Monday, 20 April 2015

Ras y Moelwyn - 2015

GDH posse at the carpark

For the past couple of weeks I haven't quite been feeling myself. A little over training? A little too much stress from the last year of uni? Both? Something quite different? Who knows, but I really haven't been feeling it, and not been getting in the miles either. All good excuses, and indeed, enough of an excuse to miss a race, but no.

Ras y Moelwyn was one of the best races I did last year. It was a real cracker, and as it was a British Champs this year, I certainly wasn't going to hit the heady heights of 6th that I did last year - but its not about that... its about the fabulous route, its about the glorious views, and the truely spectacular setting of this race. In all, I was here for the ride.
Moelwyns starts at 2pm, so a late starter really. We didn't set off til 10ish from Glossop and got down there relatively smoothly. Considering the British Champs-ness of the whole thing, it wasn't as busy as I expected in terms of parking. The town of ffestiniogg had put on a proper show this year, with a fayre and all that jazz. We warmed up a little under the sunshine (but fairly bitterly cold wind) and looked at the start, which was a little different to last year- starting in the midst of the town due to sheer numbers, (as opposed to in the start/finish field as it did last year).
It all got a bit crowded at the start line, and I started a bit further back than I wanted to - quite a lot further, and in the first couple of kilometres until we got to the fell, it really felt like I was in the midst of a rather bizarre version of the London marathon. The guys who started just in front of me kept that lead, and a great number of them just increased it as well. Nothing to do but sit in, grit teeth and run as much as possible.

Down the main road, and then the little road that goes to the bridge over the railway... a bit of a hold up over the railway, and with Daz Fishwick right behind me we went over and up onto the first part of the hill. There was no spring in my legs today, and I felt pretty stale as we headed over the bog, the leaders disappearing into the distance. Jez from Buckley was just in front of me, as he was for the entire race last year, so I followed him up and over towards the steep climb up through the slate quarries. I managed to keep a semblence of a run up as we climbed up to the lake, and decided to take the normal line as a load of runners in front of me took a slightly different one that ended up going over a pole over a deep pool of water... not a short cut I would have taken, and not one that worked either.

Changing at the roadside. Stylish.
We continued up and around the lake - where I could see a steady stream of runners strung out in front of me for quite a way. Those front runners sure have a lot of speed in their legs. I was splashing through puddles already feeling like I had lead wrapped around my ankles. As you can tell, I wasn't having the best time of it, and the pain just got worse as I hit the ramp up through the quarries proper.
Hard doesn't even get close, but I managed to keep running all the way up. To be fair, Jasmin was up ahead of me, she wasn't walking, I didn't walk last year... so this year, I wasn't going to either. Flipping heck, it was hard work, but I got there eventually.... and then it kicked up again, and again, but gamely I continued on and got to the top, through the slate without walking.
I wasn't fast, it has to be said, and maybe I might have been faster walking, but that's by the by.
To the man eating bog- which the guy in front of me had found, over the stile (which apparently had an electric fence next to it, which a good number of people found out about in more or less painful ways), and towards the second bog of doom - which the same guy in front of me found quite spectacularly with a full on entire leg loss in the bog. Nicely done.

Now for the first climb. Long and grassy, semi steep, closing into an almost not steep bit, followed by a proper kicker that has the vast majority of us hands on knees, and some of us on hands and knees...  I kept my place fairly stable throughout the climb, and what with the following breeze, I felt bouyed up to the top. We saw the group in front of ours running back down the hill, away from the trig point, but there was a fair gap between me and the next person in front, so once we'd hit the turn around point there was no-one to follow. Much the same story as last year... so I pretty much made it up on the descent, jumping off rocky bits, and generally aiming to get to the bottom as soon as I could without really thinking about trying to catch anyone.
The problem with this was that I reached the next knoll, and still with no-one really to guide me, and no real knowledge of the nuances of the route except my last years experience, I trudged up and over the knoll, past a mountain rescue bloke, who I figured was some kind of marshal, and down the other side - all with Daz Fishwick in close pursuit. He asked me if I knew where I was going, and quite truthfully the answer was "not entirely. This probably isn't the most efficient route, but it'll get us to where we need to be".

A monster descent later and we were directly behind a load of people... either we had made up a load of time, or we had lost a load.
It was of course the latter. Those behind us, and in the know had skirted the knolly outcrop thing, and had gained about 40-50 seconds on us. Ah well.
Up to the next top, and I set about reclaiming lost ground, and overtaking those that had been more sneaky (or indeed, followed a better line) than me.
Towards the top was about the right time to gulp down a gel as the descent coming was a real treat, and I intended on enjoying it as much as possible - without a sugar crash. The turn at the top, and then an easy run down to a few boulders, hard left, and a descent through a bit of a rock cleft, and then overtaking a few more people as the ground became rough, gnarly and boggy all at the same time. Brilliant for descending on if you are confident, not so good if you aren't. I picked up 3-4 places here, and had a great run in down to the dam, overtaking Rob Little as well- which isn't normally something I get to say in a race.

Across the dam, and this year the feeding station was at the other end, with a few runners stopping to gulp some much needed water. This gave me the opportunity to catch them up, having a small amount of water in a bottle which I downed on the next steep ascent away from the dam. Hands on knees, and hands on the ground, we trudged up, and then across a bog, before going down the long solid surface ramp to the bottom of the final - and as mentioned last year, horribly runnable climb.
I say runnable, and indeed, if you were to do it fresh, I think it would be totally and quite happily runnable, but this far into a race, my legs were just shot, and even on the slightest of gradients it was all I could do to bring out a slight shuffling parody of a run. Rob Little overtook me on the ascent (unsurprising), and a couple of others got their own back - Daz was no doubt closing me down as well, but the final descent was a bit of a trump card for me - as long as I could hold it together for the final 2km after it!

Final descent, and straightaway, the people who had caught me, I recaught and dispatched, sliding/surfing down the steep muddy bog, I was having a great time, and wished that the race could finish at the bottom of the hill so that I could really give the descent full beans... but unfortunately I really had to hold back, knowing the final part was coming, and that I was going to lose some places down there no matter what.
After coming off the final bit of bog, the long hard packed trail back down through the quarries appeared, and those more suited to road running showed their heads. I managed to only lose 2 places down through there, and held my own across the final off road part over to the final railway bridge.

We skirted alongside the houses at the end, and I could hear feet bearing down on me - but this final part, I knew. I was also pretty much exactly the same distance behind Jez from Buckley as I was this time last year - about 2 seconds... up the final slope, down and around the houses, and a final sprint across the field to the end, holding off those feet behind me.
1:29:16. 67th
Although I originally thought I had done much better than last year, it seems that I was a good 4 mins slower this year - and that isn't just due to the slightly longer start... all the segments around the race, I was a good few seconds slower on as well.
Still, in the face of it, I had a good day out, time on my feet, and I can start to look at why I was slower this time. I already have an inkling, and that information is going to help me understand how to work more intelligently to get better.

Thanks to all the marshals - you had a great (if breezy) job of it - the views from the tops are some of the best around, and congrats to Caity - picture at the top, for doing Moelwyns and coming about 7th female, and then Manchester marathon the next day and smashing out a PB of 3:09. Machine. 

Sorry- about the lack of pictures - I'm trying to get hold of some to make this look a whole lot prettier - but had no time to take any pics myself.

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