Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Brecon Beacons race 2009

After a wee holiday in the very fine Dordoigne region of France where the extent of my exercise was limited to leisurely lengths of the pool and interval training on the cheese board, I was in no fit state to have a go at this race.

Needless to say that it turned out to be my favourate hill run so far!

Any minor worries about forgetting my safety pins faded into a grin as the organiser drew race numbers onto the backs of hands. It would have been a nice deliberate touch at a very understated and low key event, except that nobody seemed to show signs of this being in any way unusual. Other concerns about my ability to navigate us across sections of fairly featureless bog weren't relevant - the sun was out and the clouds high in the sky as we set off at a steady trot.

The circular course heads out from just below the dam of the Talybont reservoir and is run in opposite directions year on year. This year was anti-clockwise.

Bracken and cropped turf sprinkled with a light dusting of pelleted sheep turds gave way to tussock and smooth curves of hillside horizons.

The cairn on top of Carn Pica - which is a fine piece of work - arrived after a couple of miles of ascent and the bog trot over Waun Rydd was unproblematic in the good visibility. We ran with a Welsh veteran along the crest above Cwm Oergwm and he told me that he'd done every one of the Beacons races, lamenting, "I used to manage under three hours but expect I'll barely get under four today." I told him I thought it was better to be slower because then there was the advantage of spending more time on the hill. "That's one way of looking at it, I suppose," he said. Ruefull.

The course bypasses Fan y Big ('no sniggering at the back Jenkins') but takes in Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du. There were many laden cadets and groups of young backpackers in evidence as well as families and other groups, all of us enjoying a fine day out in the hills.

I had pulled away from Mike over the Beacons so trotted slowly along the spittle-sprayingly monikered Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog enjoying the views until he caught me up. The descent from the ridge to the valley floor was steep, muddy and hard on the legs.

Crossing the dam of the Lower Neuadd reservoir, I suggested to Mike that we could put on a spurt for the next mile or so as it flattened out. I was surprised when he just gave me a look.

Then I buggered up the map reading when we left the road and headed up to Pant y Creigiau. Climbing over a fence, the inside of my right thigh cramped up excruciatingly. Mike, who was going through a bad patch, struggled with a second fence at the top of the slope. By this point the Welsh veteran and his mate hove into view climbing steadily, watching our antics and making pointed comments about people taking unnecessary short cuts. Ah well, you live and learn...

There followed a grim process of digging deep and digging-in as Mike's bad patch continued to weigh him down. He hung in well though - I hope I manage as well as he did when my time comes to hit the wall. It was a case of, "run to that lump of horse crap then walk for a bit" etc etc.

The pull up the last hill, Tor y Foel, was probably pretty mirthless for Mike. I somehow managed an aesthetic appreciation of the lovely sound of the wind through the grasses.

The tall thin figure of the marshall at the final checkpoint stood out on the skyline. He had a wee radio on the cairn that was tuned-in to test match special. It was the penultimate day of the deciding test in the ashes series and he gave me a good update on how England were getting on. "Trott's doing well..."

Thankfully the race organiser had cleared and marked a way through the dense undergrowth on the lower slopes!

I followed a Walsh footprint into head high bracken and popped out onto the end of the dam. "Well done," said someone as he passed me on his warm down jog. I managed a fair pace for the last 50m or so. Called out "11" for the last time and headed for the water table to enjoy a drink and a complimentary Mr Kipling cake.

Mike came in after a couple more minutes, finishing strongly. A drink and a bite and he was right back on form!

More pictures courtesy of the crap argos camera can be viewed here.

We were 31st and 32nd out of 54 finishers. My time 4:09:55

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