Monday Dec 21, 2009

Tales of clear skies and driving snow : Bob Graham mid-Winter Round support

One of the best preparations for running round 42 peaks in the Lake District is to support someone who is running round 42 peaks in the Lake District. The 24 hour round of the Lake Districts finest mountains 1st completed by a Keswick gardner and guest house owner in 1932 has had in excess of of 1500 people complete the Round in Summer. Less than 5 people have completed the mid-winter round which gives some idea of the added challenge that cold, wind, ice, snow and 16 hours of darkness brings over and above the serious challenge that is a summer round.

I was very pleased to support Mark Smith, a somewhat more accomplished disciple of Bob Graham (No not this one, but this one. I expect the later ended up living a more enlightened life than the former). Beyond seeing someone else attempt their goal, it also gave me a chance to go over some of the ground I had not been over before, understand the logistic needs and get an understanding of what is involved which is impossible from just the web and talking to people.

I have no photo's to include which would add some interest, but both the legs of the round I supported were in the dark and flash photography in a snow storm tends to be impractical. Some very good photos and links to here can be found for leg 3 here. I was probably still curled up in my sleeping bag when these were taken.

Just before 8pm we assembled at Moot Hall in Keswick. Along with 2 other runners, I was supporting leg 1 over Skidaw, Great Calva and Blencathera. I got Mark's food to carry. Standing around Moot Hall was freezing, even in a extra fleece and down jacket. At about 7.50pm Mark decided he could wait not longer and off we went through a short tunnel on Keswich high street, across the car park, over the bridge and up the path to Skiddaw. This 1st climb is the longest of the round at about 900m. I am not good at remember names at the best of times, and with all that was going on I have forget the names of my two fellow pacers, despite having a very enjoyable walk up Skiddaw chatting with them. It was cold, but once you were moving, I got very hot due in the most part to my aging Buffalo jacket and no wind, you generate a huge amount of heat when walking fast up hill and even a stop for 30 seconds you would start to chill immediately. Even so, it was so cold that water in a water bottle or bladder was freezing, so I put both Mark's water bottle and 4in1 energy drink down the front of my jacket. I managed to drop his 4in1 about on the climb up Blencathra out of my jacket (you clown Clive), so he had my water. The navigation between Skiddaw and the start of the asscent to Blencathra is quite a challenge and a GPS really came into its own. Around the stream between Great Calva and Blencathra we split into 2 groups as 1 other pacer was struggling to keep up. Carrying the food, I then struggled to keep up with Mark on the 1800ft climb up Blencathra, and the other 2 followed behind finishing the leg about 30 minutes behind. I spent the 2nd half of leg one feeling like the Pigsy character from the 1970's TV series monkey carrying a rucksack and struggling to keep up. At one point we turned both torches off for a couple of minutes as we walked up hill and the stars were amazing and your night vision adjusts very quickly. At the top of Blencathra, we stopped for about 30 seconds before starting to descend and at that point the Buffalo jacket which had tried its best to live boil me even with the side flaps open was just about enough to keep the worst of the cold out. The decent went well, we used Doddick Fell and I handed over to the next set of pacers for the runner at Threlkeld well ahead of the schedule. I had been run ragged and without going into detail, I was not that well. Still, mission 1 accomplished with the 1st 14 miles and 5700 ft of ascent out of the way and the next 2 pacers were down about 1/2 an hour later. Back at the hut the water had frozen, so I could get nothing to drink, so I just went to bed.

Myself and 2 other supports had intended to go up to Broad Stand to rope it up. I had been up to look at it on Thursday and it was OK to climb roped. By 5am on Saturday morning I had the BGR pacer version of a hangover and there was no way I could have roped up Broad Stand and I am told conditions had changed to make the route a lot more icy over the 36 hours since I was there, so they used Foxes tarn instead and I went back to bed.

I spent the day drinking tea, washing up and wondering round Keswick market. Mark's expected time of arrival at Honister pass, then end of leg 4 and start if leg 5 was about 4pm. I think he got there about 4.30pm, but I lost track of time. It was snowing, real snow that arrived horizontally. The stop was short and for the final 3 peaks there were 6 pacers. Mark was still climbing really well and made good time up Dale Head, a 400m climb and the last big one of the round. The weather was very unpleasant by this time with driving snow, though the visibility was still OK at about 10m. Mark found the downhill very hard, but persevered. The arrival at the last peak was noted by the comment from Mark of "let just get off here". The decent from Robinson took a while and had some steep rocky sections which slowed things down quite a lot. The snow covered the paths, so navigation for took a bit longer.

Arrived at Newlands Church, Mark was feed a bit more, his shoes changed and then was pushed, encouraged, etc, etc, over a very icy road, but with 4 miles to run which would have needed sub 8 minute miles, he had been in the game long enough to know he would not complete in sub 24 hours and he started to walk, getting back to Moot Hall in 24 hours and 22 minutes. I think if he had kept the peddle to the metal, he would have finished in about 24.08, but that is not really the point. The difference between 23.59 and 24.08 can be as simple as not eating on an ascent which has a future knock on effect. Whatever the time, it was hell of an achievement for Mark and by far and away the hardest thing I have ever seen anyone do. Some educated guesses suggest that a Summer round burns in excess of 20,000 calories, a winter round may increase that by 50%.

I was expecting Mark to turn into a jelly the second he reached Moot Hall for the 2nd time, but no, he managed to go to the next door pub, have a coffee and then go for a Curry.

I got a lot out of playing my small part as a supporter (1 of around 15) and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it and the 2 minutes of decorating the road side grass were because I had not looked after myself enough as a pacer on leg 1. Struggling to keep up with Mark on the climb up Blencathra I really had serious concerns that I just would not be capable of doing a Summer Round myself this year, but I hear it is not uncommon for pacers to be burned off on the 1st 2 legs.

Just as impressive as Mark's performance was the diverse group of people who turned up to support him, it was my pleasure and privilege to be a small part of it.

Wednesday Dec 16, 2009

In the bleak midwinter

This weekend I have the pleasure, honor and privilege of pacing and generally pandering to nearly every need of a fellow runner, Mark Smith as he attempts a winter Bob Grahman Round. Its hard in summer, a winter round is something else.

I have only meet Mark twice. Once outside some toilets in Church Stretton(not quite how it sounds. I had just taken my 3rd year old for the necessary and was heading out, no really ) and at the Nant Peris Horseshoe where we had a brief chat in the car park before the race.

I am currently down to pace leg 1, to provide rope cover on Broad Stand if it is safe and part of leg 4.

Good luck Mark and lets hope the weather holds.

Friday Nov 06, 2009

Evening run up Blorange

I spent the last 2 days at a customer site in the south east of England. On my way home last night I decided to explore a route up a mountain called The Blorenge. I did not take any pictures, though I am sure the view would have been great if it was light. Being Novemeber the 5th, I felt the youff of Abergaveny let me down somewhat with few fireworks going off.

The Blorenge from the north is just over 500 meters of ascent, some of which is up a old mine works incline and some on open hill side. Nearly all of it is steep, so until the top plateau there was little I was able to run. Still a great hill training venue which is quite reasonable to do at night. Indeed, I was quite surprised to see an other set of lights out running who clearly knew an easier/better way down than straight back down the north face. I really missed my Mudclaws for the 1st 100m of descent.

Many thanks to Martin Beal and his blog for the idea. I have passed 100's of time to my shame, but never though of using it as a training ground and an excuse to break the drive home up. So if Martin at the top of end of the sport can do the ascent in 21.5 minutes, those of us at the other end might find 30 minutes a good target. Last night the ascent took about 45 minutes to the plateau, but some of that was spent reading the route description and looking for the track in the dark.

Wednesday Oct 14, 2009

Cader Idris in October

Spent part of my day off doing 2 reps of Cader Idris getting in just over 6000ft of ascent and 11 miles. Pictures are not great as I used a phone, choosing to leave the camera behind to save weight. The view from the top was hazzy, so did not bother to take any more. Still, very nice morning out for mid October.

Sunday Oct 11, 2009

Twin Peaks

Nothing to do with David Lynch's rather strange early 90's TV series, but a short local mixed terrain race in Aberystwyth.

I need to stop doing the Aber Twin Peaks race. Despite the history I ran past without knowing about most of it and the marshaling, organization, en-route support, etc and goody bag all being top notch, at 7 miles and 1000ft, it is probably incompatible to train for and race in events like Highland Fling and the Nant Peris Horseshoe given my own unique combination of natural ability (not) and time to train. My time was about 10 seconds faster than last year at just under 62 minutes. So a year of training and not much progress? What did strike me was that after 5 minutes and a cup of tea I felt like I could have started running again. Last year I was a wreak for the rest of the day.

What I suspect has happened is my VO2 max has remained much the same and the threshold between where the body chooses the form of fuel (Glycogen or fat) has improved. The later not being a significant part of this race as the body typically has over an hours Glycogen store. I am much better at hill climbing and longer distances than I was this time last year.

So you get what you train for and I will continue following my running interest of longer mountain based races, but I think I will start to include a flat speed (all things are relative) session at least once every 2 weeks in my training.

Tuesday Oct 06, 2009

Arenig Race

Long, long time since I have been in the Arenig range and the Arenig race gave a perfect excuse. Pleased with a time of 1.19:54, it was as fast as I could have managed, with a bit of a sprinting tussle at the end. At 6 miles, it was shorter than I am used to, so found the faster pace of a shorter race a bit of a struggle(you get what you train for), but the running was great and the decent was fast. The last mile along a disused railway line seemed to go on for ages. Pictures in the usual place.

Cracking race, starting in the middle of nowhere. Best soup and cakes of any race west of Offa's Dyke.

After a customer visit yesterday, I took some time out on the drive home for a jog (still tired from Sunday's race) up Moel Famau. Intersected of Offa's Dyke, I think it must have the best view in Wales. To the west Snowdon, Cader Idris, Arenig's, etc and to the east Liverpool, Manchester, Wrexham, etc. OK, so it has the best view to the West in Wales. Caught the sun setting behind Snowdon as I was starting to descend, stunning. Note to self, must remember to carry camera on such adventures. Great training area and a place it would be reasonable to run at night with a head torch.

Sunday Sep 27, 2009

Hill reps vs DTrace@breakfast

My typical Sunday afternoon training regime has been more along the lines of I have 2 hours, go out and run and lets see where we end up before we (man plus dog) need to turn around. Somewhat more structured this afternoon with 3 reps up Pumlumon from the west. Only about 6 miles in total. The up bits were mostly runnable, the down bits were soft and fast and the flat bits were absent. Each rep included 300m of ascent and descent. Each time I (dog stayed at home today) got to the top the weather was different. Sunny 1st time, spitting rain 2nd time and in cloud with a cold wind the 3rd ascent, all in the space of about an hour.

No pictures or timings as the battery on both the Garmin and the camera were flat, not much forward planning there then.

View Pumlumon from the west route in a larger map

In a quite different setting, on Tuesday I am presenting at the Sun Corporate User Group Breakfast Meeting in the City. More details can be found are here. I doubt porridge will be served, but there is some Coffee, pastry things and DTrace

Sunday Sep 20, 2009

Pumlumon Challange

Taken a week to write this up, but a lot has been going on work wise in my little world. 2 years in a row the Pumlumon Challenge got fantastic weather. For those who only visit mid-Wales for this event, it is always like that. Claims of average rainfall in the region of 1760mm are just figures picked from the Internet without any factual basis, hence my year round sun tan (not).

The race is part of the Vasque series of Ultra marathons, most of which are mountain based. I did the race last year for the 1st time and this year have done 2 other races in the series.

Wynne, chief organizer managed the most informal start for a race to date. Without any warning or build up, a very informal "off you go" was quite amusing.

I was still tired from the Nant Peris Horseshoe the week before which probably demonstrates to me I have the Peris my all and a week is not enough to recover at these distances which is stating the obvious. It was hot, I found after about 10 miles I was more tired than I should have been, so I was about 30 minutes slower than last year. Since the start is about a mile as the Red Kite flies from my house, I know the route quite well which really helped on the decent down Drosgol picking up about 10 minutes by following the secret quad bike tracks.

I enjoyed this year's race a lot more and even stopped to take a few pictures on top of Drogsol. Great event, fine organization(could have done with more water available at the bottom of Hengwm) and really good to see some of the people like Nick who I had meet on other races in the series.

A couple of photo's shows the large number of native flies which were not biting inclined. Visit them now before the Wind Turbines scheduled to be installed around Nant-y-Moch are put in place (I feel one only has the right to pass adverse comments on such things when their loft is fully insulated if you get my drift).

Friday Sep 11, 2009

Nant Peris Horseshoe according to Garmin

Tuesday Jul 21, 2009

Snowdon race

The Snowdon Fell Race is the best known Fell race in Wales, probably on account of S4C covering it on television for as long as I can remember. It has a bit of a carnival atmosphere and the reception each runner gets as they pass the reasonably intoxicated crowd outside the Victoria Hotel is very lifting indeed.

I was a quite a bit slower than I had hoped on the ascent, but had a good decent in 35 minutes. Heart rate monitor slipped down on the decent hence the heart rate of less than 110, I can assure you it was somewhat higher.

It is quite a fast race, so having done events like the Highland Fling which are much longer, but far less intense, it seems your body adapts as you train it. I also had not been training hard enough in the 6 weeks before, in part down to a ankle problem. Good as water running is, it is not a full substitute.

Which ever way you cut it, it is sad when a fellow runner dies in a race. It appears to have been heart related, talking to a paramedic after the race who suggested if today is your day, it is your day. Still just as sad and makes you reflect that you don't know how long you have down here left.

Sunday Jun 14, 2009

Man v Horse

In sharp contrast to last weekend which was on the cool side, the man v horse race was very warm indeed for Wales in June. Much warmer than last year. The major objective danger is being trampling, but in fairness all the riders took as much care as they could even if a few horses had other ideas.

Some days you just don't have it and I was very slow, 35 minutes slower than last year. Part down to the effects of the heat and an ankle injury that came on 15 miles in. I have also struggled to do much serious training in the 5 weeks or so since the Highland Fling at the end of April. Maybe a lesson about how much these really long races take out of you.

I did managed to finish, though it was a slog. The event is a great family day out with a unique atmosphere. Although hot, the course was very wet and muddy[nice], with the softer going and heat suiting the horses better. A horse [ I assume with rider ] came home 1st this year 11 minutes in front of the 1st individual runner.

I hope to give the race a miss next year as I have plans for something a little bit more challenging!

I am going to give water running in a local lake[wet suit mandatory] a try for the next 2 weeks while my ankle sorts its self out. Should go down well with the Retrieving dog member of the family at least.

Tuesday Apr 28, 2009

Highland Fling according to Garmin

A different perspective on the Highland Fling Race is given by my Garmin 305 which ran out of battery within last mile or so. It seems to have been very accurate with the distance, but I suggest overestimating by about 2x the amount of ascent and decent.

While the views would be stunning on a clear day, Saturday was a bit hazy and I was not sure I would be capable of holding a camera still, so did not take any pictures. Must try harder in this area, even if I loose a little bit of time.

Highland Fling Race

I sent of my entry for the Highland Fling Race in October 2008. It seemed a good idea at the time and I imagined it would be harder than any race I had done before. It was twice as far as I had run before and as such an experiment. I knew it was possible that it was a step too far at this time having only started regular running in January 2008. I set out with only one aim which was to finish last. Anything else was a bonus and if I did not finish I would have learned stuff.

In reality, Saturday extended the limits of my imagination somewhat. It was far harder than any running I have done before.

I am a really lucky boy. My secret weapon is coach Jon who got me to do a ramp test (on the tread mill, start at 5k, 1k increments each minute until you fall off while monitoring the product of your breathing) about 2 weeks prior to the event and pronounced the following wise words:

As to the race at the weekend - DO NOT, 'EVER', exceed 135 bpm, unless you
can see the finish line! Make sure you eat lots, drink lots and walk
before you feel tired.

So I decided to stick with coach Jon's wise words and ran the 1st 25 miles with a heart rate of under 135 bpm. After 25 miles it became academic the bodies natural throttle nicks in and any attempt to raise a heart rate into that region would result in collapse.

There are 3 starts. 6am for female and super vet. 7am for Male senior, Male Vet. and Collie dogs and 8am for the relay runners. A 7am start at Milngavie with some really pleasant running over about 12 miles with little bits of hill to Drymen to the 1st water stop. Running against the heart rate monitor I ended up last for the 1st 10 miles. This meant I got the pleasure of running with Jim the sweeper who was 67, had run 13 West Highland way races [ The Fling is only 1/2 the West Highland Way ] and clearly very wise when it comes to long distance running:

If it looks like a hill, walk it
so I did. I left Jim after about 10 miles as I overtook a few runners and the relay runners started overtaking us. I did not quite grasp how much ascent and decent the race would have. I knew it would not be flat, but I had an image of broad paths along the side of Loch Lomond suitable for easy walking with a little bit of moorland. I knew from looking at the profile of the that Conic Hill had some climb, but it was quite early in the race and by fell running standard it was fine. The 1st bag drop stop in Balmaha I managed to eat quite a lot, I had also had some energy Gel, slaughtered some Jelly babies and some Electrolyte.

The next section was also OK from Balmaha to Rowardennan. Most of this 7 mile section was wide paths running by a road with a few bits of tricky path with roots and rock, but nothing too bad. Weather got a bit warmer. Legs started to feel the distance, but it was OK and still had the energy to run most of this section, though rather slow.

Some people claim to have "out of body" experiences. Between Rowardennan and Inversnaid, I had a an "out of mind" experience where my mind decided it was not too keen on what was happening and had somewhere else to be. I don't remember any of this section beyond I don't think I enjoyed it.

The world appeared a much better place after I bought a pot of tea from Inversnaid Hotel, eat some of the contents of my drop bag and my mind returned.

I actually enjoyed the section between Inversnaid and Bein Glas Farm, even though it was very rough ground. The path was up and down, narrow with rocks and tree roots for much of the way. The West Highland Way web site describes this as the hardest section of the whole West Highland Way. Even fresh there would be sections which would be hard work to run. While my mind was away doing its own thing on the previous section, it had decide we had got far enough that barring getting injured, we might as well put the discomfort to one side and get on with it. The alternative view is that I was hallucinating as a result of low blood sugar, but I still remember quite enjoying this section.

I got to Bein Glas Farm 20 minutes before the 6PM cut off to be greeted by the sky opening and dumping a full on Scottish rain storm with Thunder and lightening for about 20 minutes. Living it Wales, it did not seem so bad, so I put my thermal and waterproof jacket on, had a bit to eat, drink and carried on. 13 miles to go to Tyndrum.

I did not run much of the last section. I was joined by the sweeper runner after about 2 miles (Mary is the name which sticks in my mind, but I am ashamed to admit I can't really remember, one foot in front of the other was the major challenge, sorry if you read this, I am not sure I knew my own name for much of this section). I convinced the sweeper running that I could string a sentence together and we carried on. I ran where I could, the sweeper tried to encourage me into a shuffle, sometime with success and sometime with a response inspired by my 3 year old lad of "I not!". I still felt quite strong on the hill and was able to still dig in and attack them. The flat and downhill were a struggle to do more than walk most of the time. The last few miles to Tyndrum seems to grind on, over the road, past the wigwams, under the road, along the river, through the woods, eventually finding our way to the finish in Tyndrum as the last of the light was fading. Such was my confusion I had to be told to stop running. I was however no where near as confused as coach Jon who I phoned at 9.30 on a saturday when I was within a few 100 meters of the finish (able to see the lights) and asked him if I could now raise my heart rate above 135bpm. It took him a little while to grasp it was my way of letting him know I had finished and his guidance was spot on and a major contributor to being able to finish. In reality, my computer had switched itself off 2 miles before the end and I doubt I could have managed any form of finish beyond the shuffle.

I was very content with the concept of being last, an honor I seem to have lost in the results. Something has to keep you going beyond the thought of berating yourself for being a wimp and for me it was the Real Food Cafe Magic Mug which magically fills with tea or coffee each time I visit, trivial I know. We also got a race medal and a bottle of race Champagne which I saved for a time when we can enjoy it rather than risk seeing it on the way down and up again.

I will probably remember the next 20 minute after finishing as being some of the most positively intensely emotional of my life so far after the obvious ones of my little people arriving into this world. I have no idea what chemicals your body releases at that point, but it was a heady mix. Murdo, the cheeriest race director on the planet and the 2 somewhat more capable Eryri Harrier runners, Sarah who was the 1st lady in 9 hours 19 minutes and Iain who finished 8th helped me stand up against a fence. A medal, bag of goodies and the bottle were thrust into my hand and I was pointed in the direction of the cottage where I was staying. I have never felt so tired with body parts I did not know could get tired got tired, but it felt great. Standing up in the shower was a struggle.

I probably won't be a threat to the Jez Bragg, the male winner who finished in 7 hours 19 minutes, in this lifetime, but that really is not the point. I now know I can do that type of event and also have a lot of scope to improve. A race every ambitious runner should do at least once. I am going back to shorter fell race type events for the rest of the year. I meet a lot of runners who do this type of event most weekends, something that would conflict with the rest of my little world. However, they are in at least the next league up.

I spent the sunday morning in the Real Food Cafe (A fine example of what Little Chef could have been if they had paid attention to what customers actually want, rather than telling them what they should want) making sure my Magic Mug worked in the fine company of Jim and Nick before getting the train back to Milngavie.

Sunday Apr 19, 2009

Swallowed up and spat out again by a man eating bog : Moelwyn race

Very fine weather for a return visit to Ras Y Moelwyn in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Run by the community, a great race, both in terms of route and the atmosphere, Soup, Samba band and face painting included.

I was 10 minutes faster than last year which I was very pleased with. Just before the Dam on the decent from Moelwyn Fach, I was swallowed up to the waist by a man eating bog and then spat out again. Note to the many people taking photo's, that would be a great place to station yourselves next year as I was not the 1st or last person to be part consumed by the peat, moss and water.

Next weekend is the Highland Fling Race which should make an interesting experiment and a new experience.

Monday Mar 23, 2009

Aran Race : How much progress in a year?

How much have I improved in my 1st year Fell Running? The Aran race was my 1st race last year. While not a direct comparison as last years race was shortened due to the weather, I finished much further up the field this year. I also did not feel wasted for days after the race which is a sign of progress.

The race is 10 miles and 2500ft up and down Aran Aran Fawddwy starting from just south of Bala lake. The top section is very rocky in places, but a lot of the route was quite fast.

Tim Jones managed to take 8 minutes off the previous record with Richard Roberts 8 seconds or so behind him which is very close for a race of that length.

My more modest aim was to finish in under 2 hours. I pushed myself like an idiot for the last 15 minutes, but finished in 2 hours, 1 minute and 44 seconds. If you don't have it, you don't have it.

The highlight of the day is the Aran Organic Lamb roast aftewards. One runner I spoke to spends the rest of the year as a veggie, but for the Aran Organic Lamb roast after this race!

Tuesday Feb 10, 2009

Long Mynd Valley's Race

The name of the race, Long Mynd Valleys race suggests a pleasant gentle run along some gentle wooded valleys in Shropshire. Behind the name hides one of the hardest medium length races in the fell calendar. At 11.5 miles and 4500ft of climb, most of the climb comes in the last 4 miles with 3 back to back serious hills. The last section of the route crosses 3 valleys with the last slog up Yearlet being a nasty sting in the tail. Whoever came up with the route was both creative and a vindictive in a kind, cuddly, self inflictive sort of way!

Some parts of the downhill course had a fair amount of snow, so many runners took to their seat and slid which was quite exciting.

I was very pleased with my time of 2 hours 36 minutes and finishing in the middle of the field of about 180.

I have to admit having something to prove here. I did this race in around 1995, took somewhere near 3 hours 20 minutes and then gave up fell running for 13 years(I am still not sure if the two were connected). As punishment for a lack of training, I was humbled. I had done not grasp what 4500ft of ascent really meant. While Sunday was still a very hard day out, keeping going on the last hill was a lung busting experience, I did not feel it was a race too far.

Next race has a very different character, the Wye Ultra.

Monday Dec 29, 2008

Tyn-Gross hill race

Fell races have a huge range in terms of distance, amount of climb, terrain and also the type and extent of their organization. At one extreme are international level races such as the Snowdon Race which have electronic timing, a field of 500 and 1000's of spectators and even a hour on the local TV channel. If you want to enter you must run at least 3 races in the past year of sufficient difficulty to qualify and also to get your entry in before the race quota is reach.

At the other end of the spectrum are events like Tyn-y-Groes hill race which is organized around a pub. Run on Boxing Day, it had 24 competitors, an informal approach to registration, marshaling and time keeping, but was no worse for it. Registration involved wondering into the pub, having a chat, getting a number and wondering out again to the start. I did overhear a few people talking with some apprehension that this was their 1st race and why were they doing it on Boxing day.

The course was a rough 2.5 miles and 700ft of up. I managed to come 5th of out of the 24 entering, so rather pleased.

A really relaxed, informal and friendly atmosphere was absolutely appropriate for the day and the event. Bigger is not always better!

Sunday Oct 12, 2008

Let off lightly

This weekend had a single race planned, the Rhinog Horseshoe. Due to the weather and that a runner had got quite lost last year and was rescued at midnight by the mountain rescue, one can understand why the organizers cut the race down to a out and back run up Moelfre at just under 8 miles. Somewhat shorter and easier than the 16 miles and 5500ft of up planned, but most runners, while disappointed, thought it was the right decision given the mist and rain. The alternative course (the Moelfre nail) was still a challenge with a combination of a little road, a bit of farm track, some forest paths, very rough open mountain, boulders and bog. It was very wet indeed. Time was somewhere around 1 hour 37.

Being "let off" lightly on saturday, I also did the Aber twin Peaks race on sunday, arriving 2 minute before the start! The weather was a real contrast to the previous day with a pleasant, sunny 18 degree centigrade and no wind. The course was just under 8 miles with about 1000ft of up and I finished in 1 hour and 3 minutes. Most of the runners were road runners, so the rather muddy decent from Pen Dinas suited me just right and allowed for some overtaking. Many thanks to the one shoed runner who called me a "bloody idiot" as I passed him while he was looking for his other shoe in the mud, it was a lovely compliment in this context.

Both races had excellent organization. The Rhinog Horseshoe carries a high level of risk of getting lost or wondering over a cliff, so lesson learned was to scope out these type of races before hand on a clear day or don't do them. Twin peaks race was a fast and accessible route suitable for a wider range of runners who want a test with some off road. Lesson learned was don't do 2 races on consecutive days.




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