Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Moel Eilio Fell race 2016

The start.... imagine 300 runners trying to get up here at the same time
I knew that Moel Eilio was always going to be a bit of a fun race. I had booked in some early morning Mountain Leader work on the Saturday, so was looking at 1000m of climb with a rucksack prior to a decent length race. Not too much of a problem, as long as I treat it as more of a training run than a full on heart and lung bursting race.

Then I realised it was the Intercounties Fell race as well, which meant that the great and the good of the fellrunning world would be descending on what I was expecting to be a quiet little Welsh race.
Quiet? Nope. This was going to be crowded, there were going to be fast guys and girls all over the place, and they would be going out "full bore".

Not too much of a problem for me, but something to be aware of.

In the morning I did the work I was booked in for, and climbed Snowdon 1 and a half times helping various clients out at various points, and knew that I was in no condition to be belting around at the front of a race which was going to be heading out at the ridiculous pace that Mounsey, Bailey and Jebby et al. were going to set.
Indeed, there were a mass of runners wearing their County vests and were out for fast times. 300 runners starting on a single track road is a bit of a recipe for a crowded start, and as someone racing for myself, not worrying too much about the overall placing, I opted to let the over-eager racers get the front of the crowd, and I hung back a bit. Normally not a good tactic, especially if placing and timings were an issue- but it would be good to start mid- to back - pack and see who I could overtake through the race.

The start of the race goes up the final descent of the Eryri marathon. A long, long climb up a road/track of various steepnesses, eventually coming off that route to turn left and continue up Moel Eilio.
At the gun, as expected, the guys at the front set off at a fierce pace and there was a general surge forward, despite the fact it was at least 5 or 6seconds until the part of the crowd I was in was even able to walk forward, let alone shuffle or run.

First up, this goes on a long way - take it easy. I kept it aerobic up the hill and began to pass people. It was quite interesting as getting past fellrunners is normally pretty easy, as long as you have the speed. Going past roadies and xc runners on a narrow track is actually quite hard. They're all elbows and knees. 2 of them side by side basically take up the entire road with their limbs splayed everywhere, so overtaking took a fair amount of ducking, diving and dodging, as well as a few bursts of speed.

All quite amusing as I made my way up through the field. (maybe I should have started a little closer to the front... but I didn't want to have to jostle with all the guys and girls that "needed" to get a good start on the race).
Up ahead I could see Chris, and I was closing in nicely, so that was good. Lynne was up on the first climb, photoing and videoing, and I grabbed a swig of water from her. The sun was out, it was a glorious day, sunburn was potentially on the cards, as was dehydration, so a little more water at this stage in the race wouldn't go amiss.

Towards the turn I managed to catch up with Chris, and tried to put the boot in a little as the ground steepened. From this point on it was a mixture of walking and running, rather than attempting to keep running for the entire time (though I'm sure there were those ahead of me who ran the entire way). I caught up with Karl Steinegger just as we passed a guy in another county vest, bent over at the side of the path looking distinctly like he had tried just a bit too hard up to that point and was now significantly regretting his decision of "go hard or go home".
I bobbed along trying to make conversation with people about the delightful weather, or the view, but unsurprisingly no-one was really up for that, so I enjoyed the climb as best I could, and after 600m of continuous uphill, we hit the top. Fabulous views, and general sunniness meant I cruised for a short while as a couple of ambitious folks overtook on the slight flat before the first downhill, whereupon I immediately overtook them again.

The next hill was much the same, with the running order and general placings now being fairly decided, shuffling started occurring with people around me putting the boot in, attempting to get ahead, and then falling back. I concentrated on cheerily saying hello and thanks to all the marshals and running as much of the ups as I could without going into massive oxygen debt.

The heat was getting to a decent level, and I suspect that a number of racers were really feeling drained by it. By this time I was running out of fingers on which to count the hills, so I wasn't entirely sure how many we had gone up and down. Suddenly, in front of me appeared a runner who looked like he was taking the mick out of the way Nic Barber runs.
Oh - no, actually it *is* Nic. He must be really suffering for me to catch him up.

I followed him down the descent, and caught up on the final climb where we had a bit of a chat about how horrendous he was feeling and how damn hot it was, and we traded places up the hill with Lou Roberts and Annie Conway as they put in some fantastically inspiring performances running the whole final hill.

I jumped the stile ahead of Nic, and neither of us were really feeling the urge to go mad-dash downhill, having said that he still outdistanced me by a fair amount, though we both reeled in the same amount of people, through a bog at the bottom of the descent where I took a bit of a hand cooling face-plant, and a bit of a scramble where I overtook another couple of people who were being urged on by very competitive supporters. We hit the final track - the telegraph road, a long hard surfaced track with lots of bits and bobs to trip over for a final run in, and I was immediately overtaken by someone who was absurdly fast. They disappeared into the distance, and I set about pacing myself down the hill.

For those of you who have not run down that track, its a flipping long run off. It mostly goes down, but there is a little bit of undulation in it as well, so I kept my wits about me and set a decent pace, not letting anyone get close enough to pass me, but not knackering myself out, then a final turn off the path onto a steep and steepening B road to the finish.
Who is that just in front of me? The absurdly fast guy that shot ahead of me at the top of the telegraph road...
The road steepened and we were in the final 200m, so I lengthened my stride and shot past him, cruising into the finish in 53rd in 71:51.

What a delightful route. A superb day out and great company throughout.
I was a couple of minutes off Jez Brown, who is going superbly well this year, but I felt I ran quite within myself for the majority of the race, as well as starting at the back of the pack. Really quite happy with it as a day on the hill, getting in more ascent before Jura.
Slightly concerned as I was getting a bit of a stitch on the way down, so if there is anything to worry about, it isn't ascent speed, it'll be a problem of getting stitch on the way down or on the final run in.

Congratulations to Ben Mounsey who really read the race well and went all out to win it. This year is going to be a fascinating battle between him and Si Bailey.
Thanks to the organisers and the marshals.

Superb event.

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