of the other.

Oh how different reality would be!!

Training for this threw up some additional challenges with 6 months of frankly quite inconvenient health issues that have seen me whack on an extra stone in weight. (I feel like a walrus!) Looking on the bright side that would make me more buoyant and well padded for any bike falls!

The first plan was to get used to open water swimming in a wetsuit. I’ve always been a pool swimmer and my speedy days were as a breaststroke swimmer…. back to the drawing board I went! After a few sessions in the great outdoors and an attempt to re-learn front crawl I was reasonably confident that I could nail the swim at least.

The bike training was just comical. I’ve covered this in previous blog posts, but in the final week I had a confidence break through that left me hopeful I could at least stay upright. 

For the run I dusted off my road shoes and pounded the pavements via as much wildlife as possible so I didn’t bore myself to tears.

The evening before the big event saw me setting up a mini transition in the lounge and timing myself whilst Elvis.T.Dog stared at me, confused! I also studied the diagram explaining how not to “draft” as if it was the map to Atlantis (it might as well have been!). I was expecting to be penalised for rule breaking by accident!

Following a registration nightmare (it was a close call, admin errors did not make me smile!) the nerves really kicked in and hit me harder than they ever have before! Cardiff tri is held in Cardiff Bay. The last sporting event I started and finished here was Dragonrun1027, and whilst time may have altered my memory I don’t remember being even close to as nervous for that as I was for this!

 At 4am, I was wide awake, unable to eat breakfast and alternating between being snappy and shedding tears! Meeting the lovely men who were parked next to me in transition helped to calm the nerves (triathlon people are really lovely!) but the nerves soon returned on entry to the water. I won’t go into full detail of the race (let’s face it, details can be really dull!), so here are my notable bits…

Swim: I hated every second! The water was like a warm bath, but as the wind picked up and we all started, it turned into a washing machine! I’ve never been in a mass open water swim before, so that was a shock to the system! I survived it, but for the first time ever my confidence in the water was knocked!

Transition 1: soggy! My transition neighbours were there at the same time and after helping one with a stuck wetsuit zip and exchanging good lucks it was bike time!

Bike: I bloody loved the bike section! (Ha! You didn’t expect that did you!) Closed roads helped (even if I did stop at a red traffic light….I’m a fool!). It was raining fairly hard by this point, so the wet roads and tight u turns meant that my language was colourful and I must have looked like a kid riding without stabilisers for the first time! I felt like my bike was my comfort blanket during unfamiliar experience though, we shared a moment and are now friends I think! 

Transition 2: even soggier… no transition neighbours present, but I remembered to take off my helmet (one of my fears!) Yey me!

Run: I expected this to feel like hell after the bike, but actually whilst I was pretty much reduced to a slow plod it was ok. It just felt like an inconvenience between me and the finish line! 5 K is a weird distance for me because it takes me that long to warm into a run so by the time I got to the end I was ready to speed up and go off on an adventure! I didn’t though, I got my medal and almost cried with happiness at having done it!

So that’s it, my first triathlon is over and it couldn’t have been much further from my expectations! I’m quite glad the weather was crap and that I did an open water one for my first. I feel like I’ll be a bit less daunted if the memories numb by the end of the week and I backtrack on saying “never again!”.

Massive thanks to the following:

My personal cheerleader… Mr Arry! My superhero! He appeared at what felt like every turn and made me grin like a Cheshire Cat most of the way! 

Every single marshal/volunteer and person who yelled support! (It was soggy, but you persevered!)

Lowri: for the good luck fright before I started! It was a little boost that I needed! 

Nic Spear: my training buddy, who tackled open water training with me and took me on the bike ride that found my confidence!

Everyone who has supported, humoured and sponsored me in aid of the wonderful Velindre Cancer Centre! 

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Bikes & a bothy… a 24 hour adventure!

“Fancy a mountain bike/ bothy adventure in 2017? I’m a bit too concerned about axe murderers to go alone!”

Well, there’s an offer I couldn’t refuse! Apart from being a big tick off the old bucket and spade list, the idea that I could be a superhero axe murderer defeater was very exciting!

Simon A.K.A Mr Mountain is one of my oldest buddies, this trip was his idea and he had a plan! Armed with my trusty old mountain bike (that had spent several years in the shed and needed the locks taking off with an angle grinder!), half a toothbrush & Keith the flamingo (Sean Conway’s bike packing tips weren’t lost on me!), I met Si in Rhayader late on Saturday afternoon. After attaching everything to the bikes (thank you to Si’s mate Luke for lending me the bags!) we we’re off!

We covered about 30k through the beautiful Elan Valley, starting on cycle path and road, before joining rocky tracks around the reservoirs! Needless to say my questionable off road bike skills were completely exposed at this point, but I’m proud to say that I stayed mostly upright and only swore a handful of times (Yey me!)

Eventually, after crossing into Ceredigion, stopping dead in the middle of a river (it was a big stream and I got very wet feet), dodging dirt bikes, speaking to every sheep and cow, and wondering what or who we would encounter on arrival at our destination, I hear … “there she blows!”. Si had spotted our home for the night, nestled in the valley. I’m not going to lie, it looked very spooky in that particular light and I’m 96% certain no one would hear us scream if there was an axe murderer and my superhero cape didn’t work. Now we had to work out how to get there!

Si led the way, where he sank, I sank (note to self, don’t follow sinky route), and we were disorientated as the little house vanished from view (was it magic?!). It eventually reappeared and we were now betting on how many other souls would seek shelter there that night. 

As we neared the bothy we saw two smiling faces at the door, also armed with bikes and as we crossed a tiny stone bridge, one of the smiley people immediately acknowledged Keith the flamingo, who had free loaded the entire way on my handle bars! This was a good sign, Hanneka (smiling human number 1) had a small mule attached to her bag and was clearly on my wavelength! Brian (smiling human number 2) also introduced himself and both told us about what an incredible little bothy this was!

I had purposely not researched this place, as I wanted my first bothy experience to be a complete surprise! Simon had been given a few tips about it, but also kept expectations low as he’s an experienced bothy-er (?). There were 2 floors, a wood burner, a sink with running water and wait for it….. a flushing outside toilet! It was the blinkin Hilton of bothies! What’s more, as yet, there wasn’t an axe in sight! (Thankfully there was a cupboard full of logs, otherwise an axe may have been useful if we could disarm the person holding it!) We were soon joined by 3 fishermen from Hampshire and our gang was complete!

After bagging our sleeping spots and finding homes for the multiple light sources I had brought with me (if it lit up, I packed it!- we forgot to have a mini rave with the glow sticks though ☹️) We made pitta bread pizzas on the wood burner, followed up with s’mores and a mini bottle of red (getting classy in our old age!) Our fishermen friends (not the cough sweets) hit the sack for an early night and we stayed up nattering with our new cycling bothy buddies.

After an ok nights sleep we all managed to get breakfast down our necks, pack our bags, clear up any mess and say our goodbyes before heading off in our various directions. The cycle back was great! Mostly down hill and the sun shone until very close to the end when my beloved Mid Wales did what it does best and soaked us! 

Looking back it’s hard to believe that our little adventure had only lasted 24 hours, but it was 24 hours of laughter, mud, facing the unknown and not getting the opportunity to kick any axe murderer arse! 

Thank you to Simon for once again being an awesome adventure buddy & not laughing (too much) at my incompetence as a cyclist! 😂

Thanks also to the Elan Valley trust for maintaining an outstanding bothy, and to our bothy buddies for not being axe murderers!

N.B Axe murderers are not a regular occurrence, do not let them put you off adventures, you’re more likely to be eaten by a rabied goat*….. 

*not an accurate probability

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