So there you go.
A lot of fellrunning royalty may well have been up doing the Carnethy 5 on this weekend, and I'm sure they had a marvellous time. There were a good 150+ of us gathering in somewhat warm conditions just down the road from Bangor for the first of the WFRA North Wales series champs races of the year. I was hoping that I might have a decent chance of a REALLY good position, but there were quite a few decent looking runners moseying around at the start, with Math Roberts leading the welsh contingent, and Lloyd, the Manx. ok then. Ignore everyone else and run the best race that I can.
Its a good plan.
Al was also down in the wilds of Wales for the race, as he is spending the weekend exploring the vicinity, and we did a quick recce of the first few and last few kilometres, taking note of a sneaky little shortcut that may well prove useful.
Time ticked on, and numbers swelled. Race maps were provided for this short race in the form of a photocopied sheet that were free to all competitors, should they have neglected to bring their own, and there were notices saying that full hill kit should be taken.
Soon enough we were counted through to the start gate, where I couldn't help notice that a goodly number of runners were standing there in race kit, but with no bag, or any sign of waterproofs or map... interesting. Was it compulsory for anyone that didn't speak welsh?!
No, the race organiser stood up to say a few words, there is a kit requirement, but it is up to you as a runner to be responsible to wear it. Ditto maps. Refreshing, after last weeks heavy handed map attitude.
So some of us wore bags, others didn't. It might have made a difference, but the fact we were given a choice was fabulous.
Then it was 3,2,1 Go. I had engineered myself to be somewhere near the front, unlike Dave Soles from Pennine, who engineered himself to be near the "front" at the opposite end of the pen to me thinking the race was starting in the opposite direction... not the most auspicious of starts.
The start was the usual scuffle of people trying to run, and being a bit squished, but we soon sorted ourselves out into a semblance of order, and going up the first hill, there was a definite block of people up ahead that
were proper fast, a group around me who were pretty fast, but not insano pace, and I presume the rest of the field behind us.
We climbed up steeply through a load of mud, which I had recced earlier, and then through a fence, helpfully held open by a marshal to hit a section of track. The faster paced guys from my group shot off, and I kept pace with a Buckley runner and a couple of others. The speed was pretty high, and I wasn't entirely sure how long I could sustain it for, but knew there was a decent climb coming up.
Soon enough, a tight left hander, and the track swung up and sharp right, turning from a hard surface to slippy mud. My x-talons have done a few races, and were a bit slippy on the way up, but I managed to keep in front of the Buckley guy, and had my sights set on 2 eryri runners in front of me - a decent way off. The other runners that I had been with were already far ahead.
Keeping Breathing. Thats the key. Legs moving, and up the hill. I slowly overhauled a runner. And then another.
Now THAT is something that I haven't written very often in the last couple of years... overtaking on an uphill stretch. 2 scalps on one slope, brilliant. Then steps behind me, and a Merioydd lad came up next to me. We ran shoulder to shoulder up the hill, and a glorious vista of Elidr Fawr appeared, wreathed in snow and just looking amazing. I commented "what a view", and the other guy looked up, and said, "thanks for that, I would have missed it!".
Onward and upward on the track as it became rocky - and he gained distance over me as it flattened before the hairpin and the big climb to the top. I looked left, and Lloyd was already running most of the way to the top, so he wasn't all that far in front. Closer to me, though was the Merionydd runner, an Eryri runner, and 3 others, who were bang in front of me as we turned. On the lower slopes, one of them fell by the wayside, just not able to keep up with the others, and I overtook as well, catching up to the tail end of the front 4 of the group. We ran and walked to the top, with 3 of them escaping a good few metres before the top.... my climbing still isn't what it needs to be. As the eryri guy in front of me and I went over the top, a couple of
|Al at the end|
The section to the trig point was a bit on the slippery side, and my shoes, already feeling sketchy weren't the greatest of confidence boosters as I slid all over the stones on the top, losing still more time on those in front of me. I hadn't given up, but I was concerned that the downhill section was going to be even more slippy, and that I'd just lose more time.
The plunge downhill came, and although the first section had rocks, then it became grassy, with dead bracken to the sides. It was quite treacherous down the path, where everyone else was going, and thinking about my shoes, I certainly wasn't going down there, and took a slightly different line down the bracken. Surefooted, I blitzed past all the runners in front of me, and down to the marshal before the final climb. Another guy in front, breathing like a man ready to drop, but now an uphill section, and I was running out of steam, as proved by being re-overtaken by 2 of those that I had passed on the downhill section.
A left into the woods, and the merionydd guy comes past, and we run as a group through the forest, up to the final turn and down the horrendously slippery path back to the track, where the guy breathing like a horse slips and nearly takes a tumble.
"Easy". I say, and we all keep formation in line down the path to the track/road section.
Sharp right, and again, those more suited to flat sections stretch away. Its so long since the top of the hill that I have no idea who is in the top 10 and who isn't. A nasty little uphill section, and they pull away some more, before the sharp left, back through the fence, and the descent. The bit I've recced.
And, it seems, the bit everyone else has recced... but they slow down and I catch up. Again, some of them follow the really obvious path, I throw caution to the wind and plough through dead bracken and gorse, overtaking 2, and with the others just in front. Down again, and all 5 of us are chomping at the bit. I'm breathing raggedly, but not as badly as the guy trying to overtake me. Is that a slight stitch I feel? No time to worry about it now.
How far out are we? Can I maintain this pace to the end? Can the others? Who is holding out to the end? Who is on the ragged edge?
Through a bog and over a rise, I accelerate to keep someone from overtaking, and then surge past the Merionydd guy, and another as we pile down the hill, through a puddle, and I lead the group around the corner, with 2 eryri runners stretched in front of us...
Matched pace for pace down the last of the race, I know we have a slight downhill section followed by an all out flat bit to end. I have to keep in front of these guys as it gets tight on the last section. I give it a lot... not everything, but a lot, and wonder if I have gained any distance.
Turn the last corner, and I think... "I've walked down here earlier.... I really should have checked just how
|Soup and a roll. Thats how we roll.|
More speed, and I catch one of the Eryri guys, no idea whats going on behind me, and all of a sudden we are next to the tree that Al and I had identified as "the tree" at which to properly go for the line from, and I kick, expecting some resistance from the runner next to me. I aim for the second eryri guy in front of me, but the line comes too fast, and I finish, maybe a split second behind him, and the rest pile in behind us.
37:40ish... top ten maybe? Not bad at all, considering that it would have got me 2nd in last years race (ignoring changing conditions etc, of course....)
Happy with that.
Perhaps one of the hardest fought races I've had in a while, and one of the most satisfying to finish.
Ok, it might have some track in it, but crikey its a lung opener of a fell race, and really worth the journey down, especially for £4 and the fact that you get soup afterward.
Thanks to the Marshals, to the race organiser - Sir, you have done a fantastic job in taking over from the old organiser, and to Moel y Ci farm for hosting.
Apologies for lack of interesting photos, I was running, and just took pics at the beginning and end...
And when I know the results, I'll post them up, had to get off early to stumble up another hill.
Here they are! Results!