Saturday, 28 February 2015

Pipedream - 2015

The Welsh theme of racing continues this week, with a foray into deepest, darkest Dolgarog (its not actually all that deep, or indeed dark, but I like the alliteration), for the Pipedream race. Its been going for a good number of years now, and after a slight diversion last year (works on the Pipes meant that there was an extra mile to run), the race was now back to its original iteration, good news for those wanting a crack at the record.

The weather was looking promising on the way down into Wales, and despite a section of the motorway being shut, the Glossopdale massive (all 3 of us) managed to get to Dolgarog in plenty of time. Race registration was in the local community centre, and it was good to find out that any money over and above the cost of the race goes toward its up keep.
We registered, and noted the kit requirements. I don't think I've ever raced without kit, so this was going to be a bit of a new experience. After loitering around pinning numbers on shirts, we wandered up the route, checking out the very steep and slippery descent line, straight down a dodgy cement path before the final sprint along the road. From checking that out, I walked up the pipeline a way as well, and chatted with Daz Fishwick about the start, and where the route might possibly go... and then Math turned up, professing to have no idea where he was going, having run it last in 2008. Which is more than
y'know its a good race...

either Daz or I had done.
Still, we worked out where we were meant to be going, and returned to the start.

The whole lot of us wandered one by one into the carpark, being counted by the race organiser (and, I believe Chair of the WFRA - the same bloke), before being given the race briefing. Which was pretty brief and to the point, before moving onto the road for the start... a whistle was blown- which was actually to let the marshals know to stop the traffic - but was taken as the start whistle by all those just getting to the start line, and runners started stampeding ahead, amongst shouts of NO - not yet!.
So we ground to a halt pretty quickly and moved back to the line with a fair amount of sheepish comments and looks.
Enough time to reset your watch, and then Go.

With adrenaline already coursing through the veins from the false start, I got into my stride pretty quickly, and was behind a group of about 8 runners, being led away by Math, who was going at some ridiculous pace along the road. At my shoulder appeared Dave Parker from merionydd, to whom I pointed out the view last race... we exchanged a couple of words about fell racing and tour guiding, before hanging the sharp left, and the beginning of the climb - still on the road, and with Math stretching out in front. In fact, that was pretty much the last I saw of him. Soon enough we swung right, and up on a path which plonked us at the bottom of the pipeline section we were to climb.
Jez Brown from Buckley briefly came past me, but I re-overtook as the incline steepened. I took another runner, and then I held on behind another guy as we hit the steps. 500 steps up a hill, inbetween 2 huge pipes.
So we didn't actually run up this pipe.... the steep one in the background... see that one? THATS the one we ran up.
yes, there was a bannister, no, it didn't really help.
What's the best technique? hand on bannister, hand on leg? both hands on legs? hands on steps, and bear crawl? No idea, but I tried them all. The guy in front sounded like he was going to die at any moment, making me wonder if it was the same one as at Moel y Ci. (it was). But I followed him up the steps, unable to get any faster, and with no idea what was going on below me.

Above, I dunno, Math and the other guy at the front must have levitated, or caught a lift or something.

Up and up. We passed a gate. Is that half way? A third? no idea. Calves burning, but you can't stop. Up and up, through another gate, and after years and years and years of climbing, there were only a few left, exit left under the pipe, and what do you know.
We keep going up.

Normally this is terrain that I can run up, but today my legs are already burnt to a cinder and not really working. Walk, then run, walk then run. Rhythm doesn't come easily to legs that don't appear to belong to me. I over take the guy in front of me as we go up a track, and then left again, next to the pipe, we go over a rise, and then, the worst possible thing confronts me. A couple of kilometres of flat running.

I muster up all the energy and leg speed I have, and go as hard as I dare, but runner after runner passes me. 5 altogether,  who end up in a group some yards ahead of me. Over stiles, through bog, continually along this flipping great pipe. I slowly lose ground to them as my legs fail to respond to any type of coercion.
Finally, after what seems like more than 2km of flat, we meet a marshal, hang a right, and up hill again.
The group ahead of me splits a bit, and I re-catch the slowest. Up and over another stile (there were a LOT of stiles), and turn back, the wind behind us, up to the summit.
I can just about see Dave in front of me, battling it out with someone else. The others in that group ahead of me seem to have disappeared.

Finally. The top, and the beginning of the descent, its a bit scraggy on top, tufts of vegetation and dodgy underfoot, just the way I like it. For about 400m, and then bang! Onto a hard path. This is turning a bit too much into road running for my liking - but at least its a bit trail-y under foot.
I don't seem to gain much downhill here, it is far too runnable, then the track gives way to tarmac.... which is a surprise (and not just to me, apparently this is new), and we pound down a distance of tarmac before a sharp little rise, a jump over a stile, and back into off road territory.

I tear across the green-ness, but to no avail, Dave and his adversary keep a constant distance away from me as we dive into the woods. How long have we to go~? No idea. Keep following the red and white tags, and hope you can see someone in front.
Luckily there was no-one breathing down my neck at this point. The ground underfoot got a little more technical, rocks and bits and bobs all over the place. It was a true pleasure to run this part as hard as possible. Technical single track for the fell runner - excellent stuff.
Just toward the end, the thinning of the trees I was catching with someone who really didn't seem keen on his
feet. I blasted down, and caught him just as we hit the top of the slippery track that we had recced earlier.

I knew the lines, I knew the gradient and I knew the slippiness, so kept ahead of him through the twists. Dave and co. were a bit too far down now for me to catch, though I could still see them. More importantly, we were inside the last km, and I had someone very much breathing down my neck.
I ran hard to the edge of the woods, and the beginning of the final straight to the line. He was coming up behind me, and we ran down the road, shoulder to shoulder.

Measure the effort. Measure the time. Don't go too early.
Inside the last 200, still neck and neck, I decided to go. Easing out on my stride, I heard his feet fade behind me. Striding toward the line I realised that I was actually catching Dave... another 200 and I might even have caught him, but it wasn't to be.
Bundling over the line, I was 6th. Same as at Moel y Ci.
Pretty damn good, but I know where I need to improve now. It is even more clear cut.

Superb race, though. Thanks very much to the organiser, and, of course, the marshals.
Well done to Math for winning (by a second) and amazing running from the bloke that came 2nd... seriously - I think you must be aliens for getting times like that.
Excellent running from my clubmates, Al who was 20th, and Linds, who was 3rd Lady V40, coming home with a box of crackers and some toffee things.

If you want a lesson in organising a race for the enjoyment of the runners, the bloke that organises this one, is a good person to be learning from.
And if you ran it and aren't part of the WFRA. Join! tis only a tenner.
Looking forward to the next one.


  1. Thanks for your kind comments about the race organisation. I try to keep it basic and fun for all, and most importantly never take it too seriously, it's just running up and down a hill after all!
    Glad you enjoyed it. Craig.

  2. Excellent blog again Tim. Keep 'em coming. Gary PJ