Friday, 1 November 2013

FRA relays

Doesn't time fly.. I wrote this 2 weeks ago and didn't post it for one reason or another... still, better late than never....

This year the FRAs were held in Llanberis. Starting from a hard bed slate quarry, going up a hill that quickly turned to a muddy quagmire, and up onto the tops around Moel Elio. With 170 teams or so of 6 people per team made the event pretty busy.

The weather was of course an interesting part of the day, as it always is in Wales. Unlike last year, which was a crisp, cool day, with a fair bit of sun, Llanberis provided us with winds gusting from 17- 40mph, a lot of clag and a whole hosepipe full of rain.
Glossopdale entered 3 teams this year, A, B and ladies. Not too many last minute alterations occured this year, which is always nice. Despite transport issues that could have arisen from slightly lackadasical planning we all managed to get to the blowy quarry for the event. Bonus. We wouldn't have to suddenly draft in a random bystander to run one of the legs. (as may or may not have happened in previous years).

The start pen... waiting to start leg 3
A good number of team tents had been put up in the start/finish area, but the wind was causing havoc, blowing them around and in some cases destroying them completely. Luckily the Glossopdale Argos special was weighed down with enough rocks and bits of slate to mean that it got away without too much damage.

After a short period of waiting around, and a large amount of rain thrashing down on the assembled leg 1 runners in the starting pen, the Eryri main organiser stood up on the PA system and gave us all the rules and regs, before the runners were taken off down the hill for the start.
Between short, sharp showers they set off up the hill. Tarmac first, and then onto the slope that would pretty soon become a mud bath.
Not much for us to do in the pen, but wait.
The first runners came in from about 40 mins. Chris, from my team came in in good time, setting the leg 2 runners, Andy O and Alasdair off onto the hill. I was a little more concerned at this point about where Lynne was going to come in. I was ever so proud that she was running the relays. A year ago I don't think she would have contemplated it, and yet, here she was, off on leg one. (and the only person of any of our teams to have done a recce!) She came in to cheers at about 55 mins, which was fantastic, setting the ladies leg 2 runners off on their way.

In hindsight I perhaps should have warmed up a bit more than I did. Well. Maybe I should have actually warmed up at all. Considering that I was off out of the blocks with Julien, which is never easy on the best of days... yes, I should have put in a couple of laps before going off.
Lynne finishing leg 1

However, all too soon Andy and Alasdair were coming back in. We had lost time on a few of the teams, but gained on others. To be honest, I had no idea what kind of placing we were in, but I did know that the Pennine V40 team had gone out a few minutes before us, so if we could catch up or overtake them, that'd be grand. Especially as it was Grouse.
Jules and I grabbed the map and headed out on the navigation leg. The only leg that could not be recced, and a route that is blind. We were just behind the HBT ladies team, and with Julien saying "yes, we'll go out slow so that we have some firepower left for the end of the leg" and promptly set off with me huffing and puffing in his wake as we shot past the HBTers on the first hill.

To be entirely honest our navigation through the nav leg was essentially a grand fluke. We picked up a control, which wasn't the one we thought it was (running faster than we could map read... not a good idea), and then half way to the next control decided that we should have gone another way, but in fact went the first way anyway. Jules decided to take a "short cut" which, as ever, involved going up and over a hugely steep slope as everyone else contoured around it. My legs and lungs were finding it really hard to keep up on the steep ups, but I was running away from Julien on the downs and flats.
The next couple of controls were pretty ok, and then, after blasting down a massive path we fluked it again with another find of the control that we already thought that we had got... before hammering up a hill and overtaking as many teams had overtaken us with a few mistakes that we had made previously.
Jules and me finishing leg 3. Note the highly un-stealth jacket
The last checkpoints fell quickly, and with a couple of teams hard on our tails we got to the final stile to get off the hill. The final lunge downhill was a little slower than I anticipated. Underfoot was muddy, slippy and gloopy. I was fine in a pair of brand new mudclaws, chomping up the ground, but had to stop and wait for Jules a couple of times as he slipped around in his (admittedly also brand new) x-talons.
We kept in front of the other teams, and shot down the tarmac at the bottom as hard as we could, coming in to set Mark O off on the last leg. And what do we know - We were standing around at the end as Grouse came in. Didn't see him for the entire leg, but still managed to come in in front.

A few minutes after Mark had set off, the first team, Dark Peak, came in to finish the last leg. Superbly fast. All we could do now is wait, and count off the minutes.
Mercia were second, with Simon Bailey setting the fastest time on the course, but not able to overhaul the massive lead that DPFR had built up on an amazingly fast leg 3.

Glossop A came in finally in 26th, a bit down on last year, but that reflects the quality of the field, rather than the spirit of the runners- who really ran well. Last year we didn't get the last runner off until after the first 3 teams had finished... this time, at least we get Mark off before the first of the winners got in.
Glossop B had a fantastic run, coming in a few places up from last year in 46th.
The Glossopdale ladies had a fantastic race, not only because Caity managed to get around the 4th leg in the 3rd fastest time of the day- only 4 seconds behind Laura Jeska, (and subsequently another team who shall remain nameless tried to recruit ever) but they came in about 15th. A fabulous effort.

So all in all, a good day out for the Blue and Orange vests. The weather may have created a bit of a rough day, but it was an excellent time, and I think we certainly gave more than a lot of other teams in terms of the cheering.

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