What goes up

 

Something different for this year as I’ve joined the WFRA (Welsh Rell Running Assocaiation) and decided to run some fell races this year. Not just the long ones I’ve already done such as Preseli but the short ones too. To see what it’s like as much as anything. i’ve never run a race less than 11 miles so I have no idea how to pace myself in races such as the one I did yesterday up in the Brecon Beacons near Llangorse. It was 3 miles and pretty much straight up and down – around 1000ft of climbing and descent.

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Up and down this one – Mynydd Llangorse

As seems to be the case with races when you turn up everyone looks extremely fit and serious and in the majority of cases younger. Everyones got the kit and does stretching and stuff and looks like they know what theyre doing so instead I went and bought a coffee and sat with Murph (Everyone needs a co-pilot for map reading) in the van until the start time.

Lining up I considered my options (never plan too early it brings on self doubts) and as the start was literally stright uphill through fields at some crazy angle I decided the best plan was to go full gas until the wheels came off. I figured that 3 miles is a short run for me and it would be worth going nuts to see what happened. So off we went and to my surprise I found myself able to hang with the lead group as they charged off at some suicidal pace straight up. After a while it levelled out into a flatter climb and I found I could hang on there too.  Then came a bastard of the main climb as per the image above and I dropped back a bit as eventually the wheels started to come off and although the legs felt really good I simply couldnt get enough oxygen in to keep up full speed. This is what comes of long long training with little speedwork I guess.

Up at the top it was foggy, windy and mercifully not as steep, we hit the trig point (kudos to the marshall up there!) and started the steep and in places slippery descent.  By now I was running alone and was guessing the best lines to take (fell running allows you to pick a route in many sections) but made it down as fast as I could without blowing out my ankles. I did miss one turn slightly which cost me 20 seconds or so and 2 places but finally the line was in sight and its a joyous (yeah right) bound through the line.

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Me bounding joyously through the line – Thats as joyous as I get

I didnt really have a clue what time I’d done or where I’d placed, there were the serious looking runners milling around the finish so more coffee, went to watch the presentations and then off out with Murph to give him some time.

And here’s the mad bit – when I saw the results later on their website – I was 17th in a time of 28′ 06′ – Which I’m utterly astounded by.  I had no idea how to run the race and out of 70 odd runners came in the top 20.

So what did I learn about short races – go full gas and redline it until the wheels fall off and then pray that no-one catches you on the descent.  I really enjoyed it as a change to the longer stuff, less time to think and more time to really hurt – for a shorter time.  Mynydd Ddu who organised it did a superb job and it was a great event to kick off the year, I’ll see what happenes next – Might even do some speedwork in training …. or not

 

Old places and friends

Went away to Newport in West Wales for a few days to stay with friends who had a cottage there. of course it pissed it down for the two days – apart from early Sunday morning whereupon Murph grabbed the chance to go run up Carningli which forms part of the Preseli beast route.  It was great to run up there without having already covered 13 or so miles but even on fresh legs its a killer.

It was also good to appreciate the area, when you’re racing you miss so much and so being able to take the time to stop and look was great.  We bounced off along the beast route and then cut back to follow the track back to Newport.  It’s odd how although I’ve only run this stretch twice in races it feels comfortable and familiar. I cant wait to get back out there in May to give the ultra another go. I’ve been toying with the idea of running the 24 mile version with Murph who would cope fine with the physical side but I don’t think would cope so well with other runners and bystanders.  We shall see May is still a fair way off.

 

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So we’re going up there right?
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Investigating rocks – This is the shallow gradient
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View of a murky Newport from halfway up
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View from the summit inland towards the rest of the preselis – The Beast route goes back along those hills in the distance. I never really thought about how far it looked until today
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Wild ponies!

Returning

Returning to Preseli, returning to running.

A week afetr running the ultrabeast in Preseli I went back with Claire and the dogs to walk in the hills.  To be honest I dont think i’d get bored of that place. Was strange in a way to walk the paths I’d run the week before and a damn sight easier.  We actually ended up doing the Beast Bach 11 mile route with a bit tacked on so we could reach a rocky outcrop so a 12 mile walk in the hills on a sunny day – cant fault it.  The dogs had a whale of a time plus (and this was intended) we didnt have to endure a single second of anything royal wedding related – Win Win!

I also realised yesterday Im doubly blessed – I loved running the ultra (Yes once again a week later I’m no longer saying never again and I’ve forgotten all the pain) and I loved walking up there with the dogs.  I can do either happily and not miss the other. Thats lucky

Today I felt like running again, the legs have been a bit wrecked this week – monday was horrendous/hilarious depending on whether you were me or watching me.  But today although they are still a little tired I could feel the spring is back and I can drive again rather than shuffle. Murph loves running – well he trots at a gentle pace, I think he’ll make a pretty good training partner.

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Tilly loves water – Murph aint so sure
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See?  Thats the water rat fetching a stick and my rat being a wuss and only putting his paws in
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Reckon he’s happy – soft sod will let her do anything to him
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If dogs could talk – So you ran over that over there mountain right?  Idiot ….
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Awesome photo nose cut-off skills
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Till posing on a cairn as per
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Alert
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back of the van is now a dog chill out zone – Fully padded out with pillows, dog beds and sleeping bags – They slept the whole way home
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Handsome beasts … well one of us

 

Triple Crown at Preseli

Yesterday was Preseli Ultrabeast day. 2 years ago I ran the Beast Bach 11 mile race linky and last year I ran the Preseli Beast 24 miler linky and yesterday I completed the hat trick with the Ultrabeast.  I was to be honest a little concerned about it as although training has gone well and I feel in good form, breaking a toe on a baby gate 2 weeks ago was going to make it a different proposition plus I know what the course is like – as Carwyn the organiser puts it “As if the original wasn’t hard enough for you!  And if the 32mile route doesn’t grab you enough, then what about the 6,000ft of ascent it now has! Be warned this is no easy walk in the park. This is proper hardcore fell running terrain. This route really does take it to the extreme and those thinking of running this one really must be physically and mentally prepared.”

32 miles, 6000 feet of ascent (and the quad shredding descents which by the end are worse) through fell country, not much of this is run on any sort of trail and most is barely a sheep track.  It had pissed down constantly during the day before and there was a lot of mud, the evil black sucky mud you only seem to get on the beacons (Preseli is the westernmost end of the Brecon beacons).    There were moments when you went up to your knees in it, at one point up to the groin. You just could tell until you hit it. All part of the fun but it just sucks and sucks at your legs.

For the sake of the marshalls (who were superb as ever here – especially the one dressed as a lobster) the ultra started the same time as the 24 miler.  This made pacing tricky as everyone set off around the same lick and it was hard to judge what the extra 8 miles would be like.

The option was also there around 20 miles to skip the 8 mile extra loop out into the wilds and still get a qualifying finish in the 24 miler.  You make this decision at the top of the longest steepest hillside there is and apparently quite a few took it and I cant blame them. By then things were really hurting and the thought crossed my mind but not for long. Those extra 8 miles were beautiful singletrack and took us out to parts i’d not seen before including a monolithic hillfort.  There were more climbs, more descents and more pain than I care to think about now but by then I had grouped with 3 other lads who were in a similar boat and were happy for me to tag along and for once I was happy for the company. Sometimes its ok to suffer in silence and sometimes misery loves company. When its not just you stepping into knee deep freezing mud for the hundredth time it makes it easier to bear.

The last peak was finally done and all that was left was a 3 or 4 mile descent on busted up everything – Sometimes its that last drop that kills.  But finish I did in 7 hours which I’m well pleased with considering the toe and the terrain.

Dunno where to go next …. who cares

Anyway if you read all that you get the photos – Beauty of ultras with fuckoff big mountains is you feel better about stopping occassionally for a photo op.

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First up, spot the start of the bogs
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Climb to Carn Ingli – around 12 miles in, yep right up to those peaks
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View from Carn ingli
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Looking back towards Newport bay whence we came
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Marshalls on Carn Ingli
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Next point – yeah just run to that cairn on the horizon and go left
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See that peak – yeah we’ll probably cross that one too
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They all look the same after a while
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Somewhere in a field with mercifully no bogs to fall in
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The extra loop took us out into bluestone country – Apparently this is where the stones came from for Stonehenge. I cheerfully apprasied my fellow runners with this information – I was glad the correct retort was “Its a pile of fucking rocks”  Thank god we’re all in the same mental boat then i’d hate it to be just me
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Leading the way along the ridge – my newfound friends following
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Unmanned checkpoint (on a pile of fucking rocks) – here we had to draw a smiley face on our bibs to prove we came, saw and gasped for breath
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Checkpoint view
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Hey guess what – we get to go up there – its steeper and longer than it looks and after 20 odd miles its an utter bitch
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Mud. Bastard mud – Socks kept my feet clean tho!

Preseli recon and newfound common sense!

I was down in West Wales yesterday and as you do figured I could add an hour or two to my journey to get to the Preselis and have a bit of a practice ready for the Ultra there in May.  I know most of the course and only intended on running the Beast Bach course which is around 11 miles and I was fairly sure I could navigate that.  By the time I got there around half two I noticed that the clouds were covering the peaks. Ah well let’s go up and see what happens.

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Clouds – bastards
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One of the nice things about the Preseli races is the variety of terrain, it isnt all fell. At the start (and end) there are some lovely forestry parts
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And you get to run through and old slate quarry
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Then a right bastard of a drag up and up and up the neverending drag bastard hill
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So I got to the top of the bastard drag where the Beast and beast Bach split and this was the view – around 20 yards visibility and everything pretty damn boggy.  Now I don’t care about freezing cold bog water, In fact i kinda like it in an odd way but the fog? I know the route – I don’t know it well enough to navigate sheep tracks in order to follow the route safely. I know from being up here on fine days the place is massive and I was likely to end up lost.  So for once common sense kicked in and I took a route that followed a fence and bridleway. At least I could easily retrace my steps and had a landmark.
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A few miles later I was glad I did – This is a completely different section of the fells … note similarity to first photo. I would have been totally lost up here. It all looks identical in the fog
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Following the fence was one thing – running through the streams and marsh was loads of fun though.  I really do love it when it’s a path less trodden
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Out of the fog and the panorama google made me looks kinda cool
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On the way back down I passed the beautiful wild ponies I’ve seen a number of times.  The thing about training here yesterday was there was no rush, no other people and it was more of an explore.  When I race here there’s no time to take photos or just chill out.  I honestly couldn’t tell you which I prefer.  I only covered 9 or 10 miles but it was a breeze compared to the 32 to come.

 

No fear, no heights just miles

Ok going back in time …. these two runs were the friday and saturday before the Fan Brycheiniog hike.  Around 10 miles each time and incorporating a nice little loop I’ve found which tacks on as many miles and hills as I like.  Along with the hike thats over 30 miles in 3 days so today is most definitely a rest day.

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This is the close to home training hill of Witches Point – Currently at 3 repeats

Google finally synched all my photos to the cloud so I don’t have to manually drag them here like the last post so have some more fan brycheiniog hike photos

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Yeah we go up there!
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Pretty steep
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This was after I stopped having panic attacks and could go nearer the edge again
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Just stunning
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The path is the line running diagonally
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Snow at the peak!
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Tea break in the saddle
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Gore-tex dog
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Fell running time

Brecon wander

Went up the Brecon beacons yesterday.  Out into the bits people don’t tend to go and just hiked around a bit with the dog.  It was pretty cold, then hot, then windy then not. Hey im a poet! We didn’t follow the paths mainly as there weren’t any. Its quite liberating and definitely fun to just go where you please. This did mean we spent a few hours or so falling in bogs, marshes and swamps (we havnt worked out which is which yet) but wet feet is a given these days.  Plus Tilly the dog loved every minute of it even if she couldnt see over the grass much of the time I guess.

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Pro tip – Park the car by a big obvious mountain like this one so you dont lose it
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Technically we should have been over there but I cannot tell a lie – my directions are shit
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Standing stone doing what it does best
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Waterfall – slightly on the wonk
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Frozen “waterfall” / trickle
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Is that the mountain by the car? Oh …
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Look I CAN take photos – Tilly in her snazzy coat
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Ok we put the dog with short legs on the rock for a photo shoot, she didnt leap there – tiny legs and all that. Though she did exceptionally well seeing as its not really short dog terrain
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Reservoir points to car (backup in case of loss of mountain)
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“Over there is bog…. over there is marsh ….. over there is swamp” ( I fell in most of them)