Anglesey Half Marathon – preface
It’s the first weekend in March and as such the village of Menai Bridge is full of runners for the Anglesey Half Marathon (&10k), courtesy of Always Aim High Events.
It’s my 6th Anglesey Half Marathon (AHM) and as that is a lot of times to do a single race, I’ve been telling people it’ll be my last AHM (more on that later)…….
Anyway, there’s only so many times you can review a race before it gets repetitive; we got to that point last year.
So instead this write-up will feature more about the weekend itself as well as bit about the race. Instead I’ll give you a whole slew of links to my previous reviews which remain relevant. 2013 2015 2016 2017 2018. Although I did the race in 2015, 4 years ago, there was a lot going on in my life and things started to turn very nasty in March. It happens that I covered this in the same post that I covered AHM 2015. Most people reading now are here because you want to know about AHM, not that other stuff. Hence I’ve chosen not to link back to that post.
Quick executive summary of the Anglesey Half Marathon
First things first, it’s a brilliant event (me doing it 6 times ought to be a hint that I like it) and this year was no different. If you’ve not done it before, get it on your bucket list.
Taking the journey in a small-battery electric vehicle
Last year I managed to get a lift from friends, so this year was my first winter/spring journey in my Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. It’s only the 24kWh battery version which was never intended to travel a great distance. It’s perfect for my day-to-day work and is very cost effective. However, the elephant in that particular room is that I love North Wales, and the charging infrastructure there….. Let’s just say it ‘could be infinitely better’. For much of last year a key rapid charger at Bangor was out of action and you may remember a tale from last summer of me spending 5 hours in ASDA car park on a 3-pin plug as the intended option was also not working. This being summer time, the battery efficiency (and thus range) is better than when the weather is dire. Otherwise known as winter.
But with Bangor back in action, I decided it was doable, and so Leafy was packed with running things and a full battery, and pointed in a westerly direction.
Weather? Who invited Freya?
The thing with the AHM is that it’s a quick course assuming the weather is benign. It’s not a flat course, but it seems to undulate in all the right ways. As much of the route follows the Menai Straights if it’s blowing a gale either the outbound, or more likely the return leg is into a headwind. However, we’ve had a cracking February with unseasonably warm temperatures. But this is now March, and Storm Freya was stopping for the weekend.
The drive west was non-eventful, getting to Bodelwyddan services to charge en route without a hitch. I thought I’d pick up some snacks when I got to Bangor and revisited my 3-pin plug destination of choice. By this point, efficiency on the car wasn’t great. It was blowing a gale and Leafy was doing its best blancmange impression as we were battered down the A-roads. There was already a leaf charging, so I dug out the 3-pin and went to buy some food I didn’t need as I’d no doubt eat at the Premier Inn I always stay at for this weekend.
Heading back towards the hotel I thought I might as well put a proper charge into the car so at least I wouldn’t be faffing about (what, me?) in the morning after the race. Things were delayed here as there was only one charger which was being used by the first Jaguar iPace I’ve actually seen in person. To be honest, given it was raining hard – and sideways – it didn’t bother me that I had to wait as I’d only be sat in the hotel room watching the rain do likewise there. Anyway, they finished, I charged, and then blancmanged my way to the Premier Inn.
A little bit about food
As you may be aware from previous posts, I’ve been working on my diet over these past few months. I’ve cooked loads of nice (honestly!) meals at home, and most of these have been vegetarian or vegan. It’s been an interesting foray into some new (to me) meals and I’ve quite enjoyed cooking things that aren’t centered around meat.
What I haven’t done since then is eaten away from home. Until now. And given I had two meals to negotiate, it was decision time as to whether to go for the old-faithful meat dishes, or try the non-meat offerings from Table Table, who provide the restaurant service next to the Premier Inn.
The difficulty I have with a lot of veggie meals from pub-type restaurants is that they tend to be cheese based, which is a problem as I’m not a fan of cheese. And in terms of vegan food, well it tends to be Hobson’s choice. In the end I thought I’d try a BBQ Vegan burger. Which apparently was ‘award winning’. And whilst they didn’t highlight what the award was, my money was on ‘closest thing to tasting like cardboard and served in a pub restaurant’. That was definitely one to chalk up to experience and I don’t think I’ll bother again; I think I’ll stick to dishes which never had a hearkening back to a meat-based equivalent.
At least this year I didn’t end up feeling like whatever I had eaten had disagreed with me!
Breakfast was a similar issue. I normally go for the cooked breakfast option and decided on the Quorn (yes, I know) sausages along with the non-meat options that came along with it. Actually they weren’t too bad although I did focus more on the continental breakfast options, again with the memories of last year’s dodgy tummy still lingering.
I escaped quickly, left the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the room door so they wouldn’t check me out of the hotel before I’d returned for a shower. And headed to Menai Bridge.
The race – did anyone tell Freya?
The weather forecast had initially suggested that whilst Storm Freya would be playing out all Saturday evening, she was going to have a lie-in and not get going again until Sunday afternoon. Which would be great for a 9am half-marathon. Except that it was raining quite definitely at 8.30am as I was lamenting the decision to go with race-vest (without t-shirt underneath) option. I figured that once I got going hopefully I wouldn’t freeze or die of exposure in the amount of time I was hoping to be running for.
3 toilet-stops later and I’m wondering what is in these restaurant meals.
I get to the start line and, just as at Wrexham, bump into Mike again. We exchange good wishes for the race and almost straight away the race has started.
The weather isn’t too bad. Yes it’s raining. A bit. But the wind is OK, nothing gale-force. Mike disappears off in amongst the groups ahead of me and I get going, albeit feeling a bit yucky and lacking in oompf. Still, 13.1 miles is a long-enough distance for things to change and I just try to settle into a rhythm. I took the decision that I’d run entirely on feel, and just glance at my watch after each mile spilt for information purposes. By which I mean that if there’s anything really stupid going on, I’ve got a chance to address it.
By the time I’m in Beaumaris on the outward leg, I’m still feeling a bit grotty, but each mile split is actually quite good, so I’m running OK. It’s still raining, but there’s plenty of support throughout the course, but especially in Beaumaris. I’m running with a couple of others and we take it in turns to run ahead a bit before backing off and letting someone else try it. Even after the hill section around Llanfaes we’re still together (one lad shot off up the hill and we caught him at the bottom of the hill on the other side).
However as we ran along the coastal road back towards Beaumaris, the first blast of headwind made itself known and that checked progress a little. We did spread out as we ran along the harbour front in Beaumaris (return leg) and that headwind wasn’t for going away. That said, I felt OK. Stomach was a bit questionable. but my energy levels were fine despite only having had a sip of my tailwind-based drink I’d carried from the startl-line. I did get a shout-out from Jane, one of my runners at Lyme who was on her way out towards the hill and I was able to wave and shout back. In fact there was a lot of well wishes being passed between runners still heading out and those heading back. Hopefully everyone had a great time for the whole of their race!
As I left Beaumaris to head back along the undulating road to Menai Bridge, I realised my pace had dropped off a lot, although perversely once I started the first uphill section I seemed to get into a groove and felt comfortable. With 2.5 miles to go, the road became a lot busier as the 10k runners, who started 40 minutes after the half-marathon, run up into this section before turning around. This really helped me, suddenly being surrounded by others who seemed to have lots of energy left. Yes there was a bit of dodging about and around people, but it didn’t take long to reach the 12 mile marker which is basically the top of the climb in this section, leaving only the downhill to the finish.
Round and round
There was a bit of chaos approaching the finish area with spectators crossing the road. One family in particular seemed to have about 14 kids (might be an exaggeration) crossing sporadically behind the parents and I had to shout to make sure that none were flattened as I was travelling at speed knowing the finish was literally just around the corner.
I’d not looked at total time for the race until I reached the finish and saw 1.27 tick by as they announced my name.
Yes, it seems like the people of Beaumaris and of Menai Bridge can do what nobody else seems able and to get my name spelt and pronounced correctly. Anglesey, I LOVE you!
By the time you allow for crossing the start line, my chip-time came back as 1:26:54 and I was 61st across the line (59th male). So a lower position than last year, but a quicker time!
Mike had finished about 20 seconds ahead of me and we exchanged stories of the race as we went looking for medals and t-shirts. And huge bags of Jones Crisps (they’re the event sponsor).
It was then a quick drive back to the Premier Inn and a lovely hot shower followed by dry clothing and I was ready to take Leafy back through Storm Freya (she was definitely up and about now!).
Return journey #maytakeages
The first hop back to the charger at Bodelwyddan was uneventful; bumped into Mike again in the coffee shop and once back on the road it was a tactical decision as to whether I’d need to charge again before Stockport. But with a range being practically the same as the distance to travel, coupled with deteriorating weather, I decided that a quick stop at Chester services would be a prudent decision.
Except it turned into a long stop as both chargers were taken minutes before I arrived. Still, it allowed for another toilet break even if I ended up stuck there another 30 minutes longer than planned (don’t worry, I found people to talk to, so it was reasonably sociable).
The weather continued in its decent into being thoroughly grim and so by the time I’d got back to Stockport (traffic chaos) and visited two jobs (no rest for the wicked) and got home, there wasn’t many electrons left in the car. But it all worked out, even if the 2 and a bit hour journey took nearer to 4 hours……..
So that was Anglesey Half Marathon 2019 edition. Despite the weather, I had a really great time. And my race time was also better than I’d expected going into the weekend. So you can’t ask for more than that race-wise.
And I get back to the statement I made at the start, that this was going to be my last AHM.
Spoiler alert, I suspect I’ll be back next year!