I entered this round at the beginning of the year, it is the full series of the event I did in December.
I love the area, the MCN team put on great, tough and affordable events in a part of the world I love. The distances are always a "guideline" with this one being pegged at "26ish miles" (42km in new money)
This was my first event back after this years' Spine Race (I'm part way through writing that up) and having been injured, I had a couple of weeks full rest, and the residual destruction stayed with me some time. Really I've only felt back to full strength the last few weeks.
Taking this into account, Robbie wasn't all that happy about me taking part in the Marathon and asked if I could be convinced to do the Half Marathon instead I'd also signed up to do the next day! After a discussion, we agreed I'd do the marathon and just go along and cheer the Half Marathon and have an easy run that day.
I'd arranged to pick up my friend Rich en route, this time not dressed like a chicken (a la the Piece of String race). Thursday night, I had an epic 11 hour sleep, and woke up feeling a bit crook. There's been a lot of virus' knocking about at work and I think I'd been contaminated. I spent the day hydrating and drinking lemsip before heading to Wales via Bristol.
We stopped at the White Hart for dinner where I've been a few times - even if you're not a vegetarian - if ever you're there they do the most amazing Glamorgan Sausages! I'd booked a YHA in Talybont, about 30 minutes from the race start and at £18 a night, which I got a whole room to myself, there were no complaints. That night, for various reasons I had very little sleep. I finally got off to sleep around 4:30am, and woke to my alarm at 5:30. I put off the inevitable for 20 minutes and got my ass up and packed. There were no cooking facilities at the YHA so I had some cold oatsosimple and some paracetamol to get rid of the fuzzy head and scratchy throat I was feeling.
We headed to the race HQ, parked up, collected our numbers etc. Whilst Robbie had told me not to race, to enjoy it and have fun, I couldn't help but set myself some targets, and of course, I wanted to do well.
Some final snacking, and sitting around. Garmin on. I checked my HR, which was bobbing around 110bpm and upto 120 if I stood up! This was slightly alarming as I've been trying to run to HR on my longer runs, and this left me not very far to go! I put it down to excitement, and possibly the slight bug I'd picked up. I'd see how it went, if I worked too hard for too long, then I'd have to seriously consider not completing the full course. The weather forecast was pretty bad, heavy rain forecast between 9am and midday, and gales on the tops. So with about 15km of high ridge running, it was looking like it would be a blustery day!
8am and the clock chimed, signalling the off. I was surprised at the spring in my step as I bounded up the road with the front guys. We were soon on grass and steadily climbing out of Talgarth. My HR was rocketing, but i put that down to excitement, the hills and the current pace.
I was keen to put some space between myself and the other girls so I kept up with the guys for a little while (not the front guy, he was already 100m away) we gradually climbed, over a couple of stiles, up a rooty piece of single track and onto what was possibly once a lovely gravel track. What it was now was a slimy path of ankle deep mud. I kept running through it, trying not to slip over, over a couple of fallen trees, and continued to climb slightly some more.
About 4km in, I could see a lady closing the gap behind me, and when we hit a grassy stretch of slight descent she pulled away. Another slight climb and we were on a bit of a flat, and Rich appeared to my right. I commented that my HR was going a bit mental. We ran together very briefly before he departed and that was the last I saw of him.
I was running comfortably along, feeling strong, running all the hills, legs not really feeling anything. I was feeding well from the start. The main challenge was the slippery choss under foot. After a while, I was joined by another lady, Kate - who beat me right at the end of the last round. She is a very strong runner and really lovely. We stayed together for some time, we climbed up a steep rocky climb where we met our first big hit of the wind. Fortunately it was behind us, so pushed us up the steep climb, aiding us to break from a hike to a trot now and then. The trail took a hairpin turn and we were face on into the wind. We tried to talk over the wind, but it was futile. Just ahead I could see the first lady and told Kate that she was our marker, the lady in the bright yellow top.
We battled our way up to the top of the climb and hit the bogs of eternal stench. We were on high ground, with gales, and now sleet trying to keep our balance through the ankle deep bogs, the wind buffetting us around, we could barely see the shapes of people ahead in the cloud. This section seemed to go on for ages, Kate was struggling to get her coat out from her bag so I helped her out and ran on, I glanced back to make sure she was still coming and not gone off course. The rolling ridgeline over slabs that had kindly been laid to stop you falling neck deep in the bogs. The wind was crazy strong up here, blowing us sideways and forcing me to push my full weight against it at an angle to avoid getting blown off the ridge. We ran on and after a few km started to lose altitude. Coming up to half way I checked my watch - I was bang on where I wanted to be timewise and this gave me a warm feeling of accomplishment. I was still feeling great at this point. Kate started to pull away, but I could still see her. We had a good long descent down to the valley to the half way checkpoint (which actually ended up to be 26km not their suggested 14miles) I was descending well until we came a particularly shitty section. I'm notoriously bad at descending, this part was tricky steep rock, coated in slimy mud, grass patches with skid marks where people ahead had already slipped. I picked myself down, hating myself for the embarrassment I was causing. One guy came flying past. I was getting towards the bottom after a painfully slow hike down, and a girl overtook me. Shit! i thought as I kissed goodbye to a podium chance. I ran on as the descent took a less technical feel and rolled into the next Check point and put in a bit of a chase to catch her up.
I was closing the gap on the next climb, up we went again... but whatever happened in the next 10km isn't pretty. As my wheels fell off, she disappeared into the distance. I was struggling with energy, my glutes were tight, I was feeling the previous 3 hours running at 85% HR. I decided to have a break, hiked it out as best I could, trotted where I could. We were on another shitty ridge. With the weather battering me from the side. It was here, I wanted to stop. If there was a road to bail out at, I was going to take it.Thinking back, I had a similar feeling at the same point of the last race. I think perhaps i need to eat more in the middle sections.
The rain was soaking me, the wind was making my fingers go dead. I'm sure the views were fantastic, but I couldn't see through the cloud. I was soon greeted by another girl, we ran along together for a few km, I tried to keep ahead, but I kept having to drop to a walk in the crazy winds. We were signed down towards the reservoir where it was more sheltered from the weather. But the descent was pure shit. How I didn't break an ankle amazes me.
Along the reservoir was rocky trail, puddles full of frog spawn, a few mountain bikers coming in the other direction. I decided whilst I was feeling shit, I'd get my map out and practice a bit of the navigation I'd learnt with Joe Faulkner on a Nav/Dragons back training day the week before. This i found useful, I could read the contours, count off feature, tick off streams. I hiked my way along, feeding myself out of the bad patch, reading the map, I could see it was about 3km to the final check point, then a final 5km descent to the finish.
After a fun descent down to the last checkpoint, I was finally feeling strong again. I was running on through the fields thinking I could make up some time back on the final leg. Only to find myself dropping into a riverside singletrack, again I am certain in the summer this is amazing. Here it was a mudslide. To be fair passing by a fantastic waterfall, I was in awe, and semi laughing to myself at the pure shit I was trying to run through. Knowing it was only a little way more to go, I pushed on through the choss. The final km was on tarmac and into the finish chute where I finished 5th lady. I need to work on the mid sections of these, and try and up my game for the next round.
Kate and Rich were there at the finish, some high fives and chatting. Kate said "I thought you said that girl in yellow was just ahead, I caught up and it was a bloke!"
"Ha - did you not see her put on a black jacket in the rain?"
In summary - this round was much harder than I expected. Harder than the last round no doubt but I'm happy with how I ran in the first 30km.
Looking forward to round 2 back in Brecon this time. Sorry - no pics, my phone wouldn't take any in the rain!