15. Llandudno

And so we arrived, fresh off a slightly delayed train into Llandudno Junction station. We had a minute to get our connecting train. A porter on the platform shouted ‘Llandudno!‘. We walked past him, turning right and looking up the stairs for our platform, before realising our train was actually right there in front of us. Clearly it was cheaper to wait for everyone than to send everyone of in taxis for their missed connections. Still, nothing to grumble at – it was very good of them to wait, and we completed the final leg of our journey, a short ride up to Llandudno itself, the end of the line. We had a quick look at the Alice in Wonderland display inside the station, and made our way towards our hotel, pretty much a straight line into the town.

January 1st, 2016 seems a long time ago now, and yet, hardly seems two minutes ago. That night I’d booked myself into the race, mildly tipsy but without question knowledgeable as to my actions. I’d seen the hill elevatiob profile, marvelled at the race highlights from the 2015 race, and even using Google Streetview to recce parts of the course. But cue Monday 24th October, we (that’s my wife, kids and I) had finally arrived in Llandudno. As we walked through the town, we noticed the large looming limestone colossous, the Great Orme, for the first time, and out to the west, the sight of the edge of the mountains of Conwy and indeed, Snowdonia. The scale of what is to await on Saturday suddenly seemed that much more real. Even my still decaffeinated eyes were wise to that.

My resident tour guide, of sorts, is Joni, who writes the blog ‘The Reluctant Triathlete‘, and was previously mentioned way back when I was a marathon novice some 19 or 20 months ago. We’ve long been communicating on where I should stay, what there is to do, and later, race day preparations, which lately then developed into sorting out car seats so my kids can cheer me on, and the use of a foam roller, the latter of which arrived on room service. Joni also provided directions to the hotel and several other locations too. She got to providing me with a 4.5 mile course that would take in part of Llandudno in a nutshell, so to speak. It went like this.

From the north shore (near which I’m staying), down the dual carriageway of Gloddaeth Street towards the West Shore, turning left and running an out and back in the direction of Deganwy, doubling back as I approached two miles in distance. This would afford views in the distance of Conwy Mountain, the hills of Penmeanmawr and Llanfairachan, and beyond them, the isle of Anglesey.

Coming back, ignoring the turn back onto Gloddaeth Street, I was to follow the road up to a route called Invalid’s Walk. This is a footpath that leads to Haulfre Gardens and, if you wish, up the zigzag path which takes you to the Great Orme Summit, said to have inspired Lewis Carroll’s literary work. When I first turned onto here, I thought I was about to be led a merry dance up the Great Orme, but as I turned right, I realised this wasn’t the case and remembered exactly why I’d been sent up here…

Llandudno from Invalid’s Walk, 25/10/2016
And looking down on the West Shore

Without question, this was the ‘hello, Llandudno’ moment I’d been waiting for, except it blew away any imagination of what I could have expected. The view was, without question, magnificent. Absolutely mindblown, I knew I had to continue chasing the sunset. Onward towards Haulfre Gardens, a lush microcosm tucked away near the foot of the Great Orme, contrasting against the hard limestone face with rich greenery, tea rooms, and an excellent undulating progression – on past the Great Orme Tramway, further up Hill Terrace, and arriving at the top via the Camera Obscura monument, which looks out onto the pier, Llandudno Bay and everything below and beyond. Quite simply amazing.

Haulfre Gardens
The view from the Camera Obscura monument, 25/10/2016

I was up bright and early Thursday morning to go out with Joni down to Deganwy Marina for the final run before the race. An easy three miles running around past Conwy Marina, then past Conwy Castle, which looked mighty impressive in the flesh, through the town itself and then back again, much like our hair which appeared to just flail in the wind. And just as we did around 18 months or so before, we had time for an obligatory selfie for the masses on Running the World, through which our connection developed from stumbling upon the fact we were both from the same town!

So that’s it. Training is finished. Its now come down to Saturday. Tonight I’m off to collect my race number, and I’ll likely spend the rest of the day carb loading on porridge and trying to find the cheapest, healthiest way to get a load more carbs, protein and greens inside before the big one. I’ve got to think about when to end my caffeine strike – the shit tea in the hotel, or some amazing local brew pre race. And do I want to trim my beard just a little more, or keep it nice and rugged. And am I really going to sell myself out to Trek bars at the end of the most gruelling examination of my physical and mental psyche in my life?
Well, if it takes my mind off that big hill at mile 23-24, then so be it. But no matter what happens, it all comes down to the start line on the A4086. Its still a marathon. All the hills, the conquests, the disappointments, the mud, the moorland, the sheer adventure of it all – all of it has led to this. And I feel I’m more prepared than ever to experience everything a marathon can throw at me. So to Saturday 29th October, Llanberis, Snowdonia Marathon 2016. There is no turning back.

Gadewch i dorri ‘i! (Let’s smash it!)